Monday, July 02, 2007

Guest Review: Last of the Time Lords

[Courtesy of Scott, a man who has watched some, but not all, of the new version of Who and who would, I think, not count himself as a particular fan of the old one. He took the picture of the spooky pigeon, hence the clumsy segue towards the end of the review. In true George MacDonald Fraser fashion, I have merely added some links and corrected his atrocious spelling - the sentiments are entirely his own]

"With Mogwai comes much responsibility. Well, not as much responsibility as doing a guest Who review on this hallowed turf. With Mogwai also came Phoebe Cates, of which, more later.

Stuart's blood pressure couldn't take an attempt at writing this, so I have selflessly (and bravely) stepped into the fold. Then again, who knows what his blood pressure will be like after reading my version.


I believe it is customary to summarise the plot etc to set the scene. Frankly, I can't be arsed. You all watched it and paid more attention than me and have no doubt remembered the details. All I can do is embarrass myself by getting something wrong. I didn't get where I am today...etc


You could argue that the notion behind in the plot is a good one. Clearly, for the series finale you are after something big. But in many ways the idea was maybe a little too big for the available format. This left the plot badly paced, rushed in places. If you ignore my forthcoming complaints about the focus being in the wrong place i.e. not on the Doctor as hero, it could perhaps have been drawn out into a half-decent story. Instead it was much more of a pop-culture summary of a much bigger idea. As such, it didn't work. There were bits I liked. I liked the drums thing. But probably because I was probably one of the only people watching who owns a Sandy Nelson LP. I liked the fact that the woman shot the Master. But probably because it reminded me of the Guns of Navarone.

Paradox engine, the human race in small balls, some sort of plan to take over the world with, get this, ground launch weapons. Mmmmm... Add in a baddy, dressed in a suit with very little menace and even less gravitas. Isn't the Master not meant to be a Shakespearean version of Emperor Ming? I didn't remember the "Auditioning for the remake of The Likely Lads" bit.

The explanation of what was going on was so quick that I have to admit I missed it. Something about using the Tardis, aaw bollocks, anything you can shoot down with a simple machine gun can by shot down by a review. OK, so we did get some John McLane action, but from that toothy American guy, he can't be the hero. He judges singing competitions.

And anyway, this plot has been done. Earth subjugated completely by an alien force. Resistance growing all over the world. People travelling great distances across a destroyed landscape. Only Mr. Wells did it MUCH better. And his ending made sense.

There are obviously other basic plot holes. There aren't two clocks in my house synchronised to the same minute, never mind the same second and if I was going to launch an attack the last thing I would do would be to broadcast a signal of when I was going to start. "OK, June 6th 1944, decided? OK. You put the kettle on, I'll tell Adolf."

And despite the lack of paced build up, there is still a 45 second high speed denouement in the style of original series Star Trek. All powerful being, can't be defeated. But wait, the power of the human soul is greater (cue fire, sparks, wailing of "Nooooooo", cut to credits ). Bleah.

You see how my review got all jumbled up and incoherent there? Yes. Exactly.

Where is the hero?

What is the point of a series finale where you have the eponymous hero and best actor either useless as an old man or as pointless as a caged budgie.* Dr. Who is about the Doctor. He is the hero, the brain, the point. Dale Arden never saved Flash Gordon. I like my heroes to be proper heroes and clever ones too. I don't want them to be vulnerable. I'm vulnerable. What kind of escapism is it that leaves our heroes as helpless as us? Oh no, hang on, if I'm nice to the world and everyone loves me then I'll be saved? Mmmm...

I give you Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes. That's what I want. Clever, aloof maybe even a tad grumpy. I loved him you know (we both did). Because he was clever, a mind to aspire to. That is what the Doctor should be like. The world shouldn't save the Doctor, he should save the world but being goddam clever. I apply that to the story with the Doctor as the schoolteacher. I know Stuart loved it. But I thought it was boring for exactly that reason.

