Monday, April 5, 2010
The timing of the original airing of Timelash, coming mere days after the furore of the near-cancellation at the hands of Michael Grade in 1985, could not have been worse. Anytime a television show, celebrity, or music act crosses the boundaries of the entertainment section in the newspapers and enters the mainstream news for whatever reason (usually bad), people flock to that entertainment entity to see what the fuss is about, whether or not they've been fans of said entity before.
With a flurry of new viewers tuning in to see why such a long running show like Doctor Who was being threatened with cancellation, Timelash (and this is putting it very politely) might not be the best choice for Exhibit A in the case for the defence of Doctor Who's cancellation. This next statement is equally as polite as I can make it: Episode One of Timelash is unrepentant garbage.
In a cavalcade of dreadful scenes and moments, the opening scene of the episode is, amazingly, still probably the worst. The Doctor and Peri, having made so many positive strides in their relationship over the past couple stories, are straight back to full on arguing. And it's not even an argument with a resolution. As Peri herself says, it is complete "aimless wandering", there simply to show that, yes, The Doctor and Peri do exist, but they are included here only because there is no point to have them in the story otherwise.
After all, there all the wonders of Karfel to take in. Karfel, by definition of the plot, may be the blandest, dullest place ever visited by The Doctor (twice, apparently). It's matte finish motif rubs off on the inhabitants of Karfel, or at least those who live in the Citadel (all 500 hundred of them, as Brunner so subtly informs the viewer early in Episode One). Most of the characters are terrible, veering from merely drab to impossibly poorly acted. Jeananne Crowley as Vena might, just might, have the staying power to unseat Rick James and Jenny Laird as the worst actor to ever appear in Doctor Who. Crowley stares blankly off camera during every line she weakly delivers, presumably being silently coached by a frantically waving floor assistant trying to get her to properly emphasize the right words while still maintaining a normal breathing pattern.
The script does no one any favours, but that's what happens when you employ an inexperienced writer-cum-ambulance driver to write a Doctor Who story. The episode is littered with painful moments. The first scene in the council chamber is full of hamfisted introductory dialogue such as lines like the afore-mentioned informal census taken by Brunner, but even more so when Mykros explains to Vena, who must surely know anyway, about "Karfel's former allies, the Bandrils". It's as if Glen McCoy, who must have wrote most of this script on a particularly slow midnight shift, isn't even attempting to weave the pre-history into the story. Just mention it - that is enough, in his eyes. Even the bafflingly unnecessary reference to The Doctor's prior visit to the planet during his third incarnation is handled poorly, and with no sense of any style or panache. No wonder Paul Darrow chose to blatantly (and, in context with what was going on around him, wonderfully) overact every time he's on camera (and even sometimes when he's not).
This lurid mess does have to be laid at the feet of The Unluckiest Director in the World, Pennant Roberts, though, whose direction is the only thing flatter and duller than the walls of the council chamber. Roberts was displeased with the script, fair enough, but he is completely going through the motions in this, his last Doctor Who directing job, perhaps accepting his lot after the previous two Doctor Who assignments turned out so badly. His decision to have three people applaud Maylin Renis's grand entrance was terribly misguided, as was the decision to sign off on Liz Parker's tepid music score.
It all adds up to one of the longest 45 minutes I've ever had to endure during this entire viewing marathon.
Posted by Steven at 1:13 PM