Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cold Blood (SPOILERS)

29/5/10 “Cold Blood
Preferred it when I didn’t know, to be honest. --Amy

I was cautiously optimistic after “The Hungry Earth,” but “Cold Blood” left me, well, cold. Maybe that’s unfair considering I wanted both more of the same and something unpredictable instead of color-in-the-lines and connect-the-dots. “The Hungry Earth”’s non-cliffhanger picked up right where it began, with the Doctor and Nasreen in the reptile base. “It’s enormous and deserted”—they quickly discover that most of the homo reptilia must be dormant.

Meanwhile, the scientist Silurian is about to dissect Amy. Surely this would be more efficacious if she were stripped rather than making the incision through her clothes? That would have sent male viewers into a tizzy, but I think the logic stands. No one can fault Amy’s resourcefulness, however, when she picks the scientist’s pocket before Mo’s disbelieving eyes and is able to free herself while the scientist is distracted. She and Mo escape. They find reptiles in suspended animation and take their guns, while Mo is bereft to find Elliot in a death-like pall. “He’s still alive,” says Amy, to keep him from flipping his lid. They vow to escape and come back to free Elliot.

Perhaps I should now mention what I didn’t last week, in that I’m not a big fan of either the design, makeup, or costumes of the new Silurians. The design of the costumes seems completely out of left field, as if they were found in a trunk from 1966’s Star Trek. The makeup is similarly jarring. Surely, you say, it’s got to be better than the painfully obvious rubber suits the actors had to wear in the 1970s. But I don’t think so. I realize that, in making the story and the morals accessible to all (including young children who will be watching), Chibnall wanted to emphasize similarities and go for user-friendly “aliens” instead of the clunky remnants from before Doctor Who was cool. Gone is the third eye, the wobbly voices, the stiff execution—instead there is a poisonous tongue, gene strands, warrior classes, making the reptiles more anthropomorphized. (And it’s fair to reinvent since this is a different species than the Third and Fifth Doctor encountered; that is made clear.) But I feel, due to the relative short length of time in which to tell the story (half as much as the original Silurians had), the shorthand created by the new design plus the transparency of the script (in my opinion) has made this story really dull.

The Doctor and Nasreen are taken by Restak, the commander, to the scientists. They want to decontaminate him but he successfully alerts them to the fact he’s not human. “Not got any celery, have you?” As the Doctor tries to work out the plot, he sees the different functional classes in the reptilian society—there’s always a military, isn’t there?”

Rory, on the surface, gives a neat exposition when Ambrose accuses him of lying and pretending to be a policeman. Tony is not well, Ambrose is furious that the aliens have her son and husband and have poisoned her father, and Rory is frustrated his nurse skills haven’t been called into action. I was really hoping Tony was going to transform into a human/Silurian hybrid which might cause some end to the hostilities between the two races, but that was a red herring and only fodder to feed Ambrose’s hatred. She’s “only protecting her own”—as Alaya says, she has the most to lose. No one’s surprised that she kills Alaya, even if it’s accidental (surely the title refers to her murder as much as the literal cold blood of the reptiles); no one’s surprised that she creates the final peril of the story. I find her pathetic as a character, and I have very little sympathy for her, even though intellectually I understand her motives; emotionally she didn’t appeal to me at all and I found it very difficult to accept her actions. They kept pulling me out of the story and ruined the continuity of it for me.

Restak wants to execute the Doctor and Nasreen. She and the scientist, Malohkeh, take them to their “court,” a lovely expanse with a definite resemblance to Cardiff’s Temple of Peace. Amy makes a brave but eventually fruitless rescue attempt with Mo; I was a bit disappointed that, despite Amy’s clear decisiveness in escaping from the scientist’s lab, her rescue attempt went wrong so quickly, but I guess that’s all part of the formula. The Doctor explains what’s going on, and Restak initiates contact with the surface. She wants Alaya “released immediately unharmed,” which is going to be a problem since Ambrose has just killed her. Eldane, who looks like he’s wearing a Baptist minister’s choir robes, intervenes before Restak can kill “the apes.” He outranks her and therefore the Doctor has the chance to intercede. “Are you authorized to negotiate on behalf of humanity?” The Doctor puts forward Nasreen and Amy to do this, despite their doubts on their diplomatic abilities. Nasreen makes a good diplomat, though it looks like Amy spends most of the negotiations asleep!

