Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Warrior's Gate

Bircon ain't got the noive.
Doctor Who - Season 18, Story Five - Warrior's Gate
Written 30/8/12

This is the last of my "new" stories from the JNT Era, and that's made me rather poignant about the past few years. Now, my journey through JNT is over; no more being amazed at characters written on a whim, no more wondering exactly why the story was filmed in Amsterdam, and certainly no more trying to defend myself from other fans' opinions (although a lot of that will still go on.) Despite this, I wasn't really prepared for the final few shocks that Warrior's Gate had in store in its mix of high-concept sci-fi, incredible boredom and absolute what-the-fuckery.
     While trying to find a way out of E-Space, the TARDIS is dragged through a Time-Rift by a mysterious Lion-headed-man named Biroc. On the other side, they find themselves in a white void where there's nothing but null co-ordinates, an ornate gateway with a mirror in it, and a large space-ship featuring a crew led by toughie Rorvik. Through some investigation, they discover that the lion-headed-people are called the Tharils, and their time-sensitivity allows them to plot co-ordinates in the Gateway Realm. It turns out that they used to rule this realm, using humans as servants, until a violent uprising left the Tharils as their slaves instead. While the Tharils are at least guilty for their actions in the past, Biroc and his crew treat them as Cargo and are prepared to destroy the Gateway Realm to cross into the Tharil's world. Luckily, the Doctor helps Biroc to free all of the Tharils and get them itno their dimension before Rorvik destroys the place. The Doctor and Adric head off back into N-Space while Romana and K9 choose to stay behind in E-Space, helping Biroc to free more of his kind.
     The visual aethetic of the story, while appropriate for the script, makes it incredibly bland and lifeless. The ship is a mix of military grey and ocean grey, while the crewmen's orange jumpsuits made me feel like I was watching Red Dwarf VIII. The beginning of the story, like that of its predecessor, is very hard to get through and there are similar periods of immense tedium throughout. Less, I may add, than last week, due mainly to Steven Gallagher's brilliantly conceptual script that uses grey-vs-grey morality to make every action the Time Lords take dangerous. The problem comes when the Tharils end up looking slightly better for it; their human servants are just knocked about a bit, wheras the Tharils under human slavery are tortured, sold and treated as bonuses rather than people.
Romana bows out. Without much ado.
     The story takes a while to pick up, and when it does it makes little sense. The best thing in it besides the concepts present is villain Rorvik, whose "I just want to do my job" attitude is much more ruthless than JNT's other executions of that character. He's clearly mad, but you can see the seeds of what drove him to it - his workaholic attitude, the many attempts to escape the Gateway Realm, a cynical crew. Rorvick's collapse into madness, culminating in the crazed cry of, "Finally I can get something done!" makes him a psychiatrist's wet dream. Not that it was particularly pleasant to watch, that is. Madness or no madness, Rorvick's sheer dickery made him a character easy to despise.
     Warrior's Gate made me rather regret taking on Seven's era before I went back to this season. Had I done it the other way around, then my final JNT story would be the wonderful Survival, whose themes would suit my ending better. It also did not suit me to be bored! The problem with Season 18 is that while the higher concepts and themes on show did make the show a lot more adult than the previous season, the show never really executed these ideas with the required dexterity. Warrior's Gate is no exeption. The sequences required to show us the dichotomy between the slavery of Humanity and of the Tharils seemed forced in there, as if the script was limiting itself. For the most part, Warrior's Gate was interesting to me on a few levels. But on very few was it entertaining.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: We turn back the clock one year to see what caused all this...

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