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Saturday, 21 November 2009

The TV Week Mon 23rd - Friday 27th November 2009

9.00pm School of Saatchi BBC2 - Series exploring the strange and controversial world of contemporary art through a nationwide search by Charles Saatchi. He will select one artist to join his next major exhibition and offer them their own studio for three years.
9.0opm I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here ITV1 - Continues all week
9.00pm Mouth to Mouth BBC3 - Comedy drama series which deals with six young adults as they enter their twenties.
9.00pm Gracie! BBC4 - Drama documenting the life of Singer and comedienne from Rochdale, Gracie Fields. Starring Jane Horrocks, Tom Hollander and Tony Haygarth.
8.00pm The Old People's Home Show Channel 4 - Architect George Clarke takes on his most ambitious project yet, to bring a retirement home long overdue for refurbishment into the modern age. As part of Channel 4's Coming of Age season.
9.00pm Paradox BBC1 - Five-part crime drama centering around . Dr Christian King, a world-renowned astrophysicist who claims to have received a series of images from space. The images show fragments of an event, an explosion in which many are killed. DI Rebecca Flint and her team investigate Dr King and the images, and begin to contemplate the impossible. Starring Tamzin Outhwaite & Mark Bonar.
9.00pm Relocation, Relocation: Its Never Too Late Channel 4 - Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer take on two of their trickiest customers yet. Margot and Henry Harris have been married for almost 50 years. The couple are both in their late seventies and are on the hunt for a new home in Berkshire and a holiday home on the Dorset coast.
10.35 Help! I caught it Abroad ITV1 - Documentary set at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Central London.
11.05pm Cast Off's Channel 4 - Darkly comic drama series written by Jack Thorne telling the story of six disabled characters sent to a remote British island for a fictional reality TV show.
8.00pm 10 Years Younger Channel 4 - Myleene Klass and the 10 Years Younger team faces one of their biggest challenges to date transforming the appearance of 64-year-old Marie and 72-year-old Betty. One will be transformed with the surgeon's knife and the other will go down the non-surgical route. As part of the Coming of Age season.
8.00pm The True Story Five - Historical documentary exploring the real-life events that inspired the Tom Clancy novel and film, 'The Hunt for Red October'. In 1975.
9.00pm Gavin & Stacey BBC1 - The award winning sitcom returns for a third and final series. Gavin starts his new job in Cardiff and Stacey is thrilled to be at home again. Smithy comes to terms with life in Essex without his best mate, while Nessa is adjusting to life in Dave's caravan down in Sully. The weekend brings with it a big reunion, as everyone meets up for the christening of Baby Neil. Starring Matthew Horne, Jonanna Page, James Corden, Ruth Jones.
9.oopm Cutting Edge: Jess: Britain's Youngest Sleep Walker. Channel 4 - Three and a half year old Jess has a condition that has baffled every doctor she has seen so far. For the last two and a half years she has been living a double life: during the day she is a bright and happy girl but at night she is "different". Jess is monitored at home and then observed at the clinic to firstly ascertain if she is sleepwalking or awake.
9.30pm QI BBC1 - Stephen Fry and Alan Davies return to their seats for a sixth series of the quiz show featuring the letter G.
9.30pm Megan Let Me Grow Up BBC3 - Megan is home schooled by her strict Jehovah's witness mum and dad and leads a life structured around rules and routines. She is ready for a change and her parents realise their first-born needs to be 'socialised', but where and how they do they do this, considering that Megan is terrified of talking to people of her own age and worries about what they might think of her.
8.00pm Embarrasing Old Bodies Channel 4
9.00pm We Are Family BBC2 - Documentary focusing on an unusual family over the course of an extraordinary weekend. The film follows the Minchew family members' progress as they come together to strengthen family ties and uncover a shared past shrouded in secrecy. With three different fathers between them.
10.05pm Comedy Showcase: The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margret Channel 4 - US Comedian David Cross lays Todd Margaret, a hapless office drone who flukes his way into a top management job heading up the British division of a US multinational. All he has to do is sell a dozen container loads of dodgy Korean energy drinks before his psychotic boss, Will Arnett, visits in a week's time.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

Stitched together from a bountiful reservoir of science-fiction allusions, the Waters of Mars triumphed because the most indelible, profound theme was of the Doctor’s dilemma of the clash between his compassion and morality, which was urging him to save the otherwise doomed crew of Bowie Base 1, and the anachronistic edicts of his Time Lord heritage that insisted he abandon them to the whims of fate.

