Saturday, 10 September 2011

Night Terrors, a refreshing diversion from the norm.

Well It's Friday night Saturday morning and the next Doctor Who will be on in a few short hours. Much as I am excited and anxious to be sat in the armchair an hour before the devil knows I've tuned into BBC1, I am just now coming to terms with last weeks ep. Night Terrors, a story of a little boy and all that scares him.

Those of us old enough to remember the 60's, even found George's room familiar. From the toys to the wallpaper to the pyjamas. I won't say Terrors was a light hearted trip down memory lane. Nobody wants to recall a time when everything scared the living daylights out of you. Every creak, groan and shadow magnified a thousand times into witches, demons and many armed creatures with flashing teeth that lived under one's bed or in the closet, and then there were the clowns and the creepy dolls, mad Alices they were.  As a boy all of those and much more lost many a night's sleep, I was even partial to the compulsive switch clicking in a certain rhythm, specific number of times, 6 in my case.  Thank you for asking , but I turned out ok after all, the only thing left over is a deep and unrelenting mistrust of clowns. As an aside The Sylvester McCoy story "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy", for obvious reasons is one of the most disturbing I've ever seen. What's that you say? Thee are no clowns but the one slumped on the floor in Night Terrors? Yes, was just saying, since it came up in the story, I don't like clowns. Cirque du Soleil besides being deeply pretentious and boring, can at time induce the heebee jeebies in me if one of the  overly artsy clowns shows up, they are like massive stalking spiders, ready to strike and eat you. I also am not fond of arachnids, but as long as they don't bother me I won't bother them.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, Night Terrors, a story that did something that a Who story hasn't done in a long time...that is NOT serve as a platform or filler to move the River/Amy arc along to it's final conclusion, which of course is the death of the Doctor in Utah. What a refreshing thing to see, a script that just told a story. So what it wasn't all original concepts, so what most of my Who mates can point out half a dozen older storied from which it liberally draws on. Truth be told, there hasn't been an original story since Homer took pen to scroll. Here was a 45 minute story that from beginning to end, kept us on the edge of our seats even when we though t we knew what was happening. Much of the credit belongs to Mark Gatiss who, bless his creepy little stories, knows how to  press the buttons that will get even the bravest person under a blanket and peeking out in fright.  It's a pity Hammer studios isn't what it used to be, Gatiss would have been a star there.  The best part of the tale is that it was River free and very nearly, Amy free. I've grown tired of the long drawn out  multi part striptease of the River Song  saga that seems to have started the same day we met wee Amelia Pond. Even Key  to Time had a clear conclusion, this thing seems to have more false stops than the last Lord of the Rings film did. Not complaining per se, just saying that I miss the off world, on world evil nasties that stand on their own and in which the companions are NOT the centre of the Universe.I look forward to the eventual return to normal service where we can depend on the Time Lords, The Tardis, and the Doctor to get into trouble without the help of some central nexus fixed point bollocks . Please The Lord Thy God Steve Moffat, can we have some good old fashioned stories with plastic monsters and doppelgänger principal players who much in the way Brian Blessed put his mark on the role of the future Mr Perri Brown. just made us wonder " what happens next" without having to check our watches on the 12 th ep since a certain story arc has started.

Ahh Gingerism
There, got that off my chest, and for the record, I still love Moffat's Doctor, he's giving us the Time Lords back in the fullness of time, never a bad thing,  expanded the inside of the Tardis and given Rory some respect. Best Rory bit this time was when he said "We're dead ...Again" the doctor's probably in some time slippy thing in EastEnders land . At least he (Moffat), hasn't lost his sense of humour. I particularly liked the amusing call back to stories past when he reminisced about great fairy tales like " Snow White and the 7 keys to Doomsday". The opening of the ep is at it's heart a recognition of the power of whatever it is that makes the universe tick.  A small boy prays "Please save me from the Monsters."  and lo there was a text message. Never forget that the Black and White Guardians never went away, they just faded to the backs of our minds where they always were. Call them God, call them higher beings, at least the PC brigade hasn't swept Sci fi clear of the transcendental. Without it, much of the suspension of disbelief, the fortuitous and the outright incredible would simply be impossible to include in an adventure serial type story like Doctor Who. Besides, I like the idea that there is a being who occasionally pays attention to what you want, especially when you're a scared little boy.

