Friday, July 17, 2009

For the sake of completion

It's odd that I don't have a review of Planet of the Dead up, I reflect. Once I remember that the story exists. And I did start writing one. It went badly. Here's the black box recording, with some new material added at the end.

Jared reviews...

..oh, fuck, what's it called?

You know what I mean, the new Doctor Who thing. With David Tennant. Bus. Lee Evans. The girl from Jekyll. UNIT. Did I mention the bus? Desert. Flies. Bus. Bus driver. Forcefield. Gratuitous coprophage captured on screen in gory detail. On a bus. Girls gone wild.

Planet of the Dead! That was it. Not that I'm suggesting it's forgettable or anything. Or am I? I'm seriously at a bit of a loss. Recently my head's been feeling like there's a Lebanese man with unsavoury habits, Tourettes and a megaphone living inside. It's what I imagine the thought processes of somebody who's been on drugs for his whole life would be, but in my case I think it would have to be the result of constant unintentional sleep deprivation. Though recently I was wondering about the idea of constant computer use resulting in radiation poisoning of the brain...

But perhaps it's something else? Am I in fact suffering from dire Doctor Who withdrawals? I have, after all, got a pretty steady hit for the past four years. Okay, I may have screamed angrily about quite a bit of it, but then I AM a junkie in this metaphor and we're allowed to do that. We hate the drug as much as we love it. We hate it for having control of our life but we love the places it takes us so we don't dare give it up.

It can't be that bad, you say? Surely you can't be that weird, Jared? Let me tell you something... I've been writing this entire post with my eyes closed. That isn't a lie. I can't keep my eyes open any longer staring at this screen. But I know where all the keys are. A moment ago when I wrote 'eyes' I made a typo and backspaced and corrected it. Without even looking. Does that feak you out? DOES IT?

Man, I should so be going to bed right now. But the word on the street is that people have been dissing my gear. Claims that Planet of the Dead isn't the premium shit that my dealer told me that it was. I cannot abide this. It is not cut with no half-assed fertilizer shit or whatever you jive monkey fools be trying to pin on me. This is the real, the deal, the steal, the sale of the fucking century...

No... fuck it the drug metaphor is over and it really is time to go to bed...


Sigh, I had the weirdest dream. And you were there, and you were there, and Miles was there which was kind of unusual, and I was typing stuff into a computer with my eyes closed...

Aw crap.

In my defense:

1) This is a personality-driven blog, whenever it is driven at all.

2) I'm currently reading A Scanner Darkly and it freaks me the fuck out.

3) It isn't a particularly motivating story to write about.

Also I have been rather mentally odd recently.. and at other times but that goes without saying.

So.. Planet of the Dead. You see, the Doctor shacks up with the nurse with Jekyll, because he's tired of relationships with the taint of 'creepy old man' especially when people learn that Tennant's in the lower rung of his thirties in spite of looking at most 16 years old, and also because she has tits that look large no matter what clothing is on in top. This union, born as it is out of the loins of Golgamaresh, Norse god of mid-immortality crises, can not last. When they decide to celebrate the nailing to a cross of their least favourite Jewish man by stealing priceless artefacts things take a turn for the worse and the Hot Fuzz of London Town is hot on their heels, and the Doctor is forced to kill a bus driver and abduct an entire double-decker onto an alien planet, pretending that some OTHER evil alien bastards are behind it as an elaborate cover story.

Luckily, UNIT will buy anything the Doctor tells them, especially know that they've hired Prof. Nevil Fountain as their chief scientific officer who sleeps only in a custom doona he has made from supergluing photos of the Doctors various incarnations onto his old regular doona, a process that he describes in rather too much painstaking detail. I felt that these fifteen minutes of screentime would have been better used to further the plot in some way, and why does the set for his van look so much like the Blue Peter studio?

After umpteen scenes of the Doctor and Michelle Ryan shagging, they find out that, incredibly, the ARE in mortal danger - from a pack of fly headed bastards. They are very much unlike humans, and thus are evil and deserve to die. After the Doctor has strangled every last one to death, they see yet ANOTHER threat of gigantic flying carniverous silverfish coming to kill the Earth - well they could only do that if the Doctor had stupidly opened a portal to a world with six billion people inside. Which, Michelle reminds him, he DID.

