A Galactic Yo-Yo (Boom Town)

(47 comments)

So my choice is "or death?"
It’s June 4th, 2005. Crazy Frog is at number one with “Axel F.” Coldplay, Akon, Gorillaz, Oasis, and Gwen Stefani also chart, the latter with “Hollaback Girl,” one of the most wonderfully awful things ever recorded. In news, Vanity Fair reveals the identity of Deep Throat, Bob Geldof announces the Live 8 concert to coincide with July’s G8 summit, and Scottish Gaelic is given formal recognition in Scotland.

The recognition of Scottish Gaelic was part of a general trend under Blair’s New Labour government towards devolution of powers towards Scotland, Northern Ireland, and, most importantly for our purposes here, Wales. The creation of devolved legislatures and a new push for use of their native languages were only facets of a larger tendency towards national pride in the countries.

In Wales, at least, another facet was the expansion of the existent BBC Cymru Wales. The BBC always had a Wales-specific arm that offered regional programming, including Welsh-language programming, and did in-house drama productions like the BBC’s longest-running soap opera Pobol y Cwm. But with the rise of the Welsh National Assembly it became terribly politic to bolster drama production at regional facilities (in no small part because doing so gave the BBC a wider base of political support). And so BBC Cymru Wales was used to produce an increasing variety of English-language programming for broadcast outside of Wales.

This process coincided neatly with Julie Gardner getting headhunted from London Weekend Television in 2003 to become Head of Drama at BBC Wales. Gardner brought with her Russell T Davies’s Casanova project, which had been kicking around at LWT. Julie Gardner was the Verity Lambert of her day - a tremendously skilled television producer who combined a knack for getting along with just about everybody ever with an absolutely obsessive love of the medium. In particular she was a devoted fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a fact that gets put in every description like this out of the not entirely mistaken belief that Buffy was the model for the new series version of Doctor Who. (A statement that is certainly part of the story, but as we’ve seen over the past month, only part.)

Meanwhile, over at BBC One, Controller Lorraine Heggessey finally clawed the internal rights on Doctor Who back from BBC Worldwide, which was continuing to be spectacularly inept at making a film. She and BBC Head of Drama Jane Tranter approached Julie Gardner, seemingly out of a combination of a desire to put a high-profile drama in Cardiff and the knowledge that Gardner was already working with Russell T Davies on Casanova. Gardner was a tremendously hands-on Head of Drama on Doctor Who, serving as an executive producer and working closely with Davies. The two of them had tremendously shared taste in many things, Buffy included, and the result was that they largely adopted the US showrunner model where a head writer is also in the thick of day-to-day production and served as a primary auteur on the television series.

Davies had originally figured that there would be about six episodes, all written by him, but he was nudged towards an ambitious thirteen-episode order, which would require him to act as head writer over a stable of other writers. He wrote a thirteen episode outline, taking seven of the episodes for himself and allocating the rest to Mark Gatiss, Robert Shearman, Steven Moffat, and his mentor Paul Abbott. Most of these writers he gave a clear brief to, but Paul Abbott was apparently given a longer leash, and came back with a proposed story about how the Doctor had manipulated Rose’s history to make her the perfect companion for him.

This is the sort of thing one’s mind stumbles over, so let’s pause for a moment and look at this. It’s a story repeated often enough that one assumes at least some truth to it, although we should remember the sizable number of largely implausible bits of lore about the classic series and figure that we should take at least some of this with a grain of salt. Certainly it was determined that Abbott was not going to be working on the series fairly early on, and before any drafts of his script existed. Whether this is because of Davies having all of the very obvious objections to Abbott’s idea or because Abbott did not have time is one of those things that probably doesn’t have an entirely straightforward answer. Then again, Davies joked in an interview that Abbott wanted to wreck everything he’d set up, but that it would have been brilliant. Almost regardless of what one thinks about Abbott’s idea, it’s pretty certain Davies was half right.

