Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I Can Get It Out My Head (quite easily - sadly...)

Well, I’m sure you’re all simply DYING to know my thoughts on the Dr Who Xmas special aren’t you?? The fact that it’s taken me over almost 2 weeks to compose a post-viewing response kind of says it all really…Okay, yes, I did say I wouldn’t be returning until the New Year and all that, but if the Crimbo special had grabbed me sufficiently I’m sure I would have very quickly posted up a few positive words extolling its sheer brilliance. Unfortunately that has NOT been the case because “brilliant” is not the way I’m feeling about “Voyage of the Damned”, sadly. Neither it seems, are many of my other fellow bloggers and Whovians. Oh dear…

In a word, “Voyage of the Damned” was...a let-down. Oh, that's three words. Well, there were certainly loads of good ingredients in there – a potential Xmas epic-cum-disaster-movie-take on stories like “The Poseidon Adventure”; the fabulous Kylie Minogue, heading the guest cast, the rest of whom – Geoffrey Palmer, Clive Swift etc – as well-established actors, promised strong performances; some excellent-looking special effects and sets – but collectively all of those things just didn’t gell, leading to an unsavoury and lumpen mix, like a Xmas pudding gone wrong (not that I’d really know as I hate Xmas pudding). For me it was definitely the least successful of the Xmas specials to date.

And lo! I level my frosty Xmas finger at just ONE culprit. A man who seems to increasingly regard himself as the ultimate Dr Who messiah but whose ideas, writing style and judgement are starting to totally get on my sci-fi tits: Russell T Davies. After the Season 3 finale-fiasco that was “Last of the Time Lords” and now this distinctly average piece of Xmas fare, I am of the firm opinion that THE MAN MUST GO. When is he going to let someone else write the Xmas Special for God’s sake? Stephen Moffatt? Paul Cornell? Russell, you’re seriously losing it, darling! Are you turning into JNT? Saints protect us!

Okay then, at the risk of turning into a Nu-Scrooge (which I would hate to do in this brand new, hope-filled year!) I will grant RTD a TEENY BIT of slack. As a whole “Voyage of the Damned” was never UNWATCHABLE. It had a story of sorts. Just not a desperately original or exciting one. The opening scenes did quite a nice job of setting the scene aboard the Titanic, with a sense of impending doom as the meteorites closed in, but from then on things got very formulaic indeed. I mentioned before that the fact “Voyage” was a re-take on “Poseidon Adventure” was a potentially good thing. Potentially. Dare I say that the tacky 1970s movie of yore starring Shelley Winters and co was a lot more tense and frightening than this? Although the lives of passengers and crew of the Titanic were all meant to be in jeopardy, somehow it just didn’t FEEL like it. Attempts to up the dramatic ante didn’t really work, even if we did get scenes like the one on the platform with the characters all in danger of falling to their deaths. It just felt staid and like it had all been done before. There were also some inconsistencies in the plot – why on earth was Max Capricorn, the one behind all the killings and destruction – hiding out on the Titanic itself, especially if he planned to destroy it?! Kind of counter-productive, surely?

As for the characterisation and cast….David Tennant rose above the average script generally well and this time round, those annoying Tenth Dr tics and mannerisms were relatively subdued. It seems to be swings and roundabouts with him, you don’t know how he’s going to be from story to story! The only teeth-grinding moment for me was the “Alonsy” bit, Aaaah!

And Mistress Kylie of Minogia? Well. We’d all been waiting with bated breath to see how the one-time Charlene Robinson was going to shape up in her Whovian debut. Yep, she looked very sexy in her waitress outfit and boots and had a certain ethereal quality about her but the character was just…bland. Alright, watching the special again (yes I deigned to watch the New Year’s Day repeat to get a second opinion, wow!) there were moments when Astrid came across as kind of caring and sweet e.g. her kindness to Banakafalatta and her hugging Fatty Foon just after her Fatty Husband died.