This is something that has lacked generally in the series. My vague memories of the Doctor of old was of him solving/fixing/defeating with a degree of guile. At the risk of giving Stuart a fit, the only example I can remember is something to do with Peter Davison, a cricket ball and some dubious non-Newtonian physics. In many cases, the solution (such as it has been) has either been pulling out wires, plugging in wires or, horror of horror, pulling a big off switch marked "Pull this to avert crisis". (I'm deliberately not mentioning throwing an orange at a switch, really, I'm not.)

So, it was good to see that at the end of the excellent Blink, that the Doctor won the day with a little bit of smarts. I would subscribe to the "Let Moffat write it all" camp.

As much as it carries a sugary morale message of love being the greatest weapon, tish and fuss, this isn't Richard Curtis entertains America, this is about matinee heroes, the smart, clever guy wins by his own strength/ingenuity. He isn't saved by everyone, even the crap the useless people. But not, obviously, John Smeaton, who would have defeated the Master with a single kick while simultaneously taking out Daleks (left hand), Cyberman (right hand) and the Wembley crossbar (headbutt).

Frankly, I'd rather see the Doctor get a bit 'Yipee-ka-yay mother-fucker' than be saved by love and good will. Nice sentiment, but save that for Heartbeat. I want my heroes to be heroes. Let's try and experiment in alternative dialogue:

"But being as this is a love, the most powerful emotion in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel loved? Well, do ya, punk?"


Just because you can doesn't mean you should. There is some nice CGI work but I'd happily do without it in favour of plot/acting etc. It was noticeable that Blink was very good despite that fact that the baddies were NEVER animated. Just shows you, doesn't it? I'm also beginning to wonder if you can now save CGI money by reusing existing stuff. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

A Happy Death

This is where I stray into dangerous territory**. But hey, you don't get this soapbox for long. I would imagine that the greatest percentage of the people that watched the show on Saturday night really liked it. The kids enjoyed it, gripped maybe. Their parents liked it, happy to be able to watch something bearable*** with their children. Therein lies the problem. No one is complaining. So its not going to change. For the true fans I can understand why this is troublesome. Someone stole your soul and reused it for something entirely different. There was no one arbitrating on the decisions on your behalf, there was no "We'll only do it if we can come up with a script good enough" from the original cast****. The fact is that the script maybe is good enough, but only for the news fans, not the old ones. Some are happy, others have had a death. Its a bit like having your football club taken over for a mad foreigner. Something you love gets changed and it becomes hard to love it, even though you desperately want to. I can only imagine what would happen to someone who lost a TV series and a football team in this way.

Next Season

It will be more of the same. If there is more Moffat it will be good, if there is more vulnerable Doctor, rushed plots, CGI driving the plot instead of supporting it then there will be complaints aplenty.
I have only one hope. A plot featuring a spooky pigeon.

I really hope you all think this to be generally incoherent and ill-informed. Otherwise I would appear to have a problem.

But get ready, this is where I tie the whole thing together. Phoebe Cates was almost certainly the model for the Doctor's big "Nobby the house elf" eyes. I loved those eyes when I was 14. And that's all you have to do, take one reference from earlier on and pointlessly hook it up by a very dodgy link at the end. I am the Face of Boe. Goodnight.

* - courtesy Simile Generator 2.1
** - and not just for the Camus reference
*** - i.e. not Dragonball Z
**** - not that this is ever true, its actually "Only if we get paid enough"

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Blogger SAF said...

Lol. I used to fancy Phoebe Cates, and now you've ruined her for me for, like, ever. On the plus side, I too want a spooky pigeon story - hopefully one that craps over Last Of The Time Lords from a great height :))

9:56 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

As a "true" old-time fan from way back... ah you can guess what I'm going to say...

1:55 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

AV: "As a "true" old-time fan from way back"

Just bear in mind that description had absolutely nowt to do with me :-)

2:02 pm  
Blogger Scott Liddell said...

