Monday, 5 April 2010

Narrative displeasure: Cracks and Creeks

I've been extremely busy with work this Easter weekend with one thing and another. This meant that I missed the first Matt Smith / Steven Moffat episode of Doctor Who at its (rather early?) 6.20pm slot on Saturday night, although I did manage to catch it on iPlayer later that evening.

First things first: I thought Smith was excellent as the Doctor. I also thought Karen Gillan did a good job as his assistant, and I felt the opening scenes of him with the young Amelia were really well done. Although the giant eyeball-cum-spaceship looked a bit flimsy, I felt the overall production values of the show had been turned up a notch. I loved the stop motion scene when we were seeing the village green through the Doctor's eyes shot by shot; it almost felt like I was watching a film in the cinema rather that a Saturday night show on the BBC. Yes, the theme music is different and seems to be missing a rather key note in the eerie whistle-y melody whilst also featuring a big brass band. However, this isn't really a big deal in the great scheme of things, and I was more upset when the Neighbours theme tune changed from keyboard to saxophone.

I've written previously about how I've really enjoyed Moffat's episodes in past series. I think Moffat's real strengths lie in creating tension, creepy narrative hooks ("don't blink" or, on Saturday, "the corner of your eye"), strong female characters and absorbing stand-alone stories. My fear is whether he'll be able to offer us engrossing ongoing storylines (like Russell T Davies' 'Bad Wolf' mystery), scary aliens (his most successful episodes have featured creepy 'things' rather than gooey monsters) and, most importantly, the long-term characterisation of the Doctor himself (don't forget that Moffat's most heralded episode - Blink - barely even featured David Tennant, and was driven by the one-off character of Sally Sparrow, played by the now Bafta-winning actress, Carey Mulligan).

Although I think Saturday's episode got off to a great start with a strong story, I think the story could have been told a lot better. The concept was brilliantly creepy; a little girl has a crack in her bedroom wall, through which a shape-shifting prisoner from another world has escaped and has been hiding in a secret room in her house for over a decade. This part of the story was told really well. But then the second spooky aspect - the fact that this escaped alien prisoner can take the form of human beings by latching on to, and becoming a visual representation of, their dreams - was lost in all of the running around in the second half of the episode. Coma patients are the best victims for this because they are permanently asleep, but it was only when the alien targeted Amy's unconscious after she collapsed in the hospital ward - and significantly changed into the young Amelia with the 'raggedy Doctor' because that's what she dreams about - that this part of the story really became clear (to me, at least).

So, in my opinion, the episode was by no means perfect, but overall a fantastic start to a new era of Dr Who, and I can't wait to see what Moffat comes up with next. 

And now I move from a good story which could have been told better, to a rubbish story which was told even more terribly than the story itself. Yes, that's right, it's time for me to ramble once more about THE SHITNESS OF JONATHAN CREEK.

Paul McGann, who was the eighth Doctor and also starred in the Easter special of Jonathan Creek. What a link!

I don't know why I bother these days. The one-off special in January 2009 pushed the boundaries of the ridiculous too far, but this year's episode didn't even bother with the boundaries in the first place. Call me a 21st century media consumer with no attention span whatsoever, but are we really meant to remember who Sheridan Smith's character is and how she knows Creek after she made her debut over a year ago in a one-off episode? Is Creek *really* the kind of man to chat up a bird at a bus stop and take her home for some spur-of-the-moment hanky panky? HOW DID THEY ESCAPE FROM THE BASEMENT? 

I'm sorry to those who have no idea what I'm banging on about, but these are just a few of my gripes. The strengths of Jonathan Creek in its glory days were always the writing and Creek's gentle, self-deprecating humour. Now, it seems that the writers are grasping at straws trying to throw in a few illusion-related mysteries for the sake of it, with a bunch of dislikable characters who all roam around their country mansions whilst plotting ridiculously-complicated crimes that the audience has no chance of guessing whatsoever. Then, when Creek figures it all out - HE LETS THEM GET AWAY WITH IT! No narrative closure and a pointless waste of time for all involved. A bit like this blog post, then.


Dan Worth said...

Ha, your Creek bashing is funny. (Note, they escaped by banging on the cellar door as the policeman was by the bins outside (but I agree, it was a bit of the plot that seemed redundant).

Personally, I quite like Creek although agree it is always somewhat ridiculous but I always think it's the Adam Klaus scenes that are the most pointless as they are never funny nor necessary and the character himself is neither loveable nor despicable enough to be worthy of the come-uppences he usually gets.

hayjane said...

My mum has also pointed out the policeman bit. My attention span must be to blame. Yes, the Klaus character is utterly pointless. And since when has Creek lived in a swanky bachelor pad?

Huw said...

(I quite like the Klaus bits actually.)