Monday, 21 September 2009

Doctor Who: Warrior's Gate

Part One

“Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

From the start it’s clear this story is going to be really well-directed, and in fact it pretty much looks fab all the way through, much as I appreciate the problems this caused in reality. It’s all very much like an art flick in look and style, with the two plebs at the start flipping the coin reminding me of Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Gosh, what an original observation that was…

Interesting TARDIS scene, the conversation somehow managing to get away with talking about the I-Ching (“Astral Jung”!) as though it were serious science without seeming too new agey. That’ll be Bidmead then. I also like the way the Doctor’s old costume is still there on the hatstand- never noticed that before. Intriguing that the ethical problems with taking Adric away from his own universe, probably for ever, are brought up, although naturally this can’t be dwelt on. Let’s just hope it all turns out ok and nothing bad happens to Adric.

Blimey, the TARDIS doors are opening in flight! Have they checked the Fast Return Switch? The scenes of the alien creature (all right, we know it’s a Tharil) operating the TARDIS work brilliantly, essentially because of the effects and direction.

We get introduced to the ship’s crew- an array of interesting characters, seemingly grounded in a very earthy reality. In fact, this is a very lived-in future, as shown by the ship design as well as the crew’s behaviour. I think we have the first Doctor Who story to be influenced by Alien!

More good stuff abounds- the gateway, the strangely mediaeval, cobwebbed interior, the mystery of the Tharils. I haven’t a clue what it all means yet, but I like it a lot.

Oh, and Romana has just said to Adric “What if the Doctor and I went different ways?” Ooh…

Part Two

“And why believe Biroc?”

“Because he was running!”

Romana’s very serious, very Doctorish, in this story. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s arms are full of axe handles. Nice scene. Elsewhere, K9 pointedly addressees Adric as “Young Adric”, not “Master”. Nice touch. Well, all right, he calls him “Young Master” shortly before, but still…

We get some backstory from the Gundans- they were built by “slaves to overthrow an empire. What does this all mean? Does it have anything to do with the humans’ ship with its cargo of Tharils, reminiscent of the ships carrying slaves from Africa to the Americas? There seem to be definite themes developing; enslavement, randomness, time…

Part Three

“The weak enslave themselves, Doctor. You know that.”

Biroc keeps talking to the Doctor in riddles as they walk through a monochrome garden. It’s strange how relatively little happens during this story, yet it’s rendered compelling by the stunning visuals, poetic dialogue, and the fascinating characterisation of Rorvik and his crew, who remind me of people I’ve worked with.
We get a big revelation with the Tharil banquet in an earlier time period with their human slaves- so the roles have been reversed. In spite of all the non-linearness the basic plot isn’t all that complicated, surprisingly, although I’m still unclear on which side of the gateway the Tharil empire was.

Part Four

“The back blast backlash will bounce back and destroy everything!”

The dimensions are contracting, and it’s all because of the “dwarf star alloy” Rorvik's lot use for shackling the Tharil slaves on his ship. Things are looking rather grim, although Biroc doesn’t seem that bothered, content to spend his time thinking up riddles all day. I rather like him.

The conversation between the doctor and Romana in the TARDIS (“I like that, you’re improving”) is fascinating. On the surface it’s the same sort of banter they’ve always exchanged, but there’s a bitter undercurrent, confirmed by Romana’s “It’s a matter of supreme indifference to me”. It seems the Doctor and Romana have fallen out badly, probably at least partly because of Romana’s summons to Gallifrey and the Doctor’s reaction to it, but they’re getting on notably worse than they were in State of Decay. It’s a fascinating scene, with a lot hinging on whether or not you think they were an actual couple. I do.

Ultimately Romana gets a very brusque exit, pretty much confirming things were not good between her and the Doctor. She now has an heroic purpose of her own, freeing the Tharil slaves while presumably dodging Time Lord pursuers.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned this before but Rorvik is a great villain, and his last line is great.

5/5, then, a hat trick for the e-Space trilogy. This was completely unlike any previous Who story- allegorical, highly dependent on arty presentation, but also full of substance and things to ponder. Even Matthew Waterhouse gave me nothing to complain about this time around.

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