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Jul 04, 2006

Food For Thought

I knew from last week's trailer that I wouldn't much like Army Of Ghosts.  It just had all the wrong ingredients for me; like a contestant on Ready Steady Cook who's brought their lot to the table and now has a set time limit to make it all work.

Russell T Davies, as always, brought cheese in the shape of 'Ghostbusters' (why, no matter how long a time-span the Doctor travels both past and future, are all the songs always from these past twenty years?), David Tennant provided the ham (acting) and the script, inevitably, was over-egged.

Army of Ghosts felt like the writing team behind it just couldn't wait to unleash the shoot-em-up shit grand finale upon a blockbuster-conditioned audience that next week promises to be.  This was the national anthem before the match; the support band before the main headliners; the getting ready before the going out.  This was, in fact, Bad Wolf to The Parting Of The Ways, but whilst BW was a wonderfully stylish episode handled with just the right balance of entertainment and foreboding anticipation of the lurking evil within, there was very little of the above here.  This was pure 'been there, seen that, got the T-shirt' fare unbecoming of what the programme is potentially capable of.  Premature Jack's elation couldn't even keep the Daleks a secret for another week.  If only the Grolsch man had walked on set and told them to 'schtop!  You can't rush these things!'

This was bread and butter sci-fi which Doctor Who should be above.  It was recently suggested that the Hollywood blockbuster phenomenon is dying; a hasty visit to that Swiss euthanasia clinic just to speed up the process wouldn't go amiss as far as I'm concerned.  For too long now SFX, explosions and stunts have been the real stars of Hollywood and I cannot remember the last time I actually wanted to see a new film.  But hey, never mind producing something thought-provoking, the present formula has put too many bums on seats and in LA's most glittering and fake suburb ker-ching is king.

I admit that my tastes in film and television are those held by a minority, and acknowledge that by applying this lazy formula to Doctor Who's all-important seasonal climax, Davies and co are merely taking the soft, safe option.  Davies understands television, and as Executive Producer of Doctor Who it's his ball and he can do with it as he pleases.

What Davies doesn't do 'less-is-more', as was evident from last season's Dalek stories.  Where Rob Shearman's single Dalek allowed for one-to-one tuitionesque concentration on the subject matter, Rusty's invasion of the half-a-million flying Daleks and resultant bollocks resolution to the TPOTWays' Bad Wolf sub-plot was straight outa Tinseltown.  And of course, now that the Daleks fly, they don't half like to keep reminding us of it, do they?  Add the Pet Shop Cybermen into the equation and the only thing missing is the deep-voiced Hollywood voice pronouncing 'One man...'

Don't get me wrong, this was probably a good episode.  For those who buy into the blockbuster thing and are actually entertained by these things then next week promises to be even better.  Many will argue that this is what Doctor Who is all about, but when I think of this season's highlights, such as TGITFireplace and compare and contrast them with AOGhosts then I despair at the squandered opportunities to have made better quality television more consistently.  I've booked my table in the restaurant for seven PM this coming Saturday but cannot honestly say I'm feeling ravenous.  Expecting little, I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but sadly feel that when my meal arrives it will, like much of Rusty's cullinary efforts, be overdone.

Comments

Different strokes for different folks. 'Consistancy' in this case would only seem to be the things you like, and we're just not all the same...I bet some others feel they enjoyed the season but didn't like mushy stuff like Girl in the Fireplace interrupting all the lovely sci-fi action...

I guess the only reassurance I can offer is that if a season still contains stories you cherish then it's all worthwhile, regardless of what form the last story shown takes. I dislike Fear Her but I still love this season because it gave me Impossible Planet/Satan Pit, just to pick one example.

I think the season finales will be destined to be more shooty-bang-bang spectaculars these days. With 'Old Who', the last story in a season sometimes tended to be a "hell, we've run out of cash, what can we cobble together?" rush-job.

I certainly prefer this to a finale like Armageddon Factor, King's Demons or Twin Dilemma...Horns of Nimon too although that's damn funny :D

Maybe get out the tape (or DVD) of Girl in the Fireplace again after you've seen Doomsday, and give yourself one of your own favourite slices of Doctor Who to watch again.

Yeah, now matter how middling this season has been we'll always have the girl in the fireplace.

And if you want to see a decent movie at the cinema then go see United 93 - an incredible film in every respect.

Sadly, I agree with most of what you say but I still enjoyed it immensely. I think it's because I can take Dr Who's sugar to BSG's coffee. If I had been 8 years old it would have taken my mind off the football and for that we should be thankful. Review to follow when the redesign is over...

Ryu: What about Talons of Weng-Chiang? And Inferno? And... well, that's about it. But still...

It is true that the hardcore CG explosions and action scenes do seem to be the real selling points of Hollywood Blockbusters these days, but it isn't really an excuse for an "epic" two part alien invasion three weeks after the conclusion of The Satan Pit. However, RTD managed to avoid most of his usual trademark flaws, but if last year is anything to go by he's saving it all up for next week.

Ah, I love reviews like this. Six paragraphs of putting the boot in, wrapped up with "Don't get me wrong, this was probably a good episode". The sign of a true fan I guess.

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