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The Master's class in power politics

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2007-06-25 Times.jpg

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  • Publication: The Times
  • Date: 2007-06-25
  • Author: Hannah Betts
  • Page: Times2, p. 19
  • Language: English

Doctor Who

BBC One

★★★★☆

This weekend we heard a good deal about a power-crazed British prime minister who exploited his magnetic personal appeal with scant regard for democracy oh a course to world domination. The BBC's take came in the form of a crop-haired John Simm (aka Sam Tyler in Life on Mars), camping it up as the Doctor's old adversary, the Master, in Doctor Who. Meanwhile, Channel 4 took a disappointingly uncampy approach in the form of one T. Blair, who did not sport any sort of new haircut at all in The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair.

For this second instalment of the season's three-part finale, the Master had not only regenerated, but reinvented himself as a premier by the name of Harold Saxon, which surely should have set BNP alarm bells ringing. Popular yet sans policy, psychopathically dismissive of Cabinet politics, uxorious with a creepy spouse, Saxon clearly bore no relation to any PM in living memory. Anyone who, like me, had inadvertently lost track of matters Tardis will have found themselves astonished by the spectacle before them. The Doctor's.. re-creator, Russell T. Davies, has expressed his admiration for Joss Whedon, the genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the series gets Buffier by the moment: witty, literate, sophisticated, and revelling in postmodern panache. Blink, the episode preceding this trilogy, was awesomely terrifying in the manner of Whedon's Emmy Award-nominated silent episode of Buffy entitled Hush. Like Who of old, it undoubtedly scarred a generation of children, by which I obviously mean my 36-year-old self — three weeks on, and I still cannot pass a statue less than goggle-eyed.

There's another pleasing aspect to all this Buffiness: a certain — let us express it in Blair terminology — sexing up of proceedings. The Doctor of yore had a thing for earthlings, but it was very much a platonic thing, any dodginess sublimated into tearing the heads off jelly babies. Even for an alien he was borderline autistic. Sure, he got a tad moody when Adric bought it after stuffing his maths badge up the Cyberman empire, yet he proved impervious even to Peri's breasts.

These days, he spends his entire time getting it on, or inspiring such getting. Martha loves the Doctor, the Master loves the Doctor, the Doctor loves the Master, Captain Jack — who is both Arthur and Martha — loves everyone regardless of gender or, indeed, species. Jack is a gay icon one does not even have to take the trouble to fantasise about converting, the man/being is the very embodiment of intergalactic miscegenation. Recently, the Doctor even referred to having possessed a wife. (My money is on the first Romana, rather than the one that left him for Richard Dawkins.) I have no idea what will happen in next week's denouement — a seismic revelation is promised — and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Alas, the same cannot be said for the forthcoming week of Blair memorials, coalescing as a sort of Which Blair Project. Do we opt for nice, smiley, altered-the-centre-ground-of-politics Blair — or evil, axis-aggressing, body bag accruing Tone? Rory Bremner, Alison Jackson and pretty much everyone else will all be having a crack over the next few days.

If Saturday's Rise and Fall of Tony Blair was anything to go by, then it's all a bit too recent to prove in any way compelling viewing. Andrew Rawnsley may have been using a special, shouty, important voice against a backdrop of urgently pulsating Muzak, but the programme rather fell into the "No s***, Sherlock" school of too immediate postmortems. "Obstinate and ruthless despite the Bambi tag." Really? "Addicted to the testosterone of global high crisis." You don't say? I found myself drifting into a reverie about the aspects of the Blair persona that went uninvestigated: Roy Hudd having acted as his speechwriter; his unexpected sweariness; the fact that he and Cherie bonded over a game of pass the balloon.

The talking heads may have been well chosen, the camera angles irritatingly modish, however, beyond the customary frisson generated by shots of Mandy with a 'tache, interest was thin on the ground. Tonight's second and final instalment looks like being slightly more engrossing — well, kind of —but one feels that this sort of thing will become must-see material only in a decade's time. Even then, many of us will continue to favour Simm.


Spike set for Torchwood

Talking of the axis of evil genius that is Davies and Whedon, the Buffy and Angel protagonist James Marsters (aka cult, Billy Idol-esque vampire Spike) looks set for an appearance in the Captain Jack spin-off Torchwood. Marsters's website divulges that he is to begin filming in Cardiff next month. Davies has already employed the talents of Anthony Head, aka Giles the librarian. How long before the slayer herself makes an ass-kicking star turn? Possibly as an assistant should speculation about Freema Agyeman being about to jump ship have any substance behind it.

Lumley revisits the Doctor

Meanwhile, Joanna Lumley has been re-affirming her desire to play the great Gallifreian. Not content with the claim to sci-fi fame that was Sapphire and Steele, Lumley is eager to revisit her portrayal of a female Doctor in a 1999 Comic Relief wheeze. Surely this is precisely the sort of racy, iconoclastic notion that should have Davies rising most tumescently to the occasion?


Caption: Scant regard for democracy: John Simm as the Master in Doctor Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Betts, Hannah (2007-06-25). The Master's class in power politics. The Times p. Times2, p. 19.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Betts, Hannah. "The Master's class in power politics." The Times [add city] 2007-06-25, Times2, p. 19. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Betts, Hannah. "The Master's class in power politics." The Times, edition, sec., 2007-06-25
  • Turabian: Betts, Hannah. "The Master's class in power politics." The Times, 2007-06-25, section, Times2, p. 19 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=The Master's class in power politics | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Master%27s_class_in_power_politics | work=The Times | pages=Times2, p. 19 | date=2007-06-25 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=The Master's class in power politics | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/The_Master%27s_class_in_power_politics | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024}}</ref>