doctor who 3.8: 42

29 05 2007

Ironic that, just as Danny Boyle’s Sunshine echoes elements of the Doctor Who episode The End of The World, 42 turns up and is basically Sunshine with the brakes off.

If Sunshine wasn’t so fresh in my mind, I might have enjoyed 42 a bit more. Sure, it’s solid and entertaining, and holds its own in visual and effects terms with the much larger-budgeted film, but the breathless real-time gimmick doesn’t really nail you to the floor. The main problem yet again is that it’s just too reminiscent of stuff we’ve seen before: not just Sunshine, but last season’s The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit. Both those episodes generated more tension with slow-burning atmospherics than 42 does with all its sweaty histrionics.

As such, the highlight is the slowest, stillest moment, as Martha falls into the sun while the Doctor looks on despairingly. It’s a moment of real anguish that kicks proceedings into top gear.

The following scenes with the Doctor possessed have potential – the Doctor as the villain of the piece! – but instead the momentum dissipates as the Doctor flops about looking ill. A missed opportunity.

I quite liked the pub quiz gags, but it didn’t seem the most logical security measure… Just another example of bad spaceship design, which to me encompasses anything that has no basis in logic and exists solely to create drama. Like a handle… on the outside of the spaceship. On the outside… andjuuust out of arm’s reach. What idiot designed this spaceship?

Churlish to question such things, perhaps. But it’s all tied up in the suspension of disbelief. I’ll buy time travelling aliens, hospitals on the moon, and zombie scarecrows, as long as the door handles are in places that make sense. It’s the trivialities of everyday life that sell the big fictions.

Environmental message aside, it’s all on the surface. None of the subtexts and ambiguity that made The Satan Pit so interesting. Passably entertaining, but hardly the answer to life, the universe and everything.

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