Sunday, 2 October 2011

Forty Five: False Gods written by Mark Morris and directed by Ken Bentley

What’s it about: In the blistering heat of the Egyptian desert Howard Carter and his team search for the lost tomb of Userhat, a servant of the god Amun. What they discover sheds new light on the history of the world as we know it.

The Real McCoy: His assistants can be something of a burden but at a push he finds they are terribly good at making tea! Everything is interesting to the Doctor. When the Doctor realises the full extent of Jane’s involvement on this planet he sounds like an angry teacher chastising a naughty pupil. With no question of leniency he forces the death of her TARDIS and plans to take her back to Gallifrey to face the full consequences of her actions. My how he has changed – it used to be him that was on the run from the Time Lords but these days he’s a responsible (and merciless) sort of chap. In the face of Hex’s interference and Jane’s apparent demise the Doctor is absolutely furious. I don’t know if we have ever seen him quite this angry before. In the future the Doctor will have to go back and have Jane's story carved into the shabti figure so the myth of Thoth flying into the sun is propheised.

Oh Wicked: Ace seems to have stepped back a bit into her teenage persona (to be fair for all the talk that she has grown up in the audios she does have these insane moments of childishness). When she hears that the TARDIS has latched onto Hex telepathically she replies ‘perhaps she fancies you!’ jealously. When hearing that Amun can shed his skin to become a new person it reminds Ace of the Doctor.

Sexy Scouse: Hex is surprisingly knowledgeable about Howard Carter and his discovery of Tutenkhamun’s tomb. In fact I’ve noticed that whenever they visit any historical period Hex is surprisingly well versed. For such a cute guy he sure paid attention in his history classes! It freaks Hex out that if they chose they could go and visit whoever they wanted on their christening, wedding and funeral all on the same day (the Doctor’s answer is that he tries not to think about things like that). Nice to see that Hex can scream like a big girl (‘RUN!’) when his life is threatened.

Standout Performance: After his incredible turn as Sherlock Holmes last year it has long been a dream of mine to have Benedict Cumberbatch appear in a Doctor Who story and that is realised in False Gods. It’s a shame that he should play such a likable character though, given his wonderful aptitude for playing grumpy genius’ I would love to hear his take on the Master.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘We can dig up the past but who can predict the future?’

Great Ideas: Haven’t any of these explorers seen any films about ancient Egyptian curses? No, they just brazenly crack open decaying tombs like prising the top off a boiled egg and unleash whatever foulness has been trapped inside. The TARDIS is being wrenched out of the vortex against its will. Robert is Carter’s pupil and the professor gives him initiate tests just as the Doctor used to with Ace which is a nice touch (especially since the mystery that Charles has to unravel is the TARDIS inside a tomb!). The more shabti a fellow had the higher his status and this tomb has only forty five. In a terrifying sequence Ace and Jane are pushed forward to a time when there is no protection from the suns radiation, there is literally nowhere to hide from the intense heat. Half bear, half hyena and extinct for over half a million years, the Doctor and Hex face a Creodont which is one of the fiercest mammals to roam the planet. Heritage raiders are those people who loot sites of historical interest and it is punishable by death in the future. Jane came to Earth centuries ago on a field trip and their TARDIS was damaged by a time spike and they had lost their route map home. They tried to integrate themselves into the local populace but their arrival was observed and worshipped as Gods. Antak became Amun and Jane was Thoth. Jane suggested that Carter dig at this site but only because she wanted to recover the TARDIS disguised as a shabti figure.

Audio Landscape: A biting desert wind, men heaving an object with some puff as they open a temple, whispering voices, the screaming whistle of a kettle, a crackling fire, flies buzzing around, a growling Creodont, the TARDIS fizzing and popping and exploding.

Standout Scene: Who would have ever guessed that Jane was a trainee Time Lord with a TARDIS of her very own. That comes from absolutely nowhere which is the very best kind of surprise.

Result: A story about destiny, False Gods kicks off this anthology in imaginative style. Those expecting a Curse of the Mummy style horror story will be disappointed but I rather enjoyed this piquant little drama that sees the Doctor taking the stance that the Time Lords used to take with him. I’m not even sure that we needed the Howard Carter involvement although it does add a little history to the proceedings and Ace and Hex are almost entirely redundant within this tale. However it is Sylvester McCoy who surprises most by unleashing the sort of anger he is usually condemned for but for once getting it exactly right. The twist in the middle of the tale gives the whole story a new atmosphere and the conclusion wraps things up nicely. Nicely done: 7/10

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