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Jan 14, 2007

"Hey, Doctor, leave those kids alone."

Roy Time for the weekly spoiler alert.  I've given away the ending somewhere in here again.  Sorry.  But hey, man, you can listen to play first if you like.  Like wow.

I was shopping in HMV just before Christmas, flicking through the Bob Dylan albums in the sale trying to remember the ones I hadn't heard yet and an old work colleague sauntered up beside me.  He's an old fashioned muso, the kind that DJs in bars and plays bebop and northern soul and when I told him I couldn't remember whether I already had a copy of Live At Budokan he smiled ruefully and said: "So you've bought it rather than lived it then."

That's probably how I felt during the brilliantly titled Horror of Glam Rock the latest Eighth Doctor adventure on BBC7.  This was the kind of story that could only have been written by someone clued up on music, but just sometimes I'm sure it's that crowd, looking out for all the lyrical references, who will more than likely have rung the most enjoyment from it, and especially from "Children of Tomorrow" the original song which appeared in the teaser.  Since the first album I bought was Five Star's Silk and Steel and I've never recovered and I was a fetus at the time when this episode was set,  I was left with what was in essence a fairly standard base under siege-type story with the usual, for this series, wicked sense of humour.

I was left with what was in essence a fairly standard base under siege-type story with the usual, for this series, wicked sense of humour.

The Tardis, in attempting to land Lucie back in her own time and place finds itself as close as it can get, in the year of my birth, 1974 near a motorway café.  Doctor Who Adventures recently ran a story in a similar locale with hungry aliens, but this began in much grimmer style with the Doctor plus one discovering the corpse of a horribly savaged glam rocker but as the story ensued it became apparent that some alien mammals were also becoming big fans of the dining out just off the M62.

Slowly a group barricaded themselves within the cafe, away from the monsters.  Claire Buckfield and yes, that Stephen Gately as a group called 'The Tomorrow Twins' who along with their manager played by Bernard Cribbins are on their way to a miming session on Top of the Pops.  Una Stubbs is in there too playing diner's waitress and Lindsay Hardwick as apparently random customer, Pat, whose significance is slowly revealed.  No point grumbling about celebrity cameos in this radio series as pretty much ever part has been filled with famous names by director and casting director Barnaby Edwards.

Wombles Obviously the touchstone was The Horror of Fang Rock with the strangers slowly dying across the duration in a tiny location; for me though, there was more than a hint of the film Tremors as some deaths were treated less than seriously and the trapped weren't entirely horrified by their bestial enemy.  I'm surprised they didn't try to name them, although given the presence of Cribbins and the reference from Una to all the bands that pass through the restaurant, all the greats, "Hendrix, Lulu, The Wombles" I'd say they were modeled after Uncle Bulgeria's lot.

This all seemed rather more sympathetic than the last time Big Finish tried to evoke a sub-culture, in the awful Seventh Doctor story The Rapture

Tons of atmosphere, what with the sound of the snow underfoot and the special rock opera incidental music by Tim Sutton.  This all seemed rather more sympathetic than the last time Big Finish tried to evoke a sub-culture, in the awful Seventh Doctor story The Rapture, and unlike that story it had some fun with it, hardly taking it seriously at all.  That the alien communication device was a stylophone would please Rick Wakeman and it's a shame that the budget couldn't stretch to some actual musicians from the period.  This seemed like the perfect story to have someone playing themselves - wasn't Roy Wood or Noddy Holder available for once?

If I'm slightly disappointed it's because I've just finished reading writer Paul Magrs* novel The Scarlett Empress one of the most inventive things I've ever clapped eyes on, whereas this felt, particularly towards the conclusion much more like a soup of familiar elements (rather like the kind of soup that might be cooked up using the Proppian signifiers the Doctor suggests in that novel).  So along with the base being under siege, and blood thirst mammals all tooth and paws, there was the relative of a companion, Gelthian elementals "The Only Ones" ala The Unquiet Dead who aren't what they initially appear to be who were trapped within some modern media in a similar way to The Idiot's Lantern (told you there'd be spoilers).  I can understand though, why after the epic happenings of the previous story, producer Nick Briggs decided to reduce everything down to something much more intimate.

Like many aging rockers, it also sagged a bit in the middle as the characters sat around waiting for the next event or for the Doctor to figure something out.

Like many aging rockers, it also sagged a bit in the middle as the characters sat around waiting for the next event or for the Doctor to figure something out.  This kind of thing is customary in these types of stories as are the deaths that appear to be inserted almost to create some incident when there isn't anything due.  This is the first story that features the completion of a whole story in fifty minutes without any kind of cliffhanger but unlike the last two episodes it doesn't feel like two episodes slapped together in the middle which might accounting for the lack of pace.

Which isn't to say that this sag didn't allow for some wonderful character moments as the Doctor and Lucie reconciled a little bit: "I'm glad I met you." She said.  "I'm glad too." He agreed.  Eighth also seems to be developing some of Ninth's ticks, commenting on the foibles of human beings and his alieness more than I've heard before.  Lucie's wicked quips were there too though: "Tranny pile up on the M62?"  Marvelous.  Across the board everyone was given an inspiring moment and there wasn't anything wrong with Magrs' characterisation (it's pronounced Mars then?  I've been calling him Paul Maggers for years).  Watch for the moment towards the end when the Doctor realises his plan isn't exactly going exactly as, well, as  planned.

It's pronounced Mars then?  I've been calling him Paul Maggers for years.

