Boom Town

This was a pointless episode. I can sum it up in two sentences: anti-death penalty rant and Rose/Mickey soap opera.

I wish RTD would stop using Doctor Who as his personal platform to throw his left-wing politics at the audience. Having a character as a mouthpiece for the anti-death penalty message would be fine, but constructing the entire episode to revolve around it is over-egging the pudding. Lest you think I’m being harsh in casting the episode this way, Mr. Davies admits as much in the Confidential episode, saying that this was written just to get to the conversation in the restaurant. The plot is very much an afterthought in “Boom Town”, which is the opposite of how it should be.

In his review of WW3, Richard Board made this observation: being encouraged to think is a good thing, but being told what to think is offensive. “Boom Town” very much tries to tell us what to think. We’re asked to sympathize with a character that has murdered a number of people, and twice been a part of a scheme to destroy the Earth, which would lead to the murder of billions. Basing an entire episode on the idea that the death penalty is cruel and wrong by trying to make us sympathize with such a murderous character results in a wasted 45 minutes, marking time until the next episode. Equally pointless and unrealistic is making Margaret Slitheen the only character with the courage of her convictions, as demonstrated in the “look me in the eye” scene.

Not only that, but in a show where the Doctor routinely kills or allows aggressive aliens/humans to die so that innocents won’t die, any attempt to undermine his actions and character is an absurd soapbox to stand on. Either the Doctor’s a cold killer who causes chaos and then runs away, or he’s a moralistic traveler who makes hard choices and does his best to protect and save lives. As in “Dalek”, the attempt to draw morally relative parallels between the Doctor and his enemies would, if taken seriously, undermine the Doctor’s character and the series in general.

Then of course, there’s the ending where the Slitheen is reduced to an egg, thus avoiding the need to actually deal with any of the issues raised during the course of the episode. It’s a cowardly way out of the dilemma.

On to Rose and Mickey. Mickey has to show how manly he is by crying and saying in an anguished voice, “You left me!” Boo-hoo. I’m not watching “The Young and the Restless”; I’m watching Doctor Who. I don’t care about Rose and Mickey’s love life, or lack of it. Enough already. Get on with something interesting.

Are you getting the idea that I really didn’t like this episode? I can put up with politics I disagree with if they integrate smoothly into the story. I don’t watch Doctor Who so that the writer/producer can preach to me. I watch to be entertained. That requires a subtle approach rather than a sledgehammer. This episode has a few entertaining moments early on, but then loses itself in the ‘moral’.

As always, I want to like the show, so I can’t be content with simply criticizing the bad aspects. To give credit for the good stuff, there were a few nice ideas. Parking the TARDIS to refuel it is something we haven’t seen before. With Gallifrey gone, one assumes that the Eye of Harmony as the TARDIS power source is gone as well. The ‘cosmic surfboard’ is quirky, but creative. Nice to see the rift from “The Unquiet Dead” is still in existence and once again used as a plot device. Seeing the heart of the TARDIS under the center column ties in with Hartnell’s explanation about the power source being under the column all the way back in “The Edge of Destruction”, making for some nice continuity tie-ins. How the power source is used is absurd, but seeing it isn’t.

As for the characters, leave off the unwelcome sexual innuendo, and you have a really strong TARDIS crew here. There’s a nice comfortable relationship between the Doctor, Rose and Jack that I enjoy watching. They really do seem to enjoy each other’s company and work well together. Nice to see that Jack has some technical skill and some capacity to work on the TARDIS so he can fulfill other functions besides serving as audience identification and a vehicle for plot exposition.

Overall though, despite some nice touches, this episode is a preachy waste of time. 2 out of 10.

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Posted in 9th Doctor - Christopher Eccleston

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