In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don't worry, be happy...
Today's dark question of blood-chilling terror is: what if Gareth Roberts suffered a complete nervous breakdown and was left an unfunny, over-inflated egomaniac determined to take the piss out of absolutely everything? What if, in short, Gareth Roberts underwent a Jekyll-and-Hyde-style transmogrification into Nev Fountain? Have we ever seen them in the same room? David Tennant sure hasn't...
The opening scenes of the episode forced this unwanted concept into my mind sans lubricant as the TARDIS arrives at a country house and the Doctor and Donna emerge and see how quickly they can piss me off. Following the painful bit which demonstrates the TARDIS prop was never taken to the house where the rest of the story was filmed, and what's more the false console room inside fell over, meaning we can see the inside of the police box roof before you reach the console room... and there are leaves on the police box! Jesus. Did no one notice this? Like the prat behind the camera?
"Never mind the planet Zog, a party in the 1920s, that's more like it!" giggles Donna, instantly requiring someone to punch her in the face. Or at least the person responsible for that dialogue. For fuck's sake! It's not even FUNNY! Oooh, what would you, average viewer, rather watch? An alien uprising on another planet or some twats called Colonel Peach and Reverened "Mark Gatiss stunt double" Golightly. And, no, those are the actual names of these retards. If they said anything remotely amusing, I can forgive this, but I'm left as I was at the start of Kath and Kim wondering "Why the fuck am I watching this? Am I supposed to laugh? Cringe? Nod my head knowingly? Why should any of this deserve my attention?" Especially the fucking vicar, who has been nasally pissing me off since Christmas last year.
What's this? Professor Peach (or was it Colonel? You see the trouble? I DON'T CARE!!) is in the attic looking through papers and talking to himself as he blandly exposits how exctied and secretive it is. ANY JOKES WOULD BE WELCOME, GARETH! ANY AT ALL!! Then, of course, he gets thumped to death by a giant wasp. "I say, what are you doing with that lead pipining?" Peach asks. Shuting you up, hopefully. "That's impossible!" Try anyway...
And the credits start with me having completely and utterly lost any desire to watch further on. It's The Idiot's Fucking Lantern all over again. You get a decent story progression, then suddenly it gets completely abandoned with a suffocatingly smug historical - and ostensibly a comedy. A comedy! From Gareth "The One Doctor" Roberts? How could it fail? Don't ask me, but it just did. There is only line in the pre-credit sequence that counts as a joke... and it's shithouse. Unless we're supposed to fall around laughing at the fact everyone is a 1920s stereotype with a pathetic name and the Doctor and Donna, having completely lost any of the wonder in the first five episodes are now, Smug Time Tourists... Why am I even wasting time downloading this shit?
Don't get me wrong, I want to like this. Robert's The Shakespeare Code is one of my favorites and he gets the Blackadder-style version of the past done brilliantly, like The Fires of Pompeii, but not the utter contempt for any kind of reality as in The Kingmaker. My hopes are raised in the idea that the location is in glorious sunshine rather than the bleached, overcast atmos the BBC seem to think existed until the 1970s. Everything else was threatened with rain and everyone looked like they'd just been bitten by vampires. Did anyone else watch The Ruby in the Smoke last night? Shit, wasn't it? I mean, Billie was wonderful and the dialogue sparked, the characters worked... but who had the lobotomy before dubbing it a detective story? Billie Piper spends the entire story having random people wander up to her, tell her conflicting stories from the past, and vanish. I was left utterly confused, especially at why psycho Julie Walters just stops mindlessly knifing people and reads out her autobiography before drowning herself, or why the other serial killer in the story does the same thing before Billie shoots him through the bollocks, only for him to escape... why the hell was he killing people if he is the Kerry Packer of the Triad Underworld? What was a recovering Opium addict, Trevor Cooper and Robert Glenister going to threaten him with? I have to say, I feel stupid even asking since every five minutes in the story someone sat down and said, "Let me tell you more of the story we couldn't be arsed to film" before dying... The most inept, cack-handred crap passed off as 'mystery' I've ever seen. Who adapted it? Sparacus?
