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The Waters of Mars; Edward Woodward

I thought The Waters of Mars was really good. Fantastic, in fact, if you're happy to do some Olympic-level handwaving about science and suchlike. And what's more, good and dark, in the more interesting sense of the word. It wasn't dark for the sake of it and it almost entirely escaped from the "woe is me, I am so emo" vortex. I can't believe they went there, on a kid's show, at five to eight. A genuine 'holy shit' moment.

I'm glad they did, because it suggests the production people are more aware of the criticisms than I had thought. I just hope that it doesn't end up being the gloriously tasty hors d-oeuvres to a shit sandwich, as Utopia was.

I see that in the future the amateurisation of the news media has had the deleterious effects that we all feared -- those bio pages were littered with grammatical and factual errors. You do not put ampersands in news stories! Not even in the third paragraph! Not even in 2059, FFS! See, this is what happens when they sack the subs -- writerly horseshit gets a free pass and the English language squeals in pain and goes out in its ugliest frock. Bah.

They could have just got a sub/news designer to do it. The commentary tells me that a trainee script editor wrote it. Yes. I can tell.

The moral to take from this episode: under no circumstances freeze-frame text on your computer screen from TV shows so you can read it.

Waters of Mars is an anagram of Masters of War -- or Master of Wars. This probably means absolutely nothing.

And so to the episode... this might have been sold as a scary monsters episode but for all that the chapstick-deficient zombies probably scared the pants off the young 'uns, the scariest monster of all was the Doctor, finally cracking and deciding that, bugger the laws of time, he will do what he wants.

It's one of the most controversial parts of the Tennant/Davies characterisation of the Doctor that he seems to be aware of the power he has and truly feel the temptation to use it. Previous incarnations, right up to Eccleston's Doctor, have decided against wielding the power, opting for running away. Tennant's Doctor seems more high-handed, and arrogant. Since the very beginning, he has been willing to go further, to nudge history. You see it first when he unseats Harriet Jones, despite telling Rose that she would preside over a three-term golden age. And then, the Master took advantage. In this characterisation the punishments at the end of Human Nature/Family of Blood are not some out-of-character aberration, but rather what happens when the Tenth Doctor is hurt and decides to lash out.

It's not one of the characterisation tics of Davies' Doctor that I enjoy, mostly because I usually see RTD's misanthropy peeking out from behind the plot like some kind of evil sentient fruit chutney in the delicious cheese sandwich of my beautiful silly/profound space show.

But if they're going somewhere with it, as it would appear from the last five minutes of WoM, if they're saying that this is what happens when the Doctor turns irresponsible and power-mad and saves people just to make himself feel better, or condemns people just because they defy him, I am so there.

Mind you, let us recall that Utopia and The Stolen Earth were not followed by anything remotely as good.

Let me summarise further what was fantastic about WoM: the people on the base. They made most of them interesting, with lives we could imagine. (I really liked that the bio that they gave Maggie Cain was almost exactly the same as Helen Sharman, the first British cosmonaut, down to where she grew up and went to university). That they gave Yuri a brother, and Steffi children, because when Steffi became the monster, as selenak pointed out, it was symbolised by her turning away from her children as if they had suddenly become strangers, and them continuing to talk behind her.

Above all what was fantastic about WoM can be summed up in two words: Lindsay Duncan as Adelaide Brooke, space pioneer, resolute leader, idealist and survivor. If you want to do a female mission commander, that's how you do it. If you want to do a heroic mission commander full stop, that's how you do it. No speechifying, no posturing, just integrity.

I loved her. I loved her strength, I loved her sardonic sense of humour, I loved everything about her and even her end, because she wrested back control of history because she believed it was the right thing to do and that's what made her continue to be the inspiration for her grand daughter. I loved the time travel aspect of the Dalek seeing that Adelaide was a key part of the timeline and not killing her. I thought her suicide was the best holy shit moment of the new series.

The Tennant also raised his game, as indeed he always seems to do when confronted with any female actor over the age of 35. I am looking forward to a new Doctor -- and very much looking forward to Moffat taking over -- but I will miss David Tennant a lot. He's a smart actor and I find his fannishness very lovable.

