I think I watched the Doctor Who Easter special in the best possible way: with two boys under the age of ten and a very large glass of wine. (I just wrote "glass of win" which would also be true. Fairtrade Chilean red wine is gorgeous).
It was beaten in the ratings by that contradiction in terms, Britain's Got Talent, which featured a boy blowing up a hot water bottle until it exploded, as "entertainment". Never let it be said that the United Kingdom lacks high culture. Never let it be said that we shouldn't string up Simon Cowell by his shrivelled manbits and spank him until he promises to *stop it*.
Anyway, Planet of the Dead.
Firstly the verdict of the small boys: they loved it and their littler sister was terrified, which they also loved. They laughed at the proper bits and said "woah" at the bus and the metal stingrays, and wanted to be Lee Evans or David Tennant.
When the psychic said the darkness was coming, they didn't say "what, again?" or wish that next time someone would say "the milkman is coming" just for a bit of variety. They caught the allusions to Donna and to The Stolen Earth and were delighted at their own cleverness. This was all as it should be and a reminder that cynical thirtysomethings are not the primary audience for this show.
As for me: well, it was fun and it trundled along nicely but there wasn't really any there there, was there?
As usual in RTD's scripts, you got the sense that any second bits were going to start flying off in every direction. Complaining about the science in Doctor Who is a bit like complaining about your dreams not making sense, however there were moments in this to make even a nine-year-old roll his eyes. The direction was oddly paced, in as much as there was a lot of waiting around with buses (and shouting "for goodness sake, SHUT THE WORMHOLE!") but it looked beautiful and had some funny lines, and it's probably the last adventure we're going to get before it goes all dark and nonsensical at the end of the year, so I'll take it at face value.
Gareth Roberts obviously based the plot on one of the best parts of his 1990s novel The Highest Science, in which a bunch of disparate commuters on the 8.12 train end up being dragged to an alien planet by a 'Fortean flicker', which is in turn sought out by the seventh Doctor. A race of super-intelligent and warlike tortoises get in the way and there ensues one of the bleakest not-endings of any of the New Adventures. I remember liking that a lot.
In this case it was the number 200 bus, and the commuters on it. You can tell Russell T Davies does not live in London or else he might have taken the opportunity to smack the crap out of a bendy bus instead for the sheer pleasure of twatting one of the bastard things.
The commuters themselves are disparate and only just differentiated, but, unlike in Midnight, we see the better side of humanity. No one was gratuitously venal or stupid, except perhaps the bus driver. I groaned at the psychic woman and her husband -- so the psychic ability can tell her lottery numbers, that the planet's sands are MADE OF PEOPLE! OMG!, that the Doctor's song is ending, but they can't tell her not to get on the one bloody bus that's going to end up on an alien planet? -- however, there were some lovely character touches in their happy marriage.
The finest characters were reserved for Unit. I loved the scientist, who named units of measurement after himself and Quatermass -- Lee Evans did a good job of keeping him juuuuuust this side of caricature, while remaining funny. I just wish he had had a little more to do.
Captain Magambo of Unit, who was just brilliant in her calm and her command, did point a gun at him but I thought the actress played it as though she was intensely reluctant to lose the Doctor but was at a loss and this was a last resort she scarcely believed in herself.
And now for Lady Christina Da Souza, who made me want to join freaking Class War. What a smug git.
Why is it that when it's some fit bird with cut glass vowels who is off tea-leafing it's somehow a grand jape and she is an admirable rogue, yet when it's some shell-suited hoodie who goes off all light-fingered in Marks & Sparks, we're supposed to be all judgmental and start flinging Asbos around left, right and centre?
It's not as though she steals from higher motives. She's not robbing the rich to feed the poor or to expose international villainy. She's just a bloody thief and a terrible smartarse to boot. How is she any different to some young idiot who goes twocking for the fun of it? Being an arsehole is not okay just because you've got a Rt Hon in front of your name or because Daddy was a sheep rustler who got lucky and made a pile in the seventeenth century and two generations after that you're landed gentry.
(I loathe that stereotype. I can only abide Hustle because they are usually scamming scammers. And Leverage, as far as I can see, is just Hustle with O-levels.)
Furthermore, I do not get Michelle Ryan. She is beautiful and I don't think she's a terrible actress. I can't point to anything she does, suck in my breath through my teeth and mutter "dodgy", as I occasionally did with Freema Agyeman or, even more occasionally, Billlie Piper. But in the end, I believed the character of Martha and was moved by her and empathised with her, the odd wobbly moment aside.
For some reason, when I see Michelle Ryan, all I think is "there's Michelle Ryan playing Nimue", "there's Michelle Ryan playing a nurse", "there's Michelle Ryan playing Lara Croft with the serial numbers filed off". I never believe anything she plays -- and it really isn't for any reason I can point to. It's not as though she's technically wobbly. It's not as though the dialogue was bad or the chemistry was not there. I just didn't really believe it.
In the end Planet of the Dead was nothing more than a grab bag of cliches from all over the place -- from Indiana Jones to the Knight Bus in Harry Potter -- but it was affectionately done with a sense of humour, so picking holes in it is always going to feel a bit like kicking kittens.
And now to the trailer for the next episode, which has Lindsay Duncan in it. Is it terrible of me that when I saw that she was blonde, and wearing olive green combat pants and a green T-shirt, I wanted her to be Jenny grown older? Just for the sheer shits and giggles of watching it all kick off online?
I think it probably is. However, the episode looks delightfully scary and Phil Ford had a nice touch with the episodes of SJA I saw, so I look forward to it.
I am also spoilered up for the last few episodes before Teh Moff takes over. This sent me into such paroxysms of wildly uninformed Do. NOT. WANT! that I have vowed not to be spoiled again. Don't want to know, still less to care, so no more spoilers.
Well, until I get the internet back properly in June anyway.