Davies was also rapidly realizing that his life would be made a lot easier if he made a cheap episode somewhere in there. Because Doctor Who was so madly ambitious as a program its schedules were an absolute nightmare. Episodes were behind, hours were brutal, and the set was tense. Sufficiently so that Christopher Eccleston decided against doing a second year of the program, and has maintained a polite silence about his time on it (despite, by all accounts, being very proud of his work and liking making it). And so Davies decided to take the cheap episode on himself as an eighth script instead of sticking another writer with a crappy brief.

And so Davies, faced with the situation, made the obvious decision to do an episode set in contemporary Cardiff, it being right outside. So he brought back Annette Badland, who was impressing as Margaret in Aliens of London/World War Three, allowing them to use a monster who could appear human for most of the episode and could mostly just recycle an existing monster costume, and did an episode that consisted almost entirely of people talking on the standing TARDIS set or walking around Cardiff and, well, talking more.

It should be made explicit, part of why this episode exists is simply the good politics of doing an episode set in Cardiff if you’re going to have your program made by BBC Cymru Wales. Doctor Who was being made there, and indeed being made at all in part to bring attention and prestige to Welsh television production, and setting an episode there was just the right thing to do. And this characterizes Boom Town in a fundamental way. It is the story this season where you can see the strings. The construction of the new series is an omnipresent part of it - something we’ll talk about in just over a week when we look at Doctor Who Confidential, and highlighted on Friday when we looked at what Doctor Who Magazine was like in the Eccleston era.

Unsurprisingly, then, it’s the episode where the Bad Wolf element gets confirmed. It was always an open question how much attention Bad Wolf would get, and Davies has claimed that he thought nobody would notice. This is, it seems almost certainly, nonsense. The idea was developed slowly and idly, and was dropped in as a requirement for writers very late, hence the ludicrously arcane appearance of it in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, complete with, according to Moffat, a bad German translation that would be more accurately Rubbish Wolf. Indeed, in other accounts Davies decided to play it up in other scripts when Aliens of London was in production and Internet rumors began obsessing over the Bad Wolf graffiti on the TARDIS. In other words, Bad Wolf was always meant to be noticed by fans and was a part of the program explicitly and overtly made to cater to them.

So it’s fitting that it appears in an episode that is, in its own way, particularly fannish and wonky. Boom Town is conspicuous as an episode of television - one that savvy television recap sites like Television Without Pity or The AV Club are going to immediately and without needing to be told going to recognize as the season’s money-saver. But note that this is a very different sort of fandom to stereotypical “anorak-style” Doctor Who fandom. Boom Town isn’t aimed at people with encyclopedic knowledge of Pertwee-era production codes. It’s aimed at television geeks like, actually, Julie Gardner, whose knowledge of Doctor Who was minimal but whose consumption of television, like Davies, was absolutely voracious. (Steven Moffat wonderfully teases Davies at the end of most of his DVD commentaries, ending them with a comment to the effect of “to anyone who’s watching a DVD commentary to the end, goodnight Russell.”) If you really want a sense of it, and this is obviously where this entire line of thought about the material production of Doctor Who will eventually culminate, go read The Writer’s Tale, where Davies is the most obsessive TV nerd imaginable. This is the sort of person Doctor Who figures it can convert as a new sort of fan, and Boom Town is an episode that is meant to work for them.

Accordingly, it veers massively into the tell-don’t-show model that constitutes how you do Big Drama in 2005. So what we get is a big debate about the ethical premises of Doctor Who that’s thinly disguised as an actual plot. (It’s not actually at all - it’s outright just filler waiting to do the climax scene, which could have happened as soon as they brought Margaret onto the TARDIS save for the contrivance that the TARDIS needs more time to refuel.) It’s not what you’d call subtle by any measure, but it’s reasonably dramatic, and it takes a viewer adept at both cynicism and the cliches of modern television to avoid being taken in a bit by it. Elsewhere Davies will use the trick to make terribly dramatic statements about the nature of Doctor Who, but the one thing Doctor Who has meticulously avoided crashing itself into so far is Doctor Who, and so here we get an oddity of the Davies era: a story that’s got the big moral pseudo-debate that he uses to amp up the volume on all his season finales but that actually uses that debate as the content of the story instead of as a technique within a story that’s actually about something else.

