What struck me about the first half is that Jonathan Pryce's Master actually gets a lot more to do than Rowan Atkinson's Doctor or Julia Sawalha's Emma. Perhaps the Master's role is more flexible, in a way; we know what to expect of the Doctor and the companion, and in 21 minutes we don't need a lot of explanation of their roles. Pryce has to combine pantomime villain and homicidal seeker of vengeance, and do this with huge sinister whoops of laughter, and manages it well.
Atkinson and Sawalha do not look like themselves at all. Both have completely different hairstyles to their usual screen personas, so for the viewer who knows them there is a shock of both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Sawalha's considerable talents are barely called on, other than as a foil to Atkinson, whose Doctor is closest to the fourth Blackadder in personality (dressed a bit like McGann's Doctor, who was still the most recent version). But the production succeeded in making this a show about Doctor Who which happens to have Rowan Atkinson in it, rather than a Rowan Atkinson sketch about Doctor Who.
I wonder if doing the entire thing with just two sets was a strategic choice in partial homage to the production constraints of yesteryear? There is a very definite homage in the first regeneration scene, where Rowan Atkinson's gurning is a direct reference to McCoy in The Movie, while the music from Logopolis plays in the background. One continuity element which is dumped even at this early stage of the Moffat era is the thirteen regenerations rule - the Master says "This is only his ninth body. He has many, many more" which sounds like more than four, and the death of the Hugh Grant incarnation is due to the power of Zectronic energy rather than because it is the last regeneration - which it wouldn't be anyway, as if Atkinson is Nine, Hugh Grant is Twelve and Lumley Thirteen.
There are also elements here which we did not see in Old Who but will see more of in New Who, for good or ill: the Doctor in a romantic relationship with his female companion; the Doctor getting married; the shiny glowy regeneration effect; characters going through long waiting times off screen to end up where we last saw them; fart jokes. But at the time this was made there was every reason to think that it would be the last televised Who story ever, and it's difficult not to see Emma's lament as a farewell to the 1963-96 show:
Doctor, listen to me. You can't die, you're too... You're too nice. Too brave, too kind and far, far too silly. You're like Father Christmas! The Wizard of Oz! Scooby Doo! And I love you very much. And we all need you and you simply cannot die! ... He was never cruel and never cowardly, and it'll never be safe to be scared again.
I would have posted this yesterday but my phone seems to be on its last legs. Anyway, onwards with the webcasts of Death Comes To Time, Real Time, Shada and Scream of the Shalka before I start on the Ecclestone era.
< The Curse of Fatal Death | The Webcasts | Rose - Dalek | The Long Game - The Parting of the Ways | Comic Relief 2006 - The Girl In The Fireplace | Rise of the Cybermen - Doomsday | Everything Changes - They Keep Killing Suzie | Random Shoes - End of Days | Smith and Jones - 42 | Human Nature / The Family of Blood - Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords & The Infinite Quest | Revenge of the Slitheen - The Lost Boy & Time Crash | Voyage of the Damned - Adam | Reset - Exit Wounds