The Doctor has a speech about fixed points in time and has high hopes for negotiations going somewhere productive. “This is an opportunity.” Much as I wanted to believe the Silurians and humans could come to an agreement, I knew it was all a pipe dream and was a bit impatient with their dangling empty promises in front of us. Mo and the Doctor go after poor Elliot. Malohkeh has “taken samples of the young” in order to understand human growth and development. Elliot is unharmed and awakes in his father’s arms. “We’re in the center of the Earth and there are lizard-men” brings him quickly up to speed.

Rory, Ambrose, and Tony are to bring Alaya to the court. Horrified Rory thinks it best to bring back Alaya’s body, even though it will cause chaos and mistrust. Restak kills Malohkeh because he stands in the way of her cause; in a manner of speaking, it’s like history repeating itself. The scientist Silurian in the 1970 adventure was killed because of his willingness to work toward cooperation between “the apes” and the reptiles. How cheated and frustrated the Doctor must feel when Rory, Tony, and Ambrose bring down the dead Alaya, while Eldane looks on in horror, while Mo’s face shows shock and disgust, when Ambrose reveals the drill is going to obliterate the oxygen in the reptiles’ habitat; surely he must, too, feel some sympathy for the bereft Restak who thinks this all the more reason to destroy the violent, vengeful, deceitful humans. The Doctor worked so hard in his Third regeneration to make the humans and Silurians allies. He couldn’t make it work then, because of the Young Silurian’s sabotage and the Brigadier’s blowing up of the base. I much rather would have seen the Ninth Doctor here confront the factions. The Eleventh Doctor gives everyone a slap on the wrist and a tongue-lashing, but it’s secondary to escaping from the immediate danger of a) Restak’s troops; b) the drill. Both this and “The Beast Below” have painted a very black picture of humanity, which is surely deserved, but in combination with the ending of the episode makes one frustrated and well-nigh suicidal.

The sonic screwdriver is the get-out-of-jail-free card as the Doctor uses it to short-out the Silurian guns in order that the humans can escape and regroup. He quickly puts together a beam to destroy the drill but it will also destroy the tunnel network so that has to be evacuated. Eldane has the clever idea of setting up an automatic fumigation system that will drive the warrior reptiles back to their suspended animation. This works well, and Amy, Rory, Mo, Ambrose, and the Doctor are able to escape. Tony has to stay behind because there is no cure for his venom, except one that the Silurians might find themselves; Nasreen elects to stay, as well. She’s already blown up “her life’s work” so she might as well stay with her love. This is one of the few bright spots as when the reptiles wake in 1,000 years, it will be interesting to see what has become of Tony and Nasreen. I still maintain she would have made a good companion, though!

Ambrose, Mo, and Elliot are carted into the TARDIS, but the Doctor, Amy, and Rory stop and notice the crack that has followed them. The Doctor is annoyed because everyone seems to know what it is except him; he reaches inside it with a handkerchief to pull out a bit of “shrapnel.” The very very driven Restak makes a last appearance long enough to shoot Rory, who jumps in front of the Doctor. I feel quite betrayed by this, as so much time has been spent getting Rory in and out of the TARDIS. He’s not my favorite companion by any stretch of the imagination, but such a demise, especially after “Amy’s Choice” seems a cheap shot, worthy of a lot of shows but not Doctor Who. Jamie reckons he’s coming back, which might make this a bit more bearable. Not only does he die, he gets effaced from memory. This is what happened to Donna’s romance in “Forest of the Dead”; this is what happened to Donna’s memory. Why this emphasis on erasure of memory? It’s emotionally upsetting and in combination with the earlier critique of humankind, hurts.

It’s not even allowed to be the focus of the end of the episode because the loose ends are retied with the return to 2020. If I hadn’t just seen “The Silurians” I might have been more forgiving of this episode, but I found it dull in places and painful in others, which isn’t my idea of a good Doctor Who.

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