Sunday, 23 February 2014

Boom Town written by Russell T Davies and directed by Joe Ahearne



This story in a nutshell: Everybody takes time out in Cardiff to pause and reflect…

Northern Adventurer: By this stage of series one Christopher Eccleston has made peace with the role and is delivering some near flawless performances. This story throws a mixture of comedy and drama at him and whilst he was only cut out for the latter earlier in the season he has now perfected the former. The Doctor is such hard work but he’s worth it, he says whilst flirting cheekily with Jack. It is wonderful to see the ninth Doctor and his friends laughing in the café, his life is just starting to come together again before the devastating events in the next story. Eccleston’s slight eyebrow raise when Margaret drops her teacup is priceless. Don’t worship him because he would make a very bad God. Davies takes this opportunity to reflect on the Doctor’s lifestyle and we have never had such a harsh light thrown on his methods and the carefree way he walks away from whatever situation he has made. It’s not always like this, having to wait and deal with the consequences of his actions and Margaret is spot on when she says he is always the first leave. Remember all those Troughton stories where he was out of the door as soon as the crisis is averted and the mopping up has to begin? How strong is the Doctor’s stomach? Can he sit with a person he is going to kill and take supper? All this introspection is very New Adventures/Eighth Doctor Adventures and its very welcome addition to the new series. What I love is that these ideas are tossed into the air, the finger is pointed but the episode doesn’t come down on either side. We are left to consider what Boom Town says about the Doctor and to make up our own minds. His happy go lucky lifestyle leaves devastation in its wake, always on the move because he daren’t look back. Playing with so many people’s lives he might as well be God. All of this psychological evaluation felt fresh and interesting in series one but too much can be a dangerous thing...there would be times over the next seven series where I fear that the show is focussing so much on how the Doctor is feeling that it forgets to let him enjoy his adventures. But that's for later, as I said at this stage this was a fascinating peek into the psyche of one of the most closed off Doctors.

Chavvy Chick: It aches me to watch the series one episodes where Rose is portrayed so confidently knowing what comes up next year when she pairs up with Tennant. Style wise this is certainly the best she looks, all wrapped up in woolies and rocking the pigtail look. It's great to see Rose saying that she loves the TARDIS as it is. Mickey to bring her passport was just a pretence because she wanted to spend some time with him. I did like it when she tells Mickey what she gets up to is none of the Doctor’s business. The Rose/Mickey relationship is given a great deal of consideration in Boom Town and picks up a lot of the threads that were left hanging at the end of World War Three. One thing is clear, the personal lives that the companions have left behind have become a running storyline that the series will dip in and out of when it sees fit. Is it fair that Mickey is left waiting for his honey whilst she goes running off with the Doctor? Is it fair that she shoves the great banter she has with the Doctor and Jack in his face as soon as he shows up? Even Rose (who often thinks about number one first) declares that Mickey deserves better at the end of the episode.

Cheeky Chap: Boom Town is the making of Mickey offering him precisely the sort of development that there wasn't time to give him (but was desperately needed) in Rose. Watch as he very shyly asks Rose out on a date, he is trying to feel his way into their new relationship. When he tells Rose that he is dating Trisha Delaney it is clearly just a ploy to make her react and a reminder that he isn't sitting idle. He admits that at least he knows where Trisha is and she won’t leave him like Rose did, making him feel like nothing. Clarke is excellent when Mickey almost breaks down, slightly pathetic and very indignant. That was the point where I fell in love with Mickey the idiot. If Rose picks up the phone Mickey will always come running but he wants to know if he is supposed to wait forever because he will. He needs a promise that if she comes back, she will be coming back for him. Unfortunately all of this good work almost threatens to go out of the window when Mickey selfishly shouts after Rose when she runs off to help out with the end of the world. Come on Mickey, sometimes there are moments when you have to put your feelings aside and simply react to a situation. You are reminded briefly of the pig headed idiot from his debut story. When Mickey walks away from Rose at the end I was left wondering if he did it for his sakes or hers. Either way it looks like their affiliation has come to an end.

Hunky Hero: Jack is sidelined slightly to allow the others some development which is a shame given how little time he would spend in the Doctor's company. At this point the character is foot loose and fancy free (well he'll never be fancy free but you get the idea) and an absolute delight to be around. Torchwood would turn him into somebody far more uptight and crude but I am much more in love with the morally loose jock from series one, the guy who learns to have a heart thanks to his exposure to the Doctor.

Sparkling Dialogue: Boom Town is loaded with fantastic lines and if I recited them all I would pretty much be typing out the entire script so here are a few of my favourites…
‘To the future! And believe, it will glow…’
‘This is persecution! Why can’t you leave me alone? What did I ever do to you?’ ‘You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet!’ ‘Apart from that?’
‘Oh…I sound like a Welshman! God help me I’ve gone native!’
‘Dinner in bondage. Works for me.’
‘You’re pleading for mercy out of a dead woman’s lips.’
‘Some date this turned out to be!’

