Reviewed By: Eiphel
Review Date: 10/26/11 11:44 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.
McGann gets very little to do in this story. He just sort of potters about. I do enjoy a slow build to a finale, and it's quite quaint how he goes on an afternoon jaunt to find a lost space probe, but after a while you realise he's just spending the entire story wandering around and nattering. There's no urgency or drama in the Doctor, which rather robs the threat of any potency. There's not much humour to him, either.
Lack of humour, in fact, is the cardinal sin in the use of Lucie, particularly in the first half of this story. A very trite 'brainwashed character' plot arc strips her of all the traits that make her such an enjoyable companion. This at the gain of no particular drama either, because there's never any suggestion that Lucie has any real doubts about the Doctor, it's all just hypnosis. It's only engaging for the duration of the initial meeting with Karen. (The comment about the logistics of large CV gaps is actually a nice contrast of mundane consequences and fantastic adventures.) Given the early series arc of the Doctor forgetting her, more should have been done here. Thankfully, once episode three rolls around, Lucie finally gets to be herself, with a series of great and weird scenes including fighting the Great One in her own mind, with classic Lucie grit.
The guest cast are a bunch of likeable figures who don't really do anything, with the exception of Kelly, the writer. Sanjeev Baskar makes Avishka into an enjoyable fellow, taking in stride the nature of the Doctor by relating the nature of regeneration to reincarnation, but his purpose in the story is mostly to bumble about amiably and do some admin work for the Doctor off screen. Likewise Goodman has the makings of a smooth talking charlatan, but does nothing of note during the story.
Kelly is definitely the standout, and makes a good surrogate companion. In fact, this story could almost be a series opener companion introduction. She plays well opposite McGann, and they have some of the best scenes, like when he pinches her book or proves he's an alien. Her plot function is also more interesting, debunking a myth that immediately comes true, and later turning the sun green! Such a pity that she is so brusquely shuffled off when the story runs out of space for her.
The Headhunter and Karen make for the strangest include. They've been an intriguing pair (mostly the former), growing and developing over three series. That development seems to lead into a bit of a non-sequiter in The Eight Truths. Karen's morality and attitude toward the Headhunter is inconsistent and nonsensical, and the Headhunter herself... Well, I really don't know what on Earth the intention was here. She's robbed of her witty banter, spends the story in the background, and then gets her ending at the climax of the story in an oddly abrupt fashion. Disappointing. It would have been better to let the Eight Legs' pawns be new characters, and think of a more story-natural way to end the tale. (Come to that, the Headhunter's nature and powers pretty much come out of nowhere as well.)
Plotwise there's a few issues at work. Primarily, everything just feels very staid. I mention the lack of drama the Doctor imbues, but even beyond that, humanity starts to believe it is living in the end times in the second half, but they do it very stoicly. No panic on the streets or the like. Even the fact that a stellar manipulator hangs above the planet is prosaic.
There's also a lot of strange inclusions that just don't quite seem to make sense, either within the story, or more generally in the sense of 'Why is this here?' The journey of the stellar manipulator from the end of last series is peculiar continuity, and if the intention was to make things feel like an arc, they fail. The Spiders' plan is highly dependent on the Headhunter and seems to have a couple of steps too many. There's some talk that the Spiders (presumably) have learned to manufacture perfect crystals, which doesn't actually seem to be important. Also, Lucie and the Doctor start the story in a hotel, and I have no idea why.
Thematically there's scant to sink your mind into. The cult stuff is hardly groundbreaking. There's a bit of material on people just looking for something to hold onto, but not a lot of depth. The mental shenanigans of the second half are perhaps the most interesting aspect, although the Doctor sending people off in another false afterlife makes me uncomfortable as it did when it happened in Silence in the Library.
Despite finding the story not too bad, the more I think about it, the aspects I liked tend to be fleeting gracenotes amongst much more general and pervasive flaws. The near future nods, the way the Doctor deals with the polonium bomb, the poke at Barry Letts' buddhist influences (S3 of the EDAs actually seems to owe quite a lot to the Pertwee years), these are all very minor things.
The direction, I think, does a lot of work here to make things feel more pacy and focussed than they actually are, which is very much to its credit. That said, this story is hugely dependent on a familiarity with Planet of the Spiders, with several scenes of indistinguishable noise if you don't already have the corresponding visuals supplied by that story. This is a bit unfortunate, because for anyone who's seen Spiders, The Eight Truths has little new to add.
Ultimately The Eight Truths just feels very staid and a touch humourless (especially as regards Lucie and the Headhunter). I sort of mooned my way through it without being overly affected much. I wasn't really bored, so I'm not going to say it's a bad story. But it's not much of anything, and the best part about it is probably the music (which, tragically, is not included as a separate track). 6/10