DOCTOR WHO: DREAMLAND
You can do a lot in a lifetime
If you don't burn out too fast
You can make the most of the distance
First you need endurance
First you've got to last...
From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light
That gets in your eyes
One moment's high
And glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades
In the summer sky!
Ostensibly the missing adventure between The Waters of Mars and The End of Time, Phil Ford tackles writing for the mother series two stories in a row - and pre-2005 that would be a huge achievement, putting him up with Christopher Bidmead, Pip & Jane Baker and Ian Stuart Black as the only consecutive writers.
The Tenth Doctor once again wades into the murky waters of animated adventures, which, as ever, prove to piss poor in comparison to even the lamest of American cartoons. The Infinite Quest wasn't even as good as the opening credits of 1960s Batman for crying out loud and I have yet to read a good word about the artwork for the penultimate adventure of David Tennant. Imagine SIMS over a corrupted youtube vid, basically, describes all the preview footage. Given all the incredible hassle this animation takes, I can only wonder if it would have been cheaper to just film the thing as a normal story - surely Utah is easier to recreate than Mars?
Well, would you Adam and Eve it, it's a sequel-prequel to Sarah Jane's misadventure, Prisoner of the Judoon! When did anything similar happen with Torchwood, I wonder? The answer "Never" leaps instantly to mind and I doubt it will improve as Moffat has even LESS time for the spin-off than even Rusty does. In any case, a distinctive UFO (looking very much like the ones in Independence Day... which were also found in Area 51) is shot down by two other UFOs and crashes in White Sands New Mexico in 1947 on the 13th of July. In spitting distance of a "Welcome to Roswell" sign, just in case you're not on the ball.
Truly, has anyone NOT heard of the alien ship that crashed at Roswell, was put into an underground military base and heavily guarded ever since? Well, while there's no actual proof any alien technology of any kind, there IS a heavily-guarded base built there called Area 51 and if you trespass they will kill you without hesitation. They have something to hide and there is countless reams of footage of wierd lights in the sky above "Dreamland". Personally, the biggest hurdle to the borderline-Torchwood xenotech research idea is that I find it hard to believe that aliens could crash their supremely advanced spaceship because of lightning and fail to invent seatbelts. And if, say, some kind of magnetic stuff in the rock screwed their ship, logically Roswell would be the worst possible place to test alien spaceships?
Anyway, the reason for the crash is explained (though the "real" one occured at night during a thunderstorm), and it's into the opening credits which, thanks to the new HD tinkering, is exactly like live action episodes yet maintains the same feel and look. Amazing. And how many fans' hearts sink as Georgia Moffet gets top billing but isn't Jenny?
Despite the exquisitely-detailed landscapes, my hopes sink when they can't even animate the bloody TARDIS landing. Didn't they know how to draw a police box? The jerky, almost Gumby-shaped Doctor shambles drunkenly into a diner, with doors flying open ahead of him as if he's using mighty Jedi powers that give him Parkinson's Disease. In fact, let's just say here and now
THIS IS WITHOUT ANY DOUBT THE WORST ANIMATION I HAVE EVER SEEN AND ALL CONCERNED SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF THEMSELVESLIKE THE WEEPING ANGELS, IT WORKS UNTIL YOU SEE THEM MOVE...OK. The Doctor seems to have come straight from Adelaide's place and is generally giving the air of someone desperately prevaricating and he's hastily decided that before he answers the call of the Ood he will stuff himself full of American chili, and thus detours to 1958 to start patronizing stupid apes. Or maybe just Americans, it's not exactly clear. The Doctor then snatches up an alien fuse that was lying around the diner from 'the saucer that crashed five years ago' and zaps it until it makes every lightbulb in the diner explode. The owner/waitress and her Native American biker customer are not pleased, understandably.
But within three seconds some albino MIBs arrive outside the diner and barge in as the biker goes on in his best Johnny Redcorn voice that space aliens are mutilating his cattle. The MIB (played by the bald guy villain from Beast of Orlock... or Gladiator) arrives, beats up the biker and demands the fuse. So the Doctor sonics the coffee machine, which terrifies the freak long enough for our "heroes" to effortlessly flee in the biker's truck.
