Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jared kinda reviews Turn Left!

But not really.

Sometimes you realise that foreknowledge isn't necessarily a good thing. For example when you've decided to sit and watch the latest episode of DW convivially with your mum whilst getting some programming work done in a notepad (does anyone else do programming with pen and paper? I think it may be just me..) but realise within the moment of seeing a milk bottle shake that you hate the episode that's coming on so much that simply sitting in a chair in the same room is going to be unbearable.

So I've retreated here, to the computer, to finally type up this shit. I have no idea HOW to review Turn Left. It's just... there. A manic depressive but incredible masterpiece of television... that is bafflingly a crutch for a much, much shittier story without which it cannot truly stand on it's own. In no sense of the term is TL even really Doctor Who. It is a deliberate act of tearing the heart out of the Whoniverse for... well, seemingly for the hell of it. But it is great telly.

It is probably one of the best things to come out of the New Series, because the idea wouldn't work anywhere else. Could the novels or BF do a story like this? No, they couldn't. They rely on the Doctor far too much - that is, after all, what we buy them for. Would you get a copyif you just glanced at the reviews on OG and the first one is (as it inevitably would be) a wad of bitching about how Sylvester McCoy's only in it for five pages/minutes? Of course not!* They have skirted towards the idea through the Unbounds and the equally excellent Face of the Enemy, but no cigar. What does that leave? BBC Webcasts? Hey, click this link for a story that DOESN'T have the Doctor!


Anyway, I was thinking today about how odd it is about the copious mass of DW that RTD churns out in his role of grand pooh-bah of the motherfucking world and I couldn't help but recall Music of the Spheres, something I really didn't want to know. It got me thinking that it's strange that the same man could ever have written both, because Spheres, frankly, is everything that's wrong with Western Society(TM) - it features a beloved fictional character patronizing his audience and feeding them bullshit about how each and every one of them has the ability to compose music. Whereas TL is about the DOWNFALL of Western Society.

TL is uncomfortable television camoflauging itself cunningly with the 'children's show' cloak, thus allowing it to show that the veneer of superficiality isn't just a veneer but the key to our survival. To show just how easily the entire world that we think of as our own can come crashing down. There is no throwaway lines about a nuclear reactor on the Titanic, afterall (it's meant to be something much, much bigger, in fact...) and yet we get an exact visual replica of the infamous A-Bomb test footage that we have seen oh so many times. TL says that it's the Titanic, but what the author wants us to see is a nuclear warhead. And that one act sends mankind into the gutter, armed to the teeth and carting innocent people off to death camps.

I couldn't help but reflect on the irony that I complained that we should have been seeing Threads after TSS and... just five weeks later... fucking Threads. Does he read this blog? ... and write scripts indecently late? And, no, I have not yet seen The BBC'S Melting Baby Show Mr Campion-Clarke. And I'm sure I don't want to.

It is quite fortunate that TL has these wonderful ideas and mind-blowingly pitch-perfect performances from EVERYONE as its backbone, because like most of the current series it is also guilty of disappearing up its own arse. I can understand the need to remind people that they're watching DW but the continuity in this story, even by the standards of this season, is insane. There are two justifications I can think of for this:

1) Getting the audience warmed up for the thundering sea of authorial ejaculate that awaits them next week whether they're ready or not.

2) Re-establishing the Doctor's position as a demi-godlike figure that mankind is oblivious to, to try and distract the audience from the fact that the sheer number of story elements in the final two eps necessitates his transformation into a completely useless twat.

By having a DW story that doesn't feature the Doctor but continually references the Doctor, RTD has done something I thought impossible - got his fanfic made on TV.

This novelty gets old by the next week but I digress...

The startling thing about the continuity though, really... is that it's so WRONG! Which is REALLY amazing because RTD wrote half of the stories that he's bloody referencing! Let's see, how many can I think of right now...

1) Okay, in this version of TRB another receptionist at HC Clements got the spiked drinks from Lance and, in a massive co-incidence ALSO married him (That's what triggered the Huons, remember) She is either killed or runs out to leave the Doctor but... the Doctor at no stage decides to stop staring into a gigantic hole and do something about drowning. Also suggests that the Thames would OVERFLOW a hole to the centre of the Earth, which I'm sure isn't true and that the Doctor didn't decide to do anything when Ms Rachnoss STOPPED wailing and transported her red arse out of there. So, for the timeline to work the Doctor needs to ritualistically commit seppuku. With a katana made of Stet radiation..

