Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Paradox: Episode 1

For some reason, pretty much all of the reviews of the first episode of
Paradox, BBC's new "Flashforward-like" sci-fi crime series, think the show
is a bit... rubbish. Actually, that's not quite true - many think it's utter
tripe. They must have been watching a different programme to me or
something. Paradoxically, I loved it.

Paradox involves Dr Christian King (Emun Elliot), one of the Britain's top
scientists, who is in regular contact with various governments advising them
of the potential damaging affects (such as the "pretty lights" - an aurora -
seen over the north of England) of some very unusual solar activity. He's
apparently brilliant, but obviously alone with no family or friends. After
being stuck in a room on his own for years working on some secretive
Prometheus Project (or whatever it's called) for the MoD, his people skills
are, naturally, a little lacking. He's an annoying nerd. Nothing new there

When he receives strange images from nowhere, he quickly realises that they
depict some disaster that's about to happen in 18 hours time. Of course,
this is one of those stretches of logic used to ensure that the rest of the
programme actually happens. He could have just dismissed them. Perhaps he
has before and, after finding out that the event depicted in them actually
happened, he now knows that these second set of images might actually be

Whatever, he contacts the police to get them to investigate. Being a
high-ranking government scientist, of course he gets a bit more attention
than the average person. This guy advises NASA about radiation dosages. So
they send DI Rebecca Flint (Tamzin Outhwaite) and a couple of plain clothes
officers who work for her to see him.

Dr King, perhaps realising that if he simply said to these police officers
that he's got images from the future, decides to play things differently.
Helped by his somewhat disturbing manner, he makes them think that he's gone
a bit mad (which isn't far from the truth). The police begin to think that,
after the pressures of his position, Dr King might be planning some sort of
disaster. Not only that, it appears the madman is toying with them with some
strange photoshopped images of his planned terrorist activity to see if the
police can match his demented genius.

Still, they're not entirely sure. Working on top secret projects, he been
vetted every year and doesn't appear to have any criminal tendencies. So,
they do what detectives do best and investigate.

Unfortunately, all they have are those unspectacular images - one of a
takeaway coffee cup, one of part of a sign, one of a mobile phone with a
number and name, etc. Considering the distinct lack of information they
have, they do manage to work out what's going to happen and all within 10
hours, which isn't bad. I'm sure we'd all wish the police could be so
efficient with regular investigations!

However, it's not until near the end that DI Flint and her colleagues accept
that these are actually images from the future - and that the future is
destined to happen. By then, it's a bit too late. They haven't got time to
block the road (and anyway, who else in the police force would believe them
with a rushed explanation of having seen the future) and the train has
already stopped on the fateful bridge. Cue a mad dash to the scene of the
future crime accompanied by an ominous, red digital countdown and a stirring

The ending was something of a shock, to me at least. (Spoiler time!) Yes,
I'd worked out what was supposed to happen at about the halfway mark (even
guessing that a wrong turn due to a dodgy satnav would be involved) but I
expected that the disaster would be averted in the end. Also, at the very
end, we see another batch of images somehow being downloaded to Dr King's
computer setting up next week's episode - and the potential death of one of
the main characters.

Now that the crew know these images are legit, next week they can get stuck
into the investigation straight away. Maybe next week, they'll actually
succeed in changing the future!

My main problem with this episode was in the depiction of Dr King. The
scientist seemed a bit too nutty. And what did he do all day stuck in that
room looking at pretty pictures of the sun? For one of the brightest
physicists in the country, he just seemed to sit there looking moody and
annoying the police.

Still, like many episodes of Doctor Who, I found this to be quite exciting.
Yes, at times it looked a bit cheap. Yes, it seemed like a cross between
Spooks and Casualty. Yes, there were some plot holes. But I could ignore
these faults and generally enjoyed it. Heck, it's a lot better than Merlin!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars

"The Doctor. Doctor. Fun" ;)

Although, surprisingly, I wouldn't describe the latest one-off Doctor Who
special "The Waters of Mars" as 'fun'. Yes, it was exciting, entertaining
and yet another great episode. I would also say that it was much better than
the last special "Planet of the Dead". But it was also dark and disturbing.
In fact, it reminded me a little of the last 5-part Torchwood series. Well,
it had a different story, a different cast, a different setting, and...
okay, so the only similarity was the somewhat downbeat ending.

The watery enemy, the Flood, were interesting but I found them not as scary
as I thought they'd be - perhaps I'd been spoiled by the many trailers I'd
seen. Mind you, the main "base-under-siege" storyline was really just a
backdrop to explore the Doctor's evolving character. He's the last of the
Time Lords, the Time Lord Victorious, the only one in charge of the time
continuum-thingy, which leads him to the realisation that he can change the
rules. He can stop running, take control and save everyone. But should he?

This cracking, intriguing episode was, like many of RTD's stories, peppered
with holes. How did a simple filter stop the Flood (at least for a few
weeks) when several inches of steel slow them only for a few minutes? Will
the suicide of Adelaide Brooke in her own home really have the same impact
to her grand-daughter? Where did those rocket boosters come from at the back
of Gadget? Why does Bowie Base One have such long, empty corridors that
appear to have no function when the material to build them would require
significantly more fuel than a few fold-away bikes? And so on. But, in the
end, these problems are minor complaints.

Overall, this was great stuff, with nice little touches and a fitting lead
in to the next chilling two-part special at Christmas. Only five weeks to