Saturday 18 May 2024

Boom - A Review

Boom is the first story of the new RTD era to be written by someone else - and it's by Steven Moffat. He is, of course, his original replacement as showrunner and the writer from his earlier tenure who scored the biggest hits as far as awards and many fan polls went. 
(This isn't a one-off, by the way. We've just heard this week that he's actually written the 2024 Christmas Special - a big thing, as showrunners have always kept the series opener, finale and festive specials for themselves).
Moffat was inspired by a sequence which appears in the opening episode of Genesis of the Daleks. Newly arrived in the middle of a battlefield on Skaro, the Doctor treads on a landmine. He's rescued by Harry Sullivan, and the whole scene lasts only a couple of minutes. Edited versions of the story have omitted this sequence altogether, as it doesn't contribute to the overall plotline. It's just scene setting, providing a bit of threat early on in the episode. 
Moffat takes this concept and runs with it for a whole episode.

Like the 1975 Dalek story, the TARDIS arrives on a bleak alien world which is in the middle of a long-running war. The combatants include our old friends the Clerics, from the Matt Smith era. 
The Doctor rushes off to help someone - and promptly steps on a fancy landmine.
The person whom the Doctor was going to help has already been killed by that over-used threat, the well-meaning medical apparatus. "Killing with Kindness" was already old-hat back in Moffat's day. He used it twice in a single series.
The dead man is named Vater, as in the German for father, and much is made of parenthood throughout.

Other Moffat tropes include a grotesque manner of death, and mention of the weapons manufactory of Villengard. (But wasn't it already established that this was destroyed by the Ninth Doctor - and we saw it in ruins in Twice Upon A Time).
The companion is killed - only to be brought back to life. 
Fish fingers and custard get a call. Just surprised we never heard anything about timey-wimey.
Moffat often likes to include fairly annoying children - despite no-one else enjoying this. This one is particularly annoying. And there was absolutely no reason for her to be there. Bringing a child into the middle of a war makes no sense whatsoever.
The love affair between the two Clerics is particularly saccharine as well. Episodes these days simply do not allow us enough time to invest emotionally in such roughly sketched characters.
The Doctor's suggested solution to the problem is lifted from Mummy on the Orient Express - end a conflict by surrendering.
Also from the Capaldi era we get mention of "the moon and the President's wife...".
It's a Moffat compilation album - but not necessarily his greatest hits.

Moffat takes a pop at capitalism, artificial intelligence and organised religion. 
The Clerics are too hidebound by dogma to think and act for themselves. They are also so incredibly stupid that they haven't realised that they don't actually have any enemy here. They're fighting their own weaponry, which kills them as well in order to prolong the conflict and ensure that they have to buy more weapons.
It's delivered in rather broad strokes. Another problem with the 45 minute format is the need to message very loudly. There can be little time for subtlety either.
Which is all a bit of a shame as it's actually a strong story - superior in my mind to the the new RTD stories.
Certainly nice to see Gatwa having something decent to get his teeth into. I've argued since Christmas that we will only get to judge him as a Doctor once we saw him deal with heavier material.

We got our first look at Varada Sethu, who will be joining the series next year as companion. I haven't read any reviews or interviews of the episode at time of writing, so don't know if her presence has been explained. Is it another case like Freema Agyeman's, where a guest artist impresses and is quickly snapped up to play a regular, or is this another "Soufflé Girl" situation? The fact that she plays someone called Mundy when the current companion is Sunday...*
Susan Twist's appearance this week was as the robotic Ambulance interface, and we had a repeat of the snow falling when something significant happens to Ruby.

So - big improvement over what has gone before this year. I would have rated it higher had it dispensed with the schmaltz. Just ditching the kid would have helped. 
I strongly suspect that certain sections of fandom, who haven't been impressed with Series 14 so far, are wishing that it was Moffat who had come back, rather than RTD.

*It has since been announced that she will be playing a new character, and was cast as such a year after making Boom.

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