Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Here Be Monsters; on Television

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Here Be Monsters; on Television

Article excerpt

Byline: David Sexton



ENID BBC4, Tuesday OU can't beat a good monster.

YDoctor Who used to observe a policy of monsterconcealment until the very last minute, trusting to shadows and fleeting glimpses to stir dread. Not these days. In the Russell T Davies era, they're right in your face before you know it.

In Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars, we were monstered just a few minutes in. In the year 2059, the first human colonists on Mars were cheerily tending their garden, growing some vegetables for Christmas. Then one of them impetuously munched on a carrot he had just washed in Mars water, a carrot now unfortunately infected with an alien life form. While his companion chattered on witlessly, he judderingly transformed into a top nasty, turned round and gave us the works.

Woo! Whereas before he had been merely a rather rough horticultural type, now he was a right beast. His eyes had gone all white except for tiny black dots. All around his mouth the skin had expanded, cracked and blackened, like the worst case of eczema ever recorded. And from his open maw, he drooled gouts of water. What he had got was a little worse than swine flu. He had become a sodden zombie.

Contact with the tiniest droplet of the water turned others into water monsters too. Soon there were several lurching around, gushing away. Closing airtight doors against them didn't work -- they got in anyway, shorting the electricity, seeping through the ceiling. "Water is patient, water just waits, water always wins". As every householder knows.

In Doctor Who Confidential, over on BBC3 as soon as the BBC1 show ended, the programme-makers were congratulating themselves on what they had achieved. "I do think it's probably one of the scariest Doctor Who monsters yet," said Davies. Julie Gardner, the executive producer, acknowledged it to be "on the edge of what's acceptable". Sharon Duncan-Brewster, who played victim number two, put it more colourfully. When she first saw the monster, she was "absolutely -- am I allowed to say? -- bricking it".

These instant "the making of" documentaries are intended to regale the fans who are disappointed the show ever has to end. More often, what they actually accomplish is breaking the spell, particularly in relation to special effects. Seeing the little water tubes stuck to the monsters' cheeks and hidden under prosthetic flesh made their drooling less impressive. The montage sequence assembling the appearances of the main character, heroic base commander Lindsay Duncan, looked like one of those awful "greatest moments" tapes shown to contestants when they've just been booted out of Big Brother.

The twist in this Doctor Who special -- teeing up a Christmas two-parter that will be David Tennant's last outing as the gurning Time Lord -- was that the Doctor himself suddenly proved to be the bigger monster. …

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