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I ain't squeein' (spoilers for Army of Ghosts)

"Army of Ghosts" was, on the whole, pretty good. I liked the fact that it wasn't rushed, and I loved the fact that David Tennant finally got it right again. For the first time in weeks I felt that these 45 minutes were well-spent, that the script mostly worked and that there were no major clangers dropped anywhere in the story. I didn't even mind the Ghost Busters moment too much.

Nevertheless, there were still some problems. The biggest one is that there were Cybermen in it. I like the Cybus Cybermen better than some other variants, but they are still big clunky metal things that plod around the place in artificial formations. And it did look awful when they turned up in artificial formations in front of publicity stills of the Taj Mahal and the bleedin' Eiffel Tower. And the one moment when I was nearly taken out of the story occurred when one showed up in some random family's hallway, scaring the mommy, daddy and two kids for no good reason at all. It could have worked with other creatures, but with a Cyberman? No way. The reinvention of the Cybermen, the clean break with their established continuity, was a great idea and necessary to give them any chance at all at not sucking. In this episode, it became clear that the break wasn't clean enough; several scenes of them marching in formation resembled their earlier, crap, appearances in stories like "Earthshock" (Note: I think "Earthshock" is a great story; I just wish it had been done without the metallic clowns in it). What a waste of an opportunity to bring out those old Leni Riefenstahl storyboards and make them march in a way that's actually menacing.
That would have fit the fascism theme running throughout the episode. It would, in fact, have been a lot less ham-handed than what we got in the portrayal of the Torchwood director. Yvonne Hartman, who basically looked like Ann Coulter, only female, prettier, and not quite as fascistic, because even Russell T. Davies knows where to stop, talked about the British Empire and National Greatness and, oh, independence from Middle Eastern oil. Can you see the problem here? If you're going to write a character like that, why not make her seductive? No one in their right mind wants to bring back the British Empire, but a lot of us in our right minds can get behind the idea of energy independence, so that is the kind of argument a real person would use in conversation, even if what she really wanted is Empire. In a good morality play, the villain has to have the potential to hook the audience, to evoke their sympathy, to make them think about what she's saying and what their own responses to that would be. This "Ooh, I'm a megalomaniac, watch me rant" schtick is just tiresome.
Luckily the actress playing Hartman, Tracy-Ann Oberman, played her well enough to compensate for the faults in her writing, imbuing her with a bit of warmth and a sense of mischief that made her a good sparring partner for the Doctor.
Director Graeme Harper gave the story a steady, unhurried pace and a cinematographic feel. I'm at a bit of a disadvantage writing about this, because I see the episodes 12 hours after the Brits do, but those who wrote it looked like a movie were right. And Rose worked, and Jackie worked even better, and the finally Doctorish Doctor was a delight to watch.
So it was good, in places even great. But there's still a lot that needs fixing in Series 3. So excuse me for not squeeing just yet. Let's just hope that with the arrival of the Daleks on the scene, things will get a bit more exciting.


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