Heading for the ranch, there follows some painful comedy that might have worked if the animators knew what the hell they were doing. As the Doctor muses on the dinosaur-like tracks and puzzles what could have caused them, a freaking huge alien bug creeps up behind him and scares the shit out of his new pals, while the oblivious Time Lord wracks his brains for what it could be. Finally he twigs both to the monster's presence and its origin, tells the waitress to STOP THE HELL SCREAMING!!! Alas, it's too late and the monster is so pissed off he decides to use the trio as target practice as they try and silly-walk their way to safety, when suddenly a passing Black Ops helicopter fires a missile and blows the insect to pulp.
An immensely satisfying resolution as you can imagine.
OK, this is 12 minutes of frippery and the writer presumably thought the worst he'd get would be that sliding illustrations of Shada, but with truly shitty visuals, it just emphasizes how thin the story is. I might have to listen to this rather than watch it, to spare my eyes from this. Bloody hell, who designed the avatars? Mambo?!
The helicopter crew politely tell the Doctor and his wooden pals that they are to be arrested and taken to Area 51. Despite the monotone objection from his new companions, the Doctor ignores them for a trip to Dreamland to meet the Roswell Aliens. Indeed, he's quite enjoying telling them how monumentally screwed they are, since no one knows they're there or will rescue them and then tells them off for getting depressed. Thankfully there's a visual gag in the perfect CGI-recreation of that lift shaft shot we've seen SO MANY TIMES since Rose. After being locked in a cell for several hours, Colonel Stark drops by, tells them all these escaped aliens are sorted out, and the Doctor and his pals (I really must try and work out what they're called) will be strapped down and mind-buggered till they no longer pose a threat to national security.
After the Doctor has to explain to his companions in detail why mind-buggering is an unpleasant and imprecise art likely to leave them all the mental equivalent of Kath & Kim fans, Colonel Stark drops by for a gloat and then begins the mind-buggering - flooding the chamber with gas an a huge widescreen TV showing fractal screensavers. The Doctor effortlessly rips free from his bonds (I assume his claim of this being a Houdini trick is either a joke to disguise his alien super strength, or else the animators had no clue what the writer meant by the Doctor using escapology) and switches off the gas. "That's what I love about the 1950s - no one's seen Die Hard! Or Alien!" the Time Lord grins and prepares to flee through the air vents.
As an aside, that buggers all those theories that Doctor Who and Alien are in the same universe (as judged by Crozier having a pickled chestbuster in Mindwarp).
The trio soon escape, with it becoming more and more obvious he's finding his new pals irritating for their lack of worshipping his genius, since all he's done is get them in more and more trouble. The Doctor then gets them all trapped in a sealed lab covered in "BioHazard" signs. Which improves the mood no end, even when they find a little green alien girl locked in a cell (looking like the typical Grey only green with more feminine facial features). The Doctor leads John and Gillian (I can't be arsed to check their real names) onto a lift which he zaps up to eleven, but they just glare at him, refused to be impressed.
Gillian correctly predicts they will be surrounded by guards when they arrive, but the Time Lord Victorious has a plan: "Charm offensive! You put your hands in the air and SMILE!"
Meanwhile, Colonel Stark barges into his office where an alien sounding like David Warner and looking like a Solonian Mutt in a samurai helmet is lurking. Stark insists nothing is wrong but the bug reminds Stark that if he fucks this up, the human race will have bigger problems than the Cold War!
Hmm. It turns out John and Gillian were Jimmy and Cassie. And the bug was Lord Anzlok. And Stark was Stuart "Adam Klaus from Beyond the Grave" Milligan. As Charley would say, I'm none the wiser yet simultaneously better informed.
A much-shorter episode this time, with even it's 7-and-a-half minute runtime eaten into by full opening and closing credits and recaps from yesterday's episode. Damn the audience with their goldfish-like attention spans, Eddie! DAMN THEM!
With the TARDIS crew caught, Stark bitches at Anzlok for letting his drone soldiers wandering around the countryside eating horses in public but Anzlok, the superior alien, hastily changes the subject and scuttles away. Loser. Meanwhile, the Doctor notices they're being escorted past the crashed Roswell spaceship and decides to nick it - with one zap of the sonic screwdriver. OK, I've let the misuse of that buzzing whatsit go for quite a while now (oddly enough, it's only Moffat who relies on its dues ex machina properties to resolve plots), but come on? One zap not only repairs this crippled ship but conveniently opens the pod bay doors? Is this a similar "making you sick of it so you won't miss it when Matt Smith turns up" approach to the mythology?
