Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Dreamland"

Written by Phil Ford
Directed by Gary Russell

Stark: “You just helped me save the world.”
The Doctor: “For the first time in 900 years, why does that feel like bad news?”

You wait seven months just to get one Doctor Who special and then another one shoots out almost from nowhere. I know this has been talked about for ages now but it’s been so long coming, I almost can’t believe it’s here.

Compared to “The Waters Of Mars”, this is thankfully something of a light affair and the second time the new series has tackled a story in animation. Is it better than “The Infinity Quest”? Yes, for the most it is.

Companion wise, we’ve got both Cassie Rice, a 1950’s waitress and Native American Jimmy Stalkingwolf and they’re both good help to The Doctor and for this story in general. Cassie’s a sceptic when it comes to aliens. The Doctor’s with her and Jimmy for less than two minutes and the scepticism is definitely knocked right out of her.

Because of the format, the pacing is certainly faster here. Mr Dread the robot wants the ionic fusion bar and when The Doctor and company refuse to hand it over, he’s not best pleased. Then we got our first introduction to a Viperox. Cassie also did some initial screaming that harkens to certain companions of old.

It doesn’t take much to realise that along with the Viperox, you’d get the US government involved. In the 1950s there was Area 51 or Dreamland as this episode is called and The Doctor is excited enough to go in there.

I’m not sure I would be. The Doctor’s had enough experience to know that government types have the immediate reaction to either kill, imprison or in this case, attempt to erase his memories. In those circumstances the last thing you’d want is to be escorted into Dreamland by Stark and his men.

What can you say about Stark that probably hasn’t been said before? Nothing! He’s a typical hot headed Colonel who wants to arm himself against Russia and because of that he’s in alliance with Viperox. Of course the Viperox themselves, mostly vocalised through Lord Azlok have their own agenda too.

When Jimmy got captured by a group of Viperox, Azlok revealed that he wasn’t interested in the Earth. If anything there was a common enemy that him and Stark had together. This could’ve been an interesting angle but as soon as The Doctor, Cassie and Jimmy saw the Queen giving birth to so many eggs that was another thing to debunk.

As for the enemy, there is where some of the substance for this story lay. We had poor Seruba Velax locked away in Dreamland and her husband, Rivesh Mantilax being protected by the wonderful (but all too briefly seen) Night Eagle and his people. It was also Night Eagle’s skills with arrows that put Mr Dread briefly out of commission as well.

A husband and wife desperate to reunite each other, believing the other was dead certainly helped giving “Dreamland” a bit of emotional substance. It was also the pursuit of Rivesh that revealed Azlok’s plan to use a weapon capable of killing an entire species. Now The Doctor is never going to take to that, would he?

Playing on a fixed point in time standard, The Doctor might have been determined to have stopped Azlok from destroying the Earth with newly hatched Viperox but he had to fight everyone in a way to ensure that the Viperox weren’t killed. Mainly because in the future they’re supposed to be a peace loving race. Interesting idea.

Using the weapon that wasn’t really an ionic fusion bar to try and drive them out instead was innovative, I’ll give you that. It’s a pity that The Doctor wasn’t so considerate of laws in his previous on screen adventure.

It also came as no real shock to the system when Stark actually helped The Doctor towards the last third of the story, nor was it shocking to see that Cassie and Jimmy have seemingly become an item as well. If you wanted a feel good ending to a story, this had one.

Also in “Dreamland”

This was broken down into six episodes that could be seen on the Red Button service. It also airs on BBC2 from December 5th at 10am.

The Doctor: “The smell of fast food in the desert air. The perfume of America.”
Cassie: “Hey are you British or something?”
The Doctor: “Something, that’s definitely me.”

The credits read for David Tennant and Georgia Moffett, who voiced Cassie Rice. Her American accent was fine with me.

Stark (to Cassie): “You don’t have to worry ma’am.”
The Doctor: “Oh, why’s that?”
Stark: “Because you’re gonna forget everything you’ve seen. You’re gonna forget everything.”

Azlok (to Jimmy): “Who is this man you call The Doctor?”
The Doctor: “Oh now that would be me.”

Lisa Bowerman who voiced Seruba Velax is best known for her role as Seventh Doctor companion Bernice Summerfield as well as Karra from “Survival”.

The Doctor (to Cassie/Jimmy, re Viperox Queen): “I don’t think she’s amused. I have this effect royalty. Run!”

Stark: “The Reds are sitting on a thousand nukes and everyone of them has Uncle Sam’s name on them.”
Night Eagle: “The Russians will never fire them. They know as well as anyone that would be the end of the world.”

There was a deliberate homage to Indiana Jones with the mine cart chase halfway through this story as well as mentions to Aliens and Die Hard.

The Doctor (to Stark): “Two problems with the Viperox, Colonel – you can’t trust them and they have very good hearing.”

The Doctor: “No-one has the right to destroy an entire species.”
Cassie: “Doctor, they destroy my town.”

Seruba and Rivesh were the most clichéd looking of aliens we’ve seen. I guess for the story backdrop though it sort of worked.

Azlok: “Your day will come, Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Yeah, so they say.”

Chronology: Is this based before or after “The Waters Of Mars”?

In the last couple of weeks, I was mixed about this animated special but now after having seen it as a whole, “Dreamland” was an enjoyable enough story. A lot lighter but that’s probably a good thing, given the darkness of “The End Of Time” two part story that has yet to air.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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