Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Doctor's wife or The love of a man for his car

Well I have been banging on for such a long time that we needed more Tardis, and now we get so much more than we could have hoped for. Neil Gaiman the prototypical Who geek turned successful writer went where most of us wanted to, INSIDE THE TARDIS. About bloody time I say, but The Doctor's wife is  more than just a nostalgic trip to Tom Baker and his mates running around an old Victorian hospital, We've been getting wee dollops of candy from the Lord Thy God Steven Moffat, but this is more like it. Can't have been fun for him getting all those e mails and other missives screaming for more Tardis, much like Isaac Asimov when begged for more Daneel Olivaw  stories, he tossed off a 5 page thing for a pulp mag and our reaction was, nice start, but we assumed you were going to write a book. What followed was a string of great books that are asking even more questions long past the cheeky death ( how dare he) of the Sci Fi legend. Like Asimov, Moffat now is prepping us for the big box of Belgian chocolate truffles coming our way.

The Doctor's Wife is a full tilt stand alone story that takes us right past the rooms and reveals the soul of the machine itself. There are some who would accuse Moffat of romanticising the essentially male notion of vehicle love by making the soul of the Tardis a woman. He certainly isn't the first to do this,  in Andromeda the former Hercules flirted with and almost got romantic with the ship's human simile communication's protocol. To be fair , she was fit as .... But this never stopped any man including Kirk or Scotty or the Doctor from resorting to unique and sometimes violent  means to get the result he wanted. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the whole Idris personality, but she does work on a lot of levels and is an alternative explanation why the Doctor has always ended up "Where he needed to be".  Used to be it was the Time lords  letting him off the hook for nicking an old type 40 in exchange for putting out some fires and sometimes saving the bacon of Gallifrey itself.  So can we buy a sort of sentient being half tech  half energy falling for the Doctor so long ago? The romantic in me would love to, but I have never wanted to make love to my bike car or stereo, I may call them "her" but I'm no way romantically involved despite appearances to the contrary. Idris is more the manifestation of the romance novel side of fandom. I'm guilty as charged, I too was well hooked by Rose and would have loved to see them settle down in a quiet corner of Gallifrey and have lots of little Time Lords and Ladies, but such is the world of Doctor Who that even the Daleks were soon rolling their eyes over all of it. Idris as a one off is a brilliant character I loved from the first words she uttered and loved even more as It dawned on me ( about 2 minutes in) , that she was the heart of the Tardis. Her uncanny ability to be as confused and new to emotion as any newly liberated bit of software worked really well, she even took the opportunity few others have the right to, to bollocks him over never reading the instructions. BUT again I keep wondering what that would have been like if Idris was a bloke, a regular guy , a mechanic nerd, techy  type who would have also argued furiously with the Doctor about building the Franken Tardis.

As a story the ep stands out as one of the best stand alone stories you can watch out of order any time in any era and appreciate. It's the kind of territory the nutter crowd ( myself included)  love to delve into. How does the Tardis work? Why does it shudder along so and where ARE the rest of the Time Lords? The planet made of half digested Tardi along with Aunty , Uncle Nephew and Idris was a master stroke of setting. Somewhere in E space there is a malevolent entity that feeds on Time Lords and their machines. I  half expected the junkbots to sing Dare to be Stupid  for a second , but the feeling passed and the place felt like a proper fearsome place where things go to die. For the first time this series, a monster is in fact well scary, it even looks like House ( Michael Sheen)  could have got away with it and gone on to create havoc in N space. I would have loved to see it go off and threaten the Time Lords in the Slo Time envelope around Krikkit. In fact I won't be in the least bit surprised if eventually Gallifrey makes a massive come back  when just that sort of malevolent entity causes the Tardis and co to save the High Council from the shinies. In fact I'll be deeply disappointed if it doesn't happen in this series. But as I pointed out to Keith Telly Topping this last week, TLTG Moffat rarely disappoints.

Ah and yes about the interiors, more hints as to where things are, The Ponds get a new  bedroom and the old control room gets jettisoned. But what a spectacular tease. White corridors with the usual circle panels. Next time  doors too please, but still worth the film to see Rory , yet again , be killed. This time even though  you knew it was probably a massive mind game, you let yourself be drawn in. It's classic Doctor Who where a monster or evil thing mentally abuse the audience for a bit. The Master was an erm... master of this sort of thing. The safest place in the universe suddenly and not for the first time becomes the last place you want to be. Kept us on the seat of our pants till the end. Neil Gaiman really delivered in terms of dialogue and concepts. Some say there are no new ideas just the way you combine the old ones, and it's true, but what Gaiman did was a loving carefully crafted old fashion psycho thriller when the sets were made of foam and  the words had to carry much farther than most writers allow for now.

