Monday, May 08, 2006

Stone heart... beating....

Huge kudos to Steven Moffat's Doctor Who episode 'The Girl In the Fireplace', which made me shed a manly tear.

Even with the fabbo D. Tennant in the title role, I hadn't been able to get into the new series much more than the last, and I still don't like the direction/lighting/music*. But this one pushed all the right buttons for me: emotional without being soapy, witty without being just jokey, and lots of lovely visual flourishes (I will always be a sucker for horses in space stations). For me, this does what SF does best: takes a bizarre concept (a spacestation with time windows into 18th century Paris, allowing the hero to visit a woman at various points in her life) and work through the real emotional implications. Won't talk about the end, but it had me blubbing since.... D. Tennant in Casanova.

Hmm. Maybe it's just the big sleeves.

Still, it's the first Who episode I've seen that I would happily rank up there with the best episodes of Buffy or The West Wing. Cracking acting by gorgeous lovely Sophia M as well, which kept the whole thing humming with saucy energy. Too too often in British telefantasy, half the actors get confused and think they're in a pantomime. Christopher Ecclestone said something in one interview about running through fight scenes in Who with a big grin on his face, so 'the kids would know it was going to be all right', which made me want to roll up a newspaper and bop it sharply across his nose.

NOTE: There's a downloadable commentary with Steven M. and Mickey Thing over at the bbc site which is well worth a listen.


* Actually I'm not sure that it's any of these. I think it just puts me off straight away because of the slighly harsh-looking digital video thing, whereas I'm almost always going to prefer film/graded DV. I'm at the very limits of my technical knowledge here, and there's a lot of reverse snobbery about graded DV (that 'filmised' look that GW has). There's no point slapping it on everything of course, but I can't help feeling Who would look just that bit cooler if they scuffed up the film a bit.

If anyone's reading who a) actually knows anything about the technical details and b) is now angry with me for being wrong, do say so. I'd love to know some actual facts about this.

28 comments:

love's child said...

I have not watched a single episode of Doctor Who in my life and am feeling quite bad about it. But I don't think it's showing on Singaporean TV channels and I have no money for the DVDs. Bah.

cello said...

I agree, James. It was great, even allowing for my slight crush on Mr Tennant (it's the teeth I think).

There were so many interesting ideas; an emotional relationship between two people aging at different rates, being able to enter somone else's mind totally and see their thoughts and memories, a new take on the splat gun etc. And of course the kissing, which is always good and helps teach my 11 year old how to do it and about the emotions that make it happen without getting into any explicit stuff just yet.

Someone reminded me that in the first ever series the Doctor, William Hartnell, actually had a grand-daughter. I wonder if we'll ever get to see how that happened.

Anonymous said...

i know what you mean about doctor who loking too clean... im not a fan of that hd digibeta video look.... i had no idea GW was shot on DV... is that true or have i misread something? would love to know more techie details...

Squarah said...

I know nothing about all the technical stuff and have to admit the only reason for my newfound love of Doctor Who is David Tennant! (Shallow?! Me?!) And that was something I caught from watching Casanova....sigh!!

EalingTragedy said...

I thought Moffat's World War II episodes in the last series were fan-flippin'-tastic, but wasn't so keen on this last one. Loved the robots and the overall storyline, but found the romance angle rather shallow. And the Madame herself had lines like something out of a Mills & Boone novel.

Plus the BBC moved it forward 15 minutes without warning me, so I missed the beginning.

Rose said...

This episode was less irritating than others. I maintain that Tennant needs something slightly less pantomime-ish than family telly to really show what he's made of. Anyone who gets excited about clockwork gets a thumbs up from me, though.

Nicole said...

Speaking of GW on DVD, they don't exactly make it easy for us (U.S. that is) to lay hands on it. I knew I was probably going to have to buy the all-region DVD player (or borrow my brother's bestfriend's Playstation on a permanent basis), but what about this --gah! It's not even on my keyboard! I'm have tempted to just put 'lbs.' But that would probably kind of lame, wouldn't it?

I can see this is going to be a lot of work.

Unless, of course, anyone has any simple answers? Like, "You dumbass, you just plug in your credit card number and they take it from there." 'Cause they're all wired together...like...that....

Maybe.

Guess I'll have to try it.

b said...

hey nicole...

am i being stupid when i say "huh?"
let me know...

entropy said...

Nicole, I don't think you can use "lbs" for "£" if that's what you were looking for. You could use the clunky GBP instead... But "huh?" or "eh?" all the same...

Marsha Klein said...

Ah, not many T.V actors can leave you as emotionally wrung-out as David Tennant. I first saw him in "Takin' Over the Asylum" by Donna Franceschild, playing a young lad battling with manic depression. His performance was so touching it can still move me to tears ten or more years later.
It hadn't occurred to me that the look of the new series might be what wasn't quite right (at times I've found the soundtrack so intrusive that the dialogue has be all but inaudible, although this has improved recently) but, yes I can see that a different visual quality might improve things. I hadn't thought either about GW having a "filmic" quality until you mentioned it - I guess you know you've got these things right if no-one notices them.

james henry said...

