That Was Rather Good, Wasn’t It?

Sunday 29th June: I don’t often write about television. Being frank, I probably watch too much and, partly because of that, don’t have the time to comment on it. Also, like most things, I have a very high tolerance for the things I watch and it would get really boring to read, “Wasn’t the latest episode of Lost/Battlestar Galactica/Reaper/Chuck/etc good?” Conversely, however, none of you would ever believe me if I told you how good any episode of the new Flash Gordon was…

However, one consistently good (in my opinion, anyway) series is the new Doctor Who. Over the last four years, memories of wobbly sets and dodgy alien costumes have been banished by the high-class revival from BBC Wales.

Yeah, there have been one or two dodgy episodes but, for the most part it’s been pretty blooming brilliant, especially when Stephen Moffatt has been involved. Pretty good news that he’s taking over as head writer when the next full season hits in 2010, isn’t it? (For those who don’t know, next year sees just four special episodes. This is, apparently, to allow David Tennant to have some time off to appear in a Shakespeare play. I forget which.)

But enough of the future. I have just finished watching The Stolen Earth, the penultimate episode of the current season. Russell T. Davies is not known for writing the best scripts but this one, it has to be said, was a fanboy’s dream. Over the last four years, Davies has turned Doctor Who into the franchise it always threatened to be and, in this episode he brought the various franchise entries together in a frenetic, pacey (sometimes too pacey, I struggled with a some bits of the dialogue) episode which saw the Doctor, once again, prepare to take on his greatest enemies.

Now, the Daleks are getting a bit tedious to me but I can sort of understand why they are a big draw for season finales. This time their creator, Davros, is back as well and provides one of the most horrific visions ever scene on the show. To me, though, the joy was seeing the different companions (far past, recent past and present), their families and Torchwood, as well as an unexpected guest (Harriet Jones, ex-Prime Minister) all appearing in one episode. OK, two episodes, they’ll be back next week. Cleverly, as well, most of them haven’t actually met yet – I’ll reserve comment on whether the rest actually end up meeting each other.

This was a truly cinematic episode. The Mill have produced some incredible special effects in the past. This time they have outdone themselves. There are times when the limitations of the show are apparent – three Daleks and a number of extras in a Cardiff street spring to mind – but, in general this episode looked as good as anything produced for American TV, and we know how much money is spent over there…

And then came the cliffhanger. I say one, even though there were, effectively three. First up we had Sarah-Jane Smith about to be exterminated, but we know that a second season of her show has been commissioned. Next, Ianto and Gwen taking on Daleks in Torchwood HQ, but we know another season of Torchwood is due. But, in the grand tradition of original series cliffhangers, the art isn’t in putting characters in danger, but showing how they get out of it.

No, the biggest cliffhanger came when the Doctor, rescued to the TARDIS after being shot by a Dalek, starts regenerating. Has the Beeb managed to keep a huge secret? Is David Tennant leaving the show? (Oh, yeah, and is the “most faithful companion” destined to die, according to Dalek Kahn, Rose Tyler, rather than Donna Noble, whose death has been foretold throughout this season?) How telling was it that there was no trailer for next week’s episode?

It was all a bit too much for me. I’ll be on tenterhooks until next Saturday now.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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