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This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Firefly with Time Travel (Review: 'Doctor Who' 8.15-8.20, "Colony in Space") - Part Two

Gallifrey (we haven’t heard that name yet and won’t until “The Time Warrior”). Three Time Lords discuss the fact that the Master has got his hands on a secret file on “The Doomsday Weapon”. They decide to send the Doctor to sort this out. They don’t inform him of this – they just dematerialise the TARDIS while he’s showing Jo around.

Arriving on the planet Uxarieus in the year 2472, the Doctor and Jo find an agrarian colony led by a man called Ashe – a group that is trying to forge a new life away from an overcrowded and repressive Earth. While they have an uneasy truce with the “primitives” who live on the planet, their crops are failing and a “monster” is attacking their outer settlements. A survivor from an earlier colony arrives, claiming that the monsters and the Uxarieans wiped out the rest of his people.

Soon, a spaceship from the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) arrives, led by the nastily urbane Captain Dent and are “shocked” to discover there is a colony already there, so calls in an Adjudicator from Earth to resolve the dispute. The Doctor discovers the true identity of the monster, Jo gets kidnapped and then open fighting begins between the two groups of settlers. Then, the Adjudicator arrives…

The problem with a lot of the six-parters of classic Doctor Who is that they’re two parts too long. “Colony” is another classic example of a story that would have worked better in four 25-minute parts (i.e. 100 minutes, just a tad longer than a DW two-parter today) – tightening up the dialogue and making the thing less of a run-around that some of 1970s and 1980s Doctor Who ends up being.

Malcolm Hulke, who wrote or re-wrote eight Doctor Who stories and created the Silurians among other creatures, was a strong left-winger, never afraid to add political themes to his stories – this one discussing American colonisation is a particular example of his work. There are a lot of interesting ideas here, but the whole story falls apart in the execution.

The dialogue is very un-naturalistic and ‘stagey’. If this was made today, it would be a lot more free-flowing and snappy – Joss Whedon would have a lot of fun with a story like this. While real speech contains too many pauses to be really acceptable for a television audience, there is going too far and this sounds too polished, especially for a bunch of poor farmers who speak in Received Pronunciation[1].

The pace is plodding and it just feels like a run-around much of the time. That said, the final episode is pretty enjoyable and kicks things up nicely. The effects are well, dated, but they generally are for early 1970s Who.

It’s by no means a bad story – Jon Pertwee is at his charming Edwardian best, Roger Delgado is suitably slimy and Katy Manning demonstrates why she is so popular among fandom. The overall plot is a good one and battle scenes involving slug-throwing weapons always feel more real to me (other Firefly fans as well, I’d say).

All in all, there’s been worse, there’s been better. Wouldn’t recommend this for a first timer to the show, but after a few, who knows.


[1]Received Pronunciation (RP) or The Queen’s English is the “standard” English pronunciation that most native Anglophone people don’t use in their everyday speech. It’s the sort of accent commonly associated with BBC newsreaders and sci-fi of this era. Tom Baker and the late Lis Sladen both hail from Merseyside, but both utilise RP accents for their roles. RP is declining in use (even the Queen is sounding less RP as the years go by), although it is still around and disconcertingly common among British characters in US drama, even those played by British actors, with few notable exceptions. I personally joke that the LA air does something funny to British actors’ vocal cords.

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