Exactly - it's all horses for courses. Using the wrong format just because it's trendy can be fatal: see Ben Elton's 'Blessed'. Arguable if it could have worked anyway, but taking an old-school 'wah wah wah' script and then filming it as if it was some kind of indie film did it no favours at all.

GW looks very odd before the grade the video - like some kind of very cheap home movie. Grading is expensive though - apparently Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere' was lit for graded video, but then they ran out of money, which is why it looks so flat and rubbish.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Buffy, well sort of, was Harriet's description of Lyndon as 'shiny' in any way a nod of approval to Joss?

james henry said...

Hmm.. not one of mine, so not sure. Don't think any of the other writers are JS fans though, so maybe just a co-inkydink.

Mac's 'For I... am the Chosen One' was always supposed to be a nod towards some big Buffy-style supernatural arc, although only to me. And I never mentioned it to anyone else. Or indeed wrote any more on the subject. But still, it's there.

Also, I always imagined Whiteleaf as the Swiss Version of Hogwarts, which is why Guyball doesn't quite make sense, and Guy doesn't quite seem to live in the same world as the rest of them - being clearly a failed wizard, stripped of his powers which he clearly used for dirty purposes.

Again, this was only in my head, but I always felt it explained quite a lot about the character....

Anonymous said...

Ahh - it all begins to make sense now. Sort of.

By the way, fantastic BSG last night - am totally spoiled for the final ep though, which is a shame.

patroclus said...

Whiteleaf is in Switzerland? I always imagined (and in fact have often told other people) that it's spelled 'Whyteleafe' and is named after that place in Surrey.

Clearly I just make up everything I think I 'know' about GW.

james henry said...

I saw that.

I could well be wrong though, we did have a writer's meeting once, but I wasn't really listening.

Meant 'JW', not 'JS', by the way. Haven't seen any of BS S2 so far.

Lots of acronyms in this comment. TMA? M.

patroclus said...

Errr, but if that was the case, wouldn't it be called Weissblatt (pron. Wissblitt)? Or Blanchefeuille (pron. Blinchfoo)? Or Fogliabianca (pron Folbin)?

A client of mine once said to a journalist 'VA for PB5 is going GA in Q4'. I've never forgotten that.

Lucy said...

The Swiss version of Hogwarts - that's the best thing I ever heard, and it surprisingly makes a lot of sense.

flossie said...

oooh mr henry!
I was out with a very close pal who works for ch4 who knows you.

She asked how I knew you. I then had to say 'oh, well I came across his blog, and I err, read it, and sometimes comment on it'.

But hey, if there was a 6 Degrees of Seperation between me and, say, Elton John I could make it via my mate Cath, you and Bob the Builder. Rah!

circelily said...

Takin' Over the Asylum really needs a DVD release. I still remember it all these years after, even though I didn't realise it was the same ant-wetting David "Casanova" Tennant. Never knowingly given a bad performance and with his Dr Who profile, not likely to be on stage again for a long long time. Wish I lived in Edinburgh last year. Anyone got a time machine?

circelily said...

or possibly "pant-wetting". ::Runs away::.

james henry said...

I just saw that. I really liked 'ant-wetting' though. It sounds like the sort of thing David Tennant would do.

Anonymous said...

Cue an innuendo about SM's wand...

Jennifer said...

Steven Moffat is almost on a par with the absolutely fabulously fantabulous Russell T Davies...just not quite. Having said that, this weeks' 'GITF' and the two parter WW2 from the Chris Ecclestone Era were definitely memorable.

David Tennant is bringing a whole new level to the Doctor right now and is COMPLETELY living up to the sky-high expectations Ecclestone left in his wake. But I think part of that transitional success between the two Doctors is down to the darling Billie Piper. She's fantastic. I'll cry when she leaves. Howl.

*sheds a tear even now, thinking about it*

Nicole said...

I was just (in manner of the Spazz that I am) trying to share a little bit of the woe that I am going through in the obsessed GW fan life that I live.

...Maybe I won't do that anymore....

Nicole said...

And yes, I do realize that probably no one is going to read any more of these comments.

I'm just...uhm....

Yeah.

*sigh*

james henry said...

You share away m'dear.

Kate said...

D Tennent is a fantastic dramatic actor. I find his 'happy Doctor' moments a bit manic. C Ecclestone had more sheer gravitas and physical weight to pull off the manic bits woithout appearing as light as fluff in them, in danger of being swept away on his own energy. But David is a fantastic serious/ pathos-driven actor, and as such wins on moements like that at the end.