Sadly, this afternoon’s Randall & Hopkirk was among the few that disappointed me. The plot was breathtakingly obvious – even our son figured out that there were fewer actors than characters – and they didn’t do nearly enough with the new characters in the story. Shaun Parkes, who we saw last month in the Doctor Who two-parter “The Impossible Planet,” and Colin McFarlane, who also did a Who two-parter we haven’t got to yet, play Charley Marshall and Sebastian Snellgrove, a pair of detectives in the same building as Jeff and Jeannie. They look like they’re living large and doing very well – Snellgrove wears expensive clothes and drives a Rolls – but they’re every bit as downmarket as any other PIs. Snellgrove just calls all their expenses “tax deductions,” driving his poor partner, who’s trying to pay the bills, to despair. They all get hired on the same case by two different clients, but the only real mystery is when in the adventure Snellgrove’s going to become deceased.
This two-parter borrows a little of its format from the previous two-part story this season. Episode one sets everything up and establishes the new environment the characters are in, and episode two is full-throttle, taking place over the course of a little over sixtyish minutes. And our kid loved it. The slow moments had him rapt with attention and the action had him wide-eyed with excitement.
The unfortunate Ood made for great villains and the imprisoned “Satan” beast, which looks like it first saw life on an eighties metal album, was, and I mean this in the most affectionate way possible, a little more effective than Stephen Thorne dressed as a goat, which is what we saw the last time that Doctor Who suggested the possibility of a devil, back in ’71. I liked and appreciated the hat tip to that adventure when the Doctor tells one of the scientists that many planets have myths of devils, including Daemos.
Among all the reasons I enjoy “The Impossible Planet” is that it has a brilliant sense of scale. This is a story about Earth during the time of its Empire – so it’s perhaps contemporary with season nine’s “The Mutants” – but it talks about a vastness of space and the passing of billions of years. I just like it when Doctor Who imagines something far, far bigger in scope than just “this story takes place exactly one hundred years from the date of transmission.”
And I also love the scene where the Doctor and Rose – who are back to being insufferably smug right after they land – discuss what the world might have in store for them without the TARDIS. The Doctor feigns horror at having to worry about a house and a mortgage, deflecting a genuine worry. David Tennant sensibly doesn’t let him be vulnerable here, but it’s a big situation that the Doctor hasn’t run into in a really long time. I also like it when our hero can’t rely on the ship to get himself out of trouble.
Elsewhere in the audience, our son positively exploded at the cliffhanger ending. “Come on! Come on! Why does this have to be a two-parter?!” he grumbled. We answered that there was too much story for just one episode, and reminded him that one of his pals has asked the same question about the occasional two-part episodes of Thunderbirds are Go. It seems he was just enjoying this one a lot and really wants to know what’s at the bottom of the mysterious hole on the impossible planet Krop Tor right now.
He also suggested that there’s an error in the story. He observed that the possessed archaeologist, shown above, has all these symbols on his skin when the mysterious villain is speaking through him, but once the possession leaves him and takes over the Ood, they don’t get the symbols. I suggested that perhaps each of the base’s Ood gets a single symbol, and since they’re wearing suits, the symbol could be on their backsides for all we know. I don’t think this mystery will be solved in part two…