Friday 8 October 2010

The Awakening

The Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough run into those weird people who do historical reenactments.

A lot of Doctor Who stories suffer from the problem of being far too long with loads of padding, but this story has the misfortune of being too rich and deep for just two episodes.

The Awakening could have been a really excellent story, one of the best of the Davison era. It has some great elements. The rural location in an English village and a decaying church is really effective. Its nice to enjoy some English countryside in spring. The Malus idea evokes a strong sense of horror in the style of Stephen King. The idea of ordinary, modern people participating in violent actions is even more horrific. Historical reenactment societies are a bit weird, so a horror story about them is a smart move. Will Chandler is a good character who fits well into the story.

The problem is that these elements are not allowed sufficent time to work. There is a real lack of explanation for too many things. Like the psychic projection met by Tegan. How has an entire village been convinced to take part in an horrendous act of brutality? Why does the Malus bring Will Chandler?

With the shortness of the story, the development of the characters suffers. We never really get a feel for what these people are like and why they do the things they do. Tegan's uncle is the least important part in the story, when really he ought to be central to it.

The image of the Malus emerging from a crack in the church wall is very inspired. The problem is that it is too static to be truly frightening. It is just one example of how this story comes so close to being good, yet fails.

On the plus side, Peter Davison puts in a superb performance. Season 21 was the point at which he really makes the Fifth Doctor his own and loses the weakness of his first season. On the other hand, Mark Strickson and Janet Fielding do not come across too well in this story.

One small point, why does Tegan not think of using one of her high heeled shoes as a weapon? It could help to make a quick getaway as well as any sharp object. There are probably other occasions in the show when she could have used her shoes to fight back. Maybe the BBC was worried that woud be too violent.

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