I was dreading this episode. It was actually quite enjoyable. I’m still slightly bewildered about how this happened.
Let’s be frank, the Slitheen two-parter was the nadir of the current Doctor Who series. The humour was painful and juvenile, and many of the performances would have disgraced a children’s TV show. The few good elements were drowned in the sea of mediocrity. The last thing the show should be attempting, therefore, is a sequel. But a sequel we have.
Thankfully, negative associations aside, this episode does a much better job of balancing the show’s trademark mixture of the flippant and the dramatic. There are plenty of scenes here which strain credulity in search of effect, but none that undermine the reality of the series in the way that the previous two part story did. Even the giggling fart gags are reduced to a bit of stomach rumbling.
Better yet, the serious scenes are worth the price of admission in themselves, even if the episode ultimately settles for interesting debate over tough decisions. The topic of the day is clearly the effect which the Doctor’s picaresque lifestyle has on those around him; those he saves, those he defeats, and those who get sucked along in his wake. On that level the episode is intriguing, and unusually thoughtful. The script crackles with good material at times, and there are scenes here which touch on fundamental aspects of the central character, although frustratingly they dance away from real depth.
The weak part of the episode, as with most RTD scripts, is the plot. Demolish a castle to build a nuclear reactor in the middle of Cardiff? Please. This is about as convincing as the idea that you can launch nuclear missiles from a website. Granting a final meal to the Slitheen is about as implausible, although the script does manage to sell that one more convincingly.
The Rose and Mickey storyline is surprisingly enjoyable and mature, and counterpoints nicely with the main story. Although it’s soapy fare, Rose’s continual allusions to other worlds, coupled with the theme of the episode, more than justify these scenes. Mickey is as good here as he’s ever been, and gets some good material, though I can’t say I’ll be heartbroken if this is his swansong. On a similar note, I’m slightly startled to find that Captain Jack appears to be a semi-permanent fixture (although I’m betting he doesn’t outstay the season finale. We do still have that gap in his memory to resolve, and I wouldn’t be too amazed if it has something to do with the Time War.)
Lastly, the Bad Wolf references get a mention, and just as quickly are dismissed as coincidence. This is another example of sacrificing drama for humour, but it works well enough. And since the title of new week’s episode is Bad Wolf, I’m thinking the Doctor may have to revise his opinion on this one.
To return to where I began, I was dreading this episode. It was actually quite enjoyable. Now I’m dreading next week’s episode. Here’s hoping there’s a lesson I should be learning, because the next episode will have to display some pretty fancy footwork to make me believe that a spoof of The Weakest Link and Big Brother with a Robo-Anne-Robinson is a good idea. Kandyman, here we come…
But then again, there are Daleks… hmmmmm…..