Doctor Who Boom Town

BoomTown

Boom Town or ???What are we going to do about Margaret??

Judging from the fan reaction I?ve seen so far (and some of it is very strong) this is about the worst episode so far. I don?t think Russell T. Davies can write convincing science fiction. There were times in this episode that I thought that we had dimensionally drifted into an episode of ???Eastenders??? crossed with ???Carry On Time Travelling??? (Ouh-er Misses). Two sets of talking heads inter-cut in a way that is currently favoured by the BBC?s star soap series. Davies is all about relationships and it seems that any sf elements are just thrown into place to justify his writing for Doctor Who. In fact, if the programme wasn’t already well established and defined by decades of previous stories then RTD would be recognised as having written skiffy. As Bob Shaw says in his ???How To Write Science Fiction???, “the core idea could have been just as easily ??? and completely ??? been expressed in the form of a Western.” The Marshall and his deputies capture a wanted criminal. They have to wait until morning when the train will be able to take her back for hanging. In the mean time there?s some time for us to explore the justification of capital punishment and for Deputy Rose to agonise about catching the train and leaving her love interest. Davies writes the stories he wants to write and then dresses it up with a few sf elements so that we?ll be distracted enough (he thinks) not to notice that he?s climbed back onto his soapbox to crudely promote this week?s message from the pulpit. The nature of crime and punishment and end of Rose’s protracted affair with Micky were what this episode was all about. Perhaps the analysis of the Doctor versus the villain is fair enough, but this is Doctor Who for God’s sake! Does deep and meaningful really belong here? And if you argue that it does then why include such a ridiculous idea like building a nuclear power station in the middle of Cardiff (actually the Bay, according to the model, which sort of begs the question why are they rushing off to knock down Cardiff Castle)? Plus there are all the ???carry-on????? comedy references to the various officials having been disposed of in order to allow the project to continue. It seems a tragedy that writers of the quality of Moffat, Gatiss and Shearman get to write so few episodes compared to the bulk written by Davies.

Davies has done a great job of steering the series onto the screens, full credit to him for doing that, but he shouldn’t be writing it. Unless of course people want Doctor Who to turn into some kind of comedy soap opera (never mind space opera)?



6 comments


    markbanerji

    June 5, 2005

    Its interesting that you mention the western as Star Trek is basically a western in space. The ‘Final Frontier analogous with the frontier out West. Not to mention ‘Star Wars’ based on “Hidden Fortress”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005B1ZL/ref=pd_sxp_f/104-1751144-1475101 itself a japanese western. George Lucas is quotted as saying that he recieved lectures from John Ford a Westerns film maker at film school.

    Pete Grehan

    June 5, 2005

    There are two probable reasons for this. Firstly space is the last frontier; hence the model of the American frontier is used as something that people are already familiar with. I think that as long as there is a genuine sf element this works fine. Bob Shaw also said that the sf idea in any story should be considered as one of the characters, in fact the most important one. If that was sound the rest of your characters could afford to be a little two-dimensional. The trouble with some writers of character driven stories (like RTD) is that they haven???t realized this fact.

    The second reason that Westerns are used is that it doesn???t take too much effort to convert a successful Western plot into a piece of skiffy. Just substitute six-shooters for ray guns and the desert for an alien planet and hey presto! Unfortunatly for them the sf element should make this a totally different story. It should be the sf element that drives the drama rather than simply created an exotic stage for familiar drama to take place.

    “Joss Whedon”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Joss_Whedon sets this idea on his head with his sf series “Firefly”:http://www.scifispace.com/html/firefly.php. This is a Western that is set in space and, amazingly, this actually works.

