Worse than Meh, really. When I saw the first few episodes I was impressed at how cleverly this series walked the dividing line between fun and ridiculous, humorous and farcical. With a few exceptions like that dreaded burping Wheelie Bin in episode 1, it’s stayed the right side of the line. Until now. There is far too much in this week’s episode that feels like that Burping Wheelie Bin. Even Christopher Eccleston is too much the grinning fool and too little the serious investigator.
Most of what we see this week could work if it was bedded more firmly in realism, but the whole affair takes on an Avengers-like surreal reality where nothing matters because everything is eccentric and archly clever. The incidental music doesn’t help matters, with its occasional vaudevillian tendencies given full rein. The elements dealing with Rose’s family, which could have been that bedrock, feel too much like irrelevant soap opera: when juxtaposed with annoying aliens, annoying relatives are just too much to bear. Rose’s Mum and Boyfriend are acceptable in small doses, but in large quantities the actors begin to feel woefully inadequate to the task. It doesn’t help that I keep wanting the Doctor to jump back in the Tardis, nip back 11 months, and deliver Rose to her Mum without all the histrionics. There’s probably a law of time-travel involved.
In the episode’s defence, it’s not all bad. It does take a traditional Alien Invasion story and tell it from an unusual angle which feels fresh for the show; arguably the first fresh plotting we’ve seen to date. The documentary news coverage of the crash landing is mostly very convincing and adds some of that much needed realism. The aliens, immensely tiresome when in human skin, are far more effective and Farscape-like in their true appearance. Even the oddly baby-ish faces work (and I’ll admit, the CGI eyelids help a lot). Plus there’s U.N.I.T. Not much of them, but they’re there.
I have to admit to being underwhelmed by this installment. I only hope part 2 dials down the farce and brings things back onto a more dramatic footing.