With Area 51 guards now acting less competent than Beebop and Rocksteady on crystal meth, our heroes effortlessly escape into that spaceship. The knackered spaceship trapped in a reinforced underground bunker, but don't let that worry you. Or the fact there are all those stealth fighters hovering overhead. The Doctor starts to admit this plan was kind of rubbish (and, to be honest, I'm strongly suspecting that this script was meant for actors and sets judging by the desperate reuse of both, but somehow the GFC means it was cheaper to animate them. Seriously, this is the cheapest I've seen. I just managed to animate Nigel and Dave chatting about religion and it was more convincing than this...)
Actually, to be fair, the stuff with spaceships, helicopters, even just cars on the landscape are very good. No complaints there. But when we see the people INSIDE it all goes crap. This means a chase scene is about the best possible news as it's kick ass and, during daylight, something you can appreciate more than most SFX nowadays. And it turns out mauve ISN'T the universal sign for danger. Yeah, up yours, Moffsta!
Long story short, the spaceship famous for crashing in the New Mexico desert... crashes in the New Mexico desert. I know. Who saw that coming? Stark meanwhile realizes he was being a total idiot trying to mind-bugger the Doctor, the one person who can fly their second-hand UFO while Anzlok's mighty brain concludes that from the Doctor's knowledge of the future, aliens, alien technology, the way he weilds a sonic screwdriver and cheerfully reveals he's not human but a Time Lord, that there MIGHT be hidden layers to this spiky-haired intruder!
Take the rest of the night off, Sherlock.
Luckily, our heroes have inexplicably survived the crash and wandered into a ghost town called "Solitude" as the camera lingers on Cassie's digital buttocks a bit too long for it to be funny or wholesome. What's disturbing is that everyone has pixelated hinges for backsides, but they appear to have put as much work into GM's bum as they have DT's face. Sick, sad and yet true.
Funny thing is, back in the 90s a good 80% of my homemade comic strips featured the Doctor turning up in a Wild West ghost town, though they invariably turned out to be abandoned android-run theme parks. Or atom bomb tests. I remember one I did at Christmas where the Fourth Doctor, Sara Kingdom and Shrinker from B7 arrived at one to find the brain of Morbius in an android spider scuttling around before a time bomb went off... What?! I'm a nutter. Haven't the previous hundred posts this year got it across? This episode gives me nostalgia buzz, basically. If it was better animated, this might have been a story I'd love. Area 51, MIBs, Greys, ghost towns... have NO doubt, if Doctor Who hadn't been cancelled, the 1995 seasons would have been FULL of stories like this, if only to take the piss out of The X-Files.
Anyway, allonzee, our heroes nip into the saloon which, of course, just happens to be the site of an alien nest and a big blue alien bug climbs out of the floor and tries to eat Jimmy. Oh, be still my failing heart. Using the kung-fu reflexes of shitty animation, the Doctor and Cassie dive into the hive after Jimmy, who has been cocooned by Anzlok to interrogate him about who the guy who's been shouting, "ELLO! I'M THE DOCTOR AND I'M A TIME LORD!" throughout the previous day. On security camera footage. What amazing intelligence from the superior bug overlords, I think you'll agree there, ladies and gents.
The Doctor turns up to confront the bugs and that ol Time Lord Victorious starts to bubble to the surface again ("I hear two hearts beating!" "Then note their rhythm..." ooh, creepy!) and discovers the bugs came to Earth to fight their alien foe who is also on the planet. Alas, the episode is nearly over and so to maintain the suspense, Cassie starts a fire to distract the aliens and they all run away...
...straight into an egg-filled cave with a giant bug queen. The Doctor and his pals stand, awestruck at the incredible unoriginality of this (and after critiquing "Aliens" earlier that day) as the bug soldiers tippy-toe sneak up behind the humanoids... It's the funniest-looking cliffhanger I've seen post-2005.
Pausing only to quip about how he never gets along with female royalty, the Doctor comes up with the brilliant plan of "run away" and Captain Obvious, er, sorry, "Jimmy", quickly points out they're in abandoned mine workings. I guess we were supposed to think the mine carts, wooden struts and gas lanterns were put in by the alien insect people from outer space, were we?
