Friday, 13 August 2010
Bang Bang a Boom! written by Clayton Hickman and Gareth Roberts and directed by Nicholas Pegg
What’s it about? Dark Space 8 - an advanced monitoring station floating serenely among the stars. Its crew - a dedicated and highly-skilled group of professionals, calmy going about their vital work. Its mission - to boldy host the Intergalactic Song Contest. With representatives from myriad worlds competing, the eyes of the universe are on the station. But dark deeds are afoot aboard Dark Space 8... and people are starting to die. The haughty Queen Angvia, the gaseous gestalt Gholos, disposable pop idol Nicky Neumann, erratic Professor Fassbinder and the icily-efficient Dr Helena Harcourt all are suspects. Could old political rivalries be manifesting themselves among the contestants? Is this the work of a breakaway terrorist faction? Or has someone just got it in for singer-songwriters? With peace in the galaxy hanging by a thread, it's vital that the mystery is solved and fast! Can Dark Space 8's unconventional new commander, with the help of his personal pilot, Mel, find the murderer in time to prevent a major intergalactic war? Or will it be nul points for the entire universe...?
The Real McCoy: There is quite an interesting experiment going on here because this is a return of the post (just) Time and the Rani nutty professor seventh Doctor. The Fires of Vulcan pretty much ignored all of the wackiness of season 24 and just got on with telling a damn fine story but here we bare witness to the screwball, misquoting idiot that leapt from the Rani’s console and gabbled his way through a Pip’n’Jane script. Astonishingly (because everybody else seems to hate it) I rather like season 24 simply because of its unpretentious nature (something you can’t say about the latter McCoy stories) and because of the imagination on display. McCoy’s goofball Doctor can be really annoying at times and Mel can be overstated (is she ever understated?) but there is a level of fun in this season that is only match in the Williams seasons. I think McCoy seems much more comfortable playing the clown, when he is asked to give something darker he can be quietly menacing but more often than not he is reduced to bellowing something undramatic. I find his tricks in Greatest Show in the Galaxy show him at his majestic finest. So whilst I find a lot of his ridiculous behaviour in Bang Bang a Boom really irritating and his misquoting as appealing as drinking my own piss I do feel this is a much more natural performance from McCoy than say, The Rapture where he was reduced to a hollering fool. He’s quirky and quite fun in places, a shame like most of the story it couldn’t all be toned down a notch.
He walks from the TARDIS gabbling, distracted and trying to convince Mel that they have landed in Paris even when all evidence points to the contrary. I love the fact that he tells Mel that he doesn’t have a plan and is making it up as he goes along – definitely pre Remembrance then! God knows how anybody is convinced that he is the new Commander as he acts like a right dope! Getting involved is his stock and trade. He rather enjoys the trappings of being a Commander, the uniform and the communicator and so on, one of the nicer comments on Star Trek during this farce. He feels the stirrings of love under Angvia’s influence; it has been so long since he has been in love (and horny) in feeling so strong about it! He has been wasting his time fighting monsters when he should have been tasting life’s great sweetener: amore (oo-er!). He always charges around the universe righting wrongs and he’s never nasty or cruel and never gets turned on! His behaviour perplexes even himself! He is appalled that Mel has attacked their greatest ally! It has always been his ambition to write the great intergalactic novel. The Doctor feels very comfortable heading on stage ‘lights, camera, spoons!’ and with the help of some truly dreadful 80’s pop music he is a storming hit! So much so that he wins the Intergalactic Song Contest! ‘Stand aside…celebrity coming through!’ he declares with Mel having to remind him of the dangers that are still remaining! What a goofball! Only the 7th Doctor could fall in love with a BO ridden buxom Valkerie!
Generous Ginge: Again Bonnie Langford gives a far better performance than she ever did on the TV but the authors have jettisoned all that bubbly effervescence from The One Doctor and concentrated far too much on her season 24 characteristics – exclaiming every point, naiveté, stupidity and pointing out the bloody obvious! Still Langford is a good enough performer to rise above her material and she still gives good value, managing to some how underplay all this madness!
