Doctor Who needs little introduction - a TV sci-fi series that started way back in the 1960's that ran more or less continuously until the late 1980's and was required Saturday night viewing for generations of British kids. It was notable for it's scary monster of the week theme, the changing title role, the Doctor's slightly ramshackle mode of conveyance and the variety of "Doctor's Companions". Sadly, it was also notable for it's limited budget, wobbly sets and man-in-a-rubber-suit aliens. However, despite its failings, it gained a special place in the nation's conciousness and is looked back on with fondness by many.
After a seventeen year break, the series restarted in 2005 with new writers, Doctors and companions and it has gone from strength to strength since.
This, the third series of the new run of Doctor Who is a patchy affair, veering wildly between good and (sorry about this) terrible, even within individual episodes. The episode listing is:
- "Smith and Jones"
- "The Shakespeare Code"
- "Daleks in Manhattan"
- "Evolution of the Daleks"
- "The Lazarus Experiment"
- "Human Nature"
- "The Family of Blood"
- "The Sound of Drums"
- "Last of the Time Lords"
The rather lovely Martha (Freema Agyeman) makes her debut as The Doctor's new companion and her nose is immediately put out of joint by the Doc who is on the rebound from losing Rose. Sadly, too much is made of this - it persists as a minor theme through the entire season and it undermines Martha as a character and Ms Agyeman as a performer. Neither recover from the slight and it's no surprise that they depart at the end of the season.
As I said, there is good and bad to the episode listing, but yet again, the large part of the action takes place on the exotic and exciting planet of... earth. To be honest, the teasers at the end of each episode are becoming a bit of a disappointment when it becomes clear that, yes, it's bloody Earth yet again. That said, one of the best episodes - "Blink" is firmly rooted on our home planet, and in the current timeframe at that. It's a very well scripted and plotted story, poignant and exciting by turns. Quite apart from the genuinely scary baddies (not, I'm afraid, a given in the series), putting the incredibly winsome Carey Mulligan front and centre was clearly a masterstroke. That The Doctor barely features is (ahem) no bad thing.
Contrast this with The Lazarus Experiment. Now, I do appreciate Mark Gatis' points as a dramatic actor - he makes a grand, old school baddie - but he's catastrophically let down by a plot that doesn't so much borrow from The Fly
as pillage it shamelessly (and for neither the first nor last time, I'm sad to say) and by a CGI monster that deserves a Golden Raspberry with Oak Leaves and Crossed Spoons.
The Daleks make their obligatory reappearance in a 2-parter. The plot here takes a moderately interesting turn by stripping the head pepperpot of his armour and putting him in - of all things - a pinstripe suit. Unfortunately I struggled to get past the bit where black characters are made out to be respected members - even leaders - of a happy multiracial community. I despise historical revisionism of this sort. It's no less egregious in a programme that is aimed at younger viewers who may not know any better.
"Human Nature/Family of Blood" is another 2-parter and not a bad 'un, either. Possibly my favourite part was Harry Lloyd's Flashman impression. I had NO idea until I Googled him that he went on to play GoT's Viserys Targaryen
(I KNEW I recognised him!). The episodes have some real tension built in and even a bit of romance and it's only let down by the (yawn) rather prosaic location and (yawn yawn) the scarecrow monsters. Don't waste bullets! Chuck lit matches at 'em, for heavens' sake!
The final 3 part series introduces us to a new-old baddie (I shan't spoil the surprise). Again, the balance sheet is finely... balanced. Apparently, earth in the year six-squillion is populated by humans who /still/ haven't evolved. There are still internal combustion engined vehicles and Kalashnikov rifles. However, the universe is dying - a jolly decent premise which is gaily chucked out of the Tardis' window when our heroes simply pop back to 21st century earth to complete the story.
I'm afraid I can only give this season three stars - "It's OK". The bad points are many and lamentable but at least they are saved by a few outstanding positives.