2) If the Doctor hadn't been at Not Albion For a Change Hospital... everything would have gone well. The Judoon WOULDN'T have been freaked out by another alien being present and, I'm sure, have found ways of catching the bloodsucking creature with a name I can't remember. And, if they didn't, why didn't she use the MRI to kill all life on Earth like she was talking about? THEN we have the issue taht everyone on the hospital died.. even though the Doctor did NOTHING to save them and it was actually the Judoon who let them live. Christ the Doctor's useless in that story when you think about it, huh?

3) Erm, the Titanic would also have wiped out all life on the planet. But, if it detonated in London, ironically, pretty much no-one bar the Nobles and the Windsors, given that Wilf makes a big deal about how nobody is in London.

4) Amazingly the Adipose-in-America does work out logically, but that does cause the big problem with ATMOS. Rattigan's home and adopted country are all-but wiped out by aliens - his home town in London significantly now non-existant. How is ATMOS then meant to get out? Shouldn't the Sontarans be targetting a healthier world for terraforming anyway? And how the hell is Jack meant to give his life? That's a no-brainer, surely. And nevermind the question of how Torchwood are meant to build an atmospheric ignition device when trying to shoot an alien ties them up for all of 40 minutes in Something Borrowed.

5 Oh, yeah, Jack still has the Doctor's hand. UNIT can't do anything with that?

This inexcusable storytelling incompetence, combined with a premise that is possibly stretched slightly too far in the actual episode, Rose apparently doing a Harry H. Corbett impression and an ending nicked off Father's Day which manages to imply that Rose is some sort of demented vehicular serial killer makes me realise how close TL flaunts itself to the side of 'bad' on the knife's edge of quality. But what is good about this episode is so good-

AW, CHRIST, I forgot about the Yellow Peril stuff at the beginning "OMFG ASIANS! OBVIOUSLY THAT'S A NEW PLANET!" Ladies and gentleman, the revelation of why RTD doesn't do alien worlds - because he SUCKS at it! Not for a moment did I assume that Shan Shen bullshit was meant to be alien. It looked like a dozen streets I've been in Sydney for Christ's sake. Ooh, look, they're riding bicycles! How mindnumbingly ALIEN! It's like they anticipated this because there's a really tacky and forced throwaway line from Donna about coming from a different planet. Give me a break.

And, come to think of it, what the fuck is the Fortune Teller's game? Was she assigned to try and kill the Doctor? What does she gain from this? If she erases her patrons from history she can't even rob the corpses! Is this just a fetish of hers?

*Ahem*, anyway as I was saying when this episode is good, it goes well beyond good. This is what TV drama is meant to be. And this is what Doctor Who should be... for once. And hopefully never again.



Lawrence Miles Response: We're all gonna die!!!!

Nigel Verkoff Response: Am I alone in noticing the closeness bordering on get-a-room-iness of the Rose/Donna scene in the TARDIS?

If there had have been more time do you think they would have got friendly?

Mescaline response: This story had everything!
1 - Dartboard w. axes meat cleavers
2 - Treasure chest money bags
3 - 'XXX' moonshine
4 - stack of ridiculous helmets
5 - flags
6 - overly ostentatious throne
7 - sack of grain

(I'm messing with you. My connection's slow at the moment so I didn't get that many real comments)

Skagra's Response: A Doctor Lite episode should show a Doctor Who adventure from the point of view of a minor character - almost a bystander - who barely has a brush with The Doctor himself. These give us a different perspective than we usually get in Doctor Who. Turn Left didn't do this - it was a put the companion in the spotlight episode.

It wasn't really about Donna.

(I can hear Andrew Sachs reading that aloud alright. And NEWSFLASH mujumbo - it's the DOCTOR who does too many hours. Not the COMPANION. If anything BBC are saving themselves money by making use of an actress who'd otherwise be sitting on shapely arse doing sweet FA. I'm all for it. Sorry if you wanted to see Donna pop up and shout "I work in a shop!"..)

'Ross_Jenkins' Response: I found it a bit boring to be honest.It's alright but nothing that special.CT's acting is good and it was one of the few times that I liked Donna but even then she was irritating a bit of the time (no fault of CT's - just how the characater was written).I think another reason why I dislike it a little is because it was a bit of a let down.They had the potential to bring back so many great minor characters but instead they just brought back that man from the hospital and Private Harris.

(A prize if you can guess what minor character she wanted brough back...)

*Unless your view towards Sly's acting in BF is similar to my own, in which case this could be a major plus.