    Timothy Farr

    June 5, 2005

    And what do I think? I really wanted to love this one. Doctor Who set in Cardiff, made in Cardiff and I’d even been present for a sizeable chunk of the episode’s location filming in the bay and outside the Glamorgan building in Cathays Park where I even got to meet Chris Ecclestone, briefly. Sadly, it has its moments but feels like a filler episode full of convenient macguffins. What I’m struck by are some of the missed opportunities. You can’t talk about the destruction of Cardiff Castle and not include a single shot of the building. The concept of someone being able to surf a dimensional rift on a piece of technologically enhanced plastic is something I would have liked to have seen demonstrated. It’s so unbelievably absurd sounding, I feel they could have come up with something better. Then again, who would have thought Mickey would become so sympathetic a character? I think Jack is too loud, it’s like having a kid’s tv presenter as a companion – oh wait, he is! After all his no technobabble rhetoric, RTD overloaded this one with it and he’s quite right, it doesn’t work and loses the audience’s attention and indulgence. It is wonderful to have an episode with a scene on a platform at Cardiff Central as many of my travels have began and ended there as well. The comedy of the restaurant scene counterpointed the drama of it brilliantly. There is something really weird about having the main cast directly alluding to sex and I still find the tendency of the media to imply that our lives are all empty if we’re not having sex every week distasteful and something I’d rather not see included in Doctor Who. I think there is room for deep and meaningful in the series but this isn’t it. Heaven only knows how much fun parents had explaining those bits of the episode to inquisitive young children. Looking back over my comments they read more than a little disorganised and random, which about sums up the episode. I like the serious musing on the nature of evil, but for it to work dramatically, the villain needed an equally serious villainous plan, the potential consequences of which needed to be fully illustrated.

    And there’s plenty of room for the debate to continue – who’s next?

    Donna L rees

    June 5, 2005

    Does nobody else find it interesting that this series explores the Doctor and his motives in terms that today’s Dr. Who fans can understand?

    I admit I haven’t seen all of the episodes of this run and as I was in my teens when the previous run was cancelled my interpretation of it is probably sketchy to say the least – but for those I have seen this time round I can only give a thumbs up.

    There is a recurrent (if rather Newtonian)theme that actions have reactions (albeit not always equal and opposite!). Consequences are consistently considered e.g. the Dr. exterminating the Daleks, Margaret’s family being convicted of heinous crimes preventing her going home, even Rose leaving Mickey for cosmic adventures!

    Good grief doesn’t this action and human contemplation style go some way towards addressing the most common present day criticisms of science – that it is inhuman, its impact on the human race is rarely considered and that scientists don’t question their actions.

    Isn’t the Doctor the consummate scientist? Isn’t it interesting that there have been occasions where he openly questions his actions? Yes, there is alot of humanity and relationship discourse in each episode but is that such a bad thing?

    As viewers we need to realise that the DR Who we grew to love as children was phased out in the ’80s. Many of the core principles have been retained mainly to keep us oldies interested, but (and this is important) the audience this series is pitched at is DIFFERENT to us, I mean the world today is a VERY different place to the one the original Dr. Who stories were penned in.

    Like all fiction, Dr. Who has had to adapt to a changing audience. The Star trek series had to do the same thing but unlike the Doctor, Star Trek was based on a group of people not an individual, as such the ST writers had the opportunity to disappear any given crew for years and reinvent the ‘next generatiion'(pun intended)to match the societal demographic it was written for.

    The writers on Dr Who, have a much greater challenge – to come up with story lines that bridge two distinctly different generations without altering the core character beyond recognition. Face it our generation of Doc fans didn’t use PC’s until our ’20s, mobile phones were a glimmer in Arthur C. Clarke’s imagination and we didn’t even have daytime tv or 24hour shopping! Today’s audience is more technologically au fait than we will ever be – it is their knowledge of humanity that appears to be in danger of fading into oblivion! (see the difference engine article by Steve Harris 09/02/05).

    Forgive the rant but it seems the pendulum of opinion on this new series swings to extremes. Three more things we need to remember as fans,

    1. It’s a tough task to recreate a dead series so long after it was unpopularly murdered by an overwraught programme controller!

    2. the series will change again next season as there will be yet another actor creating the Doctor, who will have a different interpretation of the subject. This has been known by the powers that be since the inception of this series as such, this run was never going to be the best written (after all, how can a show bed itself in when the principal character is going to change after 12 episodes?)

    3. Perhaps this is the most important point – SF, Sci-fi, Skiffy even ‘scientifiction’- whatever you prefer to call it has been around for a long time (roughly 80years). In that time it has altered considerably from the Bug Eyed Monster stories read solely by the nerdy science geeks of the Gernsback years; reaching a point where it is pretty much a ‘legitimate’ literary genre, produces series which top the majority of popular poles and generates the greatest proportion of box office hits. that said, it is still one of the most disputed subjects – what is science fiction? Which show/ book/ film belongs in the category? and so on and so forth!

    It is this fluidity, this adaptability even uncertainty that has captured the interest of so many people and keeps SF fresh. We keep reading/ watching hoping something new may happen and when it does what do we do? We criticise.

