Saturday, 21 April 2007

Daleks in Manhattan

Regarding "Sec's in the City"…

Firstly, we should apologise to all Americans. True, the accents are appalling, but… it's set in '30s Manhattan, it's hugely over-the-top, and it involves monsters. So it's supposed to be like Singin' in the Rain ('I cyyyan't styyyaand him'). This aside, however…

…I love television. I hate sci-fi television. I love drama. I hate menky sci-fi drama. Helen Raynor, as a truly competent script editor, might be expected to know how television works but not care about sci-fi. And so she does, and so it is. "Daleks in Manhattan" is terrible sci-fi, yet brilliant television. Halfway through, I realised that I hadn't learned anything new or important about what's-going-on-with-the-Daleks in ten minutes, but that I felt I was being propelled forward by the plot anyway. This can only be called a result. Helen, you did a great job when you were overseeing things, and now I love you even more. Please come back.

In short: so far, the best twenty-first-century episode of Doctor Who that wasn't written by Russell T. Davies. Yes, I know Steven Moffat's very popular, but his scripts are too cynically "LOOK, EVERYBODY, LOVE MEEEEE!" for my tastes. This was just good television done well, without any personal agenda. I bloody loved it. Although I would have loved it more if the Radio Times hadn't given the cliffhanger away, obviously.

Can I mention some small historical niggles, though? One: nobody in Hooverville has his pockets turned inside-out (this was the custom in Hoovervilles, as it signified that you didn't have any spare cash hidden in your coat… turning the Doctor's pockets inside-out would have taken a long time, I know, but it might have been entertaining). Two: the mention of slavery in "Shakespeare vs. Rentaghost" may have been massively contrived and unconvincing, but in a '30s context, someone like Tallulah really should assume that the Doctor's lack of interest in Martha has more to do with race than sexuality (although it fits the overall character development, so I won't complain too hard, and at least the New Girl isn't pathologically thick this time). Three: Murray Gold. Yeah, yeah, I know he's great at writing anthems. But that song? Nobody pre-1980 could have written it. Not real '30s. Very bad parody.

Nonetheless… nothing's more satisfying than good Doctor Who, especially when the script treats Daleks as if they themselves were a period detail. "Piiigs iiin tiiime!"