30 January 2016 at 11:57 #50662Craig @craigEmperor
Kicking off our Chris Chibnall retrospective is ’42’, which obviously plays on the real-time drama of ’24’. The Doctor and Martha receive a distress signal from the SS Pentallian, a spacecraft that is hurtling towards the star of the Torajii system. After arriving they are separated from the TARDIS by the rising temperatures on the ship. The ship’s engines have failed and they have only 42 minutes left before the ship plunges into the star.
I really liked this. I thought it looks great, is not set on Earth, is action packed, has some fun moments, and real emotion at its core.
’42’ is on the Series 3 DVD which you can buy for £15.99 from the BBC shop here:30 January 2016 at 22:31 #50673
Yes, I really liked this as well. The ‘real time’ experiment works better on a rewatch, but it makes the often over-rushed feel of Who-in-42-minute-episodes into an in-story problem instead of a scriptwriting problem.
The Doctor, Martha and the crew are trying to deal with a nightmarish series of self-created problems, which they don’t have time to deal with. The ‘Pub Quiz’ security questions probably seemed really funny when the crew thought them up – not so funny when it’s a race against time to get to the auxiliaries. Regeneration’s a great idea – not so much when you’re trying to get rid of an alien organism that’ll use you to murder lots of people and you can’t f**k**g die! And the free fuel seemed a really good idea at the time – not so much when you find out how much that ‘free’ fuel is really going to cost.
I like the ‘Alien’ style, battered, industrial, working spaceship. A tramp cargo-hauler, independently owned – which explains some of the problems, because that need to get by on minimal cost turns out to be the inciting incident. The Captain cuts a corner she should never have cut. Our ‘monsters’ are a living creature lashing out at its torturers, and a businesswoman breaking the law so that she and her husband can make a living. It’s a Who story where everyone is just trying to stay alive.
This story also moves Martha on quite a lot. She starts the story as a giddy new not-yet-companion, she ends it with the TARDIS key. In-between, she’s both realised emotionally that these adventures could kill her, and stepped up when she realises that her job can include saving the Doctor.
The two scenes I remember from this the most are Martha phoning her Mum when the pod’s been jettisoned, and the Doctor in a state of complete fear and panic as he’s having to go into the stasis chamber. Martha and her Mum is the most beautifully written scene; Martha trying to reconnect, her Mum’s desperate need to control her daughter driving Martha away. It’s kind of a little mini-explanation of Martha, really. The Doctor’s stasis chamber scene really feels like a brief look inside the Doctor. We’ve had him as the cheery Tennant Doctor, enjoying his travels, being stern and serious, always ‘in charge’, but now we get a glimpse of him starting to panic. The monsters are scared of the Doctor, but what’s the Doctor scared of?
Becoming the monster.31 January 2016 at 01:15 #50678Anonymous @
I bloomin love it. “Recreational mathematics: happy Primes. “Don’t they teach it anymore?”
Son adored it.
It never stops: the fantastic, crazy arsed editing and the super-fast talking. Clara had nothing on our Doctor Tennant. Thought Harper’s directing was terrific.
And the rock music score -I’d forgotten that.
Love the opening: 42 by Chris Chibnall! That’s its title!
Martha and the captain have this terrific deep voiced panic which skitters thru the whole thing -the ‘angry woman’s’ “kill me now” doesn’t come a second too late either.
The pub quiz questions and Martha’s call to her mum brings that part of the story forward -just how frustrated the Martha family is at the arrival of this strange ‘doctor’ which leads to Saxon and that story line. It’s a nice development.
I loved the old cranky ship -like Firefly only dirtier and without the muscle bound doods (I like muscle bound doods!).
Son was only about 5 1/2 so he remembers the Doctor fondly “for his running” and the funny jokes -oh and the scary sun monster. That’s about it and that’s enough. On this alone, Chibnall gets my vote.
Chibnall: vote 1
Kindest, Puro.31 January 2016 at 05:51 #50687
Is fine — so far; only please, not so much *screaming* and screaming and screaming, all the time. Please note: this ep passes the Bechtel Test: named female characters conversing with each other but not, for a good deal of the time (I think — too much screaming and shouting to be sure when, exactly, and how long), about the men. More about somehow not dying, and what’s the secret crime that the ship is under attack by the “sun” for?31 January 2016 at 20:44 #50716
I just finished a rewatch of 42 and I enjoyed it more this time despite all the “screaming” @ichibod. Boy they really did scream alot. Besides that ,this episode was all about Martha and her place on the Tardis and in the Doctor’s life. Poor Martha is so transparent, she wears her emotions on her face and can’t hide her growing love for the Doctor. The guest cast were all great even if few of them survived the episode.
As I have mentioned before,the dark corridors, with monsters lurking around every corner , scare the bejeezus out of me. This one had me hiding behind the sofa. Did nobody ever teach those people how rude it is to scoop the heart out of living suns in order to make fuel? I mean really,what nerve.
All in all I liked this episode a lot better than I remember.
Chibnall- vote 231 January 2016 at 20:47 #50717
@ichabod Sorry , I spelled your name wrong above. I am screaming at my own lack of proof reading.31 January 2016 at 21:29 #50720
she wears her emotions on her face and can’t hide her growing love for the Doctor
Which, alas, is how poorly served Martha was as a character (and Freema as an actor). The rebound girl cliché.