Special mention has to go to the well fit actress that plays Idris. Suranne Jones, Karen MacDonald for a few years on Corrie who annoyed me no end, but here she was brilliant, sexy and classy. A performance that oozed with the reflection of crazy the Doctor had  patted, caressed and beaten into her/it  for years. If you're going to play a one off and that one off is the human personification of the Tardis, you better do it well. Steve MacDonald's ex wife did that, I just hope they don't make the mistake of bringing Idris back, that would be wrong for so many reasons, not least of which  would be that it would cheapen the character.

The follow up bit of fun of the best ever Doctor Who Confidential on BBC 3 was a proper treat. A trip into the history of the Tardis complete with old clips and set pieces designed to bring you to the point of tears it was so moving. Seeing all those clips with several incarnations of the Doctor cursing . loving and otherwise talking to the Tardis over the years made me feel like we'd lost something along the way recently, and that made me very sad, but I suspect it's also a message from the powers that be that the Doctor we wanted is back and no one is apologising for it.Having Neil Gaiman narrate bits of script walking through the set had it's moments as well, less so for me as performance but proof I wasn't wrong for my own script writing style and methods, shows what a load of isolated old farts know.  Any road... I liked it and so will you if you missed it.

Moldova, my pick to win
All in all, not a bad day that started with football and ended with Eurovision and a not so last place nul points performance by Blue. Was tarnished slightly by the fact that super eedjits Jedward pipped Blue for a slightly higher placing, but then again Eurovision, the song contest good taste forgot, is not known for appealing to people who listen to the Undertones. I suppose it's an improvement that a song that is a direct rip off  of Snow Patrol won. Could have been worse, could have been Belgium and the acapella  tone deafs. Thank you Doug Morris for this factoid, The Damned offered and were refused as representatives for this great nation. Would have made Lordi look silly. If there was any justice, Moldova would have won. And if you love great music, I urge you not for the last time, to listen to Beat Surrender every Saturday night on BBC Radio Newcastle, hosted by the most excellent Nick Roberts and Doug Morris when when Nick is off filming a wedding for the big Radio One big weekend foofera, don't ask , I don't know why either. Jamie Wilkinson pops in to sub as well but not as often as he used to. And of course listen again, just look for Beat Surrender.

Need to get a few things off my chest too.  First up is the BBC history literature thing, The Viking Sagas, was supposed to be the telling of how the sagas were written and even offered up the hope of significant segments being read in some logical manner that would lead one to want more. Instead Janina Ramirez, wet behind the ears romance novelist and bad interviewer  reacted in  patently prepared sequences to information she already knew, then repeated  with great surprise as if the previous speaker had been talking in old Norse.I had to turn it off after 20 minute it was that painful. I thought you needed more than just being a former Goth Chic to get commissioned for a real BBC 4 programme? Shame on the BBC, such a great chance to tell an exciting story wasted on this not ready for telly grad student Dan Snow wanna be.

Next is the returned Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of crisps. BBC 3's flagship youth comedy from 10 years ago, still has the feel of the original , but seems a bit tired and is running out of ideas. Stripped  of it's most manic residents, Runcorn feels more like the party after the party. You keep expecting something good to happen and it almost does, and then falls short of the template set in the first few series. Tim Claypole is cheaply outed as " a gay" for no apparent reason but cloying drama worthy of Corrie. It would have been much funnier if we'd have met Helena first and found out she was a post op ex trany, but no they just let him blurt it out. His nymphomaniac sister is a poor replacement for Crazy Louise and while not without some merit, just barely earns her spot in the cast.  Having watched the other series I feel the need to watch this and even enjoyed it enough to sit through the full 30 minutes, but it's not nearly as good as it used to be. If you are a fan,  watch; if not, pass on it. I'd hate for you to think this was the best it ever got.

Next week promises a lot of new beginnings and the start of football free land in those mystery months they stuck in between May and the end of August. I'm told by the currently builder infested Keith Telly Topping to not despair as there are all kinds of things on the way and we still have lots of Doctor Who to come. So relax and enjoy the break by taking in the sun should  it deem to come out.

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