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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

A Good Man...

So, the last few days have seen not one, but two absolutely glorious finales grace our screens. And they were both British shows as well, what are the chances?

First up was Saturdays 'Mid-Season Finale' of Doctor Who. As big a fan as I am of this show - and I am - I have to admit to a deepening sense of frustration with this first batch of episodes from what is the second season under the control of Steven Moffat (Winner, Faplads Favourite Showrunner, 2011)

There have been a number of complaints that the show has, under Moffat, become too dark, or too complicated, or that there are too many unanswered questions. Funnily enough, most of these complaints seem to be coming from adults; the kids are loving it the same as ever. Personally, while I do think that this latest batch of episodes has had problems, I don't think that it's any of the above named; it's simply that too many of the episodes have just not been very good. Moffats episodes, as they invariably are, were fantastic; exciting, clever, funny,thought provoking and just a little bit scary (or a lot scary, in places), they did everything you want a Doctor Who episode to do, and then some, but sadly, of the episodes between, only master fantasist Neil Gaiman has managed to write, with 'The Doctors Wife', something that in my opinion deserves to be in the company of Moffats contributions.

That the Steve Thompson penned episode 'The Curse Of The Black Spot' was poor should perhaps not have come as a surprise, given that Thompson was the weak link on the writing team that brought us S1 of Sherlock and has done little else of note in the world of television. This relative inexperience should perhaps earn him a little leeway though.

Mathew Graham on the other hand has no such excuse. A highly experienced television writer with form for producing classic science fiction works of his own (he was one of the big guns on the Life On Mars/Ashes To Ashes project and was responsible for many of the best episodes on that, including it's extremely well received - and rightly so - finale), Graham also has previous experience of writing Doctor Who. His episode starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, 'Fear Her', was not the best received of Tennants first season but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for it; woefully saccharine ending aside of course. I had high hopes indeed for what he could produce with a 2part running time and a decent Doctor to write for.

Sadly, he let me down here with 'The Rebel Flesh' and 'The Almost People', producing a story where the characters just lurched along from one poorly contrived set piece to another with little in the way of natural plot progression or relatable character motivations. Indeed, the guest cast, superb performers though most of them were, were locked in a constant struggle to convince us that we were watching actual people, living actual lives. In the end, the struggle proved to be a futile one; rather than becoming products of their experiences throughout the tale, characters became what they needed to be to forward the plot. And not particularly gracefully either, the main antagonist played by Sarah Smart being the prime but by no means only offender.

So with three of the six aired episodes having been duffers, the season was looking a little shaky. Luckily though, the man himself stepped up to the plate for the final episode of the run and what a magnificent return to form it was for the show.

Matt Smith showed us once again why he is quite possibly the greatest actor to play the Doctor (he has yet to topple John Pertwee from the top spot for me but he's very comfortably ensconced in the no. 2 position, and gaining fast) as the Doctor moved from comic bravado to chilling menace to sheer, red in the face anger; and when the Doctor is truly angry, the Universe shakes. You only need to listen to the Doctors response as Kovarian mocks the rules good men live by. "Good men don't need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many." Translation: I am a badass. Fuck with me and mine and I will end you. This is a Doctor we've not seen before (although it perhaps owes a debt to the later McCoy stories) and I for one am very intrigued as to where Moffat intends to go with it.

Elsewhere; we get laugh out loud comedy from, of all things, a Sontaran nurse, ("Don't slouch, it's bad for the posture", he tells his defeated foe.); there's a joke involving a tongue that I still can't believe they got away with; Oh, and the 3yrs in the making mystery of River Songs identity is finally laid to rest. Well, sort of; I have no doubt that there is a lot more to this particular story.

In all then, Moffat did what Moffat always does; he brought the genius and proved once again that writing Doctor Who is pretty much the job he was born to do, managing in the process to banish some of the sour taste this run had left. It's to be hoped however, that the back half of the season sees him perhaps exercising a little more quality control over the work of the other writers, so that watching Doctor Who doesn't become a game of 'waiting for Moffat'.

Could this man soon be dethroned?

Far more consistent in it's quality (if not, sadly, its ratings) was Psychoville; the second of this weeks big finales.

However , you shall have to wait until next week to find out what I thought of that because before I put pen to paper, or finger to key, I feel it only right and proper that I do my research and re-watch the first series again, to the ensure that the whole thing is fresh in my memory. It'll be tough, but I'll persevere.

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