Well, I seem to have come away from the whole thing a bit more positive than some others. Although I agree with much of Jennie and lizbee and various others’ reactions I’ve seen, I did still come away from it feeling quite positive.
One of the main things which bothers me about RTD-era Who is the relentlessly breathless pace, to the extent that the occasional moment when characters stop to have a chat feels like beautifully scripted drama just because the running around has stopped and people are actually looking at each other properly while they speak. The cafe scene in this episode could have been such a thing, except in this case, the episode had been slow burning for most of what lead up to it.
It’s not that there’s not been episodes with a slightly more sedate pace (Midnight, Human Nature, etc.), and of course it being a two-parter does help, but even so, this felt more like what Doctor Who is in my head than many episodes of the new series, even if the actual plot was a bit of a mess of strands being drawn together.
At this point, I think I’ll break into the seemingly traditional bullet-pointy list of things I liked or didn’t.
- Liked that the Master was less of a loveable sexy rogue type and more of a genuinely psychotic evil weirdo, it seemed to correct the balance that was a bit off in the previous Simm master. Quite liked that he was wearing a lead around his neck.
- Liked that it was largely Wilf driven, and that Donna stayed in the background being amusing in small doses.
- Liked the attempt to build mystery around various things, from the woman in the church at the beginning and on the telly talking to Wilf, to the Doctor’s questioning Wilf’s importance. Of course, this being RTD the answers are likely to be crashingly dull, but hey.
- Excellent cameo for June Whitfield.
- Like the implication that each incarnation of the Doctor kinda resents that they have to go and the new man has to replace them.
- The voodoo-y resurrection of the Master. I imagine Lawrence Miles is seething, though.
- Didn’t like the force-lightning Master, not because it was done as such, but because it’s not explained in the slightest, and seems daft.
- Didn’t like that the episode seems likely to have alienated a lot of the casual audience which it has always been so careful to address at Christmas more than in the series proper. If the mystery woman is indeed Romana, then of course that would be interesting to me, but I have a feeling that about 3 million of the audience might well switch off under the weight of continuity on New Year’s Day if RTD isn’t careful. The production team seem to have slightly taken their eye off this particular ball, on the excuse that it’s their last story and they can let themselves off the leash a bit. Which is true, but should that be the Chrismas special? I mean, Christmas is always just background, but usually the tone of the episode seems roughly in tune with Christmassyness. This was rather darker than that, which I personally enjoyed but which might have been a bit alienating for some of the audience. Just wondering…
- Corny Obama-double stuff, and the shoe-horning of some set-up for it into the dialogue between the two guys at the burger van and the lady serving them in possibly the least convincing dialogue yet seen in the new series.
- The continuation of the Master’s drums thing. I mean, how much can you really do with that? I hope something interesting is made of it in this story, and that it’s then left alone in future and the Master is allowed to just be a mad evil genius.
- Lack of female characters driving anything much forward. Lucy Saxon killed off early, and that’s about it. Even the evil rich person’s daughter was largely passive throughout. Couldn’t his daughter just have done it herself or something, without daddy’s help? NB. This is not a request for more Donna, just for more people who are women but not Donna.
Anyhoo, think that’s about it, can’t think of anything else right now. I haven’t discussed the return of the Time Lords, because I’m not sure there’s any worthwhile evaluation of that to be done before Part 2 goes out. We’ll have to wait and see…