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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Doctor Who Season Two

I haven't, recently, reached any milestones, completed any shows or experienced any WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED moments that might, with a bit of fiddlery-faffery, justify a post.

The truth is that my 'main' project at the moment; the complete Dangermouse boxset; is taking much longer to get through than it's run time would ordinarily justify. Not because I'm finding it a slog, but because I'm rationing it, because if I ever allow myself to reach the familiarity has bred contempt stage with Dangermouse then I'll have to hire someone to stamp on my balls for a week as punishment.

So it's going to have to be another season round-up of my thoughts on Doctor Who then. I know, it's not long since I did season one, and I had hoped to wait a while but fuck it, right? That would mean planning ahead and shit with this thing and we all no that isn't going to happen. Don't worry, it'll be well into February before I finish watching season 3, so...

So without further ado, I present


Yes, my boy, it's still me. Yes, me, indeed, mmm?

Planet of Giants

The first serial of the season is a fairly short one, at 3 episodes, and they're 3 episodes that never outstay their welcome. All of the regulars seem to be having a good time, and in three of their cases that translates to great little performances. (We all know a 'great little performance' is a physical impossibility for Carole Ann Ford)

Can't act to save her life. Looks cute in this ep though.

Basically The Doctor, Ian 'should have been Bond' Chesterton, Barbara 'worship me, for I am your Goddess' Wright, and Susan, all land on a planet of giants. Except really it's Earth and they're just really small because, and you won't believe this, something went wrong with the TARDIS. Shocker, I know.

They all wander around for a bit being scared by bugs and almost drowning in sinks and being menaced by cats before taking five minutes out of their busy schedules to help catch the worlds most incompetent murderer and then figure out a technobabble way to get large again. Just in time to save one of their number from death by insecticide. Spiffing outcome all round, apart from Susan not being eaten by a cat or drowned in the sink.

I liked it. Nothing special, but doesn't make you weep for humanity.

The Dalek Invasion Of Earth

This is a good 'un, and not half.

Barbaras greatest chance to shine since The Aztecs, with everyones favourite MILFy Goddess getting to kill at least one Dalek and bamboozle a bunch of others with her history knowledge; Ian goes full on Bond, even going so far as to essentially defuse a nuclear bomb on it's way to blow up the Earths core at one point; The Doctor is only mildly inept, disappears for a bit, then comes back and is actually fairly endearing for a bit; and Susan is inoffensive. Then leaves! Hahahaha, fuck yes, finally! Job done.

There are flaws of course. That mobile compost heap thing that contributes precisely nothing to the story is an embarrassment, for one thing. And the magic mineshaft lift bucket thing that is nowhere to be seen at the end of one episode but right there for the characters to jump into at the start of the next is a bit of a 'Flash Gordon in the 30's' contrivance but what the hell.

The Rescue

You'll see the twist coming a mile away but who cares? Because look! Over there! It's Vicki, here to be cute and endearing and funny and charming and have great chemistry with The Doctor and not grate on your last nerve ending every time she does anything or says anything or appears in the programme. Or, you know, be Not Susan. Yay Vicki!

The Romans

Gloriously funny, best ever use of the Ian/Barbara 'are they shagging like rabbits but we just aren't allowed to see because it's a kids show?' dynamic and Hartnell seems like a new man playing off Vicki, in her first proper adventure. She really is a breath of fresh air for the show; and she wears a sheet very fetchingly too.

Come along my dear. You know, you're much better than that other girl!

Only downside is that Nero is played a little broad for my tastes, but it's a farce, really, so I'm probably being a nob and picking fault for the sake of picking fault.

The Web Planet

From the sublime to the... utter fucking bilge. Far too long at 6 episodes, with some of the most incredibly annoying aliens that make it nigh on unwatchable with their ridiculous prancing around and ear searing screeching.

Go! Away! You! Prick!
I applaud the attempt at something a little bit different, but they botched it; they botched it baaaaaaad!

