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07 July 2017 @ 07:22 pm
The Randomiser: The Silurians  
This was our second venture into Season 7 and another impressive story.

Stretched over 7 episodes, it is another story that is much better than it has any right to be given its length - and I'm writing that so frequently that I'm beginning to wonder if Doctor Who actually works better when trying to fill 3 hours or more than when it is aiming for around 2 1/2 hours or whether it is the simple novelty of having so many episodes to fill that makes writers think more broadly. I mean it still has the basic structure of set-up - solve incidental problems - resolution but the incidental problems seem to work better as discreet chunks that are interesting in their own right.

The episodes which deal with the Silurian's attempts to start a worldwide pandemic are particularly effective, and a sequence I recall vividly from the novelisation. This is several years before Survivors but seems to be tapping into the same zeitgeist. That said, tame layman had a number of uncomplimentary things to say about quarantine procedures and one can't help feeling the whole thing hinges on several people in authority behaving very foolishly at critical moments.

Fulton Mackay's turn as the weasely Dr. Quinn is also impressive. The audience perception of him naturally progresses from the idea that he is one of the more reasonable members of the research centre hierarchy to the realisation that he is essentially ambitiously self-serving and covering this up with an air of geniality.

On the downside the idea that people are overcome by the race memory of Silurians, which is potentially powerful and atmospheric is more or less abandoned after the first couple of episodes. It is used to justify the presence of UNIT but not really pursued thereafter. I recall more being made of it in the novelisation.

Caroline John continues to make Liz an impressive companion. She demonstrates how a scientist-companion can be used as a person to whom work and responsibility can be delegated by the Doctor. I'm increasingly bemused by the idea that the powers-that-be thought she was not a success as a companion since the script doesn't seem to have any trouble with giving her stuff to do while maintaining the Doctor's overall authority.

Doctor Who would be a very different thing if it had continued down the path set out in season 7. I think you would need to be a much better analyst of media trends than I am to predict whether it could have had the longevity it has enjoyed with this more serious and adult-oriented format but, by its own lights, I would say it was a resounding success.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/455297.html.
 
 
 
liadtbunny: DW Jo and Dr Cuteliadtbunny on July 8th, 2017 01:44 pm (UTC)
I guess they didn't make much of the race memory as there was enough 'Quatermass' borrowing in the season;p

I think the problem with Liz is they felt she wasn't useful as an info-dumping mechanism as Liz wouldn't need things explaining being a boffin. Caroline Johns was excellent in the role though.

Fulton MacKay is v. good, although it's a little hard to forget 'Porridge' at times. He was a contender for the role of The Doctor wasn't he or is my mind playing tricks?

Overall season 7 is a solid season imho.
louisedennis: Who:Threelouisedennis on July 10th, 2017 10:13 am (UTC)
The info-dumping doesn't really seem to be much of a problem - I mean they've suddenly got all of UNIT to info-dump if they need to.

I found Quinn a sufficiently different character that the Porridge association didn't bother me too much. I didn't know he'd been in the running for the Doctor though - I wonder what he would have been like?
liadtbunny: DW Jo and Dr Cuteliadtbunny on July 10th, 2017 03:21 pm (UTC)
I can't imagine him being an outwardly cuddly Doctor.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 8th, 2017 11:37 pm (UTC)
I think 7+ episode stories have more elbow-room for interesting padding (if that makes sense) rather than capture-escape filler. That said, most of what happens here is relevant to the plot or characterization (which is very good) and while you could call the plague padding, it does help tidy up Baker and Lawrence's plotlines and provides something memorable (I also had vivid childhood memories of that part of the novel).

There's a lot of budget and attention to detail on things like the manhunt and the plague scenes here. The manhunt in particular has two different sets of uniforms (UNIT and police), dogs, flares and a helicopter, and generally feels more real than a bunch of extras wandering around a field, which is what we would normally get.

I've always liked this story, both in its TV and (in many ways rather different) novelization forms - I was glad to pick up a copy of the BBC reprint of the novel in a charity shop a while back - it has great illustrations! Season 7 is one of my favourite seasons, although having recently watched it all in order as part of my book research, it probably is a bit samey and serious when watched in rapid succession.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 10th, 2017 10:07 am (UTC)
Yes, I can imagine it all ending up a bit dour - though I have a feeling Spearhead is a bit lighter in tone.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 10th, 2017 05:55 pm (UTC)
Spearhead is lighter, but still tonally odd, a weird transitional story made stranger by its place in the canon as the first (almost the only, I think) all-film story, the weird, improvised look of some of the locations and the variable quality of the sound recording, all the result of the last minute change to location-only (OK, location-only bar a reshoot of a little bit).
louisedennis: Who:Threelouisedennis on July 11th, 2017 09:47 am (UTC)
I'm always surprised how different film looks - even on fuzzy old-fashioned TVs!
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on July 11th, 2017 01:14 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the blu-ray, but the difference on DVD is astounding!