Jun. 21st, 2017

"If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!"

My public TV station was the first in the US to get the final season of 20th century Doctor Who, showing it in late 1989/early 1990. Of course, at the time we didn't know for sure it was the final season, but I recall being very impressed at the time with the leap the writing had taken. The final story, "Survival," is where the line above comes, yelled near the story's climax by a superb Sylvester McCoy. And the story was written by a young writer named Rona Munro.

Since then, Munro has gone on to become a famous playwright and television writer, internationally renowned. And yet the only thing I know her for is that story...and that story alone would have been enough to impress me and make me excited to see what she can bring to 21st century Doctor Who. When I heard the rumor that a "classic" series writer would be returning this year, I figured it would be someone like Ben Aaronovitch or something. Rona Munro was not first on my mind. But ever since she was announced, I've been so excited to see her story! And so?

I effing LOVED IT. My only wish is that it could have been a two-parter to give it more room to breathe...but even so, it was written beautifully for the 40 minutes or so she had. (I'm almost certain the last two minutes were pretty much entirely Moffat, but they were also good.) As I said last week, I was pretty much in the tank for this story as it was--pseudo-historical in Roman Britain? Yeah, I'd be there. True, it might not have worked, but I had "Survival" as a guide to how well Munro could write--and how much she understood the Doctor and the show.

I'm thrilled at how well the episode was plotted, and I loved the dialogue. Her handle on Bill was fantastic. (And hey, it's nice that the first writer to really try to insert a lesbian subtext into the show later got to handle the first lesbian companion, right?) Nardole was quite good too. And the Doctor? Holy moly, not only was the writing spot-on for him, but Peter Capaldi was superb. Like McCoy, he's getting the best scripts of his run during his (sob) final season, and, like McCoy, he's knocking them out of the park.

Yes, ok, the secondary characters might have been slightly sketched in, but, given the running time, I think the script did a great job telling us what we needed to know! In fact, I had only one real quibble about the script, a not-quite anachronism that I can explain away for my own sake. :-) (Technically, it'd be a minor spoiler, so I'll explain only if someone asks.)

In fact, the only fault I have might be a bit of the direction. Early on, in some night scenes, I don't feel things were framed particularly well. The effects, though, were great, and I loved the design of the eponymous Eater of Light. It reminded me a bit of something that does not have to do with Doctor Who...nope, spoiler!

So yes. Short form, I loved it. It wasn't an action-packed episode (though there certainly was action), but the way the script unfolded worked very well. It felt longer than 42 minutes...but that's because so much happened and it was so immersive, not because I was bored. Yes, definitely loved it. If Rona Munro wants to come back, I say let her come back! And don't wait 28 years to ask her!

NEXT WEEK: Mondas? Cybermen? And...WHO'S THAT??? It's "World Enough and Time" by Steven Moffat!



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