But that was RTD’s error not Chibnall’s
Haven’t rewatched yet, but recall finding it a bit of a hoot.31 January 2016 at 21:40 #50721
@winston I am screaming at my own lack of proof reading.
Argh, no, no more screaming! I’d rather have my name spelled wrong! Seriously, I’m half deaf from all the screaming in that ep, and have ear-strain (or have invented the idea of ear-strain) because of having to try so hard to make out what anyone was actually saying under all that screaming.
@pedant Well, yeah, the pell-mell yikes-what-now rush of it was fun. I just had a hard time trying to grab hold of what was going on in the meantime. I do like the idea of humans as ruthless vampires on the life-energy of anything we can get our claws into, because — well, that’s what we *are*. Just look at the state of the place right now . . .1 February 2016 at 02:39 #50739
@pedant I agree about Martha being the rebound girl. Many people enter a new relationship far too soon and it rarely ends well. On the other hand Martha is a strong indepedant young women with plans on being a doctor. She doesn’t run away from her old life when she goes with the Doctor, rather she runs towards adventure and new experiences. When she realizes what travelling with the Doctor has done to her family ,she is strong enough to say her piece and walk away, slightly bruised but still able to hold her head high.1 February 2016 at 13:19 #50761
Oh, they handled the exit well enough. But there was scuttlebutt fairly early that the producers felt Freema “wasn’t working out”. She’s had enough regular gigs since to suggest that she is reasonably competent at this ‘acting’ lark, so I think that raises legitimate question as to whether it was the storyline that ‘was not working out’.
And the praise for her in this thread, about this episode, adds a little spice to that.1 February 2016 at 15:12 #507621 February 2016 at 18:08 #50765TheDentistOfDavros @thedentistofdavros
42 was one of the first episodes I saw and I remember feeling very uneasy when the doctor became the monster. After rewatching it I definitely think it’s one of the better series 3 stories and probably chibnall’s finest story for doctor who. For me series 3 was quite a strong season overall and this was one of the highlights.1 February 2016 at 20:33 #50766Arbutus @arbutus
I’ve now watched this with a lot more attention to detail than I ever did the first time around, and I still like it. I’m not sure what problem people would have with it as it feels like classic action Who to me, a straightforward but imaginative scenario that creates some excellent suspense.
Like @bluesqueakpip, I thought the scene with the Doctor going into stasis was a highlight. Not only did it give some insight into the Doctor, but I felt it showed us the Companion that Martha could have been, had RTD not made the (to me) inexplicable decision to include the whole “unrequited love” scenario. She was so calm as she manipulated the controls, seemingly impervious to the Doctor’s horrible screams- she is a would-be medical doctor and clearly has the temperament for it!
The scene in the jettisoned pod was great as well, in fact, Martha’s whole brief relationship with the crew member (I forget his name) was nicely done. I liked her phone interactions with her mother, and also liked the decision of the captain to die with her husband, to atone for her mistake and to repair some of the result.
@puroandson “Don’t they teach recreational mathematics anymore?” I loved that line, too. 🙂
@ichabod You’re certainly right about the screaming, but it bothered me less than the music, which I felt could have been toned down a bit. It was a problem for me throughout the Tennant era, that I felt they sometimes tried to ramp up the tension with an extra bombastic soundtrack. Unfortunately (for me), the arc-related ending served to remind me of where the series is ultimately headed, the final two-parter which I disliked about as much as I ever dislike DW!
But all in all, I think this episode worked pretty well, and certainly from the perspective of the writing, I had no problem with it.3 February 2016 at 11:24 #50800
Right >cracks knuckles< (which is no mean feat for a fish)
Enjoyed watching this again. It’s actually been too long since I sat down and watched some Tennant-era Who. Must do a bit more of that. I’d downgraded Tennant in recent years as I think his performance sometimes pales compared to the nuance of Smith and now Capaldi but I really enjoyed his performance here. It’s also interesting to see now, as we reach the end of Moffat’s tenure, just how far the show has travelled away from the kinetic style of the RTD years.
Similarly, Michelle Collins did a great job. I think she often doesn’t get the credit she deserves because she’s largely considered a ‘soap actress’.
In general, it zips along quite nicely and some of the visuals are terrific and still stand up well. Graeme Harper is a terrific director for this kind of thing and it’s something of a shame that the show stopped using him.
The episode is also a good showcase for Chibnall’s main flaws as a writer. First off, there’s character. The characterisation is just awful. Beyond flat. Collins manages to breathe a bit of life into Kath but the rest are little more than exposition-monkeys that even actors of the calibre of Anthony Flanagan can’t do much with.
The key question is ‘do I believe that these are real, living, breathing people?’ and the answer here is ‘no, I don’t’. And this is a pretty fundamental thing in that Who staple the ‘base under siege’ story. Look at the real classics of the genre in Who — Robots of Death, say, or The Moonbase. We absolutely believe in Hobson and Benoit as characters and we worry for their survival. Same with Poul and Uvanov — and it’s a testament to Chris Boucher’s script for that story that even a dodgy old ham like Russell Hunter can coax out a character that we actually become invested in. Similarly, Cass and Lunn in Under the Lake or Journey and Morgan in Into the Dalek or Adelaide in Waters of Mars. They all convince as characters.
