“Two words, following us. Bad Wolf…”
Given the epic pace and scale of DOCTOR WHO over the last few weeks, you would be forgiven for thinking BOOM TOWN was a bit of a dip in quality, a bump in the road that every series has at some point. Well, the pace may not have been as franetic as the majority of the series, but BOOM TOWN was still a perfectly entertaining way to while away forty five minutes on a Saturday night and a fine episode of DOCTOR WHO.
Russell T Davies delivered a script that offered little action and a lot of talking heads. However, no time was wasted as all that extra chatting went straight on to deepening character relationships and offering a nice moral dilemma for the Doctor. BOOM TOWN was never boring- the tots may have got restless waiting for the next dollop of CGI but that isn’t what DOCTOR WHO is all about. I can’t think of many other shows where the lead could take an alien killer out to dinner as said killer begs for her life. It was a credit to Davies that he could make such a potentially daft idea work, extracting both amusement and pathos in equal measure. Indeed, and strangely, the only character who didn’t get much character work was the excellent Captain Jack- the one TARDIS crew member who we know least about. That said, Chris, Billie and John were once again on top form. The banter between three was a joy- the only niggle being they shaped into a team pretty quickly from the end of THE DOCTOR DANCES. It got me thinking how it would have been nice to have one or even two more standalone episodes with Jack before the two part finale next week, to see the TARDIS crew really get to know each other, but TV shows, like life aren’t perfect and we get what we get.
Watching BOOM TOWN I got the feeling this is the lull before the storm. This is DOCTOR WHO taking a deep breath, a quiet moment of reflection before it makes the final big push towards BAD WOLF and THE PARTING OF THE WAYS and the end of the series. Indeed, little moments of set up, such as the spine tingling moment where the Doctor once again heard of the mysterious ‘Bad Wolf’ gave the impression this is a series gearing up to blow open the secrets the season has built up in a breakneck climax. Davies again took pains to reinforce how Rose’s earthly ties were being cut off, strand by strand with the effective break up with earthbound beau Mickey (the likeable Noel Clarke). Mickey’s pain and anger were well played and understandable- as was Rose’s desire to stay on in her life of adventures and danger with the Doctor (I’m also glad she stayed on too). What the reunion with Mickey did was to demonstrate how much Rose has changed, but also what her leaving has done to the ones she loved. It also showed how Rose is still very much a free spirit by agreeing to pop off with Mickey to a hotel for a brief, implied fling.
It was nice to see the Slitheen again- this time in the singular form of Annette Badland’s Margaret Blaine. I say SEE the Slitheen- we only got the alien in its full glory a few times, and probably for the best too- it looks so much better as a CG effect than man in a suit, but was more effective, acting wise, with a human face. Badland seemed to be enjoying herself as much as she did in ALIENS OF LONDON and WORLD WAR THREE and as was fun to watch as she was then. It was also nice to see the naff fart gags had all but been abandoned- as such Margaret the Slitheen was more of a threat. The Slitheen have been the big success in the monster world this season outside of the Daleks, proving that new and memorable creations can still be made in 2005.
There were some elements of BOOM TOWN that didn’t work- the intergalactic surfboard was a bit of a naff concept and the denouement in the TARDIS was both shockingly cheap looking and somewhat of a cop out. However, it was nice to see the series having a bit of internal continuity- apart from the obvious; a nod to THE UNQUIET DEAD was welcome. At the end of the day, BOOM TOWN served much the same function as THE LONG GAME- a little bit of character work here, set up there, packaged in a slight adventure story. It was a pause, a quiet moment, a focus on the person rather than the epic- and that is always welcome in the world of DOCTOR WHO. Next week, well, the Daleks are back- Daleks- plural!