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05 January 2013 @ 05:53 pm
The Randomizer: The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood  
The randomizer seems to have abandoned Tom Baker in favour of Moffat's first season (though B. has just vetoed Victory of the Daleks on the grounds we're rewatching too much nuWho at once and he's more interested in the older stuff).

One thing that struck me particularly forcefully on rewatching was the way The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood ruthlessly recycle classic Who ideas and tropes. In particular, coming straight from Fury from the Deep, the drill rig leaped out as deliberately nostalgic in a way it hadn't originally. This story probably benefited from a lack of Fury's discussion of impellers. The drill also underlined the way in which the story, having pulled in these elements of classic Who, really fails to understand them. The issue is never whether the drill will continue digging. It's a given from almost the moment the Doctor raises the subject that the drilling will stop. In the second and third Doctor era, the story would have been partly a fable about the dangers of capitalism, and a key part of the drama would have been whether or not drilling should continue.

The same thing is happening throughout the story where the images, and surface detail are being borrowed without their underlying meaning. Particularly striking, I thought, was the way the story attempts to be about how human and silurian failings and fears snatch defeat from the arms of victory (or at least a peaceful resolution). This was the driving story behind The Silurians which The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood most closely apes. However it is clear on rewatching not only that Ambrose actually had no intention of killing Alaya but also that Alaya's death actually made no difference; Restac was already intent upon her coup and her retaliation and Eldane is understanding. Moreover it is Tony and Ambrose's decision to set up a fail safe, where the drill will destroy the silurians if Tony does not return, that provides the key distraction allowing the humans to escape. This story is not conveying the message it thinks it is.

I was also less enamoured of the pacing this time through. In my (surprisingly lengthy) original review I described myself as entertained and interested. This time I found myself getting restive about halfway through Hungry Earth where a lot of running about seemed to be happening to little actual purpose. Things did pick up in the second episode.

Lastly, I was struck by the way Rory's death was so arbitrarily tacked on at the end. When first watching, of course, we were in the middle of a story about the cracks in time and the join was less visible. This time, coming out of nowhere, the way the story essentially stops ten minutes before the end in order to switch into a completely different story was distinctly jarring. The arc plot seemed less like a seamless whole driving the season and more like an awkward addition rather gracelessly mashed into another story.

Overall, I liked this less second time through. Its slavery to the icons of 1970s Who without appearing to understand their underlying meaning or themes looks gaudy and trivial. The arc plot is jarring and out of place. And its po-faced attempts at moralising are at odds with the actual drama that has unfolded. I still think it is better than Chibnall's Torchwood scripts, but that isn't saying a lot.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/85862.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on January 5th, 2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
The Fury connection is interesting; on broadcast, I thought more of Doctor Who and the Silurians' season-mate, Inferno, but I can see the Fury parallels.

I find this distinctly inferior to the Pertwee original, despite, or perhaps because of the reduced time. Fan wisdom has long stated that anything over 100 minutes is too long, and some new fans seem to dislike anything over 45m, unless it's a loose 'arc', but I don't think this is true (then again, I'm a bitter, reactionary old fan). The Silurians, although it has its flaws, especially in the final episode, uses its length to create a detailed set of characters and to let the political side of the crisis unfold in a realistic way, or as realistic as Doctor Who ever gets, as well as producing some deeply unsettling scenes in the early episodes. The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood inevitably has to lose things to fit the shorter running time, but doesn't even manage to do anything particularly interesting with what it does have. I thought The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People the next year did a similar idea much better, but I may be in a minority of one on that.

I think I've mentioned before that it's interesting that the Pertwee original focussed on politics, whereas the Chibnall script is about family, but I haven't been able to make much of this, beyond the obvious that almost the whole of the Pertwee era was about politics, whereas new Who has consistently been about family and sexual/romantic relationships since 2005. The wider socio-cultural significance of this shift eludes me, though.

In retrospect, I wonder if Moffat had thought up Vastra and then needed to introduce the Silurians properly to a new audience before he could subvert them. That he gave it Chibnall rather than doing it himself might be seen as indicative of his interest in Silurians-as-Silurians.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 5th, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
I think Chibnall is all about the icons rather than the content of the Pertwee era, as such a fixation on family - e.g. the UNIT family - rather than politics isn't exactly a surprise. Though your wider point may still stand. I thought The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People suffered from sloppy characterisation but actually had some fresh ideas to bring to the table which this did not.

The idea about Vastra is interesting. I do find it a little... odd... that Moffat has used the same actress to portray all the female silurians in his series.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on January 5th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
I vaguely recall it was originally a money-saving device on The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood (one less prosthetic to buy), although I could be wrong about that. I don't think such doubling-up would not have been possible with the male characters without using split-screen for shared scenes, which would have been counter-productive.

It could be that Moffat and co. were particularly pleased with Neve McIntosh's performance and asked her back. I can't imagine there are that many actresses who can give a fairly emotional performance under such heavy prosthetics! Likewise, Dan Starkey has played several different Sontarans (and in the original series Kevin Lindsay played Linx in The Time Warrior and two more Sontarans in The Sontaran Experiment the next year).
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 6th, 2013 12:59 pm (UTC)
*g* At least the Sontarans are supposed to be clones, and of course Restac and Alaya were written as blood relatives. But you could be correct that it's a question of knowing the actress can handle the part.
reggietatereggietate on January 5th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
Though I think I liked it well enough, I seem to remember being vaguely disappointed by this story> I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it would have worked better as an updating of the Sea Devils, rather than the Silurians themselves? I dunno.

The Silurian prosthetics were really good, though.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 6th, 2013 01:01 pm (UTC)
I think one of its problems is that it promises more than it delivers. It frames itself as a tragic morality play and it really isn't anything of the kind.