CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV: Wake up at the back! The Doctor’s social history lesson has begun
Sit up straight and stop talking immediately. Doctor Who (BBC1) is on. Pay attention, because there will be homework later.
Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord has become an intergalactic schoolma’am, marching through time to deliver illustrated lessons on science and political history.
She’s constantly out of breath and slightly fraught, because the curriculum is so crammed — with no room for secondary details such as a plot that makes sense, or characters who have more to say than, ‘What’s that?’ and ‘I don’t understand, Doctor.’
This week, she introduced us to mad Serbian scientist Nikola Tesla, outlined his major discoveries (alternating current, radio, wifi), explained his feud with American inventor Thomas Edison (gramophone, light bulb, direct current), and supplied an analysis of why Tesla died an unknown pauper while his rival made millions.
Sit up straight and stop talking immediately. Doctor Who (BBC1) is on. Pay attention, because there will be homework later
With so much educational information to crowbar in to 50 minutes, the aliens barely got a look-in. When they did, they were obliged to stand around gnashing their X-shaped teeth while Jodie’s pupils asked, ‘How will that device work, Doctor?’ Cue more explanations.
Eventually, the bell rang for the end of lessons and the aliens were zapped into another galaxy, leaving the Doctor just enough breath for a recap of the chief points.
Same time next week, and don’t forget your P.E. kit.
At least we were spared a stern lecture, unlike the previous episode, when Jodie whisked her companions (Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill and Bradley Walsh) off a parched and airless Earth to the Tardis for a real telling off about climate change. That was a fun five minutes.
I suspect the real issue is that Chris Chibnall, who has run the show since Jodie’s arrival, isn’t a born sci-fi fan. There’s no sense that he grew up boggling at classic authors such as Isaac Asimov, or queuing for midnight double-bills of Alien and Close Encounters.
He has dutifully studied the Doctor Who back catalogue and makes occasional references to the original adventures featuring William Hartnell or Tom Baker. But his extraterrestrial monsters lack life. It feels like they’re only there for contractual reasons, because the Doctor is required to fight aliens: it’s in the small print, paragraph 6b, under ‘Tardis, use of’.
Jodie Whittaker’s Time Lord has become an intergalactic schoolma’am, marching through time to deliver illustrated lessons on science and political history
The Daleks and the Cybermen terrified us because we believed in them. The imaginations that dreamed them up made them hideously vivid.
That’s why the adaptation on BBC2 of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is so entertaining. It’s preposterous, of course, with its notions of heaven, hell and the end of the world, but the writers make it all so convincing. Jodie Whitaker’s didactic Doctor is failing to convince me at all.
There’s no need to believe in the catalogue of catastrophes in COBRA (Sky One) because this is raw hokum — to be relished for its sheer awfulness. There hasn’t been bad telly as good as this since Rob Lowe in Wild Bill last year. This political disaster thriller is like House Of Cards meets Bruce Willis in Armageddon, Westminster intrigue mixed with planetary extinction.
There’s no need to believe in the catalogue of catastrophes in COBRA (Sky One) because this is raw hokum — to be relished for its sheer awfulness. Pictured: Robert Carlyle and Victoria Hamilton in the show
The Sun is firing squirts of plasma energy with lethal accuracy at Western Europe, zapping aeroplanes out of the sky.
Meanwhile, the PM’s student daughter has accidentally plunged her best friend into a coma with a cup of hallucinogenic green tea.
The dialogue is as superheated as the plot. My favourite line so far has the Remainer PM yelling at the callous, Brexiteer Home Secretary: ‘You voted to leave Europe, not the human race!’
It’s not meant to be funny but I laughed so hard I got hiccups.
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