The Doctor is lured to a sentient asteroid outside of the Universe by a Time Lord distress signal and soon realises his TARDIS is in grave danger.The Doctor is lured to a sentient asteroid outside of the Universe by a Time Lord distress signal and soon realises his TARDIS is in grave danger.The Doctor is lured to a sentient asteroid outside of the Universe by a Time Lord distress signal and soon realises his TARDIS is in grave danger.
I'm going to assert that right from the word go you know this has all sprung from the mind of Neil Gaiman, with It's hidden realm that is a hybrid of "Alice in Wonderland" and with his propensity for playing with names which he attaches to his oddball characters. Parallel Auntie, Uncle, Nephew and House with Door, Old Bailey, The Marquis De Carabas and Hunter from his novel "Neverwhere" and his stamp becomes apparent. But this Isn't a bad thing, actually It grabs your attention and makes you identify with what is essentially a dysfunction-ally quirky pseudo-family. But most notable amongst the guest characters given It's title is that of Idris who appears to have been lifted out of a Tim Burton movie. She's Gaiman's Gothic fairy tale princess. An amalgamation between Yvaine in "Stardust" and Mrs Lovett in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street". Portrayed with erratic, eerie but paradoxical endearing charm by Suranne Jones she is tantamount to be the one companion the Doctor has always had but hasn't within the context of the plot. There are some neat little quirks like the message box which bangs on the doors of the TARDIS (and eventually leads to a further effective plot device later on) to the the oddball family having being overgrown rag-dolls that have been patched together from the remains of the deceased. Gaiman does indeed attempt to wow the senses and he does so with admirable aplomb. He exploits and fiddles with the mechanics of the TARDIS to such a degree in which Amy and Rory find themselves enveloped in a complex trans-dimensional labyrinth which ultimately leads to one of the most unsettling moments viewers of the series have seen. If this doesn't give the kiddies nightmares then I don't know what will.
What I found distracting however was the the hyper-drive pace, as with previous episodes in the current series so far we're given far little time to breathe before Gaiman pushes us on to the next part of the story. It's as if he's concerned that it will over run and we are not being aloud to sit back and let ourselves take in what's happening before jumping ahead to the next chapter. The presence of an Ood, apparently due to budget restraints meaning that a new creature and costume couldn't be designed and created feels time-worn and slightly imitative given It's connection to House, TDW's prime antagonist. A gravelly monotone disembodied voice that speaks through an Ood and delights in manipulating and exploiting people's fears. It just calls to mind the Beast in the 2005 episode "The Satan Pit". While you could quibble that the whole alien being taking over the body of a living person has been done so many times before in the new series. Think "New Earth, "Human Nature" and again "The Satan Pit" and you notice a significant trend.
Never the less, although flawed TDW is thus far the most accomplished episode of the latest series. The performances from the guest and regular cast for the most part are first rate with Matt Smith forging excellent chemistry with Suranne Jones in the little time they have together. Arthur Darvil is likable as always and actually gets more to do and doesn't feel for once as if he's just along for the ride. But I'm less convinced with Karen Gillan who is stilted as Amy. Beautiful as she is she's not as effortlessly believable as previous companions.
Breaking new ground and with some sublime moments it is something that had potential and while containing some masterfully conceived moments it is also countered by waves of de-ja-vu. I still however defy anyone not to be in awe at least of Gaiman's imaginative ambition and his moments of genius. And with what appears to be another dark instalment with next weeks "The Rebel Flesh" to look forward to I can't help but feel excited.
- May 15, 2011