Not with a bang, not even a whimper. More like a dull thud followed by fart noises and nervous laughter.

So I finally saw "Survival," the final story of the original Doctor Who series the other night. Can we all just agree that not only was it a terrible send off for the show, but possibly one of the worst Who stories ever?

I don't think I've been ruined by the better-quality scripts and high(er) production values of the new series - I still enjoy the old show quite a bit, especially the Pertwee era, which I never cared much for as a kid - but this was pretty hard to take. I realize that budgets dwindled in the last few seasons, often leaving them with less money to pull off more effects (which is why you never saw the TARDIS interior that last year, among other things), but it just looked bad. Like a high school production of "Cats" running around in a quarry for a few hours. And for the kitlings, the carrion-eating housecat-looking things... would it have killed them to just use a real cat in the close-ups rather than that godawful puppet?

And that script. Endless prattle from secondary characters. Lots of the 7th Doctor muttering to himself, not to mention all that standing there and yelling at people to do and/or not do things, rather than actually doing anything himself. The Master sitting in a tent, standing by some ruins, maybe picking up the occasional rock, and generally acting un-Mastery. And of course, that conclusion, where the story doesn't so much end as just sort of stop. If all it took to end all this was having 7 shout a bit, I'm thinking he could have done that back in Episode 1 and saved us all a lot of bother.

And you know, it's really too bad, because there were some good ideas here and there. It was necessary to bring Ace home to Perivale to see how her character arc through the events of "Ghost Light" and "Curse of the Fenric" (not to mention all of her experiences since ending up on Iceworld back before we meet her in "Dragonfire") has changed her from bratty punk to a more mature woman. It was important to finally have the Master clash with 7 onscreen, since his absence was very noticeable through those previous 2 seasons (and the Rani was always a poor substitute). Lastly, for such a long-running, well-remembered show, it was important to give it a good send-off. That closing line of the Doctor's is great, but that's about it.

The original Doctor Who always had a lot of shortcomings you had to overlook and/or embrace in order to really enjoy it. At it's best, it was charming, and the good bits were more than enough to carry you through the rough patches. At it's worst, well... bad Who is incredibly tough to take. And "Survival" is very, very bad Who.

2 comments:

Andy said...

Oh, man, do I ever disagree with you about "Survival."

Sure, the Cat People looked lame. In the original script, they're supposed to be sleek and stealthy and not have faux fur paws, and yes, they screwed up there. Especially because then you get poor Lisa Bowerman (aka Benny) et al riding around the stifling heat and dropping off from heat exhaustion. Someone really, really, really didn't think about that, and it's a biiiiig thing to get over. Granted.

However: so much of what is great about the new series of Doctor Who (normal people vs. the Great Unknown, the drab urban setting as a launch pad for adventures, the working class vibe, the female coming-of-age thread) started here. I'm not saying it was intentional, or a dry run, but watching it recently, it reminded me a lot of, say, "Father's Day" or the Big Yellow Truck scenes from "Parting of the Ways."

If anything, the story feels cramped, but you can tell there's a great script somewhere in there. They had a lot of things to get in and a lot of points to hit (again, I refer you to "Tooth and Claw" in the new series, where a LOT of stuff happens in about 43 minutes). Had the series continued, and the Master's new feral tendencies been developed, it would have made him a lot more interesting. It's not a good ending for the show (although you're right that the final line is brilliant), but it's full of neat stuff: for one, the idea of the intellectual Doctor in a struggle against the cutthroat and illogical forces of nature is really played well, I think. It's also got one of the more ingenious set-ups in the show's history: it's a boring Sunday morning in a boring town where none of Ace's friends are around and everything feels drab. And then, just as you're getting used to the domesticity of it all, you realize there are much worse things than being bored.

I also like the opening with the cat's eye view of the guy getting attacked.

Also, Sophie Aldred is even hotter with cats' eye contacts in. :)

Bill D. said...

Well, I can definitely see where they were trying to achieve all of that, but we'll have to agree to disagree on how well they actually succeeded.

I certainly wanted to like it - Ace the series finale, mixed with the bittersweetness of seeing Anthony Ainley's final appearance as the Master, Ace's "Eliza Doolittlefication" under the Doctor's tutelage becomes more or less complete - which is what made my disappointment even worse, really.

And while I like seeing the Doctor playing the intellect against physical, we saw so little of that. After seeing him make the Daleks and Cybermen destroy themselves, saddening Morgaine into surrender, and upping his chess game with Fenric to human levels with Ace as his pawn (or maybe actually his queen, depending on how you look at it), all the standing around and shouting just seemed a bit lacking. I mean, McCoy's Doctor always used his brain above all else, but that still usually meant actually doing something.