But in doing so we see how fluffy the supposed moral debate about the Doctor actually is. There’s no decent substance to Margaret’s critiques, and in many ways the most satisfying moment of the episode is when, freed of the need to us this sort of furious metafictional questioning to churn out ballast for the dramatic stakes, the Doctor can actually deliver the line he can’t when given the same critique three seasons later in Journey’s End, “shut up, you’re a murderous psychopath.” It’s that - the Doctor’s marvelous “you justify atrocities to yourself because every once in a while you let one of them go” speech - that is the moment of cleverness in this episode, not any of the “you’re murdering me, that makes you as bad as I am” crap. And notably, when Margaret comes back to get the last word it’s to say that only a killer would know that, a line that resonates back to the Time War, i.e. to the actual narrative scar within Doctor Who, its own cancellation.

Elsewhere, Rose and Mickey switch shows slightly to do Rownd Cwm Powell, and have a conversation that helps advance their character bits, it having been two episodes since we last checked in with Rose’s soap opera. It’s worth remarking briefly on the deftness with which the series has managed to thread the soap opera, keeping it innocuous enough that you don’t realize it’s being set up for a massive finale, but present enough that it feels like an integral part of the show. After Aliens of London/World War Three kept EastPowellStreet in the mix on the program as it also did children’s telly and Whitehall farce, its next two appearances are in its retro 80s version and its Welsh version. It’s a perfectly serviceable episode of it, and a useful reminder of Rose in her most mundane setting, which, dramatically, we needed set up at this point in the series to pay off in the final episode. Again, the narrative strings are visible here.

The only person who gets poorly served by all of this is, unfortunately, Captain Jack, and it’s here, immediately after his absolutely triumphant debut, that some real problems start to sink into the character. In effect, the show is desperate to avoid him becoming Adric. He’s that very hard to write sort of companion for the Doctor, the one who can do the exposition instead of the Doctor. And he’s a campy alpha male. There’s a triumphant delight to his character, but as written it’s a one note joke. He works well in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances because he’s actually partially adversarial, and because he’s as capable of deforming the narrative as the Doctor, but in a very different and sexualized way. But now he’s part of the default mode of the program. And, well, he’s just kind of an ass. He’s often entertaining, but he does nothing to help the storytelling here, so much so that he basically gets left in the TARDIS in a manner usually befitting of K-9.

This isn’t motiveless - there’s the beginnings of the theme of arrogance that plays such a big part in the Tennant era here, in particular in the deliberately awkward exposition sequence to Mickey early in the episode. But it immediately starts to suggest that, fun as he is, Jack is a character who doesn’t quite fit within Doctor Who as a straightforward companion. Jack seems to feed that arrogance a bit too much. So what we have is a delightfully fun character too good not to use, but who doesn’t quite work within the show. This is, obviously, a thread we’ll follow up on extensively.

And then we have our strange little ending, where the TARDIS casually becomes a deus ex machina of frightening power. What’s interesting is specifically the uncanniness of it. In an episode where everything has been almost explicitly televisual we get an ending that’s willfully too easy. All the danger of the episode proves trivial, cleaned up in an idle “oh, but this is Doctor Who, and this pathetic villain doesn’t get to be this dangerous.” It’s arrogant in a way, but it’s also unnerving, suggesting a troubling and yet-to-be-explored depth to something that we’d been taking for granted as just a basic part of the series for too long. Since that first episode, the TARDIS hasn’t really been played up with a sense of wonder and magic (except a bit in Father’s Day). But now we’re reminded that it’s a sightly frightening object. And from that we go into a marvelous trailer that amounts to “next week, the show goes completely mental.” And suddenly, after an episode that amounted mostly to a strong sense that we understood exactly what this program was and how it worked, we get the lurching feeling that we haven’t even begun to explore its possibilities.

Comments

Ewa Woowa 3 years, 11 months ago

So... nobodies going to mention the football???

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John Callaghan 3 years, 11 months ago

Pedantry: Pobol Y Cwm is the BBC's longest-running soap, but Coronation Street is Britiain's longest-running (and the world's too, I believe).

Another entertaining analysis - cheers.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

The other problem with the 'only a killer would know that' line is that, unless there's something Russell Davies isn't telling us, apparently Davies knows it as well.

