Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Doctor Who (US) - "Amy's Choice"

The fifth season of 'Doctor Who' airing in the US on BBC America is a few episodes behind those in the UK. If you are only following 'Doctor Who' in the US on BBC America and do not wish to be spoiled, read these reviews only and not those labeled "Doctor Who (UK)". 

Doctor Who
Season Five - Episode Seven
"Amy's Choice"

Review by David Lowbridge

I hate 'Doctor Who'. It’s a programme only children would enjoy. Its lead character is a walking mass of superficial character ticks, far less subtle in execution than any thinly drawn Charles Dickens caricature...

I love 'Doctor Who'. It’s the best show on television. Unlike many shows that claim to do it, 'Doctor Who' actually succeeds in entertaining all ages. Little kids love the monsters, adults can genuinely engage with its drama without having to stress the caveat that they watch it because it’s ‘so retro’. The protagonist’s appeal endures despite, or perhaps because of, his periodic shifts in physiognomy and personality.

The constant shifts in tone jar to an irritating extent, this week’s episode being a prime example; freezing to death one minute, cracking one liners the next...

The constant shifts in tone are handled masterfully. In the best episodes, into whose ranks this week’s confidently takes it place, the feeling of menace is actually heightened by bursts of comedy. They provide the release valve for when the tension gets too much. The world’s greatest dramatist mastered the technique. Why else does a drunken doorman with erectile dysfunction lurch onto stage at the dramatic high point of Macbeth?

It’s the worst kind of sci-fi. Aliens hiding out in old people? It’s even worse than Cocoon. It’s daft. It doesn’t mean anything...

It’s the best kind of sci-fi; I.E. it’s not really sci-fi. The writers take the world we all know and displace it slightly. Just enough, so ‘anything goes’. Stone statues... that come alive! Reality TV in the Year 3000... where eviction means execution! Spitfires... in space! Nothing goes so far that we can’t relate to it. It’s the most humane show where humans are in the minority. It’s like animation, where the abstraction from reality allows us to take characters to our hearts more willingly than if they were portrayed by ‘real people’. The daftness disguises its true nature; it’s pure drama.

Hmm, can anyone else hear birds tweeting?

I can’t be impartial about 'Doctor Who'. My critical faculties fail me. If I try to consider the faults my brain takes a detour into a Prozac-flavoured alternate reality where Steven Moffat is God, his writing team the disciples and the whole thing becomes so much more believable than that other revered fiction that I just give in, get down on my knees and start begging for forgiveness.

That’s because 'Doctor Who' is the only thing on television, besides 'Mad Men', that’s consistently good and usually brilliant.

Even so, I knew I was really going to rate "Amy’s Choice". The trailer hinted at fractured mental states, a really human dilemma, and a conundrum that would keep us guessing. I also have a penchant for any variation on the Jekyll/Hyde story and dramas set predominantly in one claustrophobic location. What we got was half hypothetical alternate reality tale, akin to Season One’s "Father’s Day" and half locked room whodunit, resembling Season Four’s "Midnight" in tone and music score.

And indeed ‘whodunit?’ is the mystery that makes it the first episode you will really need to see twice to appreciate. Without giving anything away, it’s the most playful and postmodern Who to date. Let alone the fourth dimension, the Doctor almost broke the fourth wall in the pre-titles sequence. “This is going to be a tricky one,” Matt Smith intoned. Across a tight forty-five minutes our hero’s identity was deconstructed, his companions reached a breakthrough in their pre-nuptial counselling session and all the time they were being pursued by the simultaneously scariest and silliest villains of this series so far. The George Romero-esque old people will be responsible for a sharp decline in visits to retirement communities for months to come.

1 comment:

  1. Yeay! This episode FINALLY appeared on BBC On Demand!

    I admit, I kinda only half-assed watched it (it's very, very hard for me to actually sit & watch a show on tv. My attention span just can't take it), so I may have missed something that may have explained the one part of this episode that took me completely out of the story:

    Amy throws caution to the wind after she sees Rory "die" in one "reality" and says she doesn't want to go on in that "reality" because of it.

    ...BUT SHE'S PREGGERS! Yes, she'd be distressed, but motherly instinct would kick in. If there was even a chance that this was a real-life scenario for her, I would think that she wouldn't choose to end her own existence so easily.

    Did my little rant make sense to anyone else but me? I'm sure I'll watch this episode again. Perhaps it will all become clear, then.