Probably Astrid’s best and butchest moment - and a strong scene in a sea of decidedly average ones - was the part when she commandeered the fork-lift truck and took Max Capricorn down into the fiery pit with her. Go girl!! Powerful stuff and I liked the moment when she and the Dr exchange sad looks before she goes to her death. I confess I did get a bit teary-eyed at this point. (And incidentally, wasn’t the Dr bloody lucky to have so many noble, self-sacrificing people around him? First, Foon chucking herself into the pit to save everyone from a murderous “host” and then Astrid’s aforementioned act of martyrdom! Kind of made overcoming the problems easier, didn’t it?) So maybe Ms Peth was bland but at least she was brave with it (even if this bit did remind me ever so slightly of Sigourney Weaver in her mechanical body suit, facing off against the alien queen at the end of “Aliens”. But you’d never rip off anyone else’s ideas, would you Russell?!)

Bringing Astrid back via teleportation felt gratuitous however; a self-conscious effort to milk audience sympathy for an already dead person. Not to mention the way her atoms were seen to go whizzing round the stars. Does this mean Astrid might be reincarnated at a later date? Judging by comments already made, a return for Kylie isn’t entirely ruled out. I say, don’t do it!! Though she had some memorable moments, there just wasn’t enough meat on the bones of Astrid’s character – in spite of all her talk about wanting to go the stars etc – and certainly not enough to warrant a return appearance (but then, look what happened to Donna Noble…once Mr Davies gets these ideas into his head there’s no stopping him…) In spite of all this, I don’t think we can blame Kylie. She did her best with a rather limited role. Yes, it’s those pesky writers at fault again! A shame, as someone as iconic and striking as Kylie deserved something more substantial than this – at the end of the day the fact that it was her playing Astrid was neither here nor there - as another fellow blogger has pointed out, anyone could have been playing the character and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Pity.

Dear oh dear, aren’t I just full of the joys of Xmas! Still reading this? Well done, yous!

What about the rest of the cast? Veteran Geoffrey Palmer sadly didn’t get much screen time before being bumped off; a waste.

Clive Swift was adequate in his “nice old fella” persona but Mr Copper wasn’t a particularly challenging part.

The two dressed-in-blue alien fatties - Morvin and Foon (and gawd, what stupid names) - did little else than add some not-very-comic relief to proceedings (Look! We’re eating lots of food on the Titanic!) Er, yeah. Hilarious.

Banakafalatta was annoying and one of those aliens that RTD takes delight in creating but who just come across as gimmicky and silly. One for the kiddies. And am I the only one who thought he resembled a dwarf-sized Darth Maul? (The helium-infused voice wasn’t very butch either).

Other bits? The hosts looked and sounded good but again lack of originality seemed to be the order of the day, as they bore an uncanny similarity to the Voc robots from the Tom Baker tale “Robots of Death” – the stylised but impassive faces; the “posh” accents; the repeated “Kill” incantation. It was a nicely apt Xmas touch giving them halos, but then again whoever their fictional creator/designer was deserved to be sacked for such a major design flaw – didn’t they realise that the halos made the perfect murder weapon? (Or was this deliberate on their part?)

The bit with the Titanic flying over Buckenham Palace, narrowly avoiding collision and the Queen's "Thank you Dr!" line was godawful.

I think if I’d been about 7 years old I would have enjoyed this much more. Granted there were lots of elements in there that would appeal to the kids and that’s not an entirely terrible thing. The problem with RTD’s style of writing and stories is that the scales end up being tipped in the “kiddie” direction far too much and with him at the helm I’m worried that this is a growing trend.

Finally, after the stodgy and generally unpalatable main course that was “VOTD” came a somewhat sweeter and more enticing dessert - the Season Four trailer. And there were some promising-looking bits, too. Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Christie looking very demure and detective-like (and she’s a rather unusual-looking lady). Felicity Kendall in the background. Giant killer bees/wasps that looked very scary indeed. A stone monster in Rome. Raquel from Coronation Street as an evil businesswoman (well you’d probably turn out that way after being married to Curly Watts). And whose wrinkled brown face was that we glimpsed near the end? A Sontaran? Davros? Rose Tyler without her make-up? The only bits that made me cringe were the brief bits of Donna Noble dialogue – The “Why do you call me miss, do I look single?” line that she delivered to the Ood sounded forced and really out-of-place. And that bloody accent! If this is what Ms Tate is going to be like all the time in the next season, I think I'll bottle out NOW. I'm scared!! Scared for the future of my beloved show!! Anyway if you fancy a gander at what's in store click below...

