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Thursday, June 09, 2005
TV Round-Up
The Inside: The New Girl In Town
You'd think with the pedigree of so many former Mutant Enemy writing and production staff, combined with the talent of Howard Gordon (one of the unsung heroes of the early season of The X-Files) that The Inside would be a lot more thrilling and exciting than it actually turned out to be. Not that I'm really disappointed with it, per se, but I was just expecting a lot more of it going in.

I think the thing that worked against it most was the time constraint. In the course of an hour, we had to introduce all the major players in the team, give Rebecca some back story and catch a serial killer. We had to find out that the boss, Virgil Webster, has some kind of weird agenda for Rebecca and that he plays by his own rules. Indeed, he has an almost Cigarette Smoking Man-like interest in her and her career (anyone want to take bets now if if he turns out to be Rebecca's father down the road, should the series continue that long). We also learn a bit about Rebecca--she was abducted as a child and held prisoner for at least a year and a half in which horrible things happened. She is channeling that now into her career at the FBI. Maybe she is looking to save others from sharing her fate, maybe she wants to find who did this to her. We're not quite sure as to what her motivation is, but I am sure this will be explored as the show goes along.

And that still hasn't taken into account that we have to stop the serial killer of the week. Which it turns out is two guys working together. One is the brains behind the operation (The Brain, if you will) and the other is the unwitting servant (the Pinky, if you will). We see the servant side taken out about 10 minutes before the show closes and we see Webster set Rebecca up to be the next victim. Again, not breaking a lot of new ground here.

Not that there weren't some gripping moments here. The killers sending out the tape-delayed Internet feed of the victim was chilling. And the early set-up of one of the team who is bi-polar getting too far inside the mind of the killer was effective as well.

And the cast is good. You've got Peter Coyote from The 4400 and Adam Baldwin of Firefly fame. And Rachel Nichols as Rebecca has that early seasons of Buffy Sarah Michelle Gellar like quality to play tough and vulnerable all in the same scene.

So, the premiere wasn't a home run. But I will say it was a solid double. And certainly there's one thing I've learned from watching the former Mutant Enemy crew over the years--things can always get a lot better quickly. And I'm hoping that The Inside gets better quickly. There is some good promise here and it could be one of the more interesting summer time series in a while. I just hope FOX doesn't screw it all up and pull a Keen Eddie on this one.

Doctor Who: Boom Town
Having an entire season of your television show filmed and in post-production before the first original episode airs can be a duel edged sword. It can be a good thing to have the entire season arc locked, set and complete and thus free from interference from outside forces such as a network or fans. But then again, there are times when maybe having a bit of feedback might help you avoid certain pitfalls a second time around.

Certainly it would be interesting speculate that had Russell T. Davies known the fan reaction to the Slitheen would be so lackluster would he have wasted yet another hour on an episode entirely focused on them?

Because I think the fan reaction to the Slitheen cropping up yet again here was probably the same reaction fans had back in the early 80s when the Master showed up again in season 19 in "Time Flight" - "Oh no, not again."

Honestly, I'm not sure what point there was to bringing the Slitheen back. Davies' script seems to want to humanize them a bit, to make us feel a bit more sympathy for them and their plight as characters. But since "Dalek" did this earlier and better this season (add in that we've had 40 plus years of development and back story to the Daleks), I can't help but wonder just what the point of "Boom Town" was.

Maybe it was to tease the fans a bit. I mean, we do have Jack, Rose and the Doctor sitting around telling Mickey about all these fantastic adventures on other planets they've had. And sitting there watching it, I honestly wished we'd skipped this adventure with the TARDIS refueling for an episode and seen some of those adventures on ice planets and dangerous worlds as opposed to large chunks of screen time devoted to the female Slitheen sitting about debating the Doctor's morality.

As I've said before, it's more shocking to hear a Dalek debate morality with the Doctor than it is a Slitheen . For one thing, we've known the Daleks for over 40 years, thus giving us some sense of history and understanding of just where each side is coming from. Also, it's a bit more chilling for a Dalek to tell the Doctor that his morality has become skewed based on what we know about them as killing machines than it is an alien who runs about with faulty gas regulators that make it sound flatulent.

Or maybe the point of the episode was to show just how far Rose has grown apart from her old life in her travels. Or just how left out Mickey really is from Rose's life now. Again, these are things the series has dealt with before and in a much better way in previous installments. I'm not sure why we had to bring Mickey back on screen again, other than to remind fans that he is slowly becoming the Adric of the new series. I guess we do learn that Mickey wants to move on but can't because he still has strong feelings for Rose (which you have to wonder if this is becoming a one-way street and a bit pathetic for Mickey really since Rose seems to flirt with a new guy in every episode and we get the feeling she's only been away from Mickey a few weeks or months in her timeline as opposed to years for Mickey). Maybe this is setting something up for the final two episodes where Mickey becomes the Master or some such other plot twist. But I honestly doubt that is going to happen.

Instead of feeling like an episode in which season-long continuities were brought to together, this one felt like a primer in case you'd missed any of the episodes leading up to it. The phrase "bad wolf" is following the Doctor about...check! Rose left Mickey and he's mad about it...check! We faced an alien race called the Slitheen who are not the nicest aliens about...check! There is a rift in time and space in Cardiff...check! But instead of doing anything interesting, new or different with these season-long elements, "Boom Town" is more content to tread water. Indeed, my great fear from last week - that "Boom Town" would be little more than a space holder until the big season finale came to pass here.

I have to admit the preview for next week's "Bad Wolf" did more to excite me and have me on the edge of my seat than all of "Boom Town" did in 40 plus minutes.

Indeed, there is no "boom" in "Boom Town." I kept waiting for something to blow up, explode or do something. Instead, we got a lot of sitting around and talking, ending up with the nature vs. nurture debate for the Slitheen. Can Bonn be redeemed now? The TARDIS has aged her backward to before she hatched and she'll be dropped off with a different family. She gets a second-chance, but will it make her a better Slitheen?

But here's a note for season 28 for Davies-I don't care. Please do not have an entire story that takes place on the Slitheen home world in which find out if Bonn turned out for the better this time. I think we've driven the character and the Slitheen into the ground about as much as we can and, honestly, I can't imagine spending another 40 plus minutes with her.

Overall, my reaction to this one wasn't that it was especially good or that it was especially bad. It was just sort of there. Interesting how the last couple of Davies stories when surrounded by stories by other writers, have just been sort of OK. He started off well but with "The Long Game" and "Boom Town" his writing has been a bit off. The stories aren't necessarily the weakest of the series (I mean, let's face it, this is still light years better than "Web Planet" will ever be), but they aren't exactly thrilling me down to the very last fiber of my being like "Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" and "Dalek" did. Instead, these stories seem content to fill time and take up space while big, exciting events happen in the stories around them.

In the end, "Boom Town" lack the "boom" I'd hoped for. It was widely different than what the preview made it out to be which may be part of my disappointment. I was expecting a good old "Doctor takes on an evil alien with a megalomaniac plan" story and instead got a debate about the death penalty and the Doctor's morality. It might have worked better as a novel, quite frankly. Indeed, looking at the story, I wished this one had been a novel and we'd got to see rather than hear about one of the TARDIS crew's fantastic adventures on a strange, alien planet instead.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/09/2005 08:10:00 AM | |
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