Doctor Who Cold Blood (Series 05, Episode 09) Review

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What’s It About?

At the centre of the Earth, the Doctor prepares to negotiate with Homo-Reptilia. On the surface, the remnants of a frightened family hold their hostage. Can peace be made in 2020 Wales? …

Review It

Firstly, I enjoyed this final part of the story a bit more than the “build up” part one, which to me lacked the tension it was aiming to create. Chibnall’s dialogue is sometimes crisp and it seems he’s found The Doctor’s voice a lot more this episode.

The central plot – that of negotiating a peace between two native life forms on the planet is both grand and yet poorly executed. You can not use two regular humans in international peace talks. As soon as Homo Reptilia popped up and say “by the way, we’ve been promised these lands in exchange for technology by this geologist and this girl” what would actually happen? These so called peace talks were doomed to failure from the start.

The acting throughout was strong, with Neve Macintosh presenting a believable portrayal of the stereotypical military antagonist she is asked to play …twice. Robert Pugh’s performance as the grandfather in the episode is also a winner for me. His acting “poisoned” is strong and the character’s higher moral stance comes across in the performance superbly. Towards the end of the episode, the character gets his moment and it does not feel cliche … unlike Dr Chaudry’s decision, though that’s nothing against Meera Syal’s performance which I enjoyed throughout once more.

I’ve not discussed the directing in either of this two-parter yet, because it seemed very natural. One particularly astute choice was having The Doctor wield the Sonic Screwdriver vertically when disarming Homo-Reptilia Warriors so that it didn’t appear he was using the sonic as a weapon. This also echoed the manner in which the Old-School Sonic was used too!

The finale to the episode was truly heart-rending, particularly given Amy’s Choice two episodes previous. Karen Gillan again performs emotion superbly and poor Arthur Darvill again provides a believable performance in his role in that scene. Welcome back series-arc, you’ve been missed for a couple of episodes! Oh and talk about a cliffhanger!

And the niggles?

Other than the central plot being effectively redundant due to the representatives of mankind holding no authority, not much this week! The UNIT audios handled a very similar concept in a far more adult fashion – initial contact is made and then the respective government officials make agreements off stage.

Also, the expressed goal in making the Silurian faces more human was to show them as individuals and get more expression. I get the expression bit. But if you’re trying to make them appear individual, why cast the same actress in two key roles (make up / markings would have implied sibling status) and also why hide the faces of every Silurian but the four main characters behind masks?

In summary:

An enjoyable-enough conclusion, despite a shaky central plot element. Again, the concept for the episode was excellent – it just failed to reach it’s potential in my opinion. A heart-rending escape and edge-of-seat cliffhanger for the over-all series arc again make me look forward to next week.

Rate It: 3.5 / 5.
Dry Slaps: 1.
Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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4 comments

  1. Caboodle /

    “Karen Gillan again performs emotion superbly…”

    Are you…are you actually kidding? Did we watch the same episode? If KG’s life depended on acting her way out of a paper bag, she’d have suffocated before the end of her very first episode.

    • Personally, I think she’s performed brilliantly – particularly when asked to show genuine emotion. My opinion is based on the fact that I feel moved by her performance, which doesn’t always happen but it’s just that. An opinion.

  2. spikey_p /

    Majorly flawed – there’s essentially a bomb on the surface that’s going to go off in 15 minutes and it takes 30 minutes to get there using the Silurian lift and we’re trapped behind a locked door, what should we do? Quick, back to the TARDIS?

    No, let’s stand around talking stilted nonsense and arguing for 10 minutes. What about all the guards? Shall we try and reason with them once you’ve stopped the drill and saved their lives and have their leader order them to stand down? No, he can’t be bothered, he’d rather just kill them all with nerve gas and go back to bed for another thousand years. Apparently we’re fine with that, rather than empathising with the admittedly over-zealous but undoubtably patriotic miliatry leader who’s sister YOU JUST MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD, before dropping her lifeless body at her feet.

    The fact that The Doctor does not call foul on Chibnal casually slaughtering a couple dozen of his palace guards stinks and his solution to put himself, Dr. Chaudry and her man into suspended animation for another thousand years (?) to act as some kind of ambassadors to humanity after that time makes no sense. I think part of the point is that these two have known each other for years and now finally have found each other and want nothing more than to live out their retirements together… Which is sweet in theory and RTD, for all his faults, could have presented it in an epic, schmalzy way that tugged at the heart strings, but presented the way it is here, it just seems like a really weird idea.