Using the sonic screwdriver to yet another obscene advantage (it can simultaneously act as a torch, control and steer a non-motorized mine cart while also causing bolts to fly out of wooden beams), the Doctor leaves the aliens to get crushed in a mine cave-in while he tries to Pitfall:TheMayanAdventure their way to safety. It's also suddenly day-time. Gosh, is there NOTHING that sonic screwdriver can't do?!
But what's this? The MIB are waiting for them outside the mine - lead by Mr Dread (Orlock, from part one), and his pal, Fear, Terror and Apprehension. Turns out that these MIB are aliens themselves, the Alliance of Shades mop-up teams who are sent to primitive rocks like Earth to cover up alien contact until the planet is advanced enough to talk to the civilized cosmos. Presumably the Earth contingent die horribly in this story, as they never do anything approaching this "mop-up" from the 1960s onwards. Where the hell were you bastards when we had Daemons, Osirians and Exxilons strutting across the globe? HUH?!
Oh, wait, turns out these androids are sent by the alien intruders in question to cover their tracks. And they're so crap at their jobs, the Alliance decides to quit Earth at the start of the UNIT era when it just gets silly. And these androids are designed like Inspector Gadget. After the theme tune was used in Waters of Mars Confidential and now this, it's clear the universe is trying to forge the ultimate crossover from my childhood.
But, once again, just as the Doctor is about to find out the rest of the plot, some humans turn up and ruin everything. Jimmy's grandpa and his Red Indian Ninja pals (dressed in black PJs... in the middle of the desert... during the day) let loose a volley of arrows and kill all the MIBs. Turns out the Indians had insider info, cause in their cool Indian cave hideout - seriously, this story just SCREAMS tie-in action figure playsets - they have another little green dude with big eyes sulking. He's sulking mainly cause his pretty green girlfriend is locked up in Area 51, it was her ship that crashed in the pre-title sequence and these little green people are fighting a pitched war with the alien bugs. Hence everyone's respective presence in the story so far.
And if you don't snigger during the "war" scenes of queues of bugs skipping across burning cities as green dudes in Rambo headbands and submachine guns dance over boulders, well, you have better self control than I do.
Just then, yet another bunch of bad guys ridiculously appear out of nowhere. Just how, exactly did Stark and his pals know our heroes were in a cave in the middle of the desert? And how did they sneak in with no one noticing? There's no answers forthcoming, since this episode is even SHORTER than the last one!
Shorter and shorter still, barely scraping HALF the length of the first installment! The US Army arrest absolutely everyone and drag them back to Dreamland. The Doctor and Cassie bitch that it's a bit ungrateful to keep mind-buggering the only people that can help the USA deal with alien invaders, but, hell. They're American - as in Minuet of Hell American. What can you do?
In Stark's evil underground lair it is discovered the little green dudes are masters of genetic warfare. This is of course hideous, immoral genocidal hate when used against David Warner's bugs, but a perfectly acceptable and honorable weapon to be thrown at them damn Commie bastards. Points for no attempt at Pertwee morals, just DT sighing in a clear "Give a fucking break here!" manner. But where is this superweapon? It is of course the wierd lightbulb thing the MIBs have been after all along. The sparking and malfunctioning Mr. Dread lumbers in (for once I assume he's SUPPOSED to walk like that...) with said doomsday virus.
The Doctor goes apeshit.
Again.Blowing the living fuck out of Mr. Dread with the sonic screwdriver, he steals the virus and legs it, abandoning everyone to the mercy of the incredibly pissed off Lord Anzlok. Stark chases the Doctor onto the roof as helicopters buzz around them and the Doctor screams he doesn't CARE if he's considered a Communist, a Conscie or a Suicide Bomber - he is NOT going to let the USA get their hands on the virus. Realizing how freaking serious the Doctor is, Stark finally notices the odd paradox that a bunch of "harmless space roaches" have been able to nuke the hell out of far superior civilizations than mankind, so his idea of just using bazookas against the alien bugs may not be a viable method.
