Ron Cook

Doctor Who (2005) s02e07 – The Idiot’s Lantern

I had high hopes for this episode. Higher hopes. Between writer Mark Gatiss, who wrote something last season and I didn’t hate it because I don’t remember his name, and director Euros Lyn, I figured it would be fine.

I just didn’t predict it’d be such a middling fine.

Once again the Doctor (David Tennant) can’t control his space and time ship and he and Rose (Billie Piper) find themselves unexpectedly in fifties London. Why is the time period important? Unclear. It’s set during the Queen’s coronation but it’s just a detail and completely unrelated to the main plot of mind-controlling televisions, which are the precursors to face-sucking-offing televisions. It’s a very unaware “Made in Britain” joke.

Tennant and Piper—shockingly, Noel Clarke does not make an appearance immediately after whining his way off again last episode—team up with teen Rory Jennings to save his gran, Margaret John. They don’t just have to contend with the face-sucking TV maker, a game Ron Cook, they also have to deal with Jennings’s absurdly asshole fifties dad Jamie Foreman. Foreman seems like a bit of a stunt cast, but he’s not any good in the part and no one seems to know how to deal with him being shorter than most of the rest of the cast so when he’s yelling at his family, he’s like yelling up at them.

I mean, not to be anti-short people but they needed the character to be consistent as a shorter bully than a taller bully.

Maureen Lipman plays the presence on the television who’s trying to get all the faces sucked off. It’s unclear why.

At one point, Tennant finds himself in a warehouse of faceless people and it’s immediately familiar because it’s already been an action beat this season.

At one point this episode, Piper—who’s having a crap season as far as character development goes—gets replaced by a red shirt copper, Sam Cox.

I’m not sure if the episode’s a success in Gatiss’s mind or a failure but it’s far more concerning if it’s the latter.

“Who”’s gone from being Tennant holding it up to Tennant the only one surviving in the rubble.

The Witcher (2019) s01e06 – Rare Species

So this episode, set sometime after the last episode as far as Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra are concerned but still before the first episode as far as Freya Allan’s storyline (there’s some exposition about the political situation leading up to the attack in that first episode, but still just proper noun-filled blather), is where “The Witcher” all of a sudden seemed like it was revealing itself to be a romance novel. Only it’s not—the wife reminded me romance novels have a particular structure and the show doesn’t follow it; it just looks like a romance novel whenever Cavill’s making eyes at Chalotra; he makes all their embraces look like a romance novel cover, which seems to be the point of the show.

Anyway.

This episode’s probably the best in the series so far. Like… it’s an actual good hour of television. They’re all going dragon hunting. Cavill and now steady but still unaging despited the indeterminate advance of time between episodes Joey Batey join up with fun old man Ron Cook (who’s got two sidekicks of his own, warrior women Adele Oni and Colette Tchantcho) while Chalotra’s babysitting royal idiot Jordan Renzo. There are also a group of dwarves and another of “Reivers,” who are just crappy humans. It’s a race to kill the dragon. The casting is mostly good, especially with the dwarves and even though Cook isn’t great, he’s fun. It helps. And Chalotra, Batey, and Cavill have a good dynamic together. Plus Cavill and Chalotra are effective making eyes at each other.

Though there is a scene where Cavill’s got to fall asleep and it’s so awkward you wonder if he’s never actually fallen asleep in real life. Like, he doesn’t seem to know how to do it.

Meanwhile Freya Allan’s in danger with the assassin as they go through the forest. Not the blissful forest from the last couple episodes but the crappy forest where you wonder how Allan and her elf sidekick, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, aren’t freezing. Radjou-Pujalte is better this episode. Allan’s arcs have, frankly, been crap for the majority of the season at this point, despite her being established as the protagonist in the first episode. This episode’s suspense arc doesn’t make up for the previous episode’s weak plots for her, but it does start to get her on solid ground.

Decent CGI with the dragon and an okay surprise at the end… like I said, it’s an entertaining hour of televised amusement. Took the show long enough.

There’s another Batey song over the end credits and I’m even more convinced they paid him with exposure because there’s no good reason to have the song there. Or maybe someone thought Batey’s bard—who lionizes Cavill over the years through song—should be more important than the script writers did. “The Witcher”’s got a lot of problems with narrative perspective, narrative distance. It’s never good enough to really matter but still… the problems are there, even if they don’t matter much overall.

Oh, and now revealed to be main villains Eamon Farren and Mimi Ndiweni (his mage, who has history with Chalotra) really aren’t anywhere near good enough. Like, Farren’s terrible, sure, but if Ndiweni were stronger she could cover it. Only she’s not strong. At all. Ineffectual would be the appropriate descriptor. How “Witcher” manages to cast so many parts well, then so many parts poorly… it’s unfortunate, as uniform performance quality would help a bunch.

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