Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chat Two: Spare Parts

John: And we’re back, from the back half of ‘Spare Parts’, and I have to say...I’m not sure whether listening to the second disc in isolation revealed that it’s not nearly as good as the first, or whether on some level I knew that and that was why it took us so long to get around to listening to Parts Three and Four. What do you think?

Dee: It was a revelation for me, but I’m cutting it lots of slack. For one thing, it’s still really good. For another, “not nearly as good as the first” is a fair statement, but the bar was set really high in the first place. The big problem I have is that the vocal processing to make the voice of the Committee was just too overdone, and so parts of the episode were nearly indecipherable. As a whole, the characterization was sound and consistent and the plot worked.

John: Well, the plot worked except for the fact that really, the ending is delayed until after the Doctor and Nyssa leave so we can get a hollow, fake uplifting ending with the surviving Hartleys. That was my big problem with Part Four; it’s a lot of time spent on various schemes to defeat the Committee/Cyber-Planner, none of which feel like they should work because the story is a tragedy and up until now, it’s known it. The tone has been “bleak but poetic” the whole time, and then it tries to pretend that everything’s going to turn out fine when we all know it won’t. Or maybe it really is that the schemes don’t feel like they should work because they’re kind of silly. “Quick, let’s get the cyber-gestalt drunk!”

Dee: That’s not how I heard it, on reflection. There had to be a reason for the Doctor to leave. The reason was that he thought he’d changed history a little. I agree it’s thin, but I can understand why they did that. And it’s even harsher, in a way, because the hope they thought they had comes crashing down and it’s even more of a tragedy. I can understand you disagreeing, though. It’s up in the air whether they succeeded in what they aimed for there.

John: I do get that part of it, too; like you say, there has to be a reason for the Doctor to leave, and the only options at this point are either “The Doctor thinks he’s limited the damage” or “Every single person on Mondas has been killed or converted and if he stays, he or Nyssa will be next.” And that’s a pretty freaking bleak story, and I can get why they weren’t willing to go that far. It’s just that to me, what they replaced that bleak part with feels more like, “We’re postponing the really depressing stuff until after the Doctor’s gone,” and less like, “The Doctor’s achieved something.” I think they should have really gone with one or the other. That said, even when this story is at its worst, it’s still got a lot going for it. Davison loves his dialogue. He’s always a professional, he gives every story a good effort--heck, he gave ‘Time-Flight’ a good effort!--but you can tell when he gets a speech he absolutely relishes, and he got several here.

Dee: Oh yeah. Even the little things: “Hmm. Genuine anise-seed.” Hee. And you can imagine how it looks when he’s losing his cool. In fact, except for the Committee, I really liked the production. The sound work is good, and the scripting is fantastic for an audio drama. I forgive the missteps.

John: Which means, to come back to the question I asked at the beginning, that it probably is the former for me--with only Part Four fresh in my mind, the absolutely glorious Parts One through Three don’t make up for the slightly weak Part Four nearly as much as they usually do. And totally apropos of nothing I just said, by the way, but totally in line with what you just said, I love the fact that they had the nerve to use the original Sixties sing-song voices for the Cybermen. They’re a little bit silly in the way that the booming, macho Eighties voices weren’t, but they have a lovely tonal quality, and the Cybermen here aren’t trying to be scary. They’re trying to survive. In their own way, they’re tragic figures just like the humans, maybe even moreso.

Dee: And they work so well in an audio drama, where you can’t see the jerky movements.  And the actress who played DoctorMan Allen did such a wonderful job portraying world-weary,cynical exasperation.

John: The scene where she’s waiting in line, having collapsed into utter fatalism, is so great that it totally makes me forgive her previous random changes of heart over the Committee. Actually, I’d forgive the random changes of heart even without that, because Sally Knyvette puts such total passion into them. She sells that character. Everyone sells their part, sells the world, and sells the story so well that it’s easy to overlook the flaws and appreciate the virtues.

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