Aside from all else, Night Terrors dealt with the very real problems parents have in what could only be described as  Thatcher Redux. A father out of work, a mam who is never there, how does George's dad cope? Very poorly is how, and George feels he's alone with barely a father and no mother. In fact without giving the game away  for those few who haven't watched it, it is the crux of the matter. George feels unloved and unwanted, and the fact that his mam walks in to the story at the end with it all sorted , none the wiser of the trouble that passed in the last few hours, is telling. Gatiss is not alone among writers and other creative people at the Beeb to take on this feminist Holy Grail by the horns. A recent ep of Outnumbered had the daughter outright say she wished her mother  was less worried about her career and more concerned with her.. I'd say that was brave, but the only people who seem to be afraid to say things like this are the politicians who still sing from the Hymn book last updated in the 80's.. Even Shameless has been tearing the indifferent self obsessed full time working mum , the single teen mum, and the mythical super mum who loves with money and short sharp jabs of gifts,  a new one. What with all these people miles from home most of the day ( male or female) children are growing up alone ( I would have, had it not been for my Gran). This added to the me myself and I attitude of people in general through the 70's 80's and 90's, has produced two or three generations each less able to deal with anybody older than themselves, people in general,  or show respect for anything and anyone, a sort of angry, timid, socially inept, person who doesn't trust others and has a hard time bonding with others.  At the end of the day, hell all day long, a child needs guidance and protection, assuming that George will cope somehow is to abdicate ones role in order to achieve some kind of idealism formed in the haze of the 60's and 70's. Like free love, the absent mother and the father who never says no, have proved not to work.  .

The other hallmark of the ep is of course the creepy aspect of the story. Throughout, Gatiss fills the screen with every scary psyche scarring plot device he can find without laying on the mustard too much. The shrunken doll house inhabited by mad Alice dolls, a lift that eats people, the carpet right out of Freddie Kruger eating the land lord. Being turned into a Mad Alice doll, shadows, wind , the mutterings of slightly smelly slightly sad old woman who isn't even aware she's making our inner child  quake in fear. Even taking the rubbish out in a high rise estate becomes an exercise in survival worthy of Paradise Towers. I'm sorry, did I say Paradise Towers? And here you'd made such an effort to forget you ever saw it, my apologies again. 

So what do we learn from Night Terrors? Hug the person you love once in a while, you may think they know you want them around, but they need telling and there's never anything on telly even if you get the super duper Sky box with all the channels.

While I got you, I also watched BBC's  Digging for Britain. It's no Time Team and they kept making sweeping statements that academic work, archaeology and recent finds in the last ten years have put pay to. Rome invaded Britain? Not really, they were invited in and were culturally present for at least 50 years beforehand through trade and culture. The Romans then left in 410 AD. Well yes and no, first of all as stated in the programme, many stayed, but many had no where else to go as they were natives and had just been Romanized. The post Roman Dark age? What dark age? Trade flourished, the basic pillars of the classic education were established in a English University long before the 9th century, the Church continued for centuries and didn't need to be re-established by later day missionaries. The interregnum between the end of the Roman Empire in the UK and the return of Rome through the Church saw in fact a continuous mixed Romano Christian Celtic culture that traded with the rest of the known world. Hardly the mud pit of ignorant toothless peasants scratching a life from dead rocky soil. If you enjoy digs and need a hit between new Time Team eps, Digging for Britain is just enough to catch up on the goings on in the world of metal detecting, and official digs in the UK. Watch by all means, but ignore anything coming out of the mouth of presenter Dr Alice Roberts who seems content to spout out of date history dogma that was set down as recently as 1920. You want an archaeologist that knows what she's talking about, there's always Dr. Helen Geake off Time Team.

That's all for now, see you all after the next Doctor Who, more angry robots and creepy dolls mixed with imminent jeopardy for Rory and Amy.  Can't wait.  

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