But Doctor, what about the Aussies?

ausiiewhoI don’t like to nitpick, but I was watching the first episode of the new Dr Who series last night and… well, it was awful, yes, but that’s not my issue, I mean I rather expected it to be lousy, the last series was such a disaster that I only managed to get through four or five episodes before giving up (and I can tell it’ll be just two or three eps this time around before I bail)… but anyway, the bit that really annoyed me…

To be frank, a lot of it annoyed me. But the bit that annoyed me the most, more than the homicidal car or Jodie Whittaker’s astonishingly ham-fisted impression of David Tennant that continues to annoy, and yes even more than the endlessly lazy script-writing that keeps putting the Doctor into increasingly convoluted emergencies and then writing itself out of it by her switching on her bloody sonic screwdriver (one size fits all emergencies, apparently), yes more than that and more than the increasingly inept companions, it was the Aussies.

What about the Aussies!?  The Doctor tracks down an ex-MI6 colleague of hers, ‘O’ (Sacha Dhawan), who MI6 sacked and who went into hiding and even MI6 have no idea where he is… but of course the Doctor knows how to find him in just a jiffy, and when she gets there, the guy is waiting with two Aussie Secret Agents guarding him. But hang on, if nobody including MI6 know where this guy ‘O’ is then how come the Aussie Secret Service know where he is? But that’s not what bugged me about the Aussies, even if it did irritate me that the script’s internal logic was broken again and we’re expected to be too stupid/distracted (hello 100 star destroyer planet killers! oh wait wrong franchise) to notice.

No, what bugged me was that during an attack on the isolated hideout somewhere in the Australian desert, and yeah, how convenient it happened to be just after the good Doctor showed up, but anyway, whilst the Doctors frowning her most serious-looking frown, the two Aussie agents are killed during the alien attack and after it has been repelled by our good heroes, NO-ONE ASKS ABOUT THE AUSSIE AGENTS, NOBODY LOOKS FOR THE BODIES, NOBODY THINKS TO INFORM THE AUSSIE SECRET SERVICE… maybe I blinked and missed it, but it was like they were never there, never existed. Whats the point of writing two secret service agents into a plot if you drop them into what approximates a really tense sequence for New Who and then kill them (to demonstrate how relentless and evil the bad guys are) if you immediately afterwards ignore/forget them?

I hate scripts like that. Its a little thing I know. But its the kind of thing that gets under my skin. I don’t mind all the other stupid stuff (explaining why the companions never seem to be doing their real jobs or are never around, or all the daft Bond references/homages/send-ups, or the daft bike chase or the MIB (sorry, MI6) agents picking up all the companions in seperate cars and then putting them all in one car with just a single MIB (sorry MI6) agent for protection and then someone turning the car into a Homicidal SUV); the quality ship has sailed as far as New Who is concerned but its the little things that wind me up.

But of course its only Dr Who and its only sci-fi entertainment… which is rather like people saying ‘its only Star Wars and its only fantasy entertainment’… I’ll stop now. Its clearly going to be a very long year.

Welcome to 2020, eh?

Mary Queen of Scots

mary1This is one of those films that fails to be the sum of its parts. It has a high-pedigree cast, that includes Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, with David Tennant in scenery-chewing mode- and what fine scenery that is, with some gorgeous sets and lovely wide location shoots, some really fine art direction and hauntingly atmospheric music from Max Richter. It should really be something powerful, stirring, something akin to Roland Joffe’s The Mission, perhaps.

But it doesn’t really ignite,  doesn’t really seize the emotive heights it should.  Instead it seems to get bogged down by the minutiae of 16th Century court politics and in the end seems to just reaffirm that ages-old riff that all men are bastards, and that the world would be a better place were we led by women who did’t have to be distracted at playing men’s games in a mans world.

mary2Or perhaps that was the whole point of the film after all, and I’m being unfair to it expecting more. Robbie’s Elizabeth I is rather ill-served in my opinion, almost rendered impotent, which is a curious spin considering some of the films made about her in the past (such as the 1998 film Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett, which seemed to portray an entirely different woman altogether). This film seems rather uncertain whether she and Mary are opponents or allies sharing similar problems (i.e. the men surrounding them), kindred spirits divided by the physical borders that define them. I rather suspect that history is being reshaped to reflect modern sensibilities, modern concerns- there is sex in the film, and homosexuality, and alcoholism, and a character in Mary’s court who is suspiciously transgender. Its curious also that perhaps the most interesting moment in the film, arguably its actual climax, is a meeting between the two women which never really happened.

There is plenty to admire in the film- it does indeed look ravishing and the two leads are very good (albeit Robbie rather ill-served), and the music score fits the film as well as I suspected it would having listened to the soundtrack CD some months ago. So its well worth a watch and rewards the attention its sluggish, rather dense script demands, but it never feels to match what it might have, and should have been. Not exactly a misfire, put possibly a missed opportunity.