She is very good at adopting an alias and fits very well into the Star Trek world of tractor beams and transporters. She is accused of being a little girl that asks too many questions. Doesn’t have much luck with lifts. ‘Melanie, known as Mel’ has pretty much become her slogan for life. At least she doesn’t keep up with celebrity gossip. She doesn’t think she is a harridan like Angvia! She shows an astonishing display of leaping to conclusion (but more on that story later). Spends her life being wet and cold – dirty mare. Mel calls it being sociable but she is accused of never shutting up. You have to love the moment where she tries to uncover the plot but instead accidentally kills the arbiter! Mel is (almost) a menace to nobody and apparently an excellent neck rubber (how do you know this Doctor?). In her best moment in the play Nicky thinks Mel is coming onto him and to turn away his advances she knocks him out. Good girl.
Standout Performance: I shouldn’t like it but I do…Patricia Quinn’s hideous rendition of a Viking babe is so over the top it is residing somewhere on another plane of existence where such acting is considered Shakespearean. She’s just hilariously wrong I adore it. ‘Rest your head on my bosom!’ indeed! Her Angvian melody is truly something to behold: ‘I sing! I sing! Of Angvia! Most beautiful woman! Sweet Angvia! I sing! I sing! Sweeeet Angvia!’ I had to go to the toilet after that.
Great Ideas: Golos is a vast gestalt creature like a big ball of candyfloss and they are at war with the people of Angvia. They are like the neighbours from hell. The TARDIS arrives via a mouthful of technobabble. A menagerie of monsters and aliens at an important event with sabotage, politics and Star Trek parodies on the menu…it’s the Curse of Peladon, innit? Nicky Newman is the fifth most famous person in the universe for being butterfly inducingly, pant twitchingly gorgeous. Fasbinder has barely been sober for the last 20 years; he was making up all the technobabble as he went along. There is no peace conference on Achilles 4, its all a smoke and mirrors effect to disguise the fact that the real peace conference is on Dark Space 8! The contestants from Earth, Angvia and Golos have been unwitting representatives, subconsciously implanted with telepathic representatives. The Drahvins are among the contestants singing, their song is ‘Clone Love!’ Hardcourt is the killer because she wanted to hide the fact that she isn’t a Doctor! Oh wait, no she isn’t. Nicky is the killer because he didn’t want to sing in front of millions. Nope, not him either. It’s Angvia, since all the evidence points to her. Erm, no. Golos has been trying to point out who the killer is throughout the story, his translator: Loosely! Logan was working on the translator that would have deciphered Golos’ warnings so he was stabbed in the back! He wanted to stop the peace conference and restore Golos to independent glory. He has implanted Nicky with an Angvian Personal Destructor – black star matter coated in a tasteless pill that reacts to stress levels and explodes with the power of fifty scatter bombs!
Sparkling Dialogue: A few moments did make me laugh…
‘The excitement’s bearable!’
‘Mel we’re going to have one of our little chats in the Reading Room!’
‘If we don’t stop him its Bang Bang a Boom!’
Audio Landscape: One of Nick Pegg’s lesser efforts and not just because the bulk of the material is terribly humourless. Dark Space Eight is brought to life with a mixture of bleeps, a background hum and some klaxons, which sounds authentic but a bit dull. Golos crackles with insane electricity. Nicky swimming and dripping all over the floor sounds quite authentic. There is an amiable social atmosphere in the dining suite. The Brebles giggle jingle in the Contest is rather catchy; I can see why they went down well! The insectoid Susadian Cephalopods have a fair go at leg clicking percussion with a toilet flushing finish!
Musical Cues: Andy Hardwick would go on to create some fantastic scores for Big Finish but these are modest beginnings. The story opens with an appropriate final frontier style that echoes Star Trek authentically but everything loses any refinement after that. Punctuating every gag makes them lose their kick. The best music comes at the climax where the Doctor and Mel rush to save Nicky, its genuinely exciting and tense.
