As many of you may already know I am hardly a fan of Matt Smith; I could (and have on numerous occasions) go on for pages and pages about his unsuitability for the role of The Doctor and how he damaged the brand – but enough of that, been there done that over many years and many posts. The reason I bring Mr Smith up is one particular episode that was almost good, “The Lodger”; it didn’t really have a lot going for it Matt Smith and James Corden together, I ask you!! However, it was a bit of a gem, a fish out of water story, and the highlight (Apart from River Song) of a rather lacklustre Season 5.
The reason I brought “The Lodger” up is this months Fourth Doctor story “Suburban Hell”. On the surface they seem very similar, The Fourth Doctor and Leela trapped in a suburban 1970’s dinner party, Doctor Who meets Abigail’s Party – and for the first half of Part One this is just what we get – social situations. Belinda (for it is her party) moaning about not having any mayonnaise or her husband not making an effort – it’s less dinner party, more social lions den for our unsuspecting guests – Leela trying a Gin and Tonic is hilarious! For 15 minutes or so this story is fab; I could have listened to an hour of social awkwardness, of middle class aspirational middle England being invaded by the force of nature and anarchy that is Tom Baker, I really could. Unfortunately “Suburban Hell” had different ideas…
The cast are uniformly excellent, Katy Wix is wonderful as the hostess come monster (in a very human sense), Belinda, Annette Badland excels as Thelma (from over the road), and as always Tom is on form and Louise is effortlessly wonderful, completely alien, intelligent but not educated and complete instinct. Some of the best parts of the story are formed from Leela making social faux-pas, as I said earlier, if only the whole story was a satire on middle class England in the 1970’s – but it isn’t, it also has a plot regarding an alien invasion that has been in the planning for 40 years – yes dear reader, you guessed it – Time Travel is involved.
Unfortunately it’s Time Travel in a Moffat way, used as a cheat, as a magic wand, as a device to change the future. Now some may enjoy this, but I am more of the Hartnell camp – “you cannot rewrite History, not one line” alternate timelines are really not my thing and ruin what was shaping up (for 15 minutes) to be a bit of a gem. So the alien invasion plot has The Doctor trapped 40 years in the past with Thelma (from over the road) whilst Leela, Belinda and her friend Penny defend the house in a base under siege style story. Leela is really in her element here, taking over as the alpha female, thinking intelligently, rationally and defensively – she has honour and bravery to spare and actually inspires Belinda & Penny to help her (though Belinda seems more concerned about her fixtures and fittings being destroyed). Unfortunately, the plot seems a bit tired and very Nu-Who, or to be specific Moffat Who, and to use the oft used but cringe inducing phrase it has a “timey-wimey” resolution.
A great set up, a great premise which in this reviewer’s opinion could have been a great story, but the unnecessary aliens & time travel plot cheapened the story for me. So more of an own brand Mayo than a Helmans I am afraid 5/10.
Written by Ed Watkinson
Somewhere in a suburb of North London, there’s a crisis. More than a crisis, a positive disaster: Belinda and Ralph are expecting four for supper, and there’s no Marie Rose sauce for the Prawns Marie Rose. All in all, the evening couldn’t possibly get any worse…
Until the doorbell rings, bringing the Doctor and Leela to the dinner party. They’ve got a crisis, too – temporal ruckage has sent the TARDIS to another time zone entirely. Meaning they might have to endure a whole evening in Belinda’s company.
But the Doctor and Leela aren’t the only uninvited guests tonight. There’s a strange fog falling, out in the road. And in that fog: savage blue-skinned monsters, with dinner party plans of their own. Because it’s not Prawns Marie Rose on their menu – it’s people!
Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela), Annette Badland (Thelma), Katy Wix (Belinda), Alix Dunmore (Penny/Acolyte), Raymond Coulthard (Ralph/Second Acolyte), David Ricardo-Pearce (Pete/Priest).
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs