That was quite a sound and light show last night! As one who enjoys good thunderstorms, hates heat and humidity and loves a return of normality, it was a good day. As one who was driving back from the country in this bad weather, it was somewhat less good. But a good steady pace kept us on the road, and as we passed through the countryside, we got to see some spectacular lightning strikes from three separate storms behind very dark clouds.
The weather here is much more tolerable now and the sky is still pretty interesting. These are good days, all told.
From Booms to Boom Town
The latest Doctor Who episode, Boom Town will not be found in any fan list of favourites this season, but it’s not meant to be. In terms of season development, Boom Town is precisely what it should be and precisely where it needs to be. Remember that the series has just completed a landmark two parter that was remarkable for its depth and its strength. Over the next two weeks, Doctor Who will bring out even bigger guns as the series comes to a close. To separate the two heavyweights, a throw-away episode was needed. So the Doctor took a breather (literally — they stop and recharge their batteries by going to Cardiff and parking atop the rift left behind by the events of The Unquiet Dead).
Not that Boom Town is a throw-away episode. Author Russell T. Davies takes the time to explore the characters on the screen, bolstering the dynamic between the new threesome in the TARDIS and bringing to a close the character arc between Rose and her former boyfriend Mickey. These scenes may not have may boom booms, but they are vitally important, because when we remember the remarkable things that these characters do in the next few episodes, it is from Boom Town that many of those traits and relationships are established.
Captain Jack has little to do in this episode, but we get to see him as himself (so far as we know), with nothing to prove. He’s boisterous and sarcastic when he leads the four into Cardiff city hall to find the last remaining Slitheen on Earth, but during the hostage situation in the TARDIS, he immediately defers to the Doctor. He’s intelligent enough to do maintenance on the TARDIS and the Doctor trusts him enough to give him access. He is an equal to the Doctor and Rose, and Boom Town shows it.
The closing act of Rose and Mickey’s relationship was a nice touch. I don’t believe the program has ever really dealt with the consequences at home of somebody going gallivanting across the Universe in the TARDIS. The scene where Rose accidentally demonstrates just how much emotional and experiential difference there is between the two after just a few months is a highlight of this episode. Mickey’s pain and Rose’s realization that she’s lost him are both well played. I believe this has shaken Rose. This more than any threat she’s faced has her wondering if travel on board the TARDIS is worth it.
And finally the Doctor is brought face-to-face with the consequences of his actions when he decides to take the last remaining Slitheen home to certain execution, and is forced to wait twelve hours before carrying out the act. It’s worth noting that he never wavers. It’s the TARDIS that lets him off the hook and gives Margaret Slitheen her much-desired second-chance.
All of this is bound together by the same stellar acting we’ve come to expect from this new series, and the tight direction of Joe Ahearn. There are moments of good comedy here to keep us from getting bored. I especially liked the “plan” to catch Margaret Slitheen in Cardiff City Hall, and Margaret’s personal secretary’s attempt to hold back the Doctor while she climbs out the window.
Doctor Who would not survive on a whole season of Boom Towns, but this Boom Town is well placed to pace things out so that the remaining heavyweights all hit as hard as they can. It’s a deep breath before we dive underwater for some heavy action next week. My only regret is that the BBC/CBC trailer unveiled a major spoiler for the next episode.
Mr. Harper is not only one of the highest acclaimed television directors in the United Kingdom, he got his start on the original Doctor Who. He learned the ropes under classic director Douglas Camfield and directed two stories, Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks, which are considered among the best the original series has ever done.
Not only does he have a considerable flare for direction, he knows Doctor Who. He has twice the budget to work with, and he’s had years to hone his already fine talents. So, I’m happy. He will handily replace Joe Ahearn, although I still have hopes that the best director of this season will still be back to direct a couple of episodes of the next.