The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Who's Line is it, Anyway?: The Feast of Steven

This brief hiatus in the larger storyline is very hard to get a handle on. It's the first time that the reconstructions have failed to give me a distinct feel for the episode, and that's largely because the second half is knockabout farce.

The first half was, apparently, going to be a crossover with the police show "Z-Cars", but that program's producers backed out at the last moment. So it's a send up of Z-Cars, and I Suspect I am missing half the jokes.

Still, it's amusing see the TARDIS land in a place where a police box is nothing special, and be treated as such. The Doctor goes out to distract the police (leading his detention, though nobody is quite sure what to charge the annoying old man with, so Steven steals a police uniform, and tries haplessly to rescue him.

Meanwhile, the only useful member of the group is Sara, who fixes the TARDIS scanner, avoids arrest, gets everybody back into the TARDIS, and --

--we land in a silent era Hollywood film studio. I think, though I'm not sure, that it's Hollywood as viewed through the prism of P.G. Wodehouse's depictions of on-set antics--the clumsy would-be sheik, the too into her part vamp, the anxious ingenue--all these are reminiscent of the handful of stories where Wodehouse has either a new character or an established one (say, Bertie and Jeeves, or a stray Mulliner), visit Hollywood. Even the exaggerated producer's egos and the overall farcical tone seems to be striving for that effect. The show even uses title cards of the era to set the mood. (Alas, like some of the names Wodehouse assigned his moguls, "Steinberger P. Green" seems a tad stereotypical, and not in a funny way.)

And then it all falls apart--Green tries to get Steven to act for him, baying that he'll be "bigger than Fairbanks"; Sara hides in a trunk, and complains that everybody wants her to undress, and the Doctor has a chat with a dispirited clown who may give it up--alll the good gags have been done by Chaplin--but who'd ever hire a singer named Bing Crosby.

Happily, it all ends, and then the Doctor brings out champagne and nibbles, and breaks the fourth wall.

Happy holidays, mayhem to come next episode.

To be fair, if we could actually see it, and if the audio wasn't unusually muddy, "The Feast of Steven" might work. Parts of it are amusing--Sara's hauteur is especially amusing in such trivial circumstances, and when the fearsome agent hides in a trunk to avoid being cast in a harem, Jean Marsh is quite good. The Doctor's volley with "Bing" is pretty amusing too. Peter Purves's scenes are the hardest to follow, alas, so they're hard to characterize.

This once, the retcons can't help very much, I'm afraid.

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