Scream of the Shalka

Another phase of the project is complete, with the last of the assorted attempts to keep the flame going before the glorious return. This is probably the most viable of the various propositions, though I do wish all these reboots didn’t feel the need to be so dark and gritty. As I’ll soon rediscover, RTD knew that Who needs the levity to outweigh the serious stuff at times. And the theme tune doesn’t need to be so self-consciously trendy – it was a neat little sequence visually, ruined by high-pitched sirens being pasted over the top.

The animation in general was above and beyond all of the previous attempts, by some distance. It was still noticeably limited in terms of the number of renditions of each character available, but the design is imbued with that unmistakable Cosgrave Hall style that holds so many nostalgic connotations. And having everyone fully articulated, with their mouths moving in time with their voices, also helped.

It’s only a shame that The Doctor looked so moody all the time, as Richard E Grant gives an enjoyable and likeable performance. He’s suitably Doctorish in his eccentricities and flights of fancy, and of course he’s got such a great voice. Alison too is fun to spend time with, but perhaps a little too aloof to fulfill the audience identification role – it’s good that she’s cool under pressure, but some kind of emotion would be nice somewhere along the line.

As for the other companion, it’s a very bold choice. It confused the fuck out of me for a while. There’s a character in the TARDIS that looks and sounds like him, but you actually see the name in the credits for Episode 2 before he’s explicitly identified on screen. This would never have happened in Neil Tonay’s day. So naturally I assumed he was working with the Shalka and trying to steal the TARDIS, but then it was revealed that he was the companion, and then it was revealed that he’s a bloody robot.

It’s completely crazy, but I really liked the resultant dynamic – he’s essentially a TARDIS-bound K-9, but with the appearance and personality of The Doctor’s worst enemy rather than his best friend. I enjoyed the hints at the backstory that led them to this point, with the mysterious events that presumably involved the death of a companion. Two things: firstly, I hope it wasn’t supposed to be Ace; secondly, he didn’t give this much of a shit when it was Adric.

All of this stuff was clearly intended to be explored in a future series, but while the general set-up is promising, this plot failed to convince me that it would have been worth it. It’s linked to how dark and gritty it all is – that sort of thing bores me. It did all ramp up in an enjoyable way when the actual apocalypse started happening, but then it all fizzled out again and everything turned out to be fine. The same thing happened when The Doctor faced certain death by black hole, then spent ages floating through space before making a magic door – it makes the jeopardy feel like a cheap trick.

It was obviously for the best that this project was so utterly flattened by RTD’s big gay juggernaut, but as footnotes in history go, it’s a pretty interesting one. Plus, there’s an extra level of amusement now too, when you consider that this story features The Great Intelligence, Liz 10, an actual Master and a tiny cameo from the Tenth Doctor.

RATING: 6

Ahhhhh. I was quite looking forward to exploring the wilderness years, but after having a lovely time exploring some of the madness that happened in front of actual cameras, all of these web animations have been a bit of a slog. They’ve been dragging on since before Christmas, and it’s felt like even longer. But now I’ve got a feeling that reminds me of when I’d get through a batch of telesnap recons – eager and excited to watch the proper stuff, even though this time, it’s stuff that I know extremely well.

So then, let’s see what happens to this blog as we enter Phase Three…

The Curse of Fatal Death

Ah, do you remember when Comic Relief used to be good? This is one of the all time great skits, and it actually stands up pretty well as an installment of Doctor Who. All the storytelling staples from your average classic story are there, but condensed into 20 minutes and played for laughs. I’ve always felt that the format lends itself well to a comedic approach even within the series itself, and it’s something that Moffat hasn’t been afraid to do following this dry run.

The key thing is that it doesn’t take the piss out of the series. There are a few in-jokes, such as The Master’s hyperbole and the great “I’ll explain later” running gag, but it’s mostly just clever, interesting concepts mined for comedy instead of drama. The Doctor and The Master travelling further and further back in time to outdo each other is something I could see the current series doing with a straight face, and is The Master crawling through sewers for hundreds of years really so different to Heaven Sent?

Rowan Atkinson actually makes a really good Doctor, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. He gives it maximum smoothness, with a constantly arched eyebrow, and I wouldn’t have objected to him being the new Doctor for real, even so soon after McGann’s one night wonder. I can totally buy him as the latest incarnation of the same old character, but that’s not quite the case with Jonathan Pryce’s Master – he’s good, but he’s a bit more of a generic supervillain.

Then of course the main set piece is the cycle through all the other new Doctors, and yep, I totally want all of them to do it for real too. I’m going to see Richard E. Grant’s second crack of the whip soon, but I can’t get over how brilliant Jim Broadbent would have been at the job. Joanna Lumley is of course superb, and the concept of Time Lords changing gender has evidently stayed in Moffat’s mind. I like to think The Doctor and The Master walking off arm in arm was a precursor to Missy.

Overall, the biggest plus point was that you could feel the love and affection for the series throughout, right down to the choice of music cues for the regenerations. This was made explicit when The Doctor was seemingly dying for real, and Julia Sawalha became Steven Moffat’s mouthpiece as he composed a love letter to the show, perfectly nailing all that it stands for and just how important it is to those who care. Who’d have thought that a decade or so later he’d be given the opportunity to show us how good the show can be, rather than just tell us.

RATING: 9