Saturday, December 25, 2010

Doctor Who - Bah Humbug!

DOCTOR WHO: A CHRISTMAS CAROL
This is the day
That the Lord has made
All wrapped up in hessian sacks
To keep it safe and warm

This is the day
That the Lord has made
Nurtured in the breast of man
To keep it from the storm...


Typical, isn't it? The only time I've managed to nick a copy of a Doctor Who Christmas Special inside 24 hours was The End of Time Part One. The drawback was in the name, really. But, at last, after years of stagnation, the ABC decides this new-fangled "fastracking" business might be worth looking at - oh, does anyone else remember the hell of 1995 when the only thing they had to show on Christmas Day was a Vicar of Dibley episode two years old? That was the EASTER special?!? GOD DAMN!

I can't honestly say if this is the first time they've ever fasttracked anything, but they definitely haven't hyped it like this before, and then screen it before Skellig with John Simm as a bearded looney obsessed with Doctors and alien monsters. Coincidence my ass!

Alas, this damned 'lose two and a bit thirds of your blood supply and nearly die' palarver meant I was not able to give the reviews to all the stories I was going to review in the meantime, so a quick round-up:
Blood of Cybermen: Cack of the Cybermen more like! What a waste! Some artic archaeologists dig up a Cyberman ship and Cybermats spread a plague that nano-botically turns everyone into Cybermen. The Doctor and Amy blow up the spaceship. Utterly rubbish, and the bits where the real Cybermen kill the 'half-breed' Cybermen is not only totally stupid, it rips off Victory of the Daleks! The Cyberinbreeds being basically Weevils wearing Cyber voice changer helmets were pretty crap too - Amy acts like they're irrelevent crap and the Doctor never disagrees. The only good bit is when Amy limbos through an air vent and drops into a room... to land at the feet of a Cyberman staring down at her, head tilted curiously to one side. Reader, it was so crap I deleted it right away. Oh, and no explanation for why Amy doesn't remember the Cybermen on TV... presumably she just couldn't be arsed remembering this crap either.

The Ring of Steel: Arthur Darvill shows that while he may be a brilliant comedian and decent actor, an impressionist he is not - and also attempts to do female voices AND Scottish accents are doomed to failure. The Doctor takes Amy to see the Fall of Arcadia... well, the Orkneys, which sounds the same. Some aliens take over the electricity pylons and make them walk around smashing stuff. Nothing else sank into my memory, except it seemed a bit dumb not to use the pylons they're making nowadays that actually LOOK like people walking.

TARDIS: Not seen it yet. Better be better than the last game.

The Boy Who Saved The Proms: Total freaking brilliance, beginning to end (the applause during the regenerations montage was annoying though - you pay to go the Proms and then SHOUT OVER THE MUSIC?!?) and proves several things: one, human beings are inherently sheep who will wear stupid things like fezzes if they're told it's "cool" enough times; the new Daleks are crap; and the creepiest villain ever isn't a Weeping Angel, it's the vampire girl with the umbrella. While all her sister-lesbian-lovers flirt with everything with a pulse, she's just walking around and scaring the shit out of people far better than any Silurian, Judoon or Cyberman.

Supernature: Nice little comic strip, bit derivative of my own work but quite good with any excuse for Amy to spend 80% of the story naked, and the Doctor being completely unfazed by transforming into a grasshopper. The framing narrative was clever too, with the apparent dying words of a doomed expedition being something much, much cleverer.

Planet Bollywood: It's all in the title. The title is shit. Buffy did the planet of musicals much better. A comic book about sound worked with Onomatopea last year, but this...?

The Golden Ones: You gotta laugh, right? The Axons return! At exactly the same time Big Finish do the exact same thing - so all that canon is stretched to breaking point as Doc 11 is completely unaware of Doc 6's encounter with them. Oddly enough, they're just not effective in comic book form and the whole thing is WAY too much like Angel: Smile Time. And Amy dressed as a Japanese Schoolgirl rates zero on the hornometer for some reason, even when the tentacle porn begins. Has the whole word lost meaning?