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Andrew Hickey 3 years, 11 months ago

A really pedantic point here, but Scottish Gaelic has formal recognition, but not "formal recognition as an official language". The only official language anywhere in the UK is Welsh.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 11 months ago

I await many "Boom Town is crap" comments.

But before all that. Boom Town is great. The ending, granted, is naff, but it's not really about that. The scene in the cafe is a delight, a proper treat and something missing from current Who - getting to know the Doctor, a quiet moment or two, just telling all the explosion-wham-bam-shit to go away for a mo so we can have some character drama. [I much prefer the working title - Dining With Monsters.]

I notice you've avoided the Slitheen again, Phil, but not to worry - the Slitheen member here is also great. A story about consequences and motivations (something seemingly lacking from a lot of villains since), and that scene with the Slitheen and the woman in the ladies' bathroom is truly amazing to watch. The Slitheen aren't just run of the mill bad - they have character, personality, feelings.

True, it is a bit of an empty story and the ending serves only to help the finale ("shit, we have GodRose in two weeks and we haven't explained how she'll become that! Throw in a GodMachineThing into this one.") but it's a well paced, well thought out little story. It's on the same level as Closing Time, and The Lodger - a decent "little" story leading up to an epic finale.

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Daniel Tessier 3 years, 11 months ago

Every post should begin with an Eddie Izzard quote.

But seriously, a very interesting post on an episode that frequently gets overlooked when discussing the first series.

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John Voorhees 3 years, 11 months ago

I must agree with Lewis Christian. Boom Town is one of my favorites ... a story that absolutely would not, could not happen in the Classic series.

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elvwood 3 years, 11 months ago

It's not a particular favourite, but there's certainly nothing badly wrong with it - there are at least four episodes this series that I like less, and this is a fine season. It plays to its strengths: the quiet moments are universally good (and yes, there are so many of these that it wouldn't have worked in the classic show). The only reasons it isn't higher in my estimation are that (a) I didn't like many of the action bits - particularly the comedy chase sequence - and (b) I'd already been put off the Slitheen. Heck, I don't even mind the ending!

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Pen Name Pending 3 years, 11 months ago

I think "Boom Town" is light and fun. Not substantial enough to be a favorite, but a nice underrated episode.

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dm 3 years, 11 months ago

Boom Town is probably my girlfriend's favourite nuwho, and it's one that I enjoy a lot- probably more than Dalek and The Empty Child. It's like the beginning of The Romans, being able to see the gang just hanging out is glorious. Captain Jack probably, as a character, hasn't earned the chemistry, being only one episode in, but it's definitely there. The flirting is great, and Barrowman is at his best when playing against a truly great actor in Eccleston (the cracks in Barrowman's limited ability really show a lot more in Torchwood and when he's feeding off Tennant).

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

The thing about the Revival of the show is that it's not just an anthology of short stories anymore. A season plays out like a novel. Well, like a season of television, really, insofar as we expect TV these days to have narrative threads running through entire seasons (if not longer.) In that context, I absolutely love Boom Town, it's like the calm before the storm, the "beat" before the climax.

And even though it's the cheap episode, there's still some interesting imagery. The TARDIS juxtaposed with the Water/Mirror Tower, the axis mundi of the show's world. Rose and Mickey standing out in front of that tower -- Rose can look into the "mirror" but Mickey can't, he turns away. And, of course, that "beautiful" light from the heart of the TARDIS, the promise of rebirth.

The other thing that's just so lovely about this episode is that it doesn't skimp on the metaphor. Blon's juxtaposed with the Doctor, but a reverse image -- the Doctor agonizes over the few deaths he metes out to save millions; Blon congratulates herself on the few lives she saves over the deaths of millions. Blon's family is dead, she's all alone -- but unlike the Doctor, she doesn't connect with anyone, and still has a world to return to. They both have fancy technological travel devices -- and a "surf board" outside a tower with water running down the sides is perfect.