I just don’t feel that here. When they’re not mechanically advancing the plot, the attempts to inject some life into them doesn’t really succeed. Their dialogue strikes me as ‘box set banter’ — a conception of character gleaned from watching other TV series rather than first-hand observation of people. It’s like looking at photograph that’s been photocopied a dozen times. All the vividity, all the detail, has been muddled out. (It’s worth pointing out that there’s no one better at this stuff than RTD. He strikes me as someone who has a genuine interest in and love for people and it shines through in his writing. Rose is almost certainly the best drawn character in Who’s 50-year history. Which makes it odd, I suppose, that he failed so manifestly with Martha. I suspect it was because he still wasn’t quite ‘over’ Rose and didn’t really want to write Martha at all.)
I suspect this is a general CC trait. There’s an opener to a Torchwood episode (I think it might even be the dreaded Cyberwoman) where the regulars are seen playing a game (football maybe?). Aside from being shamelessly pinched from the Firefly episode Bushwhacked, I always got the impression that it had been shoe-horned in to kickstart what had already been perceived as a flaw in the show — the same lacking sense of character — but it didn’t really work.
I spent last night rewatching the first three episodes of Broadchurch s1 just to be sure and I think it’s borne out there too. The real impact comes from a couple of performances — notably Jodie Whitaker as Beth and David Bradley as Jack — who were clearly the characters who interested CC and much of the rest are merely there to service the plot.
Part of the problem is that I think CC is too enamoured of the set piece, the big moment, that he tends to overlook the process of getting there. The impression I get that the momentum of Broadchurch was in its big moments — Danny’s body on the beach, Jack’s suicide, getting Ellie in the interview room with her husband — and that there is a sense of impatience about the actual getting there.
It kind of reminds me of this:
Similarly, 42 strikes me as starting off as a shopping list of ‘cool stuff’ that he wanted to get in and all that character and plot stuff was just a means of getting one from Moment to the next. Thus we get recently corporeal sun monsters who feel the need to don welding helmets. Why? Charitably, you could perhaps argue because they had to keep their eyes shielded for their human bodies to get about. But mostly I get the sense it was because it ‘looked cool’ and Who (and cut down on the VFX bill). And then it’s ‘we have to see Martha drifting in space away from the Doc, the Doctor possessed and the Captain falling into the sun’ with some stuff in between to make those things happen. Particularly interminable in this regard was the ‘pub quiz’ protocols, which struck as particularly ‘filler-ey’.
The episode is basically a mash-up. It’s largely a remake of Planet of Evil with bits of Alien, Event Horizon, Sunshine bolted on. This seems to be both his strength and weakness and often what he seems to be hired for, to create stuff that’s ‘like’ something else. Thus Broadchurch is basically The Killing filtered through a Cracker sensibility. And he adapts the Law and Order franchise to a UK sensibility. He’s writer as remix DJ, as ventriloquist.
Not that I’m saying this is necessarily a bad thing. He’s quite probably just what Who needs at the moment. Moffat has probably taken the show as far in the ‘tricky dicky, timey-wimey’ direction as it can go. I get the impression that CC was perhaps hired to provide a counterpoint to that.3 February 2016 at 13:09 #50801
Okay, now take a deep breath.
There is a reason I haven’t really posted much on Hell Bent, and that’s because it would have consisted of ‘Yes, it’s a really good episode, and I have to admit that it’s a really good episode, and I also have to admit that it’s very well acted but now I’m going to do a detailed, blow-by-blow explanation of why I don’t like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor’.
And I think you’ve just done that with Chris Chibnall for 42.
At least, I personally started to get the impression that you were actively looking for faults when you complained about the welding helmets. The diagram was also a bit of a giveaway. Saying that a Doctor Who episode was a ‘mashup’ that borrowed (off the back of a lorry, no questions asked) from other stories gave me a few hints as well. 😀
Why are the welding helmets there? They’re functional. The alternative is having a bunch of actors trying to look like scary possessed monsters while they’re wandering around the set with their eyes closed, trying not to bump into stuff.
Why do the Vashta Nerada use space suits in Silence in the Library/Forest of the dead? This is for exactly the same ‘it looked cool’ and ‘we need to cut down on the VFX’ reasons. In-story for 42, the welding helmets are there so that the sun-people destroy what they want to destroy, and don’t accidentally melt their feet or burn off a hand. In-story for Silence, the spacesuits are there because the team are trying to protect themselves from contamination and the Vashta Nerada … err … well, maybe it’s just that they like lurching? (Actually, I think it’s some gumph about using them to communicate with the humans, but you get the point).
Complaints about the characterisation – well, a number of people on here are saying what a wonderful character Martha could have been, judging by this story. So we absolutely believed in Martha? Freema Agyeman gave a good performance? A few people have also mentioned that the Doctor becoming the monster was seriously scary – so a decent role for David Tennant, perhaps?
Personally, I also wanted Riley to survive – and you seem to like Michelle Collins. But you keep suggesting that these great performances are entirely down to the actors, and missing the point that Chibnall’s scripts consistently produce those good performances.
