MONDO EXTRAS

The Queen Lived

by Jacob Clifton August 1, 2008
Doctor Who Season 4

There's a theme throughout the stories I'm telling you, having to do with cleverness. What it does and what it doesn't do. Rattigan, he thought his cleverness exempted him from morality. Evangelista, she went from not very clever to awfully clever indeed. But let me ask you, who would you rather spend time with? No matter how smart they made her, they didn't change the essential quality of her. Her goodness, her desire to help. Midshipman Frame can tell you: All they do in Hufflepuff is make things with glitter and safety scissors.

That's not a consolation prize. The Hufflepuffs among us are the greatest among us, because they're not trying to be special. They're not trying to be clever. They know that cleverness isn't what's important. They know they're special and don't need to be told, over and over and over, like some of us. Some clever boots among us, we spend our whole lives trying to be told how special we are. They just know. Donna, you should be more like them too. And stop thinking it's a bad thing. Everybody wants to be smarter because they think it will make them more special. It won't.

Because speaking of the pitfalls of cleverness, both within and outwith the story: "Midnight," I do not like, so I will not tell you the story. There are moments, I suppose, but really it's just one moment repeated ad infinitum by a very talented actress, followed by amateur sociology hour and a heavy-handed yet strangely light-on-depth seminar on group dynamics. Yes, the fear of what's unseen is the fear that controls us, and yes, people act like dickholes when they get in groups, and yes, lesbians are scary when they get dumped. Yes, old people suck and are hateful, and young people are awesome but easily manipulated. I agree with these things because they are self-evident. But I don't need forty-five minutes of that when I can just look outside. I think I would have been more excited by it if I were A) claustrophobic, B) afraid of crowds or public speaking, or C) capable of being scared by things on TV. I like how it took apart every crutch the Doctor has, his arrogance and reliance on his cleverness and blarney skills -- but did not so much enjoy being told that was exactly what was happening, over and over.

I get that it's a tonal piece, and the dialogue stuff really adds to the atmosphere. But I'm not able to go there. Maybe it's from doing this job. Show me Lesley Sharp repeating dialogue for a half hour and I will marvel at her technical efficiency and I will be amazed as always by the amazing angles of her face, but I won't get scared. So I don't have a lot to say about it. It's like "Blink" last year (or "Dalek," or the Cybermen two-parter): I get why it's awesome, I just don't have the thing that gives me entry and makes me freak out about it. Or maybe I just missed you. God knows if you'd told me what "Fires Of Pompeii" or "Partners In Crime" were about, I would have laughed in your face. You made those live. (Sadly, not even you could save the final act of "Planet Of The Ood," which had me rolling regardless.) This one just left me feeling like I was at a workshop for actors and playwrights, which I hate. Too many ideas, not enough art.

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