Performances were good across the board, exceptional in the case of Stubbs and Cribbins who actually gets to be heroic.  McGann continues to be a revelation and I loved hearing in the documentary afterwards that they simply didn't tell him who had been cast so who would be coming in each day and his excitement at being given such talent to play against is evident in his performance.  Sheriden, although inevitably in more of a companion-like role is still bucking my expectations and was particularly lovely when she meets her Auntie Pat.  Oh and I can't wait for Katarina Olssen's Headhunter to get some meatier scenes.

The close of this play revealed that she's gaining on Lucie, but little else was revealed.  I do think that like the opening seasons of the McGann stories there is a building plot arc featuring elements that have been inserted that will only really resonate later - Lucie meeting her Auntie cannot have been a coincidence can it?  Will she return?

Next week:  The Mythmakers revisited.

Comments

I think that Lucie's Auntie is sure to return.

Why? Because otherwise her complete plotline is "Meets niece from the future, at alien-besieged service-station, who tells her she is a nothing, a nobody. The End."

There will be a more life-affirming continuation to that plotline surely.

This was a fun enjoyable story. I could visualise very clearly the glazed bridge over the motorway thanks to
a) the clever sound design.
b) the ubiquity of these bridges which are to be found at every service-station in the land (probably.)

The best bit however was the glam-tastic Doctor Who theme at the end with falsetto backing singer "Oo-ee-oooo"s!

Rock on BBC7!

The glam-tastic Who theme reminded me very-much-so of KLF/Timelords's "Doctorin The TARDIS."

That stylaphone almost drove me batty, though. Coulda done with a wee less of that, eh?

Oh, and John, not that Who or Big Finish like to reflect real life much, but if that's what someone was told in real life, that'd still probably be the end of it. People are hard to motivate here in the real world.

I wasn't too keen on this one after first listening. Not a big fan of Paul Magrs Who stuff anyway.

I might even post a review of these audios or just comment on them here, as I don't want to step on Stuart's toes as he is doing a fine job of reviewing the books and audios already.

Next week's sounds alright.

Paul Magrs has excused himself from my scorn for life by creating Iris Wyldthime, the Universe's greatest Mary Sue character.

Much like I cannot hate Paul Cornell, no matter what he may do, for creating Benny Summerfield, and introducing me to the voice that haunts my trips to the loo, Lisa Bowerman.

I love the different theme, if I had my way it would be a permanent fixture. Probably best that I don't.

This story was less epic than last week, but just as filled with great moments and dark humour. Some of the scenes between McGann and Sherridan (both of whom remain brilliant) feel lifted line for line from Season 1. I'm not sure if this is best practice for Big Finish. Still, so many musical references...so many.

Salem: I think it's biologically impossible to hate Paul Cornell. He's just so innocent and harmless looking.

Salem (in response to your 10:17 am comment): Maybe people in the real world will be inspired by the uplifting stories of Doctor Who and be more motivated! ("A life less ordinary" is a thread that has been running through Who 2005/2006.)

Flick: I take it that by "Season 1" you mean Billie/Chris and not Billy/Carole Ann? :)

Do you mean that Big Finish should try for a more "classic" feel to their stories? (And less "Whatevah"s?)

Good lord man, Big Finish has been holding the flame of classic Who(and continues to do so) since 2000!

You've heard their regular line of Who, right John? And uplifting though it may be, in reality people are in ruts, and like being in ruts. It's sad, but true. Can't fault the Who team for trying to pull them out, though.

Salem: yes, I am aware of this thing you call Big Finish. :)

They have indeed kept the classic Who flame burning.

Flick seemed to be suggesting that Horror of Glam Rock was similar in tone to 2005/2005 Who but then seemed to question whether this was appropriate ("...I'm not sure if this is best practice for Big Finish...).

I was asking her if she was suggesting that Big Finish should CONTINUE with their classic style. (And not be like 2005/2006 who.)

I trust this make things clearer!

Flick: any thoughts?

Yes, I did mean they should be more classical but particularly, I thought the way the scene where the Doctor says "I'm so glad I met you" and the companion says "me too", yadda yadda, is pretty much a lift from The Unquiet Dead and while it is quite a good clever, knowing wink, if the entire series were to follow Season 1/27 like that, it would rob it of its potential. I doubt that would happen though.

Ahhh, I get it now. Personally, although I may not agree with what they're doing, I can see why they're doing it. For so long (ok, two years) we haven't had an official link between post Charley McGann and Eccleston, and dragging the eighth Doctor into the new style of Who might just provide the most logical bridge between the two.

I haven't listened to this yet (it's on Sky Plus and ready to go) but you do know that Pink Floyd's The Wall wasn't released until 1979 and isn't exactly Glam Rock, don't you? ;-)

I do. And when you do listen to it, all will become clear ...

Ah, sorry, thought as much - will give it a listen right now...

Flick and Salem - this isn't new behavior for Eighth -- note his relationship with Neverland and Charley in the first few years culminating in Neverland and with Sam in the early EDAs. I think he's just making her comfortable now that they're stuck together.

Although the Doctor is warming to her, I think they will keep veering away from the new series by making Lucie/Eighth have a more prickly relationship than Rose/Ninth.

One way that I think they will veer towards 2005/2006 Who is with Lucie's Auntie.

She will surely be back in a later episode to have her perspective changed on her "nothing, nobody" life.

(Thus reflecting 2005/2006 Who's theme of "a life less ordinary".)

This will happen in one of two ways.

Food will be involved, probably chips, which signify a normal life.

1. She will reject "chips" by doing something heroic (see The Parting of the Ways.)

2. She will appreciate "chips" by seeing them in a new light after a new experience (see The End of the World.)

The Sarah Jane Adventures have reserved beans on toast, so maybe BBC7 will have spaghetti hoops or something.

Whatever happens with whatever food, she will see the world is so much stranger, so much darker, so much madder, so much better!

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