Graeme Harper

Doctor Who (2005) s03e07 – 42

There have to be TV shows where they unintentionally duplicate episodes. Soap operas, whatever. The same plot must get repeated. Unintentionally. Because it very obviously happens intentionally, such as with 42, which is a riff on a great two-parter from last season, only without anything similarly great.

Like, if you’re going to remake something… don’t remake something great and do a middling job of it. It doesn’t help the supporting cast is wanting. It doesn’t help it’s a horror episode with a director who can’t do horror. Though Graeme Harper’s direction is rather wanting overall.

It also has, maybe, a reveal from a “Star Trek” episode. Maybe. It’s from something—and it was used again in an excellent Mike Carey Barbarella comic—but last season’s original version of 42 was also a riff on something else. Riffing on riffs in genre is fine… just have something to do with it. Writer Chris Chibnall has got zip. Oh, wait, he gives Freema Agyeman a love interest—William Ash—but just a temporary one. I guess Ageyman gets a substantive subplot to herself, leaving David Tennant to deal with the more wanting supporting actors. Ash is at least cute (ish), whereas Tennant’s hanging out with captain Michelle Collins (her ship is falling into the black hole… sun, sorry, sun). Collins is… miscast. The part’s not good, Harper’s direction’s not good, but it does seem like Collins is supposed to be doing something more in the part and it never clicks. It’s peculiar.

Or maybe I was just remembering how good the actors were in the previous version of this episode.

Either way… Collins and Tennant are not magic together or even mildly amusing like Agyeman and Ash.

There’s a do-it-yourself Cyclops (X-Men Cyclops) thing going on with the possessed astronauts. Or whatever they’re called. Doesn’t matter.

It’s a pointless episode but should be a lot better.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e12 – Army of Ghosts

One Earth episode without Camille Coduri was clearly too much so she doesn’t just appear in this one, she also pretends to be daughter Rose (Billie Piper) and play companion to David Tennant. Coduri and Tennant don’t grate as sharply as one might’ve feared (hard to imagine her and Christopher Eccleston stuck together so much for an episode subplot)….

But I’m forgetting the most important part—the episode opens with Piper narrating. This story is the last one she’s ever going to tell (not really, because there’s a cliffhanger, so she’s referring to a two-part story). During the resulting flashback montage, Eccleston shows up for about two seconds (and not his face); does all “Who” ignore previous Doctors or is it just with Eccleston? If so, rather inglorious.

After the intro montage and narration setup, Tennant and Piper go to present-day Earth so Piper can visit Coduri and get her laundry done. Sleeping arrangements and laundry facilities on the TARDIS… are they ever discussed?

Right away, Tennant and Piper know something’s wrong because the Earth is now visited on a regular basis by ghosts. Investigating leads them to the mysterious Torchwood Institute, run by a game but too thinly written Tracy Ann Oberman, who are actually causing the ghosts by punching holes in the universe or something.

Doesn’t matter. What matters is Tennant knows they’re not ghosts—doesn’t say how he knows, “Who”’s de facto atheist, after all—and he tries to get Oberman to knock it off and do some investigating.

Unfortunately, we—the audience—know the Cybermen are back as they’ve slowly been taking over Oberman’s staff, principally Freema Agyeman and Hadley Fraser, who are conspiring to do something. Will Tennant be able to save the day, even though he’s got Coduri at his side so Piper can investigate on her own?

Not sure, because it’s a cliffhanger. It’s also a bit of old home week for Piper, because the Cybermen aren’t the only ones back from another dimension….

Noel Clarke’s back, playing tough again.

Clarke’s not good tough, but he’s a lot better tough than whiney.

Better than I was expecting direction from Graeme Harper, on par writing from Russell T. Davies (on par for Russell T. Davies, I mean).

The bookend is annoying and the cliffhanger reveal’s a trope.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e06 – The Age of Steel

I had low expectations for this episode, given the first installment was so unimpressed; writer Tom MacRae and director Graeme Harper do not improve at all this episode. The perfunctory cliffhanger resolution does nothing to ratchet up any enthusiasm. The stakes are simple—the Cybermen are taking over this alternate universe and Billie Piper won’t let David Tennant wait it out in the TARDIS because Piper’s parents Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall are in danger.

Dad Dingwall works for evil mastermind Roger Lloyd Pack but did he know Lloyd Pack was really a bad guy who wanted to turn everyone into Cybermen? Tennant’s suspicious but Piper’s obstinate and disinterested in finding out the truth. She’s so annoying this episode. Tennant eventually goes to hang out with alternate Earth revolutionary Helen Griffin, leaving Piper with Dingwall. She starts annoying him pretty quick too.

Meanwhile, Noel Clarke is off learning how to be a revolutionary—his double is on a team with Griffin and Andrew Hayden-Smith—and finding himself and whatnot.

The episode reuses action beats from the show’s pilot, which is kind of… well, it’s sad, but it does have the potential for Piper to comment on it. She doesn’t, of course, because MacRae’s disposable (at best) script.

Clarke ends up with better scenes than anyone else as he has to save the world himself for once. Unfortunately, Clarke’s performance still isn’t very good but… the episode’s got a very low bar. Successfully turning Clarke into even a hero in his own mind is something.

What else… bad CGI? There’s some really bad CGI.

There’s also a fairly dark ending with Tennant having to torture a bunch of people. It seems like it’s going to be one of those sobering “Doctor Who” resolutions but somehow it’s not. Maybe because it’s an alternate universe. Maybe because it’s so insincere. Thanks to Tennant, who’s absurdly underused, season two of “Who” has been very sturdy, but MacRae and Harper seem likely to be names to dread going forward.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e05 – Rise of the Cybermen

The cold open of this episode looks pretty bad and the direction on the actors is terrible so I was just waiting to see it was Keith Boak. Then the opening titles rolled and I got a little hopeful upon seeing the writing credit—Tom MacRae, new guy (all the “Who” writers are guys so far), and the show’s done better with new writers than the regular one—then it turned out not to be Boak, but Graeme Harper. Harper and MacRae both being “Who” newbies.

Harper’s direction is fairly bad, with the show once again looking like it’s a soap opera at best. Poor cinematographer Ernest Vincze, who shoots all(?) of the episodes, yet sometimes outside his control it all looks bad.

It’s an alternate universe adventure with David Tennant trying and failing to keep Billie Piper from hunting down alternate universe dad Shaun Dingwall—it’s incredible what a bad character Piper’s become this season. She nearly broke the universe last time she went after Dingwall. Did she learn anything? Nope.

Then there’s Noel Clarke, who’s sad Tennant doesn’t like him more. There’s this whole thing about Tennant only caring about Piper and not even being interested in Clarke’s (unknown before this episode) backstory involving grandmother Mona Hammond, who died in the regular universe. But the show’s established Piper thought she and Tennant were romantically involved or at least interested so what does she want him to do with Clarke? It’s just bad writing, with the bad production values hurting things even more.

Though I guess it’s obvious the episode doesn’t know much show canon because when we find out Clarke’s alter ego is named “Ricky” instead of “Mickey,” no one remembers how Christopher Eccleston called him “Ricky” last season. It’s this great setup and then does nothing.

The villains this episode are the Cybermen, who are back from the original series, only this time they’re run by brilliant megalomaniac businessman Roger Lloyd Pack who wants to be immortal. Lloyd Pack is extremely bad. Like. Extremely.

Towards the end of the episode it appears he’s doing an impression of Sidney Greenstreet in Maltese Falcon but apparently without coordinating with director Harper.

It’s a slog of an episode. So much of one a particularly annoying Camille Coduri doesn’t even rate mention.

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