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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest (review)

Inanimate Objects

The thing about a series like Doctor Who — more so in the classic series, less so with the current one, but still true — is that what makes what is essentially a children’s show appeal to adults is the subtext. It’s in the knowingness in an actor’s eyes, in the unspoken volumes that are nevertheless palpable in the interaction between characters. Take that visual element out of the equation, and it suddenly becomes screamingly clear that, yup, Doctor Who really is a kiddie show.
Not that David Tennant and Freema Agyeman aren’t giving their all here as the voices of the Doctor and Martha in this animated series, which aired on CBBC — Children’s BBC — in the spring of 2007. They are indeed very Doctor-ish and Martha-ish, but it’s the ish that makes all the difference. Little kids will get a kick out of this, and if it introduces them to Doctor Who, all the better. Casual grownup fans will be bored. Seriously and intensely geeky grownup fans will be disappointed, because we want to love all iterations of Doctor Who, and Infinite Quest proves that that isn’t possible.

Part of the problem, too, is that what first aired as a series of three-minute episodes that were spread out over the course of 12 weeks are here run together in one 45-minute blast. These would have been mildly diverting in that original presentation, or even as online episodes — in fact, the animation has a feel of Flash about, gorgeously rendered imagery that gets choppy as soon as it’s in motion. But as one uninterrupted story, it’s all over the place. It’s crammed with cool science fictional ideas, but almost nothing that actual fans of SF won’t have encountered before (good for introducing kiddies to these concepts, but not for thrilling fans steeped in the genre both in print and on the screen). There’s a baddie called Baltazar (the voice of Anthony Head, you know, from Buffy and “School Reunion”) who wants to turn Earth into diamonds — don’t ask; it’s his evil plan, okay? And piled on top of that are subplots and diversions concerning space pirates and the end of oil in the universe and a giant royal insect and a legendary starship. It’s all a bit Starship Troopers, a bit Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and an awful lot of recycling of snippets of dialogue from the proper Doctor Who.

Most interesting, perhaps unsurprisingly, are the bonus features, which include interviews with Tennant, Agyeman (“Me in animation was out of this world!” she enthuses), Head, and others. They play for the camera in the behind-the-scenes featurette on the cast — “Cup of black coffee and a deep breath: that’s what I do,” Tennant says with a wink for us when another actor asks him for voice acting advice — but they’re playing for themselves in the video segments of the recording sessions for two of the episodes. Here, we get to watch their faces as they act out their lines. Their cartoon avatars are nowhere near as, well, animated.

MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
  • Gee

    I agree it was disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised, given what it is. It was worth watching just for the bit about the Doctor’s crimes. “He really should have returned all those library books!”

    By the way, have you seen this interview clip about the forthcoming BBC drama “Survivors” (Freema is in this). Is it a slip of the tongue when the interviewee refers to Patterson Joseph as being the next Doctor, with a hasty addition of ‘potentially’ or does he know something?


  • Dawn

    I watched this when it was shown one Saturday morning – armed with my toast and coffee – and I can remember seeing the behind the scenes stuff too, but wonder if that was on “Totally Doctor Who”…but I digress! Great for the little kiddiewinks….but it kept me (and my hangover) mildly amused too.

    Am I the only one who thinks that the Beeb shouldn’t have an actor in the role of D11 that has already been in the series! Why would the Doctor regenerate into a lookie-likie of someone he once met…?? I’m all for an actor who earns his crust on the stage and only has a few minor TV roles under his belt (and PLEASE no ex-soap stars!!!)

    Oh – how I will miss the gorgeous David!

  • spikewriter

    We’re having fun with it — but at our house, we’re watching one segment a night deliberately because we know we can’t go the whole 45-minutes. (Also, the husband’s a completist, so he had to have this.) Half the time, I don’t actually watch the animation but putz around on the laptop. We do get an idea, though, of when Ten will sound like when Big Finish finally gets the rights to do radio plays with the more current Doctors (and it is slightly different from how he sounds in the show).

    The behind the scenes stuff is definitely the most interesting, but then, you’ve gotten the combination of Tennant and Tony Head, who are always entertaining when interviewed.

  • MaSch

    Is your headline a nod to my favourite line of “In Bruges”?

    Because, if it is, then this would be an occasion for me to announce that I’m going to go to Bruges end of Decembre to beginning of January because of that movie. Yippie!

  • “Am I the only one who thinks that the Beeb shouldn’t have an actor in the role of D11 that has already been in the series..”

    no, you’re not the only one! i’ve mentioned this before too.

  • Gee

    “Am I the only one who thinks that the Beeb shouldn’t have an actor in the role of D11 that has already been in the series..”

    The problem, though, is that Doctor Who is on a huge number of British actors’ c.v.s. You’d end up discounting some really good possibilities. Paterson Joseph played a fairly minor part on the show in 2005. Season 5 won’t be broadcast until 2010, and that’s long enough from my viewpoint for a coincidental similarity between the Doctor and another character we’ve met to be ignored altogether. If, however, they do want to acknowledge it, the show (Moffat particularly) is good at handwaving explanations.

    If it means that the best actor for the part can be chosen, I’m all for it. (We have also had a prior occasion when Romana – a female Time Lord (Lady?)- re-generated into the form of another previously seen character, so it is possible within the confines of the show.)

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