But the Doctor's smugness at turning Stark is quickly undermined. Anzlok's super-hearing heard the whole thing and he's not happy. He barges up on the roof in full kaiju mode. After gloating that the virus container can't be used on anything without the little green dudes' help, Anzlok grows wings and flies off into the sky, vowing to destroy the Earth before the Doctor can do a damn thing...
For the final episode we get a slightly longer episode, but it's quite clear to me that this was originally a six-parter truncated to five to pull the whole Children of Earth one week stunt. A world of instant communications but no one trusts the public to tune in on the weekend?! Big respect for the audience there.
On with the plot. It turned out that before Anzlok threw his hissy fit, he ducked down to the little green dude honeymoon suite and kicked the shit out of the male alien before running off, to ensure there was no one to activate the virus. Man, can this bug multitask or what?
Finding Cassie cradling the dying alien in a manner that makes it look like she's trying to get him to pose for a photo, so the Doctor decides the nicest thing is to smash down the glass wall betwixt alien and his girlfriend so she can... I dunno, give him one last kiss or something. But the girlfriend (played by Lisa "Benny" Bowerman, not that you'd spot it) explains she can save her lover with her crashed ship - which, unfortunately, is in the vault with an insane alien guardian no one is willing to mess with. Wait... so the ship the Doctor and co joyrode in WASN'T the Roswell one?! That makes three kinds of no sense at all! Especially considering Prisoner of the Judoon...
As Anzlok tries to sweet-talk his Queen into hatching her eggs (and what a charmer he is!) the Doctor, Stark, Cassie, Jimmy, Jimmy's Grandpa Ethnic Stereotype and the aliens skip towards the vault, a freaking huge metal door in a giant cave somewhere marked "USAF". Stark is confident they can bury the bugs in the mines, but the Doctor is even MORE confident they'll just dig their way out again and they only have an hour... sorry, five minutes... to switch on the virus and kill all the bugs instantly. However, it turns out Area 51's vault is the same one Indiana Jones uses to store his knicknaks. Which is just plain irritating as not only is it even LESS original than the egg-laying alien queen, it means the next five minutes are going to be PADDED for the love of Donna Noble!
As the Doctor and girl-alien wander around in the crates in a way that disturbingly emphasizes girl-alien's armored groin, Jimmy and Cassie finally drive home to find... a photo of the TARDIS. And it couldn't be shown earlier because...? Worse, despite time being of the essence, they decide to lean on the boot and outstare it for a while, and by the time they load it into Jimmy's truck, night has fallen. It seems they simply didn't twig that the Doctor's "we have till sunset!" screams were somehow relevent to the ongoing situation.
The army of bugs tear out of the desert in a way that live action NuWho would dub "acceptable", so huge compliment there. As our vacuous teens realize they'd left it a wee bit too late to escape the swarm of "viperox battle drones", the Doctor and alien-girl split up in the huge dark warehouse with a monster in it whose POV is disturbingly similar to that of a Rutan. Still scarier than a River Song episode though, it should be noted. How long left? Less than three minutes. OK...
The monster turns out to be the electrical ghost of a ThirdSpace Alien from Babylon Five (which, now I think about, looks like a blue Rutan) and he reveals himself a second before girl-alien announces she, unlike Bono, has found what she's looking for: a shiny crystal ball of shiny glowy stuff. The Doctor and girl-alien leg it as the monster chases them through the crates in a sequence unlikely to remind anyone of Planet of the Ood on the condition they've never actually seen it. Nevertheless, a good bit as the Doctor announces he has a plan and they dive into a crate and pull the door shut.
"This is your plan?" asks Benny the alien.
"It's. In. Development."
But maybe it's funnier cause it's pitch black and we can't see the awful lipsynch?
Either way, the Doctor's funky escape plan is kind of cool, except relies on a super-power which is kind of unfair. The Tenth Doctor is quite absent-minded, so pulling the revelation he can perfectly navigate by remembering the path he took is... well, let's just say, it's cheat, really.
Meanwhile, the military open fire on the bugs... who simply remember they have wings and fly away. And no sooner has Jimmy reminded us that the story is safe as long as they don't run into any bugs, they LITERALLY run into a swarm.
...what? That's the end? I thought this was a five parter!
Colour ME embarrassed.
Gimme a minute... OK.
