Published on May 30th, 2005 | by Christian Cawley
New Series Review #10: The Doctor Dances
“Look at you, beaming away like you’re Father Christmas!”
“Who says I’m not red bicycle when you were 12…”
One of the most difficult things a writer faces when creating a sinister and dangerous situation for the hero and heroine is usually “how do I get them out of this?” Cliffhangers work best when the threat is very genuine and no realistic escape can be guessed by the audience. Bad examples of cliffhangers in Doctor Who include Episode Three of The Mysterious Planet (Murdeen fires his crossbow at the Doctor â€“ or does he? Well, no, actually) and the notorious Episode One of Dragonfire (the Doctor hangs from an icy ledge by his umbrellaâ€¦ to this day no really knows whyâ€¦). So it was with a big cheer that I greeted the inspired resolution this week, as the Doctor commanded the approaching gasmask-wearing zombies to “Go to your ROOM!”.
To be fair to Mr Moffat following my serious “bigging-up” of his writing credentials last week, I expected nothing short of a suitable resolution to the cliffhanger. But the scenes that followed soon after â€“ the child returning to his room in the hospital, followed by the infected, was superb, and we even got a corridor chase scene!
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances story has been a flawless production, combining superb set dressing, costumes and lighting, sound effects and of course the acclaimed visual effects. Itâ€™s also further evidence that as this series of Doctor Who has proceeded, the whole thing has got tighter, better acted and more exciting. Christopher Eccleston IS Doctor Who. Regardless of what the occasional naysayer in the fascist clique forums might say, heâ€™s the same guy from Gallifrey who is half human and used to wear a long scarf.
While Iâ€™m on the subject, Mr George Murphy is another of these reality-dodging, self-absorbed “fans” of Doctor Who â€“ and I had the utter misfortune to stumble upon his unnecessary comments about the new series at www.cultv.co.uk. (Should you want to visit, type it in your browser. It truly isnâ€™t worth it, however, which is why we havenâ€™t hyperlinked it.)
Murphy apparently has become known for “controversial predictions regarding forthcoming remakes of classic British shows and movie franchises”. Household name there, eh? Furthermore, according to this oracle, “only 4 actors have managed to put in a performance to reach a “Great” level” of performance as the Doctor. Although he of course omits to mention which four, because of course, all of them have been great (scripts aside).
What Iâ€™m getting at here is this: Series One, or Season 27, whichever you want to call it is a continuation of the worlds longest running science fiction adventure serial. I know people who wouldnâ€™t watch Doctor Who all through the Pertwee era because it wholesale discarded with the traditional format of Doctor Who and for all intents and purposes was a different show. Astonishingly, people still have this terribly blinkered attitude and their own idea of what Doctor Who should be. I have one too. Theyâ€™re all right and wrong at the same time.
Mr Murphy may or may not have enjoyed The Doctor Dances – I couldnâ€™t give a damn. What I do care about is this. Weâ€™re currently enjoying the best tv series in the world at the moment. This is nothing new â€“ even at its worst, Doctor Who was true fantasy escapism. In the 21st century however, Doctor Who is slowly becoming a mirror on the world. Key plot aspects throughout the series have succeeded in drawing attention to real world issues â€“ this week it was nano technology â€“ in a way that traditional science fiction often succeeded. While no other shows can lay a claim like this, no other show has the unrivalled depth of talent involved that Doctor Who has.
For all intents and purposes on Saturday evening we were in war-torn London. In another time (30 odd years ago) a script and some brown clothes would have sufficed. We would have been restricted to interior shots and unrealistic railway sidings constructed in a studio. In 2005, we have the result of a cross-section of the finest talent available to Hollywood, let alone the BBC.
This brings us to the new American companion, Jack Harkness. Skilfully rescued by the Doctor from an interestingly-labelled bomb (anyone require a translation of “schlecter wolf”?), John Barrowmanâ€™s presence as an omni-sexual time agent with memory-loss is as interesting as it is controversial. No doubt his presence in the final 3 episodes will be integral to the unfolding plot, whatever horrors are lurking just out of sightâ€¦
So top marks all round â€“ James Hawes direction, the oft-ignored Ernest Vincze, every actor appearing in Saturdayâ€™ instalment, and of course Steven Moffat for telling a wonderful story and for giving us an “interesting” reason as to why the house chosen by Nancy to feed the children from had a bigger joint of pork than the others.
Oh, and thank you Steven Moffat for what I can only describe as a perfect resolution to a wonderful story. Warm, heartfelt, touching and truly joyous; one moment humanity was at risk from the Tula nanogenes, the next â€“ “EVERYBODY LIVES!”.
You cannot fake good television.