Yes, I’m back, fresh from the surprising news that something I rewatched recently might have been more apt than I thought, and it’s a nice gentle restart to ease me back in. This is thankfully nothing like the seemingly inexorable run of cheap animated efforts I sat through between McGann and Eccleston – the animation’s far from perfect, but at least the characters’ mouths move, and you can tell that it’s designed to be an animation first and foremost, rather than the old Flash ones which were just audio plays with pictures over the top. I quite like the art style, and it’s a good likeness of Tennant, although Martha’s look is somewhat inconsistent as to how closely she’s modelled on Freema – it’s clear where the priority lay.
I fondly remember Totally Doctor Who – my memories are fuzzy because I was a student and therefore usually wasted by the time CBBC came on, but it was a fun little show even though it clearly wasn’t aimed at me. It amuses me that I’m now sort-of-friends-even-though-we’re-yet-to-actually meet with Clayton Hickman, a man who I so strongly associate with his stint as a talent show judge in another TDW feature.
So yes, I will have watched the vast majority of this story as it went out in tiny weekly installments, although I don’t recall having seen the omnibus edition before, which is what I watched tonight. It gives it an unavoidably odd structure – it’s fairly exciting to effectively have a cliffhanger every three and a bit minutes, but it’s obviously going to feel disjointed, frequently straying towards “and then this happens” storytelling.
The story is a pretty traditional quest for components, like your various Key–based ones from the show’s past, and they’re always good opportunities to see lots of different characters and situations very quickly. It inevitably ends up feeling a bit slapdash in this format, but I do remember it working a lot better when it was once a week – when you watch it that way, the frequent recaps of the premise would have been useful, rather than just slightly jarring.
Those characters and situations were fairly interesting, but with the broad strokes you’d expect from a format that’s aimed at under-12s and has to resolve the previous part of the story, tell its own, then set up the next part, all within three and a half minutes. Always nice to hear Anthony Head, of course, and I liked the various robot birds. Each of the settings we glimpsed had an interesting premise, although there was no real time to examine them too closely. The prison towards the end was very reminiscent of the Red Dwarf episode Justice, with its mind-scan to detect any guilt felt by visitors, leading to automatic sentencing and detention without trial.
It sort of fizzled out a bit towards the end, with the revelation that there was nothing useful at the end of the quest anyway, rendering the whole thing somewhat redundant – loads of people died so that The Doctor could get prevent something that no longer exists getting into the wrong hands. Overall, it was not as enjoyable in this format as it was when it was spread over thirteen weeks, so I feel that my score should reflect that, but ultimately it’s just a bit of harmless fluff for the kiddies, and I’m glad it exists.