Doctor Who: Whiling Away the Days
Brief note before the review proper. I am not real happy with the throwaway lines that happen in the Eleventh Doctor's time that sneer at male nurses. It started in a Good Man Goes to War, and is repeated here. There's nothing wrong at all with being a male nurse, joke's at the profession's expense are amateur, and Rory is awesome when they let him be. End aside.
Back when I was a wrestling fan I had a rule to never attend matches before a pay per view. The show immediately preceding a big event was always a mismash of teasers without substances. Matches ended in disqualifications, no titles change hands, and only the most superficial advancements in storylines happen. It's a waste of money, and the Power of Three shared a lot of the same attributes.
On the whole, it was a pretty good episode from writer Chris Chibnall, who utterly nailed Dinosaurs on a Spaceship two weeks ago and is responsible for one of my favorite Ten stories, 42. Chibnall's work isn't everyone's cup of tea, I grant you. He has a tendency to write quick, pulp fiction storylines that lack depth but usually make up for it in momentum. I hope they give him more work as he seems to brighten up the middle bits.
The plot this time involves the sudden appearance of billions of cubes all across the Earth. Each is perfectly smooth, black, and completely mysterious. At first there is wide-spread panic, and the Doctor rushes to Earth to check on the Ponds and assess the situation. After four days of inaction he goes utterly stir crazy and buggers off with the vague instruction to watch the cubes while he is off adventuring.
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One thing you can say about series 7 is that it already has raised the bar on non-historical incidental characters higher than any of the modern series. We get another round with Rory's dad Brian played by Mark Williams. Brian hearkens back to Tennant's relationship with Donna's father Wilf, but is in every way superior as a sort of everydad that weaves into the improbable life of the Doctor and his son in a way that is both lame and amazing at the same time. Of all the parents, which play a big part of Nu Who, Brian is the most realistic, and the greatest asset to the Doctor.
Even he is outstaged, though, by the appearance of Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart. Initially we know her only as the new head of the Doctor's Earth-ally UNIT, but it's quickly revealed she is the daughter of the late Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, the motherfucking Brigadier! In case you haven't caught any classic Who, know this. The Brigadier is the best companion who is not a robot dog.
He has been the Doctor's most trusted man since the Second Doctor, and has traveled or aided every single incarnation save Eccleston and Smith. Smith famously phoned the Brigadier in the Wedding of River Song, only to be told he had recently died and often hoped to see the Doctor again. According to one short story, every incarnation of the Doctor attends the funeral.
Redgrave could coast on the sheer magnitude of her family history alone, but she delivers her lines with that same restrained, uber-British military dryness that made her father the badass he was. She is the best head of UNIT in the modern series by far, and I can definitely see her forging the same relationship the Doctor. Oh, and here's a tribute to the Brig for those who need a refresher...
Other than that the episode has problems. Number one was that there was simply way too much crammed into it. The general idea was that this was the episode where Amy and Rory finally begin to decouple from the adventures in the TARDIS and enter real life. In short, the whole "growing up and out of your imaginary friend and into adulthood" metaphor that has dominated the entire existence of Matt Smith's Doctor is winding down.
To compensate, he takes the Ponds on a seven week trip that involves Zygons, Henry VIII, and a host of other travels that we'll probably get to read about in the books. When they return Brian immediately notices they've been traveling with the Doctor, and questions the fate of other companions. In the modern series? Well, sucked into an alternate dimension, leaves brokenhearted, mind-wiped, dead, made immortal to eventually become an enormous face, and another dead. The Doctor assures Brian these won't happen to the Ponds.
The second big problem is the fact that the villain in this episode is maybe the most one-dimensional ever... bear in mind that this is the show that birthed the Daleks and tried to convince us that green bubble wrap counted as an alien. The Shakri are out to destroy humanity. Why? Because fuck you that's why. The heart attacks that the boxes give a third of the population on Earth are quickly reversed effortlessly by the Doctor in a scene that make medical science cry tears of frustration into a pillow.
In the end, Brian encourages the Ponds to resume travel with the Doctor, and they happily do so. Which is pointless. It's a well-known fact that next Saturday is their last outing, which makes the entire buildup of the episode silly. Amy and Rory do not have to choose. The choice has already been made. The only question is how they leave.
As I said, never go to a wrestling event the week before the pay per view.
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