This "mirroring" plays out throughout their interactions -- reversing her "teleport running," breath freshener to her bad breath, switching the wine glasses, even the Rebirth in the face of execution. It also plays out with Mickey and Rose, where Mickey passive-aggressively mirrors Rose's choices -- going out with someone new but inappropriate, and always running when that Call to Adventure comes. Mickey, though, realizes he doesn't have to keep running anymore.

(Yeah, this leaves Jack without a mirror -- or maybe he's the crack in it?)

Anyways, the pairings of Doctor/Blon and Rose/Mickey are also revealing -- on the one side, we've got aliens always planning ahead, on the other we have impulsive humans living in the moment. They make an interesting contrast.

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jane 3 years, 11 months ago

An Egg is conflated with a Reset Button.

Hmmm.

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Ewa Woowa 3 years, 11 months ago

Well, to be precise: BoomTown is *almost* as crap as Father's Day... (which makes TimeFlight look well thought out.)

And no, I'm not just trolling.


I am not a robot.

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Ewa Woowa 3 years, 11 months ago

But what about the Germans?




I am not a robot.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't want to say Boom Town is crap, but I feel the concept is much more interesting than the execution. Centering an episode on a conversation between the Doctor and a villain has potential to be very good. But the conversation that we get is raised above banality only by the writer putting his finger on the scales. Also, if we take the criticisms 'Margaret' makes of the Doctor seriously we're threatened with a narrative collapse that Davies does nothing to avoid other than by making us not take them seriously. That said, it's Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways that really raise the problem and then do nothing about it.
The Rose / Mickey conversations are good.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Coronation Street is the world's longest-running soap in current production (53 years), but the American soap Guiding Light ran for 72 years before its cancellation in 2009.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 11 months ago

The Eccleston era offers so much to think about, in so many different aspects. There was just so much going on in those 13 episodes that I don't think we got a similarly dense season again until seasons 6 & 7, when all the stories were ludicrously oversignified that each one was at least three stories at once.

The Eccleston year seems to suggest, from the perspective I want to focus on here, the potential for reams of Missing Adventures. I like to imagine expanding the Eccleston era to two seasons, but having the same endpoint. Everything is as it was in real life until Dalek, then I imagine the rest of the season as adventures with the TARDIS team of Christopher, Rose, and Adam. Over the course of those next five episodes, Adam would slowly show himself to be less and less trustworthy. At first, he impresses the Doctor with his scientific curiosity, but Rose suspects him more as the crush wears off. The returns to East Powell Street would play with an entirely different kind of tension between Mickey and Adam. Then in the finale, Adam would betray them all, including Mickey and Jackie to some villain, and the group's rejection of him would forge some closer bonds between Chris' Doctor, Mickey, and Jackie. Imagined Eccleston season two would start with The Empty Child two-parter and introduce Captain Jack, then spend the rest of the season travelling with a Chris, Rose, Jack team, and end at Parting of the Ways. Jack is resurrected and left behind, Chris regenerates into David, just as in real life.

This is my long-winded way of saying that Jack could have used a more prominent role in Doctor Who. Yes, it was great that John Barrowman got his own show, and the best of Torchwood is really very good. But the best Captain Jack is the Doctor Who character. I don't know that Russell T Davies really knew how much the character of Captain Jack would catch on. From what I know, he was only ever intended as a five-episode character who dies in the finale. Then he proved so charismatic that he was brought back.

Boom Town precisely indicates the incidental nature of the original conception of Jack. He's just kind of there, not really doing anything except being a foil to Mickey. Granted, I think he's great in this role, because Captain Jack and John Barrowman are both very good at comedy. In fact, I think some of Jack's best moments on Torchwood are when he's allowed to be funny.

Boom Town is an excellent example of how good Doctor Who's cheap episodes can be. It kind of reminds me of one of your original contrasts in the blog, Phil: Dixon of Dock Green. Boom Town works as a kind of morality play encounter between the Doctor and a villain. It lets us question the Doctor, and explore a moral facet to his lifestyle and the show. His dinner with Margaret works brilliantly because it's a calm conversation: drama of ideas, filmed in a realist manner. Mickey and Rose's plot fits into this episode because they're having a realist discussion as well. They let us question the Doctor's lifestyle, this time not in contrast to a villain, but in contrast to an ordinary socially real life. In Boom Town, that's the most powerful moral conversation, and I'm a little saddened to see that contrast disappear from the show over time.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 11 months ago

What's interesting about "They have to do stories set in Cardiff for internal political reasons" is the way the city is treated. In The Unquiet Dead, Rose is delighted to be somewhere Victorian and replies "Don't care" to all his clarifications ... until the news she's in Cardiff stops her dead in her tracks. In this story Mickey demands to know why *anyone* would go to Cardiff, and Martha has prety much the same reaction, but more muted, in Utopia.

