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Truculent Sheep
12th April 08, 02:40 PM
DOCTOR WHO SERIES 4
"The Fires of Pompeii"
12.04.08
18.20 BBC1

Well, it's safe to say this episode was the Dog's Bollocks.

But let us now dwell on just why. 'Fires of Pompeii' sees the Doctor and Donna arriving at what they think is Ancient Rome. (And indeed, it was filmed on the set of the BBC/HBO's Rome, but without any added Pullo-related goodness.) Actually, as per usual, the Doctor has buggered up his co-ordinates and has materialised in Pompei twenty-four hours before what's known in the time travel trade as 'Volcano Day'. But there's more afoot here - seers are beginning to predict a glorious new empire, strange marble devices are being constructed according to the whims of 'Gods', and something is stirring beneath Vesuvius...

The episode works for three reasons. First reason is that 'Fires...' manages to be both action-packed and character-driven at the same time. The action set pieces don't distract from the drama, nor is the episode too caught up on dialogue to get caught up on characters wittering on and shafting the pace in the process.

Secondly, the plot itself is well-crafted, managing to set up and express believable situations and characters in the midst of the fantastic, which is in and of itself fitted into the episode without being too absurd or unbelievable. The main philosophical question of the issue - whether the Doctor really can or should change history - is handled well, with high emotional stakes, a hard choice that puts viewers as well as characters on the spot, and a truly satisfying conclusion that settles once and for all whether the Doctor really is a saviour - or 'would make a good Dalek'. In the process, Donna convincingly earns her place onboard the Tardis and as a compelling character in her own right - the Doctor's conscience as well as his equal. And while the subtle grand narrative of this series is also maintained with enough subtlety as to not get in the way, it still casts a suitably menacing shadow over the proceedings.

And thirdly, the cast does a wonderful job, with Messrs Tenant and Tate delivering the goods once again, being both funny and sympathetic. The rest of the cast also deftly dodges 'I CLAVDIVS'-style clichés and melodrama en route to making a good impression despite the short period they have to establish themselves before Mt. Vesuvius becomes an hero and deep-fries everyone. Indeed the only complaint really is that the Roman family Donna and the Doc fall in with isn't given enough time to fully develop, but the actors involved give it their best shot and win the audience over.

Really, then, this should have been at least a two-parter, not least because, as some who have seen the previews will tell you, the tone is very much that of classic 70s Who, which liked to take its time with a story. Another moan is that the CGI is somewhat unconvincing and looks a bit cheap at worst. True, Doctor Who has a long and noble tradition of wonky special FX, but state-of-the-art TV computer graphics aren't really supposed to look dated the moment they appear on the screen.

But as the Doctor says, look to the future, and this is certainly an episode worth looking forward to, or watching again and again. A ready-made classic, in fact.

9/10

[Go HERE (http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/s4/episodes/?episode=s4_02&action=iplayer&pid=b009wzbf&title=The%20Fires%20Of%20Pompeii&summary=Psychic%20powers%20and%20stone%20beasts%20 run%20riot%20in%20old%20Pompeii,%20but%20can%20Don na%20dare%20the%20Doctor%20to%20change%20establish ed%20history?) to watch the episode online! But only until the BBC takes it off next Saturday.]

Olorin
12th April 08, 04:28 PM
:Diverts eyes from review:

Did this just air? Its not on Bittorrent yet. Also the video link to BBC does not work for me. I have noticed that some of their online content is only available to people living in Britain.

Truculent Sheep
12th April 08, 04:36 PM
Yes, the episode has just played tonight! I've kept spoilers to an absolute minimum, so no worries there either... Don't know if the Beeb will let you view the episode outside the UK, but given the utter Gaynity of that organisation, probably not.

Cullion
12th April 08, 04:55 PM
:Diverts eyes from review:

Did this just air? Its not on Bittorrent yet. Also the video link to BBC does not work for me. I have noticed that some of their online content is only available to people living in Britain.

I should fucking hope so. We're the ones who pay for it via a compulsory 'TV licence'.

Truculent Sheep
12th April 08, 06:15 PM
I think it should be more available: everyone will watch it on the torrents anyway, and it's good online PR for the UK - telly tax or no.

Olorin
13th April 08, 08:17 PM
Just watched it...really good episode.


I should fucking hope so...

You're a very angry man...
.

Yiktin Voxbane
16th April 08, 12:24 AM
Didn't like the new doctor @ 1st, but he has grown on me .

Olorin
16th April 08, 09:28 AM
Didn't like the new doctor @ 1st, but he has grown on me .

I was worried about his new companion. She annoyed the crap out of me on the Christmas special but has been pretty good in the first two episodes. Also have you seen any of the new Sarah Jane show?

Truculent Sheep
16th April 08, 10:33 AM
I have - it's a bit like the old Doctor Who in tone, but with a younger audience in mind. Quite good, but rather hard to believe it's in the same 'universe' as the shagging marathon that is Torchwood...

Olorin
16th April 08, 11:36 AM
Shagging marathon that is Torchwood...

AKrEnBmST00


I have - it's a bit like the old Doctor Who in tone, but with a younger audience in mind. Quite good, but rather hard to believe it's in the same 'universe' as the shagging marathon that is Torchwood...

Ya I liked it two it too. And you are right it "feels" like the old Doctor Who. Did you catch the subtle slap at Torchwood? Sarah Jane said something like "Their are government agencies that take car of this kind of stuff but they always go in guns blazing...I think their is a better way."
.

Truculent Sheep
16th April 08, 01:34 PM
Ya I liked it two it too. And you are right it "feels" like the old Doctor Who. Did you catch the subtle slap at Torchwood? Sarah Jane said something like "Their are government agencies that take car of this kind of stuff but they always go in guns blazing...I think their is a better way."

Definitely. The most 'adult' of the 'Who-verse' series is ironically the most infantile. As an aside, it's widely implied that Torchwood has a tendency to turn everything it touches into shit, at least until the good Captain took over.