Sunday, 22 May 2016

Technophobia written by Matt Fitton and directed by Nicholas Briggs

What's it about: When the Doctor and Donna visit London’s Technology Museum for a glimpse into the future, things don’t go to plan. The most brilliant IT brain in the country can’t use her computer. More worrying, the exhibits are attacking the visitors, while outside, people seem to be losing control of the technology that runs their lives. Is it all down to simple human stupidity, or is something more sinister going on? Beneath the streets, the Koggnossenti are waiting. For all of London to fall prey to technophobia...

Mockney Dude: What I love about this pair more than anything else is that they are knocking about the cosmos for the fun of it, simply because they love being together and there are so many great things to see and experience out there. It's the same vibe that I get from the fourth Doctor and Sarah and the fourth Doctor and Romana II. He and Donna are not a couple...she helps him 'in the community' (and she makes it sound like a charitable act. He talks but its all geek to Donna. He seems more concerned with technology than human beings. Some of his best friends have been robots...and blokes. The Doctor is the last person you should give caffeine to, especially this Doctor. He's having fun to a point but when he suddenly turns cold and says 'no more' you really listen. He's the one Doctor who sends chills up my spine when he gets angry because he's usually such a jolly fellow and yet we have seen evidence of how far he will go when he is pushed to the limit (the climax of The Runaway Bride, The Family of Blood, The Fires of Pompeii and The Waters of Mars). He doesn't like aliens messing around with London, the most exciting city in the world. If there's one thing he doesn't like it's a know-all which earns him a scoff from Donna. He's adept at acting the fool, asking the right questions and generally causing a great distraction performing a sleight of hand that defeats the aliens. Like Tom Baker at his best, Tennant's Doctor can play the clown whilst being very clever indeed.

Tempestuous Temp: Donna Noble; Chiswick Cherubs, Tooting Temps and Wimbledon Wonders how wonderful it is to have you back. When you have a Doctor/companion combination that worked as sublimely as the tenth Doctor and Donna it is hard not to compare everything that comes afterwards to that magic. Perhaps that is what I have done, perhaps a little unfairly but this was my new series team. The one point where the show seemed to be aimed squarely at me and relationship between the Doctor and Donna (and the chemistry between Tennant and Tate) had a great deal to do with that. Donna was always brave yet vulnerable, sassy yet smart, human and yet pragmatic. She was somebody I could really believe in and I loved the fact that she wanted to travel the universe without trying to get into the Doctors pants. The question is whether Big Finish can replicate the success of this character and give her an equally sparkling existence on audio. On the strength of the reviews of this set and the opening story, the signs are certainly looking good. Tate is on dazzling form throughout and seems to relish the fact that she is playing Donna Noble again. She's the fastest shorthand in the West. She's dated worse than some of the robots on display...from what we have heard (and seen) of Donna's relationship history it looks like she has fallen in with quite a bunch of losers in her time. Perhaps it's time to meet one of them? She's learnt how to time travel responsibly; no sneaky peeking at Autumn collections of lottery results in the future but she might have nipped to Henriks for the latest Katie Price perfume. She wont make jokes when people are dying, she has more respect than that. Donna has always wanted to drive a bulldozer but then she has been trying to live up to the subtlety of such a vehicle all of her life so it is understandable. She's quick to refute the idea that she and the Doctor are a couple and that she is available.

Standout Performance: It's that ability that Tate has of throwing herself into the madness of everything and Donna clearly having a whale of time throwing out one liners...and then suddenly stopping and breaking our hearts with a line. Donna's 'I told him if he comes with us he would be safe' is a great example. Tate switches mood effortlessly, painfully. It's almost like she wants the audience to be unprepared for the emotion. That reminds me of Russell T. Davies work at it's best, a jolly romp until it stabs you in the heart. Niky Wardley's Bex with an X isn't the most memorable of characters but she works well with Donna, probably because Wardley and Tate have a long history of working together and a good friendship (Temps United). She's also sufficiently different from Tamsin for it not to be a problem that Bex is being played by an actress of an ex audio companion. See Beth Charmers, it can be done!

Sparkling Dialogue: 'Robots running amok? Donna, we're on!'
'Last time I saw somebody that jumpy they were standing on a supernova!'
'Always invoice for the whole day. Double time for the end of the world.'

