Just brought myself to watch the Neil Gaiman one.
Bunch of tricks. Everything, from the mail-cube to the supposedly scary goings-on in the TARDIS corridors turned out to be a trick of some kind.
In line with Gaiman’s usual style, it was a load of cynical and calculated pandering to his market’s baser instincts (fanwank) while also patronising them.
The makeshift lashup junk-TARDIS was like the writer was patting the old show on the head and going “awww, bless”.
Such condescension would be obnoxious but justifiable if Gaiman’s episode had expanded and fulfilled and outclassed the best of the old show. But it didn’t. It was meaningless and equivocal as a compliment. It was like someone who claimed to love me giving me a Jeffrey Archer paperback as a birthday gift. However warm the inscription, it’d be obvious that the gift-giver didn’t really know or care about me at all.
It was vacuous and superficial, which was all the worse because it toyed listlessly and disinterestedly with concepts (rejectamenta, reclamation, reconstruction) which are potentially oneiric, semiotically rich and thematically charged. Gaiman used them as nothing but a self-consciously grungey backdrop for a story about… umm… er…
Well, it wasn’t about the junkyard people at any rate. They were all briefly employed for cutesy weirdness and then callously dispatched without the narrative bothering to register that they were even people, rather than collections of mannerisms.
Even Idris was killed without anyone seemingly noticing, simply because she was a vehicle for… well, for a vehicle… a vehicle which was alive… which we already knew.
In other words, rather than bothering with any concepts or characterisation, we got a story in which the Doctor essentially concentrates on how fond he is of his car.
The present-day show to a tee. Worship and fondle and mist-up over the kit and the stuff. Announce banalities like “oooh, ‘alive’ is a complex concept” with blaring musical cues but never bother to actually make any of the onscreen life complex at all. Spice with ersatz characters, pad with tricksy narrative effects and drizzle with arbitrary fanwank.
Still… probably the best episiode of the series.