So the iTunes Store seems to be getting into the whole Red Nose Day support, and already have a compilation of clips from the night available. However the real treats can be found if you take a look at the Best of Comic Relief Volume 1 which contains Blackadder: The Cavalier Years, Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death plus Comic Relief contributions from Ricky Gervais, Catherine Tate and the Vicar of Dibley, and the Best of Comic Relief Volume 2 which includes a special Men Behaving Badly, and an infamous Ali G interview with Posh and Becks.
I think perhaps it was a mistake to air the first part of the new series of Doctor Who quite so soon after the last part of Torchwood as it really marks out the differences between the two programmes. After a dire episode of Torchwood we get a great opening to the new series of Doctor Who – and Donna was nowhere near as annoying as I thought she would be either!
The plot of the first episode, Partners in Crime, revolved around a new alien called the Adipose. Through a front company they are marketing themselves as a miracle diet – except the diet pills are essentially alien eggs that absorb fat from the host species – in this case humans – and as the company adverts say, â€œThe fat just walks awayâ€?. However, it’s not totally foolproof – if the process goes wrong, Adipose can form themselves from any biological matter in the host, reducing them to nothing.
At the beginning of the episode, both the Doctor and Donna are separately investigating the company, and through the early part of the episode you get the two characters narrowly missing seeing each other on a couple of occasions, in a sequence reminiscent of numerous comedy routines over the years. Ultimately they spot each other, just at the wrong time, when they are both outside the offices of Miss Foster, the person running the whole operation. All of those sequences work fantastically thanks to having two good actors in the form of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to pull it off.
This being a new companion, we also get to meet the family – or in this case re-meet them as her mother appeared in The Runaway Bride, and Bernard Cribbins character from Voyage of the Damned, Wilfred Mott, is Donna’s grandfather. In amongst the action and comedy moments, Donna and her grandfather share a touching moment where Donna confides in him what she is looking for – something she cannot tell her mother.
The story is interesting in that it could be argued that there isn’t really a ‘baddie’. The cute little Adipose are quite happily breeding, and in fact are a benefit to their hosts in that they are consuming something the humans want to get rid of – the point where one host totally decomposes is actually caused by Donna herself, who by fiddling with one of the pendants that the Adipose use to mark the hosts that she has stolen, interferes with the breeding process. Indeed the final mass birth is only triggered because the Adipose have been discovered by the Doctor the implication is that had they not been discovered, things would have carried on and nobody would have noticed. This is definitely one of those episodes where you wonder whether the interference of the Doctor was actually for the best. An ethical question to ponder no doubt.
After watching the Adipose leave, Donna and the Doctor head for the TARDIS – stopping only to pick up her suitcases from her car, Donna being one of the few companions to have packed in advance for her trip with the Doctor. At this point, Donna has to get her car keys back to her mother which she does by hiding them, and then giving a cryptic message to a woman waiting in the crowd. Now if you’ve managed to miss the pre-publicity for the series, when the woman turns around it will be a total curve ball, as the woman is none other than Rose Tyler – even more perplexing as she walks away she seems to fade into nothing. No explanations on that, but I’m sure all will become clear in a few weeks time…
All in all it was a great episode with which to kick off the new season, a good crowd pleasing story with a nice mix of comedy and action, and one Rose Tyler shaped mystery to tantalise for the weeks ahead.
So after a disappointing finale, and a couple of major announcements about the series, a number of fans can hear the sounds of Fonzie readying a pair of water ski’s… All of this is more amazing following on mere weeks from the triumphs that were Human Nature, Family of Blood and Blink.
So what has brought the turnaround? Firstly there was the finale of the series. As I said at the time, Utopia was about one thing, bringing back the Master, and once it got to that point it was pretty gripping. The following two episodes The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords were successively more disappointing with Last of the Time Lords being the first to poll more people being dissatisfied with the episode than liking it in the Behind the Sofa poll – looking at the table you can see Human Nature, Family of Blood and Blink polling 94%, 95% and 97% respectively.
Towards the end of this blog posting condensing the plot of the three series so far, there is a comment that sums things up well:
R. T. Davies: Hello. I am R. T. Davies and I am excellent. I apologise for the interruption, but I have run out of ideas on how to finish this storyline. Instead, I shall steal elements from Greek mythology, Superman, Douglas Adams, Batman, the Carry On films and …err… Flash Gordon and hope nobody notices the complete dog’s dinner I’ve made of what was, until I got my hands on it, a rather excellent series. Sorry. All sorted. Happy ending. I’ll be off now.
Certainly the big reset button resolution can work, although it is always seen as a bit of a disappointing cop out – the Star Trek Voyager episodes Year of Hell being a good example, however as has been pointed out numerous times on Behind the Sofa, things didn’t reset – time rolled back to the point where the billions of Toclofane appeared, but totally forgot the four that were there already. Alongside this, the whole Face of Boe/Jack thing doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of watching the previous appearances of the Face of Boe in The End of the World in particular.
