Sunday, July 4, 2010

Doctor Who - The Lame Train Robbery


Lit like a live fuse - never settled!
Come on child, press the pedal to the metal!
Got a one way ticket, so no turning back...

No one leaves, they just move on
So never forfeit your dignity!
There's diesel in your heart and pure air in your lungs...

Yet the will rolled onward like a wheel,
In even motion by love impelled,
That moves the sun in heaven and the stars...


This particular epistopic interface of the spectrum took place a couple of months ago, between Victory of the Daleks and The Crash of the Byzantium. I considered reviewing it then, but if it's to fit anywhere, it's post-Rory and this is the last chance to do that. So here it is.

I dislike audiobooks. Well, I dislike audiobooks you can't get the printed version of - these exclusive ones are rather difficult for me to plug my brain into, and my mind find it hard to lock onto what feels like a rather long-winded monologue. Only Dead Air really worked for me, since that WAS a monologue from the Tenth Doctor (and, to be blunt, containe more high octane nightmare fuel than the entirety of Season Fnarg if I'm honest). So, if some endearingly insane person out there ever transcribes these exclusives, give us a shout, I'd appreciate reading them.

Matt Smith does the honors for this story, though he has the disadvantage that the Doctor's voice is (understandably) the same as his speaking voice. Unlike Tennant, who went from Scottish narrator to Cockney Doctor. Nevertheless, he does surprisingly well with only his Amy falling flat - trying to get Gillan's deadpan inflection, Scottish accent and a high-pitched female voice seems too much and maybe it's best that this is a male-dominated story.

What is that story? I hear you ask. God, do I have to do everything?!

The TARDIS, with its usual reliability, dumps the Doctor and Amy at an Arizona railway station surrounded by a bunch of hard-bitten cowboy mercenaries - an old badass outlaw called Vin, a railway guy called Hilario and a Confederate deserter Bernado. The posse aren't surprised by the blue box, as they have been gathered here specifically by a future version of the Eleventh Doctor to help him out in return for cold hard... tracts of land. One problem: the present Eleventh Doctor has no idea what the hell these cowboys are on about, and is a tad pissed off.

"Do I look like a landowner?" the Doctor spits. "I live in a blue box, for goodness' sake! A very tiny almost-coffin-like-in-its-modesty BLUE BOX!"

"Yeah, you SAID you'd say that," the posse retort.

It turns out FutureDoc wants to recover some wierd alien gizmo buried in the desert and has hired the outlaws to help his past self dig it up. Bluffing like mad at this wibbly-wobbly-timy-wimy bollocks, the Doctor leads Amy and the gunmen to where the gizmo lies... which happens to be a well-defended Confederate army camp. Guess some lowdown fast-shooting gutter trash suddenly became useful. Using his scruffy uniform, Amy's feminine wiles and some neat hootch, Bernardo sneaks into the camp and find amidst the gunpowder barrels the gizmo. Which is very big. Alas, Amy's a moron and her shouts of "How the hell are we supposed to nick that?!" amazingly attract the attention of Captain Britt, a Southern asshole.

Things go downhill from thereon in, especially with the Doctor's refusal to let his gang blow holes in their enemies. So, instead they blow up some stocks of gunpowder in a pyromanic detonation that would make Ace proud and escape in the ensuing burny carnage of salty pain. Retreating back to the station, there is yet another snag - the alien gizmo is too big to fit through the TARDIS doors! With the army closing in, Hiliario comes up with the answer: dump the gizmo on the next train through the station, which just happens to be the 3.25pm supply train to Arizona!

There's more shootouts as the army board the train, but the Doctor cunningly disconnects the steam engine from the rest of the carriages. There is a slight flaw in this plan, since Amy was in one of those self-same carriages. Bummer. Specifically, the-most-memorable-bit-of-42 bummer as the Doctor promises to save his companion as she dwindles into the distance. Amy has been left in the company of Captain Britt, who calmly threatens to have Amy gang-raped by his men unless she explains the plot to his satisfaction. Well, it's more choice than Peri ever got...

