21 February 2014

AFT: Ship Go Boom!



In a break from the far-reaching arcs and anniversary epics of 2013, Phil has wisely decided to begin 2014 with a one-part adventure featuring the Eleventh Doctor. It's not entirely standalone, however, picking up threads left dangling in 2012 adventure The Planet at the End of the Universe. The use of time travel is highly ingenious though, and not at all clever-clever in the way that the TV show often presents itself.

The major concern of this story is a Graske attempting to detonate a bomb. The Doctor, Rory, Amy and River are all trying to hunt it down and stop it from doing so. It appears the Griffoth scoundrel is once more in the service of the Trickster, although perhaps the great manipulator could have chosen a slightly more intelligent pawn? The Graske tells Amy and Rory that if it moves more than five metres from the bomb, it will explode. Surely though, that is the purpose of its mission? If it intends to teleport to avoid being killed by the resulting explosion, then why doesn't it just do that? Or if the Graske is suicidal, then the same applies.

However, just as it seals itself away from Amy and Rory, and it seems inevitable that the ship will be destroyed by this fiend, the plot left open two years ago is resolved. For those who don't know, Amy was zapped back in time by Weeping Angels (in a coincidental foreshadowing of her eventual fate on the TV show a few months later) from the end of the universe. This is the point she was transported to. She prevents the Graske from de-activating the bomb by landing on it, and the Doctor from her time (Series 31) promptly arrives to recover her. They take the bomb into the TARDIS with them and leave.

But, and here's the clever bit, the Doctor of this story (post-Series 32) then arrives in his TARDIS near Rory and Amy, clutching the bomb. At no time did it move more than five metres from the Graske. In terms of a linear timeline, one second, it was with the younger Doctor, the next it's with the older Doctor. It's pure genius, and had me completely won over. As you might be able to tell, I was mightily impressed by this plotting.

The sets for this, although basic owing to time constraints, still have a sense of identity and continuity. White walls are used for the 'posh' parts of the ship (which the Doctor and River stumble upon, nice cameos from the cast of Primeval and Julian Glover) and black for the service corridors. The doors are hexagonal in shape too. It may not sound much, but it's the little touches that complete the effect. You don't need big showy sets to tell a story, an idea Phil successfully reinforces here. 

Indeed, the crux of this story is Rory's concern over Amy's safety. This was of course the reason why the couple left the TARDIS at the end of The God Complex, and it's a trait right the way through Rory's time with the Doctor, beginning in The Vampires of Venice. By Series 33, though, Mr Williams seems to have calmed down a bit, and this comic fills in the gap nicely. It also ties well into the Planet plot, with him seemingly having recently found out what happened. He doesn't believe Amy when she tells him she was safe, and that the Doctor rescued her almost instantly - until he sees it happen in front of him.

In conclusion, then, this is a clever marriage of three plot lines into one distinct, standalone story. It manages to give satisfactory endings to all of them, and to itself - almost. The only function of River in this story, as far as I can tell, is to defuse the bomb at the end. You may or may not know, but I've never been very keen on Ms (Mrs?) Song - which is no fault of Phil's - so I was glad that she didn't say much. He's toned down the smarm a lot from her television encounters with the Doctor, for which I am very grateful. She sonics the bomb and it is disarmed, leading the Doctor to enquire about her Sonic Screwdriver, to which she replies with her aggravating "spoilers!" catchphrase. This could be a poignant moment (about the Doctor realising she is close to the end of her life), but staying true to River's character, Phil has her brush it aside. By having the Doctor or Rory defuse the bomb, could it not have extended both the drama and the comic (beyond its 31 frames)?

It's really nice to have something so straightforward and light after the weight and universe-shatteringness of Daleks v Cybermen, so Phil should be commended. I really enjoyed this, due to it managing to be both light and clever simultaneously. Great direction (though more basic panel structure than normal) is on display throughout too. I hope 2014 can keep up this level of enjoyment.





You can read Ship Go Boom here.

And just a quick note of thanks to all those who have commented on or 'liked' Phil's links to posts here on the AFT Facebook page. In no particular order, thanks especially to: Iain McClumpha, Justin James Thomas, The Springhell Saga (which Mr Lawrence is currently starring in, I understand), Robert Taylor, Marcus Draper, Ciaran Brewer, Alan Watson-Henry, Felix Ellis, Jean-Pierre Modeste and Adrian Reddish. Thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts on what I say, please do feel free to comment below!

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