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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Doctor Who new series thoughts

A few more thoughts on the full new season of DOCTOR WHO. Probable mild spoilers starting a few paragraphs in for those who haven't had a chance to see it. Overall I liked it, but a bit less so now that I've had a chance to watch or re-watch some of the originals. Almost everything in the new series was better than anything I've seen from the last decade of the original show, so that's something. I'm honestly amazed the original lasted as long as it did given the quality of those. Momentum is a wonderful thing, I suppose. At least so far this new one is getting better as it goes along. I'll definitely be around for the Christmas special later this year and new season sometime in 2006.

But it wasn't quite as good as most of what I saw from the earlier seasons. Some of that might be nostalgia, but even beyond that, I just think that despite the more limited budgets the early stuff had a sense of fun and was generally more cohesive than the new series.

As I've noted before, there seemed to be an odd internal struggle between completely getting what Doctor Who is about (and successfully translating that to modern terms) and completely missing the point. I don't know if this has something to do with different people working on the show, pressures to keep it "up-to-date" or what, but sometimes it really did feel like I was watching scenes from two different shows in the same hour.

I did like most of the characters, though. The new Doctor seemed a bit awkward at first, but I did like him a lot more as the series went on. Did a good job of being human but not quite. Rose was pretty decent as well, although she had more than a few moments of getting on my nerves. Captain Jack was pretty funny for the most part, a good foil for the other two, but sometimes a bit too precious. Rose's mom and Mickey are, well, they sure are there, all right.

Episode by episode:

The big re-introduction, mostly works on what's a tough amount of new stuff to get through in a one-hour show. The choice of villains, the Autons, still seems weak, and compared to the later stuff it doesn't work nearly as well, but it's solid.

The End of the World
The first trip through time, into the far future, I like this more now than I did originally, mostly because it sets up some later stuff well. It's good space opera, fast paced (maybe too fast, could have been a two-parter) and with some good character bits. On the other hand, points off for bad use of pop music.

The Unquiet Dead
The weakest episode, by a good stretch, goes back to Victorian England. Always a mistake. Not entertaining and not half as clever as it thinks it is.

Aliens of London
World War Three
Back in modern times with the first two-parter. A lot of good stuff in here, and I liked the way they integrated some modern special effects with the look of the original show. The cliffhanger was especially good. A bit of a weak ending in some ways, but overall solid.

Really good, maybe the best of the year, but that just may be my unnatural (and illegal on some planets) love of the Daleks coming through. Still think it's a shame that they couldn't do this without advertising "Dalek" in the title and promos, as the first scene with the Dalek would have been much stronger with some element of surprise. Still, a good episode, looks really sharp, very dramatic and well-paced. Again, the ending was a touch weaker than it could have been, but not as bad as it could have been.

The Long Game
Back to the far future, a pretty average episode for the season. Nothing especially noteworthy, nothing really offensive.

Father's Day
Ah, time paradox. Means it didn't make a huge amount of sense, but it was something different, and did pretty well with the material. Also a focus on Rose in this episode, and she does a pretty good job.

The Empty Child
The Doctor Dances
A two-part story set in WWII. Started a bit weak, but recovered nicely, and the second part is the other contender for best episode. Introduces Captain Jack in this story, and he's a lot of fun, and the ending is really strong and funny in the best WHO tradition.

Boom Town
Back to modern times for the sequel to the "Aliens of London" story. I liked bits and pieces of it, but the whole thing didn't quite hang together for me. The second half was just trying to hard, a bit too earnest, and a lot of it just didn't seem to make sense.

Bad Wolf
The Parting of the Ways
The concluding two-parter. Starts off really bad with a parody of British reality TV and game shows. I'm sure that was cutting edge back in 1999. Got a lot better as the first part went on, and again the introduction of the Daleks was great (and again would have been stronger if they didn't feel the need to include it in the promos). Second part continues that momentum for a while, but gets a bit bogged down later, and then the ending is some sort of late-1970s Marvel comic cosmic-powers, glowing eyes thingee which was full of itself. A shame, as up to the last act it was shaping up to be the best of the season. Good stuff overall, though (I can't hate something with this many Daleks), and of course the ending leads to yet another Doctor starting later this year.

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