In general though, with regard to the finale, bring it on. Woot. I am cautiously optimistic, while terrified of the pile of shite it could be.

Random observations:

Some stuff that made me eyeroll or laugh
• Apparently Gardener Andy is from the part of Iowa located somewhere around Bootle and Birkenhead. And I suspect that geologist Mia is from the suburb of Houston known as Surbiton.

• Dagestan isn't a city in Russia, it's a republic. It has a capital, Makhachkala, which is a bugger to spell. I happen to know where it is because in a weird coincidence, I have to draw a map of Ingushetia for work by next week, but most people don't. But they can use Wikipedia, and find out just how ridiculous it is to say someone's brother lives "just outside Dagestan" If you live "just outside Dagestan" you live in Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Georgia or similar, don't you?

• Fire on the surface of Mars. Ka-boom.

They announced that Edward Woodward has died. There's a really interesting and lovely obituary by the director Edgar Wright, who worked with him on Hot Fuzz, here. It covers working with Woodward on Hot Fuzz and also the rest of Woodward's career, with some interesting observations about the best horror film Britain has ever produced, The Wicker Man. I think that tonight I shall put Hot Fuzz on and listen to the commentary track.

Finally, this is just a really sad interview. I've never had much time for Boyzone or Ronan Keating, but I really feel for him here


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 16th, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC)
Boyzone or Ronan Keating,

I don't even know who those people *are*, and that interview is still heartbreaking.

Also sad: Edward Woodward. I watched every episode of The Equalizer back in the day, and he was awesome. Hey, it's on DVD. Hmmm.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
It is heart-breaking. I always thought Boyzone were a drippy knock-off of N*Sync but you wouldn't wish what happened to them on your worst enemy. He was only 33 and he seemed like a very nice lad.

As for The Equalizer, it would be interesting to see how it's aged. I just watched the titles and the theme music is still excellent.
Nov. 16th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
As for The Equalizer, it would be interesting to see how it's aged.

Yeah, that's why I hesitate sometimes to go back and revisit things I haven't seen in a while. Sometimes they don't age well (hello, Star Trek TOS and your crazy attitudes towards women!). But I might still love them anyhow.
Nov. 16th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
I am impressed -- I've heard the name of the capital of Dagestan on the radio but have never seen it spelled out. (Whereas, I saw Ljubljana in print a whole bunch of times before someone obligingly pronounced it for me.)

I love Edward Woodward! In that way that if I were to be walking down a dark alley, and see him at the other end, I would run toward him rather than away. I think I first saw him in Breaker Morant, about which I understood exactly nothing although looking back at it I have to imagine its politics were more than a little bit dodgy. I just remember him and Wossname the Actual Australian, the tall froggy dude, how they held hands on their way off to be executed.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Bryan Browne! Who I also liked quite a bit once upon a time. I haven't rewatched Breaker Morant in ages but Edward Woodward was lovely in that. It's the role I remember him the most in, rather than Sergeant Howie in Wicker Man.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:49 pm (UTC)
I still can't spell the capital of Dagestan automatically, I have to try to spell it and then look it up. Then try again. Luckily, we have the Eurovision song contest to help us with tricky European names.

I've never seen Breaker Morant and now I wish I had.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
Lindsay Duncan was fantastic through and through. I want stories about how Adelaide went from that 10 year-old girl to where she was here. I want stories about her daughter and her (presumably) broken marriage. I want stories about her relationship with the people on her base, especially about the marvellously fraught-seeming dynamic between her and her second-in-command. What a companion she would have made.

I enjoyed the last two specials for the fluff they were, but this one was on a whole another level.

Questions about Spooks -- I have watched the first 15 minutes of 8x03 (the one with the panic room), which made its way to the usual places on Friday night, and now I'm hopelessly confused about the schedule. I know the episodes airs on two different channels on different days -- is this the one you're talking about in the previous post? Or is it the one after that?
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
Yes to all of that. I loved Adelaide.

I read that they had dialogue implying that Adelaide and the second-in-command had a bit of history between them, and that Adelaide had been using a bit of don't ask, don't tell with the relationship between Yuri and the wet-as-a-haddock geologist too but it all went on the cutting room floor.

