We’ll take Manhattan! And Staten Island too!!
Well this was a surprise. I don’t know how I’d forgotten that my old hometown, an island something like 13 miles by 5 miles in size, should be referenced in a Doctor Who story. Even the Staten Island Ferry gets mentioned. The story takes place in NY and NJ. Grover’s Mill, the location of the 1938 broadcast alien landing, is right near my work; in fact, I’ve been to the site and there is a memorial there for H.G. Wells and the Martian radio invasion. It’s a magnificient site. So this story was one I really enjoyed. A rather lucky start for my October reviews as this is the Halloween broadcast of an alien invasion that happens to be coinciding with an actual alien invasion! Only in Doctor Who…
David Benson plays three characters but it’s his Orson Welles that blew me away. He sounded just like the man! The great Simon Pegg is in this story as is a small cameo from Katy Manning. The cast is fantastic and across the board, everyone hits their marks. Even Charley, normally all posh in the most irksome ways, does not sound bad. Well, she does go into that stupid posh bit, but this time it’s only when she’s drugged which leads to some funny confusion. She says things in that highbrow tone that says “please smack me” but during a time when she’s not herself, so she gets a pass. And unless you consider how often she vanishes from our genius hero, which always seems to shock the Doctor, she’s actually quite good through the story. Actually I take it back, or more specifically, I’ll add a complaint. Why do we get fools inside the TARDIS? When the Doctor is impersonating detective Halliday, Charley has no clue how to help cover for him. “Oh, yes, that’s me, I’m Halliday.” “Doctor, what are you doing?” What, she couldn’t figure it out and blurting out a contradictory statement is going to help? What’s worse is that the person being fooled is actually fooled! I (very sarcastically) love when the Doctor then whisper-speaks to Charley the oaf to explain that he’s trying to get some information from Glory Bee. Like, yeah, did Charley really need that explained? Clearly! She was blurting things out that should have blown the Doctor’s cover! But at least she wasn’t doing it in that typical hauty tone she often takes, so I was a bit more accepting. But then the Doctor is a bit slow too. When introducing Professor Stepashin to his niece, the Professor asks “who are you people?” and the Doctor doesn’t realize the Professor doesn’t recognize his “niece”; a sure sign of trouble. Once again, remember, this character is based on Sherlock Holmes!
There’s some great lines in the story, but my favorite was the Doctor asking if Bix Biro was a pen name. It caught my funny bone perfectly and left me laughing for quite a while. “Something smells rotten here,” says the Doctor. “You’re standing on a sewer,” replies Glory Bee. The cliffhangers are mediocre though. The first is the gangster’s making a comment about some creatures they are holding, we get a 1950’s style musical queue and then the episode ends. The actual aliens are funny sounding like something I’d expect in the video game Destroy All Humans or the movie Mars Attacks! (Rather apt, the last one!) And while one alien is a bit logical, the other was a fan of the Troughton episode The Dominators, as he wants to destoy everything. Destroy is an operative word in fact, but it comes off more comedic than scary. The story wraps with another letdown that seems so fake for the Doctor. After tricking the aliens to leave because “other aliens are coming”, the Doctor forgets to turn the recording off, and the aliens hear that there are no other aliens coming. It’s as if the episode was torn between being a comedy and a serious drama. In the end, it doesn’t matter because despite the issues it is immensely fun. I can’t fault the acting because everyone is spot on. I can’t fault the story because I love the idea of a story covering up a story and to top it off, I love the setting. Even with all its flaws, the episode is marvelously enjoyable. It was the start of Paul McGann’s second “season” on audio and it was a great start. I look forward to seeing … or rather hearing… what comes next! Happy October… ML