Saturday, September 29, 2007

Doctor Who: Master plan

Very brief spoilers on the season's penultimate "Doctor Who" episode coming right up...

Sci Fi sent out a screener of both this episode and next week's finale, and in keeping with my policy to only talk about episodes that have already aired in the States, it's hard for me to say much about the Master/Harold Saxon's rise to power. However, I will say that, when the Master transformed from Derek Jacobi to John Simm last week, I was disappointed that Jacobi only got to embody pure evil for four or five minutes, and nothing Simm did last night made the disappointment go away. Simm probably needed some emergency dental work from all the scenery chewing he did; he made even David Tennant's most screamy moments over the years seem like models of subtlety.

That said, I've had it drilled into my head enough by longtime "Who" fans and writers that the show is, first and foremost, made for kids, and I suppose I could see that Simm as Saxon would be a lot more fun for the young folk than Jacobi as same. I suppose.

What did everybody else think? And, like me, anyone who's seen the finale needs to remain mum about it.

26 comments:

Nicole said...

You didn't mention Saxon's wife, of whom we know very little about and frankly was a little scary in her own way.

I was a fan of Martha before, but I liked that she put the Doctor in his place in this episode. And I think Freems actually did some of that stunt driving.

And perhaps I watch too much sci-fi, but I recall guessing what those flying balls were all about before it was explained. (in the finale).

As a middle part of a trilogy, it was no Empire Strikes Back, but I liked it nonetheless. It was a slight step down from the episode before, but not by much. (After all, Utopia has those silly future people, but that part is forgotten with the Master reveal)

The flashback to early Gallifrey was nice, and though I am not a classic Who expert, I did recognize the funny head gear. It's also interesting that the Doctor admits that his reaction to the Time Vortex was to run away.

As a supergeek moment, did you notice that John Barrowman's name was above the credits in this episode? (It could have been there in Utopia too, but not before).

Jon Delfin said...

Once again, no title card or author credit. Did adding Barrowman's name to the opening really confuse them that much?

If your screener for the finale is the uncut version, I'd like to be added to the borrowing list.

stevie said...

I've seen both, too (we have the screener as well) but I liked Simm in this a lot. What worked for me was that the Master is just as manic and goofy as the Doctor but that personality is terrifying in the wrong person -- that it's a trait of all Time Lords, not just a quirk of the Doctor.

Saxon's wife scared the hell out of me.

words escape me said...

That's exactly how I felt about the Master, stevie put it well. He has that personality but it is just odd when it is anyone else besides the Doctor.

I rather enjoyed his performance, although I think his wife was absolutely stellar. Cold and calculating, very well played.

J said...

Hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated hated... (to be continued)

Toby said...

Someday there will be a college thesis on Russell T. Davies as the Master. Both gained control and proceeded to destroy that which was once great.

I'm thankful he had the clout to resuscitate the series, and I don't mind his overall stewardship of a season's storyline. But RTD really needs to step away from actually writing the show because he's too over the top. And I think he enjoys the fact that he can screw around with the show's basic mythology because he's too aware that whatever he wants he can get.

He's said in the past that he never liked the character of the Master and the way he's written Simm's character should put plenty of new viewers off the role as well.

His control is so total that the show will go basically on hiatus after the next season while he goes off to do other projects. He acts like he's the only one who can oversee the project now and unfortunately the BBC believed him.

I'll have more to say about RTD after next week's episode.....

Ross Ruediger said...

Alan -

That screener DVD SciFi sent out doesn't do the the last two episodes justice, esp the finale which has been hacked up to fit into the one-hour programming block (its original RT is close to 52 minutes). I doubt that the original edit would make you like Simm's performance any more, but it's a shame nonetheless. You might consider watching these two eps again when the DVD box set comes out.

J said...

doesn't do the the last two episodes justice

Having only seen the original Brit airings, I can safely say that doing these episodes justice would entail the deepest, darkest pit you could find, two billion million tons of toxic waste, the dismembered corpses of Davies and Simm, and a double order of Domino's new Oreo Pizza.

