Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters

Part One

“Our purpose is to amuse. Simply to amuse. Nothing serious, nothing political.”

This instantly looks good, and not just because it’s an alien planet for once. Grey, balding bureaucrats and “Functionaries”. An interesting opening, too, in the context of the marathon- watching the stories in order the characters of Vorg and Shirna seem very Space Pirates. Robert Holmes themes of the individual versus bureaucrats become very obvious and seem very consistent watching the stories in order.

We see the TARDIS land! And even better, it’s genuinely random as the Doctor’s clearly landed here by accident. Apparently he wanted to go somewhere called Metebelis 3- wonder if we’ll ever hear of that again?
This is great- a fantastic concept, Ian bloody Marter, more escapology from Jo and a fantastic cliffhanger.
This script is fun, it’s witty, it’s very very clever but best of all it’s done with a real lightness of touch. Best first episode since Spearhead From Space, easily.

Part Two
“The Drashigs! My little carnivores! They’re great favourites with the children.”

Ogrons! But never mind them, this script is brilliant, simultaneously light and fluffy yet with depths if you look for them. The characters on the Bernice are caricatures of the carefree elite of the British Raj, but they are simultaneously colonial rulers and zoo animals. And it’s strangely realistic that they should be over-the-top caricatures designed to amuse, as in the story that’s exactly what they are. I love the boxing scene between the Doctor and Andrews- “Queensberry rules?” “Naturally”; the whole thing is hedged about by notions of how these things are done properly, and yet to the observers outside the scope it’s simply the primitive creatures getting aggressive. 

A Cyberman, even if we can’t see it very well! Reduced to an exhibit for entertainment purposes, but was it ever anything else? I’m loving all this postmodern stuff.

Part Three

“Merciful and compassionate?”

“One has… twinges.”

More redefinitions of the Doctor’s role vis-à-vis the Time Lords- apparently it was him who got the miniscopes banned, which gives us a rather different impression of him from that in The War Games where he ran away because he “was bored”. And on top of that, of course, the Time Lords don’t usually interfere “as a rule”. Then again, he could be making it up to impress Jo? Actually it seems plausible…

This is a great episode for Jo- it’s her idea to get rope from the ship to escape the miniscope, and she has a good stab at getting the Bernice people to realise they’re in a time loop. Plus all the general postmodern witty goodness. And I’m beginning to wonder- are Vorg and Shirnas some kind of parallel to the Doctor and Jo, and what sort of comment is Holmes making if they are?

Part Four

“One has no wish to be devoured by alien monstrosities, even in the cause of political progress.”

The story continues to be great right up to the final episode, and even a civil servant like myself can appreciate the brilliance of the Inter Minorian civil servants’ dialogue: “The tribunal will not tolerate insolence from unauthorised life forms”. Plus, we get to vada some dolly old palare. Bona! 

That was fantastic, an easy 5/5, and the best story for ages. The script is wonderful- a great central concept, great characterisation, great dialogue and loads of postmodern fun. This is the point at which Robert Holmes becomes truly touched by genius. A great start to the Doctor’s new-found freedom. This feels like a different programme.

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