The Crusade

Richard the Lionheart is a bit of a prick and Ian gets knighted. Lots of running around and getting captured, and the story isn't all that much to write home about, but credit where it's due; the Saracens are never played as 'villains' and both sides of the war are equally sympathetic. Or unsympathetic, at times.

Not dross by any means, but also not the rousing success it needed to be to drag the show out of the doldrums caused by The Web Planet.

The Space Museum

Interesting twist to part one, that doesn't seem to have any real bearing on anything else that happens; they talk about it a lot, and they pretend it does, but it's just a futile attempt to glam up what is, when you get right down to it, a basic 'run away from the bad guys for three episodes, take ten minutes to start a revolution, then piss off' type of story.

The villains are a bit meh as well; nothing wrong with them as such, but nothing to really make them stand out. 

I'd like to point out at this point that I do actually like this show. Because I've just realised how fucking negative, or at least neutral so much of this post seems so far. 

The Chase

The Daleks don't work as figures of fun, which; when you consider the ridiculous design, and I'm sorry but it just fucking is; is odd. You'd think something that looks that silly should be perfectly suited to comedy but for some

Farewell, old friends.
Thankfully, on the whole, this is not a comedy story. A couple of episodes out of the six are played for laughs, but they're mainly filler and could almost be excised completely if not for one plot point; Vicky getting separated from the TARDIS crew; which itself could have easily slotted in elsewhere.

The rest of the serial is fairly straight, and I'd have been annoyed if it wasn't because it sees the departure of my beloved Barbara and Ian 'the 60's John McClane' Chesterton. If they'd gone as part of some daft farce I'd have been getting a petition up at the very least.

The Time Meddler

Now you're talking!

I loved this story. The Meddling Monk was fantastic, and his plan ingenious; The Doctor played off against him brilliantly and Hartnell seemed to be having the time of his life; and new companion Steven develops fantastic chemistry with Vicki almost from minute one. Genuinely, those two are a joy to watch together.

How to end a season on a high
The subplot about the viking fellas wandering around was a bit weird and ill defined, but apart from that this is Doctor Who firing on all cylinders in what I'm pretty sure is the first time we've gotten a story that is both a historical and a sci-fi story. The pseudo-historical as they would become known are of course a staple of Doctor Who now, so it never really occurred to me to question it while watching, but if you think about it this must have been quite the revelation to those viewing at the time.

So there you have my slapdash thoughts on another season of Doctor Who.

The overall story strength wasn't as high as season one, in my opinion, but the character interaction was a massive improvement, thanks to Vicki replacing Susan and instantly being more fun and having more chemistry with everyone, and then Steven coming in late and immediately sparking with Vicki too. Post Dalek Invasion of Earth, this cast was nigh perfect.

No idea what I'll be talking about next week. You'll find out when I do. Have some blooming patience! Sheesh.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Doctor Who: Season One

The little brain fart that constituted last weeks rambling pseudo-essay about Doctor Who was inspired; as I think I mentioned but can't be bothered to check; by my watching a lot of William Hartnell episodes of late.

I've now finished watching the entire first season; some for the first time, some I'd seen before; and so I thought I'd do a little rundown of my thoughts. I'll admit that the timing isn't great, because I don't usually like to talk about the same show two weeks running; apart from that time I didn't shut up about The Tomorrow People for a year and a half of course; but what the hell, right?

So, here we go; my thoughts on the serials from season one of Doctor Who...

You'd best like my show, dear boy! Yes, you'd just better had, hmmm.
An Unearthly Child

Extremely slow going, which can be trying until you get used to it, and I'm not convinced that there is enough story here to warrant even half the running time, to be honest; something which will be a recurring theme.

Saved by some committed performances from the guest cast and the fact that Carole Ann Ford hadn't yet achieved maximum annoying-ness levels.

The Daleks

How slow??? (Told you that would come up again)

As the show's first proper villains the Daleks acquit themselves well, even if their reliance on static electricity; I'm guessing included as part of the educational remit, though I could be wrong; is a mite silly.

