Mister Boe Rambles

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I’m loving the new series, but since The Runaway Bride I’ve had a vague feeling of sameness. Specifically – reheated final acts usually involving thwarted villainesses screaming their way into oblivion amidst Mill-concocted pyrotechnics, as panicked crowds point skywards.

So it was with some joy that I found myself surprised, absorbed and exhilarated by Gridlock, despite last years’ series opener leaving me wishing never to return to New Earth. Not only does it break the final act mould of the last three stories but reintroduces an environment and threat which feel real. Previously, fresh air had thoughtfully been provided in deep space, the lunar surface and apparently even surely-pungent Elizabethan London; whereas the first thing that happens to the Doctor and Martha on New Earth is a heavy shower of rain. The environment immediately impresses itself upon them and continues to do so. Smog replaces smug as the Doctor and Martha are both swiftly relegated to the status of helpless passengers, deprived of the TARDIS, one another and their own independence. There’s a true sense of desperation – Tennant even out-does McCoy in bellowing his companion’s name in one scene! Pleasingly, his Doctor initially seems less in control than usual, regretting ‘showing off’ and caught up in another of the new series’ ‘dead-end future’ scenarios.

But it’s not all grim and dystopian, in fact ‘road trip’ perhaps describes this stories ‘genre’ best. The plethora of eccentric characters and locations encountered along the way charm and engage as only Doctor Who at it’s very best can. As bizarre as many of the New New York inhabitants seem, they also present a very believable humanity – never more so than in the moving ‘hymn sequence’. Accompanying visuals are consistently good, including a truly thrilling ‘crab race’ and an arrival at the final destination straight from the Star Wars prequels.

The fact that the story concludes with the least surprising revelation in the new series’ history hardly matters, this journey hasn’t been so much about the destination as having fun getting there. So say what you like about Rusty Davies, and at Zeus Blog we always do, but at his best he is, to quote a certain Gridlock character:

“Insane and a little bit magnificent”.

AH

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