Time Crash.



TV As soon as it started I felt privileged to be a Doctor Who fan. Sir Guy of Gisbourne was stalking menacingly around Nottingham Castle again and it was all to do with whomever Maid Marion has been spending her time with. Strangely the appearance of Pudsey Bear was less anachronistic than it might have been considering everyone else in that version of the twelfth century seems to have been to the John Lewis sale for their make-up and costumes. You do have to feel sorry for the Robin Hood fans who have to content themselves with a non-canonical skit, albeit with a cute wink from the lovely Lucy Griffiths and the sight of Guy almost hanging a stuffed bear.

Not for them a musical lead in from Myleene ‘full of’ Klass and John ‘full of’ Barrowman (far preferable to the Jordan and Andre suck fest from last time which some of us still have to endure if we want to hear the proper cloister bell). Not for them a Radio Times cover and mention in the listings, a canonical story which brings back a well loved incarnation from the past, written by the man who brought us the best episode of the last series. Not for them a whole five minutes dropped in to the mayhem, instead their mini-episode wrapped around some shambling on some stairs with Wogan menacing a school boy for some cash. Kind of makes you feel like tv fan royalty.

The script for Time Crash was vintage Steven Moffat; funny, exciting and touching and enveloped around a time travel related conceit. In fact, it was the same kind of paradoxical causality loop we saw in Blink, in which the Doctor could only follow the plan that Sally had already passed on to him in the folder. And so Tenth knew how to fix the Tardis because he’d already seen it as Fifth, even though neither of them had experienced the brainwave. Of course it does beg the question how he then forgot about telling himself about the return of the Master (and his wife) but that information was probably lost in one of the Eighth Doctor’s several spells of amnesia so we’ll forgive him. That should sort out problems with The Five Doctors too. Oh how we wish that the series had been this well written back then.

I think Time Crash was about as good as we could have hoped it would be, ultimately ignoring many of our expectations and doing something better. Whereas I’d expected some veiled reference to Dimensions in Time and the emotional journey being the fact that Tenth couldn’t tell Fifth about the time war (which I do hope they’re saving for the extravaganza with the Eighth Doctor which my fan gene expects this was a precursor to) this was about what is to be a fan, in an even more direct way than Love and Monsters (Fifth’s heard of LINDA! Yay, LINDA!), and more specifically a fan of David Tennant’s generation for whom Peter Davison was their Doctor and who we (because he was really – I just say Paul McGann because I like looking at raised eyebrows). Even the title must be a riff on a certain story recently released on dvd featuring a supersonic aircraft and the Master in a rubbish, sorry, rubber mask).

All of the continuity references! As well as affectionately ripping the piss out of the Peter Davison era, with its synthesiser music (nice one Murray 'err um' Gold), spectacles, the hands free, rubbish beards, funny hats and decorative vegetables, David got to say things like Nyssa and Tegan and the Mara (but not Adric or Turlough) as though remembering when he was pulled out of history and we remembered with him (even if it suggested a placement for Fifth as just after Snakedance which means we’re remember Martin Clunes in make-up (boxset with Kinda due next year then).

And wasn’t Peter Davison good? When the new show was being cast, way before we were waiting for Christopher, I suggested that Pete should be given another go at it. I can see why that didn’t happen (see Russell's comments on older actors from Project Who), but he’s really grown into the role. Often maligned because his television era only really brought us about four unequivocally good stories, he himself has admitted it wasn’t until Caves of Andronzani that he really understood how to play the Doctor and that certainly shows in his Big Finish stories from which I think you can see some continuity here – the grumpiness is definitely a carry over as well as the gruff.

Davison's was a very gracious performance, essentially providing something for the current incumbent to bounce off. Tennant was certainly at the apogee of his Tennantness, but that just heightened the differences between them even as he listed the similarities. For all Russell’s bluff about taking Terry Dick’s opinion that the Doctor stays the same and it’s whatever the actor brings to the role, he does spend a lot of time making observations, making fun, turning on a dime in a crisis and shouting which are things that Davison’s Doctor rarely did. Not that he had much time with all the bickering.

It’s a shame that Graham Harper didn’t receive an on-screen credit here since his work here was superb, never once letting the camera rest too long anywhere – loads of energy and whatnot, always keeping the two Doctors in the same frame underlining their connection. Tucking the story into the end of The Last of the Timelords worked well too and unlike the Pudsey Cutaway, you really couldn’t see the join, well not with these old eyes. Except the colours in the Tardis seemed much richer to me, the lighting emphasizing the yellows and greens highlighting the two costumes.

Were they really Peter’s old cricket whites? That stick of celery looked far too healthy …

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