The latest comic strip who's name I can't remember: A rather lame attempt to fuse CS Lewis and Doctor Who together, given the fact they've been doing it since page freaking one. Points gained for the Rani returning to kill sparacus, but lost for the fact the bookshop TARDIS looks way better than the one we've actually got. Yet again, we celebrate an author by saying they have no imagination of any kind whatsoever and just writes what the Doctor tells them to?
Right. That covers everything, and since I started typing the mysterious Jason "No Nickname" Redhed has already reviewed the damn thing in a much funnier and less spiteful way. Soo.....

The first ever Christmas special not featuring either David Tennant, William Hartnell or both, A Christmas Carol is pretty cool. Especially as Moffat has never, to the best of my knowledge, done a Christmas episode before. Now, given the title and overall plot, I have to say I was a bit despairing - another Scrooge parody? Having just had to suffer through variations of it with Catherine Tate and Ricky Gervais (both accompanied by David Tennant on a quest to get more ABC coverage this week than his successor it seems), I was reasonably sick of it. Indeed, the only good reworking of the tale was a Batman comic where the spirits of Poison Ivy, the Joker and a skeleton in a bat outfit tell Bruce Wayne to stop being such a fucking Emo all the time.

In fact, hadn't we done the Christmas Carol before? In Turn Left (when we saw a possible past for the Tenth Doctor as a suicidal jerk), Journey's End (when we saw a possible present for the Tenth Doctor as a genocidal over-sexed git) and The Next Doctor (when we saw a possible future for the Tenth Doctor as a fatally-overconfident solo git)? If we work on the whole 'story fixes the character's personality problems', pretty much all the NuWho companions count surely?

But this story quickly proved itself good in the fact that trying this 'three spirits' bullcrap simply doesn't work - but what can you expect from a plan derived of the Doctor needing a quickfix solution and Silent Night on the stereos? Michael Gambon's character (dudes, only seen it once and don't have it on computer to check names) is a nasty, witless fuck who is neither clever nor funny in his moronic quest to be a total asshole. It's hard not to think previous Doctors simply drawing a gun on the old bastard and saving a lot of time. But the Eleventh Doctor continues to take the path least thought of, proving to be so utterly insane and random I honestly I don't believe I could write for a character who's number one priority is to be completely unexpected. The world's ending, but everyone's too busy arguing about whether or not "isomorphic controls" are an urban legend, or the shocking revelations about his sex life - not only has he had a one-night stand with Marilyn Monroe ("That was never a REAL chapel!") but it turns out he wasn't brave enough to snog the Rani at high school and spent the night building a sonic screwdriver instead. Compared to this, his shark-riding, card-flipping, "my brain just went 'what the hell?'" attitude is almost oblivious. This is a man who can literally live lifetimes while popping down the shops. I admit I disliked the idea that the Eighth Doctor would leave his pals for an afternoon and spend twenty years with a completely different companion then pop back for them like nothing. But looking at this it seems so natural for the Eleventh Doctor I'm amazed to think he might have remained solo during the hours or so he left the Ponds aboard their very-doomed space ship.

Now reviewing Silence in the Library I may have bitchily said it was ripping off Continuity Errors by the same author. Bar the fact that both stories are set in the biggest library ever, there's sod all to connect them. CE is Moffat's blisteringly contemptuous review of the New Adventures, with Benny a wisecracking smartass who doesn't do much but write in her diary while the Doctor needs the cheat codes to defeat alien monsters instead of, you know, dealing with them like he did in his previous six bodies. He needs a library book, the bitchy librarian won't give it to him, so he goes back and changes her life completely - her husband never left her, her daughter was never murdered by Krynoids, etc - and so the librarian is a nice, friendly person. But she's still smart enough to know this is cheap bribery and the Doctor's helped her out of entirely selfish reasons, so she refuses to give him the book. So he changes history again, this time kidnapping a harmless academic who's treatise "Dr Who: Nice Guy or Complete Bastard" is proved when the Doctor dumps him in the distant past and refuses to let anyone question his ruthless methods.