Okay, I'm sorry I haven't written as much on DW as I normally do (or maybe that's a blessing!) But it's mainly cos of my distinct feelings of disappointment re: "VOTD". So in the meantime let's gird our loins for the onset of Season Four and PRAY.

Oh yes, we do have Torchwood to plug the gap until then, don't we? Mmmm....


  • At 4:53 pm , Blogger doppelganger said...

    "I think if I’d been about 7 years old I would have enjoyed this much more"

    Therein lies the key I think....

    I reckon the trick is to regard the DW Xmas spesh as a bit of undemanding fun pantomime - we aint ever fonna get 'Human Nature' or 'Doctor Dances' on Christmas Day.....

  • At 5:13 pm , Blogger Steve said...

    You summed it up nicely - all the ingredients were there for a first class episode... if RTD still managed to eff it up then that shows what a bad writer he is! Or should that be lazy rather than bad. To be fair, he can write when he wants to... I just feel he's become very complacent with regards DW and no longer pushes himself to give of his best. The fans deserve better! Something with a bit of edge and a lot of thought of behind it... not tacky shots of the Queen waving to a spaceship Titanic as it roars overhead! Gah!

  • At 2:29 am , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    "Voyage of the Damned" was rubbish but not as poor as last year's Christmas "Special" with Tate! And, for that one reason alone!! RTD's idea of casting the important role of companion beggars belief. It runs like a Christmas Carol! Two pop stars, one comedienne and a token black woman who turned out to be the best of a bad bunch!! What's the odds the Doctor-less episode with the three companions will be called "Desperate Girlfriends"?!!

    To say RTD is "turning into JNT" is to insult JNT! There are many classic "Doctor Who" stories from JNT's tenure as producer. I think it too soon to call Cornell's scarecrow story a classic. Despite being one of the better third season stories, it is still full of holes. At least it told a story though!

    Everyone seems to be saying that RTD has BECOME complacent, in his writing, whereas I believe he was bereft of ideas from the off. The best he could offer in 2005, to herald the return of "Doctor Who" after 16 years, was a burping dustbin and farting aliens! Where's the creativity in that? His imagination, regarding the series, is pathetically lame.

  • At 1:56 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Doppleganger - Yes I probably said it myself! I know what you mean, but it's kind of sloppy reasoning to fob the audience off with a less-than-decent story at Crimbo time and assume that it's okay. The Beeb probably think we'll all be so sozzled on Xmas booze and food and collapsed on the couch that we wouldn't notice the difference. As if!

    Steve - Ta. I agree, RTD has actually produced some good stories in the past - the Season 1 and 2 finales for one, which were absolute corkers! Complacency does seem to have taken over though and it's arrogant of him to assume that we're going to accept such third-rate fodder such as "VOTD". Shape up or ship OUT, Russell!

    Tim - Hello! I have to disagree with you, on reflection I think "Runaway Bride" was better than "VOTD"! Although Tate was annoying in it, the character settled down and did prove to be a good foil for David Tennant's Dr. There was also other decent aspects to "Bride" such as Sarah Parrish's monster and some good action sequences. A better story overall.

    Okay, well I think what I meant is that RTD is turning into JNT as he became during his latter years. I agree there are several classic stories from the final Tom Baker season and the Peter Davison era. Colin Baker for me was where the rot set in and celebrity casting and tacky and ill-thought out stories became the order of the day. As JNT's tenure grew longer so his judgement as a producer seemed to wane, as seems to be the case with RTD too. And therein lies the problem - let someone occupy the "Who" throne for too long and they start to regard themselves as some kind of DW God, seeing their own ideas as sacrosanct, whilst running out of decent concepts and storylines and unprepared to listen to the ideas of others!!

    Having said that, I have to disagree with your final comment about RTD's imagination being "pathetically lame" Tim!! There you and I differ and I'm probably being more charitable. But as I said, he has managed to come up with some good stuff in the past and has shown inventiveness and creativity. But as time passes by, that seems to be seeping away increasingly and I agree that the time is right for his departure.

  • At 1:42 pm , Blogger matty said...

    Yeah, but did Kylie sing?

    ...I'm only ever watching if Kylie sang.

    I would never have allowed poor Kylie to set one glam foot in a fork lift!

    ...I'm sorry you didn't get to really enjoy the show. Shall I have that writer "ice'd" for you?


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