    Presumably, The Doctor and Amy will be doing the usual rounds to their friends and families straight after this story, delivering cards and “I’m sorry, I’ve gone away and not coming back” resignation letters to Dr. Chaudry’s faculty and making sure their cat gets fed. Also, it seems pretty redundant, since surely the humans of the 30th Century will be much more experienced and better equipped to deal with first contact situations and integration of the species. It would just end up like that TNG episode where a bunch of late 80s yuppies get found in cryonic susspension in space and discover that material wealth, alcohol, good music and power no longer exist and they are therefore pretty useless and quite annoying. All they end up doing is barging onto the bridge and insulting the Rommulans

    And after 10 mins of this stupid tell-not-show crap, just when you think “Oh, they’re clearly trapped in the science lab, there isn’t another door after all, the Doctor and Amy (and the gooseberry) will have to take one of the lift shafts to escape in time”, they DO run out the other door and they DO run straight back to the TARDIS, which is totally unguarded. Quick, we have seconds to spare, lets materialise in the drill head control and switch it off.

    No. They spend another 3 1/2mins of their 15 minute countdown exploring the solution to *another* problem… Yeah, all the crack stuff is good, and Rory finally buys the farm (at last), and does so in the best, most dramatically interesting way possible – the modified Tasha Yar model. That is to say, it’s unexpected, meaningless and random but it has major implications for the other characters and future stories. Rory was always going to go out like a punk and just wasn’t interesting enough on his own to run on his own as a character in the way Mickey did under similar restrictions. I just hope they hold their nerve and keep him dead after the end of the series, which looks like it may be able to undo it. If I see Rory Jones, Defender of Earth 2 strutting around with an enormous pulse riffle, I call bullshit.

    There was also some sloppy script-editing around this bit – having the Doctor say “It’s a big, space-time event… It might be an explosion!” when he flat out SAID that the cause of the cracks was an enormous explosion at the end of the universe the first time he saw it in Flesh and Stone doesn’t make sense… Why the uncertainty all of a sudden?

    This part on the whole I preferred to part 1, just because the needlessly drawn out reveal of the Silurians didn’t hamper my enjoyment and I found myself accepting more them as a different tribe or race of earth reptiles. But Simon Jones delivers his narration at the start as if he’s reading it at gunpoint and there is a clear attempt to replicate the ominous, dark, mysterious narration of Timothy Dalton in The End of Time, to which it does not at all favourably. It’s obvious that he is just being obtuse for the sake of conealing the upcoming plot, rather than weaving a story around a sense of a major secret.

    It just all falls apart with that countdown sequence, there is absolutely zero suspense and everyone behaves like idiots. Compare that to the last episode of The Armageddon Factor, which is unfairly maligned and I just love – the FIRST ending (not the Key to Time one with the Black Guardian), things have never been worse – the Shaddow has got into the TARDIS and stolen the Key to Time, Rommana is prisoner and can’t help, the Doctor has been shrunk down to 3 inches high, K9 has gone bad and The Shaddow has found and converted the 6th segment, ready to hand over to the Black Guardian. On top of that, a nuclear holocaust is minutes away from destroyng the entire solar system.

    New Who overuses the sonic screwdriver criminally, whilst underusing the TARDIS and the Doctor’s ingenuity in any creative way. The only time I’ve seen it done is briefly in Girl in the Fireplace and at the end of The Impossible Planet. He just sonics things and trades on his reputation to frighten people off. Whereas…

    Old Who, The Doctor snatches the Key from the Shadow, has free Rommana and runs away. They leg it back to the TARDIS, dodging guards all the way, slam the door and take off. The nuclear countdown has seconds to go, so the they land right next to the computer core with the guy who designed it, fly out of the door with a toolkit and pliers and begins ripping out wires. Cutting the last wire with seconds to spare, he runs back into the TARDIS, flicks the forecfield on to deflect the incoming nuclear missiles snd bounces them onto the 3rd planet to destroy the Shaddow’s base and avert nuclear war.

    That’s exciting stuff! That could compare with the fight in Fort Knox in Goldfinger in terms of dramatic tension. That chase on the M4 in Runnaway Bride, we need to see more of that and less sonicing. And I would also like to see an end to this stuff where he uses the screwdriver as a medical scanner or a tricorder. Those aren’t things you can do with sound!

    • Nice contrasts between old and new Who. I agree totally on the overuse of the Sonic (though this seems to have toned down a bit this year) and under use of the TARDIS and its contents / technology … the example you give is an excellent one.

      I’m not sure I want to see more of the TARDIS flying (like the M4 chase). Just doesn’t work properly for me for some reason as it’s main mode of transportation is to Materialise / dematerialise. Very rarely in Old Who was the TARDIS “Flying”, more often it was “Hanging” while work was going on or readings being taken or whatever.

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