The Eleventh Doctor does something similar here, but it's slightly more wholesome as the Doctor is driven to it this time and ends up becoming Gambon's best friend rather than visa versa. And this is the brilliant bit, as the godlike Time Lord once again completely screws up - he can change Gambon from a selfish one-dimensional sociopath into a bitter, broken-hearted old man. All it means is that instead of having to deal with a pantomime villain, they've got an old git with issues instead. And even when he finally does see the light, it turns out he can't save the day by being a nice guy anyway. "A broken heart is better than no heart at all," our hero mutters, and though he's right, I can't be only person to think longingly of being a selfish bastard who simply didn't care about anyone else. Things would be a lot simpler if nothing else.

Gambon reminds me off the wacky villains the Fifth Doctor often faced - the pompous frog who thought he was god, the stalker with a crush(ed face), a schizophrenic alien... Mawdryn just wanted to die, Omega wanted more company than a giant chicken and the Eternals were just bored shitless. Here is a bad guy who fundamentally just can't be arsed to get out of his armchair and press a button, and stubbornly sticks to his decision on the grounds that the Doctor doesn't have the right to play god. It may all work out in the end, but the Doctor's reckless rewriting of time is never portrayed as something to be proud of. At the end of it all, he only really manages to mend what was broken in the first place.

And what for Amy and Rory? Well, they're not in this one much - though we get more disturbing insights to their sex lives (and I'll never to be able to see Rory mentioning Amy got him "to dress up like the Doctor" in the same innocent light ever again). Amy's a lot more well-adjusted here, taking things seriously and only hiding things from Rory to keep him calm, though this has created a new dynamic with the Doc and Amy as "grown-ups" keeping Rory in the dark. Amy doesn't even flirt with anyone here, as though she's ready for commitment or something freaky like that.

And (because this is genuine fucking agony typing this out and it can get hard to concentrate) a moment of admiration for the sheer imagination on display. Anyone can do contemporary Christmas or a historical Christmas, but on a planet where fish swim through the air like those things in From Beyond, where the sky is owned and loan sharks (tee-hee) take your family as collatoral and put them on ice? In a story Moffat admitted was being dumbed down for drunken overfed family audiences, it seems he's taken off any brakes marked "gritty realism" and "audience identification" and let things go absolutely apeshit - this is a story where we're asked to think of a shark as a helpless suffering animal rather than a monster from nightmares or even something for Rod Foxx and the Womp to shoot at. It also asks the nasty but strangely compelling question: what day would you choose to die?

Having come close to that I have to say the Welsh opera singer made the right choice. Anything above bleeding to death behind your front door while a spider slowly kills a house fly is definitely to be aimed at - and if I suddenly get struck dead by some hot pieces of meteorite, so be it. I got a few extra weeks and haven't wasted them in any real sense. A Christmas Carol agrees with this philosophy completely... just wish it had a better title, really... oh, and why Gambon huggin himself doesn't destroy the universe? Because one's a man that can never happen now, obviously? DUH! As for why the Doctor's not fussed about changing history, this isn't a fixed point, obviously! I don't know why these things bother people, I really don't. Why doesn't the Doctor do something like this for Davros? Have you met Davros as a child? He's like Stewie Griffin without the charm! And given this is a newly rebooted universe, who gives a crap!

But what about what those other losers thought? Well, due this fasttrack business reviews are pretty thin on the ground but sparacus managed a rare public appearance:
0/10. What can I say? I'm not going to over the top with the condemnatory language here as I simply can't be bothered. I thought the whole thing was as if Moffat was trying to write some kind of surreal fantasy movie minus the Johnny Depp. Some of the dialogue was incomprehensible as it was delivered too fast. The 'plot' was confusing and frankly uninteresting ; I found myself turning over to Emmerdale at one point as I was so bored. It was very silly, but not in a funny RTD kind of way but just a silly way. The worst of the Nuwho Christmas specials by a mile.
It's wierd, since he summed up all the best features there and then said he hated them... But, a Moffat script proved too complicated and heterosexual for the Colchester absinthe addict who wanted some soap stars to wank over?! What were the odds?

