Sunday, April 04, 2010

Who Needs Easter Eggs When You Have Eye Candy...?

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond and Keeley Hawes as Alex DrakeApologies to my international readers (oh how I love saying that) who don't have access to UK terrestrial television but it's been a bumper weekend for both TV and the BBC. Friday saw the return of Ashes To Ashes - the third and final series - and yesterday saw the return of Doctor Who.

Suddenly weekend television is great again.

Given the media stir that both these programmes create surely TV executives everywhere must be able to interpret this as a clear vote for more quality drama on our televisions and less of the (comparatively cheaper to make which is why so much of it is made) reality TV tosh that infects UK programming schedules like slugs around a lettuce bed?

Hmm.

But back to the plot: the first instalment of Ashes To Ashes was shockingly dark. The actual crime story of the episode almost took second place to the black undercurrents of trouble occurring within the police team that Alex Drake finds herself trapped within. The apparently unassailable Gene Hunt suddenly finds himself confronted with a sly nemesis in the shape of Discipline and Complaints officer, DCI Jim Keats - a strange mix of East End wide boy and geeky university post-grad. A cocktail that is never going to appeal to the Gene Genie. And there is nothing poetic about Keats. He is wheedling, he is smarmy, he is two-faced. He is courting Alex Drake - albeit only professionally at the moment - but has already voiced his hatred of Hunt to the great man's face. There was a lovely TV moment when, caught within the glass of Hunt's closing office door, Keats's reflections passed across the image of Hunt like a glowering cloud. Matter and antimatter. Dark and light.

There are uncomfortable secrets about to be revealed. Keats promises to reveal the truth about Hunt... and by extension, the truth about Drake's predicament in this 1980's world. And I suspect it's going to be nasty.

I have to be honest and say that Keeley Hawes could be dressed as a tramp and I'd still watch her but Alex Drake is a fabulous creation and is actually a better foil for Hunt's blustering machismo than Sam Tyler ever could have been. In the end, Sam became one of the boys. This is something Alex Drake can never be. Certainly not with those amazing legs anyway...

...and talking of legs, Karen Gillan made a rather long legged splash onto our TV screens as Doctor Who's new companion. Dressed as a policewoman kissogram with legs longer than the double doors of the Tardis (but, I suspect, leading to a box far more exciting - sorry, couldn't resist; am high on chocolate this Easter morning) Amy Pond established herself within the Doctor Who world with serious redheaded aplomb. In a single episode Steven Moffat has again proved himself to me to be one of this country's finest screenwriters. This first episode crackled with tension, humour, in-jokes, Whovian references and technological cleverness. Unlike R.T. Davies who, God bless him, knows drama from a soapy / emotional standpoint, Moffat understands science and technology. He understands time as well as people. Without blowing too much of the plot for those of you who are still to see it, he establishes a truly emotive link between Amy Pond and the new doctor with ease and without it feeling too clunky or contrived. This is what I like most about Moffat's writing. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is throw-away. Everything is well used.

And what of the new Doctor?

*Nods* Yeah.

I give him - Matt Smith - a thumbs up. I'd seen a couple of interviews with him and found him curiously "not quite likeable" but having watched last night's episode I can't knock his acting skills. Tennant is a hard act to follow but Smith has done it. He has the energy of Tennant's old doctor but also brings something more to it. An Englishness. An eccentricity that appears to be genuine and is, I suspect, as much a part of Smith's true real-life make-up as that of the character he plays. By the end of the episode I had accepted him fully as the Doctor. He had stamped his Gallifreyan DNA indelibly all over the role.

So. A victory for Moffat, Smith and Gillan.

A victory in fact for the BBC.

A proud morning to be British. Happy Easter everyone.


31 comments:

libby said...

Happy Easter...hope you and the family have a lovely day. Have never seen ashes to ashes but watched the new DW last night and have to agree...he was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Gappy said...

I LOVE Ashes to Ashes! I didn't know that a new series had started - why didn't I know that? Oh well I do now so thank you very much.