I suspect you’re pretty close to the truth with Chibnall being ‘what Who needs’ right now. The problem the BBC have got right now is very simple: they handed Who over to a writer (Moffat) that they knew was brilliant. And then they discovered that the ‘brilliant’ writer was in fact a f*ck*ng genius.
A full scale, experimental, push the envelope, genius. The past few years have seen Moffat give us (with both Who and Sherlock) some of the best and most original television on TV. But there is one big problem with that, and that is that Doctor Who is a successful continuing drama.
Somebody has to take over from Steven Moffat. And Steven Moffat has just given us a ‘Follow that!’ era.
That someone has to be able to write scripts that the Doctor Who audience (general audience, not just ‘fans’) like, they have to have Head Writer/Producer on their CV, ideally they should have helmed something high-profile. They should be a ‘safe pair of hands’ while we move into post-Moffat Who.
And Chibnall not only ticks all those boxes, he’s a big enough fan himself that he’s prepared to take the job.3 February 2016 at 19:24 #50806Kharis @kharis
Well, you all make good points and it does take some of my fear away that I will never have another visceral episode of Doctor Who in my lifetime after reading the news that the author of 42 took the helm. 42 still bores me, and as a science teacher I could be a troll and go on for days, but it would make me a hypocrite since I forgive Moffat every fanciful inaccuracy. Of course, as @bluesqueakpip pointed out, Moffat was a f***ing genius, so I forgive all kinds of things I would go postal on if another writer tried it. The writer’s of a The Doctor’s Wife and Vincent and the Doctor were also incredible, yet the BBC choose the writer of 42, but I will not start a rant, I will just chew on all the positive points made above and hope that Chibnall surprises me with an episode or two that can draw me in. I honestly have learned to appreciate 42 a little, completely based on all of the comments above.3 February 2016 at 22:45 #50808
It is unlikely either Neil Gaiman or Richard Curtis would have time to do the job!
I suspect Toby Whithouse was only other viable “in-house” alternative.4 February 2016 at 00:11 #50809
I think Toby Whithouse was preferred by fans – but when you look at his CV, his hits broadcast on BBC3 and Channel 4, with niche audiences of two million viewers or so (less than that for Being Human).4 February 2016 at 00:26 #50810
Yeah, but he has a multi-season TV show under his belt, with the BBC and knows how it works. And Being Human is pretty much the same niche as Dr Who.4 February 2016 at 01:13 #50812Anonymous @
I loved the Doctor’s Wife too but I found -here actually, but on another thread, some active dislike of it. That’s fine but I was surprised: that the Tardis, named hopefully by Eleven as “sexy,” was disliked because it was no longer a vehicle. Apparently it should have stayed that way. By giving the Tardis a personality with the ‘she’ (a “sexy old gal”) it’s more than a ordinary vehicle.
I don’t hold with that argument: I liked that episode very much including the funny one liners and the fantastic use of the Tardis as a completely discrete element needing ‘images’ and ideas as passcodes to retrieve the older consoles: “petrichor, the smell of dust after rain” (sic) and so on.
But I also liked that the Tardis, an object that was always more than just an ordinary or pedestrian vehicle became a person -one who confuses tense and sees traces of the future ahead:
“the only water in the forest is a river.”
But on 42 I guess I didn’t notice the problems with characterisation. I just enjoyed the ride. The panicked behaviour of the quickly diminishing crew blends well with the ‘Serenity’ style, hastily put- together interior of the ship -it’s all quite unstable which creates an atmospheric, off balance feel. With excellent directing by Graeme Harper (well thought out shots which probably come from the horror trope, as a guess) the episode jettisons the level and generously expanding characterisations you get with two parters like Under the Lake and Before the Flood because there’s so little time.
Still, @jimthefish has a point with the Waters of Mars and the development of the character, Adelaide. I wonder if the female captain in 42, with more experience and gravitas could have been developed with substance. Certainly, young Ashildr was more rounded within twenty minutes compared with Kath, the wife of (as Son calls him) the Zombie Sun Man -I think he alludes to the slow, fitful gait that accompanies cybermen, and some other ‘possessed’ individuals in Doctor Who and zombie programmes (I don’t think he’d necessarily want me to place zombies and Doctor Who in one sentence).
Still, he be at school. 🙂
Puro4 February 2016 at 12:41 #50818
Yes, but in a choice between two Doctor Who writers who have good viewing figures and good AIs for their scripts, which one is the ‘safe’ choice for the BBC?
The writer with two successful niche series on the smaller channels?
Or the writer with the successful BBC1 Sunday teatime series, two successful ITV1 drama series, AND the successful SF niche series?4 February 2016 at 15:20 #50819Kharis @kharis
@pedant I didn’t realise the two authors were so notable until I looked them up,. Now that I know the authors’ history I am sure you are right. On the other hand, after having a peer of equal talent proceed, one could almost expect a higher calibre of writers looking to take on the challenge.
@puroandson Yes, I could see why some old fans would be annoyed with the liberties took in the Doctor’s Wife.
After comparing the ship on 42 to Serenity, you leave me little choice but to give it even more points. 🙂4 February 2016 at 18:24 #50823
@bluesqueakpip they handed Who over to a writer (Moffat) that they knew was brilliant. And then they discovered that the ‘brilliant’ writer was in fact a f*ck*ng genius.
