Monday, 20 January 2014

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Underworld

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Star Trekkin', cross the universe.
Doctor Who - Season 15, Story Five - Underworld
Written between 18th and 19th July 2013

Doctor Who presents us with another solid tip for future writers - never borrow from Greek Legends. Nobody thinks it's particularly clever to borrow from some of the oldest stories of modern civilisation, and the parallels rarely translate well to modern situations. Between Underworld and its spiritual successor The Horns of Nimon's love of Theseus and the Minotaur, Greek myth is pretty much blacklisted as an influence until someone can do it properly.
     In the ideas department, Underworld doesn't start off bad - The Doctor and Leela meet the Minyans, a race of aliens whom The Time Lords tried to help out millions of years ago, leading to endless war and the anihilation of their planet. A survey mission of these tired immortals ends up on a planetoid run by another sect of Minyans whose ancient religion has led them into an oligarchical rule, forcing The Doctor to help the original mission escape and be on their way to their final desination, a new planet for them to settle on.
     The trouble with writing a story about a society of immortals is that Immortals are boring. Even the Time Lords stop at 13 lives and tend to get old quite often, just to make things more relatable. The civilisation on the planetoid, with its dictatorships and strangely dressed guards, is a poor show on last week's and managed to lose my interest entirely. What kills the story, though, is the sets - or lack of. The sets that we do see are universally bland and uninspiring, and the rest of the story in the planetoid features wobbly model work and HUGE amounts of unnecessary CSO. They obviously couldn't afford to location shoot, and the result means tons of static, unconvincing shots of people running around a greenscreen. I was more convinced by Time-Flight.
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"Once I caught a gumblejack this big."
     I'm not really at a point where I can fully rip this story a new one, as by about the second episode things got so bad that I barely registered the rest. Underworld is a story that tries to use CSO to cover up its lack of budgetary concerns - it tries to pull of the impossible. If your budget is this low, then someone please for the love of god write a Bottle Episode where there're only a few characters on one or two sets. Don't try to attempt an epic story where the direction is going to drawn out and terrible, the setting is going to yank you out of the story like a newborn being pulled from the safety of its mother's womb and where I can't remember what's happened in the past ten minutes because I probably fell asleep.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: The Invasion of Time, which is at least better than this story.

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