Friday, 28 March 2014

'The End of the World'

‘They did this once on Newsround…’

Can the best Doctor Who stories be summed up in a question?
If you wanted to impress someone with your time and space machine, is taking them to the year five billion, freaking them out with a bunch of aliens and making them watch their world explode the best way of going about it?

Best moment for Old School Who?
I was always very fond of the motley Murder Mystery alien ensemble in ‘Curse of Peladon,’ and the lovely bunch of creatures assembled on Platform One to watch Earth’s Heat Death seem to be a conscious nod to that story. At the time it was surprising that much-vaunted creatures such as the Moxx and the Face of Boe barely got a speaking part. But the big thing for me was that this version of Doctor Who wasn’t afraid of bringing on the weird-looking aliens. This wasn’t going to be like some latterday Star Trek effort in which alienness is signified by a few funny bits stuck on an actor’s forehead. This was all about talking trees, bird people and brains in bubbling tanks.

Best new thing?
The Doctor does a spot of ‘jiggery pokery’ on Rose’s phone so she can call her mum, five billion years ago. Jackie’s doing the washing and surprised to get a call from her daughter. The Doctor’s showing off, but he’s also being kind, knowing that Rose has been knocked sideways by this first step into the unknown. Her attempts to acclimatize to the dizzying future are so well done in this episode.

They’d never have got away with that in the 20th century…
Pop classics from Marc Almond and Britney Spears are used in the soundtrack to exhilarating effect. It always makes me wish the old series had used more pop. T Rex on the soundtrack of ‘Invasion of the Dinosaurs,’ the Human League guesting in ‘Meglos’…

Hurray for Jackie Tyler – best guest moment?
My favourite guest star in episode two is the obvious one: Zoe Wanamaker as Cassandra, the last ‘pure human’ and a ‘bitchy trampoline’ according to Rose. My favourite moment is when the Doctor reverses her transmat beam and brings her back to the station mid-bitch.

The ‘I love me Nan…’ moment
As with episode one, it’s so fast and new, and all the character-work seems so novel and interesting. There’s nothing that feels overdone.

The astonishing bigger-story revelations come from the scenes with Jabe, the tree lady Doctor Who flirts with. Realising his provenance, she is in awe that such a being should have survived the war. The Doctor tells her, and Rose and us, a little of how his world and people are all long gone, and he is alone and travelling the universe because there is nothing else for him to do. Again, these details are being eked out so carefully. There’s no info-dumping or tedious space-gabble. By now we want to know who and what he is. Those of us who already know want to know how much the new Show is prepared to delve into the past, and what secrets might come out…

Plot twisty things or conveniences… well, it’s a bit of a classic obstacle moment with the spinning blades that have to be dodged by the Doctor so he can push the Big Button and save everyone. But who cares? It’s a disaster movie trope, and we love them, and that’s the genre we’re in.

Where was I?
I was so relieved we’d gone into space and the future and we were seeing exotic beings. I was delighted that when we went into space the aliens were made out of bits of old costumes and some were bright blue and most of them were grotesque. I loved the fact that this far-flung future could look a bit retro as well as having fabulous effects. I remember being astonished by the effects for the space station spinning round the world and the expanding sun turning them all bright gold. Doctor Who had never looked as good as this before, ever.

And yet – because we cared about the blue plumber lady who got dragged to her death in the ventilation shaft, and because we cared about the camp steward who got roasted in his office and because everyone was there for a reason and were an actual part of the story, the whole splendid thing had a human scale to it. It’s a lovely balancing act between the sublime and the familiar.

Singlemost fabulous thing
The Doctor’s wonderful riposte to Cassandra: ‘What’re yer gonna do? Moisturise me?’ Especially when that’s countered by his sudden hard-heartedness when he refuses to save her from drying out, and the poor villainess goes TWANG. She’s new Doctor Who’s first villain and it’s a fab performance.

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