(2/28/04 12:07 pm)
Galaxy Four 1.
Well, I've had a day or two off for season break, and I'm now back. Listened to this last night, and might squeeze in part two later.There's nothing desperately bad about this episode - just nothing especially exciting. It ultimately just feels desperately low key.It's hard to find anything to say about it really. It's adequately acted, adequately directed. There's just no sense of scale, or urgency. I suppose what grates the most is the way it seems a little more childish than usual. Don't get me wrong. I like my Who as a family adventure serial. It's just that there's family, and theirs childish. There's usually an inherent intelligence to the scripts, a treating of the children with respect. This one seems far less sophisticated than usual. It feels, very much so, like a live version of those old Hartnell comic strips from tv comic or whatever it was. The main reason is the weak motivation. Seemingly instantaneously every single force on this planet is interested in the TARDIS crew. The Drahvins drag them to their spaceship, give them a big info dump of exposition (and the Doctor, usually so quick to leap to judgements is doubtful at the precise time it's correct to do so - a trick he re-uses in the Enemy of the World.) And whilst they are pressurised into helping, to at least a degree, it does rather feel like this is a trio who go around the universe having adventures, a la the Famous Five, rather than three people who get caught up in other people's problems. Why do the Drahvin's think this motley bunch could be any use at all? Beats me. There's a perfunctory nature to the involving of the regular's that seems rather annoying.The characterisation is terribly one note too, and lacking in depth - including the regulars. Steven and Vicki display none of the entertaining rapport that enlivened the last story. Maaga is just a standard domineering female leader figure, and the Drahvins barely register at all.And beyond all that, nothing really happens. There's a little tootling about from the Chumblies, and the implication of interest in what's going to happen with the Rills - but beyond that. Not much at all. A lot of exposition and a plot that doesn't go anywhere quickly. (and on a final note, seeing as everyone criticises the show's title as being a bit weird, not referring to the area the story is set... well, I'm not sure it isn't, so far. The Drahvin's say something like 'We are the Drahvins. Of Galaxy Four.' which doesn't exclude this planet, does it? Maybe I'm missing a line that's more explicit, I was drifting to sleep at the time - bear in mind contestants on the Weakest Link will say they are 'Colin from London' even if they're in London at the time. And secondly, by the same token, the episode title - 400 dawns is equally odd. Wouldn't 14 be more appropriate, if a touch less dramatic?)To recap - this is TV Action Live. Entertaining enough - but one dimensional and a little too simplistic in its understandings of what the series is as well as in basic storytelling. OK, but not top notch.
(2/29/04 6:57 am)
GALAXY FOUR 2:
Something rather weird about typing that out, can't quite my head around 'four 2'. Ach, well, it's only for two more days.Well, I'm more than a little bored of this, frankly. It seems to me to be a story going nowhere, and going there very very slowly. It just seems to be lots of extended negotiations - 'Do this Doctor!' 'No.' 'Do it.' 'No.' 'Do it'. 'Oh all right then.' At least the Drahvins seem demonstrably horrible this week - but that would seem to make sense. They (seemingly) rescue the Doctor and his friends from a robot that aims guns at them and tries to blow up the ship and find them to be nothing but grumpy, suspicious and ungrateful. For all the Doctor's high and mighty moralising about not wanting to leave the Rills because he never takes life, he seems more than happy to dump the Drahvin's in the @#%$. Why doesn't he just offer to take them all off in the TARDIS (OK, so they'd all look a little out of place in the Trojan war, but it's still a moral judgement). He dislikes the Drahvin's cos they bully him - fair enough. But his forthright refusal to help them for this sole reason seems more than a little OTT.But generally, there's not much more to say about this episode than there was for the last. It's still got a comic strip morality and intelligence to it. There just seems no good reason for the Drahvins to need these peoples help - it's like they know the Doctor is the star of the show. Why don't they just attack the ship?Apart from that, it is just a cycle of padding. The regulars just walk back and forth between the TARDIS and the Drahvin ship - stopping to chat about its construction for goodness sake - and cannot seem to do anything without the Chumblies turning up. They stick in the TARDIS cos the Chumblies are outside, they hide behind a rock because the Chumblies are there. And it's all so circular and repetitive - one companion held hostage as the others go and do the bidding of the Drahvins last episode, same this time. And to little end - the Doctor's whole deception about the time the planet has left is just there to mark time in the script, (Just think about precisely how little has happened in these episodes so far) and Steven just gets caught in a meaningless little diversion or two with the Drahvins in order to make the plot look less linear. In fact, I'd say that meaningless diversions take up the vast majority of the plot so far. There's no good reason why the calculations of the dawns left for the planet should have been wrong - except to provide a trip to the TARDIS with extra Chumbly dodging to fill in a few more minutes. Nothing progresses, nothing builds. Each distraction is complete and of itself - once the mistake has been discovered, it is forgotten. Once the Doctor's duplicity is discovered, it is forgotten. Basically we have a desperately simple, thin plot trying to appear that it has more going on that it does. Sorry, that's just not true.You see, it's not actually bad. The acting is adequate, the dialogue is ok, if lacking in decent characterisation. But it is clearly a children's tv script, with the level of sophistication that that implies. It talks down in a way, simplifying things. Doctor Who was a kids show, yes, but a smart one that credited them with intelligence. Galaxy Four is acceptable, but is clearly not something an adult should really be spending time with.
