Reviewed By: JMChurch25
Review Date: 11/26/18 4:51 pm
3 out of 3 found this review helpful.
When the TARDIS team land on the planet of Vanguard responding to a mysterious distress call, they find a barren landscape desolated by war with giant robots looking for any survivors as well as fighting themselves for any remaining semblance of each side. As the trio are pushed to a nearby city and separated by a landslide, Chris is pushed to one side, the Doctor on the other, and Roz in the middle. As each main cast member interacts with each given side and the various remaining inhabitants of the planet, how will all three reunite and what is truly the reason for the insanity and the war? While 'Vanguard' starts off pretty generically as many of the standard Doctor Who tropes immediately come into play (landing on a rocky landscape, separation, dark secret, etc.), it rapidly turns into a Mad Max style survival epic with three narrative threads that all coagulate into one. Steve Jordan's script and soundscape are dirty, gritty, and intensely interwoven with some surprising moments of comedy that come more naturally than you'd expect. There are some fascinating moments that push the Doctor out of his comfort zone and test the perseverance of each companion in very different situations and I like how it throws everything it can at us given the nature of the premise. But at the same time, it ends up feeling pretty generic with those standard elements completely overwhelming the story by the climax and making it the weakest of the set by far. We, of course, get two sides misunderstanding each other, a dark force that's buried and unseen but comes out before the end, the usual messages that war is hell, etc. and none of it feels all that interesting. Sara Powell's character of Contessa is the only really different or vibrant element to the story as a surprise villain that really goes to town on Chris' character physically and mentally. She really has a darker edge to her that is not immediately let on and I like how she ties into the war and the planet's demise so integrally. But the main cast and story are otherwise fine if a bit lackluster. McCoy is fine as Seven having a bit of fun in getting to go inside of his own mind for a little while and then playing his standard role. But Roz doesn't get anything interesting to do in being forced together with robots who feel lifted straight out of "Red Dwarf" and the rest of the side cast doesn't do much to stand out. Thankfully, Travis Oliver does get some good moments as Chris and I like how his grounded but kindly personality is tested by the multi-faceted Contessa character. It made him stand out for me this time and I really like what becomes of him in getting pushed through the wringer. All are brought together in a somewhat predictable climax that ties things up, sets a new course for the planet, and sets the TARDIS team off on their merry way. I'm probably being a bit more harsh on this story than I should be and "Vanguard" is certainly not the worst story ever. In the end, it's an enjoyable middle of the road adventure with decent performances and soundscapes that does what it does ok but not much else.