Friday, 28 September 2018
I Went to a Marvellous Party written by Justin Richards and directed by Ken Bentley
Hello Sweetie: This is exactly what I was expecting to see when I approached a River Song box set, her travelling in space (and the future) and being set in some indeterminate point in her timeline, hob-nobbing it at all the best parties. Speaking as somebody who has been manipulated her entire life by events and villains, River is appalled at the idea of a ship that is playing the game of manipulating planets as though they were a computer game. There is a mention of Melody Malone and how River has the most impressive of deductive minds. That’s some claim to make in a script that she now has to live up to.
Not Bill: Bertie makes a reappearance in this story, and it’s clear that he had full knowledge of the previous adventure before they even embarked on it. Who is this mysterious man from the future pretending to be an archaeologist from the past? For once River is the one without the answers, which is quite a refreshing reversal. His organisation comprises of the great and the good from across the galaxy. The people who really make things happen, the true rulers of the universe.
Standout Performance: Even the performances in this story lack energy. Scenes of exposition in the middle of the tale are delivered with all the excitement of somebody doing their online shopping over the telephone.
Sparkling Dialogue: Functional as hell.
Great Ideas: Manipulating economy and society development is a dangerous game. It’s a complex skill, knowing to nudge and how far. When they should discover fire or the silicon chip. How their markets should be formed. Who should win a particular election. Eliminating free will and playing God.
Audio Landscape: Bentley’s direction of the first two stories has not been to his usual standard. I didn’t get a sense of a genuine period setting in The Boundless Sea and I Went to a Marvellous party was a chance to immerse the listener in a glorious party atmosphere but it feels subdued and lacking elegance for the most part. Back when he was a newbie on the seventh Doctor trilogies his direction was the crème de la crème but of late there is a predictability and lack of focus to his work. And I’m shocked at how lackadaisical the performances are here, even Alex Kingston sounds pretty bored by events.
Isn’t it Odd: I think River needs a constant companion rather than eventually teaming up with people on these adventures. Whilst the latter does give her the chance to mix and match who she is talking to on a story by story basis, the former would give her the chance to develop some rapport with people and prevent her from talking to herself to let the audience know what is going on. There is a very good reason why the Doctor has a companion. Exposition, questions, elucidation.
Result: Somehow this is even less dynamic than The Boundless Sea, so we’ve gone from stifling a yawn to actively staring at a watch. Remember what I said about the last story being safe…well can you imagine a more careful pair of hands than Justin Richards when it comes to Doctor Who stories? This was his chance to break free of the customary mould and deliver something spectacularly imaginative. He’s written a murder mystery on a spaceship. Doctor Who has been doing that for donkey’s years. Gosh, Blakes’ 7 was doing that in it’s first season. It’s so lacking in inspiration and originality – Richards himself has written several murder mysteries in the past and much better examples than this (The Medusa Effect would be my recommendation) – that I was hoping that it was going to be some kind of ironic comment on predictability of the genre. But no, it is just a murder mystery on a space ship. Terror of the Vervoids did it better. It might have been a bit frivolous and phallic but it had a plot that was bursting with ideas, red herrings, fun characters (all of whom seemed to be guilty of something) and lots of incident. You see? I’m discussing a Doctor Who story instead of I Went to a Marvellous Party because this story is so ordinary and prosaic. River Song is a marvellous anomaly of time travel, sex and a domestic attachment to the Doctor. She’s a firework of ideas (even if occasionally misconceived) and surprises. To have her take place in a story this commonplace is like fundamentally misunderstanding what the character stands for. I couldn’t even be arsed to write about the details of the plot because they are just so mind-numbing. It would be a waste of my time. Richards, once the twist master of the novel line, fails to generate any bombshells. And this is a damn murder mystery! The best thing I can say about I Went to a Marvellous Party is that it is mercifully short, which is a blessing: 3/10