(3/2/04 5:34 am)
Galaxy Four 3-4I really found it difficult to summon the enthusiasm to review yesterdays episode, so I'm going to do two at once. Like Time Meddler 2-3 there'll probably be some crossover, but this time I'll try to get them reasonably seperate.
So the Doctor's gone from saying he doesn't kill to trying to murder the Rills? That makes a lot of sense.This episode is just as poor as its predecessors. It's starting to dawn on me that this is a piece about the most apathetic aliens in Who history. Both the Rills and the Drahvins spend practically the entire story in their spaceships. Precisely how they felt they were going to get off the planet before the Doctor arrived I don't know. Maaga's plan is, obviously, to raid the Rill ship, but she never really seems to make any effort towards doing this. She sends her crew out on meaningless patrols (looking for what, exactly? They know the Rills are out there, they can tell if they approach, what's the point?). She bemoans her life (a bizarre sequence - it doesn't really serve any particular function apart from a rather crass attempt to deepen her characterisation - but it seems so far out of nowhere and trite in its crap sci-finess that it utterly fails). But she never actually does anything. It takes her til episode four, with the threat of iminent planetary destruction before she gets off her backside and tries to do something.This is most clear in part three, because this is the episode where she has nothing to do. Once more, Steven and all the Drahvins have nothing to do to advance the plot, and find themselves in their own narrative bubble, filling in time til the final episode. I quite like the cliffhanger coming about through perception of threat rather than actual threat (IE: Steven isn't trapped, at least initially, he just thinks he is). But that's the only interesting element in their plot thread. Otherwise their side of the story is just waffle to disguise the fact that the story isn't going anywhere. By the end of part three, the Drahvin's aims and intentions haven't moved since we first met them.The Doctor and Vicki get more interesting stuff to do, meeting the Rills. But again, it's not exactly a full plot, is it? They meet the Rills and discover they are nice. That's it.And whilst we're here, why do they instantly believe the Rills and not the Drahvins - bear in mind that the Chumblies have threatened them once, and tried to bomb the TARDIS twice. Sure, the Drahvins are grumpy and cold, but that doesn't automatically make them liars. The Doctor is prepared to go purely for the charm - the whole thought projection thing could easily be faked for creatures who communicate by thought.So the moral of the story isn't 'Don't judge by appearances' at all. That's precisely what the TARDIS crew do. They side with the people who talk to them pleasantly as if its impossible for them to be lying. Cos all the real evil people we've ever produced haven't been charming have they?The moral is 'tell people what they want to hear and they will help/like you.'Having said all that, the Rills are terrific, with a fabulous voice (the figuring out what voice to use sequence is quite cool). But this doesn't negate the basic point that the regulars have no more evidence for trusting them than the Drahvins.
Finally, something is happening in this script. After three episodes of marking time (a plot that can be summarised as the regulars meet two different group of aliens. And that's it), the story starts to go somewhere, with the Doctor fixing the Rills ship, and the Drahvins attacking.I have a slight problem with the Doctor's attitude here. His proclamation that he doesn't kill anyone seems belied by his abandoning of the Drahvins - ok, so Maaga is a nasty piece of work, but her subordinates are presented as malleable and a little bit stupid. Is that a good enough reason to kill them? I don't think so.Since the Rills have offered to take them off the planet, it's clear that survival isn't the root of their behaviour. They attack the Rills because they don't like the look of them - but this is usually motivated by fear, by distrust of the unalike. Maybe the Drahvin's should have been taught that they should overcome this - as it is, their distrust is well founded, the other races are perfectly prepared to abandon them.Actually, scratch that. It sounds too Star Trekky. There's something engaging about the simplistic morality of Who that I prefer. Blow up the bitch!I suppose the main problem of this as a morality play is its sheer obviousness. The Drahvins are clearly the baddies from the get go. The Rills are the goodies. Whilst this offers at least a reversal of the simplistic morality of the original Dalek story, it's done cards on the table from the get go. There's nowhere to take it, because we know the point straight away. A midpoint twist might have been slightly cheesy, but at least it would have taken the story in a different direction.Because the main problem is it never changes. The story has gone precisely nowhere since part one (a trimmed down two part version would almost be acceptable). Every character has the same attitude, the same intention, they are all precisely what they appear to be. The stakes are never raised. The intervening material is nothing but attempts to stretch the story out.A story with no direction is barely a story at all. This is a script constructed around a moral point, but it's a blatantly obvious one, frankly, and it's rather ineptly handled. For all the abuse heaped on the Space Museum and the Sensorites, at least they have ideas, and purpose. Some shoddy acting or direction doesn't change that.Galaxy Four is just rubbish. Competently made rubbish, yes, but rubbish. Stupid, unsophisticated, morally simplistic rubbish.