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By Matt Kamen
July 11, 2006
DOCTOR WHO: The End of the World
Welcome to Cinescape's new UK column. Each week, I'll be reporting on events of note to the UK genre scene, be it television, conventions, set reports or whatever else picks my fancy. However, we're a small island nation, so "UK genre scene" will encompass SF, horror, anime, comics and more a well-rounded selection of assorted geekery, if you will. I'll also be taking a look at some of the week's cult DVD, movie and games releases, selecting a few that are of particular interest.
For this first column, I want to start at the end. The end of Doctor Who season two, that is (or season 28, if you want to get technical, which I don't.). For those who've not seen it yet, and by that I mean the people in North America who haven't already downloaded the episode, spoilers are ahead. You have been warned.
The yanks and canucks gone? Let's continue. "This is the story of how I died"
With those words began the end of what is undoubtedly the biggest event in original British science fiction so far this year. The finale to New Who season two was also the end of a still-new era, seeing the departure of Billie Piper as the Doctor's companion, Rose Tyler.
Last week's episode, 'Army of Ghosts', initially seemed fairly formulaic, following the pattern laid down in the first season of introducing the main threat around the halfway point before returning to them at the end of the season. The villains in this case were the Cybermen, introduced in the two parter "Rise of the Cybermen" and "Age of Steel", unfortunately the weakest episodes of the second season. Thankfully, the season finale has been a much stronger story arc and not as formulaic as the first part originally appeared.
The stage was set for an invasion of Cybermen from a parallel reality a story where the Doctor and Rose would doubtlessly undergo hardships before the Doctor talked his way to saving the Earth once again. Then the Daleks showed up. The cliffhanger ending of the Daleks' reappearance in the final moments practically pulled the nation right off the edge of their proverbial seats, and was a secret that should be applauded. In an age when you can often read a near-complete synopsis of any TV show months in advance simply by jumping online, the effort that must have gone into preventing that spoiler getting out must have been phenomenal. Kudos to all involved at the BBC for keeping that one under wraps.
The hype for the final episode, titled 'Doomsday', had been building steadily through the week since, with a new teaser trailer posted on the BBC's Doctor Who website
and screened on TV each day. The tabloid press ran everything from the odd blurb to full-page articles on the show. Forget the World Cup (as most people here did after England's defeat) the end of Doctor Who was being billed as a TV event that would be second only to perhaps the Second Coming being broadcast live.
And frankly, this was an episode deserving of the hype. Russell T. Davies turned in a genuinely thrilling episode that was easily the best 45 minutes of airtime this week, hooking the viewer with the very first line from Rose and leading them through a whole gamut of emotions. David Tennant and Billie Piper's performances were sterling as ever, with a real tinge of sadness at the end as Rose is forced by fate to leave the Doctor behind. Adding to the emotional punch is a script as sharp as a whole set of ginzo knives, deftly weaving between action, pathos and humour as the story demands it. The sheer fanboy overload of Daleks versus Cybermen was a pleasure to watch, with the copious amounts of carnage later in the episode eclipsed only by the the verbal beatdowns they laid on each other early on.
While there were a few loose ends that astute viewers will notice, there was so little to complain about that they're hardly worth mentioning. It's going to be a long summer without Doctor Who on our screens (168 days left and counting down, to be precise) but we do have the Torchwood spin-off in October to look forward too. If it's half as good as Doctor Who has been, it'll be a damn fine show. Yaaar! Jim lad!
The second biggest event of note this week was the London premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Most of the media attention seemed to shun the film itself though, in favour of Keira Knightly's appearance at the premiere, scantily clad in jewellery and designer clothes. I wonder why... With early reports suggesting the film has taken £2.3 million ($4.3m) on its opening day alone, it has been Disney's most profitable UK launch ever. New DVD picks for 10/07/2006: Eerie Indiana: The Complete Series
This cult but underrated kid's show from the early 1990s finally makes it to UK shores after its region one release last year. The UK set is spread over only three discs as opposed to the R1's five and is unsurprisingly still devoid of extras. Sort of a latter day Twilight Zone skewed to a younger audience, Eerie, Indiana dealt with the bizarre happenings in a picture-perfect American small town that only two boys ever seemed to notice. Bar a couple of weak episodes, the series is still entertaining and worth checking out, despite having no resolute ending. Salem's Lot (1979)
The original TV mini-series of Stephen King's vampire soap opera hits the UK and, though similarly lacking in extras, is still as creepy as ever, outclassing the millennial update with ease. Urban Gothic seasons 1+2
Another underrated show here, Urban Gothic was a vastly under-appreciated British horror anthology screened on Channel 5 between 2000-2001 but dropped when the network got cold feet. Though a complete series box has been available for a while, these are budget re-releases of the individual seasons and are the perfect excuse for cautious buyers to discover one of the better horror shows out there.
That's it for this week. Hopefully you'll be back in future weeks where I'll be covering the UK launch of Superman Returns, a Smallville convention and Amecon 2006, the UK's largest anime event, along with other snippets of news from the UK.
Thoughts? Comments? Hatemail? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org