Rot & Brilliance
Series 2. The Great Disappointment. Mostly Timelash II material… but some new stuff, especially on ‘Girl in the Fireplace’ and the Cybermen 2-parter.
The Christmas Invasion
Easily the best Christmas special. Fun without being stupid. Epic without being maniacally over-the-top.
I’ve never been sure about the putative Belgrano parallel, though its undoubtedly in there. Harriet’s actions seem far more rooted in the whole cultural atmosphere of the “war on terror”, with the ongoing public debate amongst liberals and lefties about ruthless pragmatism to protect “our civillisation” vs. principled non-aggression and/or anti-imperialism, etc…
It’s interesting to compare Harriet’s liberal ruthlessness with the Doctor’s much-vaunted “no second chances” thing. The Doctor, for all his hard-faced and unforgiving dispatching of the Sycorax leader, only kills when he has to – his foe has been warned, is breaking a promise, is directly attacking him, etc. Moreover, his act is man to man. Harriet’s actions are an act of state terrorism against a retreating enemy, done in the name of showing strength against possible future attacks.
Apart from ‘The Empty Child’ (which is a whole can of worms by itself), this is the nearest the new series has come to doing a story about the body.
It has mutants, medicines, cat people and a grotesquely fat man who is turning to stone… the physical concerns continue into the main subplot, which is a ‘body-swap’ comedy of the type that Hollywood produced by the hundredweight in the late 80s (all of them, as far as I can recall, starring either Tom Hanks or people who built their entire careers on looking and sounding vaguely like Tom Hanks). It’s quite funny, but it goes on too long and gets tiresome.
Mind you, it should be noted just how much ‘New Earth’ owes to ‘Revelation of the Daleks’. In the secret, gothic depths below a swanky professional institution seemingly devoted to healing, ghastly experiments are afoot which treat humans as raw material, etc.
Sadly, little attention has been paid to making the plot make much sense on any level. The Face of Boe has something to tell the Doctor… and suddenly decides not to because he’s suddenly not dying anymore. The richest man on the planet is waiting in an open ward of a charity hospital. The more interesting visual and thematic ideas are neglected in favour of shambling zombies (who are, like, a metaphor about vivisection… or something) who get cured by a mixture of colours that can cure all known disease. One wonders why the cat nuns bother to do all those experiments, since they’re already in possession of a panacea based on colourful liquids.
The wet, Moffatesque, everybody lives, aren’t-humans-wonderful ending is pretty sickening, to be honest. RTD’s original idea was much better.
And how can we possibly be expected to sympathise with Cassandra? She’s a mass-murdering psychopath whose subdued final attitude stems entirely from self pity.
Loads of potentially great ideas, put in a blender and thrown against a wall. This is barely bearable precisely because its so nearly good.…