Season 29 Episode 3 – Gridlock, by Russell T. Davies

May 11, 2008

review by Martin Odoni.

I’ve decided I’m not going to review Gridlock fully. This is because it seemed kind of amusing while I was watching it, but I daren’t think too hard about it, ‘cos otherwise I just know I’m going to start hating it.

What I can say is, it seemed terribly padded, especially the scene with the Doc jumping from car to car, the guest characters were all far too thick and one-dimensional to be credible (it really didn’t occur to any of them just to get out and walk?!?), the resolution – opening the roof – was again far too quick and simple, and the revelation at the end would’ve been more exciting if they hadn’t already let slip ages ago who the returning villain at the end of the season is going to be. Also, the episode simply wasn’t anything like as funny as it thought it was.

The fundamental problem for me highlights another major deficiency of the writer in this genre. Essentially RTD always wants to satirise something modern in a future or alien context, which is fine in itself, but that satire frequently winds up being more important to him than the actual plot, and so becomes the only aspect of the story that gets properly developed. Now I accept that a parody of traffic congestion is a neat idea, and for sure it would’ve been splendid as a one- or two-scene joke. The problem is that RTD clearly didn’t have any other real ideas on hand for the story, so the joke became enormously over-stretched to make it fill up an entire episode. Hence why I say the episode feels padded and ends up a lot less funny than it imagines itself to be; the big returns for the Macra and the Face Of Boe effectively feel like they’ve been pasted in to use up more time, and no joke that lasts forty-five minutes will still be funny by the halfway mark.

Having said that, from a certain point of view the return of the Macra was quite good, in that it’s nice of the production team to bring back a less famous monster. It helped that they didn’t shout about it in the press beforehand as well, so it came as a surprise for a change. But at the same time it seemed pretty hollow in the long run, as the Macra didn’t do anything except try to snap at things.

Oh and can someone please tell the writers to get rid of those ‘enemy-revealed’ moments where the Doctor cries out the name of the monster with a scowl on his face? He’s beginning to look and sound like a character from an 80’s adventure cartoon.

Um, 6/10 but only because I haven’t really tried to think about it. **

** Having thought about it subsequently, I can’t rate it any higher than 4/10, and should probably award it less. I must reiterate that it really is just a two-scene gag spread out over forty-five minutes, and therefore largely makes for tedious television.

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