Cheap

The was something quite sad about last night’s Doctor Who Confidential. Because the episode that preceded it was largely effects-free and actor-driven (i.e. cheap), the documentary decided a good comparison would be with the very first episode of Doctor Who – which only showed how deluded some of the current production team are.

As they were clearly aware (in a very camp, Welsh, enthusiastic way), the first episode of Doctor Who still stands up today as an edgy, tense and unusual slice of television drama worthy of our attention and analysis some forty three years later.

Will last night’s episode be worthy of analysis in 2049? Sadly, no. It wasn’t even worthy of much analysis at 20:49, a mere hour and four minutes after broadcast ended. Because it was badly scripted, undramatic, hammy, and – well, basically a bit pants all round.

Frustratingly, although there were basically too many ideas and a complete lack of development (or any real explanation), with a better script the basic story could have been REALLY good. Alas, next to 1963’s production team, the current lot look like a bunch of amateurs. The series has all been a bit hit and miss, with a couple of really good episodes (look for the ones with a good script) and a few absolute disasters, which seems to indicate that they don’t know what they’re doing right even when they manage it. I can’t imagine the Russell T’s big two-part finale is going to have many subtle nuances, but let’s hope it’s better than last year’s.

There was one high point last night, though, and it was thanks to possibly the best guest star the series has ever had: ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr Huw Edwards.

As somebody who has often sat on stage improvising lines as Huw Edwards, I found it immensely satisfying to hear him last night and conclude that the director had basically told him to ad-lib his response to a whole stadium’s worth of spectators vanishing from in front of him – a task that even Derek Jacobi would have found taxing, and Huw was predictably awful.

However, he did manage to inject a note of pathos into the most ridiculous line in the episode, when they cut back to the commentary box to find it empty:

“Bob? Bob? Oh no…not you as well, Bob…”

If only they’d thought to develop that little subplot some more. I for one would like to know exactly why the creepy girl didn’t think Huw Edwards was worth abducting too.

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