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The God in the Machine

... there is one.

A very uneven episode otherwise, but it's not often that Deus Ex Machina is more than just a way of resolving a plot withing 45 minutes.

I am no fan of the Slitheen, but in "Boom Town", the one remaining member of the family was a bit more effective than the ones that we say in "Aliens of London"/"World War 3".
Also, I don't think they're quite as naff as they've been made out to be in the fan community. Doctor Who caters to the general public, not just the rabid fans, and if, as I read somewhere, kids in British schoolyards are playing Slitheen by pretending to zip their heads open, then that's mission accomplished as far as the producers are concerned.

One Slitheen, like one Dalek, is more interesting, though, than a whole pack of them, and "Margaret Blaine" got some good psychology in. Like the Dalek, she got to argue her side of the story, painting the Doctor as no better than her. Unlike the Dalek, she remained a deceptive manipulator right until the end. Then again, as the trailer for next week indicates, maybe that was also true for the Dalek. I do fear that next week's episode will turn out to be a bit rubbish. It looks like all the speculation about "Anne Droid" and the Reality TV stuff was true, which could make for a very naff 45 minutes, Daleks or no Daleks. Or maybe not.

But oh, for that God in the Machine. Don't worship it, you'd never get a day off.

Actually, the appearance of yet another Deus Ex Machina sums up Russel T. Davies' approach to writing. He's been described as being better at writing characterisation than plot, but he's also more interested in story than plot. The ending to "Boom Town" made for bad plot, but it makes for good story. What could be cooler than farglewarglehafnaglhunfoughnon? I don't know if it fits the existing mythology, but it's a great revelation.
It was the same with "Rose", the first episode. Let's use that as an example. The plot of "Rose" was very very thin, and a bit rubbish. The Doctor has got wind of an alien intrusion into Earth by the Nestene Consciousness, and with some help from a blonde who is a bit pretty, he tracks the intruder down, tries to negotiate with it, gets in a fight with its minions, and then the blonde destroys the intruder with the Anti-Plastic that the Doctor brought. There. I've spoiled the whole plot for you. The Story, on the other hand, is "How Rose met this weird, arrogant alien and joined him in the trip of a lifetime, escaping from the empty life that lay before her", and that's a hell of a story. The silly mechanics of the plot existed merely to drive the real story forward. It's the story that made me a fan. I loved "Rose" and still do, despite all its rather glaring faults.

I don't know if I'll have quite as much love for "Boom Town". I'm glad that Annette Badland got to turn in such a fine performance as Margaret Blaine. And I liked the fact that pretty-boy Jack was the only one who didn't get a date. Even if the dates turned out to be disastrous. Served him right, that smug git with the deltoids and the pecs and the pretty pretty hair.

But the Story/Plot argument simply doesn't work as well for "Boom Town". It's not quite clear just what the story is. If it's " The TARDIS farglewarglehafnaglhunfoughnon", then that's great but deserves more than just popping up out of nowhere in the past 15 minutes. If it's "The Doctor is confronted by an old enemy and made to face the evil in himself" then that's also great, but it requires that the Doctor and his companions actually get around to making moral decisions. As it it, the Plot doesn't help present the Story like it does in "Rose"


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