But the clever bit is I would imagine the Welsh audience loving this (I'm Scottish myself, but I think the psychology is much the same) in a weird combination of self-deprecation (of course Cardiff being the site of something as an interdimensional rift is funny!) and chippiness (that's *exactly* the sort of thing a Londoner *would* think!)

And for my money, the best line for this is Margaret's "South Wales could fall into the sea and London wouldn't care", closely followed by "God help me, I've gone native!" The Welsh viewers get to laugh at themselves, and the rest of the country, er, gets to laugh at them as well...

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

What interests me is the way in which the tone has changed dramatically from The Green Death, where the depictions of the Welsh felt terribly patronizing. Though you can see the contrast just as clearly between The Green Death and Terror of the Zygons, the latter featuring a non-trivial number of Scotsmen working on the story and thus engaging in cheery self-mockery.

The existence of Torchwood pushes further in this direction, and in many ways it all pays off gorgeously in that scene in the second episode of Miracle Day where, taunted with a very stereotypical "American reacting to British person" sort of line, Gwen snarls that she's Welsh and proceeds to beat the shit out of the Americans.

I mean, this tends to be the exact sort of humor oppressed and disadvantaged populations form a self-identity out of.

Apropos of nothing, Cardiff is my standard "well if you want something that will be a fun day trip outside of London" suggestion for family and friends going to the UK. Lovely city; Cardiff Castle is absolutely wonderful.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I misread the sentence when I was researching the essay. Fixed now.

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Also fixed.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I can't imagine any Welsh viewers smiling in rueful recognition at The Green Death. But to a Scot, Terror is brilliantly done, especially Courtney as The Englishman Who Has A Scottish Granny And Is Therefore Wearing A Kilt.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Of course Davies knows! He did kill off the Time Lords, Daleks, and countless others, after all.

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Nick Smale 3 years, 11 months ago

I'd love to see this story re-told from Torchwood's point-of-view. Presumably in every scene, just out-of-shot, there must be a second Jack, desperately trying to prevent Owen, Tosh and Ianto from discovering that the mayor of Cardiff is an Alien...

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 11 months ago

"Um, Jack, the Rift machine's overloading and going a bit mental!"

"Yeah, don't worry. I promise it'll all be fine."

"FINE?!"

"I'll explain later."

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

Among currently-airing shows, yes. But it'll be another decade or so before Coronation Street passes As the World Turns and The Guiding Light, which both moved to TV in the 50s and were canned a couple of years ago. (Guiding Light, of course, is not merely the longest-running TV show, but the longest-running work of fiction in the english language, having originally premiered, IIRC, in cave paintings among the Delaware Indians ca 1000 BCE)

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Bennett 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm compelled by the argument that as Torchwood is created in Tooth and Claw by the actions of The Tenth Doctor (or the words of Davies, depending on your perspective) it exists only in potentia at this time, yet to become a fixed point of narrative. This can also explain why, once both these men have left Doctor Who, stories of the scope of Miracle Day can be told without so much as grazing Doctor Who itself.

Of course, imagining Torchwood in the shadows of every major alien invasion of Britain is a lot more fun...

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Bennett 3 years, 11 months ago

You may not be trolling, but I think you may be conflating "not well thought out" with "operates along a narrative axis that I don't agree with".

It would take some argument to convince me that Time-Flight succeeds along its own lines more than Father's Day does (assuming its own lines aren't "to buffer the blow of Arc of Infinity").

But, this being Doctor Who, I can't claim anything to be outside the realm of possibility and look forward to your response.