Speaking of the fishy one, his presence stinks up this story which, as he just HAD to point out, reminds of his seminal work (never has that phrase been used so completely accurately before) Aliens in the Orchid House. Not as crap, of course, because it simply couldn't be. But somehow Mark Goacher's claiming it as his own, plus the most nauseatingly stupid pre-credits sequence since the last one (A clue? FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE!!!), mean I'm tempted to give up on this. I haven't felt so disenfranchised since Something Borrowed was inflicted onto the world by the similarly-reliable-seeming Phil Ford.
Maybe it'll get better. But then, why should it? This is the same bloody show that assumed for a disturbingly long period of time that The Doctor's Daughter would work perfectly as a complete rip off of The Last of the Time Lords. The same producer who assumed everyone would be glad he would all but take it off the air every four years. The same corporation so retarded they interrupt the show with the Eurovision Song Contest.
As you can tell, I've pretty much lost every single iota of confidence I had in these ham-fisted "professionals". Maybe if they stopped banging on about how fucking perfect they were every single chance they get, because get this, BBCWales, you fool NOBODY. A conglomerate of Lemon Bloody Colas, the lot of them and as for Karen Beesto...
....and back again!
Hoooboy. Blood sugar must have been low then. All in all, I can still see where I was coming from (coz if I couldn't, no one else will), and that pre-credit sequence is still ten types of crap and the zog line should be shot through the head, but Gareth Roberts, he's never been could with pre-title seqeunces. Look at Attack of the Graske or The Shakespeare Code. Just doesn't work for him.
Once we get into gear, the story's sense of humor establishes itself, starting with a nice moment when Donna asks the Doctor "Flapper or slapper?" and the Doctor takes a moment to reply, clearly not sure which answer she wants. Then the obligatory "No, no, no, don't do that, no" to when his companion tries to indulge in local patter (so good Martha got it twice!) and the "we're not married" gag, they mingle with the guests. How old is Christopher Benjamin anyway? He looks only slightly greyer than he did in Talons of Weng-Chiang? Was he made up to look older than he was or something? Felicity Kendall... well, might be UnAustralian, but she's aged better than Kylie, but I will refrain against all my automatic responses and not lovingly describe her posterier. But I saw The Good Life - it deserved greatness!
Donna finds this set up as unbelievable as I do, which gets her back in my good books. Agetha Christie and a bunch of 1920s socialites have been invited to a party and this is the day Christie vanishes off the face of the Earth and reappears ten days later with amnesia at a hotel in Harrogate (complete with Family Guy cutaways to Christie standing beside a sign saying THE HARROGATE HOTEL... just in case it wasn't clear). But, gazooks, Professor Peach (yeah, I care know) has been found dead in the library with a bit of lead piping, and it takes all of Donna's bladder control not to piss herself laughing at the very idea of such a dumb idea as Agetha Christie caught up in a murder mystery parodying her own work.
Of course, no one has an alibi... bar the Doctor and Donna... and so they are interrogated by the Doctor and Christie with laughingly camp flashbacks (complete with ripples and harp music) which get sillier and sillier. The vicar says he was alone in his room, and we see him alone in his room. The young cad says he was alone in the grounds, and we see him and the manservant skipping hand in hand. Felicity Kendall says she was having tea, and we see her swigging down bottles of hootch and staggering out to meet the Doctor and Donna and recites the entire opening scene as the Doctor shouts HE KNOWS! HE WAS THERE! The young spinster says she was in the loo at the time, and we see her laughing evilly and shoving bullets into a handgun. Henry Gordon Jago goes one better: he says he was reading a military diary, and we see him flipping through 1920s porn. His past self in the flashback reveals it was reminding him of his days in the army, and the flashback Jago has ANOTHER flashback to being in a music hall watching cancan girls... the Doctor takes even longer to shouts how irrelevent this is - and it is flashback Jago who apologizes, not the 'real' one having the flashback! The Doctor bemoans this and slumps down, before having his OWN flashback, to when he was hunting an insane computer through the forrests of Belgium armed with bows and arrows... and Christie points out that this isn't particularly relevent either.
Awesome. It might sound stupid, but it's awesome.
