The Sound of Drums

This was good. No it wasn’t. Yes it was. No, it was a bit crap.

The above exchange is not what is currently going on on the Outpost: Gallifrey forums or on Behind the Sofa. Any resemblence is a coincidence, honestly. What the above exchange is is what was going through my head while I was watching it, and afterwards.

The reason is, of course, that Russel T. Davies scripts are not exactly linear or ordered; they are, rather, a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, samey-wamey… stuff. Instead of the thousands of Daleks of the Season One ender, we get billyuns of stabby-slicy, zappy-wappy …ball things. There’s the Aliens-in-the-British-Government concept, with the surprise eradication of a group of people who might otherwise have been able to stop the alien. There’s gratuitous cameo-age (nothing wrong with that, per sé, but the repetition is getting on my nerve). There’s the convenient plot devices – the invisibility device that works until plot demands that it doesn’t. Even the blatant channeling of Douglas Adams’s spirit is getting old, and I’m the kind of person for whom that stuff just doesn’t get old. I am referring of course to the entirety of Gridlock, the BBWWTWS theory which is a clear restatement of Adams’s Whole Sort of General Mish-mash theory, and now the use of what clearly amounts to a Somebody Else’s Problem field.

What The Sound of Drums left me with was the impression that it was all, well, a big mish-mash. Ideas and characterisation and explosions and music and cameos and sound and fury, signifying nothing. What a mess. And unlike last episode, this one wasn’t directed by Graeme Harper, and it showed.

I like John Simm as the Master, but I appear to be the only person in the world who does. I enjoy his manic unpredictability. But even with that in mind, I can’t quite get why he wants the destruction of the Earth. I can sort of guess at the ends he’s planning to achieve (and indeed Doctor Who Confidential contained a whopper of a spoiler for the final episode), but not how this end requires him to wipe out the world. It could still be explained in the next episode……

… but there’s too much exposition in this storyline already! Even the accompanying shots of some Timelords in their preposterous headgear couldn’t make all the narrated backstory interesting or compelling. For the first time since Series 2, an episode of Doctor Who seemed to just drag on and on. Even the cliffhanger was dull.

All right, so I clearly think it was a bit crap. No it wasn’t! John Simm was great, Tennant was great, apart from the final minutes when he was in his prosthetic makeup, and Agyeman and Barrowman played well against one another, as Tennant did against Simm. There was some effective music in there, and while there was plenty to gripe about, there was little that stuck out in a negative sense while I was actually watching it – apart maybe from the cookie-cutter US President with an unconvincing accent.

It’s just that… add everything together and it just doesn’t work. It’s dull, stale stuff. Unlike Blink and Human Nature/Family of Blood which had me on the edge of my seat and occasionally jumping out, this just washed over me.

I don’t have high expectations of the series finale now. Let’s just get it over with and then I can bury myself in Big Finish audio dramas again.