I agree - Alex Drake is a class act. I think she might be my favourite ever female character from a T.V. drama actually. Driven and clever - she has real self belief without being too 'worthy'. Fantastic.

Steve said...

Libby: thank you and welcome to my blog!

Gappy: catch it on BBC iPlayer or catch up TV - you won't regret it! I agree about Drake; I think her femininity makes her uncorruptible in the male dominated world of Gene Hunt... she's set apart from them (in a positive way).

Clippy Mat said...

so what you're saying is William Hartnell's not the Doctor anymore?
;-)

Tenon_Saw said...

I loved it. I took to the Dr. straight away and his super companion.
One detail over which I need to fuss. When the Dr. was proving how clever he was to the VIPs on the laptop video conference, he supposedly typed in a proof of Fermat's last theorem. I thought it had been done! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat%27s_Last_Theorem#Wiles.27_general_proof

Steve said...

Clippy Mat: worse still, it's now in colour. Apparently.

Tenon_Saw: just goes to show that even a Time Lord can be behind the times...! ;-)

Selina Kingston said...

I was looking forward to both and not disappointed by either. Geeeene is my favourite tv character - he reminds me of a newsroom editor I knew many years ago. Young Matt is good. He's not better than David Tennant but he is very, very good and Dr Who will remain required viewing in our household.
Happy Easter - it's Jonathan Creek tonight .....!

Steve said...

Selina: I don't mind Jonathan Creek but it's a bit of a comedown from Lark Rise... I feel very ambivalent about Alan Davies. Not sure if I like him or not.

Fran said...

I liked Matt Smith. And agree with you about all the gags. Very funny. Don't remember Dr Who being so funny when I was a kid, but then I may not have heard the jokes, being behind the sofa as I was.

Steve said...

Fran: I must admit sofas do tend to muffle jokes when you are sat quivering behind them...!

Old Cheeser said...

You beat me to it in the DW review stakes, Stevenage! (Well I'm still gathering together all my thoughts on last night's episode ... oh, okay then, I just haven't had time to write anything yet, if I'm going to be blunt ... was out on a country walk today, I kid you not!) I agree with you about Steven Moffat, there is definitely something different about his writing style that bodes very well and I'm honestly glad to see the back of RTD. The clips in the "Coming Soon" trailer were deliciously intriguing and I can't wait for future episodes!!

I will have to try and catch some "Ashes to Ashes" if I can - I'm intrigued (that word again) to see how it will all end up even though I've hardly seen any episodes from previous series .... and I suspect the finale will be as weird and ambiguous as "Life on Mars". If I was a staight boy I'd definitely play with her rubics cube (well come on, you made the gag about Amy Pond's box).

Steve said...

OC: ha ha! Oh I'd love to have a twizzle with Keeley Hawes rubic's cube or even get myself caught in her Mouse Trap... and I'm sure I'd have a great ride on her Buckaroo... but I think you get the picture! I've actually been looking out for your DW review but I will accept a country walk as a perfect excuse for not having written it yet. You're right though... it all bodes rather well for the rest of the series, doesn't it?

femminismo said...

Oh, is there any way for your international readers (and yes I am one!) to see these? Are they stolen and posted on YouTube? (just nod your head if the answer's yes. don't want to get anyone in trouble) Happy Easter to you, as well, from someone suffering chocolate withdrawal. - J.

Steve said...

Femminismo: I'm pretty sure there are ways legal and above board for you to see these. I'm sure the BBC iPlayer is available online from their website and if not the Beeb ships these two shows out to other countries... hopefully they will one day arrive in your neck of the woods and I can say "I told you so"!

Gina said...

Ah yes,it was so good to have Keeley back. And she was sexy as ever.

I enjoyed the new Dr Who although I have to say that Amy Pond does nothing for me at all (nor the new doc) but the plot was fun and I liked the quirkiness of the new doctor. I always found DT very vile and only watched episodes with the handsome and sexy Ood. I think I will watch it again now even if the Ood are not there.

Owen said...