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George Potter 3 years, 11 months ago

"(Guiding Light, of course, is not merely the longest-running TV show, but the longest-running work of fiction in the english language, having originally premiered, IIRC, in cave paintings among the Delaware Indians ca 1000 BCE)"

It's very painful, snorting coffee out of your nose, dammit.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

If the classic series had continued and Ben Aaronovitch had become the next Robert Holmes, I think we might well have seen a whole episode of the Doctor sitting in a cafe talking about sugar or some such. And it would have been brilliant.

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elvwood 3 years, 11 months ago

Heh. I'd buy the Big Finish adaptation.

Actually, this is the episode that most resembles a seventh Doctor story - I could definitely imagine McCoy at that dinner table. Next best would be The Long Game, then some variation on Father's Day (though the reapers would hsve looked rubbish).

(My captcha was "xamish's chancel", which sounds like a chapter title in a Who book.)

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Alan 3 years, 11 months ago

There is no universe in which Time-Flight was well thought out.

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Nick Smale 3 years, 11 months ago

This can also explain why, once both these men have left Doctor Who, stories of the scope of Miracle Day

I've been imagining that Torchwood still exists in the Tenth Doctor's universe (the one where everyone on Earth knows about aliens because the Daleks moved the planet) whereas in Doctor Who we're in a new version of history where those events have been re-written (by the crack in time, and the Doctor re-booting the universe), and those things (including the events of Miracle Day, presumably) no longer occurred.

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David Anderson 3 years, 11 months ago

Now that you say it, the classic Doctor story that comes closest to light-hearted episode in which the Doctor spends most of the time engaging in conversation with the villain is City of Death.
(Not that I think the comparison does Boom Town many favours.)

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Assad K 3 years, 11 months ago

Not having been particularly fond of this episode, that was however hailed as another triumph in the format of NuWho, I should really have rewatched this (I will watch Love & Monsters again before commenting, honest!), I will nevertheless comment..

Much as with Journeys End, the music and photography did kinda leave me with the impression that we were meant to think that there might be some validity to Margarets comments about the Doctor. Except, of course, that it's a crap argument that required far stronger rebuttals than what we got, where Team TARDIS has trouble looking her in the eye. But, as Dr Sandifer pointed out, at least this time the Doctor was able to tell her that she was full of it. It's not even as if there is any nuance to Margaret being Evil. The teaser has her murdering someone in cold blood!

I also had some trouble getting past the issues in the story that derived from .. well, from having Annette Badland return. Because this would imply a universe without UNIT or Torchwood.. or, indeed, even MI-5. Not to mention that, after for all intents and purposes kidnapping the Mayor of Cardiff, the Doctor then takes her to dinner at a high end restaurant, where she would presumably be recognized. Obviously I am focusing on the wrong elements of the narrative. And yes, I know that 'City of Death' showed is that the patrons of Paris cafes are quite nonchalant about men walking in waving guns, but that seemed pretty bizarre to me as well.

Wasn't too fond of the resolution either. I couldn't really buy that Margarets deepest desire was.. to have another chance. Hm. But TARDIS as resolution will recur far too soon.

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

How did the Delaware Indians learn English 2600 years before it was invented? Did those cave paintings by any chance prominently feature a little blue box?

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Froborr 3 years, 11 months ago

Actually, this is the episode that most resembles a seventh Doctor story - I could definitely imagine McCoy at that dinner table. Next best would be The Long Game, then some variation on Father's Day (though the reapers would hsve looked rubbish).

I dunno, I just rewatched "Bad Wolf" over the weekend and noticed a lot of similarities with "The Happiness Patrol."

But in general, I think the Seven-and-Ace seasons more closely resemble the new series than they do the bulk of the classic series.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 11 months ago

Overall, I've warmed to Boom Town over time, a contrast to my first viewing when it premiered in 2005 in Canada, two Tuesdays after the UK broadcast. At the time, I didn't really know the material conditions in which the show was being made. So when I saw Margaret Blon Slitheen return, I thought this was Davies' attempt to stamp a new recurring villain onto the show: adding his own contribution to the pantheon of Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master, Ice Warriors, etc. When I first watched this season, I saw the Slitheen as absolutely rubbish villains. It was only years later, when I could conceptualize them as an early version of what would eventually be Max Capricorn in Voyage of the Damned, did I understand what was really intriguing about their concept. Originally, I saw it as a profoundly arrogant move of Davies to take probably the dumbest villain that season (without even the charisma of a PR man like Simon Pegg) and try to make them a recurring monster race. I only perceived Davies' ego, thinking (like a fool) that creating a new canonical recurring monster race was a more important contribution to Doctor Who than bringing it back from the dead in the first place.

