Speaking on several fronts, the day has been less than stellar at Casa Kaffyr.
Culinarily, my intermittently, and ever-so-slightly malignantly, erratic oven decided to act up as I tried to bake four loaves of bread. Specifically, it decided to turn on the broiler five minutes into the baking period. My house, which normally smells delightfully of baked goods by Sunday evening, smelled instead of burned flour and molasses. Of this, the less said the better.
Medically, my constant low-level headache - a companion ever since two doctors coerced me into avoiding my usual painkilling techniques (a long and not a little frustrating tale, but, oh boy is that another story) - has been monotonously friendly.
Automotively, the Grey Boat needs a visit to the car doctor, who will diagnose (undoubtedly at $65 per hour plus parts) some unlikely-to-be-quickly-rectified break in the fuel system, responsible for the fuel smell that has grown at an arithmetic rate. The worry's grown at a geometric rate, but that's just me.
And finally, in a Whovian vein, I turned on WTTW, hoping to end the day with a heady and enjoyable dose of the Doctor.
Instead, I got "42."
God, that's one massive carbuncle of suck.
So affected was I by the trial of watching it - yes, I watched it,
**** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** **** ****
I promised myself I'd sit down and watch this one again, with an open mind. Things can change, I thought, maybe I just had indigestion the first time I saw this, I thought.
Nope. This one stinks. On ice. In a black hole.
The fact that there are some good moments, little bits of good acting, moments of inspired set-up, make it worse somehow; as if someone bought some really high quality paintings, and put them in a gas station washroom.
The good: the nice development between Martha and Riley the Jettison Boy (including the pub quiz bits between them before the jettison pod); Martha and a very human Francine over the phone, each time; Martha once again being a forceful, independent and effective companion (at least for the most part); the relationship between Cath and Corwin, which the actress convinced me of despite the horrible pacing and the execrable writing; some of the lines ("Where's your Dunkirk spirit?" indeed!); the lighting; the silence as the Doctor and Martha try to communicate after the pod jettisons.
The bad: every bloody thing else.
The story idea is hackneyed. It might have been saved by some good writing, but it doesn't get that. I figured out what was going on about five minutes in, which shouldn't happen in a script whose main aim is to keep me in suspense.
With the exception of Cath and Riley the Jettison Boy, all the other team members are ciphers, which means I don't give a rat's ass about whether they live or die, which in turn means there's that much less infrastructure to hang suspense on.
I don't expect scientific accuracy in Doctor Who, so I'm not sure why the "pieces of sun inside humans, making them walk like traditional movie zombies - wouldn't fiery hot things move a little faster, hmmm? - who feel the need to put on...a welder's helmet? Really? Instead of, I don't know, just burning the frak out of the entire fuel tank and skipping happily back home?" bit makes me grind my teeth, painfully. But it does.
The magic transformation of practical and effective Martha into Screaming Jettison Pod Female was ridiculously overblown. Fear? Yes, I know it changes people, but for chrissake, she's previously managed to overcome her fear at being hunted by Rhino Mercs on the moon, hunted by witches, attacked by Dr. Lazarus' Origami Scorpion o' Death, not to mention murderous pig men (did I really write that phrase?) and Daleks. She didn't turn into a moron during any of those adventures. But Chibnall decides she needs to be a moron for Emotional Bonding ™ to happen in the pod, and there you go!
Oh, and don't get me started on Martha the Sacrament Receiving Acolyte when the Doctor gave her a TARDIS key.
The horribly overwrought music, which apparently was desperate to inform us how moving some scenes were, how dangerous other situations were ... dear lord. Usually Murray Gold does so much better. This was painful to listen to.
And the topper: Ten. Shouting, screaming, flailing, twitching, writhing - and he made it all so unbelievable. I didn't, for one moment, believe he was scared. I didn't, for one moment, believe any of the emotions he was expected to show us. Tennant can, and does, so much better; he's done better in S2, he's done better earlier in S3, I'm sure he'll do better in the rest of the season. But this? Was painfully embarrassing.
Must. Go. Bang. Head. Against. Wall. Hard.
I've finally accepted that Ten seems most real (and Tennant's interpretation at its strongest and most accurate) when he is filtered through sound buffers, when his emotions are brought to us through silence, not shouts.
Perhaps I could have believed that Ten was experiencing real emotional or physical pain, and real fear, had Tennant, the director, and the writer chosen to bring us the Doctor in that fashion: white (or flushed), sweaty, shaking with the pain, but trying *not* to scream. That's just an interpretation I pulled from the air, but there could legitimately be a large handful of others, all tending toward the quiet side of the spectrum, and I think they all would have worked better than what Tennant gave us. When you're allowed to view a quiet performance, the actor is giving you the space to explore what he or she is going through, and thus, allowing you to understand and feel it more deeply.
Obviously, that's not always the case. Shouting and screaming are legitimate human (and for this show, Gallifreyan) reactions, and have their place. But Tennant has shown us (and presumably the showrunners) that his quiet is more powerful than his almost laughable Shouty McShoutypants characterizations.
And speaking of silence, I so wish there could have been silence within silence in the pod jettison scene. It was a brilliant idea, and then they ruin it by having the Doctor mouth over and over and over and bloody over again the "I'll Save You." Technically, it makes me think, gosh, if he'd said it once, or twice at the most so that we could get the dichotomy, then stood there, speechless, in the silence, it would have worked so much better. Within the story, it makes me scream at the screen: Stop telling her you're going to save her, and go off and do it! Helloooo....she's sailing away even as you emote!
Another thing that drove me batty about this episode; as the Doctor and Martha are leaving, he makes some high-minded comment about the living sun needing protection, and I thought to myself that the star had somehow survived its "heart being scooped out" well enough to knowingly murder other sentient beings; the sun grasped human language enough via possession to invite folks to flame on with it, and to say "it's your fault," but not to say "Ah, 'scuse me folks, but I'm alive and you just tried to disembowel me...can we fix this, and if you fix it, I won't KILL YOU."; so the sun, all in all, comes across as somewhat more murderous than the humans; and the Doctor is taking That Tone with the humans? Frak me.
And today, in 2009? Yeah, I still place this one lower than a dog's belly in my personal "to-watch" NuWho list. Damn, it sucks, like a sucking thing.