Doctor Who 6.13 – The Wedding of River Song

I think our kid summed up the majority of viewers when he called this one “completely and totally ridiculous.” It’s a mess, sometimes a very entertaining mess, but I really believe this was a draft or two away from being really satisfying. I did warn him that Steven Moffat’s story throws viewers right in at the deep end, which is part of the problem for me. There’s so much lunatic spectacle, with Romans and pterodactyls and Wars of the Roses eating up so much time that could have been spent detailing the story and giving the characters more room and time to breathe.

The biggest disappointment that comes from this business of throwing everything at the wall is that the Doctor and River’s handfasting is far, far too rushed. There’s about a minute of screen time regurgitating that business of “the universe thinks you’re wonderful and won’t let you die” bit from Moffat’s “Curse of Fatal Death” that could have been given to the Doctor and River to just talk quietly about how she felt, instead of desperately shouting because there’s no time.

I don’t know why I wanted this in particular to be better, but I really did. The whole production is achingly close to pleasing me, but there’s just too much going on to distract from the heart and soul of it.

On the other hand, Moffat pulls a really great sequence out of his hat when the Soothsayer starts telling Ian McNeice’s character of Emperor Churchill what all has gone wrong with time. Over the space of about three minutes, the Doctor decapitates a damaged Dalek, looks for dead men in shady taverns, is a contestant in a game of coliseum death chess, and deals with some carnivorous skulls in a catacomb. I’ve often referred back to the wonderful line of comics from Doctor Who Magazine, and this sequence feels effortlessly like kicking back and reading about six of those Steve Moore – Dave Gibbons one-shots from 1981 back to back. Montages like this happen a few times in Moffat’s tenure, but this is my favorite of them.

Oh, and the actor playing death chess against the Doctor is actor/writer Mark Gatiss, under a ton of prosthetics and makeup, to look like Rondo Hatton. He’s credited under the pseudonym “Rondo Haxton.” I thought about asking the kid whether that character didn’t look an awful lot like the big mean henchman in The Rocketeer, but I don’t think he enjoyed the story enough to appreciate it. Maybe he’ll like the DVD bonus mini-episodes better.

Doctor Who 5.3 – Victory of the Daleks

Yesterday afternoon, I finished watching the Blu-ray set for Who season fourteen – you can announce the next one now, please, BBC Studios – and our son joined me for the hilarious little TV commercial for the line of Doctor Who dolls from 1977. The funniest thing about these dopey toys is that the Dalek is massively out of proportion with the other characters, coming up to Leela’s chest, which sparked some discussion about how tall the Dalek should be. Then the very next episode we watch introduces some new, taller Daleks, as if to confuse the issue.

Ian McNeice’s character of Winston Churchill, seen in a little cameo in the previous episode, makes his second of four appearances in this story. It was written by Mark Gatiss and it’s my least favorite of his otherwise splendid scripts by about a million miles.

The worst moment? Out of lots of possibilities, it’s the way it feels like Gatiss and Moffat were keenly aware of fans and critics grumbling about “power of love” resolutions to various Russell T. Davies-era stories and so, just to remind everybody who’s in charge, they literally defuse a sentient bomb with false memories by reminding it how unrequited love feels. Then everybody hugs and pats themselves on the back to remind viewers how brilliant and amazing they are, and despite Churchill’s desire for war-winning tech being a running gag, they leave the sentient bomb in wartime London instead of dropping it and the rest of the alien gadgets off on a Robot Free Planet in the Andromeda Galaxy in the 276th Century.

The kid loved it, of course. I try to tell myself that’s all that matters, but one day he’s going to grow up and move out and, at least for a time and maybe even for good, will lose interest in Doctor Who and I’ll be sadly reflecting that it only took Gatiss and Moffat three weeks to show an episode as bad as Davies’s worst. Oddly enough, that episode, “Fear Her,” had one of those “power of love” endings as well.

I think the second half of the Silurian story is even worse. We’ll see in a couple of weeks.