iainjclark: Dave McKean Sandman image (Tomb)
[personal profile] iainjclark
So take a load of pirate cliches, throw in the same dimension-hopping twist as 'The Stones of Blood' (albeit not seen since 1978), lightly blend the deranged hologram from 'The Lodger' and the monomaniac healing of 'The Doctor Dances', and cap it off with the hugely manipulative resuscitation scene from the Abyss (only minus the semblance of a rationale). I think the word I'm looking for is "unoriginal". It might be "meh".

Since there are no surprises here, the episode lives and dies on how well executed it is. Unfortunately it's a very lukewarm effort.

Pirates are a modern pop-culture icon, but writer Steve Thompson doesn't seem to know what to do with them. He has the good sense to know that all the normal pirate cliches are too unrealistic to portray seriously, but barring a couple of "yo ho ho" style gags from the Doctor that removes most of the point of doing a pirate episode. You're left with a 'grubby thieves on a ship' episode, which is a very different proposition. This uneasy compromise also besets the scenes of Amy swashbuckling, which feel simultaneously unrealistic for the character but not outlandish enough to be exciting.

The curse/siren is potentially more fruitful, but within this action-romp context it emerges up as a pale shadow of the kind of thrills Who can actually deliver. The worldbuilding doesn't feel real, and Matt Smith in full on hand-waving Frank Spencer mode doesn't do much to sell it.

There are other problems: setting up the idea that the siren can use any reflection is fine but opens up any number of plot holes (why only break a mirror - what about all the pieces?) and the siren appears to miss any number of opportunities to 'get' the crew. Plus Rory feels ridiculously easy to keep away from the siren while everyone watches other crewmembers stroll to their doom. Hugh Bonneville gives a likeable performance but his character is strangly sanguine about multi-dimensional spaceships and ridiculously adept at flying a spaceship. Add all of this up and it never quite rings true.

That's not to say that there aren't charming moments, funny lines, or that the sight of Amy and the Doctor in three cornered hats isn't pleasing. But it's not enough. There was the potential here for a more full-on comedy, or a claustrophobic period thrill ride like 'The Horror of Fang Rock', but in trying to be both it ends up as neither. I'm a fan of the way Doctor Who blends genres and shifts tone from scene to scene, but this grab bag of half-hearted cliches demonstrates the weakness of trying to be all things in one story. Or maybe it just does it poorly.

Date: 2011-05-08 09:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] communicator.livejournal.com
You are the first I have seen to mention 'The Abyss' but that was what I was thinking too. I was expecting her to whop him in the face. And I thought of Frank Spencer - do you think he was imitating him on purpose?
Edited Date: 2011-05-08 09:03 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-05-08 01:38 pm (UTC)
ext_12818: (Default)
From: [identity profile] iainjclark.livejournal.com
I'm not sure it was a deliberate Frank Spencer riff so much as Smith's usual lanky flailing, but the slightly simpering line delivery for the "Yo ho ho, or don't you actually say that" line really struck that chord.

As least in the Abyss there was the hypothermia, and he actually renewed his efforts and brought her round. He didn't give up only to be rewarded with a spontaeneous (or delayed) recovery.

Date: 2011-05-08 09:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ajr.livejournal.com
So take a load of pirate cliches, throw in the same dimension-hopping twist as 'The Stones of Blood' (albeit not seen since 1978), lightly blend the deranged hologram from 'The Lodger' and the monomaniac healing of 'The Doctor Dances', and cap it off with the ugely manipulative rescusitation scene from the Abyss (only minus the semblance of a rationale).

According to my father, there were shades of "Coma" as well.

I agree with everything you've said this week, really. The reflections thing doesn't stack up - as well as the mirror bits, Hugh Bonneville also later asks for his compass... which is surely going to be in a shiny metal container, isn't it? And a doctor which can't heal people but rather only hold them in stasis is a crap doctor, and Rory drowning again even though the causes of drowning are now no longer present... oh dear.

The worldbuilding doesn't feel real, and Matt Smith in full on hand-waving Frank Spencer mode doesn't do much to sell it.

Most of the plot progression was of the form of "Have the Doctor tell the audience what's happening instead of actually showing it", which was just plain rubbish. I know this Doctor is supposed to think out loud and talk as he's thinking, but it can be taken too far.

And they wasted Lily Cole.

Date: 2011-05-08 01:39 pm (UTC)
ext_12818: (Default)
From: [identity profile] iainjclark.livejournal.com
Now that you mention it the beds remind me of Coma, even though I've never seen the whole film.

Date: 2011-05-08 11:57 am (UTC)
dalmeny: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dalmeny
I was expecting a slower pace this week after the frenetic density of the Moffat two parter, but this was thin, full of plot holes and frankly dull.

Disappointing.

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