Operation Platinum Age: The Final Word

Following the seemingly dark tensions of (the then latest episode) The Hungry Earth, I suggested the series had moved back on track, having fallen off after the Weeping Angels story.  I may have been too hasty.  While I would still choose the Silurian story over the preceding two, Cold Blood just didn’t deliver the goods, moving very slowly and sewing things up with little enthusiasm.  The saving grace, of course, was Rory’s shocking and sudden death scene, which was infinitely more moving than its dress rehearsal a fortnight before.

Another suggestion I made was that Chris Chibnall might actually be the ‘second-in command’ writer to Steven Moffat (as Moffat had been to RTD) but this lacklustre episode dissuaded me from that perhaps over-optimistic position.  More controversially, this was the week I lost patience with Amy Pond (see Whatever Happened to Amy Pond?), whose character suddenly seemed to grate with its knowing and implausible smart-ass cockiness.  If you want to see how a companion might really react to the possibility of having her guts opened up, I’d point you in the direction of Moffat’s own Sherlock, the second episode of which sees Watson’s date squirming with abject terror at the knowledge of her certain doom.

Until this point I was on the same side as Amy Pond the character, but when I also cottoned on to the fact that she’d been effectively missing for a month I began to feel cheated of what had promised to be a brilliant companion.  This would eventually change, but it mattered so much at the time because Amy seemed – rightly it turned out – to be the central mystery at the heart of the entire season.  Looking back, it seems the inclusion of Rory was a distraction, a stalling device that allowed the production team to put Amy on pause until she was next required.

‘Time can be written, re-written and unwritten, it seems, so how real is that future?  Perhaps only as real as the past it came from…’

Oh, and do you know what?  I was right about the future Rory and Amy waving at their past selves.  At the time, I wrote ‘Time can be written, re-written and unwritten, it seems, so how real is that future?  Perhaps only as real as the past it came from…’  Of course, I had no idea how this would play out, but it was clear that something was going on, and in a way it was an introduction to the concepts that would overshadow the season finale…

With Rory “gone”, the season reset to everything it had been for the first five weeks and consequently improved.  While I am in no doubt that Vincent and the Doctor will prove to be one of those overrated Doctor Who stories that people feel they should love to death (see Blink, The Shakespeare Code, The Empty Child, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Robots of Death – ‘How dare he!’) while guilty pleasures languish (Midnight, Love & Monsters, Nightmare of Eden, The Power of Kroll – ‘Has he gone mad?!’) there is no arguing that it was a rich and accomplished bit of television.  But even though Smith continued to delight and Tony Curran gave us an acutely sensitive Vincent, it was here that I began to doubt Karen Gillan as well as the character she was playing.  While we witnessed some wonderful character strokes from the pen of Richard Curtis, I know I was not alone in fearing that Gillan’s range of emotional responses was becoming repetitive.

Some fans have found it difficult to see Gillan criticised, but it is important to note that the critic’s role is not simply to ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a character/actor, but to examine a performance and evaluate the implementation of a craft from a professional and informed perspective.  To pre-empt any further discomfort for Amy/Gillan fans, I am happy to say that the final two-parter saw Gillan seriously up her game and prove her worth in the role.  Again, I would suggest that perhaps the problems (and their solutions) stemmed from the writing of the episodes.  Gillan’s performances were probably only ever going to be as good as the material she had to work with, but I think the jury’s still out on this.  It’s worth noting, however, that she was consistently well served by Moffat.

As a caveat (and to avoid further death threats) I should point out that Karen Gillan remains one of the most delightful people to grace the talking heads of Doctor Who Confidential, and even though I’d rather she and Rory had left at the end of the season, I look forward to seeing how she develops as both actor and character in 2011.  I think we’re probably in for a few surprises.

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com.

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