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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 29, 2005


So. Doctor Who. Rescued from the dire consequences of fandom, back in the mainstream: 10 million viewers, so it goes, though nobody asked me, as ever. The worst sin it seems to have committed is to have been, "all right" according to most people who watched it.

It was okay, I thought. No cliffhanger, which is a shame. How are the 10 million people going to be persuaded to tune in again? Television has all but forgotten the cliffhanger. They'd rather show a thing over two nights, Sunday and Monday, get it over with, quick fix ratings. Only Alias consistently uses the cliffhanger, and that's relegated to the middle of the night.

I thought Doctor Who started well, with a Buffyesque Billie Piper wandering the bowels of a department store and attacked by zombie shop dummies. The Doctor's intervention was suitably low-tech, because Buffy (in its first season especially) proved that with mood lighting and prosthetics, you could compensate for the stingiest per-episode budget.

And, if anything, I think the new Who team missed a trick or two there. Much has been written about the sheer quantity of CGI used per episode, and a little less of this, and a little more X-Files style darkness and suggestion would have improved it. The wheelie bin bit, obviously played for laughs, was camp and naff. If they'd showed its merest movement, and then shown the (racial stereotype?) boyfriend going to investigate, it would have been more effective.

But of course Buffy/Billie subverted The X Files when she switched the light on in the basement at the beginning. So the cries of, "Why don't they ever switch the light on?" were still-born (the answer, by the way, is that the lights could be booby-trapped, so the truly paranoid learn not to switch them on).

They missed a trick at the end though. To return to the cliffhanging theme. Because the Tardis went away and came back again, and Dr Who called out something about travelling in time as well as space, which was the clincher for Buffy/Billie. What they should have done was have him go away and come back again nursing a stab wound or something, falling from the Tardis with blood all over his jacket and jeans, sweat running off his face, calling out for help. Cue music. Cue the balls.


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