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“Boomtown” is a reward moment for faithful viewers, bringing back people we know in a character-driven script. It doesn’t have the emotional impact of “The Doctor Dances” or the big explosions of “WW3,” it just pits a lot of people who know each other and who have been through a lot together against a smart enemy they’ve fought before, and then fights that fight all over again, this time with trickery and finesse instead of blowing up 10 Downing Street. There’s a great deal of pleasure in watching characters we love do what they do beautifully, and the episode, sandwiched between two epic two-parters, is that small, quiet moment before the Big Finish, a chance for viewers to rest before going to war in “Bad Wolf.” There are more very very close shots of characters in this show than in any other in the series; the camera practically goes up their noses. It’s not one of the Great Who Episodes, but it’s a wonderful example of that (comparatively) still moment in any narrative before everything goes all pear-shaped.
Charlie Jane Ander’s take on the problems with Moffat’s Who on io9. Her observation that Moffat likes writing the cleverest guy in the room (see Sherlock)is dead on, I think, but there’s so much more, especially the problem with making your protagonist the center of the universe. The protagonist has to be the center of his or her universe, has to think the story is about her or him, but if everybody in that universe agrees, you’re undercutting the character’s vulnerability. If your hero can yell at alien warships to tell them who he is and then watch them flee in fear, how worried can we be? More than that, how much can we understand him? I don’t think a protagonist has to be like us–normal–in order for us to attach, but I think that vulnerability is absolutely key. And Moffat’s Who isn’t vulnerable, which is odd because I think the actor can play vulnerability beautifully and is trying to, the scripts are just kneecapping him.
I was going to skip “Boomtown,” another Russell T Davies episode (when did the man sleep?), but I think it’s interesting because it’s a comparatively low key story that comes between two huge, high impact double episodes, so it acts as a valley, a small quiet story that relies on character, particularly drawing on what viewers already know of all the characters. It’s a good look at how to pace a novel or, in this case, a series, without undercutting the tension. And for a Who, it’s very talky; the ratio of explosion and panic to discussion is reversed.
Fun fact I just discovered: Captain Jack was written with Barrowman in mind, which helps explain that perfect fusion of character and actor.
“I’m looking for a blonde in a Union Jack. A specific one, mind you, I didn’t just wake up this morning with a craving.”
Russell T. Davies brings us The Blitz, people turning into monsters, Rose stranded on Big Ben, and Captain Jack. Not to mention the creepiest repeated line in Who history: “Are you my mummy?” I talked about motif and metaphor in this story in the lecture I gave the McDaniel students, but there’s so much more. This double-episode makes just about every Best of Who list out there: creepy, heart-breaking, funny, and romantic. Plus, Captain Jack. I wish I could write like this.