If they're making these episodes shorter for their U.S. airings, you should thank your lucky stars. More of this is like a couple extra days in a POW camp.

Anonymous said...

When did this episode air in relation to Torchwood? I was unimpressed with the throwaway line about Captain Jack's pals being sent away, but it made me wonder about the timing of the original air dates.

Jon Delfin said...

If IMDb is to be believed, "Torchwood" aired in the UK last fall, and season 3 earlier this year.

RTD is off doing other things, and that's what's delaying season 4? I'd heard it was Tennant's schedule causing the delay. Hmm.

Anthony Foglia said...

"When did this episode air in relation to Torchwood?"

I'm pretty sure it aired after the last episode of the first season/series of "Torchwood." Two people have edited shots of (what I assume to be the last episode of) that show with the beginning of Doctor Who's "Utopia" episode. Here's the first, simplest one, and here's a longer, better one, but with possible minor spoilers for "Torchwood."

nicole, I'm pretty sure Barrowman's name was in the main credits last week as well.

I can see why many people didn't like Simm's Master. But, if it's true that Davies wanted him to be the Doctor's evil opposite, it makes some sense for him to be joking. I don't know how much of that is Simm, and how much is the writing. I think Simm did a good job of being evil and frighteningly unbalanced. (Having never seen it, I don't know how the Master acted in the original series.)

Nicole said...

Who series 2 aired in the UK in Spring 2006, Torchwood aired in Fall 2006 (finishing up in the new year) and Who series 3 started in Spring 2007. The Torchwood references would make sense if the shows had been aired in that order. I don't know if casting news is a spoiler or not, but the addition of a character in the next Torchwood series only makes sense with the Who series 3 happening in between them.

Having read the reactions of the blogosphere after the UK airing (and CDN airing), I am clearly not one of the old school Who fans. I don't think RTD has destroyed the franchise and although not as great as the Family of Blood two parter and Blink episode, I still enjoyed all final episodes.

As for the delay, Tennant is scheduled to play Hamlet with the RSC in 2008 and he wouldn't be available for when the Who series normally films. If anyone is to blame for the delay it's him.

RTD's contract is supposed to be finished after series four, and if with a new head writer we get a new Doctor, then there would be a fresh start anyway. This vitriol against him reminds me to the hatred of Brannon Braga and Rick Berman by hard core Trekkie for "destroying" new Trek.

Ross Ruediger said...

Season Four isn't going to be delayed - it's shooting as we speak and it'll come along right on sched next spring on the BBC.

In 2009 the BBC will produce several DW specials in lieu of Season Five.

A full Season Five is, however, scheduled for 2010.

The finer details on all this can be found by clicking here.

Toby said...

Yeah, I did say after the next season, so Season four will arrive on schedule. It's Season five that gets pushed back a year. (Although there should be a few specials until then to tide fans over.)

My vitriol is mainly aimed at RTD actually doing the writing on episodes and going overboard with some of the concepts. I think he's come up with great themes for each season, but he should really find someone else to execute them. Someone who knows when to pull back, or who can see what doesn't work and is willing to edit it out.

To go from a block that includes the two-part Human Nature story, Blink, and into Utopia (which RTD wrote, and I give him credit for that one)only to see it slip off the rails so badly with Sound Of Drums and Last of the Time Lords... well, you'll see......

Ross Ruediger said...

I always find it interesting to come here and read people's reactions vs. the reactions at The House Next Door. You cats are a tough audience.

It's not that RTD's scripts are necessarily thought-provoking (although they can be - I still think the divisive LOVE & MONSTERS is excellent DW), but they do seem to be great crowd pleasers, esp for the masses in the UK. If every story was as intense as HUMAN NATURE, this show probably wouldn't be able to maintain an audience. I've gotten to the point where I'm willing to accept the fluff as long as I get the BLINKs and THE SATAN PITs as well.

