Thursday, 12 April 2007

Doctor Who and the Runaway Bride (2006)

Dr Who - The Runaway Bride

As a license payer, I suppose I should be grateful that BBC Merchandising are screwing Doctor Who fans for every penny they can get. I just wish they'd spend some of the ill-gotten gains from their biggest cash cow on getting some decent scripts written. You've no doubt seen the endless variations on dalek figurines, cyber-men utensils, Doctor Who mugs, magnets, t-shirts and posters that make the over-saturation of the market with 'Lord of the Rings' merchandise back in 2001 look like a famine by way of comparison. And all that's before the profits from 'The Great DVD Rip off' kick in!

The rip off has been implemented with a DVD release strategy that has been cleverly crafted to squeeze every last penny out of gullible fans of the TV series. It goes like this: Release the episodes, three episodes at a time in 'vanilla' versions at the same price as a major motion picture release; then when you've sold the entire series, release a cheaper boxed set that includes all the episodes and a bunch of extra's too so that fans are forced to double-dip. Clever, but indicative of a company at the height of greed, right?

Wrong! Last time around (Season 1 of 'new' Who) the Beeb at least had the decency to include the 'standalone' Christmas episode with the regular episodes. This year the desire to squeeze every last penny out of fans means that you get a single episode on its own DVD selling at a recommended retail price of over £13. Roll on up, suckers! The BBC just loves taking its 'customers' for every penny it can, and it seems that when we're talking a 'National institution' like Doctor Who people just love getting screwed!

'Am I bovvered?'. Catherine Tate plays 'The Runaway Bride'

I mentioned this Christmas episode when it aired on terrestrial TV and, as you may have gathered, I was spectacularly unimpressed. Amongst my complaints at the time were the appallingly loud and totally inappropriate music that crashed and killed every on-screen moment, the infantile scripting, the usual 'ex deus machina' crap ending, and a final act that seemed to be a complete repeat of the first episode of the series that aired with Christopher Ecclestone.

Four months later, re-visiting the episode in the cold light of an Easter Monday, rather than whilst suffering from post-Christmas disappointment, have any of my views changed?

I wish!

'The special effects boys do a good job on a totally gratuitous 'TARDIS careering down the motorway' scene

At least this time around the reason for the bombastic and totally inappropriate music becomes clear. The single episode included is accompanied on the DVD by a rather good one hour documentary about a 'Children in Need' Music and Monsters concert performed in front of 2000 people at Cardiff before the Christmas episode aired. This documentary is the reason why you're looking at a DVD score of five out of ten rather than the four out of ten it really warrants for the featured episode.

After watching the documentary it's very apparent to this viewer that the music which killed that episode was composed entirely for a concert audience, as a reason to justify showing them an 'exclusive' from the upcoming Christmas episode. There is no other excuse I can think of for having silly, big budget Spielberg-like bucanner music playing over every second of on-screen drama!

As for the rest, well I'll grant the series its production values. The 'monster' costume is a bit naff - how could it not be?!, but the rest is pretty impressive for a British TV production. I guess, having had a chance to calm down a bit now, I'll even forgive writer Russel T Davies his endless gay propoganda in a show targeted at children (in this episode the variation on a theme is a highlighted over-the-top all-over-each-other gay couple at the wedding).

But I can't forgive him his appalling storylines, weak, repetitive ending and totally inconsistencies that are introduced purely so that Davies can tell a joke that even a four year old would groan at.

David Tennant plays the Doctor as an over-gurning enthusiastic schoolboy

Several times I wondered why the script kept repeating the fact that the groom was head of human resources. We'd been shown his introduction to the bride in an office which didn't look anything like that frequented by any 'head of human resources', and the repeated mentions sounded artificial and out-of-place. Suddenly it all became clear. It was so that Davies could deliver his 'hilarious' punch line 'We're back - and this time it's personnel'. Laugh? I nearly bought a round! How old is Mr Davies, exactly?!!!

I know this is a show aimed at 'the kids', but do the writers and the producer have any sort of clue as to how to produce a show for children that they'll remember in 40 years time, the way those of us who saw the show in its first incarnations remember it? I doubt it! There are no consistencies to the scripting at all. Rules are made up and then thrown away at random mere moments later. It's lazy writing of the worst order.

Last year's villains - the death-trombone playing Santa's - are back again, for no apparent reason other than this is a Christmas episode and Russel T Davies can't come up with a new idea even if it kicks him in the face. Last year they were the robotic agents of an alien race hell-bent on taking over Earth. This year they're the same agents of a completely different alien race, with no relation to the first, hell-bent on doing the same thing. Go figure!

Sarah Lancashire is totally wasted as a pantomime-styled spider villain

The picture quality is excellent and this is a good DVD tranfer, as is to be expected given the stories that Doctor Who is being shot in high definition these days. Fortunately the DVD is saved somewhat by the 'Music and Monsters' concert documentary, which shows that series composer, Murray Gold, has actually written some good music for the series, it's just that nobody's had the sense to realise when it's appropriate to the story and when it isn't. Sometimes less is more, but nobody on Doctor Who seems to have realised that. And the endless gushing and sycophantic back-slapping is just plain nauseating after a while. As if Billy Bunter and his chronies weren't bad enough, this time around we get a cyberman of all people, gushing about how he'll never forget the day he got to WALK DOWN SOME STAIRS IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE OF 2000 PEOPLE AT A CONCERT. To which the only possible response can be 'Get a grip!'. Really, never has so much been made of so little!

The concert itself looked like a good show, although ironically aimed at an entirely different audience from the TV show. Where the TV show is infantile, and aims its storylines and 'jokes' at the lowest common denominator (five year old schoolboys), the concert was a much more high-brow affair, as evidenced by the numerous bored-looking kids in the audience, constantly elbowed into action by parents just a few seconds too late when they realise their cherished ones might be shown on the telly. In one hilarious moment, after we've been shown a whole series of bored children we get the executive producer saying how it has all been worth while just to see the faces on the kids who enjoyed it all so much. You couldn't invent better comedy! The arrogance of the people behind Who in ignoring the evidence right before their eyes is unbelievable. No wonder so many episodes of the new series are such a mess, if these idiots are in charge!

Still, I guess at the online reduced price of £10.89 it's cheaper than a couple of cheap and nasty Christmas Crackers, the sort you get with crap riddles in them, which is the closest analogy I can come up with for this steaming pile of poo, sorry I mean Who.

There's a saying that you can't polish a turd, or put lipstick on a pig. I would argue that this DVD is proof of exactly the opposite. It has, of course, already sold by the bucketload! :(

Haven't we seen this studio set several times before?

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