Saturday, June 12, 2010

Doctor Who - In Broken Images


All day long I think of things
But nothing seems to satisfy
Think I'll lose my mind
If I don't find something to pacify

I need someone to show me
The things in life that I can't find
I can't see the things that make true happiness
I must be blind

Make a joke and I will sigh
And you will laugh and I will cry
Happiness I cannot feel
And love, to me, is so unreal

And so as you hear this words
Telling you now of my state
I tell you to enjoy life
I wish I could, but it's too late!

I don't really have much to say about Vincent and the Doctor.

Getting a clinical depressive on heavy medication to judge this episode is like getting Sparacus to critique a nude Adam Rickitt calendar. What are you expecting as a response?

I'm honestly sure.

The plot. The Doctor and Amy see an alien painted, Where's Wally style, in a Van Gough painting, so they travel back in time to see Vince himself before he painted said painting. The alien is on the loose and killing people. Trouble is, Vince is the only person who can see it. And a suicidal bipolar manic depressive is not generally the best candidate for ass-kicking alien monster fighting... but rest assured Amy and Vince will help the Doctor fight his incredibly cheap enemy: one of those giant kung fu chicken dinosaurs from The Gauda Prime Conspiracy. Which is invisible. And blind.

That's about it.

Sorry. I mean, it's a comedic character piece. It would be like trying to review an episode of Black Books without doing the jokes. Or a Coupling episode without the hilarious misunderstandings. How do you review the dead parrot sketch? There's a parrot, that's dead, but the guy won't get a refund. Any more detail kills the whole point of watching it, surely?

It's also an agonizingly true fact it is far easier to review something you hate rather than something you love. This is why any fool with a keyboard can review TimeLash but City of Death ends up an itemized list of Crowning Moments of Awesome. I recall Gary Russell bravely writing the only negative reviews of the story ever, but it's pretty feeble - OK, there's no real justification for the artist or Scaroth's face appearing in the time bubble, but this somehow makes the story complete crap that no one should like? Summing up human nature very well, there's a fan novelization of City of Death that has the Fourth Doctor and Romana UTTERLY DESPISING EACH OTHER throughout the story. Why? It's easier to write about two people hating each other than two people who love each other.

Fuck it, I need to pad out this review, so...

"Marvellous," sighed the Doctor as he spied the Notre Dame Cathedral. "Absolutely."
"Absolutely marvellous!" Romana agreed, a trifle too enthusiastically.
The Doctor eyes her sceptically. "Well, *I* think it's marvellous," insisted the Doctor.
Casually Romana rejoined. "So do I." Then, after a moment of consideration, she added. "Though it's not quite as you described."
"Really?" the Doctor said evenly through slightly-clenched teeth. "How did I describe it?"
Romana graced him with her most winning smile and said lightly, "You said it was nice!"
The Doctor gritted his teeth and returned to the serious business of Paris-watching. "It's the only place in the Universe where one can relax entirely."
Mokcingly, Romana inhaled the clear Spring air flowing around the Tower. "Ummm. That bouquet!"
"What Paris has," began the Doctor informatively, "it has an ethos. A life! It has a..."
"A bouquet?"
"A spirit all of its own," the Doctor continued self-importantly, deliberately ignoring her. "Like a wine it has..."
"A bouquet!" Romana said firmly.
"It has a bouquet," announced the Doctor finally. Romana forced a weak smile which the Doctor accepted as acquiescence. "Yes, like a good wine. You'll have to choose one of the vintage years of course..."
"What year is it?" interrupted Romana somewhat sarcastically. She was determined to avoid yet another lecture.
The Doctor expressed mild annoyance. "Ah well, yes. 1979, actually. More of a table wine, shall we say?" Romana continued to smile, which merely infuriated the Doctor further. This was going to be a big tantrum.

Compared to the official version...

‘Nice, isn’t it?’
‘Yes, marvellous.’
‘Marvellous. Absolutely. Yes.’
‘Yes, absolutely marvellous.’
‘I don’t know about you, but I think it’s marvellous.’
‘So do I.’
‘Good. If you hadn’t I’d have been very upset.’
‘Well then you haven’t got anything to worry about.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘It’s not quite how you described it, though.’
‘Oh, how did I describe it?’
‘You said it was nice,’ Romana frowned, with just the slightest hint of condescension.
The Doctor shrugged. By now, he was beginning to think, there was absolutely no satisfying Romana. From the middle observation deck of the Eiffel Tower, they could look over the whole of central Paris, and here she was splitting hairs over his choice of description.
‘Oh well,’ he sighed. ‘It’s still the only place in the galaxy where one can relax entirely.’
‘Oh, that bouquet!’ declared Romana, with an appreciative smile. Finally, at the end of the argument, she was beginning to give in to exactly the kind of pointless behaviour the Doctor had been arguing in favour of all along - simple, mundane, un-Gallifreyan things like sniffing the morning air in a beautiful city.
‘What Paris has,’ the Doctor said as he continued his philosophical assessment of the city, ‘is an ethos. A life. It has...’ He searched for the right word to end the sentence.
‘A bouquet.’
‘It has a spirit all of its own... it has...’
‘A bouquet?’
‘Like a wine, it has...’
‘A bouquet!’
‘ has a bouquet! Like a good wine,’ mused the Doctor. ‘You have to choose an old vintage, of course.’
Romana frowned. ‘What year is this?’
‘What?’ The Doctor thought for a moment. ‘Ah, well it’s 1979, actually. More of a table wine, really.’
‘A good one?’
‘I don’t know,’ the Doctor confessed. ‘A randomiser’s a useful device, but it lacks true discrimination.’ He grinned a mischievous grin and adopted his loudest stage whisper. ‘Shall we sip it and see?’