Just then a huge Independence Day style alien mother ship drops out of the sky and, finding the gizmo missing from the Confederate camp, promptly reduces said camp to the contents of an ashtray and flies off after the train which has run out of tracks - inconveniently in the middle of a bridge over a canyon. The Doctor and his pals leap out of the train at the last moment and end up clinging to branches on the chasm walls like Wyle E Coyote as the train falls to the bottom and takes the alien doohickey with it. The alien spaceship flips sideways and drops into the valley after it, like a gigantic hubcap imbedded in the desert.

Things follow with reassuring predictability. Britt arrives, goes apeshit and tries to claim the UFO and the gizmo for the Confederates. The alien pilot is a tad pissed off at this. A quick Mexican standoff. The gizmo explodes but, because the Doctor's sabotaged it, terraforms the canyon into a magical paradise of grass, water and palm trees - neatly fulfilling his obligation to give his gang tracts of land as payment for services rendered. The alien decides to sod this for a game of soldiers and Amy spares Britt's life because she's a nice lady and does that sort of thing. The Doctor gives him a horse to flee on, announcing, "That sunset is just dying for someone to ride off into it..."

Our heroes then head back to the TARDIS to sort out the timey-wimey predestination paradox and the Doctor marvels that, just this once, everyone lives... give or take the very forgettable Confederate redshirts.

This seems to have been written long before Season Fnarg details were finalized - the Eleventh Doctor carries a pocketwatch and has no appetite whatsoever, and goes from guessing the alien artefact exists to knowing exactly what it is, what it is going to do any when it will finish without seemingly being told. More annoyingly, so does Amy, who doesn't do much apart from look pretty. The Doctor is also "very overprotective" of Amy, reluctant to let her go charging into danger, which is a bit of a stretch even if this is post-Rory vulnerability while Amy's rather shy around men. I'm sorry? Amy "Striperella" Pond?! Who is now an accomplished horse rider?! I bet Karen Gillan would have liked to have known that earlier...

But there are some rather good moments, particularly as the Doctor regards the grizzled cowboys and reflects his new body doesn't bear the scars of his rough life, making it so easy to forget all the good and bad things he's done - a nice little link to Amy's Choice. The straight agenda also ensures that, while beginning the story in a period gown and frock, Amy ends the story in a ragged miniskirt and bikini top. Oh, if only.

And Smith proves that he has a range beyond innocent juveniles with lame fashion tips, and reaffirms once again what a good actor he is. Seriously, what was I worried about?!

Next Time: City of the Daleks
"Ugh. No wonder they're all so screwed up!"
In glorious 2D sims-o-vision, the Doctor and Amy attempt to salvage a notorious DWAD script - surely not even they can triumph against such odds?!



Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Ooh, so you ARE going to review the computer games! Exciting.

I had no idea this existed till now, but it isn't the first time that your blog has done that to me. How many Wild West DW stories have their been? Aside from The Gunslingers I can't think of one off the top of my head. Seems to have done a better job resisting the genre than most sci-fis...

Youth of Australia said...

Ooh, so you ARE going to review the computer games! Exciting.
Well, in a way. Some kind soul has got me a kind of movie version of the game being played and won, kind of like Attack of the Graske. I'm not in the UK and unable to play the game per se.

I had no idea this existed till now, but it isn't the first time that your blog has done that to me. How many Wild West DW stories have their been? Aside from The Gunslingers I can't think of one off the top of my head. Seems to have done a better job resisting the genre than most sci-fis...
Sad but true.

I can think of a few WWDW stories, but none from the TV series...

The Perils of Paris - comic strip where the Third Doctor and Sarah meet Buffalo Bill

A Town Called Eternity - short story where the Fifth Doctor and Peri fight the Master who's pretending to be Sheriff in a town with access to the fountain of youth, a supply of Jurassic Park dinosaurs, and the debauched ancestors of Peri Brown

Howling of the Wolves - a demented cross between The Gunfighters, Tooth and Claw and Snakedance with a werewolf attacking a wagon train controlled by an evil Indian warlock. Better Than It Sounds.