Visit the official Doctor Who website

Visit the official Doctor Who website
Look to the future

Asylum seekers...

Asylum seekers...
Refuge of the Daleks

Doctor Who picture resource

Doctor Who picture resource
Roam the space lanes!

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website

Explore the Doctor Who classic series website
Step back in time

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood

Infiltrate The Hub of Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood
Armed and extremely dangerous

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures

Investigate The Sarah Jane Adventures
Fearless in the face of adversity

Call on Dani’s House

Call on Dani’s House
Harmer’s a charmer

Intercept the UFO fabsite

Intercept the UFO fabsite
Defending the Earth against alien invaders!

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse

Uncover the secrets of the Dollhouse
Programmable agent Echo exposed!

Hell’s belles

Hell’s belles
Naughty but nice

Love Exposure

Love Exposure
Flash photography!

Primeval portal

Primeval portal
Dressed to kill or damsels in distress?

Charmed, to be sure!

Charmed, to be sure!
The witches of San Francisco

Take on t.A.T.u.

Take on t.A.T.u.
All the way from Moscow

Proceed to the Luther website

Proceed to the Luther website
John and Jenny discuss their next move

DCI Banks is on the case

DCI Banks is on the case
You can bet on it!

On The Grid with Spooks

On The Grid with Spooks
Secret agents of Section D

Bridge to Hustle

Bridge to Hustle
Shady characters

Life on Ashes To Ashes

Life on Ashes To Ashes
Coppers with a chequered past

Claire’s no Exile

Claire’s no Exile
Goose steps

Vexed is back on the beat!

Vexed is back on the beat!
Mismatched DI Armstrong and bright fast-tracker Georgina Dixon

Medium, both super and natural

Medium, both super and natural
Open the door to your dreams

Who’s that girl? (350-picture Slideshow)

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

The Pilgrim’s Progress


One of the areas in which the current series of “Doctor Who” has shown a marked improvement over the previous two is in getting the balance right between adventure and the personal. “The Family of Blood” continued this trend where the defeat of said Family, a quartet of possessed humans, is as important to the plot as John Smith’s relationship with Joan. This wasn’t the case with Paul Cornell’s previous script, “Father’s Day”, two years ago, where the Reapers were confined to subplot in favour of detailing Rose’s quest to save her Dad. There was a major shift in “Doctor Who”, when it returned in 2005, showing preference for family matters over alien armies! This wasn’t the programme of yesteryear! Back in the early days of the original show, in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, the Doctor and friends had to defeat just that, a Dalek invasion of Earth! The story wasn’t called “When Susan Met David”!! Thank goodness!!! Similarly, almost a decade later, “The Green Death” was primarily concerned with overcoming giant maggots and a deranged computer, not Jo Grant getting hitched to the fella from the Nut Hutch. Thus, the departure of actress Katy Manning was handled all the more effectively by preventing her character’s love affair from overwhelming the rest of the narrative. As the Doctor and the Professor, in this Wales-based ecological Pertwee adventure, are rivals for Jo’s affection, the story’s title could quite easily, and rather inappropriately, have been “Smith and Jones”! And, that would’ve also been plain corny, wouldn’t it?


To generalise a little, I would estimate that approximately 80% of screen time in classic “Doctor Who” was taken up telling the adventure side of each story whereas in some of the early episodes of new “Doctor Who” the opposite is true, with the same percentage allotted to exploring relationships. That’s a shame because that change has made what was once a unique science fiction series now seem like every other show! What’s more, I never got the feeling that the relationships were properly thought through. The ties that bound the characters together were sketchily written at best, sometimes contradicted, and if you’ve read Dickens or Hardy, and seen it done well, why would you want to watch it done poorly? With last week’s episode, “Human Nature”, I felt the balance was more fifty/fifty between the two storytelling aspects which isn’t a bad place to be but, as I’ve already indicated, not where the show was forty-four, or even eighteen, years ago. There was a slight tilt in favour of relationships again in the concluding episode, “The Family of Blood”, mainly because the enemy was dispatched ten minutes before the end so Joan could give the Doctor his marching orders, he not being the man he used to be! Despite the episode underrunning, the extra time did allow for a lovely TARDIS dematerialisation scene, the best since season one’s “The Unquiet Dead” which brings me nicely back to “Charlie boy” who would, undoubtedly, have mocked the aforementioned statistics as mere “stutterings”! Incidentally, speaking of Dickens, actor Harry Lloyd, who played the persistently smirking “Son of Mine” Jeremy Baines in the latest two-parter, is actually the great-great-great-grandson of the novelist on his mother’s side!! “Super! Super fun!!” Ancestry explains everything!!!