For much of the episode, the Doctor fulfilled the role of an impotent observer, dropping crumbs of detail to the austere Adelaide (Lindsay Duncan) and her crew as they were slowly picked off one by one by the alien entity present in the waters of the red planet. He almost acted as an assessor, appraising their conduct under mortal duress such as when he commended Adelaide for not shooting one of her infected crew. It was only as he strode away from the base back to the Tardis, and heard them being consumed by the entity one by one over the intercom, that his own alien infection, an affinity for the human race usurped his Time Lord ethos.

But all was not well. Tennant superbly conveyed the Doctor’s discomfort at his sacrilege through a grandiose insurrection of his native philosophy; booming grandiosely about how as he was the last of the Time Lords he was able to manipulate time to his own ends as if seeking to deafen his guilt.

He enjoyed the power too much, and upon transporting the three survivors back to London – to Adelaide’s front door no less, just to show off – he tartly demanded gratitude. Acting virtually as his conscience, Adelaide upbraided the Doctor for his actions in bending reality to suit his caprices. Dismissing her protests as the aggravated prattling of an inferior race, he strode back to the Tardis, his lingering humanity as extinct as his own race, until he heard Adelaide’s immolation to straighten the crooked lines of the time stream.

And it was her death that cleverly pricked the Doctor’s conceit, that it was his actions that were responsible for her death and the only sort of atonement he could achieve his through his own death – but even this will be nothing more than a regeneration, and that might not be enough to salve the wound – but as he fell to his knees on witnessing the apparition of Ood Sigma, Tennant’s eyes spoke of the desire that he would ‘die’ at then as the pain, common to his newly liberated humanity, is too much to bear.

The focus of Russell T Davies’ script on the Doctor’s erratic morality excused the simplistic monsters and derivative narrative – they fulfilled their purpose to the letter; they were scary for children and brought with them a dogged menace.

The use of water, a simple everyday object, is more common to Stephen Moffat’s episodes – shadows, statues, clocks – but was used in the Waters of Mars just as effectively. As the infected crew members bled water through the thick concrete base to ambush the fleeing crew below, the normally innocuous sight of a waterfall seeping through the ceiling, trapping a crew member on one side of the room, had the same lethal, visual impact as a relentless buzzsaw.

The idea of an alien entity infecting an isolated colony is, of course, hardly original. John Carpenter’s The Thing, itself a remake, is the most obvious touchstone for this scenario, and the entity’s simplistic psychology of a yearning to invade Earth because of its aquatic abundance was another facile device. But because of the Doctor’s internal conflict, facile was all that was required, or indeed, there was room for.

Even the Doctor’s actions were derivative of previous incarnations of the renegade Time Lord. However, these could be passed off as ingrained traits rather than cynically mining the past for ideas. John Pertwee’s Doctor died as a consequence of the same unchecked hubris exhibited by the contemporary personification, while Patrick Troughton’s Doctor was forced into a regeneration by his superiors for the same kind of interference. Meanwhile, the ghostly figure of Ood Sigma is redolent of the Watcher who presaged Tom Baker’s metamorphosis into Peter Davison.

Such was the vivacity, depth and humanity of Tennant’s portrayal of a conflicted alien that it’s a pity that he’s leaving. But on the other hand, such a detachment from the usually noble and selfless Doctor is only possible during his incorrigible decline, as though he is in a state of decay that can only be remedied by a new face.

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