The Ticking Of The Clock

DW3 42 c

24 meets Alien meets Red Dwarf meets….

It seemed to me that Torchwoood’s head honcho and first time Doctor Who writer, Chris Chibnall’s introduction to the bigger stage of the Whoniverse was a somewhat derivative storyline. Any genre fan worth his salt (never understood that phrase… answers on a postcard) would be able to spot at least a dozen similarities between this story and many other movies and programmes of a similar ilk. However, if you flip between either using the phrase “rip-off” or the phrase “homage” you can view “42” from two completely different perspectives.

Let’s start at the top. This episode had a great cast: Cindy Beale (now almost better known as Michelle Collins) was captain of a spaceship on a collision course with the sun, the always watchable Anthony Flanagan played her sidekick, Orin and William Ash played an all action Riley who was also a little love interest for the yearning Martha.  Speaking of whom, Freema Agyeman put in another solid performance as her character became a fully fledged, key carrying member of the TARDIS crew.  You could almost see the tenth Doctor closing the chapter of his life titled “Rose” as David Tennant continues to make the role his own.

Story-wise, there was more in the silly science stakes as a living, conscious sun took its revenge on the crew for using “fusion scoops” to scrape away a part of its being.  Once you can get your synapses around that, you can find a nifty little tale hiding underneath.  Martha and Riley race to unlock a series of seals while the Doctor tries to solve the mystery.  The complex comings and goings as the crew were bumped off, possessed and generally run ragged were handled well by veteran director Graeme Harper and the viewers could keep track of it all with ease.  Underpinning everything was the countdown clock that worked okay as a device but never quite delivered as enough of a threat.  I half expected to see split screen views a la your average Jack Bauer adventure.

Visually it struck me as a follow on to the Impossible Planet/Satan Pit double header from Series Two, that same frontier feel with dirt and machinery and oil and industry as mankind explores the galaxy and leaves its mark.  We also had another companion phoning home in a crisis (you could almost hear the traditionalist fans frinding their teeth) but this time it served purpose over and above an emotional anchor for the Doctor’s human travelling buddies.  We got to see that Martha’s mum, Francine, was well and truly up to her neck in it with Saxon’s henchmen (henchpeople?) who were doing their best to track the Doctor’s activities for their undoubtedly nefarious reasons.  I’m looking forward to the payoff on this one.

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