Our series writeup concludes with a look at the Cyber trilogy, and the episode that basically deconstructed canon. I think this may be the point at which I officially lost the plot. That’s OK, there wasn’t that much of a plot to begin with.
The Haunting of Villa Diodati
To the tune of Science Fiction Double Feature:
Jodie’s got a new jacket
And they’re making a racket
Just as loud as the wind and the rain
It’s the summer of darkness
But there’s no sign of Harkness
Still they said we won’t see him again
There’s a fixed point in time
A combining of minds
For an evening of terror and fear
But there’s no drive for mystery
They’d rather play Twister, least
That’s what it looked like from here
Science fiction, Sunday feature
With yet another disturbing creature
Just enjoy it, ignore the ratings
We could argue about UNIT dating
Or, I don’t know-oh-oh-ohh
Whether Jean-Luc Picard could make it so
I wonder if we’ll see some more of Jo?
There’s a big metal beast
And a storm from the east
Seems all hope for humanity’s gone
Byron behaves like a cad
Even Yaz isn’t bad
And Graham’s lost on his way to the John
Ryan acts like a melon
Now the Doctor is yellin’
And the butler’s a corpse on the floor
If you ignore all the theories
It’s the best one this series
And I’m really quite anxious for more
Science fiction, Sunday feature
The BBC’s our reluctant teacher
Who would Yaz like to be kissing?
At least the rants and lectures are missing
But I don’t know-oh-oh-ohh
I think they’ve kept them in reserve for next week’s show
I don’t wanna go
My favourite Teletubby’s always Po
Ko Ro Bo So
Somewhere I think this song has lost its flow
Ascension of the Cybermen
Here we go, then.
Feekat (Steve Toussaint) – Teacher. Suitably grizzled. Last seen at 15:27, when he’s offed by a marauding Ashad.
Ravio (Julie Graham) – That woman from Bonekickers hiding behind a lot of grime. Last seen flirting with Bradley Walsh. Presumably hiding a tragic past. Dialogue minimally more sensible than it was in Bonekickers.
Yedlarmi (Alex Austin) – If Fiore from Preacher had a Prozac addiction, he would be sort of like Yedlarmi. Last seen panicking in a Cybercarrier.
Fuskle (Jack Osborn) – Yedlarmi’s mute brother. Last seen at 09:55, when he’s caught in an explosion.
Bescot (Rhiannon Clements) – a pilot, or something. Feisty.
Ethan (Matt Carver) – More capable than his boyish appearance suggests. Makes it to the beach with the Doctor, but probably won’t make it much further.
Ko Sharmus (Ian McElhinney) – Episode 8 Luke Skywalker, but less grumpy. Either a disguised Rassilon or the Ruler of the Universe, in which case we’d like to see the cat next week.
Why, constant reader, have I gone to all this trouble? Well, it’s for largely selfish reasons; I have to make a note of them somewhere. Otherwise I can’t remember a thing. I’ll be looking back in the middle of a Series 13 write-up at a random thing that happened to a particular character in this story, and I’ll be as confused and empty-headed as Arnold Rimmer during an engineer’s exam. Age is part of it; comparative unfamiliarity (as I write this, Ascension has been viewed a single time in our house) is another factor – but sheer mundanity takes the lion’s share. This episode was a masterclass in How To Construct Generic Characters Who Amount To Nothing.
Seriously. There’s no spark, no life, no soul. You could have given their dialogue to a group of year seven drama students and it’d be similarly dead. There’s no problem with the performances per se – everyone makes the best of what they have – but it’s disheartening to watch a story in which bad things happen to supporting characters who disinterest me. It happened in Into The Dalek. It happened in Oxygen. And Empress of Mars, and – look, it’s not new; it was just particularly bothersome this week. A full cast of interesting secondaries is a pipe dream, of course, and Classic Who is crammed with generic three-line roles who were offed by the Daleks before they’d made their mark…still, you need at least one, surely? Otherwise, how are you supposed to care about people getting blown up or shot at when they don’t leave any sort of gap?
I’m sure it wasn’t always like this. I can still remember every one of the people from LINDA. They were fun and they were sparky and it wasn’t fair that they all got superglued to Peter Kay’s hips (to be fair, I wouldn’t wish that fate on Jacob Rees-Mogg). I don’t even think it’s the type of stories you tell. Voyage of the Damned is a glorified base-under-siege (with the notable exception that the base is falling to Earth), but the people in that were, if occasionally stereotypical, at least fully-formed stereotypes. Some of them even had a bit of spunk to them. And his track record proves Chibnall is perfectly capable of coming up with decent supporting characters when he pulls his finger out. Everyone slates The Tsuranga Conundrum – perhaps rightly so – but at least Yoss the pregnant man was fun to watch.
If you’re going to throw the fate of humanity into balance, it would be nice if you could at least give us some fully fledged humans to worry about. It’s not like I care about what’ll happen to the companions. We know they’ll survive, at least until next week (and almost certainly beyond, because Doctor Who hasn’t properly killed a full-time companion since Earthshock). Conversion is a possibility, of course, but it’s unlikely because the media (who’d already seen the episode) spent most of last week writing glorified press releases that asked “Is Ryan in danger?” coupled with that picture of him wired up to what was actually the ship’s control panel, rather than the Cyber-conversion unit we all knew it wasn’t. Besides, they did that three years ago and even Chibnall isn’t that much of a hack. Probably.
Bet he’s dusted off the Cyberwoman outfit just in case, though. I mean it might fit Yaz. God, there’s an image.
The Timeless Children
‘Questions after this week’s Doctor Who:
- Has anyone location-spotted that TARDIS house yet? Can we have a deleted scene where it suddenly dematerialises, and across the road Craig Owens rubs his eyes and then mutters “Not again….”?
- If Brendan really was a projection of the Doctor’s origins, is Gallifrey in Ireland, or is Ireland in Gallifrey?
- Assuming the rumours about Graham and Ryan are true, what are the odds of their last scene being shot in the cemetery where Grace is buried? And what are the odds Graham’ll say “We move on, but we never forget, and I think she’d be proud of both of us”, while looking forlornly at the headstone?
- Did Ashad really greenlight that Cyber Lord plumage? Has he not stopped to consider the practicalities? How do they compensate for the extra weight? What happens if three of them are trying to squeeze into a Debenhams lift?
- On a scale of 1 to 50, what’s the likelihood of Whittaker beginning her next conversation with Dhawan with the words “So, you escaped from Gallifrey then…?”
- We’ve had Remembrance, Revelation, Resurrection, and now Revolution of the Daleks; can we have Remuneration of the Daleks next? With a behind-the-scenes look at Dalek accountants and payroll, like The Sun Makers but all about zero hours contracts? How about Renaissance, where they’ve all got artist’s berets and are elevating themselves up to the ceiling of the Sistine?
- Coronavirus. Plot predictions. Please give reasons for your answers. __________
- If the Master’s so good a hacker, how come he can unearth Gallifrey’s secret past and grisly backstory but he can’t recover Fury From The Deep?
Seriously; I think we should be told…’