Again, the pace is glacial, which might not have been so bad had so much of the 'action' not taken place in a bunch of very similar looking (I wonder why that was) corridors. At least we get to see the beginnings of Ian and Barbara coming into their own as characters; the show is much more engaging and entertaining when it's focusing on them, rather than the crotchety and downright unpleasant Doctor or the shrill harpy that is Susan.

The Edge of Destruction

Doesn't work. Looks cheap and is far too reliant on Carole Ann Ford who, lest you haven't picked up on my subtle comment in the previous serials, CAN'T ACT.

Marco Polo

Another one that's far too long, but nevertheless I enjoyed it. Polo himself is an engaging character; a 'villain' in that he holds the Doctor and co. captive, but one with very understandable and believable motivations.

Also, the real villain of the piece, Tegana, is cool as fuck.

I aint sweating you clowns. Bring it on, suckas.
The Keys Of Marinus

Another long one, but it gets around that by having lots of different settings and guest casts for the regulars to flit between, so it doesn't get dull. Well...

The Doctor himself disappears for a sizable chunk of the running time, which actually makes it a little more exciting; Ian and Barbara being far more interesting protagonists; and the ending is a decent bit of switcheroo, if a little rushed.

Shame the show gives every indication of having skipped an episode between parts 4 and 5. Major script fail there, with events jumping forwards without explanation in an extremely off putting manner. Oh well, we're none of us perfect.

The Aztecs

I fucking loved The Aztecs. Susan is sidelined, Barbara is fierce in her beliefs and just a proper full blooded heroine, and Ian gets to be the suave action man he so obviously should have always been; on the strength of this serial alone I wanted him to have gone on to be a major movie star.

What's more, the depiction of the Aztec society is fascinating, the 'villains' actually aren't, really, and The Doctor makes sense for once, before being given a rather sweet love story that should be rammed down the throats of anyone who bemoans the Madame Pompadour incident as out of character. (I know he's kind of using her, but there's obviously genuine affection there as well)

The serial reaches it's only logical conclusion, with no easy answers to be had for anyone, and the travelers head off having learned a valuable lesson. This is proper drama, and the cast play the shit out of it; just brilliant stuff.

And the lead 'villain' is creepy as fuck.

The Sensorites

A serial in which some incredibly badly acted humans encounter an alien race based entirely on bureaucracy and placid acceptance of a class system that makes them indistinguishable to each other by any means other than their insignia. And the size of their beer bellies, although they're all too polite to say that bit.

It's a nice idea, to do a story about a benign alien race with just a couple of bad eggs. Shame this one is so dull. Especially when it didn't need to be; all the elements were there for a gripping little political thriller.

Also, it relied heavily on Carole Ann Ford, so it has that acting against it.

Reign Of Terror

It's the French Revolution; people are getting guillotined left and right, spies for various factions (and the English) stalk the streets, and our intrepid heroes are in prison.

It's great.

The bumbling jailer is just the right side of parody, the politics are clever enough to keep you thinking without being too confusing for the kids, and the Doctor hits a man over the head with a shovel.

The ONLY downside is that the guy playing Robespierre is awful; they even manage to get Susan out of the way for a while with a phantom illness that seems to come and go on a whim and has no real resolution, which makes me think it was just there to get Susan out of the way. Well done Dennis Spooner.

SO, those were just some off the top of my head reactions to the serials making up season one. Throwing them onto the page without any planning or too much editing, I see several patterns emerge that I wasn't really aware of when I was watching.

I hate Susan of course, that much is obvious, but the big one I hadn't realised is that I genuinely love the historical stories, whilst a lot of the sci-fi left me cold. I really wouldn't have thought that when I sat down to watch the show.

That's all from me for now, but I'll be back next week with something that has nothing to do with Doctor Who. Promise.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Bag of Bones

Hello, and welcome to the first post of 2013, here on The Impossible Quest. I hope you haven't missed me too much during my extended break.

