This is one of the episodes I haven’t re-watched in years. I knew it involved Simon Pegg, an alien in a ceiling, and very little else. I thought I liked it quite a bit. Whoops. Maybe I did back in the day, but this re-watch… well… let’s just say every frustrating aspect of RTD’s writing style and show running style which I loathed back in the day is on display here. Strap yourselves in. This review ain’t gonna be pretty.
So what happens? The Doctor, Rose and Adam find themselves in the year 200 000 in the fourth great and bountiful human empire. Technology and the sought after gold-wall lined Floor 500 (where humans after a promotion go) are wrong, says The Doctor, and thus, exploration ensues in a pastiche episode that checks off The Face of Boe pregnant, the Bad Wolf channel and a 1984 style propaganda machine.
Ben: The opening to this episode was fun enough. I liked the Doctor giving Rose a chance to show off with Adam. It was a sweet moment. And Rose is 19 years old, so I can understand her needing to get her flirt on every once in a while. Is it enough of a reason to bring Adam with them on an adventure? Not really. But hey, there’s always the chance the writers have an interesting way of using him in this story (spoiler alert: they very much did not). Ultimately, this opening reminds me of the opening to The End of the World, but with less awesome.
Maureen: My favourite part of the pre-title sequence was Rose successfully getting her Doctor on (I love it when companions get to do this without being harshed on). Rose is loving showing off when she says ‘judging by the architecture’ it’s a time far in the future and the surroundings point to ‘definitely a spaceship’ to Adam. She does get her flirt on, as Ben points out, and yes, I get she’s 19, but it makes Rose seem inconsistent. She likes Mickey… no wait The Doctor … no wait Adam … no wait The Doctor again. Make up your mind, woman!
Nine: He’s your boyfriend.
Rose: Not any more.
Ben: As much as I was in support of Rose getting a little action at the start of the episode, I really soured towards her as the episode went on. She was pretty supportive of Adam going through the motions of acclimatizing to time travel, only to immediately abandon him when things got interesting. Because leaving someone you barely know to their own devices in a strange place where bad things are probably happening is an excellent idea *sarcasm*. She doesn’t really do much for the rest of the episode other than follow the Doctor around. They have a nice moment in the elevator to level 500 when they realise Adam isn’t there and agree it’s better when it’s just the two of them, but like, why aren’t The Doctor and Rose concerned for him? He’s alone 198 000 years in the future and the general consensus is that’s fine? It’s no wonder he gets up to absolutely nothing good, especially considering where he was working in the previous episode! The final scene where they drop Adam off at home was pretty nasty really, especially considering they’re at least partly responsible for what happened to him. Really, Rose doesn’t come across as a great person this episode.
Maureen: I agree with Ben on this one and Ben gave Rose some leeway on her Adam flirting in the pre-title credits! I have very little to add except I did like the bit where Rose says she’s ‘missing out on the party upstairs’ re wanting to dash up to the creepy Floor 500. I’m going to leave Rose behind and focus on yet another companion who never was, Suki, as played by the excellent actress Anna Maxwell Martin. Here’s the thing guys: why cast someone as prestigious as ANNA FLIPPING MAXWELL MARTIN and then do nothing with her character till she’s unceremoniously fridged? WHY? I thought Suki didn’t know she was a spy, so it was a neat twist when it turned out she was a double agent all along.
Suki: This whole system is corrupt.
But that’s about all there was to her character. RTD. YOU ARE THE WORST.
Ben: And don’t forget Adam. Poor Adam got the worst of it. After the scene in the food court where he got to call his parents he was basically left to his own devices. It would have been kinder to keep him in the TARDIS for the rest of the episode. Instead we get so many scenes about Adam getting progressively further in over his head, culminating in him having everything he knows about Rose and the Doctor being forcibly yanked out of his brain.
Maureen: I read online somewhere that this was the series first Doctor-lite episode. Maybe it was. But it still sucked. And the Adam screen time is still completely unjustifiable. It was boring, awkward and a distraction from the real plot. I can’t believe Rose and The Doctor leave Adam to his own devices. He was working for the dangerously inquisitive Van Statten in Dalek. Wouldn’t they, you know, want to keep him on a tight leash till they know they can trust him? Scratch that. In logic land, The Doctor would never have brought Adam along at all!
Ben: Of course Adam was going to be interested in futuristic technology!! And then he was consigned to a future of being prodded and probed and reverse engineered. Yes, he got greedy, but he was the equivalent of a kid in a candy store in this episode. His guardians are the ones who should be shouldering the blame here. My final thought is, why even bring Adam into this episode if they didn’t have an interesting idea for how to use him?
