Doctor Who #926: Sirens of Ceres

"I love the outfit. You look manga."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Feb.8 2010.

IN THIS ONE... Jorjie goes to a private school where girls are being put under mind control.

REVIEW: I was worried that K9 would be nerfed Tom Baker-style in this episode, what with his getting blasted early on (after a pretty decent HUD joke about a barrel of monkeys - sometimes I think only the person in charge of that HUD effect really cares about what they're doing on this show) and spending more than two weeks in the shop. I understand the need to focus on other characters, in this case Jorjie, but you shouldn't need to force out the eponymous star of the program to do it. My fears were allayed when the tin dog did get scenes, and in addition to taking a kryptonite (or similar) bullet for the kids, he returned at the end to zap jewelry off school girls' wrists. As you do, in an emergency.

The plot, concerning a school for delinquent girls run by the Department to test brainwashing techniques, has some value. It was about time June actually punished Jorjie for her illegal acts of dissent, and sending her to boarding school, as it were, feels like something a well-off parent would do. Jorgie being born with a silver spoon in her mouth figures prominently, and her friends may well wonder if she's for real or just a poser, as do we. Boredom seems to be her big motivator. That's an interesting wrinkle. And the kind of Midwich Cuckoos vibe we get at the school, is fine too, though making the head popular girl a robot is perhaps a step too far. (Not that it really makes sense for head of security Drake to spend all his time spying on teenage girls through her eyes like he does; of if it makes sense, it's rather tasteless.) How they all end up with the same hairstyle is a nice touch. It kinda pulls a Sarah Jane Adventures, using a teenage anxiety - conformity - to prop up the science fiction premise. Is there hope?

Alas, bad acting and the characters' lack of motivation destroy whatever good will the episode might generate. Drake is a cartoon villain and nothing more, which is bad enough, but there's this truly awful bit with Starkey falling in love with another dissident girl after she's been converted. It's a mystifying example of love at first sight, with members of the gang turning on each other because the script demands it. The kid playing Starkey is such a limp actor, half-sleeping through most of his scenes, that it's impossible to tell if he's fallen for the girl, is playing her to find out more about what's going on, or what. We find out later it's the former, but not because of his performance. In a moment just as unearned, Jorjie is so jealous of the girl that she decides to become part of the hive mind and take a mind control bracelet. The popularity metaphor is all well and good, but you still have to service your characters, and in this case, she KNOWS those things are dangerous brainwashing apparel! And if there's a way for any of these moments to make sense through performance, neither these kids nor the direction seem to know how to make it do it.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-Low - It had potential, it really did. And then they tried acting the script.



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