I thought it was good.
Is that a criticism ?...only in as much as it wasn't GREAT, and with Unquiet Dead being one of my favourites from last season I was really really hoping for GREAT.
So why didn't it achieve greatness?
I suspect because the script was tinkered with just a little too much by outside hands. I think R.T.D. is doing a brilliant job of holding it all together and making it fit the big picture, but from what was said on confidential, it sounds like some very nice and 'important' monologues were cut and I'm struggling to understand why, because that was exactly what I felt was missing from this episode. It needed just a little more intellectual and emotional depth from the doctor, which the monologues would undoubtedly have delivered.
There was also too much running to and from the house. The answers the doctor sought seemed to be split between two sides of the city and he had to keep running back and forth in order to piece them together. I found my self asking 'why hadn't he just stuck around long enough in the SAME place to find out all he needed in one go?'.
And the line "No power on this planet is going to stop me" as well as being very 'Parting of the Ways...I'm coming to get you', also sounded suspiciously like an R.T.D. intervention and one I could have done without. I know it's meant to show the ever deepening bond developing between the Doctor and Rose ( let's face it, he's already died for her once ) but a line like that is never going to be subtle and it felt a little forced dramatically.
This brings me to the Doctor himself. There seems to have been a real inconsistency in TennantÂ’s performance over the season so far. I caught myself looking back today, thinking about this time last year and the excitement of 'New Who' and I began comparing Tennant with Chris Eccleston.
I was always uneasy about Chris as the doctor. Don't get me wrong, he's a 'fantastic' actor and it worked brilliantly, but I always had trouble seeing past the Eccleston persona. He's not really a character actor, he is the strengths of his own personality focussed on a particular part.
The thing I was looking forward to with Tennant was the genuine realisation of a 'CHARACTER. I was hoping he would be the Sylvester McCoy that Sylvester should have been...with a big chunk of Baker thrown in for good measure.
In many ways however, Eccleston was actually more like Baker than Tennant. They were best when they were themselves, but charged up the by the character and the situation. It gave them a real edge and strength. I'm kind of missing that in Tennant at the moment, that level of unearthly intensity. He touched on it during the stand off with Finch in Reunion ( the first time I got a real sense of his age and universal authority ) and I want more please.
Over all however I really liked this episode. It certainly delivered scare wise, with the face melting energy sucking television sets. And it got Rose to shut up for a while, which has got to be good!
I loved the concept and the period setting. Returning to the source of television ( the tower) as the delivery system of evil was a brilliant idea.
The acting was excellent throughout this week with the possible exception of the father, who kind of peaked character wise in the first few lines and didn't leave himself anywhere else to go dramatically after that other than 'nasty shouty man'...but he certainly achieved loathsome, so he did serve the character well.
Maurine Lipman was superb and achieved a perfect balance of creepy British aloofness and seething malevolent evil. I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see a transformation into her true self at the very end ( the evil energy of the Wire made flesh just before it's destruction ) ...and I know it would have been a bit of a clichÃ©, but it's the sort of clichÃ© that can work really well in Who.
I liked the 'worm that turned' aspect of Magpie in the end too.
The direction was smooth, coherent and the dark elements of the script brilliantly handled.
As always, the 45 minute time slot deprives us of some potentially worthwhile character development and contemplation time but the upshot is a faster paced energetic delivery of the story. If they'd only give in to the full 60 minutes we could have the best of both worlds. I do wonder if it's so they can sell it to commercial stations allowing advert time to be slotted in. If that is the case, then why can't they just shoot the extra 15 minutes and release it on a special edition extended DVD?
So, a thoroughly enjoyable episode that will be remembered as having impact and depth. Sadly, it didn't have the richness of Unquiet Dead.
As I said, I would love to see a copy of Gattis' script prior to edits. I would dearly like to know what extra elements he included as I suspect they would have tipped the balance of this episode from good to GREAT.