Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Army of Ghosts"

When an episode starts with a melodramatic and enigmatic narration by Rose talking about her own death and some war, and ends with a simultaneous invasion by both the Cybermen and the Daleks you know that you're in for a typical RTD maelstrom of bad science, audience manipulation and total plot collapse.
This episode is such an obvious piece of mere set-up that it's virtually pointless and with some refinement this two-parter, as with most from this era, could probably be easily reduced to a single episode without difficulty, maybe if you removed the pointless stupidity of including both the Cybermen and the Daleks. It's almost as if RTD thought that if it was just the Cybermen then Rose's "death" wouldn't be glorious enough or something so he had to include the Doctor's arch-enemies as well. There's an awful lot of time wasted on silly pop-culture references like the Doctor channel-surfing so that people can chuckle with self-satisfaction at seeing ghosts on Corrie or Eastenders or whatever the hell it is and the minute David Tennant emerges from under the floor of the TARDIS with a backpack and little gun thingie of no apparent purpose than to enable him to ask "Who you gonna call?" in a tiresome Ghostbusters reference there's just no end to the absurdity.
We're supposed to care about Torchwood because they're going to take over the world for the glory of the British Empire using alien technology but instead of using this as a plot where the Doctor has to stop this sort of "evil UNIT" instead there's just a lot of meaningless junk about cracks between dimensions and the void of nothingness and terms like "impossible" are thrown around willy-nilly. The concept of Torchwood being this organisation where the Doctor is both an enemy and desired for help is actually kind of interesting, even if Torchwood seems superfluous when we have UNIT already in existence, but it's totally wasted with the reintroduction of these 'parallel Earth Cybermen' who don't cease to be rubbish. It's like something from a children's toy commercial and it's completely obvious that when you get right down to it RTD only cares about trying to make people have a big cry over Rose and get all scared by the Cybermen and shocked by the incredibly unsurprising 'surprise' appearance of the Daleks rather than actually developing a storyline with any integrity or anything meaningful to say. As I've indicated the concepts are there with the motivations and purpose of Torchwood, but they're left to be just a bit of throwaway dialogue to make you feel uneasy before moving onto the meaningless 'big battle with the Cybermen and Daleks' idea. It's unimaginative, cheap and juvenile.
There's a lot more stupidity too, like the incredibly drawn out and just plain weird 'applause' scene when the TARDIS shows up in Torchwood, the 'big dramatic reveal' of Torchwood, replete with shocking brassy music, which is basically a bunch of forklifts driving around a large warehouse full of cardboard boxes. For some reason Jackie gets dragged back into events while Rose gets to wander around aimlessly and Tennant gets to have a whinge at the Torchwood leader, and not-Martha-Jones-from-the-next-series gets turned into a Cyberman drone. It's all just a drawn-out crescendo which seems to exist purely for the sake of establishing a shocking cliffhanger and all of its good ideas, about people believing in the dead coming back or Torchwood using alien technology against the world is brought up in the first twenty minutes or so and then completely forgotten. I did like the Doctor saying that he thought the idea of the dead returning was horrific and overall Tennant's performance is quite good and lacking in shoutiness, although the lame jokes are still present and the first instance of his skin-crawlingly irritating use of the term "allons-y" makes me shudder, but it's nice to see Mickey returned having clearly grown a bit more. Upon rewatch, though, it has virtually no value and the episode has legitimately nothing to say. Also, apparently ghosts/Cybermen appearing all over the world means a few shots of them standing in front of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal because apparently some of them have come over on a sightseeing tour rather than a bid for world conquest. It's certainly pacier than "Fear Her" and less ridiculous than "Love & Monsters" but unless the next episode is much better than I remember it's all downhill from here.

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