Friday, July 14, 2006

Rose Makes Me Thorny

Doctor Who concludes, then, with a two-parter that makes me want to swallow my previous rantings. Bastards.


I hated the Cybermen two-parter in the middle of this series, I make no bones about it. So the idea that the series finale would follow on from it filled me with dread. This was supposed to be a blub-worthy farewell to Rose Tyler - how could they manage that with another load of cyber-nonsense going on?

The answer, annoyingly, is 'incredibly well'.

Once again, as with last year's two-part finale, we were given a lo-o-o-o-ong build up. We knew the cybermen were coming, even as everyone whittered on about ghosts. Shrug. And all this build up, despite a manipulative-but-effective teaser sequence, might have been infuriating, had it not been carried out with such wit and enthusiasm.

Listing the lovable: The Eastenders spoof, The Doctor's delight at being a prisoner of Torchwood, Rose and The Doctor singing Ghostbusters, Jackie's peculiar promotion to 'companion'...and those 3D glasses.

The glasses rate a special mention because, as it turned out, they mattered to the story. Now here's a writer who knows what he's doing - hiding important plot information in plain site, dismissed as amusing-but-standard Doctor wackiness. Brilliant.

All good entertainment it was. Awesome and mind-blowing? Not until the last few seconds.

Because somehow a production usually unable to prevent leaks of all sizes managed to plug the holes. A vague tabloid mumble about 'Daleks V Cybermen' was dismissed in the early days as more journo daydreaming. (Right alongside Rachel Stevens becoming a companion.) Turned out, it was true. And we didn't see it coming.

(That said, the tease as to the creators of the sphere WAS enough to have me yelling 'Daleks!' at the screen in the minute or so before it opened. I relish that moment, as it reduced me to the age of about 7. Suddenly I was an excited kid watching Doctor Who, and for that feeling to be recaptured at 30...well, thanks guys, it's appreciated.)

So, not-bad, won over by execution and cliffhanger, despite being light on story...and the fact that Tochwood's main staff seem to work in a cupboard.

But part two? Oh boy...

Witness me dancing around a room as battles are fought, jokes are hammered home and daleks have banter - BANTER! - with cybermen. Witness my jaw drop as we realise that the Genesis Ark is a prison for an entire dalek race, now sprung open on an unsuspecting populous. Witness me blubbing like a child when Rose and The Doctor say goodbye.

How is all this possible? The cybermen were crap last time, how are they now so imposing? How did the lazily resurrected emotions of Rose's family become this graceful, powerful elephant in my living room?

Jackie gets her husband back, Rose gets her dad. They all stay together, in another reality, with Mickey. And the lot of them are transformed, better people for knowing The Doctor. Who himself is now left, alone, once again.

Christ, that's smart stuff.

I've heard fans bemoan the convenience of the climax, but I'm not listening. The Doctor's plan was seeded early with the specs - he had plans early on. Moreover, I'll take every one of Davies' 'silly' climaxes - viral cures in showers, diamonds and telescopes - over Trek's gobbledygook every time. Davies writes conclusions that work emotionally, viscerally. I could care less about them being TECHNICALLY correct.

Seriously, who's bothered by '"Captain, we can do it! We just need to reroute the binary relays to hexigladical output and flouridate the mattermixmaster and we can do it!"? Not me.

Yes, there were flaws, there always are. There's no way Pete's rescue should have worked, and there's no good reason to see so little of the war being fought outside. (I'd assumed budgetary reasons, but the commentary track informs us that the director had shot loads more and they cut it out.)

But I'll pay those prices. To see Tennant - much maligned this series for gurning (which I love, Dave; keep it up!) - cry his single tear, I'll pay all that and more.

Oh, and another well-hidden cliffhanger, too. This one funny rather than shocking. That'll do nicely. Christmas special and third series please, quick as you like.

Which brings us to The Future Of Who. That future is Freema Agyeman.

Wrongly named as 'the first black companion', as if Mickey Smith hadn't spent two series growing impressively right before us (and traveling in the TARDIS, pedants), the character of Martha is bound to be another of Davies' interesting, down-to-Earth females. Which is fine.

Only...gah, I just can't shake my concerns about the actress. Because she was pretty lousy in Army of Ghosts.

But hey, Piper was hardly Brando in her pop videos, right? And 'flirty office worker who gets killed' ain't a great part. Frankly, everyone in Torchwood needed a performance enhancing drug - something wasn't gelling in those office scenes, and almost every performance was off.

So I shan't worry too much about Ms Agyeman. These guys know casting. I have faith.

It's an exciting time for Brit sci-fi. Because we finally have some again.


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