I only learned about the clusterfuck that was season one's production over the following years, and so now can understand Boom Town's role as the cheap story produced at the last minute when Paul Abbott's script proved unworkable with Davies' vision of the show. They reused the Slitheen only because the costume was still in storage at BBC Wales and Annette Badland was available. Plus, even in my initial chilly reception, I enjoyed the story, a meditation on the different fuzzy areas of the morality of the Doctor and Doctor Who. Magaret Blon's story is a meditation on the justness of capital punishment, and the Rose/Mickey story is a meditation on how association with the Doctor can change your outlook on life, and maybe disconnect you from parts of your life that used to be very important. The latter, especially, is a very meaningful topic to me, as someone who has many friends, and has myself, moved from one city to another and found myself more disconnected from relationships that used to be immensely important to my life. Oddly enough, Boom Town was probably the most sane articulation of this problem with the Doctor's lifestyle, as many of the later discussions grew increasingly heavy-handed in my view.

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Ross 3 years, 11 months ago

I'm more interested in where they found a cave on the Atlantic coastal plain.

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Richard Amphlett 3 years, 11 months ago

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 3 years, 11 months ago

http://youtu.be/giaMRyn47Xg The Ballad Of Russel & Julie

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landru 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, "way to plant, egg!" Sorry, wrong show.

So, Sandifer, I bought the Hartnell book ... are you saying you left "The Massacre" out?

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, in the print edition; it's in the ebook. I updated the web version to the revised version, and the Troughton book has it as an appendix. As, obviously, will the revised edition.

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landru 3 years, 11 months ago

It's funny, but this season AT THE TIME really bothered me ... the emotional stuff in "Father's Day" actually really pissed me off, especially. But, this episode seemed to make it all fit together. I mean, I never accepted the "love story" thing and still don't like it at all, but now I can watch it with women ... Sexist? Then why is it true?

Sandifer's blog, especially starting with his "Rose" TV Roundup approach, has really given me perspective I never had on what hurdles this relaunch had to overcome. I was going to comment on that, but shared it with friends instead.

(Mr. Sandifer, I've been here all along, not commenting. When you want advice on why I think you should address "Culloden" in context with "The Highlanders" again ... I'll let you know. ... The Time Lords left Jamie to be slaughtered.)

However, "Boom Town" was just sort of fun, even at the time. Jack is a little bit jarring, but there are too many characters here and he does have a few nice moments.

The main standout that I should mention ... and it was mentioned to Noel Clark at Gallifrey (??) 2006 ... was that it gave Mickey real pathos. Suddenly, he was a fleshed out character that you felt bad for and even could suddenly relate to. The jilted boyfriend. That part of the "soap" storyline is, in a way, the end of that storyline as an exclusive entity, I would argue. There is no just "soap" story without it merging into Doctor Who.

I'm definitely looking forward to future instalments. Getting good.

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landru 3 years, 11 months ago

hmm, so buy the Troughton book ... hmm. lol.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 11 months ago

What I loved about "Boomtown" is that it took a heretofore rubbish villain and made them interesting and complicated.

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Mike Card 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually, all of the comments about Soap Operas (other than Guiding Light) are, in fact wrong. All of you have missed an important qualification, which is that these things are only true for TV. The longest running BBC Soap Opera is in fact Radio 4's The Archers which has been going since 23 years, 9 months and 15 days before Pobol y Cwm debuted and 9 years,11 months and 8 days prior to the start of Coronation Street, making it the longest running Soap Opera still in production, the longest running Soap Opera to have been made entirely for radio, the second longest running programme on the BBC after Desert Island Discs and the second longest running fictional programme ever after Guiding Light, which it will overtake in about 7 years time.

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