Friday, April 13, 2007

Honourable Mentions – Doctor Who: Smith and Jones (2007)


This was the first episode of season three of the new Doctor Who, with David Tennant as the eponymous Doctor and was directed by Charles Palmer. The episode features a vampire named as a “plasmavore”, however I did not feel it warranted a full review.

Freema Agyeman as MarthaThe episode was mostly a bringing together of the Doctor and his new assistant for the series, student Doctor Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman). Martha has gone to work, though as she entered she was approached by a strange man who made a point of removing his tie (we know him to be the Doctor) and has noticed motorbike helmeted figures.

Roy Marsden as Mr StokerShe goes on her rounds with the consultant Mr Stoker (Roy Marsden) – a referential too far in my book, unfortunately the new Doctor Who series(and the spin-off Torchwood series) do tend to be overly referential and, oft times, derivative of other sci-fi and horror for their own good. In the grand scheme of things this one wasn’t too bad, but even so.

The first patient they see is Florence Flannigan (Anne Reid), a dear little old lady who has a salt deficiency. The next patient we see them with is a Mr Smith – the Doctor, who is checking the hospital out – thus the title of Smith and Jones. Through the episode we have seen little examples of static shock, such as when the Doctor’s chart is picked up. Martha checks the Doctors heartbeat and is somewhat confused – well he does have two hearts.

localised weatherMartha is on the phone to her sister, who is nearby. It is raining at the hospital but dry where she is. The camera pulls to show us just how localised the weather is. Suddenly it is raining upwards and then there is thunder and lightning as the hospital shakes. At first they think it is suddenly night but then they realise they are on the moon.

the JudoonThe hospital has been hijacked by the Judoon, an intergalactic police force for hire who look suspiciously like rhinos. These are methodical, brutish creatures – because, of course, if you look like a rhino you couldn’t be thoughtful and erudite. They are looking for a plasmavore, an alien vampire who has killed an alien princess but, it seems, any alien will do. This, of course, puts the Doctor in jeopardy.

hospital on the moonIt is down to the Doctor to find the plasmavore, who will happily resort to mass destruction to escape, evade the plasmavore’s helmeted slaves and the Judoon and do it all before the hospital runs out of oxygen (held in by a force field but, given the location, not replenishing). The Judoon are very good at summary judgement and execution and there is a point made that they will sentence the entire hospital for harbouring a fugitive – a comment neatly forgotten at the end of the show.

It is no leap to work out that Flannigan is the plasmavore, the salt deficiency is because she absorbs it too quickly and replenishes it by drinking blood. So, why the honourable mention rather than review? To be honest we don’t get much in the way of vampiric lore. We have an alien vampire, who needs salt (derivative of Star Trek) and gets it via blood, she can also ‘internally shapeshift’, i.e. take on the inner DNA of the last victim to evade detection.

vampirism by strawThere is no biting, despite the phrase “bite of the plasmavore” being used. The plasmavore drains through a straw (derivative of Killer Klowns from Outer Space and also seen in The Witches Hammer). This might have been cleverly funny except it’s been done before and, deep down, we know that a bite might have upset the TV censors, the programme being a kids’ favourite and going out early at night.

David Tennant as the DoctorThe trouble is, this isn’t overtly vampiric as an episode; the villain might as well have been anything. The vampirism is so throw away it truly belongs in the disposable age. As an episode, this was a nice set up for the new series, as a vampire episode it was mere fluff – you are better off with the (longer) stories of State of Decay or The Curse of Fenric. This is a shame as the way the new Doctor Who episodes have handled zombies and (even more so) werewolves was quite impressive. That said there is a further episode due called ‘Family of Blood’, whether that will continue the plasmavore lore or not remains to be seen.

Never-the-less, “Smith and Jones” is worth an honourable mention.

The imdb page is here.

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