Funny how all it takes is one dog of a two-parter like this to puncture my swelling enthusiasm for this show. You’d think they could knock those out of the park, since they have the equivalent of four of the old-school episodes to develop the story and don’t have to rush it out in 45 minutes, but I guess when it’s as full of dumb, far-fetched ideas as this one, it doesn’t matter how long you have.
I can’t fault the ambition: it takes balls for an English company to do a story set in Manhattan in the 1930s. The accents weren’t as awful as I thought they’d be, though the boy from Tennessee couldn’t even stay consistent and Solomon was so obviously not a New Yorker.
But the plot was dopey from the start. Why pigs? Why not just docile humans? I guess the answer is that they were test runs for Dalek Sec’s transformation, but I never bought that any Dalek would ever do something like that, and I certainly never bought the resulting alteration of his personality. It just seems like a story idea someone thought would be cool, not one that made a lick of sense.
I mean, remember, they won the “Time War,” right? It wiped out most of them, but their main obstacle to survival is the Doctor. It’s not that they’re “not human enough.” Obviously I don’t agree with the Dalek philosophy, but there’s no way Sec’s experiment would advance it. We’d have to believe he had some secret motivation, but as far as I can see none was offered.
Fortunately this story did contain one element I like about the new season: every episode so far has featured at least a cameo by a super cute guy. They seem to either die or be turned into pigs pretty quickly, though, which kind of takes the fun away. And the story also contained almost all the elements I hate about the new series:
1. The Doctor’s
magic wand sonic screwdriver. On the one hand, it makes sense for a guy like him to carry around a universal tool, a sort of super-Swiss-Army-knife. On the other, it doesn’t make sense that he can do freaking ANYTHING with it. It’s far more omnipotent than it was in the old series, and even then they destroyed it so that the Doctor would have to solve problems with his wits like everyone else. The thing needs limitations, badly.
2. Science that seems more like magic, which I guess is the same problem. The Daleks’ “genetic” techniques; gamma radiation delivered as a lightning strike (did I miss something there?); the Doctor’s ability to rig up a DNA testing machine out of some stage lights and the inside of a 1930s portable radio; it’s all, not to put too fine a point on it, pure bullshit. Of course the old show was never about hard SF either but at least they usually tried to make it seem vaguely possible. It’s obvious this lot just care about telling a fanciful story, which is good on some levels but when the motivations don’t make sense either, what’s the point?
3. The Doctor’s nigh-invulnerability. So far this season he’s had his blood drained (through a straw…don’t get me started), nearly asphyxiated, been voodooed by space witches (DON’T get me started), and now electrocuted by an obviously lethal dose of gamma radiation (see #2), and he just seems to get up and keep going with no explanation at all. In the past he would have mumbled something about a respiratory bypass system, or he would have freaking regenerated, but something tells me this Doctor could have survived a fall off the Empire State Building with nothing but a single tear falling on his cheek to revive him. Kind of relieves the tension when you know your main character can survive anything.
4. Martha mooning over the Doctor. Somehow it seemed natural with Rose; she seemed to have a few boundaries, or something. Martha’s fallen for him with one kiss and they’re hammering the romantic tension way too hard. So far I haven’t seen much about her that’s remarkable, and her family isn’t really in the picture so she doesn’t even have that dimension to keep her interesting.
I don’t know if I’m going to keep the DVD set I ordered. I certainly never want to watch this story again.