Nail; head. Whatever Moffat was before, DW brought his amazing capacities to the fore, and gave him the scope he needed to bring those capacities fully on-line for a show that he’d loved as a fan (there was a good article somewhere by someone who carps a lot about what Moffat’s done, explaining the realization that every long-time fan has their own cherished ideas of what they would do with DW if *they* were show-runner, and of course in every case it’s different — so whoever actually has the job of doing that is going to be snarl-bait for all the ones who can’t — particularly, I would add, when he, Moffat in this case, has done such a smashing job of realizing his own complex and bravura goals for the Doctor, with S10 still to come).
A “safe pair of hands” is probably the best way to move the show back into the realms of reliably good, fun stuff that doesn’t *require* the guiding hand of genius. My concern is that after Moffat, Capaldi might well feel that he’d rather move on than work with (talented) non-geniuses on the same show. And that might be just right, in terms of his own career. Gulp.4 February 2016 at 19:48 #50828
I personally started to get the impression that you were actively looking for faults
I hope not. Merely trying to quantify why CC’s writing always leaves me feeling a bit like Gru’s mother.
Why are the welding helmets there? They’re functional. The alternative is having a bunch of actors trying to look like scary possessed monsters while they’re wandering around the set with their eyes closed, trying not to bump into stuff
Yeah, I get the functional argument and did indeed acknowledge it. And, yes, it’s done for largely the same reason as the Vashta Nerada wear spacesuits in SitL, as you say. But the key difference is that its addressed in the narrative. It’s an acceptable part of the story logic. For one thing the consumed astronauts are already wearing the suits when they meet their demise. For another, the Vashta Nerada use the suits’ visors as a tactic for picking off the other archaeologists. (And that’s leaving aside the narrative significance of the suits’ data ghosting functionality.) But that’s all addressed in the narrative because SM knows that he has to if he’s going to do his job properly. (And avoid giving the BTLers on the Graun a stick to beat him with.)
Now CC doesn’t do that here. There’s lots of ways he could have — you, yourself have suggested a couple. That the possessed sun-monsters need some kind of protection to avoid destroying themselves or just getting about in general. But he just doesn’t even make that effort. Now, either he thinks he doesn’t need to bother (which is just technically bad writing and something that RTD should have addressed if CC wasn’t going to bother himself) or he just forgot in the rush to get to his next ‘exciting bit’. As it stands, in terms of the narrative logic of the story, the creatures don those helmets for no given reason (other than CC has seen Quatermass/Ambassadors of Death/The Invisible Enemy and thought it was a cool idea) and we have to fill in those gaps ourselves.
saying that a Doctor Who episode was a ‘mashup’ that borrowed (off the back of a lorry, no questions asked) from other stories gave me a few hints as well
The expression was used quite deliberately and with its very specific meaning in mind. 42 is very much a mash-up. It’s a collage of different cinematic and TV sources. Just as most of his Torchwood episodes were. Just as, when you get down to it, Broadchurch is. Come on, is there a single narrative beat, a single concept contained in this episode that you haven’t seen somewhere else before?
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. This is something of a tradition in Who — the Holmes/Hinchcliffe era is pretty much a shameless recycling of Hammer tropes and is all the better for it. The first Daleks story owes more than a bit to the Dan Dare Voyage to Venus story. Same goes for stories by RTD and SM. It just seems to me that CC ends up doing a little too artlessly, almost as if he doesn’t know quite why he’s including those elements, other than he’s seen them in something else and he wants to bung them in, whether the story requires them or not.
you seem to like Michelle Collins
I thought she did a good job, partially because she was given a little more to work with than the rest of the guest cast and also, I suspect, that her years on soaps has made her adept at making rushed, not-quite-there-yet scripts work.
and missing the point that Chibnall’s scripts consistently produce those good performances
Except he doesn’t. Not even remotely. What he does do is put a little more effort into maybe one or two characters in a script, presumably the ones he’s interested in. The rest he just leaves dangling in the wind. Compare that with Midnight or Silence in the Library (or Robots of Death or Moonbase) where just about every character is rounded, has some work put into them and that makes them, strong, finished scripts. A CC script almost always seems to (and I’d say the Silurian two-parter being the honourable exception) have holes in it where characters should be. I’m not saying he’s a bad writer, just an undisciplined one. And consistent is the last adjective I’d use.
Somebody has to take over from Steven Moffat. And Steven Moffat has just given us a ‘Follow that!’ era.
Yes, I’d agree. As I said before, CC has the opposite problem to Moffat. SM was the guy who wrote Blink. He had a lot of good will to bank on for a few episodes. (The converse of that, of course, was when people realised that he wasn’t going to deliver 13 Blinks every year, a lot of so-called fans turned on him.) CC has the opposite problem. He’s the bloke who wrote Cyberwoman and this. He’s facing a lot of metaphorical folded arms, saying: ‘here we are now, entertain us’. The upside there is that if he does knock it out the park — and, frankly, I think and hope he might — then he stands to secure himself a far smoother ride than SM could ever have hoped for.
