Reviewed By: TCar96
Review Date: 5/27/17 8:13 pm
1 out of 2 found this review helpful.
Huge improvement on last week - first and foremost, this second part of what's starting to become a real monster of a three-parter, has a genuine plot. There's no information kept from the viewer arbitrarily to foster suspense and events run through in sequential order. It is shocking to identify this as a positive, and sadly reflects the scale of my gripes with the trend the show has taken these past couple of years.
Fortunately, the plot is remarkably unrelated to Extremis, with the Veritas' source still unexplained (part 3 perhaps?) and the monks still very much centre stage. The villains do suffer from some cliches well parodied in Gatiss' sketch show way back in the early 2000's. Lots of whispering 'Doc-tooor' and omnipotent abilities. Some new cliches appear too, with resemblance to the 'Silence' and a fantastic sounding rationale: 'fear is inefficient, we must be loved', that collapses into a pretentious puddle when actually dissected. A Sutekh type villain (heck, bring him back) would essentially push the plot in a similair direction with less head scratching.
Harness also is clearly back in the frame. We've got some concepts of representation and voting (Kill the Moon) with wishy washy contemporary political parallels to force through a general message of 'war = bad' (Zygon Invasion / Inversion). These themes aren't handled particularly in-depth or with much tact, but it's always welcome to see Doctor Who attempting to push beyond its usual borders. Frankly, I'd be far more satisfied if this was a two-parter, junking Extremis and giving these concepts some space to breathe. As it is, we're a bit compressed by the timeslot, with the Doctor solving the mystery (biological experimentation, not nuclear conflict) without any logical steps taken subsequent to an appraisal of evidence. He's the Doctor, he can just make these leaps.
One concept not welcome is the 'President of the World' shtick again, from the Series 8 finale. Watching the Doctor adopt such a mantle with ease is not only cringe inducing - with hokey dialogue and cheapo sets - but its wholly out of character, by Classic Who (President of Gallifrey) and New Who (never stops, never asks to be thanked) standards. There's a fun twist on the Doctor's fallibility towards the end though, very welcome.
As for production, sets again look cheap and the computer effects are wholly binary. The Pyramid work is astonishing, whilst submarines in the desert look like something knocked up on photoshop. The sets for the most part are atrociously cheap (is the Vault an excuse for reusing sets?) whilst the Monks, as last week, look absolutely top notch. Stunt PC casting is prevalent again, with one cast member at least bringing a laugh, albeit for reminding me of Phoenix Nights rather than any sense of foreboding! Direction is mostly uninspired, though there's another case of bizarre stylist choices (smashing bottle in blank space) and erratic editing (do we really need to be reminded about broken glasses minutes after their breaking?). Murray Gold is, after umpteen years, creatively bankrupt, reusing a riff from the Majestic Tale. Musical cues now half a decade old, are being used with reckless abandon. Being deafened by 12th's action theme is always a welcome tedium - especially as characters perform the astonishing feats of using a search engine.
Pains me to keep writing similair reviews, but it's heartbreaking to look back to the announcement that Peter would take the role. I was anxiously awaiting a new age for the show of a more dignified Doctor and a more cerebral take. More concepts, more character, less scale and less shlock. As it is, it's more of the same, Peter Capaldi playing an electric guitar with sonic sunglasses, making sexual innuendos with bland uninspired dialogue. Perhaps Big Finish continues to spoil me, but the gulf between what's been pumped out these last few years and a completely run of the mill monthly range release, is staggering.