Television Without Pity meanwhile offers this admittedly concise description:
While Rory and Amy have sex in various costumes, the Doctor brainwashes a child, kills a woman and abuses sea life. Then, a music video.
The last word goes to Mad Larry who, after complaining that the fish weren't alien enough and the whole Christmas special was "banal" and anyone who liked it was "thicko trash" found himself told off by Paul "too good for the DWADS" Ebbs for being a miserable asshole with an unreasoning hatred of everything. Larry reacted with his usual calm rationality:
I'm sure we're all amused by the revelation that, when the chips are down, Lawrence turns to Chibnall for eloquence. He'll be bitchslapping pterodactyls next...

It just goes to show there's always someone worse off than yourself, I suppose. Both Larry and I suffered terrible disasters this yuletide period:

I slashed open my arm in a completely avoidable household accident, was horribly traumatized, lost almost all my blood, nearly died, have a scar for life, can't walk properly (or type with any ease), was unable to even shower for THREE WEEKS cause of a risk of infected stitches, lost my job, was unable to buy any presents for my loved ones or even leave the house for long periods, or help out with any of the decorations.

While Mad Larry got a couple of tweets telling him to "chill out dude it's only the interweb".

Yet, did I let my Christmas be ruined?

A clue: no.

...

God bless us every one!

5/5


Next Time: "Somewhere different. Somewhere... brand new."
Holy shit! Cavaliers, Nazis and CIA spooks - every fetish you could ask for! The Doctor kicks Obama out of office! The Fashion Police finally put steps on the Doctor's wardrobe! River Song naked! Amy and Rory backpack their way across America in tribute to Steven Fry! Mad Larry goes apeshit as the Doctor grows a beard and his body is held in Area 51 - hah! Meglos' TARDIS from The Lodger is back! Those damn Ambassadors OF DEATH!!! are back! Ood Sigma drinks too much on Saint Patrick's Day! Someone doodles on Amy's face when she's passed out on cheap cider! Wierd shit in mirrors! And a nagging sense that no matter how good the season is, it's STILL LESS THAN HALF THE USUAL AMOUNT GOD DAMN IT!!

14 comments:

Matthew Blanchette said...

River Song had the same markings in that trailer, too, you know...

Also, it seems we're due for a partly-historical, this series! Hooray! :-D

Just Gavin said...

Oooh, slashed wrist doesn't sound too nice, hope you're back to your old self soon.

Also, glad you liked the story, I kind of liked it because there didn't seem to be a story, it felt more like a load of cool funny stuff that ended up as a story in the end. Perfect for Christmas.

In other news I broke Milkie! Or Mutie, or LBC. 5 little words was all it took to make him snap, hurl abuse me and get himself, the last true supporter of Spara, banned:

"DC is better than Marvel."

One word longer than The Doctor but I'm calling it a victory none the less. Oh God if Steven Hill reads this I'm in trouble. Oh well!

Person112

Youth of Australia said...

Oooh, slashed wrist doesn't sound too nice, hope you're back to your old self soon.
Old self as in "idiot who can trip and slice open arteries?"

Also, glad you liked the story, I kind of liked it because there didn't seem to be a story, it felt more like a load of cool funny stuff that ended up as a story in the end. Perfect for Christmas.
Yeah, it was very Curse of Fatal Death in that regard...

"DC is better than Marvel."
THOSE WORDS ARE BLASPHEMY! DO NOT BLASPHEME!

Oh God if Steven Hill reads this I'm in trouble. Oh well!
Mr. Hill is not welcome on this blog after his display of double standards and dismissal of complaints of poor behavior.

Try getting HIM banned next...

Person112

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

You can tell you wrote this review before mine, even before you specifically say so, when you refer to mine as a 'less spiteful' review. Ironically mine is the more Bernard Black-ish, as I've been highly medicated after recovering from a Western Australian virus that I picked up. In my drug filled stupor I was pretty much shouting "What in the name of ARSE is going on???" for 60 minutes.

I've noticed that we can be on different wavelengths at times, as there's a certain level of wackiness that turns me off and makes you crazy for a piece of television. This, just like that random RH ep with Dexter Fletcher in it, is right in the meat of that curve. Leaving me scratching my head and you giving a standing ovation.

Something remarkable I noticed is that when you saying the Christmas Carol had 'been done' you didn't mention The Unquiet Dead. Okay, fair enough as we said the link to the story was poorly communicated but it definitely set out with much the same idea.