Yes, but in a choice between two Doctor Who writers who have good viewing figures and good AIs for their scripts, which one is the ‘safe’ choice for the BBC?
I’d agree with @pedant that in some ways it is surprising that Whithouse wasn’t chosen and I guess we’ll never know if he was even asked or not. Let’s face it running Nu-Who is a tough room to work (where you have to deal with die-hards on Twitter, the Graun and, well, here). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if TB turned it down for that reason. And as Pip says, Chibbers has bona fide hits in Broadchurch and Law and Order — and perhaps proved he can take media pressure after the shit he (frankly deservedly) caught for Broadchurch 2. I also suspect it’s his track record as a ventrilo-writer (mash-ups a specialty 😉 ) that attracted the suits to him, no doubt with the idea of saying ‘make it more like it was in the RTD years when everyone loved it’. However, I suspect when he’s been given the keys to the TARDIS, Chibbers will actually have some very firm and individual ideas about what he’ll want to do.
That’s what I’m hoping anyway.4 February 2016 at 21:23 #50829
I’m hoping, since I think Peter Capaldi has mentioned that there is a little ‘Doctor’s Club’, that Capaldi’s going to have a chat with David Tennant. Because David Tennant can not just give him some advice on what discussions to have with the new producer, he’s also worked a lot with Chris Chibnall.
David, I think, might well have most informed viewpoint on the pros and cons of staying on. Or not.4 February 2016 at 22:34 #50833
Merely trying to quantify why CC’s writing always leaves me feeling a bit like Gru’s mother.
Because you don’t like it. 🙂
Okay, rather than go through ‘what Jim thinks is wrong with Chris Chibnall’s writing/what Pip thinks is right’, let’s talk about Thomas Hardy.
Because personally, I think life is too short to read Thomas Hardy. I have read Jude the Obscure, I’ve read Mayor of Casterbridge – and it was at a couple of chapters into Tess of the Durbervilles that I realised that I didn’t care how many ‘Great Works of English Literature’ lists Hardy was on, he wasn’t on mine.
If I felt I needed to quantify this dislike by explaining his faults as a writer, I’d go through his novels in detail – because no writer is perfect. As the cliche goes, even Homer nods, and even Great Authors have faults. But truthfully, what interests Hardy as a writer isn’t what interests me as a reader, his worldview and mine are very different – and I don’t like his novels.
Silence in the Library (or Robots of Death or Moonbase) where just about every character is rounded
Okay. Tell me about Proper Dave and Other Dave. Beyond the fact that they are Proper Dave and Other Dave and one’s a bit accident prone. Anita? She’s nice, and she’s scared. Anything else? I’ll give you a pass on CAL’s father, because he’s a functional character in-story as well as in the script.
Steven Moffat has a real gift, almost Christie-like, for giving us one line introductions that make us think a character is rounded. They’re as flat as a pancake when you prod the script a bit, but you can’t help liking characters who introduce themselves as the Thin/Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines. And then give us a scriptwriter’s joke of ‘why would we need names?’
I would say that most of the things you’re picking apart in 42 are things you would give a pass on if the script had been written by Steven Moffat. And that your real problem with Chris Chibnall is that he isn’t Steven Moffat. He’s a scriptwriter of genuine talent, but he’s no genius.
He’s facing a lot of metaphorical folded arms, saying: ‘here we are now, entertain us’.
Yes, and there’s an acronym for that. Because the wider audience, the ones who don’t contribute to fora such as these, watched his Who scripts and liked them (judging by audience numbers and the AI figures). The people complaining about Cyberwoman are, by and large, active fans. Even at the time, the reviews were mixed, not universally negative. Same with Broadchurch 2: you may have hated it – the reviews were mixed, with a fair amount of verdicts on the lines of ‘went a bit wobbly in the middle’. The viewing figures for Series 2 were actually very slightly better than for Series 1.
I’d agree with @pedant that in some ways it is surprising that Whithouse wasn’t chosen
Only if you’re a fan.
Toby Whithouse might possibly have been a genuine contender after RTD, or if Moffat hadn’t taken Who to the massive, massive worldwide audience it currently enjoys. I’m sure the BBC will be delighted if Chris Chibnall asks him to continue as a Who writer. But a Head Writer who’s never had a mainstream hit when there’s a candidate with two in entirely different genres? No way.4 February 2016 at 23:10 #50835
@bluesqueakpip About Capaldi consulting with that very exclusive club, specifically Tennant — good points; and thanks. And I like your longer view on Chibnall/Whithouse. There are the viewers-at-large, a (probably) small percentage of them hardcore fans, of whom and even smaller percentage are aware of and fully invested in genius-level work that provides so much to think and talk about.
And it’s not hard to guess who BBC admin is most likely to be committed to pleasing.5 February 2016 at 00:51 #50836
Because you don’t like it.
No, not really. I don’t think you can write it off as personal prejudice or dare I say it ‘angst’ — it’s not that I’m against Chibnall becoming showrunner — I’m not and am in fact looking forward to him taking the helm, seeing what he does with the show. Nor am I particularly unhappy that Moffat is leaving — I think it’s time he did. He’s probably just at the cusp of over-staying his welcome and despite the strength of s9, I’m sure he’s the last person who would want the show to stagnate or fall into a rut.