Great Ideas: People are claiming that modern day technology is becoming too complicated to use. Well either I'm getting old (a distinct possibility) or this statement is very true but you only have to ask my husband about a recent tantrum I had about turning Amish after attempting to get to grips with the impenetrable library of music that is Apple Music. The Doctor states that technology is supposed to make your life easier but what about when the technology progresses to such a rate that it is more economic and reliable than human beings? Computers building computers - why does that send a chill down the spine? Super smart to neo-Neanderthal in minutes, that's why the technology is so damn complicated. You could make an argument that the glut of reality television and the media thinking for us has made society dumber so technology seems more sophisticated than it is. Kevin Jones the train driver - a very down to Earth character that made a great deal of difference in this era of the show.

Musical Cues: Damn, I love that version of the theme tune. I love it. It transported me back to season four all over again and gave me goosies all over. The score isn't hugely memorable in it's own right but what is memorable about it is the fact that it is a new series Doctor Who adventure that isn't scored by Murray Gold. It's fast paced, modern and skips you through the story, it's a decent stab at his style.

Isn't it Odd: Given that this is a story of technology that has run amok I thought the examples that we got lacked a little imagination. Hoovers? Looking at the technology that is around my living room right now I can already see a ceiling fan (catapulting off and chopping me in half), a fish tank (exploding and showering with glass)...even my computer (melting and gluing me to the table as the rest of the technology around me finishes me off). It's the sort of thing Davies would have gone to town with but Fitton is rather restrained. Plus the technophobia in the story is only really got to grips with in these scenes. It's not really the psychological explanation I was expecting.

Standout Scene: The one scene that really drove him the sinister nature of technology gone awry was set in the underground when you realise just how much technology reliant we are. Donna and Bex are surrounded by potential weapons.

Result: 'An alien? He looks like he works in menswear!' Technophobia both plays it safe and manages to perfectly capture that feeling of confidence and 'nothing can stop us' attitude that lit up series four like a beacon. It's a witty, slick and furiously paced audio and I was beaming throughout, mostly thanks to the punch the air reunion between Tennant and Tate. For once all the build up was worth it, this genuinely captures the magic between these two actors all over again. Thank goodness. Fitton manages to ape the Davies London obsession and create a nostalgic (when did series four become something to get nostalgic about?) invasion of England's capital, that feeling of madness gripping the city as another crazy alien stunt plays out. There's elements of The Lazarus Experiment, Partners in Crime and The Poison Sky...any of the contemporary Earth stories really but I don't think it was such a bad idea to ease everybody in gently before heading off and doing something crazy experimental. I really like the idea of an alien invader attempting to take over by making the human race thick; maybe they just needed to increase the screenings of Don't Tell the Bride and The Only Way is Essex whilst tripling the print run of the Daily Mail and their plan to make the human race stupid and conquer them could have been achieved with far less fuss. With all of the London's technology a risk the tale isn't perhaps as imaginative  or scary as it could be but that might be a timing issue, there is an awful lot to pack into 60 minutes. Contemporary London - check. The Doctor and Donna on form - check. Regular Joe's making a difference - check. Humour and pathos - check. There is certainly enough elements that work to self-assuredly call this an authentic throwback to the greatest new Who season of them all. The story as presented is worthy of a 7 but the magic brewed up by Tennant and Tate automatically elevates it a point. They are just brilliant together: 8/10


Anonymous said...

I was soooo looking forward to you reviewing this set, I have been excited about it since the first time it was announced, Donna being my favourite companion. They are as wonderful and best mates as the Eighth Doctor and Lucie were on audio. It's refreshing to have a companion NOT in love with the Doctor these days... and Season 4 remains my favourite from the series reboot.
Oh Donna, how have I missed you after Moffat's retarded plotting and awful companions (except Rory)

Derek Handley said...

Season 4 is also my favorite from the new show and it's mainly down to the incredible chemistry of the leads. I'm definitely picking this up. Great to know you enjoyed it!

Anonymous said...

Series 4 is also my favourite but I found this set lacking or more precisely annoying. I had forgotten how much Ten irritates the hell out of me. Donnna remains superb.

David Pirtle said...

Playing it safe is a good way to sum up this whole first trilogy. I was hoping for a bit more meat, given that Tennant didn't exactly need to be eased into things at Big Finish. This is old hat for him. However, both he and Tate are brilliant as ever together. How could anyone not enjoy it?