Mike Jones

Doctor Who (2005) s02e08 – The Impossible Planet

The Impossible Planet has just what “Who” needs… right now anyway. There’s a new director to the series (James Strong) and a new writer (Matt Jones), and they give the series a push in a better (arguably best so far) direction. Is there going to be any momentum… probably not. “Who,” even the two-parters, is episodic not just in its storytelling but also its making. For whatever reason, Strong’s able to do a lot more with cinematographer Ernest Vincze’s DV lighting and Mike Jones’s editing than anyone else this season or last.

The titular planet has no name in the episode, not even a designation. David Tennant and Billie Piper go bandying about the galaxy and find themselves in some future time at an Earthling research station. The station is on a planet trapped in a black hole’s gravity well but immobile because of a huge power source. The researchers are digging to the core to discover what’s the power.

There’s Claire Rushbrook as the scientist, Shaun Parkes as the acting captain, Danny Webb as the security chief, Will Thorp as the archeologist (they’ve discovered some billion year old civilization), Ronny Jhutti is the tech nerd, and MyAnna Buring is the bosom-y maintenance tech. Because it’s 2006 and they’re still British, after all.

Writer Jones writes distinct characters with enough meat for the actors to flesh them out, with Strong directing the actors, which the show could use a lot more often.

Once Tennant and Piper get oriented—they also discover the humans have a bunch of slaves (called the Ood, who “need” to be slaves so it’s all right, otherwise they’d lemming apparently)—there’s a big earthquake (Impossible Planet quake) because black hole rippling the planet and the TARDIS falls in, stranding Piper and Tennant.

So as they get used to the idea of not just being trapped in a time and place—with Piper a lot more comfortable with the idea of homesteading with Tennant than vice versa—the researchers are just about to get to the core and they’re all about to find out exactly what’s going on. There are various hints—including demonic possession and the Ood acting weird—before it’s clear “Who” is about to try a different take on a very familiar fail of a different sci-fi franchise….

No spoilers (yet), but thank goodness they got the right director for this one.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e01 – Rose

I am not a “Doctor Who” person. I’ve known some “Doctor Who” people, I count good friends as “Doctor Who” people. But there’s no way to talk about this show without prefacing with… I don’t get it. I still don’t get it. It’s like you have to be a certain kind of anglophile. What’s the Venn diagram on “Monty Python” and “Doctor Who”? Then with Quatermass and Hammer.

And this viewing is my second attempt to watch “Doctor Who (2005)” or whatever it’s official designation versus the old “Doctor Who.”

The first time was in 2005, when we were seeing television’s successful mainstreaming of season-long story arcs with “Lost,” “Veronica Mars,” “Battlestar Galactica,” and “The Shield.” Basic cable and UPN, oh my. So an awesome new “Doctor Who” was just what, ahem, the Doctor ordered. Do people make Who puns? Is the title itself just a pun? There’s fifty-seven years of “Who” lore. I couldn’t keep track of it as a kid just hearing about the show much less watching it.

This episode is full of puns. It’s full of puns, terrible editing (Mike Jones), and directing (Keith Boak). I remembered where I stopped watching the episode the first time I tried, which was already a significant ask for me because I’m a hard pass on Christopher Eccleston. I think I would’ve tried “Who” after 28 Days Later so I never would’ve been more positive on Eccleston. That oversized jacket thing didn’t age well.

Eccleston’s comic timing is better than sidekick Billie Piper—who’s either going to become Eccleston’s familiar or companion or something; the Doctor’s always got a Watson, or so I remember thinking in my youth (based on second-hand information).

The episode’s about plastic coming to life and trying to take over the planet. It’s more complicated, but basically there are these mannequins chasing and attacking Piper and Eccleston. They look like those B.O.B. dummies. It’d be disquieting if Boak’s direction weren’t bad or if the tone weren’t kind of silly. Campy. Is it supposed to feel campy? But, like, that British campy.

What’s the Venn on “Who” and Benny Hill, or “Who” and “Mr Bean.”

But apparently there’s going to be great acting on this show in later seasons from different actors so I need to stay positive.

Noel Clarke plays Piper’s boyfriend. He’s annoying. Piper’s writing is really thin in what’s essentially a scream queen part so far. Camille Coduri (who’s familiar because she was in two movies I saw when I was twelve, apparently) is okay as Piper’s mom. Not great writing but Coduri’s good. Mark Benton’s great as an in-world “Doctor Who” fanboy.

Also… are the special effects supposed to be bad? 2005 it could’ve been either way. But this episode multiple times feels like a lower rent Terminator 2 just fourteen years of technology later. Like, are they supposed to be silly?

The show’s perplexing.

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