Maureen: Rather! Also, the script is just plain predictable. It’s telegraphed a mile off that Adam is up to no good and will try to use his future knowledge for his own capitalist gain. It’s obvious something bad will happen to him (the cute dog whining at the sound of Adam’s voice on the answering machine made that obvious, and it was shown not once, but twice). And anyone who isn’t totally moronic aka Adam would trust Tamsin Greig nurse lady as far as they could throw her. Speaking of Tamsin Greig, her entire performance was off. Was she going for sexy? For funny? For creepy? Who knows? I doubt even she knew. And as to the episode’s ending, the tone is all wrong. Were we meant to feel sorry for Adam? Were we meant to laugh at him? Were we meant to feel vindicated? Who knows RTD.
Ben: I don’t really have much to say about the Doctor in this episode. He was okay. He solved the mystery, saved the day, and then left the mess to be cleaned up by other people. I didn’t mind this so much in World War Three, because Harriet Jones was quite capable of handling things herself. But in this case Cathica is quite right in stating that no one is going to believe what happened here.
Maureen: Nope. She’s a woman AND black. Unless social structures have changed any by the year 200 000. I doubt it.
Ben: I guess the Doctor isn’t really a fan of being there for the long haul. But then to cap things off, he was quite happy to leave Adam to his own devices (which left Adam with a head full of futuristic technology), and then blamed him for ending up over his head in an extremely alien environment! The worst part is that the Doctor and Rose didn’t care they were damning Adam to a fairly miserable life at the end of the episode. Yes, Adam got greedy, but where was the Doctor to keep him in line? At least some acceptance of responsibility would have been appreciated.
Maureen: I can’t disagree with Ben on that either, though two positives to end this section on from me. I did like the emphasis on Nine as a more sexual Doctor (shown when he is cool with Suki hugging him and looks like he kind of enjoys it and also the fan fic hand cuffs scene with him and Rose). And Nine’s lines about being a tourist rocked.
Nine: The thing is, Adam, time travel is like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guide book. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers – or is that just me?
So true, Doctor!
Alien of the Week
Maureen: Simon Pegg is… adequate… I guess? What a waste of a role for him too. So he’s a banker. That’s nice. Somehow he makes money out of propaganda news and supporting The Jagrafess who wants… who knows? The episode never makes that clear.
Ben: Ahh, the cheap special effects are back this week. I know that this was made in the early 2000s, but you know what else was? Lord of the Rings. Special effects aside, the Jagrafess didn’t really make sense as the big bad. Why is it living on the roof of a space station for 3000 years of its lifespan? How is this preferable to where it normally lives? How does it benefit from this arrangement it has with the Editor and the consortium of banks he represents? Why does controlling the information benefit banks in the long run? And in a slight aside, how does Cathica use the information transfer system they use to package the news to control the space station’s heating systems? There’s a lot of plot holes and poor explanations in this episode.
Maureen: Also, far too much pastiche. It’s 1984! No! Simon Pegg and his frozen people keyed into the space station channels are Minority Report. No! Suki, Cathica and co. are like Scarlet Johanssen and Ewan McGregor in The Island. Wait! It’s kind of like Seven/Ace meta stories like The Happiness Patrol… except far more boring and with far less to say. What a mess!!!
Maureen: This is it. Right here. The point where all of RTD’s excesses are truly revealed for the first time. There were elements in Aliens of London, but this here is the real McCoy. We got the kitchen sink. Check. We got The Doctor being an arsehole and getting away with it narratively because… well… he’s the Doctor. Check. We got nonsensical plots. Check. We got humour that isn’t funny. Check. We got inane, empty dialogue that goes nowhere and means nothing. Check. Urgh. The last line in my notebook on this episode is ‘HORRIBLE EPISODE. HORRIBLE.’ It gets worse the more I think about it. 1/10 inky stars.
Ben: Look. This episode was bad. Real bad. It feels like they threw everything at the wall to see what stuck, and decided they really liked the look of the stained mess that was left on the wall. It was convoluted, confusing, the jokes didn’t land, and Adam existed. The world they created was interesting, which makes it all the worst because they could have done a really interesting story about propaganda – the great human empire and it’s one news source. But no. I give it 1/10.
Next week at least we have Father’s Day, which by both my memory and by all accounts is halfway decent. Regular Who programming to resume at InkAshlings next week.