* Firstly, apologies for the increasing infrequency of this blog. It’s been a busy few weeks, and it’s taken me a while to find enough time to watch a feature-length episode. It probably doesn’t help that I’m entering a period that I’m not particularly fond of – quite aside from the fact that I’ve got more Torchwood coming next, I don’t think much of this period of proper Who either. But I’m reassessing as I go, and this one wasn’t quite as bad as I’d remembered, although still far from great, for reasons we’ll get to.
* The Titanic crashing into the TARDIS was a hell of a cliffhanger, and how was it resolved? Oh, The Doctor presses a button and everything’s fine within seconds. Meh.
* New theme tune! It’s better than the current one, but not as good as the one it replaced. Every new iteration throughout the revived series has added new elements over the top of Ron Grainer’s composition, and it’s diluted the impact of the fundamental bassline and melody. It’s basically followed the same pattern as the original series, but over a much shorter space of time.
* Kylie Minogue! “Stunt casting” is a term that always gets bandied about with negative connotations, but you’ve got to admit that this one’s a hell of a stunt. It’s clear from the start that The Doctor wants her as a companion, and so because she’s Kylie Minogue, and therefore unlikely to commit to a full series, that means she has to die, especially after The Doctor promises he’ll get her out of there. I quite like Astrid though – having the companion view everyday Earth in the same way most companions view alien worlds was a fun new dynamic.
* The rest of the guest cast are not bad either. Geoffrey Palmer! A man so loveable, you really don’t mind him willfully killing billions for money. Russell Tovey! Thankfully only exhibiting small glimpses of the squeaky voice acting that’s dominated most of his other roles, despite spending most of the episode bleeding out from a gunshot wound. Clive Swift! Mr Copper is pretty good, but I can’t separate the performance from that shitty interview he gave to DWM. Tit.
* The disaster movie ensemble provides mixed results. It’s hard to know what to make of Foon and Morvin at first, but they emerge as the most likeable and well-intentioned characters of the bunch. There’s clearly a good socialist message in there, as you compare this ordinary working class couple to the merciless and selfish posh cunt, who is absolutely loathsome and irritating to watch. I get Mr Cooper’s point that you shouldn’t be able to choose who lives and dies, but come on – it’s Christmas, let us see him get what’s coming to him. The whole thing is deliberately unfestive at times; there’s a very high death count, and a lot of heroic sacrifices in quick succession.
* But never mind all those accomplished actors and musical icons. Get you a guest star who can do both. IT’S BERNARD CRIBBINS. This is not quite the same Wilf that we’ll soon come to know and love – he’s slightly more of a cheeky cockney, and less of a wise old man. While later developments would add more significance to his scene in retrospect, it also continues RTD’s slow-burning arc that the human race have acknowledged the existence of aliens, and are increasingly aware of the dangers. Moffat has since undone that with a few big resets, and it’s entirely at his discretion to do so, but I liked the period when Who was set in a ever-so-slightly different version of the world to our own.
* Tennant delivering that line about who The Doctor is, with the sparks firing behind him to punctuate every clause in the sentence, is cheesey as fuck, but it really works in context. The big bank holiday movie feel provides a fun and thrilling ride, and while it’s not particularly complex or intellectually stimulating, it’s a decent episode… until Max Capricorn turns up and ruins everything, with his stupid gurning face and ridiculous pronunciation of the word “metal”. He doesn’t look like he belongs in this episode; it’s like he’s been dropped in from the JNT era, and his presence completely takes you out of the drama.
* And it’s at this point that everything just gets a bit out of hand – my one criticism of RTD’s tenure was that he sometimes got a bit overexcited and chucked absolutely everything at the screen at once. This certainly felt like he lost his discipline before the end. There’s a lot of pomp to The Doctor these days, but he couldn’t just leave it at the aforementioned cheesey-but-effective speech – the Messiah metaphor gets invoked again as he’s carried to the heavens by angels, then next thing you know, The Queen shows up to thank him, then he’s snogging the ghost of Kylie Minogue. At least some of this could perhaps have been reigned in.
* The Doctor tells Mr Copper that the £1m in his bank account is equivalent to 50m credits. Earlier on, Foon tells Morvin that she spent 5,000 credits on entering the competition, which is therefore equivalent to £100. And that’s going to take them 20 years to pay off, is it? She must have borrowed it from Wonga. Also, if Mr Copper wants to buy a proper house with a garden with his million quid, he’ll have to move out of London.