Thursday, May 7, 2009

N4 - Crater of Needles

A production that relies on its special effects to tell the story is taking risks. A production that relies on its special effects to tell the story that is now 44 years old is taking huge risks, because nothing ages as badly and dates a programme so much than its special effects. But then, who could have predicted in 1965 that we would (and, indeed, could) be watching this over four decades after it was made? (Not whoever was in charge of the BBC Archives, I can tell you).

And just when I thought things couldn't get any sillier in this, the Optera turn up. As much as I adore the ambition and the drug-induced hallucinations that somehow manifested themselves as a six-part Doctor Who serial, but I'd have a hard time showing this story to someone who has never seen the show before. Once the Optera turn up, I think I'd have to turn it off myself. The Optera hop around in much the same way that larvae don't, but they clearly are some sort of dirt dwelling bug that speak even more strangely than the Menoptra.

It's tough to watch scenes with the Optera in them. But here's the dilemma - if you're going to go through the trouble of creating a completely new alien race, you can't possibly have them speak the Queen's English and have them still retain their alien qualities. However, who wants to sit and listen to a bunch of bugs hop around and talk funny to each other? There's a fine line between portraying alien races and making them watchable. I imagine that Russell T Davies, when he launched the new series in 2005, had this very serial in mind when he defended his decision to set every episode of Series 1, and that no one is going to care about what's happening on planet Zog.

But I'm a fan of anything to do with Doctor Who, it would seem, and I'm not actually hating this story as much as it seems that I am. I'm not sure what I'm enjoying about it, either, but something more than obligation is keeping me watching it. Is this the "undefinable magic" that lures us all to Doctor Who?


Anonymous said...

Yeah--I've mentioned this several times as the classic who to avoid showing to anyone until they're utterly hooked. It's really just ineffably bad--I still enjoyed it, mind--but that's a personal affliction, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

As you yourself imply, it's totally unfair to judge this serial by any modern standard: it was never meant to "stand up to the test of time". I understand it is viewed with some fondness by people who sat down to watch it with their tea in 1965.

On the other hand, maybe we SHOULD hate the Web Planet, because perhaps IT is responsible for the BBC's episode junking policy that is every Who fan's tragedy. "Sh**! We can't inflict stuff like The Web Planet on people of the colour TV era! Better start destroying the series before anyone tries to repeat it!"

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