Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen

Part One

“For a primitive piece of technology, it certainly delivers the decibels.”

We begin on an alien world realised, as so often really, by an impressive looking celestial body in the sky, and we establish that Delta, last of her species, is fleeing from the Bannermen, who have gone all genocidal for some reason. Meanwhile, the TARDIS has landed in a tollbooth manned by Ken Dodd, and the Doctor and Mel have won a place in a package tour to Earth in 1959.

What a very odd beginning, and what a very odd story. I suppose there’s something of the lighter end of 2000AD to it to link it stylistically to Paradise Towers, just, but fundamentally this feels like children’s television as opposed to a family show, something which would feel right on Children’s BBC at 4.30pm. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. If this is kids’ TV, it’s kids’ TV with a lot more charm and appeal than the kids’ TV Time and the Rani had to offer.

The two comedy Americans (I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stereotypes in one place) are straight out of kids’ TV, as is the sight of the Navarinos changing from purple things to garishly dressed ‘50s holidaymakers. But there are some other interesting things going on, too. For a start, there’s the novelty of Doctor Who being filmed in South Wales for the first time since The Green Death. No doubt future visits to the area will be similarly few and far between.

So, a Butlins style holiday camp in South Wales- Hi de Hi, anyone? This is not quite the same, though; while the Croft / Perry sitcom looked at its subject matter with nostalgia, Malcolm Kohll and Andrew Cartmel clearly find the thought of holidaying in such places as horrifying as I would. The regimented hours, complete with everyone being woken up at the same time; the set mealtimes; the rules and regulations; and worst of all the forced jollity… even The Macra Terror didn’t present this baffling phenomenon in such a terrifying way.

We also meet Billy, a nice bloke with little discernible personality, and the exceedingly likeable Ray. The characterisation of the guest characters may not reach two dimensions at any point, but at least the fact this is Kids’ TV means we’re spared any awkward scenes of characters being suspicious of the Doctor or the supernatural elements, and such scenes as do exist are played for laughs.

Oh my God! They shot Ken Dodd!

It’s interesting following the Doctor’s characterisation here. The malapropisms are back “A stitch in time fills up space”) having taken Paradise Towers off, but they’re clearly about to go the way of “I would like a hat like that,” and disappear. It’s also fascinating seeing how Ray instinctively feels she can confide in the Doctor about her feelings for Billy, but the Doctor is at a loss to comfort her, being out of his depth in the world of relationships and feelings. It’s still early, but we’re starting to get the general shape of this new Doctor.

Part Two

“I’ve seen many things fall from the sky, but nothing that can be described as weird.”

It seems very sudden, but Delta and Billy are very much a couple already. But they’re in imminent danger as the Bannermen are alerted. But first, an even worse horror rears its head; the holidaymakers are woken up by a gong at some ungodly hour (I mean, they’re on holiday. Who in their right minds would get up before midday when on holiday?) and then subjected to an awful burst of singing. Surely this sort of thing was forbidden by the Geneva Convention?

It’s a nice touch, Murray reading The Eagle. And even the Doctor showing Burton around the TARDIS, Davison style, is not without a certain charm. But suddenly the mood changes as Gavrok turns up and kills all the Navarinos, complete with their rather stylish looking bus-cum-spaceship. At least they seem to have somehow contrived to have fun in their last night, awful though it looked to this viewer.

Burton reacts very bravely- good for him- but the Doctor finishes up with another good confrontation scene, even if it’s lacking something in comparison with those scenes with the Chief Caretaker in Paradise Towers.

Part Three

“All haste and no speed makes Jill a dull girl.”

It becomes increasingly clear with the increasing role of beekeeper Goronwy, an individual with an amazing amount of tolerance for the destruction of his property, that Delta is a queen in the sense of a queen bee, presumably implying that the Chimerons are a hive society in which most are drones. I hope Billy realises what he’s letting himself in for.

The story ends with a fun collection of scenes, although we have to accept a lot of kids’ TV logic. It’s very notable how Gavrok just walks into the Doctor’s rather obvious trap while he spots the booby-trapped TARDIS immediately and for no apparent reason. The incidental music is conspicuously more awful even than usual in these final scenes, too.

Still, the story still has its charm, and Ray continues to be great, especially when she rescues the two comedy Americans. It’s so frustrating to see the Doctor miss a perfect opportunity to invite her to come along in the TARDIS at the end.

So, a bit too lacking in substance to rank particularly highly, but a pleasant bit of undemanding viewing nonetheless. A solid 3/5.

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