Monday, June 16, 2014

Doctor Who #937: The Cambridge Spy

"No significant changes." "That's a shame."
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Apr.26 2010.

IN THIS ONE... The kids go back to 1963 where Darius' great-grandfather is falsely accused of spying.

REVIEW: Well they took long enough, but they finally used the spacetime manipulator (which hasn't been seen in ages) to travel through time. The 1963 destination is a straight up tribute to Doctor Who, which certainly fits the timey-wimey plot (though the effects of changing history are poached from Back to the Future), though the music and clothes have an odd 1940s feel. Ah well. It's K9, so even the best episodes have pretty obvious flaws like that. The police throwing everyone, including a 14-year-old girl, into a jail cell on suspicion of spying, for example. 2D motivation abounds on K9 the Series. Because the characters don't really interact with 1960s culture beyond the one police station, there's not a whole lot done with the era, but it's still fun to see the kids try to work out a temporal paradox, albeit badly. Thankfully, Darius' great-granddad refuses to take their stupid stupid solution, and it's K9 to the rescue with decryption software proving Bill is innocent of treason.

There are a couple of conceits necessary to make this story work, and I don't mind them. One is that the STM sends Jorjie to the era she's perusing on Cyberpedia. Fine. Who knows how these computers talk to one another. The second is that characters' great-grandfathers look just like they do. Other shows and films have done the same, so it's easy to accept, and I do like how Thorne's ancestor doesn't share his name. Either Barker is on his mother's side (which is perfectly sensible, but you rarely see it in fiction), or he changed his name after being discovered as a spy (and does this foreshadow something about the current iteration of Thorne?). Nice detail either way. The commie-hunting plot is loosely based on the Cambridge Spy Ring, but really has nothing to do with it, so it may well be a set-up for Thorne's own later treachery. Odd title though.

While the temporal puzzle has its moments - like Darius apparently showing up before anyone's sent back for Jorjie, and later revealed as his ancestor, or evidence of what happened turning up in archived newspapers - it seems to me Professor Gryffen is underreacting to it. He finds it profoundly disturbing and is worried about History, but this should give him Vietnam flashbacks about his lost family. Instead, he's intrigued by the conundrum, not particularly afraid for Jorjie, and even finds time to give June a kiss (on the cheek, let's not get ahead of ourselves) after he's turned her into a human lighting rod to get his STM extra juice. If she's smart, June won't fall for this guy. His fictional DNA is just a stone's throw from Professor Farnsworth's.

The exact date Jorjie is sent to is November 23rd 1963, the date Doctor Who premiered on television (it's not too clear on the newspaper, but the date is on Bill Pike's mugshots). A news clipping mentions a Chief Justice called Ian Levine, a tribute to the show's unofficial continuity adviser and archivist through the 1980s.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A new kind of adventure for K9 and Co., one that leaves us hungry, but not an unpleasant exercise. I wouldn't match it against Doctor Who/TW/SJA episodes I've given a Medium-High to, but in the context of this series alone, it's much better than average.

1 comment:

snell said...

...the STM sends Jorjie to the era she's perusing on Cyberpedia. Fine. Who knows how these computers talk to one another."

Just like the Atavachron in Star Trek's All Our Yesterdays. Perhaps Mr. Atoz is involved...