Sunday, March 20, 2011
I've always loved the first ten minutes of the Androids of Tara. Romana takes charge of the quest and locates the Key-to-Time segment with a minimum of muss or fuss. It's a nice twist on the established format. Unfortunately we then have to have an adventure. It's rather like peeking in the closet for your Christmas presents and then having to get through to the big day with almost no anticipation. The story itself is fine. Peter Jeffrey is great as Count Grendel, there's some great swashbuckling and the neat (if ultimately unnecessary) addition of the titular androids.
But it sure kills the momentum of the Key to Time arc. It's a runaround to be sure, but the script doesn't even go to the trouble of putting the revealed segment into any real jeopardy. Perhaps if its innate powers had somehow affected the plot.
It's a common problem with programs that engage in arcs but are essentially eclectic in nature. The X-Files was a prime example. You'd get a gripping arc-related story only to break the tension upon returning to the next monster-of-the-week episode (affectionately known as "bumfrak Arkansas" stories). Russell T Davies' attitude to the problem in the new series dodges the issue nicely by making the character arcs central and playing very fast and loose with the actual plot arcs. Some Bad Wolf here, some bees there and Rose popping up on vid screens for no logical reason. Of course even his character arcs could fall prey to the bum-frak syndrome as they did in season 2 with Rose being sidelined in a variety of stories, most noticeably The Girl in the Fireplace.
Conversely modern viewers have developed a bit of a mania towards story arcs in television series. An excellent stand-alone episode will often be denounced as "filler" because it doesn't advance the arc. It's as if people have reduced good storytelling to a kind of where-is-Waldo checklist. Imaginary points are to be had for those who can out-think the writers and put the pieces together. In turn, writers and show-runners resort to all kinds of gimmicks and absurd plot twists to keep so-called loyal fans appeased.
Still, there are other things to love in The Androids of Tara. I absolutely adore that purple outfit with matching hat that Romana wears, but Fisher really misses an opportunity to have more fun with it. At the very least Strella could have remarked that it was dreadfully out of fashion. The lush location work is also kinda special, given that that the production team actually had beautiful weather for once. And Tom Baker finally gets to admonish K-9 for the leisurely speed he adopts in lasering doors.
Original viewing date: September 29, 1984
Wine: Reynhart: "One of our local wines, modest, demure, but palatable." With that in mind, I picked up a Black Cab (Cabernet, Baco Noir) from the East Dell Estates in the Niagara region. While searching for my wine this week I came across one called Planet Pluto and another called Helix. How did I miss these before?! D'oh.
Music: "You Might Think I'm Crazy," by the Cars.