"I think I may have made an error of judgment..."

Before you start work today, please remember that at two o'clock this afternoon we will be having our monthly revision of the spoiler policy. You may want to prepare yourself by watching the training video.

I loved the opening scenes of this story, the appearance of the timelord Straxos, the time ring, the talk of a temporal black spot. All very Genesis of the Daleks. Once again I wondered when the story was set in relation to the Gallifrey spin-off series and if it was Romana who was behind leaving Lucie in the Doctor gentle care. Please can we have a Lalla Ward cameo. Please, please, please, please, please (as the Doctor would say). Luckily, for once, everything else lived up to these initial scenes in what turned out to be one of the most entertaining episodes of the series.

The central problem for the scriptwriter in turning out this kind of story is that the central mystery, who the monster is at the centre of it all will already have been released and heavily trailed beforehand. We already knew it was the Cybermen. In some cases, the writer simply includes the villain from near the start and looks for something else to become the cliffhanger, as happened in Blood of the Daleks.

In Human Resources, Eddie Robson took the other approach, which is to keep the reveal of the monster as his cliffhanger but to make the rest of the episode sufficiently intriguing for it not to matter and make said reveal actually quite secondary to the other mysteries on offer.

Playing in from last week's cliffhanger, Lucie is being settled into her first day at work in an office in Telford and being given the usual random work that makes no real sense but still seems very important. I recently began watching The Office having somehow avoided it for many years. I'm only at the second episode but I can already see the many archetypes from my own experiences, especially the unfunny Brentian figures.

There was one bloke in a place I worked once who was perfectly normal, nice even, until he saw me come in from lunch one day wearing a scarf and carrying a copy of Doctor Who Magazine and for the rest of the time I was there, some one and half years, he wouldn't let me pass by without singing 'Doctor Stu' to the tune of the hit by The Timelords. Did you see what he did there? So clever ...

The first half of the first half of Human Resources perfectly captured the soulless banal unreality of the office, from the pointless data entry to the consistently bewildered personnel to sheer monotony. I was working in a call centre, so for obvious reasons we didn't have those announcements but their tone was exactly the same as the constant emails telling us not to be too loud in the staff room so as not to disturb the people working next door or that we needed to install some new piece of software that inevitably wouldn't work.

The initial accuracy was important so that when the unreality began to seep through its grip was all the more shocking, all the talk of related to military strategy, of the very wrong kind of planning. That was the real success of the play, the seeping out of information, the constant reliance on mystery, on keeping the listener gripped by simply not revealing the important information when we wanted it.

In the very worst drama, not naming anything featuring dinosaurs that appears on the ITV1 on a Saturday night, the audience is told everything they apparently need to know straight away. The linchpin mysteries of the series, exactly what is so special about Lucie Miller and who the Headhunter really is still haven't exactly been revealed at the end of the fifty minutes. There are new mysteries too - who were the lizards hiring the company for the clearance work?

RobotThe concept of the giant anime- style mega-robots being controlled by this collective mind might be a new spin on an old concept but worked brilliantly for its sheer unexpectedness and the matter of fact way that Lucie took it in her stride. Although the chasm betweem what was apparent to workers inside and the actuality wasn't totally explained the idea that something that looks like a Transformer can be called Telford was a lovely idea.

Shrewdly, Robson didn't keep all of his action in one place so that in the second half of the episode, the Doctor and Lucie were outside of the office attempting to discover more about what was happening. If Lucie's chat with the resistance fighters was pretty standard if slightly surreal material, the former's chat with Roy Marsden's Todd Albert was wonderfully menacing. Someone more clever than I am once said that what's terrifying about most evil that often it's perpetrated by the blandest of people and that's exactly the feel of Albert, so matter of factly talking about the annexing of planets as though he's simply sorting out a council planning application.

Actually the clearest influence I could detect throughout the story and particularly at the end was Douglas Adams. There was Lucie and Karen being pushed out of the airlock by the security guard; said annexing of planets which felt like the work of the ancient planet of Magrathea if they had stopped building the planets from scratch and had instead been taking some advice from the Vogons; and the final moments when Todd Albert address potential clients was entirely reminiscent of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

But the dialogue too echoed his witty dialogue; the headhunter's frustration at the system reminded me of Ford Prefect trying to deal with the ways of Earthmen, and I loved the moment when Todd said that aliens expected everyone on earth to talk like Del Boy and Rodney and then when offered a drink the Doctor returned with 'Lovely jubberly'. Some might criticize this version of the timelord's description of the time ring as a bit bling, but I think that simply reflects what happens when you spend a lot of time with someone else, you begin to pick up their linguistic quirks.

Once again the performances were great across the board, from the rampant and random sleaziness of Owen Brenman's Gerry Cooper to listless vacancy of Louise Fullerton's Karen. I think this was the first play which didn't have a dull note. It's great to finally hear Kristina Olsen's headhunter given full range and it'll be a shame if she doesn't survive past the next episode or get the expected verbal tap dance with the Doctor. And as is customary, McGann and Sheriden lived up to the challenge and it' really would be a disappointment if this is the last story they share together (although next week's Beyond The Vortex will hint at the future). Not that I don't still miss India Fisher. Her voice over work on Masterchef isn't really a substitute.

The final word must go to the Cybermen voices. Nice choice Nick. Taking a cue from The Tenth Planet but mixing it with the new sound they have just the right menace, but also a flexibility absent from that heard in the recent television series which generally couldn't sustain much beyond 'Delete...'

Next week: I'll not be happy unless one of the Cybs says: "Excellent!" with a gutteral voice ...

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