Wednesday, 15 June 2011

On Confidential they said...

Been a while working up to writing again and now there are two episodes to cover. The second half of the Forgettable Flesh was the largely the drawn out run around that probably shouldn't have been a big surprise to many. I was glad that the Flesh Doctor turned out to be a good guy, the ending of the last episode almost suggested otherwise. But other characters were hard to get a handle on. The woman leading the base and her flesh counterpart were both quick to start a war, yet they settle their differences and it's the quiet shy one that suddenly steps up to exterminate humanity. Almost bizarre. There was some good interaction between the Doctors.

There was some real room for exploring the problem of how a clone would fit in with the life of their original, presumably it would make for an interesting marriage or one would have to disappear off to live their own life and lose their wife and kids. Unfortunately we had the convenient cop out as seen in similar 'duplication' stories where at least one half of each pair has died meaning that no one's wife has to deal with two identical husbands coming home.

Then there was a bit of 'monster of the week' syndrome when for no reason at all one of the flesh went completely over the edge and turned into a giant, somewhat poorly rendered, CGI beastie.

Where this story went over the edge was the cliffhanger in which it's revealed that Amy is a flesh imposter, and is actually being imprisoned somewhere where they are going to steal her child. Where the hell did this come from? Doctor Who should be scary, it should be about scary monsters and mad villains. Not people imprisoning women and letting them scream and cry as they steal their newborn child. It was a frankly disturbing piece of psychological horror likely to frighten adults as well as children, a step to far. Doctor Who should always be fun even when its scary. This wasn't fun it was awful seeing Amy screaming and in tears because someone is about to take her baby, is that cool for 7.30pm on a Saturday?

The Doctor separates Amy from the flesh double by destroying the double in a fairly callous manner which is just dandy because we've spent the last two weeks being told how human the flesh are and how they suffer when they die or get injured. As if you make this point clear at one moment in this episode some characters come across a heap of flesh clones, they still resemble their originals but are in a semi-melted heap and although disconnected from their original still suffer and feel pain. So one can presume that even disconnected from the real Amy, there's a a flesh-entity that has just been destroyed by the Doctor. If they didn't want this impression to be given why else even include the scene where they find the discarded flesh bodies. Well despite this they said it wasn't the case in Confidential.

This brings me to another bone of contention. When I saw this mentioned in an online forum it was the first I'd heard of it, because I didn't watch Confidential. I watched the episode, and thought it would all be explained in there. This isn't the first time I seen threads in forums where people have apparently been confused or have misconstrued part of an episode because the explanation was mentioned in Confidential. That's no good enough. All the bits required to correctly grasp the story should be included before the final credits roll not in the documentary afterwards. They even had two episodes to get the story in this time and somehow left this out but had time to confuse the matter by leaving scenes with the pile of bodies in.

So somehow after being nearly traumatised by the baby-stealing cliffhanger we got back to something a bit more reasoned thank god. Popcorn stuff. The idea of the Doctor raising an army just doesn't sit right in almost any circumstance, but his army was made up of a Sontaran nurse and a lesbian victorian lizard so sit back and enjoy. I think there were lots of things to enjoy here and there. The Headless monks were great, they didn't do a lot but the 'reveal' of their headlessness being that their necks were simply tied off in a knot was worth a good laugh as was the implication that these religious fundamentalists were so into religion that they've entirely discarded with their brains. If Russell T Davies had done that people online would have been all over it but it seemed to go strangely unobserved unless I missed that particular 'debate'.

If there was a change to make a political point it was the "We're the fat and thin, gay, married Anglican soldier. Why do we need names?" couple, which would have been a clever observation of the way TV programmes think that labelling a character as gay passes for characterisation in place of actually giving them a personality, if it wasn't for the way the Nu Who has fallen into that trap a few few times itself and sailed close this very episode with its lesbian couple; the Maid-sidekick-lover having little else notable about her.

The Sontaran nurse was a joy. I though I would hate such a preposterous character particularly as I don't care for the New Series Sontarans yet I enjoyed it all, particularly his comments about thinking that when the moment came to die, he though he's be enjoying it a lot more.

So the reveal of this episode? Apparently River Song is the daughter of Rory and Amy. They toyed with us a little implying she may be the fruit of the Doctor's loins what with her being part Timelord - no idea how that can be the case, is it just the time vortex or is it that she has been genetically manipulated with after all? Hmm... I think more than a few people thought she would be their daughter. Doctor Who is a trailer-park universe so for a moment when the Doctor was mouthing "M-M-M" I didn't think he was going to say "Melody" but "Mother". Now that really would have set the online community alight, a joy I think we have all missed out on.

Now regardless of anyone's feeling on the first half of this series, we are left with the great next time title - "Lets Kill Hitler". With a title like that how can you not tune in?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The Rebel Flesh

About half way through last week I found out that Matthew Graham was writing Saturday's episode, and I let out a groan. On Friday I found out it was a two parter. Another groan. Graham's previous works include 'Life on Mars' and 'Ashes to Ashes' were some of the best programmes made by the BBC in recent years, a strange mix of fantasy and SF that was strong throughout. A real gem. But since then it's just been bitter disappointments with the abominable 'Bonekickers', in which a band of archaeologists work together to solve a mystery and inevitably destroy the priceless artefact of the week, and Doctor Who dud 'Fear Her'.

So with low expectations I watched 'The Rebel Flesh', and fortunate because in a word, it was "Meh". The location work was good, the monsters fine, but it was a standard base under siege with some contrivances to move it along. The 'war' between the humans and their flesh-clones was largely started by commander on the base taking an irrationally aggressive stance against the clones and the clones making no attempt to take a course other than killing the humans in response. Seeing as they are clones of each other and most of the people on the base were prepared to meet and talk peacefully with the clones it seems odd that the actions of the commander are not immediately predictable and are allowed to lead to full hostilities between two groups of people who both know that by large the other would find a peaceful settlement agreeable.

The idea behind the story was okay as far as they go, but the question of whether clones or duplicates have souls and deserve equal rights to their originals is not a new idea in SF. There seemed no particular explanation for why they were pumping acid out of the ground for any reason other than to raise the stakes with a greater threat in the story.

I do love Matt Smith and the regulars and they nearly always save even a duff story. But Amy and Rory do not seem well served here bordering on mischaracterisation. Amy just wasn't given much to do and Rory seemed to act in a manner designed to fit the needs of the script rather than what we've previously seen. This is the chap who waited 2000 years for his girlfriend and yet this story seem to be pitched with him taking a shine to clone-Jennifer. It would seem entirely appropriate that Rory would empathise with the clones questioning their humanity because Rory had to deal with being an auton duplicate and he is, after all, a nurse. But the story seems to be tipping over into him being very taken with her on a level beyond mere sympathy. And it's not difficult to see when watching Doctor Who Confidential, where Steven Moffat and others talk about a 'love triangle' in which Rory falls for Jennifer because she is the damsel in distress and makes him 'feel like a man'. What a load of cobblers, it undermines the character and is quite a backwards step given that I though we were now over the insecurities in this relationship. It's no wonder with this attitude towards what men and women need from a relationship that Steven Moffat's fingerprints of this are all over the story leading to the ambiguity in whether Rory is showing professional care and sympathy or attraction towards Jennifer.

Overall underwhelming and quite probably forgettable. Unless there's a huge amount of material in the next episode then I'll probably be left feeling like this should have been a single part story which is a bit of a waste in a season only 13 episodes long.

The TARDIS probably sums up my expectations for the following part of this story.