Doctor Who – The Awakening Review (or ‘Awakening Is The Opposite Of What Happens With You Watch This’)

Following on from two big reviews – reviews that occupied opposite ends of the complimentary scale – we come to a story that provides some level of relief for me as a writer.

Why is that?

Well it’s the Awakening, and there’s just not much to say.

Doctor Who – The Awakening Review: What’s This One About?

A monster is living in a wall and making Dennis Lill a very angry man.

Thoughts – A Nothing Story That Relies Upon Expositi0n

This is the third two-part story in the Peter Davison era and certainly the least remarkable of them.

While I thought Black Orchid was pretty decent and felt that while the King’s Demons wasn’t up to much, it certainly had topics worth discussion, The Awakening just comes across as two episodes of nothingness.

Well, nothingness and horrific exposition.

What’s wrong with the Awakening is that for any of it to make sense, it relies upon some serious info dumping, and I suppose that’s down to the threat being something that cannot speak or explain itself. So the Doctor – upon finding a piece of metal

"Hello, my name's Andrew Verney. I'm incidental to the plot and I only have an Australian accent for this one scene"

“Hello, my name’s Andrew Verney. I’m incidental to the plot and I only have an Australian accent for this one scene”

– has to come away with a long-winded explanation of what it’s called (Tinclavic) where it comes from (it’s “…mined by the Terileptils on the planet Raaga for the almost exclusive use of the people of Hakol”), where that planet is (“…a planet in the star system Rifta”) and what that planet is known for (one where “…psychic energy is a force to be harnessed.”)

All that information in one sentence just because he found a piece of metal.

And it’s a problem throughout the story. What happens during the two episodes doesn’t really matter to how the story concludes.

For all it’s worth, it could have been wrapped up in five minutes flat.

I just found watching The Awakening to be both a bore and a chore. You would think that a two episode story would allow for a brisk pace and a tightly put together and enjoyable adventure. Sadly not.

And it’s not like there’s anything hugely wrong with it beyond the exposition; it’s just that it’s so…meh.

Tegan’s Unfortunate Family

So this is the third time a member of Tegan’s family has unwittingly stumbled across an alien presence. Either there’s some kind of cosmic interference going on, or they are just very unlucky.

Or maybe it’s just unimaginative writing and script editing. Yes, that’s most likely what it is.

But what I noticed about Tegan’s Grandfather – Andrew Verney – is that he is completely redundant to the plot.

The story could have worked without the character, let alone the link to Tegan. Surely the TARDIS could have just landed in Little Hodcombe and – on going for a walk – the crew find a bunch of locals acting ridiculously aggressive?

Whey-hey!

Whey-hey!

That would have worked just as well without the tenuous link to Tegan’s family.

As a side point, Verney only appears to be Australian in his very first scene. Beyond that he speaks with an English accent.

Accents

Speaking of accents, the ones in The Awakening annoy me. On the one hand you’ve got actors like Dennis Lill, Polly James and Glyn Houston adding a smattering of West Country (is that right? I’m not sure) over their BBC English accents, and then on the other you’ve got the insufferable Keith Jayne as Will Chandler laying it on far too thick with his one, presumably because he’s from the past.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

Again, it’s a story that lasts merely a day, but it appears as though the Doctor is being pressurised into staying in the village for a week.

He needs the rest.

Random Observations

  • Other than Keith Jayne, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the acting, even if Dennis Lill does ham it up a bit. Indeed, there’s nothing massively wrong with anything here.
  • The Malus looks impressive, but comes across more like something you’d pass as part of a theme park ride than as a Doctor Who monster.
  • That door Turlough breaks down falls to pieces a bit easily does it not?
  • The scene where the guy gets beheaded – even though we don’t see it – is fairly gruesome by Doctor Who standards
  • Similarly, the idea that it’s ok to bash someone in the back of the neck with a large rock is a bit much is it not? “Well done Turlough” says the Doctor upon seeing two men knocked unconscious and potentially paralysed.
  • The only memorable part of the whole story for me  is the cliffhanger, mainly because of the way Polly James shouts “Doctooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooor” in such a melodramatic ‘end of the episode’ style. He’s standing right
    What's Nigel Planer doing in this? And why does he look so old?

    What’s Nigel Planer doing in this? And why does he look so old?

    beside her – so she doesn’t need to shout – and before the music hits for the end credits you can even hear her voice wobbling and nearly having to stop and take a breath. Stupid.

  • Where’s Kameleon?
  • The story would have been made far better if it involved either Jack or Victor from Still Game instead of Verney, shouting stuff like “What the hell’s that great bastarding thing in the wall. Oh Jesus”
  • I was reminded of that because the guy who plays Verney is clearly younger than he’s made up to look. Why not just hire an old man?
  • To sum up how boring The Awakening is, the documentary on the DVD is about the villagers’ memories of the story being filmed. I skipped through it and stopped at one point to hear a woman say “And my son was the one who managed to stop the horse. We were very proud”. Exciting stuff.
  • I really hate the “You’re gonna be dead” line, both in terms of the writing and the delivery, when Will kills Lill. It’s so kids TV.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #110. The phrase “You can’t mean that” comes to mind, especially considering #111 is the Seeds of Death.

Doctor Who – The Awakening Review: Final Thoughts

It’s not so much that The Awakening is a bad story, but rather it’s just a nothing one; a waste of time.

I just cannot understand why anyone would objectively consider it to be a better story than The Seeds of Death or any number of other stories it’s ranked higher than.

It’s just bizarre to me.

I wouldn’t say avoid it, but rather I’d suggest you just don’t bother with it.

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3 Responses to Doctor Who – The Awakening Review (or ‘Awakening Is The Opposite Of What Happens With You Watch This’)

  1. Stovepipe says:

    It definitely needed room to breathe.

  2. NickR says:

    Sorry Stuart. Disagree with you on this one – ok it’s not the best story ever, but I liked it at the time and now for its atmosphere and definitely prefer it to Seeds of Death. I’ve always felt Peter Davison’s last season was his best and it was a shame he left when he did. But a good and interesting review, as always, and it’s good to have different opinions. Like your tagline again – even though I disagree with it! I look forward to your review of Frontios – one of my fave Pete’s and definitely my fave Bidmead (not that there’s much competition there, I’m sure we both agree!) Ps – this is my longest ever comment!

  3. Professor Thascales says:

    I agree with many of your criticisms of it, but I find it a little bit enjoyable sometimes.
    And I didn’t have any problems with Keith Jayne. It does have fairly good atmosphere–it was interesting. And the village-fete-gone-wrong, with Tegan at risk of being burned, created danger and tension. (And I liked Davo’s wiseguy remarks about Tegan, e.g. “The toast of Little Hodcombe.”) But the story did feel unsatisfying when it ended.

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