Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Patrick Crozier liked the new Dr Who.
I’ve been trying to puzzle out how it was they got this so right. I imagine that the long break since the last series went out in 1989 was a factor. It gave a new generation the chance to re-invent it, to question every aspect of it and to give it a new feel. I also got the impression that after the (ahem) 1996 Dr Who movie there was an element of “we must not fail”. (Indeed, it’s funny to think how similar in many ways the two were - the difference between success and failure is slight indeed.) And I think there was also a deep desire to keep the tradition alive. To a large proportion of the people involved in producing, writing and directing the new series, Dr Who was something that they were brought up with, like Wimbledon and England World Cup exits. The ball was being thrown to them and they had to make damn sure they caught it. Fortunately, they did.
I agree.

Spoiler alert! Bits I particularly liked:

  • The way that the Doctor, gadget in hand to zap the Nestene Consciousness and save the day, very nearly muffed it by trying to negotiate. Perfectly in character. Remember Genesis of the Daleks? Tom Baker, who has but to bring two contacts together to destroy the Daleks before they have had a chance to exist and wreak havoc throughout the galaxy, is suddenly stricken by conscience and asks himself, in an agony of indecision, have I the right? Hands up who else was yelling from behind the sofa, "YES! GET ON WITH IT!"
  • Having said that, it was also good that the viewer was made to feel just a little bit sorry for the Consciousness.
  • There was a good helping of menace before anything happened. The dummies twitching ... could have been accidental. The noise of the wheelie bin moving ... something you could hear on any street. The skilful buildup of menace did a great deal to compensate for the cheap effects in the original series. It doesn't need money and it sticks in your mind clear across the decades. (Given that I was seven at the time it was shown, I don't actually remember the plot of Terror of the Autons at all well. But - gulp - the little troll doll on the back seat of the car coming to life in the warm, that I remember.)
  • Talking of which, starting off with the Autons was a great idea. The sheer scariness of the original Autons, particularly the ones disguised as policemen, prompted complaints from the Viewers' and Listeners' Association and questions in Parliament.
  • Plastic Mickey. Don't blame Billie Piper for burbling away all un-noticing: how conscientious are you in regularly checking up whether your nearest and dearest have been plasticised?
  • Clive and his website. Yes, that's exactly what would happen. Kudos to the scriptwriters for thinking through what has changed in the Earth's response to the Doctor in the last thirty years. In a similar way, I did admire the way that, in the second Terminator film, the writers had thought through what would have happened to the heroine between films One and Two if she insisted on telling her story (sent to the loony bin) and how she would have brought up her child (as a survivalist).

    Poor Clive is gone, albeit with the comfort of knowing in his last moments that he was right all along, but another will spring up in his place. I hope the Doctor has set up a system of news alerts. Or perhaps not: Dr Who traditionally blurs the question of how much the Earth population and/or authorities know. In the U.N.I.T. timeline, where our co-inhabitors of the Earth the Sea Devils, once appeared on the six o'clock news, then everyone ought to say, oh another alien invasion, pass the mustard. But I don't think we are. Everyone acted too surprised.

There is one strange fact that I can exclusively reveal. The street, ostensibly in London, in which the scene with the wheelie bin took place was actually Inverness Place, Cardiff. What this portends for the future development of the plot I do not know.