But to say that I’m riding Chibnall hard for things that I’d give Moffat a free pass for I think is presumptious and a little unfair. The reasons I’ve taken some time and effort to spell out are valid I think.
And we’re not talking about writers being perfect. Moffat over his tenure has screwed up lots, dropped plot threads, created bad or lacking characters, written episodes that were below par. Same with RTD. And while we’re at it I hold no particular candle for Toby Whithouse either. I was only ever really lukewarm about Being Human and I find his Who episodes middling, with a couple of exceptions. But for all that, they were solid. Structurally and technically, everything is in place, even if the end result is not a piece of work that personally blew me away — that’s the point where personal liking or disliking comes in.
For me, there are points in this episode, and in others, where Chibnall doesn’t even get that far. He fails to establish plot points. His supporting characters are beyond flat. (I disagree about the characters in SitL etc. No, they’re not fully rounded, yes, they are thumbnail characterisations but they still have enough work put into them that the actors can breathe life into them, give us the suggestion that they actually had a life before the beginning of the story. Compare that to Anthony Flanagan’s character here. Flanagan is a terrific actor and I can think offhand of half a dozen excellent performances from him but does he say anything here that isn’t exposition-bollocks? Anything that successfully suggests that he and the captain have the long-standing friendship that he keeps saying they have. There’s just nothing there. Similarly, look at the criminal waste of Vicky McClure in Broadchurch playing the most prosaic, central-casting Bad Journalist that you could imagine. And it didn’t have to be that way. If he’d just put a fraction of the work into the character that he did to Ellie, Beth or Jack.
It’s not that I’m castigating Chibnall for not being ‘a genius’ of Moffat levels (and I’d probably say that’s edging towards hyperbole a bit anyway. Let’s just say he’s very, very good). And I don’t dispute for a moment that he’s a writer of genuine talent. But I would say there are far too many examples in his CV where he hasn’t even employed that talent, where he’s been shoddy, careless or lazy, where his work has just been lacking in fundamental issues of craft. There are many writers of Who — e.g. Whithouse, Graham — whose work hasn’t particularly enthused me but whom I can nonetheless recognise as being masters of their trade. But all too often in a Chibnall script, there’s a point where you’re saying ‘WTF?? What about….?’
It’s not that I have a personal dislike for his work, as such — I like the general ideas by and large — it’s more that his execution of those ideas is often so careless that he sabotages his own work. I’m always left with the impression that I’m being assailed with the Big Moments, with the spectacle, to distract me from the blatant cracks in the fundamental structure of the episode. But to repeat, it’s not that I don’t think he’s not capable of sitting down and creating this structure and more that he doesn’t seem to have the will or the patience to do so and prefers to fly by the seat of his pants and rely on the spectacle. Like someone trying to blag their way into a nightclub by walking really fast and cocky past the bouncers.
But you’re right that for the casual viewer, Chibnall is probably the right choice. For the people who won’t buy box sets or series record but just watch it the once and who get caught up in the kinetic rush of the episode then he’s probably going to create crowd-pleasing, RTD-esque romps. And that’s pretty much why he was hired, I suspect.5 February 2016 at 01:05 #50837
At the beginning of Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad stops off at a diner to blag a ride. He doesn’t even go into the diner and yet Steinbeck brings the waitress, who we never meet again, completely to life through the simple device of having her inspect a lump under her ear, while talking to a trucker (who we, again, don’t meet after he drops Joad off, but who is similarly and economically fleshed out).
Moffat’s gift is similar economy. We feel for Anita and both the Dave’s because he has used enough craft to make the entire Song team feel like a group of people, not a group of plot devices.
In 42 all of the crew are pretty much interchangeable (and the two survivors even looked too much alike – a basic casting error) and felt a lot more red-shirty – although this didn’t bother me as much as it does Jim.
But also, that was in 2007, the fat end of a decade ago, and one would hope CC has developed as a writer. There is sufficient evidence that he has, within Who, but cause for concern in the Show that May Not Be Named where two key new characters were 100 degrees proof spirit plot device, and a waste of fine actors and a cancer on the story. His downright petulant response probably didn’t help perceptions, though.
(Whithouse has 5 seasons of Being Human (and a format sale to the US) under his belt and had to manage massive cast changes as people got big job offers, and has a Who portfolio of highly-regarded character-driven stories – while the most recent experience of CC is the shoeing he got for TSTMNBN. It is simply not as clear-cut as you assert, pip – but also entirely moot)6 February 2016 at 17:41 #50857Mudlark @mudlark
This is the first time that I have watched 42 since it originally aired. Beforehand, the fact that I could recall very little about the episode and had never previously bothered to re-watch it seemed ominous, but in the event I was pleasantly surprised – which I suppose is the right order of things ; ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing’ and so forth 🙂
There is little subtlety at any level, but if you don’t examine or analyse it too closely, and ignore a few highly implausible elements, it is a pretty taut piece of story-telling, pacey and exciting enough to have kept me engrossed and on the edge of my seat, at any rate. It is also visually impressive and conveyed very vividly to me the heat and the grungy, sweaty interior of that inter-stellar equivalent of an ageing and run-down container ship.
