Its time to quote a particularly favourite villain of cinema; Immortan Joe. Allow me…
And thats the review in one word. But, as i call myself a critic, albeit one with a chip on my shoulder the size of a breize block and enough childhood nostalgia to fill a small lochan outside of Creiff, then you deserve a more robust review than that. And, although i know you all think i’m going to be massively, massively pedantic and nitpick the fuck out of the material, i’m trying my best to also present unbiased, observant alternatives that will go hand in hand with my cynical, angry fan ranting.
But first, i’ll attempt a synopsis. Now, let me present a few things. Sea Devils. Ancient China. Pirates. There, given that, how can you fail? All the story needed to do was throw the above three things together. But no, for some reason, it had to be more. It had to be confusing. Not Moffat-confusing, i’ll grant you that. But, certainly more confusing than it needed to be. The problem is this: let me present a fictitious blurb-synopsis, the sort you might find on a streaming service for a TV episode:
“The Doctor, Yas and Dan travel to ancient China, where they meet legendary pirate captain Madame Ching, and become embroiled in a Sea Devil plot to disrupt the Earth’s core and flood the planet, claiming it back as their own.”
Now you see why i wasn’t blown away by the actual episode, because that synopsis is bloody brilliant. So much potential, so much lucidity.
But here goes the reality. The actual summup of the transmitted story:
The Doc, Yaz and Dan arrive in medieval China to find a village in which the Pirate Queen, hunting for a mythical ‘keystone’ (which has power over reality), accidentally unleashed a Sea Devil from its frozen statue state…(good so far)… but then the Devil escapes in a flying pirate ship powered by hexatoxicology or something, and the Doc must travel briefly into the past to discover where the devils are hiding, discovering that legendary pirate captain Ji-Hun (whose ship the devils nicked) is in fact in stasis inside the flying ship now, theres a gaping monster-filled hole at the bottom of the sea and the ‘keystone’ will actually give the villainous sea creatures the ability to invert the poles of the Earth and reclaim the planet as their own. Oh and by the by, the keystone was actually given to a young escapee of the pirate ship attack, whose descendent is coincidentally the young man that Dan has befriended in the future…
And yeah whatever. The Pirates of the Caribbean plot is as nonsensical as it sounds and probably would be acceptable in a two hour epic, but not in a 45 minute special. (which raises the question – whats so special about it? Its actually shorter than a normal episode).
But thats the problem. Its not special at all. It feels less even than a mid-season cheap knock off, with far below par special effects and attention. Yeah, I’m sure the powers that be will blame COVID-19 and i do sympathise with that, but even then there just seems like a massive lack of interest from the film-makers. The editing is embarrassing. The fight scene on the ship looks like they took whatever number of minutes footage filmed, popped it into a blender and then were forced to use whatever the system spat out. I’ve seen Taken (Liam Neeson franchise) mocked for the number of edits used to disguise Liam’s lack of fluidity and use of stunt doubles, but this is ridiculous. I think i recall the Doc somersaulting off screen at one point, to evade a sea devil, only for that sea devil to turn up in front of her again. If you’re going to deliver a confusing spray of fisticuffs, you need solid, flowing direction; not a complete mess that just distracts the viewer from being ABLE to comprehend whats going on.
There were positives. The Sea Devils themselves were excellent. True to the past and delivered in a modernised way that made them into fully realised Dr Who monsters even in this day and age. Applause.
The comedy of Dan. Yes! You’d expect me to be more cynical of this but you forget i am also aware that first and foremost Dr Who should be for the kids, so Dan’s pirate costume and out of place one-liners had me smiling, just a little, under my array of frowns.
And….um, thats about it.
As i said, not rubbish, just hugely, massively meh.
And i guess i should talk about the shoehorned-in Doc-Yaz thing. Oh goodness. There is so little i want to say on the matter because for me, nothing made me aware of the ‘sparkling chemistry’ between the two characters. Only twitter’s huge fan base for Thasmin has given this weird relationship any credence. When the Doc described Yaz as the most wonderful person she’d ever met i was blown away; really? What has she done to achieve this accolade? I’m sorry, but the acting and the on-screen action just has not been enought to suggest anything… so this is all born outside of the TV in the fan fiction. I can understand why it all could be a ‘thing’ and i wouldn’t complain too much if it had developed, but only if they’d made it more natural. But it never, ever felt that way.
Anyway. Everyone’s forgotten about the episode now because Ace is in the next one.