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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Doctor Who: The Space Witch Project

In the 38th century, a squad of Security forces disappeared on a station near Triton while investigating a communications blackout. 

27 centuries earlier, their footage was found. With spoilers.

I've never understood why, every time a military force appears on Doctor Who (with the (sometimes) exception of modern-day UNIT) they tend to have silly helmets and ill-fitting, lumpy uniforms. Arriving to the game late, Doctor Who provides its first ever 'found footage' episode only 16 years after The Blair Witch project popularized the genre. Thankfully, there's a twist here: Nobody's carrying a camera, except (spoilers) the monster of the week.

The episode itself is a bit of a jumble, in part to the presentation style of found footage and in part to Mark Gatiss. Gatiss tends to be rather inconsistent and frequently ambitious. When his episodes are good, they're really good. (See The Unquiet Dead or Cold War.) When they're not, they're... not. (See The Idiot's Lantern or Robot of Sherwood.) But this can hardly be laid entirely on Gatiss's shoulders, as found footage films are rarely coherent, well-paced stories. Chronicle is possibly the only one I can think of, and the Paranormal Activity series is an excellent example of stories that don't work out.

There's a few interesting concepts in this story which probably deserve a little more time than they got.
  • The lack of sleep thing: given this particular week, with all my day job stuff taking up so much time and wanting to get back to Fallout 4, I'd kill for another 8 hours in a day. 
  • The Doctor's reaction is understandable, as he's much older and wiser than anyone in the room, but Clara's reaction to it is odd. She strikes me as the type that would love to go without sleep.
  • Her reaction to 474 and the idea of cloned soldiers was interesting as well. What are the ethical implications of developing low-intellect beings designed primarily for combat? And how far along is this technology, as they don't seem terribly effective.
  • The cultural notes in the episode were interesting as well, as the Doctor remarked them being Indo-Japanese and all the characters native to that time period were portrayed by actors of Asian or Middle-Eastern descent -- with the sole exception being Rasmussen, who was revealed at the end to be one of the monsters as well.
Does it make it more or less scary that it's a snot-monster?
The science was a bit dodgy, even if the monsters looked great.
  • I really don't think there's enough mucous that collects in your eyes in the course of a month, or even a year, to create a man-sized construct.
  • One would think that if they were fragile enough to start falling apart as soon as the gravity shielding went offline, that they'd hardly pose a threat for one. 
  • As our kind editor pointed out, these soldiers all seemed very hesitant to use those rather incongruous rifles that they're carrying the whole episode and point at everything with a satisfying click-whirrr
  • And if 474 is a shining example of the combat clone, I would seriously consider sending that tech back to the drawing board for a few more years of development. Aside from the ability to not die quite as quickly as a human after walking through a flaming corridor, I don't see much of an advantage in using them. (Editor's Note:  I found it appalling that "combat reflexes" equated to "Let's bludgeon the monsters with our rifle instead of shooting them, as would be sensible.")

This episode felt like a self-contained story, albeit one that ended in a very rushed and inconclusive manner. The trailer for next week seems to be for a completely unrelated episode... except for that bit where that raven seemingly evaporates and reforms in a cloud of dust. I've a feeling that the Doctor's last words, that it doesn't make sense, that none of it makes sense, will prove relevant.

And was that a view of Clara from the TARDIS door near the very end? I wonder if that means something..  
Whose 'helmet-cam' was this? 

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