Donna meanwhile, finds a bedroom mysteriously locked for 40 years. No sooner does she break in, the nostalgic sounds of bees buzzing (bees are disappearing, you know, story arc) becomes the less enjoyable sound of a giant wasp smashing through the window and chasing them around the place. The Doctor realizes that the giant wasp is camoflaguing itself as one of the humans. "There's nowhere to run!" the Doctor shouts as he follows the giant wasp (odd how we automatically assumed from the trailers he was being pessimistic about their chances against giant wasps rather than with the upper hand) and, when the wasp ducks down a corridor, screams "SHOW YOURSELF!"
The entire speaking cast emerge from doors all along the corridor, in unison, and look at the Doctor in confusion. As the man himself says, "That's not fair."
But it is incredibly amusing.
And I think the butler did it. I have no evidence bar the ominous music wherever he appears, but it could just be a gag, like that Funky Squad episode where it turns out the butler DIDN'T do it... which in turn makes the entire plot ridiculous because he's the only person who COULD have done it. Oh, the wit!
Meanwhile, no sooner has the Doctor explained the story title for anyone not paying attention, he realizes he's just been poisoned with cyanide. This sequence is SLIGHTLY disappointing for me as it makes a Trenchcoat story uncanonical (for the record, a brilliant bit where we learn Time Lords are immune to cyanide, so the Doctor downs a whole glass with a psycho grin to the bloke who tried to poison him). The other, far more serious thing, is the resolution. If you read The Love Invasion, Roberts' comic strip the first episode of which was published in the month-long era before Eccleston quit, the Doctor gets a lungful of poison gas but survives by eating a chocolate and chicken sandwich, allowing his biochemistry to fix itself. This time, the Doctor's been poisoned and ransacks the kitchens to make a cocktail to cure him. Oh well. If I can cope with A Groatsworth of Wit AND The Shakespear Code, I can cope with this... actually, do I cope with those two contradictory portrayals of Shakespeare? Other times... and this is a rip off of Doctor Vs Doctor, too! Damn you, Steven Moffat, one slow day and you convince all authors to rip off their annual stories...
It's still very funny. DT must have a more screwed up pallet than I do to cope with a stew of gingerbeer, anchovies, walnuts and lemonade... and CT must be damn professional to snog him during such a repast. Oh yeah. Doctor Donna snog. Trust me. It works. And oddly enough, just at the cliffhanger mark of 23 minutes... and I think this has a bit more in common with The Chimes of Midnight than I was expecting. Not that that is in any way a bad thing...
And see? They COULD have used Bessie for The Sontaran Stratagem!! DON'T YOU DARE DENY IT!
All in all I liked that, even though it's pretty much cut and paste from all of Roberts' earlier works, especially the finale where the Doctor muses on how people are remembered - it works when it's the Ninth Doctor's last scene in the comic strip, seems a bit gratuitious otherwise. And, oddly enough, it actually was very much like Ruby in the Smoke. Except it made sense. And had a giant wasp. No Billie Piper, but nothing's perfect.
Next Time: sod all.Next Next Time: "Donna, stay out of the shadows."
It had to happen. Moffat would drop the ball sooner or later. Well, to be fair he probably hasn't, but this is the single worst trailer for an episode I have ever seen in my entire life. Not only did it leave me with absolutely no desire to watch Silence in the Library, it made it look like something I should actually avoid. The Doctor and Donna arrive at the Biggest Library Ever (wow, ripping off a Moffat short story, what are the odds?) and everyone's dead. Because of evil shadows. And some skeletons in space suits. And a giant tampon who needs acting lessons stat. Booooooooooor-iiiiiiiiiiing. Worst of all, the trailer actually makes a certain internet nutter look credible with their bitching that this is a Benny Summerfield story hastily rewritten... I mean, annoyingly cocksure female "Professor" archaeologist and an intense spectacled Time Lordy bloke doesn't AUTOMATICALLY mean "Benny and Brax". Does it?
I'm sure Moffat will kick my arse inside out. Maybe. Not that he has good form with two parters. But in any case, one thing is certain. That trailer was complete shit.