Doctor Who #835: Mona Lisa's Revenge Part 1

"Everything comes down to maths." "See, not art. Art is in the soul. You don't think it, you feel it."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.12 2009.

IN THIS ONE... The Mona Lisa walks out of her painting and she's a gun-totting alien with a Northern accent. (Other planets really do have a North.)

REVIEW: The Mona Lisa coming out of a painting (and trapping people in works of art) is a fantastical idea that's cousin to Doctor Who's Fear Her (uh-oh), the audio story Dust Breeding (which used Munch's The Scream), and the Doom Patrol's The Painting That Ate Paris. Unfortunately, some bad decisions on the production end of things turn a perfectly good script (though some elements appear to have been written down) into a real head scratcher. I'm not going to be too hard on Suranne Jones (she plays another object given life in The Doctor's Wife) for looking or not looking the part of the Joconde. Where are you actually going to find a person that does look exactly like that? I do question the whole Northern accent bit, however. That the Mona Lisa is an earthy, base born, violent merc is fine - it's part of the twist - but it sounds wrong. She's an Italian painting, and there's no TARDIS around to translate. It's distracting, is what it is.

But her accent isn't the only miscast thing in the episode. I'm quite happy to see Clyde's artwork making a comeback, but there are several things wrong with the pieces we see. First, they're not as described. The curator goes on and on about heavily detailed art that just isn't, and one wonders just how Clyde won a contest for "most promising young artist" with illustration work rather than any effort in fine arts. It just doesn't ring true. The other problem is that the most featured piece is of three hot space girls with guns, à la Charlie's Angels. If you're going to make a big thing of Clyde's limitless imagination actually being grounded in his real life chasing after aliens, why not make this piece a recognizable alien. A Judoon, for example, would have been a much better idea for something the curator marvels at AND also had a gun. The idea that the Mona Lisa can create a working Sontaran blaster from the painting is the most far-fetched of her powers (even once you know what she really is), but I think grabbing it from so immature an illustration, in an art museum context, is what's actually jarring.

For all that, it's still a fairly fun adventure. It's got action and thrills: Sarah Jane ending up in a painting at the end. It's got comedy: Mr. Smith reading from Miss Trupp's lonely hearts webpage. And it's got family drama: Luke growing up, feeling smothered and refusing to call his mum for help. And those elements work well. There's nothing so frustrating as a story that clicks in most ways, but has one or two omnipresent sore thumbs sticking out of it.

- A fun premise and the characters getting some fine moments, all put in jeopardy by a couple of ill-considered decisions.


Anonymous said...

But does she have "I'm a Fake!" tattooed on her back when she comes to life?

Siskoid said...

No, and we'll discuss why in tomorrow's THEORIES section.


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