Real Time

Erm, Happy New Year! I had an unscheduled pause over the festive break; my Christmases are always hectic, but for the last couple of years I’ve been doing my best to squeeze in as many episodes of Who as possible in between all the commitments to friends and family. This year, I was struggling to get the chance, so I tried not to worry about it. If I was currently on a run of actual episodes, I’m sure this might have been different, but after last time, I wasn’t exactly in a rush for more ancient Flash animation.

However, I didn’t want to return to work with the thing hanging over me, so I decided to watch the whole shebang tonight in an hour-long omnibus edition I found online. I was instantly struck by how much better the animation and technical quality were this time around. The story is a lot more accessible too – a lot less ambitious and much more conventional, but that’s a good thing when you’re in such a restrictive medium. It’s hard enough to create an immersive experience for the audience, even without throwing additional complicated nonsense at them.

It was therefore a neat idea to have the story play out in – as the title suggests – real time. This is a nice, self-contained slice of The Doctor’s life, and we don’t need any prior knowledge in order to understand the story as it unfolds. I’d heard of Evelyn Smythe as being one of the Sixth Doctor’s audio companions, so I assume that if I was familiar with those, then this would be even more accessible.

As it was, I didn’t really get much of a grasp on who she is or much of the dynamic between them, other than The Doctor making a dig about her being fat at one point. He can fucking talk. I wasn’t really sure how much he cared for her, but then that’s a problem with the Sixth Doctor in general – time has certainly mellowed him, but he’s still a bit of a git, fundamentally.

The Cybermen were on pretty good form though, and were perhaps a more convincing threat than they had been on TV for years by this stage. I enjoyed the attempt to consolidate all the conflicting bits of Cyberhistory, and to create a plausible new development. Obviously a great idea to return to the fundamentals of humans being converted bit by bit, and this was more visceral than anything before or since. The result of the slightly shoddy conversion process looked unfortunately similar to Torchwood‘s Cyberwoman, but at least this version made sense.

But really, if you know me at all, you’ll know the thing that most interested me about this production. Bloody Lee & Herring! I’m a ginormous fan of them collectively and individually, and this is one of the few pieces in their oeuvre that I hadn’t previously seen. Probably one of the last things they did as a double act too. Their presence was fascinating, but ultimately a bit distracting.

I got the sense that Rich was having a lovely time, but he’s not the greatest straight actor, bless him. Stew couldn’t really be arsed, could he? He sounded more lively after the conversion. They both met incredibly gruesome ends, but I couldn’t take them seriously, because of how odd it was to hear the voices of Lee & Herring being placed in those situations. Surreal and incredibly silly, but entertaining.

I ended up not hating this at all, and even found it enjoyable at times, but it fell a little way short of being actively good. I’m slightly regretting bending the rules by consuming it all at once, but I think ten minute chunks would have been a little too stop/start. I’m now not dreading the next animation, and at least I know that the script and storyline are both decent and familiar…

RATING: 6

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