Sunday, 15 November 2009

Of Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars

I'm incredibly sorry for posting this so late, but honestly I've been really very busy, at least too busy to blog. I promised this weeks ago along with my thoughts on Muse. All I'll say about that is that was a fantastic night out, awesome set list (although a bit too much Resistance) and a superb light show. If you do ever get a chance to go see Muse ever, I would heartily recommend you do so as not only are they one of the best bands in the world, but also one of the best live bands in the world.

But anyways, on with my review of The Waters of Mars. Waters of Mars was one of the previously announced Doctor Who specials that we would get in place of a real season of Doctor Who this year. I gave Planet of the Dead a very positive review a few months ago (maybe a little bit too positive, but I really enjoyed it even if no one else did) and I'm going to do the same here. This review is going to be very short and sweet and I'm not going to delve into a lot of areas that I might normally do. If you've read any of my previous Doctor Who reviews then you know that David Tennant is absolutely superb and there's no need to reiterate that here. I will be doing say come new years which might devolve into more of David Tennant memorandum consider it will be his last foray as the Doctor*

So instead this review is going to focus on one thing. Russel T. Davies. I have a love/hate relationship for this man. He has shepherded this new Doctor Who since the beginning and has written some amazing episodes. He picked the actors and has done some incredible character moments. However he's also proven an incredible lack of ability at writing science fiction beats, relying quite frequently on dues ex machina type endings, particularly the finale to Season 4. The man has done a lot to help this series but also harmed with an overabundance of campy, kiddie humour and cop out endings. It's making me incredibly excited to think what Stephen Moffat will do when he takes over next spring, but on some level I will be upset to see RTD leave the show.

This episode was pretty much a showcase for RTD best and worst talents. Luckily the good out weighed the bad by a lot but there still existed a lot of quite annoying points about this episode. Firstly we had the robot. This was probably my biggest complaint about the episode. It was stupid and kiddie. Whilst it was arguably necessary for the conclusion, there was no reason for it to be so goddamn annoying or the weird inter-cutting of the guy controlling it being electrocuted. I should have known it would be bad when it was described as a 'cute robot sidekick, because kids love robots!' It was just stupid. It wasn't cute. TV and movies have done little cute sidekicks frequently before but this robot wasn't interesting at all. It didn't have any personality which was probably its biggest flaw and the scene where it is made to go super fast was awful. However that did save us from the awful running sequences. Whilst we got some funny jokes with the Doctor asking for little fold away bicycles, so much of the time was taken up by running sequences that it go a little tedious. For a time period where we had lasers and a space station on Mars (both of which could be possible by 2059 IaSg14) we for some reason don't have a transportation system between different sectors of the base? Seriously, if you want to make a joke RTD at least ground it in reality and not make the audience have to take massive leaps of faith.

Now the good stuff. It was character based and not really sci-fi based. Just like Season 4's 'Midnight' (also written by RTD) we had something alien causing commotion but the reactions were human and grounded. That's what made Battlestar Galactica work so well and it did so here. Whilst Doctor Who will never touch BSG in terms of darkness just due to when and where it airs, it was nice to see something that whilst not believable was grounded in reality. The situation was significantly harrowing with the crew being whittled down until we didn't know who would survive. There were some nice hero and sacrificial moments (guy in rocket ship which annoying at first was a sufficiently awesome death scene) as well as the emotional points where some of the lesser crew members who we haven't actually spent time with get water on them and we know they're done. It made you feel for them because they had personality, if only a little. Although it was weird to see the two least developed characters ultimately surviving.

Then we have Adelaide played by Lindsay Duncan. She was great and was the main focal point of the story. The fact is that her death is a fixed point in time and if she doesn't die then the universe would completely change as it is her death which brings about contact with the outside universe. This is where we get a really interested moral quandary on the behalf of the Doctor. He knows she must die and wants to stay uninvolved from this in order to keep time under wraps (he is a Time Lord after all) however he comes around and decides to save all of the people he can on the station. Ultimately he saves three, including Adelaide but also tells her that she is meant to die or else all the good things brought by her death won't come about. This leads to one of the most powerful scenes Doctor Who has ever done.

Adelaide confronts the Doctor after he saves her and tells him how no man should wield the power to change time (all of this wonderfully grounded by David Tennant seemingly manic power rush from this event**) and eventually concludes with Adelaide deciding to take this into her own hands. So we get the darkest moment that Doctor Who has ever done and even rivals the superb scene in Torchwood from earlier this year. A companion literally kills herself. It was dark and well done and almost seemed like RTD had learned something from writing Torchwood that sometimes going a little dark is a good thing. It was necessary to sort out the timeline and show how power mad the Doctor had gone and whilst I've read complaints about that scene all I can do is applaud RTD for doing it. It was utterly fantastic and rounded off a great episode of Doctor Who.

Overall, this was a great special. Whilst a silly first 10 minutes drag this episode down a little, the rest is dark and dramatic with real tension and characters we can care for even with very little screen time. Overall this has probably been my favourite special that Doctor Who has done, including David Tennant's first Christmas Special and the dark turn towards the end to wrap up the story was the icing on the cake. I can't wait to see what Christmas will bring and am on tender hooks for Stephen Moffat's run. Lets just hope that RTD doesn't cock David Tennat's swan song.


*just as a note, I want to know if I should review the Christmas/New Year specials as a whole or two separate reviews. Considering they're a two parter I'm slightly torn and wondering whether I'll have a enough to say to pad out two reviews of what is essentially one story.

**goddamn it, I said I wouldn't do that


IaSg14 said...

It's been 40 years since we (supposedly, for any conspiracy theorists reading) landed on the moon and a couple of shit probes have 'crash landed' on Mars, it's not like we've made a massive leap in space exploration since then. Wow, we have the technology to rebuild a space shuttle in outer space, that'll come in use when the rocket has gone wrong and is hurtling into Earth like a fucking dart.
One of the reasons I look forward to Moffat taking over is that it looks like he is genuinely interested in sci-fi as a genre of television. A lot of his stories involve paradoxes and leaping around through history (Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, the one with the massive Library are just three) and for a show about time travel I like to see storylines about the cause and effect situations, but that's probably because I'm a massive nerd when it comes to fictional time travel.

Nquoid said...

Main reason we haven't is because no one is particularly interested. We have lasers that can shoot down small aircraft so proper lasers are very close.

Whilst if we continue on our current stream of not giving a shit, then no I guess we won't get there. But technological developments could make it there if people tried.

However yes I do agree about the Moffat thing. He will definitely do some awesome stuff