4 comments:

Steve said...

I must admit I thought this was the best story of the season so far - satisfyingly meaty and so many different resonances running through it. The acting all round was superb. The scarecrows were a bit Wizard of Oz but they are genuinely scary things anyway... I think Martha is improving but I still feel she's a bit too... not two-dimensional but certainly incompletely formed as a character. There's nothing complex about her.

Old Cheeser said...

I'm not sure that I agree with your comment on "Father's Day" - I don't think that the reapers plot was ncessarily subservient to the Rose/Dad one, rather the two things were intrinsincally linked i.e. Rose's quest to save her Dad actually lead to the arrival of the reapers and consequently they had to deal with that problem. And what the episode seemed to be considering was the issue of personal fulfilment over the greater good - Rose's selfishness almost lead to the destruction of mankind! "The needs of the many outweigh those of the few", as Spock once said!

I won't argue though that the new series of Who has become much more focussed on emotions and relationships but as I think I said before I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - it's just trying to root the show in some kind of normality. I still think that the programme has managed to focus on a sense of the fantastic and strange, which is what all great Sci-fi should be about. Anyway I know you and I don't quite see eye to eye on this one, Tim, but each to their own, eh?!

I think you can "let off" "Family of Blood" in a way, as it was inevitably going to be focussed on the relationship between the Dr/John Smith and Joan and the tensions this created when Joan realised he had to revert to his Time Lord persona in order to save mankind. It created a crucial sense of conflict. And thanks to Jessic Hynes' performance I think this was very well conveyed. David Tennant too proved his ability in a "different" role, a refreshing change from his usual silly tics and flippant comments. When he changed back I was kind of disappointed!

Did you enjoy "Family of Blood" then?

I love the pic of Jo and the Prof by the way - looks like the giant maggot might disappear up the leg of their very wide flared trousers! (Oooer).

Karen said...

I agree on this one. I noticed from day one that the new series concentrates so much more on relationships than the classic ever did. It was my one criticism of the show in the beginning too. The classic series didn't need it somehow. It worked as it was.

I do understand why it has been over used in the new Dr Who. Didn't RTD come from soaps where relationships are an essential part of the script? I think also that it was felt if they want to encourage more people to watch it they had to add that to it. It's almost like they had to humanise it. Personally I could have lived without it. I didn't dislike Rose's family as much as you did. However, if those scenes were replaced with more adventure and action I would have enjoyed the series all the more. Plus I always felt the will they/won't they relationship between the Doctor and Rose and now the Doctor and Martha was wrong. It was never what it was about in the past and it shouldn't be what it is about now.

In the Human Nature episodes though I think the relationship theme was needed and I think it was well played. I also agree with old cheeser that it was great to see David Tennant playing a different role.

TimeWarden said...

Generally speaking, I think that classic "Doctor Who" was better rooted in normality than new "Who". When the third Doctor slipped away at the end of "The Green Death" his feelings were more palpable than anything I've seen during the last three years. The trouble with RTD and Tennant is that emotions are laid on with a trowel. There's a lot to be said for less is more!

I think my percentages analysis gives you a clue as to how much I enjoyed "The Family of Blood"! More than "Father's Day" but not as much as "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" or "The Green Death"!! In other words, it's preferable to some of the recent stories but I'd still rather watch the best of 1963 to 1989!!!

I think, Karen, you make a very valid point when you say "If they wanted to encourage more people to watch it they had to add relationships to it. It's almost like they had to humanise it. Personally, I could have lived without it. I didn't dislike Rose's family as much as you did. However, if those scenes were replaced with more adventure and action I would have enjoyed the series all the more."

RTD did work briefly as a storyliner on "Coronation Street" as well as on children's soap "Children's Ward" but, before either, he wrote two marvellous fantasy series for CBBC called "Dark Season" and "Century Falls". The picture of Jo Grant and Professor Clifford Jones was first published in the Radio Times "Doctor Who" Tenth Anniversary Special.