    SF is a genre that exists in a state of flux, its what makes it what it is and is the reason we love it.

    So anthropology seems to be the flavour of the month in Dr Who right now, relationships are the key and the technology and ‘whizz bangs’ we got used to as kids are less in evidence right now. So what? In a world so thoroughly immersed in technology is it really a surprise that some writers choose to dwell on the human aspect?

    When all is said and done, the key premise of this episode was whether the Doctor should once again play God, and knowingly condemn another being to certain death. In considering this question he was faced with the consequences of some of the other recent choices he and his companions have made.

    Deep, dark thoughts indeed if we are fan enough to look below the surface special effects.When faced with death and such dire choices I am not surprised that there was a strong comedy element to offset – afterall the show occupies a 6pm Saturday slot in a heavily censored country. So given the choice between a litle lampoonery and being axed by the censors I know which one I’d pick!

    Mel Hill

    June 5, 2005

    I have to add that Boom Town is my third fav episode after Empty Child/Dr Dances. I am not going to be agreed with by anyone on this, but there were some touches in that episode that were genius. Some so absurdly stupid it was like watching Benny Hill, some so meaningful I could feel the tears coming on.
    For the first time in the history of Dr Who I am beginning to understand the Dr’s obsession with humanity. This episode finds the Dr calling his own morals into judgment, and I really think he is starting to figure out that he is a hell of a lot more “human” than he would ever have believed. It isn’t just humanity rubbing off on him, he is seeing it in his own soul.
    The Dr’s people are dead, but his surrogate family are alive and kicking. Humanity is the only family he has left, and he is now realising it.

    Captain Jack? He’s American. Enough said. He is tolerable. However, he is adding a nice diversity to the Dr’s and Rose’s relationship. A lot of people have complained about sex being alluded to an awful lot. this aspect. I am not sure I understand this. Sex is the most natural and important thing in almost every species on this planet (and most others probably). Without it there is no us. It is what most people spend half their lives thinking about and looking for, or trying to avoid, depending on your outlook. It would be ridiculous to leave it out of ANYTHING, except perhaps the Teletubbies, but we just DON’T GO THERE!!!!! LOL!
    RTD is gay, we all know this. There are a lot of gay/bi references in everything he does, or just plain sex references. You have to admit that it would be down right stupid for the Dr not to able to look at Rose in that way. She is pretty stunning. And he isn’t too far off very cute either. To ignore sexuality would leave the Rose/Dr relationship cold. They have very deep feelings for each other that neither will directly admit. It goes beyond sex, they belong to each other. However, they both still have desires, yet they can’t be apart. A situation like that has the potential to destroy lives. It is absolutely electric. Most people won’t admit to it, but this chemistry Rose and the Dr have is the most amazing thing to have happened in Who for a very long time. It has changed the Dr from being an intelligent yet almost unfeeling android into a flesh and blood being. As the Doc would say, FANTASTIC!

    Mel.

    Pete Grehan

    June 5, 2005

    One thing nobody can deny is that this episode seems to have generated a huge reaction. Visiting the “Outpost Gallifrey Forum”:http://www.gallifreyone.com/forum/index.php (you???ll have to register but that???s not too much hassle) you???ll see all sorts of reactions.

    Many(women in particular if I???m reading the forums correctly) seem to love it precisely for the reasons that Mel and Donna outlined, lots of long standing fans loath it (hands up here). It might be that as Tim suggested (elsewhere) that the new series is still in a phase of trying settling in, but cannot because we???re going to have a new Doctor after the end of the next story.

    It???s trying to be all things to all people and possibly losing sight of what it should be (in my opinion) an adventure story that???s different and stimulating and appeals to all ages. Davies has mentioned several times in ???Doctor Who Confidential??? that he feels that the series should be grounded in the ???Here and Now???, hence all the visits to Micky and Rose???s mum. I always thought that the point of Doctor Who was to be the opposite. To reverse the telescope as it were, the way that ???Gulliver???s Travels??? and ???The Hitch Hiker???s Guide To The Galaxy??? did. The originl format of the TARDIS, not the Doctor, deciding were they end up each story was always more interesting.

    Davies??? influences seem to be ???Eastenders??? and “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/buffy/http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/buffy/. Don???t get me wrong they???re both great series in they???re own particular flieds (I love Buffy ??? the series that is!), but are they appropriate for Doctor Who?

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