The Good Stuff: Annette Badland as Margaret Slitheen is still one of the best villains that the new series has given us. I'm so pleased that she has been signed up to Wizards vs Aliens because we need to see more of her on TV. Margaret is utterly charming until to encroach upon her territory and then her vicious nature springs forth (and best of all she is a female villain where there is no indication that she has at some point played hide the sausage with the Doctor...or that she might want to...as seems to the case these days). Hooray that they managed to shoot on one of the few days of the year that the sun comes out in Wales. Joe Ahearne goes to some lengths to make the City look as chic as possible. Electrifying swimming pools, runaway cars, icy patches – Davies shows an aptitude for quick fire comedy dialogue. Is this the first Doctor Who story that has a scene in the ladies lavatory? Amazing how Davies can turn a scene around on a sixpence and Margaret’s sudden realisation that she is going to kill a pregnant woman (I remember Simon first watching that scene and going ‘Uh-oh’). The Slitheen costumes look a lot better this time around, glistening wet skin and mostly kept hidden in close ups. The whole sequence with the gang preparing to trap Margaret, deploying their phones and covering all of the escape routes has just the right touch of frivolity to it. The music is awesome and I always laugh when Mickey trips over the utilities trolley in a way that Doctor Who rarely makes me laugh out loud. The teleport gang is inspired and you have to feel sorry for poor Annette Badland who was forced to run back and forth for the sake of her art. I can’t decide whether a pan dimensional surfboard is jaw-droppingly cool or agonising embarrassing idea (I have heard compelling arguments on both side of the fence) but regardless it is certainly an original plan of escape. Having a prisoner in the TARDIS is an interesting idea. Woman’s Wept sounds like the sort place that should be rendered in CGI. Margaret’s attempts to poison the Doctor are more very funny moments, played deadly straight and that just makes it more chucklesome. Just think the next time you are out for dinner the Doctor might be on the table next to you dining with one of his enemies. The dialogue in the restaurant scenes is extraordinarily thoughtful (‘And that’s how you live with yourself, because once in a while, on a whim, when the winds in the right direction you happen to be kind’). It's the kind of dialogue you can indulge in when you take the time to step back from the bangs and flashes and plot devices and engage with the characters. The climactic last ten minutes borrows plot twists and visuals directly from the TV Movie (shots of the town being struck by an apocalypse, similar low angle shots of the TARDIS under attack, the universe threatening to be torn apart by the heart of the TARDIS and the Ship performing a magic trick on somebody's life) and is no worse off for it. It's great to see the TARDIS mythologised in the new series, given appropriate reverence and abilities. Each production team has taken this machine and added to its myth and the new series team is no different. All of Margaret’s chatter about her murderous nature being bred into her at an early age is paid off as she says thank you when she knows is going to get a second chance. She knows she could never change her nature but given another chance she could do it all again differently. The difference between this and the Doctor's perverse manipulation of Sardick's timeline in A Christmas Carol is that Margaret brought all of this upon herself. It wasn't the Doctor's choice to turn her back into a child. He's not playing God yet.

The Bad Stuff: There is way too much continuity in the first ten minutes that explains why they are in Cardiff and why the TARDIS is shaped like a police box.

Result: Turn away if you want to hear a wrap up that condemns Boom Town because it is one of my favourite episodes of the first series. Like The Unicorn and the Wasp later in the series what we have here is a tried and tested action director turning his hand to something lighter and more character based and doing a bang up job of it. It’s an episode that juggles dialogue concerning consequences, capital punishment and the pain of being left behind when people get on with their lives without you and it examines the ninth Doctor better than any other episode in this season. Christopher Eccleston is a revelation in a story that shows how this Doctor's life is all coming together (his trio of companions are a delight and it is rare to see him smiling quite so much) but he's also allowed some quieter moments, a chance to examine the Doctor's carefree attitude to adventure when there are so many lives at stake. His scenes with Annette Badland manage to be very funny and extremely poignant which is a tough act to pull off. Who cares that there isn't the budget to produce something more blockbusting, Davies returns to the tried and tested method of the classic series and uses the lack of money as an excuse to give the episode more meaning. Boom Town is a pause between two massive two parters and yet manages to have far more to say than either of them. Light and frothy and dark and thoughtful, it’s far more than the soap opera of repute: 9/10

3 comments:

Audrey the Leviathan Vampire Girl said...

I'm in total agreement with you here! Such a fun episode!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, hide the sausage? I don't think that is really fair, Madame Koverian didn't have any sexual interest in the Doctor, neither did the lady who ran the bank in time heist. Aside from Missy, I don't think any female villains have had any sexual interest in the doctor, Maybe River if you count let's kill hitler and Tasha Lemnin the time of the doctor but neither of them really count as villains.

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