The Spooks schedule is this: first-run Friday nights on BBC3 but not on the iPlayer; then repeated again on Wednesday on BBC1 and on the iPlayer thereafter. So 8x03 is the latest ep, and will be on BBC1 on Weds, then on Friday we get 8x04.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
I read that they had dialogue implying that Adelaide and the second-in-command had a bit of history between them

Yeah, you could glean something like that from their interaction. I actually liked that it was not explicitly spelled out.

Thanks for the info on the Spooks schedule! That clears things up. You've just made me very eager to pack it up at work early and go home so that I could watch the rest of the episode.
Nov. 16th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
oh! "The Wicker Man" freaked me out when I first saw it...oh, some time back in the 70s?? I was just a kid and it was very very creepy to me (especially Christopher Lee in drag and the whole "chop chop! chop chop!" thing with the crossed swords.

I'd even blanked on the name of the movie until I'd picked it up on DVD and watched it. When they got to the "chop chop!" part I about screamed. *shudder*

The remake was abominable, btw.
Nov. 17th, 2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
I heard that the remake was all about "oh noes evil wimmins will end us all" so I didn't bother. The original Wicker Man is crazy and excellent and still pretty creepy when you're an adult.
Nov. 23rd, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Re: remake
yeah, pretty much. Neil LaBute misogynistic bullcrap and Nick Cage overacting.

It was on cable and I was bored. Never a good combo.
Nov. 16th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
Excellent write-up, with bonus points for evil chutney.
Nov. 17th, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I am in a state of wibble about the final two episodes. Such potential to be awesome, such an appalling precedent already set by RTD.
Nov. 17th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
I'm fully expecting the usual RTD combination: 60% awesomesauce + 15% Rusty's-crush-on-the-Doctor + 5% Tennant gurning + 20% last-minute epic fail.

If it doesn't have a Tinkerbell moment, I'll be very surprised indeed.
Nov. 16th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
I can't make up my mind what I thought of the ep. although in fairness that's because we had to spend a wee bit of time soothing near-hysterical 8 year old, and then P kept muttering in my ear about the difficulties of setting things on fire on Mars...will have to rewatch.

I really liked Lindsay Duncan and the basic set-up; I found the middle bit pretty depressing and I think that I'm not so much enjoying these strung-out episodes because I'm thinking, OMG now we have to wait till Christmas and I've already totally forgotten what happened in the last special.
Nov. 17th, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
Oh dear. Was the near-hysteria related to water-zombies or other reasons? I don't know how well it will stand up to rewatching. I think it might be all right because the performances are good, though there's too much running up and down corridors.

Did I send you a reply on Twitter last night? I definitely wrote one but God only knows if I managed to send it.

New stuff is hard!
Nov. 17th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
Water zombies = not good.

In fairness she doesn't scare easily. My son thought it was good, nice and scary (but it would have been the death rather than the water zombies scaring him).

I'll check my account *mysterious* LOL.
Nov. 17th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
Nope! Nothing! Bah humbug.
Nov. 17th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
Thank you for the link to Wright's eulogy. I have a good deal of respect for actors like Edward Woodward -- people who are able to strike that right balance between restraint and intensity in their acting. To me, it feels like he represented a certain group of actors that learned from both the 'old tradition' and the Method vanguard.

Be seeing you, Mr. Woodward.
Nov. 17th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
He sounds like a good fellow, and I never saw a role he was bad in. He always gave off that appearance of absolute integrity and I've never heard anything to contradict that.
Nov. 17th, 2009 04:24 am (UTC)
Wow, they showed that during children's hour? WTF. That was SCARY.

I mostly enjoyed it, although the pacing dragged a bit in the middle. I did like the prickly relationship between Brooke & her 2IC, as you say.

But fires? On Mars? Srsly? Heh.

Did you see the teaser? In which case, !!!!
Nov. 17th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
I *know*. I was a bit "what are they thinking?", though I do take Davies' point about children being perfectly capable of dealing with darkness. God knows what's going to happen at Christmas. Set-up leads me to be hopeful, but experience tells me that total bollocks is the more likely outcome
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )