Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Pit of Imagination

The Pit of Imagination

One thing I've managed not to mention in recent times is the one programme on tv that I've simply had to watch, even given the fact that so far in its series I've only managed to see two episodes at the time of their first airing. So you should note the dedication (and ability to operate a video recorder) which this show has required. If you can join the dots, a recent comment on DA might have made you notice. No, not the thing about Alan Rickman being in my play. The thing about the David Tennant Doll. Because - even by my standards - it's not an every day want. You should probably be glad I didn't go into my whole plan of getting one of my Sindys out to keep said doll company. But I must not get sidetracked by Mr Tennant, let alone by his doll. At least not today.

*Dr Who theme tune plays*

So if I've held in my new something-bordering-on-obssession then I no longer can. Because last night's episode , "The Satan Pit", contained some of the best acting, writing and ideas that I've seen on mainstream television for a long, long time. Because this wasn't comfortable or easy viewing. It wasn't an omnipotent Dr, any more than it was an omnipotent episode. And it probed some pretty huge questions - for the characters themselves and because this was done so well, for everyone watching.

If you're not up to speed with Who - the basics go something like this: The Doctor = a timelord who's around 900 years old, has a fab screwdriver that can get you out of lots of difficult situations and travels through space and time with the aid of a blue police box. Is played - in his tenth incarnation - by David Tennant. Who I heart. Rose = ballsy human sidekick with good hair and bad makeup who travels with the Dr. Is played by Billie Piper who, whilst I don't heart her, I do think she's rather fab. In this incarnation Rose and The Doctor are involved in some incredibly beautiful love affair that will never - or at least had better not - be realised. Because that would break the magic. Tennant describes it as "A love story without the shagging" which, whilst a little to the point, is probably a fair enough analysis.

In "The Impossible Planet" - the first part of the episode I'm going to talk about - our heroes were in a bit of a pickle. They'd managed to land on a spaceship on a planet hovering - impossibly [clever] - over a black hole. The TARDIS had plummeted into the middle of the planet so they're stuck. Throw in lots of suspense, some strange lettering that not even the Dr can read, a sinister presence taking control of the Ood (twisted house elves if you read Potter, servant creatures who look like their insides are pouring out of their noses if you don't) and the Dr donning a spacesuit (oooh) and embarking down to the centre of the planet and we're nearly there. Oh, and the words "He is awake".

So basically we'd had 50 minutes of incredibly well paced, edge of your seat, setup stuff. And you knew there was something in the pit of the planet that you didn't want to see. That you really didn't want to see. So much so that mid-way through "The Satan Pit" I yelled at the Dr "don't go down!". As if that was going to stop him given that this is a pre-recorded fictional tv show and all.

On one level the story was the basic plot for any episode - nasty monster threatens humanity, someone dies, it all gets a bit hairy and then - just in time - both the Dr and Rose find ways to save themselves and everyone else in the process. And as those sort of plots go it was certainly an assured and interesting version. But somewhere down the line, it turned into something more. What exactly was in the pit? How far do we choose to believe the title of the episode?

And it was there that the magic held. Because the Dr had to face - for the first time in his new Tennant guise - something that he didn't believe in. And that had to push him to question his thinking and belief system. Was he facing Satan? And if he was - what did this mean for him? What we got - in the face of the giant computer generated beast - was Tennant acting his socks off when confronted with this issue. For all the horror and terror and potential for destruction it was resolutely a moment of character - it was about the Dr. It was one of those moments that makes me want to run around in pure joy. And the thing that defeated the beast? Not some clever piece of equipment (though they would have been a bit buggered if the Dr hadn't hit his head on the TARDIS with seconds to spare) but the things that the Dr did believe in. His relationship - love maybe, friendship definitely - with Rose. I was practically screaming at the tv - 'how brilliantly Byronic is this?!'. Because it was about the power of the individual in the face of something which can't be understood. I loved that the episode made no concession to a neat ending - the ideas remained as ones which couldn't be explained. And the Dr made the big - and rather telling - decision not to understand. And it wasn't that he couldn't. It was that he chose not to. Which is a very different thing. Not to mention a rather brave move for Saturday night family television.

As I'm also soppy it should probably be noted that I did end up sobbing into a tissue a number of times during the episode. Yes, I know they want me to cry, but I can't help it. There was a wonderfully understated moment that had me yelping in horror "he thinks he's never going to see her again!"; that sort of thing - you know I love it. And how my heart broke a little at "Tell Rose...oh, she'll know". Because it's not good enough, Doctor, and yet it's just perfect and makes me love the programme even more.

So big pats on the back all round. Now, if only all tv were as challenging as this...


Val said...

I cried too - dammit, what is it about this series that leaves me a wreck at the end of most episodes - and I rather loved the non-explanation of exactly what the beast was!

My Secrets Inside said...

Another person here who cried lol.
Great Potter reference although I'd never have thought to compare them to house elves.

And where do I go to get ones of these David Tennant dolls? Errr not that I want one or anything ;-D :-)

Shona said...

I cried again reading your blog ... you owe me tissues!!!!

Brilliant double episode but my heart is probably still with Girl in the Fireplace.

Stephen said...

I'm a man, dammit. I just got something in my eye...

Corinne said...

Me? I was just blinking. A lot.

Not that I've looked properly into getting a doll or anything but you can find them here and here. I think I'm going to invest in The Doctor in Suit as his converses look so cute *rolls eyes*

My Secrets Inside said...

Oooh, thanks for the links. :-)