Following on from this we had confirmation of the casting of Kylie Minogue in the upcoming Christmas special Voyage of the Damned. This produced some light-hearted puns in news stories based on Kylie’s hits, but nothing too negative – fans seemed to be used to a bit of celebrity casting at Christmas. However all of that was obliterated by the massive negative reaction to the news that last years bit of celebrity Christmas casting, Catherine Tate who played Donna, is to be introduced as a full time companion next year. The reaction seems to be almost universal – you only need to listen to this news item take a look through the angry comments on Have Your Say to establish that. A point raised by many of the comments is that in terms of recent guest stars there is another, much better possibility for a new companion in the form of Carey Mulligan and the character Sally Sparrow that she played in Blink.
Having said that, lets not forget that this isn’t the first negative reaction to a casting decision, nor accusation of celebrity casting. The choice of Billie Piper raise a few eyebrows back in 2005, and more notably there was a similar outcry to what has happened this week when Bonnie Langford was cast as Melanie Bush in the series back in 1986.
So is the show about to Jump the Shark? Although the last couple of episodes were disappointing, and the casting of Catherine Tate has come as somewhat of a shock I think not. Over the past three years it has become clear that although Russell T Davies should certainly get the credit for spearheading the return of the series, he is not the best of the writers. Perhaps because he does write the majority of the episodes, and despite the fact that he has produced some relatively good episodes in the past, he does seem to have been responsible for the majority of the absolute clunkers. Other writers such as Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat are the ones who have won the awards, but it is worth remembering that they are only contributing one or two episodes compared to the four or five that Davies produces. Rumour has it that Davies (along perhaps with David Tennant) will leave the series at the end of season 4.
The thing to bear in mind is that the programme has by many peoples definition already Jumpped the Shark and recovered. Although there is debate over the later Sylvester McCoy stories most people seem to think that the programme hit a low patch during the eighties, similarly shown by the falling ratings and ultimate axing of the show. Even before that there have been points where due to falling ratings it was in danger and radical changes were made, a prime example being in 1969 when amidst falling ratings and an unhappy star, Derrick Sherwin took the decision to make the next season earth-bound and brought in the characters and massive change of style of the UNIT era. Currently ratings look strong, and it remains to be seen whether the initial opposition this week translates into falling ratings next year. Even if that happens, the BBC have certainly discovered what a massive money-spinner a well funded Doctor Who can be, so I don’t doubt that if that happens the series will transform again, and like other era’s we’ll be looking back on the Russell T Davies era and looking forward to something else…
Yesterday, this years Comic Relief appeal reached it’s climax with eight hours of TV on BBC1 and BBC2. Yet again it pulled in the donations at a fantastic rate, reaching the fantastic total of Â£40,236,142 by the end of the night (as a comparison, the BBC’s own Children in Need managed Â£18,300,392 last year).
The show included the conclusion of The Apprentice Does Comic Relief, that I wrote about yesterday. It finished up with Sugar choosing between Campbell and Morgan for the nominal firing – he went for Morgan in the end, which had been hinted at from the start in that in his start of show interview he was the only one seen commenting that he didn’t want to get fired! To be honest the best moments of that can be found in the first part of the show on Thursday – Campbell and Morgan trying to get the other one fired was amusing, but really a postscript to the main programme.
As usual, the show included a mix of hard hitting documentary sequences showing some of the areas the appeal aims to help in both the UK and Africa, and special comedy sketches. The comedy sketches were a bit hit or miss, with the Vicar of Dibley special, whilst having some funny moments, not being the best, and a live Mitchell and Webb sketch that was greeted with pretty well total silence by the live audience. However, Harry Hill provided what was pretty well a TV Burp Greatest Hits, and there were some star studded sequences from the special Little Britain Live. Peter Kay produced a memorable musical number to follow up Amarillo from last time. This time it was the old Proclaimers number, â€œI’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)â€? along with Matt Lucas. The video includes an unbelievable range of celebrities, including Lord Lucan and Shergar according to the credits. The video and song are available from iTunes and is going for a record in terms of being the fastest selling online song – we’ve been star spotting in the video, and about the only non-dead celeb who is credited that we can’t spot so far is David Beckham.
The sketches that we laughed at most though, were two of the Catherine Tate ones with a variety of famous people. The first includes David Tennant as a new English teacher, which if you watch, you’ll realise quite why Beth likes it…
The second was just amazing, as it includes Tony Blair, who actually gets a number of the funny lines…
Whilst on the subject of fund-raising goodies, check out Shaggy Blog Stories, a book of one hundred funny blog postings pulled together by Mike Atkinson, and including contributions from a real mix of famous and not so famous UK bloggers, including Dave Walker from Cartoon Church.