Perhaps my idea of what fans of the old series think of the new one has been seen through Stuart tinted spectacles. You guys only get textual versions of his rants. I have to listen to it in person ;-)

5:59 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

Scott: "Therein lies the problem. No one is complaining. So its not going to change. For the true fans I can understand why this is troublesome."

This might be a crazy idea, but perhaps the majority of the audience actually likes the show? The opinions of the old-time fans is really not important - the old-time fans form a very small part of the total audience.

9:55 pm  
Blogger Scott Liddell said...

Not such a crazy idea.

In fact, I know of one commentator who said recently:

"I would imagine that the greatest percentage of the people that watched the show on Saturday night really liked it."

10:51 am  
Blogger SK said...

I would imagine that the greatest proportion of the audience who watched it would, if given the choice, eat nothing but McDonald's, too.

Which is fine, so long as you don't mind a generation that never learns to appreciate real food, and drops like flies when they reach their late twenties and their hearts give out.

But they have their bread and circuses and don't complain, so all must be right -- right?

(Just back from the former Soviet bloc -- I know you missed me!).

6:22 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

SK: "Just back from the former Soviet bloc -- I know you missed me!"

I did wonder at the lack of traffic from JPTV :) What did you think of "Last of the TLs" then?

7:07 pm  
Blogger alienvoord said...

My point is that us fans don't own the show. The BBC wanted a popular show, and they got one, and they'll do whatever they feel is necessary to keep it popular. That's really all that matters.

"But they have their bread and circuses and don't complain, so all must be right -- right?"

Why not! Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's bad. There's no tension between being successful and good. Haven't you read The Invisibles?

9:57 pm  
Blogger TimeWarden said...

AV: "The opinions of the old-time fans is really not important" is a bit like saying history doesn't matter and if that is the case then the human race is doomed to repeat the same mistakes forever!

History does matter as do the opinions of old-time fans. If RTD took the time out of his busy schedule to listen to some of us, he might make a programme superior to the garbage he currently produces.

The last episode would've been more appropriately titled "Sick of the Time Lords". If RTD needs his version of the Master to show us what a man he is by punching old men in the face and beating up his wife then, at the very least, he is short of ideas and his creative ebb is at an all-time low.

It doesn't matter if the majority of an audience actually likes a show if said show has no integrity. Lowest common denominator has always earned the most money. Doesn't make it right or good.

The majority of the CD buying public think "Umbrella" is marvellous! Real musicians know better!! Even producers, of both pop songs and cheap TV series, laugh behind closed doors at the gullibility of the public!!!

2:58 am  
Blogger SK said...

No, there is no tension between being successful and good. So why can't the BBC produce a series of 'Doctor Who' which is both?

Being popular is not all that matters, and if the BBC think it is they have competely lost sight of their mission, and why we pay the license fee.

(No, I haven't read 'The Invisibles').

9:38 am  
Blogger alienvoord said...

You might be right about the license fee. I'm Canadian and don't know much about that. Having a successful show might not be the only goal.

However, I think the show is really good. This seems to me to be simply a matter of different tastes.

2:09 pm  
Blogger SK said...

No, it's not a matter of different tastes; it's a matter of some taste versus oh! shiny thing! look it's so shiny!

6:34 pm  
Blogger SK said...

Have you not noticed how, when Davies is trying to praise something (especially something he's written but also the work of others who don't deserve such recution) he simply lists the things which are in it, paying particular attention to things that anyone with even a little taste would dismiss as clich├ęs, foolishness, or utter fanank of the worst kind, the kind that would have got anyone who proposed them to Virgin books laughed out of the building?


7:25 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

I kind of agree about Rusty on a fanwank front, but the Udolpho blog is a bit crappy - a mish-mash of cliches and old insults disguised as wit and depth - a little like watching 'Doomsday' in fact...

6:05 pm  

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