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parrot_knight [userpic]

Doctor Who 4[XXX].14: The Next Doctor, repeated

April 10th, 2009 (09:27 pm)

I was a little kind to this episode at Christmas. Suddenly, after Journey's End, this programme forgot how to light its monsters or dress its props. The Cyberleader is wearing the Cybercontroller suit but the brain section is looking its age and has too many close-ups. They are not well-served by the plot, which calls on them to become superstitious; perhaps their time in the Void damaged them, so they have a need to recreate the Cybercontroller but no longer know how.

The episode has a very poor sense of period; Russell T Davies's historical research is even more prone to the charge of being what he could remember than that of Robert Holmes in the 1970s. For Davies the ingredients are different, and contain more sugar. There's a confused sense of RTD attempting to act as a spokesman for oppressed womanhood, with Mercy Hartigan (with a name like that I expect Dervla Kirwan was expected to play the role with an Irish accent) exploited as functionary and coerced into sexual servitude to the parish guardians, then seeking the Cybermen as her 'knights' (it's the right time for her to make this allusion, as the costume suggests we are somewhere between the Eglinton Tournament and the Pre-Raphaelites) to effect her liberation. The courtly love of the Cybermen is distorted, because they are unable to appreciate her womanhood and her femininity, and try to make her their king. Acknowledging sebastienne's comments on my earlier post, the resulting hybrid is an unsuccessful amalgamation of male and female principles; perhaps this is the cost of attempting to supplant the Messiah on Christmas Day, though the Doctor's ascension confuses the typology somewhat.

Otherwise the Jackson Lake plot still works fairly well, though it's let down because Jackson and the Doctor face such a poorly-conceived enemy. Watching the episode a second time, it becomes more clear that the whole story is there to service the supposedly child-friendly set piece at the end, where the Doctor ascends in a balloon to confront the Cyber-king. There is no point in this other than spectacle, and as I said in my first review, it doesn't convince.

See you tomorrow, in HD, in Dubai.

Comments

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: April 10th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
academic doctor

Although of course the courtly model does depend on treating the lady as she were, well, one's feudal lord.

erhaps this is the cost of attempting to supplant the Messiah on Christmas Day

Part of me wants to send RTD extracts of the really interesting bits of Seuse (in which a fourteenth century Dominican friar decides to be really thorough in importing the model of courtly love into the religious sphere, leading to him acting as knight to the Second Person of the Trinity's beloved lady). Another part of me is apprehensive as to what the results might be should he actually read it, though I suppose it won't affect the Doctor one way or the other.

Russell T Davies's historical research is even more prone to the charge of being what he could remember than that of Robert Holmes in the 1970s. For Davies the ingredients are different, and contain more sugar.

Harsh, but true.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: April 10th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC)
arthurelaineletr

Although of course the courtly model does depend on treating the lady as she were, well, one's feudal lord.

I'd forgotten that! Brain going soft...

RTD has hinted in recent interviews that he has another commission on the way - from what you've mentioned of Seuse there's potentially a lot that could find itself (ab)used...

I'm perhaps unfair on comparing RTD to Robert Holmes; Holmes was never a showrunner, and he didn't have to write as many episodes as RTD has, or have to recast almost everybody else's scripts in his own style... though Holmes, Terrance Dicks and, a little later, Christopher H. Bidmead all seem to have written (at Bidmead's estimate) 70% of the episodes which they script-edited. The ingredients which influenced Holmes, who had had several jobs outside television, are quite different to a writer of the next generation like Davies, who has been in the business all his working life.