A toast to victories then...

Cheers !

(signed : an avid international reader, who hasn't seen the shows but read on anyway...)

The Sagittarian said...

haha, what jolly hi-jinks you and OC have been up to! However, I'll keep it seemly....I just can't understand how you're not writing reviews for a living Steve - absorootly fab account and you have me eagerly waiting to view those programmes here. We have been getting trailer promos for Dr Who all weekend, nothing on He Could Have Been My Next Husband Gene Hunt yet tho'!

Steve said...

Gina: how strange; I always though DT was emminently likeable - I guess we all respond differently to people. I think Matt Smith is far spikier but he's certainly an interesting character (both on and off the screen).

Owen: you're a gent!

Amanda: I guess the BBC is a bit slow getting the great Gene Hunt down your way... I'm sure he'll be firing up the Quattro very soon though (and you're in for a treat)!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I can't bring myself to watch the new Dr Who. Like yourself I've seen a couple of interviews, though possibly unlike yourself I thought he had all the personality and charm of a dishcloth.

He is also way too young for the role. You can't take a Doctor under 30 seriously. Well I can't anyway.

I never really got into Ashes to Ashes so it seems a bit late now.

I know I should save my 'Bah humbugs' for Christmas, but I have yet to find a single thing to watch over Easter and have been writing on my laptop and watching DVD's and listening to episode of R4's Clarissa on Listen Again.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Wow - at last you show up on my sidebar! Your address always used to refuse to appear under the live list. Lx

Steve said...

Laura: you're not a Jonathan Creek fan either then? I must say I've been enjoying Professor Brian Cox's Wonders of the Solar System and QI is always a good watch. As for my address - yes I finally bit the bullet and got myself a proper blogspot address (well, Blogger forced me into it actually as they are no longer supporting people who own and use their own domain name - rotters)!

Gypsy said...

I haven't seen either of these shows and I must say I don't know if we get them or not. I'm glad you enjoyed them though and got your fill of eye candy.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful Easter.

Steve said...

Gypsy: we did, thank you - despite spring colds. It's lovely to hear from you, hope you and yours had a wonderful time too.

Mark said...

Never watch DW, but with Karen Gillan it's suddenly become a whole lot more interesting.

Steve said...

Mark: yes, suddenly I'm hoping that time and relative dimensions in space is a reference to Karen G's vital statistics...

A Write Blog said...

Life on Mars...yes.

Ashes to Ashes..sorry, no.

I think the female lead in the latter wooden.

And Doctor Who?

The new guy can only be an improvement on 'Mr Gurning'

We watched the last double thingy only to see the last of David Tennant; overrated in both our opinions.

He acts as though on a stage about a mile away from his audience.

Do I sound negative?

Yeah!

Sorry Steve......to raise a bum note in your blog.

Now Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt.........masterful.

Steve said...

AWB: can't argue with you as to Philip Glennister... as for the rest: each to their own, I guess.

lunarossa said...

Cannot stand the face of the new Dr Who! I don't want to insult anybody but I will never watch it with him in it! Missed Ashes to Ashes last week but I think the whole series is pure genius, starting from Life on Mars of course!

Steve said...

Lunarossa: I kind of know what you mean. His head is a bit "turnipy". Like he's a reject scarecrow from Worzel Gummidge...

absurdoldbird said...

Hi... surfed in via your other blog legotropolis.
I've not got used to the new doctor yet. Being old enough to remember the original Wiliam Hartnell, each incarnation seems to get younger and younger. In a few years time it'll be Dr Foetus.

Like the new series of Ashes to Ashes. But what became of the time-shift take on it? And I thought that there was some timeshift connection between Alex and Jim Keats... but that seems to have vanished now. It is, as you say, very dark though - which I think is good.

Steve said...

Absurdoldbird: even I'm finding the doctor's relative youth and callowness hard to stomach. But I think he'll grow into the part (it is after all a hand-me-down). I'm really loving Ashes To Ashes - the joke about the Blue Peter garden being vandalized last night was a real hoot!