Friday, February 11, 2011

"Cold Blood"

I suppose it's easy to say that the resolution of a New Series two-parter is generally better than the opening episode but I think you'd struggle not to say that of this Silurian revival. The Silurian city is very nice, the plot is certainly more interesting and while there is some rather predictable character development there are also a few engaging twists along the way.
It's a shame that the CGI city wasn't used more, but I think that same hall we've seen in several other episodes is used quite effectively as the conference chamber/courtroom of the Silurians. Nonetheless I have to take issue with the Doctor sitting Amy and Nasreen down to chat with Eldane. I'm not sure what he hoped to achieve - neither of them have any authority to speak for humanity, as opposed to Eldane who is obviously a leader of his civilisation. It doesn't exactly make much sense. There's also the whole issue of the humans being seen as similarly flawed in comparison to the Silurians with Ambrose's semi-accidental killing of Alaya but you could see it coming from a mile off even if it does make Ambrose seem crazy and annoying. Rory is top quality as ever but he could be given more to do and while it's nice to see how much his relationship with the Doctor has improved there's too much time spent with him just sitting around babysitting the stereotypes up on the surface, and similarly too much time spent with Amy wandering around the Silurian tunnels with Mo not really doing anything.
The character of Restac tends to grate as the arbitrary hammy villain du jour once Alaya has been killed off and I find the characterisation of Malokeh to be curious. Sure, he cuts off the Doctor's decontamination when he realises he's not human and he keeps Elliot in suspended animation but this is still the guy who's been dissecting people while they're conscious and strapping humans down to chairs. The Doctor still says he "rather loves him". Is he meant to be a paragon of scientific ethics or a mad doctor who cuts people open and makes them watch? As I stated previously, it's not helped by the incredibly creepy old-timey surgical garb he wears everywhere which makes me feel like he should be running around spattered with blood, waving a bone saw and cackling "It's alive!"
Eldane himself feels a bit like the predictable Star Trek style diplomat who has to deal with unruly subordinates yet at the same time I appreciate this character divergence from the New Series' typical tendency to just have the Doctor and co running around avoiding people hell-bent on their deaths for ages without any kind of reprieve. I suppose it does exacerbate the hammy villainousness of Restac, however, which isn't helped by the facelessness of the other Silurian soldiers, which definitely broadcasts a confused message as to whether these are meant to be sympathetic characters or not. I suppose the whole episode is about things being at stake and what people have to lose and how anyone can make the wrong decision given the right pressure and that everyone is capable of both good and evil and all that sort of stuff but when the Silurians have a genocidal psychopathic warrior caste at odds with these apparently incredibly peaceful civil and scientific authorities it all becomes rather confusing.
I realise this episode is trying to make a point but it all feels rather rushed and it's not helped by the ending, which I'll get to. A lot of it is improved by what I must say is the almost unbelievable watchability of Matt Smith as the Doctor, and regardless of anything else his performance in this episode is incredibly good. You cannot shake the feeling that this is the Time Lord, and he has so much good-natured humour, and authority, and compassion that it's hard to even compare the previous few incarnations. His inspiration of Nasreen as well as his advice and disappointment towards Ambrose are all incredibly effective.
Speaking of top notch acting, let's look at Rory's death. I think it was rather predictable that Rory would be killed especially as we knew he was only going to feature in a few episodes this series but I'm extremely glad that Chris Chibnall and Moffat had the balls to actually kill him rather than write him out in some cop-out fashion like having him want to stay and live with the Silurians or something ridiculous like that which was done to an extent with Mickey just to get rid of him. I realise even at this stage it was incredibly obvious that his death won't be permanent but that, combined with the time erasure, is still pretty gutsy. Rory dies saving the Doctor, which is always good, and the confusion and horror in Arthur Darvill's performance as he realises that he's dying and will be permanently separated from Amy is astoundingly performed. I hate to see him go, but I know it's far from over for Rory.
To go even further on this thing about the acting, watch the scene with the Doctor and Amy after Rory's death as the Doctor implores her to remember and she essentially loses it, desperate to have him back. Now for reasons I cannot fathom Karen Gillan occasionally gets stick from some fans, I think normally of the Tenth Doctor/Rose/Donna variety but how can you possibly watch this and not feel for Amy? Where has there ever been a more believable source of grief in the show since it returned, and how can you not consider Karen Gillan's performance here to be incredible? The shot of the Doctor dragging Amy into the TARDIS is very powerful and while I think this time-crack/death sequence distracts from a lot of the rest of "Cold Blood", I ultimately don't care because of how absolutely blown away I am by the performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill all three in this sequence. They make me care about their characters and the development is actually believable. Well anyway I realise this might all seem a bit over-enthusiastic but trust me, it's really good. The shot of the Doctor holding up the piece of TARDIS over the actual TARDIS certainly intrigued me at the time and I believe persists as a powerful image even if it's started to become a bit predictable that the Time Crack will show up in the endings of episodes and even moreso that it will play a role in the plot of these two-parters.
I wouldn't mind seeing them following up on the narration and the thousand-years-later premise of humans and Silurians sharing the Earth, and while I think this episode does rush somewhat it's not without merit. At times however it can feel a little character heavy and the scenes on the surface are still pretty dull. It feels like it could have been tightened up a bit, but that being said I think it suffers in trying to imitate the long and complex early Pertwee stories on which it is based within such a brief duration. Nevertheless it's worth watching if only for the ending and an at least slightly innovative examination of this kind of discovery scenario.

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