"I've literally met savages with better manners."

And now on Behind The Sofa, Stuart Ian Burns delves into the world of this week's BBC7 episode of Doctor Who. Note that this review contains strong language and spoilers right from the start that some readers may find disturbing.

During last week's review I noted how difficult it is within the Doctor Who franchise now to produce totally original stories. Since you will have hopefully heard tonight's episode before reading the review, I think you'll know what I'm about to say.

See what I mean !?!

The opening forty-two or so minutes of Phobos effectively set up an intriguing mystery. On titular moon, a holiday resort has been overrun by extreme sports junkies looking for a good time. Slowly they're being picked off by creature unknown and the local soothsayer is trying to warn people away, whilst holding the grudge that the place isn't what it used to be before the Drennies (and what a cool name for a sub-culture). So far, so Cornwall and surfers. And the Eighth Doctor novel Kursaal for that matter.

Obviously because people are dying the Doctor blunders in and discovers that it's not really creatures and that there is something else at work. Personally, I thought it would be the indigenous Martians or 'Ice Warriors' to use the non-PC term, trying to drive these holiday makers off their land. But then I thought that Farl would turn out to be an Ice Warrior too. Considering the moon's proximity to Mars, where were the Martians? But I digress …

Then at about minute forty-two, at about the moment when someone starts to mentioned demons, I literally shouted: "Oh for fuck's sake, it's The Satan Pit." Did writer Eddie Robson watch the last series of television Doctor Who? He must have done because two of the character names here are a reference to Andrew Hayden-Smith from the Cybermen episodes. We know that producer Nick Briggs did too because he was in it. And surely us kids will have as well. Didn't it occur to them that to throw in this kind of a repeat would be at all, hoaky and familiar? My only thought is that the viewer is supposed to be suddenly in the same position of the Doctor - he's seen it all before and so have we - or that there wasn't enough lead time between the broadcast of one show (10 June) and the recording of the next (22 August) to make any changes.

Well, yes, there's the implication at the end that this demon hasn't been destroyed and so might crop up again, making this a prequel of sorts to The Impossible Planet (which might have been a late addition), but its really, really disappointing that for the third time in eight months, the resolution of a broadcast story is the vanquishing of a big transdimensional demon from before time. And these repeated story elements weren't even camouflaged that much what with living in a pit or wormhole, living off the fear of humans, possessing one of the them in order to communicate and the Doctor having to leap into said pit or wormhole to defeat it.

Which is a shame because with other than that, with a couple of reservations, it was still wildly entertaining. It's great to have actors like Timothy West and Kinda's Nerys Hughes doing such excellent work alongside newer talents such as Dalek's John Shwab (shades of John Barrowman though). The pleasure in this episode was hearing Katarina Olsson finally being given a meatier role, totally unrecognizable as Amy. Paul McGann and Sheridan Smith also continue to surprise with Paul this time invoking even more of the darkness that's been associated with the character in the standard monthly releases since Zagreus (as a side note - hasn't his voice been in demand lately? Seems like every advert for a charity or bank or Airtours or insurance company has his dulcet lightly Liverpudlian tones behind it).

It was thematically interesting too although there were elements that seemed a bit rushed because of the running time. Neat parallels were drawn between the different sets of tourists, The Doctor and Lucie, Amy and Farl and Drew and Hayd all experiencing the planet in different ways which helped to define each of the characters very vividly - with both Lucie and Farl on the run. The discrimination of Farl and the nature of the Githians also seemed to get some short shrift; their conflict was no doubt motivated by the demons need to propagate fear and hatred but it seemed to come out of the blue and certainly might have been explored in more depth. At least everything ended happily, even for Drew whose self-realisation was really quite touching.

Thank goodness then, that the conclusion, however inadvertently derivative included some really excellent Doctor moments, including that speech. The timelord version of Rutger Hauer's Blade Runner monologue, it was great to hear The Doctor acknowledge what he has seen, applying his experience verbally against this admittedly feeble threat and demonstrating that it's a really good job that he's on our side. "Don't threaten me. Don't ever threaten me." Scary. And only the Eighth Doctor could turn his own battles and fears into a weapon making him more powerful than a demon. Beats breaking some vases or absorbing energy in my book. I mean he was actually enjoying himself. How baddass is that?

Next week: Chimes at Midnight redux. Oh yes.

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