Friday 24 May 2024

Doctor Who: Boom

After a divisive season one double bill, Boom sees the return of writer and former series showrunner Steven Moffat to Doctor Who. He has also written the upcoming holiday special, Joy to the World. Moffat's tenure as showrunner remains my favourite since 2005. He gave us the Weeping Angels and Soufflé Girl (Jenna Coleman). Sorry, not sorry.

Boom marks the sci-fi series' first use of ILM's StageCraft (originally developed for the Star Wars live-action spin-off series The Mandalorian on Disney+).

Nick Smith, our US-based veteran Whovian, finds himself in a minefield without help from former TARDIS companion Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter). If you know, you know.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Fourth Doctor Tom Baker once stated that it was a pity so many of his stories had to end with an explosion. There had to be better ways to resolve a conflict than with wholesale destruction. From a dramatic storytelling point of view, big bangs are understandable; they are loud and spectacular and offer some closure amidst the debris. But the drama doesn’t just come from the booms. It comes from the lead-up as well – the inexorably ticking countdown, the sweat on the brow of the damned, the inevitability of death on a battlefield.

Writer and former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat takes a short, tense scene from a Tom Baker story – Genesis of the Daleks – and develops it to create a dangerous new environment inhabited by likeable characters, placing them in a seemingly fatal situation.

One of those characters is the Fifteenth Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa), who steps on a landmine.

This isn’t his first wrong-footed rodeo; see Genesis for tips on avoiding getting blown up. But this time around, the mine is smart and deadly automaton ambulances roam the cratered landscape, looking for patients to kill with kindness.

At first blush, this is a stripped-down story focusing on two people, the Doctor and his companion Ruby Sunday (Millie Gibson). Moffat’s simple premise has a vivid, believable backstory that reflects our own war-torn world and our struggles with faith. Like the majority of top-flight sci-fi, it examines social concerns in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling bombarded.

The audience is so used to virtual backgrounds by now that the artifice of StageCraft’s digitally painted sky is forgivable. Ultimately, it’s Ruby’s reaction to this strange new world that sells it, just like the First Doctor’s (William Hartnell) companions helped to convince us that they were on prehistoric earth during their initial adventure.

It would be in keeping with Doctor Who’s spirit of innovation to show us more unusual planets, applying the same imagination to the set design that we see in the writing. Terrain could be upside down or sideways, and not in constant proportion to the humanoid characters.

The casting is generally excellent, with Gatwa, Gibson and Joe Anderson as wounded warrior priest John Francis Vater. The only miscast actress is Caoilinn Springall, who plays John’s daughter Splice Alison Vater. The part is obviously written for a younger actress; as played by Caoilinn, Splice is as dumb as a bag of hammers, with no concept of holograms, landmines or the skirmish going on around her, despite being raised in a warzone.

This is a minor flaw in a taut and exciting episode of Doctor Who that shows that not all pyrotechnics have to be literal. Boom is packed with emotional and narrative surprises that are more explosive than a mindless bang. In the minefield of contemporary dramas that feel the need to spell everything out to the audience, this layered tale is a step in the right direction for the new Doctor.

New episodes of Doctor Who stream every Friday on Disney+ outside the UK and Ireland and every Saturday on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. Season one is available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you watched Boom? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Nick Smith's new audiobook, Undead on Arrival, is available from Amazon (affiliate link).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam. Stay on topic and do not embed links. Keep it family-friendly.

Thank you.