As with the first post back last year; because tradition is important, dontcha know; I was determined to find something in the terrestrial schedules to write about. After all, isn't the Christmas break supposed to be a time for the television stations to break out their big guns? Also as with last year, I struggled to find something that wasn't the Doctor Who Christmas Special. ALSO, as with last year, Channel 5 came to my rescue late in the day with a mini-series imported from the states. Well done Channel 5. And so, without further ado...

First things first, because I'm told that's the way to do it, I just want to get a little bit of a moan off my chest. Bag of Bones was a mini-series, written and shot to air over two nights. Channel 5, in their infinite wisdom, took the decision to condense it into a movie and show it in one go. Given it's themes, it obviously had to screen post watershed, which meant they had a 3 and a bit hour production that ran until past midnight; how did they not anticipate that that alone would put people off?

Then, of course, the people who did watch, and who were expecting a movie; since Channel 5 were billing it that way, and hadn't made it's original form clear; were faced with over an hour of very slow scene setting and build up. The air of boredom radiating from twitter during the screening was maddening. A slow part one with a decent cliffhanger is one thing, but lumping it together like this meant that when the big finish to part one happened... people looked at the clock and thought 'Another hour plus of this? Nah thanks mate' and went to bed.

They fucked up, is what I'm saying.

But what of the show itself? We all know that Stephen King material can have a bit of difficulty transferring to the screen; for every The Stand or Stand By Me we get, well, virtually everything else ever adapted for the screen from a Stephen King story. Where on the scale is Bag of Bones?  It wasn't awful, let's put it that way.

Hello. I used to be Remington Steele you know.
I'm fairly certain Pierce Brosnan was high, or drunk, or something, for most of the filming, because he hammed it up like no-ones business, but the rest of the cast were excellent, and the little girl playing the main kid managed to stay just on the right side of annoying, so they win points for that at least.

I say the cast were excellent, but here's the thing... they hired a lot of people for this who, when they first appeared on screen, made me very excited. Matt Frewer is here, Melissa George, Jason Priestley... and yet they barely appear; a massive wasted opportunity. And before anyone says anything; I know George's character dies early on in the book too, but she's much better developed there, before she goes, which made the eventual shock of her death that much more, well, shocking. Here you barely care, because you just don't get the sense of her importance. As I say though, she does brilliantly with what she's given.

The mystery at the heart of the story is simplified a hell of a lot in the show, and not in any way that seems particularly necessary, either. Certainly the explanation in the novel is not one that is problematically complicated; it's complex, yes, but makes sense and would have been relatively easy to explain in dialogue. Also, eliminating several characters altogether in order to allow Brosnan more to do might seem logical; you want your hero to be a hero; but it does raise the question of how a middle aged writer is so good at so many things.

Stop diluting my part you fuckers!
The ending of the book is watered down significantly here too, again to the detriment of the story, and again to every character not played by Pierce Brosnan. The book has the villain despatched by the ghost of one of the deceased characters, in defence of their daughter; the show has the villain killed by Brosnan, in defence of someone elses daughter. A small thing, to be sure, and it does play to the paternal responsibility theme, but still, it just makes Melissa George's character that much less important.

If you've not read the book, it probably played a little better; assuming you watch it in it's intended form and therefore haven't fallen asleep at the halfway mark. Certainly the new, truncated version of the mystery is not in itself offensive and makes sense in it's own right; the villains are genuinely creepy, if a little over the top in one case (and they get points for casting Death from Supernatural in one small but pivotal role); and Melissa George looked, as Melissa George is wont to do, very lovely indeed.

In all, I would say watch Bag of Bones. Make sure you're watching it as a two parter with a break between episodes, make sure you brace yourself for the alterations to the book, and make sure you don't expect to take Brosnan seriously; make sure of all those things, and you should have a good time.

It would have been so much fucking better if Priestley and Brosnan had swapped roles though. So. Much. Better.

Maybe in the remake mate. Maybe in the remake.

No idea what I'll be talking about next time, but I'm sure it will be riveting stuff indeed. Riveting, I say!

See you then. Maybe