Dr Who and Monet

The new Doctor is, frankly, the bees' knees. I loved Christopher Eccleston's dangerously contained energy but Tennant's glittering, mercurial and manic air is just as engaging. Also he's probably the most emotional Doctor so far. But then a lot of that is down to the writing, which is superb. Just as I used to watch it from behind a cushion, I now watch it with my tongue practically hanging out at the quality of the scripts. The trouble is that so much else suffers by comparison. I think the fault with almost everything else (other than some soaps, see previous post) is a chronic lack of subtlety. Why does so much television drama assume that the audience - arguably the most sophisticated ever- needs to have everything flagged up and explained all the time?
The Impressionists, for example, just clunked along. Not even a bunch of high calibre actors could do anything with all those conversations that seemed to consist of people telling each other things they already knew, for the sake of the audience. Way back when I was starting out in Radio Drama it was considered to be the sin that knew no forgiveness, so why aren't all these hordes of script editors picking up on it? Or are they all so wet behind the ears that they don't notice it either?
I found myself hiding behind a cushion, just as I used to do with those old episodes of the Doctor, but for quite different reasons. The visuals were lovely, but I didn't for one instant believe that was the way these guys talked to each other. I don't believe they proclaimed how avant garde they all were. I don't believe they were so art-history-book sure of what they were doing at the time that they sat around name dropping and having profound discussions about their revolutionary new talent. It was like a third rate audio tour. I write scripts for audio tours myself, sometimes, and I know the pitfalls. And yet once again, you sensed that there was a proper drama in there, struggling to elbow its way out. Maybe the poor writer sensed that too, but was browbeaten by aforementioned hordes of script editors firm in their belief that the audience needed to be educated.
Last summer, I went down to Kirkcudbright and saw a magnificent Monet. It was part of a travelling exhibition from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow which was closed for renovation and is due to open this summer. I forget the name of the picture, but it was a simple stretch of Mediterranean coastline with a village and the sea. Perhaps it was the setting - a smallish room, not that well lit. Perhaps it was the fact that the picture seemed closer and more accessible than it would have in a bigger and more formal gallery. But it was a stunning experience, a glittering and mercurial performance too. It drew you inexorably from the other side of the room. People would stand in front of it till those coming after jostled them out of the way, and then veer back round to look at it again. We weren't simply viewing a picture. We were experiencing it and we would never be quite the same again.
Out in the little shop, we searched for a print of the image to take away, but although prints were on sale, we came away empty handed. The prints were nice enough but it was as if the light had gone out of them. Only the original would do and I expect they would have noticed if we had tried to take it with us. The TV version of the Impressionists is, I'm afraid, only a print of a much more enticing original.
Meanwhile, back with the inimitable Dr Who, the return of Sarah Jane and K-Nine were handled brilliantly as well. I can remember a time when I wanted to BE Sarah Jane. OK, so now I want to BE Joyce Barnaby but back then I was a bit more adventurous. Sarah Jane didn't look all that much different, and the whole episode had an emotional depths that brought a tear to my somewhat jaded eye.
PS I'm about to start work on a new play, called The Physic Garden, about a Glasgow gardener in the early 1800s. David Tennant, will you be in it please?

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