Isn’t it Odd:
· Doctor Who is Doctor Who. Star Trek is Star Trek. I cannot see the point of Doctor Who attempting a parody of Star Trek accept to stick its fingers up at it and claim it is vastly superior. How bloody arrogant. Yes Star Trek can be repetitive and shallow at times but what writers Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman seem to forget is that it tore through Doctor Who’s absence on the TV in the nineties and ran for 25 seasons in about 15 years! If there was a Star Trek episode that took the Doctor Who template and ripped it to pieces I should imagine fandom would be in uproar. Nothing excuses the petty and spiteful nature of this script and whilst I am a Doctor Who fan first it is one of those times when you just want to look elsewhere for some entertainment. Red Alert klaxons go off during quiet moments, fake Doctor’s, drunk scientists, exotic alien love spells…yaaaawn. Haven’t we got something better to write about?
* Helena Hardcourt – surely one of the most boring characters ever? Sabina Franklyn’s character is vacant of any kind of style, overplaying her dialogue and sending me to sleep with her station logs. The revelation that she was never a Doctor at all is anything but…she really is as thick as shit! If only she could have been the first victim…I feel so…helpless! The trouble is pretty much every character in this story is pretty stupid so it’s sometimes hard for truly nonsensical characters like Hardcourt to stand out. Even the name’s shocking.
· Geri Pakhar is one of Gary Russell’s less inspiring creations (so that is saying something) and shoehorning the Pakhar’s into the Big Finish universe felt like point scoring with the producer more than a genuine innovation. What’s more Jane Goddard’s shrill interpretation of the character is so irritating I was just waiting for her hairy hide to be skinned (ooh that’s harsh).
· Why was Nick Briggs recapping the episodes? I didn’t find them all that funny except for episode four, which made a really good point about the quality of the story.
· The subtlety in the scripting is astonishing. You have a Queen called Vagina (think about it) who is extremely promiscuous! Angvia sees boiling masculine virility in the 7th Doctor and I cannot think of a more stomach-churning concept! McCoy playing at being seduced is unbearably embarrassing; this is where the story tips over the edge into absolute tedium. ‘Ooooh my little man!’ she screams. ‘I’m just not like the other boys!’ he replies. How did Roberts and Hickman ever think this was going to work? The Pits of Angvia are revealed to be the Angivian glands excreting from her armpits. Spare me.
· I don’t want to sound like a party pooper (too late) but the fake ending with the theme music playing and coming to a scratching halt as Mel declares that the wrap up was far too easy just doesn’t work within the confines of this story. Perhaps my patience had been worn down to the bone by this point and this was another self-referential joke struggling to get attention amongst the others but I can imagine myself rather enjoying it in The One Doctor. Here it makes the story just that bit smugger.
· There is nothing less funny than a story that is trying to be funny and failing and there are scattered moments in Bang Bang a Boom that really drop the bomb. I hate the way the music punctuates every joke so dramatically, most of them aren’t funny in the first place but the musical stings highlight the moment and squeeze any subtlety away and any chance they had of working. The organ music blaring as Mel comments on each death and Helena’s rubbishy sayings left me groaning. The Doctor’s horny encounter is particularly cringe-worthy but the appearance of Michael Caine and Terry Wogan forced my head into my hands.
Result: Comedy is such a delicate beast. If it’s done well it can be the most incredible experience since laughing is one of life’s great pleasures. When it is cocked up to the level of Bang Bang a Boom it is excruciating to endure and this story highlights all of the problems that detractors accuse of season 24. So thumbs up for pulling that of authentically. A good comedy needs a good cast and the oddest thing about Bang Bang a Boom is that this is a really good cast…so why don’t any of them have any chemistry? The characters they are being asked to play are one dimensional, idiotic, charmless and pretty much bearable. The script continually throws away opportunities to tell a witty Agatha Christie story and the direction feels totally out of hand as if everyone got a bit merry and decided to send it up as much as they can. I’m not one of those people who think Doctor Who should avoid comedy but this is a step too far into parody and farce and coming from the same writers that gave us The One Doctor it is inexcusable. At least Gareth Roberts knew what to avoid when writing Unicorn and the Wasp. A few points for some clever twists in the last episode: 3/10
Artwork by Simon Hodges @ http://hisi79.deviantart.com/