Friday, April 04, 2008

Doctor Who: Predicting Series Four

The fourth series of Doctor Who starts tomorrow night in the U.K., and like Mark Goodacre I'm not keen on waiting patiently. I'm more apprehensive about certain aspects than he is, but then I'm harder to please. Readers may recall my review of the first three series, to which I will eventually add the fourth.

For now, a little speculative fun. Planet Gallifrey lists Radio Times plot synopses of the upcoming stories, and I'm actually going to try predicting my ratings in advance, based on this pitifully limited information and the scriptwriters. This is wild speculation, of course, so take with a pound of salt. Here goes.

Season Four Predictions

Partners in Crime. No higher than 2 stars. It seems to be a story like Rose and Smith and Jones from seasons one and three, introducing a new TARDIS companion with light adventure. Like the other two, it's written by Russell Davies, so we can't expect much from it. And the Adipose look a bit silly, if truth be told. Let's hope that Donna Noble becomes more likable than she was in The Runaway Bride, or we're going to have a bad, bad season ahead of us.

The Fires of Pompeii. I'll wager 4 stars. Coming from new scriptwriter James Moran, it's set in Pompeii 79 CE, where apparently the Doctor and Donna stumble across stone creatures who have psychic powers. Doctor Who is at its best with historical pieces like this, so I'm highly optimistic about this one.

Planet of the Ood. 3-4 stars. The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit is my second favorite story from the first three seasons, and I knew we'd see the Ood again. But I hope this is more than a lame attempt to relive the past (often a recipe for mediocrity). We'll learn how and why the Ood became a slave race, and it takes place on an alien planet -- a delightfully rare sight in the new series. It's by a new scriptwriter (Keith Temple), and so very hard to judge in advance, but sounds promising.

The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky. Ooh, ouch, um... 2 stars. Here's one to be nervous about. I'm excited as everyone else about the return of the classic Sontarans, but not Martha. She just left, for crying out loud! Far more alarming is the scriptwriter: Helen Raynor, who gave us the appalling Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks -- one of the worst stories in the entire three seasons. Raynor could well ruin the Sontarans for us as she did the Daleks. Let's hope she's improved. For benefit of the doubt, I'll guess 2 stars instead of 1.

The Doctor's Daughter. 3-5 stars. The other story penned by Stephen Greenhorn, The Lazarus Experiment, was completely average, though Tennant's performance in this one is supposed to be "spellbinding" in the extreme, and the title alone is pregnant with powerful possibilities (sorry). The Doctor alluded to a daughter back in Fear Her, so maybe we're finally going to get the story and find out where grand-daughter Susan came from in the Hartnell days.

The Unicorn and the Wasp. Yes! 4 stars. I adored Gareth Roberts' Shakespeare Code, and I've been looking forward to this period piece involving Agatha Christie. Murder mysteries work incredibly well in Doctor Who (Robots of Death a classic example), though how a unicorn and wasp factor into this one is still a mystery to me. Roberts is also good with humor, using a lot of it without waxing corny.

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. Guaranteed 5 stars. Steven Moffat is incapable of writing anything other than the toppest-notch stories (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink). Just the title of this one send shivers up my spine -- especially since I work in a library -- and I'm sure it will be as harrowing and horrific as any Moffat story.

Midnight. 1-3 stars. The Doctor visits a leisure planet called Midnight, and while Donna is sunbathing off-stage he runs afoul something on a shuttle bus that leaves him powerless. It seems to be a filler episode (like Boom Town and Fear Her) before things rev up for the season finale. Who knows, this one could impress more than past fillers: I'm a sucker for dialogue-dramas in a claustrophobic environment.

Turn Left. 1-3 stars. The Doctor-lite story of the season: "Donna's life, family and world are devastated and not even the Doctor can save her, but a girl once thought lost forever in a parallel universe can help." Meaning we'll see the return of Rose Tyler. The thought of such a melodramatically contrived story makes my blood congeal. I loved Rose but think it's too early to go back there. Maybe this Doctor-lite story will suprise me and pull through with enough ingenuity, but if it amounts to Donna and Rose consoling each other with Christ-figure legends, I'm going to have the mother of all conniptions.

The Stolen Earth/Journey's End. 4 stars. Davros lives! Pretty much everyone knows that Davros will be played by Julian Bleach, and I hope he does the villain justice. It's a Russell Davies script, so red flag, though to be fair Davies managed to do a good job with the Dalek-finales in seasons one and two. I really want to see Davros again; I want to see the Daleks at their worst. And this season had better go out with a high body count. No last-minute miracles like in Last of the Time Lords, or Russell Davies is going to be #1 on my extermination list.

So again, take my predictions with a pound of salt. Things could well turn out oppositely. Bring on the Time Lord!

UPDATE: Keep up with Goodacre and Rosson at Doctor Who.


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