All that said, I consider the S3 three part finale to be the most ambitious season ending yet from a plot standpoint. Granted, it took me a couple viewings to be sure and I'm not saying it's perfect, but I'd take it over the nonsensical DOOMSDAY anytime (Rose's goodbye scenes notwithstanding).

J said...

I'd never say RTD "destroyed the franchise." I think he revived it, and updated it, quite well. It's just that his need for BIG HUGE MASSIVE MORE IS MORE IS NOT ENOUGH season finales is -- along with all his other melodramatic leanings -- a real bummer. Also, the urge to explain everything is a bad one.

But I'm thankful for the good casting, and the good eps.

If we're doing x>y stuff, I think the Series 2 finale was a gazillion times better than those from Series 1 and 3. A mess, sure, but there was enough fanboy giddyness to get past the ridiculousness, and the end really worked. Everything about Drums/Last is contrived and phony.

a said...

Regarding Russell T Davies and season finales, he may have a touch of Michael Jackson syndrome. After "Thriller" sold its 100 million (worldwide) copies, Jackson became obsessed with trying to better it with each successive album. You can't do that, and his mania began to effect the quality of his music. Sometimes an artist has to admit that he/she got lucky and hit the ball right on the screws. Doesn't mean they'll do that well every time. Every finale can't be bigger than the last, every cliffhanger can't be more breathtaking. Add the current trend of season-long arcs that must build to some catharsis and you have a recipe for overreaching. I wish more writers would understand the need for ebb and flow, both in-season and between seasons. That said, I would rather see failures of ambition than rote hijinks.

Miranda said...

Yeah, I agree that Derek Jacobi would have been muuuuuuuuuuuuch better as the Master than John Simm. Not that I hated Simm or anything, but ... he's no Derek Jacobi.

I know "Doctor Who" was originally aimed at kids, but I don't think that argument really holds much water anymore. The current version of the show (i.e., ever since Christopher Eccleston started playing the Doctor) has been very adult, I think. (OK, not as adult as "Torchwood," but definitely not for young children.)

Even the Tom Baker years didn't feel like a kiddy show to me. (I never saw any Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, or William Hartnell episodes.) Sure, it was cheesy and goofy, but ... for children? It never felt that way to me.

jim treacher said...

Simm was great. The scene where he gassed his entire cabinet was hilariously sick. "You're insane!" [Saxon grins, gives double thumbs-up]

Matt said...

Finally watching this, it's really a super heavy-handed political allegory. I was in the UK earlier this year, and at the time, much of the talk of the papers was RTD admitting that The Master/Saxon was designed to resemble Tony Blair.

erin said...

I quite liked Simm's performance. I imagine a megalomaniac would be quite over the top, especially once he achieved his plan to rule the world!

Certainly this episode didn't develop the characters the way Blink and Family of Blood did, but as a good old-fashioned enjoyable action episode I think it's pretty good so far.

Wallwriting said...

I've noticed lots of British TV actors love to ham it up, and lots of British bloggers like to praise it. I wonder if Britain, with its actors going through stronger theater training than here in the States, just prefers scene-chewing more than Yanks do.

J said...

I think it's just that the scene-chewing meglomaniac is such a pathetic cliche. Was Dennis Hopper unavailable?

a said...

j,
The "bwaahaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaa" kind of scenery-chewing is a cliche, but I think Simm went to a different place, more of a child's glee at finally being unleashed after being so long in Yana's body. I don't think it was completely successful, but it wasn't a cliche. Maybe an embarrassing choice, a bad decision, but not cliche.

confused said...

I thought this was an amazing three part arc... finally the master makes SOME kind of sense! We still don't know why he hates the doctor so much, but at least it's obvious that he's mad as a hatter for very good reasons.

Does kind of make you wonder why RTD is so obsessed with stories of child abuse though. What on earth happened to HIM when he was eight?

Tony said...

Good Job!: )