If this is indicative of what is to come we will probably be well entertained, but I fear that we may not find so much meat for dissection and discussion on these boards. We’ll see, and perhaps C C will surprise us by taking the show forward rather than back to old ground.6 February 2016 at 19:09 #50858blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave
Well, it took me a while to get around to seeing it, and (I should confess) seeing it for the very first time, as I tended to let a lot of the RTD years pass me by. I really only came back to Who in earnest with SM and Matt Smith, after years in the wilderness (somewhere during Peter Davison’s tenure). True, I have subsequently picked up some of those years, but in a very selective way. Anyway…42:
A roller coaster of an episode, which was both exciting, but just a tiny bit one note. I actually enjoyed it a lot, particularly the personal interactions between Martha and the lonely guy in the life pod, and the captain and her doomed husband. And the pacing and tension was satisfyingly nail-biting. On the other hand, there was an awful lot of shouting…still.
Having seen “Broadchurch” (only the first series), bits of “Torchwood”, the two-part Silurian story (my personal favourite of Chibnall’s Who stories and one of my personal favourite Who stories), I suspect that the wise @danmartinuk is spot on when he suggested over on the Graun that Chibnall’s Who is likely to be a bit more gritty.
Of course I may revise that when we watch “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”…
Oh, and it was nice to see Vinette Robinson (the acerbic Sgt Donovan from “Sherlock”) playing the ship’s doctor.6 February 2016 at 22:21 #50859
(Whithouse has 5 seasons of Being Human (and a format sale to the US) under his belt and had to manage massive cast changes as people got big job offers, and has a Who portfolio of highly-regarded character-driven stories – while the most recent experience of CC is the shoeing he got for TSTMNBN. It is simply not as clear-cut as you assert, pip – but also entirely moot)
Let us imagine a TV executive who has to consider two possible writers for the post of Head Writer on a popular, long running, family-friendly drama series on BBC1.
Let us further imagine that there are two main contenders, Writer A and Writer B.
- Previously written for this series? Yes, both A and B.
- Got an ‘Excellent’ on the Audience Appreciation Index? Yes, both A and B.
- Previous showrunning experience? Yes, both A and B.
- Longest running series? Writer A: 4 years. Writer B: 5 years.
- Handled a major cast change? Yes, both A and B.
- Children’s television or ‘family-friendly’ showrunning experience? Writer A: Yes. Writer B: No.
- What channels has their work broadcast on? Writer A: BBC1, ITV1, BBC2, BBC3. Writer B: BBC2, Channel 4, BBC3.
- What is their biggest average audience? Writer A: 9.62 million, Writer B: 2 million.
- Did their shows win any awards?
Writer A – BAFTAs for Best Drama Series, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor. A second show won BAFTA Cymru for Best Drama Series, Best Actress, also other genre and BAFTA nominations.
Writer B: Writers Guild Awards (Best Drama Series, 3 times), other genre and BAFTA nominations.
You’ll notice that until point 5, Writer A and Writer B are neck-and-neck. But once you get onto point 6-9, Writer A starts pulling ahead. They have main channel, family-friendly, audience and award winning experience that Writer B simply doesn’t have.
Which is what the fans aren’t noticing, and that’s why they’re (and you’re) so surprised. They’re impressed by Writer B’s great genre writing, didn’t like Writer A’s last series, and they’re not noticing a few things.
They’re not noticing that:
- RTD, Moffat and Chibnall all have family friendly or children’s TV experience as showrunners.
- RTD, Moffat and Chibnall all have either BBC1 or ITV1 experience as showrunners.
- RTD, Moffat and Chibnall had all received BAFTA’s for their shows (Moffat and RTD for their children’s TV work).
And Toby Whithouse hasn’t done any of those things.6 February 2016 at 22:59 #50860blenkinsopthebrave @blenkinsopthebrave
Let us imagine
Could you do that as a diagram?6 February 2016 at 23:14 #508619 February 2016 at 05:14 #50930Missy @missy
For my part I enyed 42, but don’t consider it as good as Midnight.
Yes, i kow that Russell T. Davies wrote this, but it was as odd as 42.
Missy23 February 2016 at 12:57 #51072
Just wanted to add that I watched The Hungry Earth recently which I thought was tip-top and it’s been making me feel the guilts for giving Chibbers such a kicking on this one. Hoping we can get around to a forum viewing of it soon.24 February 2016 at 02:15 #5107525 October 2016 at 18:43 #54385SeverusOswald @severusoswald
I love this episode. I know lots of people dislike Martha as a companion but I really enjoyed her as a character, and I thought she was brilliant in<i> 42. </i>All of the characters are fun and have a great personality. It’s funny yet dramatic and thought-provoking. I like that it plays off the much used idea of the Doctor and his companion being on a remote base or ship and being attacked by an unknown monster, but it puts a new twist on it with the whole ‘sun being alive thing’, which is a really good idea.1 November 2016 at 05:23 #54494Missy @missy
I didn’t actually dislike her, she just didn’t ring true to me. that doesn’t mean that she couldn’t act.
Missy11 April 2019 at 20:50 #67563TARDISIsaac @isaacthestar
Decent episode actually but STOP THAT SNOGGING! I know it’s Tennant’s era but HOLY JESUS!
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