Friday, April 18, 2008

All TV: Enough 'Who's to make your head spin

Today's column looks at the "Doctor Who"-heavy weekend, which includes the season four Christmas episode (with Kylie Minogue), episode two of "The Sarah Jane Adventures" and the season two finale of "Torchwood." Minimal spoilers for all, in case you're worried.


dark tyler said...

'Doctor Who''s first two episodes (I mean proper episodes, not the Christmas Special silliness) are simply amazing. Never before has a season of the show opened with such strong entries. Plus, the chemistry between Tennant and Tate is fantastic. Tate has a scene in the first episode where she pantomimes a whole paragraph of description and I couldn't stop laughing.

And I have a feeling that Davies is going to pull all stops before his departure from the show. Win-win. :P

I also love 'Sarah Jane Adventures'. It's way more mature than the 'Torchwood' stupidity, as evident by a forthcoming episode which handles with a grace an extremely sensitive issue. It's relevant, it's real, it's sensitive, and it's got an emotional core that the "mature" spin-off is clearly lacking.

I don't want to go into more detail because these things haven't aired yet, but I have to say, I don't see the franchise hurting just yet. :)

Matthew said...

I personally liked Voyage of the Damned, thinking it was overall pretty strong (the only part I didn't like was the appearance by someone playing a certain famous person who thanks the Doctor and wishes him a merry Christmas). It may not have a lot of depth, but it was basically supposed to just be a big disaster movie, and it did that really well. The Christmas episodes, I suspect, are just supposed to be a bit of fun for people to watch after dinner, not some complicated timey-wimey story.

As for the first two episodes (and I too will be vague and avoid spoiler details) - as Dark Tyler says, both really strong episodes. The first one should not have been good - after seeing pictures of the aliens I was fully expecting it to be awful - but it actually worked really well.

As for the second episode, which takes place during the Roman empire - I believe they actually filmed on the set of the HBO/BBC "Rome" series, and it shows. With most historical Whos, they are very limited in showing us the world - we might get a few small street shots, but basically most stories mainly take place in a limited number of interiors, I suspect largely because it would cost a lot to build an entire city for a single episode. But since they effectively had a entire city set already standing, they were able to give us a story that demands huge city scenes, a story they probably couldn't do otherwise. And the story they chose allowed a greater exploration fo the Doctor, his nature, and his burden. Really great.

Thankfully, Tate and the writers have toned down the character since her first appearance

I think part of that is the situation. In Runaway Bride, Donna was stolen from her wedding and dumped with with the Doctor. She didn't want to be there, so she was naturally unhappy. But they did soften her through that episode, and by the time we reach this series, onna actually chooses to join the Doctor. Being a willing companion would obviously make her better company.

(In America, we franchise our cop shows first, our science fiction series much further down the list; in England, they do it the other way 'round.)

HA! That was funny.

Nicole said...

The Christmas episode was okay, but pales in comparison to the regular season episodes, mostly because of the presence of Catherine Tate, who is a well needed change from the mooney companions from the past (and I liked Martha too). There is great chemistry between Tennant and Tate and it confirms that women over 35 still have something to give. Mind you the UK has always been better at using its actresses as opposed to continually using empty starlets, but based on what I have seen so far, Tate is the best companion in the New Series, and maybe the Old one. She is his equal and it's exactly what he needs.
(I recommend getting the commentary for the first Tate episode, which is hilarious and confirms the chemistry is natural)

I just hope that I'm not proven wrong in the remaining episodes.

I haven't seen the Sarah Jane Adventures, and since I am reading of repetitous storylines, I may wait until this DW season is over to begin watching it.

Anonymous said...

I think Elizabeth Sladen is lovely, but I'm bugged by one thing... in numerous reviews of Sarah Jane Adventures she is described as "middle-aged".

She's 60. I don't expect to live to be 120.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I think Elizabeth Sladen is lovely, but I'm bugged by one thing... in numerous reviews of Sarah Jane Adventures she is described as "middle-aged".

She's 60. I don't expect to live to be 120.

In part because Sladen is so well-preserved, I think Sarah Jane is being written a fair amount younger than 60. It's been a long time since her adventures with The Doctor, but not as long as it's been in the real world.

J said...

I loathed that Christmas episode. Not as effectively awful as the end of last season -- mostly because there was nothing at stake -- but I found it insulting, half-arsed, 394th-rate computer-written piffle.

I hated it so much that I stopped paying attention to when the new season started. Good to hear things get better.

Alan, are there any plans for Sci-Fi or hulu or someone to legally stream Dr. Who eps online? It's obviously an idea long overdue.

Anonymous said...

To me Catherine Tate is just more evidence of the deep, unknowable cultural divide between our two countries. But if you guys say she won't be as awful this time around, I'm willing to reserve judgment.

The CineManiac said...

I enjoyed the X-mas episode, but not near as much as the past 2 years. Can't wait for next weeks actual season premiere.
I'm about half way through the first Sarah Jane episode and enjoying it, even though it's clearly a kids show, but still enjoyable.
And I'm curious as to what the "Show-Changing" episode will bring to us on tonight's Torchwood.

Matt said...

A full summary of the "Torchwood" finale is available on Wikipedia--and assuming that it's accurate, it's very much "show changing." Last week's episode really reminded me of "Out of Gas" from "Firefly" with the structure--though not quite as good. Agreed that "Torchwood" generally found the right footing this year, and the whole cast deserves credit.

Anonymous said...

@jim treacher
I don't think the Tate thing is cultural. In The Runaway Bride, she was written as somewhat annoying, and I had huge reservations about the character becoming a full-time companion. Having now seen three episodes of this series I would agree with Dark Tyler that this is the strongest start to a season Who's ever had, and I'd say Tate is fantastic. I don't want to spoiler anything, but she is adult, funny and not about to be ordered about by the Doctor - and gets straight to asking the difficult questions. I'm enjoying Tennant's Doctor playing against her as well - I think she makes him better. Enjoy -particularly episode two - it's a scorcher.