“The Beast Below”
April 10th, 2010
While Doctor Who effectively transcends our understandings of both time and space, it is generally the former which has had the most impact (at least from my outsider’s perspective): the Doctor is, after all, a Timelord, and the different locations that the Doctor visits tend to be defined more by “when” as opposed to “where,” especially when you consider that location is often dependent on time period. There is always that initial moment, upon the Doctor’s arrival, where the question of “where” becomes immediately important, but it is often superseded by the show’s interest in “when” the Doctor has arrived in order to place the events in question into some sort of new context.
“The Beast Below” is one of these examples, beginning with a really fascinating question of place and national identity before eventually delving into a complex investigation of morality in the wake of great tragedy. In the end, the episode boils down to considerations of time as opposed to any questions about location, but the presence of those ideas is sort of what makes Doctor Who so intriguing to me. While we would normally complain that so many potentially interesting ideas regarding Spaceship UK and its police state are left uninvestigated, their presence makes for a more engaged audience experience – the show may eventually boil things down to a single story, but the presence of that added potential is something for us to chew on, which is at least half of what Doctor Who means to accomplish.
July 24th, 2009
As an experiment, I don’t really know how we’re supposed to qualify Children of Earth as a piece of television. Are we supposed to be judging it as if it were a season of Torchwood? If so, I can’t really offer an opinion on that subject, as my lack of experience with the show previously would make me an unfair judge. At the same time, is it really fair to consider the miniseries as a standalone piece of entertainment when it hinged so much on both past character associations and future ramifications? While I’m ready to sing its praises from that perspective, certainly entering into the upper echelon of television that I’ve seen this year, that probably doesn’t cover the entirety of the show’s success.
As such, all I can really do is say this: while “Day Four” struggled from moving too quickly, and “Day Five” inevitably struggled with the same pacing issues necessitated by the five-episode cycle, Torchwood: Children of Earth is nonetheless ending in a way that so few shows are able to. In this final part, emotional beats range from the disturbing to the tragic, the triumphant to the tragic, the climactic to the tragic, and…did I mention tragic? The series is all about that underlying element of tragedy, an unescapable sense that whatever is about to happen in these interactions with the 4-5-6 is just another drop in the water when it comes to society’s failings – “Day Four” evoked the idea that these children had already been failed by the government, so their use as bargaining chips with the 4-5-6 was just an extreme extension of that. It’s a horrifying and chilling notion, and one that the final episode of the miniseries drives home in a number of key tragedies.
Let’s just put it this way: if this is a happy ending, Russell T. Davies is truly (as Alan Sepinwall once noted) a bastard, although one who’s crafted a brilliantly compelling series of television.