Sunday, 2 May 2010

Dr Who Series 5

Its five episodes in and the new Dr Who series is looking very good. Funny, eccentric, with quite a bit of old-fashioned technology design. Its a terrific reworking of the show.

Earlier posts show that I was getting a bit annoyed with the increasingly tired specials but this series has gotten the series back on track. I don't think its had this type of purpose since the Ecclestone year, which was Russell T Davies' first year in charge and had a similar energy in set-ups and making an impression with the set-up.(I think the series got a bit too variable in quality following that first year).

What's especially interesting is the a slight Avengers influence and the new show has a bit more of a fifties/sixties sci-fi movie feel (including the Peter Cushing movies), has a new team, and a surer feel to what its about in regard to its world. Matt Smith has energy and is pretty odd as the Doctor, the weirdness of the world working better in reaction to his strangeness, especially when talking to a giant eye, done intentionally as a 50's sci-fi giant eye, as if its normal. Its one of the interesting elements of casting and mood set-up. Get it right and everything clicks, as if the world is there and ready to be explored, (and allows for weaker plot elements) but get it wrong there is a widening gulf of interest in story that can't be successfully covered, as the internal pacing of all the small details of that world is all wrong.

The first episode, The Eleventh Hour, had a terrific first half, as good as the show gets, then got a slightly obvious plot resolution, and a finale that brought it all together beautifully. But the charm and atmosphere carried everything, the out-there visuals bringing it all toghether. Best moments were Smith's Doctor talking to the little girl post-regeneration. Best joke is that for the entire epsiode Smith's Doctor has not seen what he now looks like but keeps on getting recognised due to a time travel twist, then an alien imitates him, which doesn't work on him because he still hasn't looked in a mirror, saying "That's rubbish, who's that!"

The show truly kicked into high gear with the atmospheric The Beast Below, full of glasses of water, masks, crazy smilers and a joke about democracy, which had another one of the great early Smith moments "I'm going to stay out of trouble... badly." It also had a great moment with him revealing his past to his companion, done with power and precision within ten seconds. It's end may not have had a twist to rival its build but its ending worked and it's an excellent illustration on how to put together a story for a 45 minute running-time.

Victory Of The Daleks was the weaklest of the bunch so far, being a little short, needing a little bit more at the front end of the story, had the fun idea of the Daleks playing nice (taken for an old lost story Power Of The Daleks) and annoying The Doctor, goading him to make a series of bad decisions. Into that we have a series of world war 2 moments that don't feel as interesting as the rest of the plot. There was also a Dalek win and a redesign of the daleks, which apparantly annoyed a lot of people by changing the daleks to colourful 60's style designs, which I of course loved.

The Time Of Angels and Flesh And Stone were a weeping angels two-parter, probably the strongest story of the series so far, definately the most atmospheric, even if the dire circumstances meant less humour at times, although there are subtle jokes that might not be appreciated. (Priests being killed off by going into a giant white light.). The story was very interesting, paying up a wider story arc while keeping to the threat, playing up the terrific visual idea of people fighting for their lives in a tomb, priests fighting images of godhood and losing their lives and past existance because of it. It had a great openign gag, with Smith moving through a museum saying "Wrong!" to almost eveyrthing to keep score and also had a terrific cliff-hanger moment, with Smith facing off the angels with a great speech, and a funny resolution, that's hilarious because it buys them about ten seconds before the next attack.

Three great dialogue moments:

That's not the plan.
There's a plan?

I dunno yet - I haven't finished talking.
Then there's-
Bishop: "Doctor Song, I've lost three clerics today, you trust this man?"

River: "I absolutely trust him."

Bishop: "He's not some kind of mad man?"

River: "... ... I absolutely trust him."
"Amy, listen to me; I am 907 years old. Do you know what that means?"
"It's been a while."
So its been great so far. Other terrific elements are Amy Pond, a companion who doesn't take any of the Doctor's rules as something to be followed in any way, a sense of excitement of the universe at large, and an emerging threat that wipes out events from history, that's tied to the companion in ways that are not yet obvious.
So its a great new series.
Other new series I've been watching are Ashes To Ashes, which is better than it has been during its run, now having a real threat, but still isn't up to the standard of Life On Mars, as it heads for the series end (I don't think the end will be that clever. It's red-herrings feel a little too clear). Also Burn Notice, a terrific, light spy series that keeps things fast-paced and has a solid set-up of a CIA forced out and now has to find out who set him up while making a living as a freelance problem solver.
Finally I saw Iron Man 2. Its fun, pretty good, if a little slow at the start. I like the first one better. This one never manages the character/plot balance of something like The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens or Superman 2 but is still well worth a look. It has some funny character beats and situations, even if Mickey Rourke isn't used as much as he should. Nor is Downey Jnr's "I'm dying " dynamic worked as cleanly as it could have been. But can't complain as its good entertainment that sets up a wider world that could be interesting to see in future films.
So there we go. Back to the batcave.

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