And these references to City of Death aren't as random as they may appear. Like that tale, Vincent and the Doctor has the TARDIS crew visiting a Parisian art gallery in the year of transmission and then popping back in time to help out the artist, while corrupting one of the famous works of art with an extra bit of graffiti. There's comedy art gallery tour guides, useless cafe staff, tempremental artists, poor suckers who die undeservedly and there's a bittersweet ending as the Doctor and companion say goodbye to their new pal who, it must be said, we're going to miss.

But while the Doctor, Romana and Duggan were basically a rom-com, VATD is a rather darker tale. The Doctor got Rory killed and is the only one to remember it, and is spoiling Amy rotten and freaking out over her safety to a point even the Tenth Doctor would tell him to just chill out. He's clearly kindred spirits with an unappreciated black sheep exiled and miserable, with a perception of the universe no one can share and a deep abiding lust for redheads. For the first time, Eleven starts to show the signs of despair and loss of confidence his past self became defined by. "Sometimes winning is no fun at all," he muses softly at one point.

Amy meanwhile is of course carefree and fancyfoot. But while she has no idea who this "Rory" the Doctor's on about, she can tell he's upset and keeping something from her, and is left with the awkward position of either asking the Doctor what's wrong or hoping it goes away. Nevertheless, she finds herself remembering her fiancee emotionally - she is instinctively on the prowl for a fit bloke to flirt with, to fill a gap in her life (so to speak), and is struck by depression like all the others.

This is the first ever Doctor Who episode to be followed by a BBC helpline. Can you blame them? Normally in Doctor Who, if someone kills themselves it's because they're mutating into a hideous monster or blowing up an alien invasion. Even Adelaide died for the greater good. This time? "Depression is a complex thing," the Doctor begins awkwardly, before being told to shut up by Amy and Vincent. No Captain Obvious moral here. Time can be rewritten, but not people. No matter how good they make Vince feel today, it won't stop there being a day that pushes him to the edge sooner or later. People brag about stories when Doctor Who is gritty and adult. I don't recall any Pertwee or Hinchliffe era tale that can outdo the simple scene where the Doctor discovers Vince lying face down in his bed, sobbing his heart out and consumed with despair. There's nothing the Doctor can do. "In my experience, there's always hope," the Time Lord says. "Then your experience is INCOMPLETE!" the artist screams through his tears.

And it's a story by Richard Curtis. The bloke who wrote all the nob gags in Blackadder (unlike Ben Elton, who was responsible for all the sophisticated history business). There are a lot of comedy writers this year and perhaps its unsurprising that the weakest episode is by a bloke who I just don't find funny.

Like I mentioned earlier, there's not much to say except that I felt a bit of deja vu in the final scene with the Doctor and Amy. Not because it's some shitty Nyder-style Alan Stevens recyclingwatch bollocks, but because the dialogue is very similar to conversations I've been having with my mum of late. A few phrases and concepts that, at the end of the day, are the reason why I'm still alive struggling to type this instead of a mess on a disused railway line.

What is there else to say?

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things but visa versa the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things."

Next Time: "I'm your new lodger!"
What IS it with Gareth Roberts and over-enthusiastic losers rushing up to the Doctor and telling they love him? It ain't funny, it ain't mature and it ain't clever!!



Matthew Blanchette said...

"What IS it with Gareth Roberts and over-enthusiastic losers rushing up to the Doctor and telling they love him?"
Maybe it's because Gareth Roberts is a giant fat todger? :-P

Youth of Australia said...

Yeah, call me a snob, but I kind of hope for a higher level of discourse on this blog...

Matthew Blanchette said...

Okay; my mistake.

He's just a bloke who reuses his own stories and stuff; that's fair, no?

Youth of Australia said...

Sorry about the lack of response. Things have been bad.

Okay; my mistake.

He's just a bloke who reuses his own stories and stuff; that's fair, no?

Indeed it is.


Hmm. Not much to go with there.