Doctor Who #836: Mona Lisa's Revenge Part 2

"I know art is subjective, but I think she looks as pretty as a picture."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.13 2009.

IN THIS ONE... The kids fight paintings come to life to get Sarah Jane back.

REVIEW: There are some clever bits in Part 2 just as there was in Part 1, but the modern-speak Northerner Mona Lisa is still a problem for me. In fact, it's difficult to believe most of the adult characters in this. They're in some sort of comedy or spoof, while the kids try to have a proper tension-filled fantasy adventure. So the Mona Lisa is a cackling villain that never belies her Florentine origins, and does comedy cross-eyes when using her powers. Meanwhile, Harders the curator is a blind sycophant who apparently can't understand why the kids think she's dangerous. Or he does and merely plays along so he doesn't get thrown into a painting, which is how it's played from the last act on, but his character has been so silly, it may be a case of too little too late. There's certainly a sense that it's meant to be a proper twist, but the early performance lacks the subtlety required.

Because writer Phil Ford writes in a NUMBER of twists. The comedy romance between Harders and Trupp at the end is given a big ol' needle scratch showing she's no sap. The Dark Rider isn't Lisa's brother as we're meant to think, but just another painting she's brought to life. Harders doesn't fold when threatened and actually destroys the puzzle key that would release the Abomination, which is a surprising move. And Luke makes Clyde draw a new key only to make the drawing of K9 underneath come to life as well to save the day. It's all a bit convenient, of course, and reliant on Luke guessing not only Mona Lisa's true nature in an earlier scene, but also figuring out exactly how her powers work. He's not the only lucky one; Rani also finds the exact book that explains the legend of the Abomination - a painting too scary to look at - in the gift shop (the Doctor would have been proud). It creates an ending that seems to come out of nowhere though. The climax could have been clearer.

Despite the entirely too magical nature of the Mona Lisa's powers (for example, how are personalities and loyalties, like K9's, somehow encoded into a drawing?) and the lack of explanation for such thing as her drying in the sun (I know light is bad for paintings, but she comes off as an odd vampire or gorgon here), the story does better with the implications of what is drawn and what isn't, for example giving the highwayman no voice because he has no mouth. I wish there'd been more of that. And of course there's a reconciliation between Sarah Jane (who's been entirely absent and let the kids figure things out, which I like as a rule) and Luke, without her losing parental control. In fact, the understanding they come to means she has MORE. So there's a little arc in there too.

THEORIES: So how does this story connect to City of Death and the Mona Lisa(s) in THAT classic Doctor Who story? Is there a contradiction? There need not be. If we assume Luke is right in his deductions about the alien, what manifests as a living painting is actually an alien mineral/energy life-form that came down in a meteorite, wound up as an ingredient in oil paint, which subsequently used both for da Vinci's Mona Lisa and di Cattivo's The Abomination. Two entities were thus separated for five centuries until their proximity awakened them. Now, we know da Vinci painted six extra copies of the Mona Lisa for Scaroth, all but one of which, along with the original, burned in a fire. So it was one of the copies that was returned to the Louvre and now shows up as an alien. This makes sense. If da Vinci had to borrow some paint from his neighbor, it's because he wasn't expecting to make several copies of his work and ran out towards the end. Lisa here might be the last of the six copies. If there's a contradiction, it's that she talks about being an object viewed for a few seconds by thousands of people, but that might be true even if she's only been on display since the late 70s. And I was asked if she's got THIS IS A FAKE written on her back thanks to the Doctor's ploy in City of Death - the answer is no. The words were put on there by the Doctor long before Leonardo ever had to run next door for bad oil. ;-)

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Perhaps tries to be too clever for its own good, and only comes off as "anything goes" Who (though that has its charms too) with problematic performances thrown in.



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