In a blatant retcon of the previous cliffhanger, our substitute companions manage to avoid crashing into the bugs and hurtle off into the desert. So annoyed with this Republican attitude to continuity, all the bugs can do is stand around impotently as the truck escapes. The military are not so lucky as the flying bugs eliminate the tanks and the helicopters and Stark manages to bang his fist in frustration and look even vaguely convincing. Trouble is, this 'dammit' scene is so crap in thought, no amount of deed can make up for it.
The Doctor and girl-alien have easily escaped the bunker (still infested by a completely different type of alien bug) as something that sounds like a rip-off of "All the Strange Strange Creatures" begins to blare. The flying bugs descend on Area 51 and, are, of course, immune to all the bullets Stark can fire. Quite frankly, I laugh out of sheer sadism. Whatever goes on in Dreamland, we can be 100% sure the base personnel are complete arseholes. Eat them all, say I! Antisocial xeno-raping trigger-happy bastards...
The Doctor and alien-girl are chilling out, watching the holocaust when Jimmy and Cassie arrive totally by chance with the TARDIS just in time for the Doctor to big up his own genius and announce he's stopping the bugs. How convenient. Dear me, NO FIST for trying to capture DT and GM's toothy grins... unless they're supposed to look totally embarrassed...
I have to say there's something about the gang entering the TARDIS that works more than the TV series, but I can't quite say what. The fact they get the "wheezing and groaning" wrong and forget the light flashes when it moves is devastating, though. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! Actually, no having girl-alien nuzzle dying boy-alien's groin with her lips (maybe she's kissing his HAND, but the angle, people, the ANGLE...) is the most baffling thing before she uses her magic eight-ball to bring him back to life from those injuries we were never actually told about. What exactly was done to him anyway?
The revived boy alien is quite happy to use this virus delta wave to wipe out every bug in the universe but the Doctor isn't wanting such genocide. Dude, make your mind up. I'm beginning to wonder if this is pre-TWOM and all his monumental psychotic arrogance has just been a coincidence. Oh, hang on, he's run away, leaving everyone to be eaten. And no, wait, he's run into the TARDIS and plugged the virus into the TARDIS console... and is now letting off a sound wave that will force the bugs to flee the Earth. So what, prey tell, is the point of the virus?!
"Your day will come!" shouts Anzlok as he legs it. "Yeah. So they say," the Doctor muses to himself quietly.
While the bugs flee in their ridiculous-looking and very slow spaceship, the Doctor gives Stark the virus and basically explained how plugging it into the TARDIS did anything any good at all. My god, I am now sick of that sonic screwdriver. It can rewrite diseases now, you know? For fuck's sake!
The alien couple bugger off in their ship... well, ONE of their ships... I think. There has to be one left for that bodysnatcher dude to nick in TSJAs. With the Mind-Buggering chamber wrecked by the bugs, Stark has to chalk this down to experience and let the people leave without incredibly crude brainfucking and the Doctor is already heading back to the TARDIS for a Ming-Dynasty Chinese takeaway. He then idly suggests that Jimmy and Cassie shag each other stupid, and the most offensive part of that is the idea that niether they nor the audience had noticed their raging hormones for the last six episodes.
The Doctor sods off in the TARDIS (which continues not to flash its lantern) and I can only wonder to myself... whatever happened to Jimmy's Grandpa? Did he get eaten or what?
Oh well. Like I've said before, it's not very bad in terms of story. Given the seven-minute turnaround times, the kid-friendliness cranked up to almost Play School levels, and the animation that could be improved by a broom handle, some motoroil, Dylan Moran's arse and a broken elevator, all conspire to make this story rather rubbish. I can only assume it was put on this late in the year because they only just FINISHED the damn thing.
One again - like the little elf Doctor, the atmosphere burning or the flying bus, the fault really ISN'T on the part of RTD and his writers. It's the CGI-manipulating looneys who announce, "Yeah, I can do that!" with the insane confidence of that Catherine Tate character. Moff, I beg thee, DO NOT TRUST THEM!!!
This story would be a much better prequel to the Doctor's Bowie-related nervous breakdown than a sequel, especially as The End of Time strongly hints that the Tenth Doctor's "missing adventures" are probably best left that way, since it was his EvilDoc vibe that got on the wrong side of Queen Bess... anyway. My score?
2/5(more if the picture was just plain blank)