As you say, it is quite remarkable the way the story dedicates most of its runtime to a plan by the Doctor that ends up not working... maybe the idea is the Doctor isn't brilliant enough to always have a winning plan, but so crazy in his brilliance he'll at least have the ingredients when he's done. (It all relied on him having fed a sonic screwdriver to a shark 40 years ago...)

My mum was confused about why the kid wasn't allowed to see the fish. And why he couldn't just look out a window since the cloud machine wasn't finished yet...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Oh and thanks for the Larry Miles quote, for making me feel like one of the most well adjusted people on the planet...

Youth of Australia said...

In my drug filled stupor I was pretty much shouting "What in the name of ARSE is going on???" for 60 minutes.
LOL, there are quite a few proper reviewers reacting similarly - things like "the festive shark-driven sleigh ride made me doubt the workings of my own brain"...

Leaving me scratching my head and you giving a standing ovation.
Bullshit. I can't applaud ANYTHING at the moment...

Something remarkable I noticed is that when you saying the Christmas Carol had 'been done' you didn't mention The Unquiet Dead.
Well, ACC was one of numerous Dickens ref'd there...

As you say, it is quite remarkable the way the story dedicates most of its runtime to a plan by the Doctor that ends up not working...
Very Farscapey, in that regard. Or B7ish...

maybe the idea is the Doctor isn't brilliant enough to always have a winning plan, but so crazy in his brilliance he'll at least have the ingredients when he's done. (It all relied on him having fed a sonic screwdriver to a shark 40 years ago...)
You know, I honestly could never write such crazy shit like that. I mean, I boggle at the universe where Moffat wrote the Sensorites - "It just struck me, you all have bengal tigers tucked in your underpants you could use to eat your enemies..." "I HADN'T THOUGHT OF THAT!!!"

My mum was confused about why the kid wasn't allowed to see the fish. And why he couldn't just look out a window since the cloud machine wasn't finished yet...
His dad = asshole. Simple.

And Thomas Cookson is on the blog, ladies and gents... see the fifth Doctor bit.

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Bullshit. I can't applaud ANYTHING at the moment...

Figure of speech, old bean.

Well, ACC was one of numerous Dickens ref'd there...

I didn't get the others.... but maybe it's because I don't actually know any Dickens stories other than the titles....

Very Farscapey, in that regard. Or B7ish...

Heh, good call. It doesn't seem terribly common in modern TV..

You know, I honestly could never write such crazy shit like that.

Yeah, whenever I think my imagination is crazy I see something like that that makes me realise how stodgy and down to Earth I mean...

And Thomas Cookson is on the blog, ladies and gents... see the fifth Doctor bit.

You handled it quite well, I have to say, well debated. Better than when Alan Stevens showed up and I just ignored him because I couldn't be arsed to rebut retarded strawmen arguments...

Youth of Australia said...

I didn't get the others....
Bleak House, orphaned kid raised by ethnic stereotype crook from Oliver Twist, etc.

Heh, good call. It doesn't seem terribly common in modern TV..
Too damn optimistic nowadays.

Yeah, whenever I think my imagination is crazy I see something like that that makes me realise how stodgy and down to Earth I mean...
It's making Double the Fist start to look normal.

You handled it quite well, I have to say, well debated.
Shucks.

Better than when Alan Stevens showed up and I just ignored him because I couldn't be arsed to rebut retarded strawmen arguments...
Yes, Miles and I had a good rant about his Trial of a Time Lord listing...

Jared "No Nickname" Hansen said...

Hmm, yeah it was an odd read that one.... maybe I should try an Alan Stevens parody rant? Call it Alan Stevens : Harmless Sociopath or Childhood Killer?

Youth of Australia said...

Oh, what a wonderful Christmas present that would be!

Miles Reid said...

What's the subtext, Jared?

Youth of Australia said...

OK, new year's resolution:

the word "subtext" is banned from the bloggosphere.

Miles Reid said...

If we can Stargate fans to stop celebrating Stargate Universe' cancellation. Then I'll happily never write the word 'subtext' in a blog or email to you ever again.

Youth of Australia said...

SG fans don't listen to the likes of us after the Guiness Book of Records business, you know that.