Sunday, October 2, 2011

TV Series Review: Doctor Who (The Curse of Fenric)

Hah, you guys thought this would be on season six didn't you? Well I haven't actually had time to watch the last episode yet plus I like to give myself more than a day to reflect on things before I write a review, the timing here is actually just a coincidence. But why did I go back to Classic Who now when I have so much else to watch you might ask, it was actually because of one of the new episodes. Some of my friends on facebook had seen the episode before I had a chance to and were half freaking out half saddened by it so naturally I start speculating what happened. I guessed, from their comments, that something happened to a companion (I guessed it was probably to Amy) came up with a few theories, discarded an obvious one and then thought of something that I had only heard about happening once in Doctor Who and lo and behold that's what happened. I remembered what serial it came from, asked a friend of mine who loves Classic Who if they happened to have the DVDs for it (and they realized immediately why I was asking for them) and it turns out this was one of their favorites as well so I was in luck. And now, back to the Seventh Doctor and amazing companion Ace for a very satisfying serial.

Doctor Who: The Curse of Fenric

Summary: The Doctor and Ace have landed in Northern UK in World War II and the Doctor is intrigued by one of the scientists who is using a code cracking machine to try and translate centuries old Viking runes in the local church crypt. The runes don't tell a happy story though and with mysterious Russian soldiers showing up on the beach will this story end unhappily as well?

The Good: On the advice of my friend I watched the special edition of this serial which had edited together all the episodes into one movie and, going by what my friend said, rearranged some scenes to better match the order they were in the originals script (apparently the order had to be changed to fit in the broadcast times). I liked not having to fast-forward through the opening and ending credits each time so this was a nice feature, although I'm curious which parts were switched around for the tv version. Regardless, Ace is now one of my favorite companions after this episode (partially because she is one of the few to really yell at the Doctor when he's keeping her in the dark) for how resourceful and capable she is. She's a fully recognized character and, something I've pointed out before as a difference between Class and Nu companions, it feels like she's traveling with the Doctor for her own reasons and expects to have some fun and adventures without him, unlike all the current companions who travel with the Doctor just because of the Doctor.

The Bad: Part of the reason I'm so curious about the change in order of events in this serial is because there were several points when I didn't understand why there was a scene change from one to another one, why that second one was so important at that moment, and had a little bit of trouble figuring out what was going on at a few points. The head of the English forces also seemed mad for no reason (was he paranoid? possessed? just plain crazy?) and I was completely confused by his motivations for the entire story, it felt like the writers needed someone to cause problems and that he was the man for the job. Honestly there were a number of little bits about this serial that I either didn't pick up or that confused me, perhaps they would make more sense on a second watch-though but I already knew all the major plot points of this episode and that didn't seem to help much.

The Audio: One thing that I didn't even notice while I was watching is how absolutely none of the English characters sound like they're in northern UK and apparently it was even in the script that some of the actors accents should change but that certainly didn't happen here. The opening theme still sounds incredibly 80s (which for me isn't a good thing) but other than that I was paying more attention to the visuals on screen than any of the background music, background music from live action shows just doesn't stick with me as well for some reason.

The Visuals: My friend mentioned that the special edition included some touch-ups to the special effects and either they were wrong or the touch-ups were really good since none of the special effects jumped out at me in a jarring manner (they still weren't the best but they were regular, Doctor Who level, looking decent effects). The prosthetics on some of the creatures still looked rather silly however (and I wanted to burst out laughing each time the two girls-turned-monsters appeared on screen, such 80s hair) but again, Doctor Who has never had the budget needed to do a lot of really quality special effects.

So a good character episode but I didn't think the actual plot was so great, or at least that it was execute in the past manner it could have been. But oh well, I like the Seventh Doctor and Ace pretty well so I did enjoy this serial pretty well, now let's see how I enjoy the current stuff!

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