This was a bit of an odd one. It had its good points and its bad points. I’ll start with the good. This episode was really well directed. The cinematography was exceptional, and made for some very creepy moments. The faceless people were quite horrible (in a good way), and the clenching and unclenching of the hands was a good, freaky touch. The plot was interesting, and the 1950s setting, I think—when everyone was more private and when an Englishman’s home really was his castle—worked well with the story. This was particularly so in relation to the family sub-plot, where the romantic conservative idyll of 1950s family values was compellingly challenged. The Wire was a chilling villain, and making it take the form of a 1950s maternal BBC newsreader, uttering eerily incongruous things like “Feed me!” and “Hungry! Hungry!” was quite disturbing.
However, there was also a lot about this episode I found questionable. For one, the resolution to this horror seemed overly simplistic, and, honestly, almost an anticlimax. The Doctor just seemed to employ his vast genius to effortlessly cobble together a thingummy which he used to pip the Wire. Aspects of this episode displayed hints of genius, but here it seemed like Mark Gatiss was just going through the motions, as though he couldn’t summon up the effort to employ his great creative capacities to produce a more satisfying story resolution. Secondly, the Wire, although a decent and, at times, chilling villain, was also somewhat confusing. It was never made quite clear what its motives were, nor what exactly it was. Was it really just looking to “feed” on the population of London? Is that all Gatiss could come up with? Again, going through the motions. I’m also not sure I’m comfortable with the political point that was being made here with the family sub-plot. Sure, challenging erroneous rose-tinted perceptions of a 1950s domestic idyll is one thing (no period in time was perfect and one should be cautious about looking back on any period too favourably), but separation? I hate seeing families dissolve and couples separate. The episode was strident in making the point that Eddie deserved to be ejected from his family. To be sure, he was a highly disagreeable person, but he was no villain. He wasn’t an abusive husband or father (at least that we saw)—is it really right that his not irredeemable personal failings justifies the dissolution of a marriage and the breaking up of a family?
Finally, something that bugged me about this episode was David Tennant’s acting. He’s doing the manic overacting thing again. “There is no power on this Earth that can stop me!” was particularly bad. I cringed. Matt Smith was so much better at doing fury. To be fair, that was a bad line, but Tennant could at least have delivered it better. Before now I was equivocal about which I preferred of Eccleston and Tennant, but I’m pretty sure now that I like Eccleston better. Eccleston was a better actor and a more engaging incarnation. That’s not to diminish Tennant as such—Tennant can be absolutely luminous when he’s on form—it’s just that he’s a lot more inconsistent than Eccleston and, at least until we get to The Waters of Mars, his character lacks the depth that Nine had. That said, however, I’m going to wait until I’ve viewed and reviewed the rest of Ten’s era before I officially pass judgment on him. I seem to remember he gets better.
I spent a lot of time critiquing various aspects of this episode, but, all in all, it’s not a bad episode—it just fails itself in a number of respects. It’s enjoyable enough, but not particularly memorable and, of Gatiss’s two efforts so far that I’ve viewed in this marathon, it’s easily the worse.