Fucking hell, merry Christmas everyone. That was the grimmest thing I’ve ever witnessed in the name of Doctor Who, and I watched The After Party Live. I found watching this a really difficult task, for so many reasons. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I think I had unrealistic memories about what kind of animation could be achieved on Real Player in the early 00s. I knew it would be basic, but this was just an audio drama with a handful of illustrations to look at.
That would have been fine were it not for the awful technical quality distorting a lot of the dialogue, and the large number of important plot-driving events that they tried to portray visually. It was a bit like watching a recon – constantly seeing the same handful of portrait shots pasted on to different backgrounds, and ending up completely perplexed every time there was an action sequence. It was also reminiscent of really cheap anime, the kind you used to get on Channel 4 in the middle of the night before it took off in the West. And Tannis’s army reminded me of All Your Base Are Belong To Us.
It made each and every episode drag, and it didn’t help that they got progressively longer. The structure was unusual and complex, with the running time split between at least three or four concurrent storylines, which only converged right at the end, and even then not all of them intersected. The Doctor was barely in it, especially in the third and fourth parts, which felt like a bunch of characters that I didn’t care about talking about stuff that had very little to do with Doctor Who.
Because this wasn’t Doctor Who. It was dark and twisted and unpleasant. I’m all for shade, but there was barely a speck of light; the balance was all wrong. It took the names and icons from Doctor Who and told a completely different, unrelated story with them. So the Time Lords all have magic powers now, and they can kill or heal people just by making everything go red, and Ace can be trained to become one by an old man who’s a cross between Mr Miyagi and a Jehovah’s Witness? It’s made up and it’s boring and I’m not interested.
There’s an incredibly high death toll, which they wouldn’t have got away with if it was live action, webcast or otherwise. Ace is pushed to her limit by her training, and it’s deeply unpleasant at times, as is Tannis casually killing Antimony, which to The Doctor is like losing his son. Then bam – The Doctor is dead forever, blowing himself up in order to take out the baddy. It’s just harrowing, and this isn’t how I want to remember the Seventh Doctor. The darker, more mysterious tone of the last few seasons has been taken way too far.
On the plus side, the cast is outstanding, my aversion to Jon Culshaw notwithstanding. Sessions was the highlight as Tannis, who’s perhaps the only character that really fulfilled their potential. Getting Stephen Fry was a real coup, and The Minister was a good surrogate Doctor for a while, but his development got cut short when he went a bit insane for plot reasons. I enjoyed Kevin Eldon as a companion, but we barely got to know him before he was gunned down. And why the hell would you only have The Doctor and Ace together for a total of about three minutes? What a waste.
There were small bits that I enjoyed. The episode with the vampires in London was the most successful overall. There was a point in the final episode where things seemed to be picking up, thanks to the story becoming even more mental when George W Bush and Tony Blair turned up, closely followed by the bloody Brigadier in space. That was a joy, but it was all somewhat undercut by the aforementioned absolute and final death of the greatest character in the history of television, so y’know.
But hey, if the aim was to make me desperate to get on to the new series, mission accomplished. It’s just a shame I’ve got three more of these webcasts to get through first. I’m not holding out much hope for the next one, but at least the episodes are shorter, so I won’t ruin my Christmas too much.