Reviewed By: Eiphel
Review Date: 11/8/10 4:51 pm
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.
Not bad, this one. Wasn't expecting much, but enjoyed what I got. The chief triumph was Lucie Miller. I'd forgotten just what an enjoyable character she is, and she's no less enjoyable here. Her take on the war is sweetly idealistic and traumatic and very sympathetic. She also gets some great one-liners, once again.
'I have a bullet for each of us.'
'I'd prefer a latte.'
She's also got back the old rapport with the Doctor, after it took a knock following the events of Orbis. Whilst I enjoyed the shake-up that began the series, I was never sure it was quite traded on effectively, and felt we maybe lost more in their chemistry than we gained in interest. Everything has hit a sweet spot now, though, and a scene with spacesuit comms which could have been painful is enjoyably daft.
McGann, likewise, has got the old joy back. This story, like the others in this season, casts him as the older, wearier Eighth Doctor, something I've never been entirely keen on. In principle I like it, but I've found McGann himself tends to sound bored, rather than making the Doctor sound tired. This time around it works, however. The Doctor seems unhappy and disappointed with the war, and it's a fully immersive disaffection. If the other 'weary Doctor' stories had achieved this level, they would probably have been fab.
Outside those two, the most interesting characters are actually secondary and tertiary ones. Central supporters Salway and Delong are painted with slightly too broad strokes to really be compelling, and whilst Delong gets something of a development, it comes too late in the day. In fact, it's an oddly paced turnaround. After the dust has settled he hasn't changed, but then with very little prompting, he suddenly has an about turn. Meanwhile, Colin Salmon is sadly unremarkable as a scared veteran, whose scenes are largely raised up by Sheridan Smith's playing off him.
As I mentioned though, characters further in the background are more interesting, perhaps because they do not to be fully portrayed but only sketched out, and so can leave much to the imagination. The Admiral, the old man who is more discussed than featured, and - pleasingly - the Wirrn Queen herself, all provide a measure of interest. In fact the queen is a bit memorable.
The plot and direction is a standard Briggs Bundle, and it delivers much as you'd expect. The Ark in Space is itself a fairly Briggsian story, with its cold steel spaceship setting and humans vs. aliens conflict. Briggs is fairly good at this stuff, now, and though he never makes it breakout, he usual keeps things quite tight. So, we have two pacy half-hours that never got boring, with solid if expected set pieces that were pleasingly visual (Lucie adrift in space, seeing starships torn apart. It reminded me of a rather striking sequence from Metroid Prime 3, in fact).
The wirrn and human backstory is well fleshed out, in true Briggs style, delivering something rounded and credible, but without anything hugely innovative or conceptual. Still, it was nice to hear, and the quandary presented is pleasingly ambiguous. There is one particularly nice touch, portraying the changes on the Doctor of his time on Orbis. Where he would have always been troubled by the situation, it is reasonable to assume that once he would have edged toward the human point of view. Now he is rather less inclined to take a side. Decades spent away from his usual human interaction has changed him, subtly. It's also nice that Lucie is developing into a bit of an old hand, though it is rather told than shown in its execution.
At the bottom line, Briggs sets out to tell a war story, and as a war story, Wirrn Dawn delivers what you'd expect of it. It's pacy, and there's good fun in the expansion of wirrn backstory and in seeing Lucie and the Doctor's reaction to a full scale war. There's even a bit of that elusive Future-Historical feel, the regulars being more observers than agents.