Fortunately, an ancient gold pot is capable of turning the bus into The Magic Schoolbus, which only goes to explain why they kept it so heavily guarded, eh? The Doctor gets a bit sidetracked and joyrides in it for half an hour, in spite of the fact that he only had to drive it twelve feet to the portal and their lives are kind of in extreme danger here.

Furthermore, Prof Fountain is unable to close the gateway in time, as he is too involved in his experiments to couple and procreate with his Rose Tyler action figures. But... it gets closed somehow, I don't know. There's just a big enough pause to create some tension. Fountain then runs out to dry hump the Doctor until they need the jaws of life to separate them. The person who isn't the Brig decides that she's had enough of this shit and so calls in Prof. Miles... who instantly stabs the Doctor with a butcher knife while screaming "You were the chosen one!", then giving a disseration on Ulysses that concludes the book actually doubles as a sequel to The Wheel in Space and a translation of Necromnicon before admitting that he doesn't really know what he's talking about before.

As he lies dying from massive haemorraghing, token Psychic Black Woman tells the Doctor that she doesn't think he has much time left. Michelle Ryan steals the Magic School Bus, explaining that she was only involved with the Doctor for the cool alien gizmos and the alien tech. Heartbroken and slowly dying, the Doctor announces that this was his worst adventure ever.

In all seriousness, PoD was fairly entertaining when viewed in the right light. Context is a big problem, however and it shows up how naive RTD's idea of the year of specials and how it would make fandom more appreciative was. Calling it selfish would definitely be a mean stretch, but in this case it is clear that the main purpose is to give the production team a rest - which wouldn't be a problem at all if they weren't stretched across three different shows. The simple fact is PoD is another episode in a season entirely in the way that it's written, it only reaches the hour mark by swathes of what is obviously padding and the trademark I-am-so-fucking-sick-of-this reeeeally long, drawn out RTD ending.

There is quite a bit of criticism of story endings in the old series, a lot of them just ending on the explosion of alien city of the week, but I like things to end in the midst of action then to linger on while the Doctor has an emotional- or expositional-conclusion session with all the guest cast still standing at the end. Compare these to what is often acknowledged as one of the greatest story endings in the show's history, in Warriors of the Deep (an ending so good even that production couldn't fuck it up) The action climax is only a few seconds old, because the countdown to nuclear holocaust has just been averted by the Doctor at great effort that's nearly killed him. He surveys the dead bodies strewn throughout the room and says simply "There should have been another way".

Not to be too negative but had RTD done this scene there would have been a lot of consoling going on, the companions telling the Doctor it wasn't his fault, crying, nashing of teeth, a reprimand to Bulis that bastard who didn't stop pumping the Hexachromite - but would it have added anything at all to the story? An intelligent audience can fill in those gaps, we know the characters well enough to draw such conclusions. One line was all that was needed - anything more would be overkill.

Aside from that, what are the problems with PotD:

* Aliens aren't given a fair go - the Doctor doesn't put much effort into helping the Fly-men and the reason given for them all to die is a tad on the half-arsed side.

* Inconsistent portrayal of Lady Whatserface, seems to be the result of two writers pulling in different directions

* Completely wasted location-shooting, as the entire story planet looks like it was done on blue screen anyway.

* Lee Evans given too much rope

* Morally bankrupt ending, as we're shown that so long as you do it for the sake of fun, criminal activity is a-ok. Also, girls, it's cool to recruit criminals by fucking them and subsequently selling them out to the cops. And why does the Doctor leave ALL his companions with some incredible tech?

The story is one to make you nod sagely when you hear Yahtzee Croshaw's criticism of the new series, which he describes as having "everyone alternate between licking the Doctor's balls and begging for more".

And sorry, Ewen, Waters of Mars does look cool.


Youth of Australia said...

You utter bastard! Now *I* have review the damn thing before I dare read yours!

And my complaints on TWOM was simply knowing all the fans would mindlessly worship it whether it was good or not because it was "gritty and dark".

Youth of Australia said...

Well, I've done my review and finally read yours. Brilliant as ever, with a bloody good spoof and a far more inventive way of itemizing all the problems I have with it. My only strength is my review has pictures.