Sunday, 24 June 2007

Cliffhanging Around

(The following article has spoilers for last night's Doctor Who episode. You really should have watched it by now.)

There's nothing that dramas love more than a nice cliffhanger. They do it because without them, what reason do the audience have in tuning into the next episode or series of the program? But when was the last time that the resolution of a cliffhanger was, well, any good?

Take 24 as an example. They like to end their seasons on a major plot twist that get veiwers tuning in when the show returns the following year. At the end of series two, we saw President David Palmer being affected by an assassination attempt by what I can only describe as Palm Poisoning. He collapsed on the ground, and all we could hear was his breathing failing and his heartbeat. Everybody tuned in to the next series to see his fate: but it's okay, because the next series took place three years later and he was up an about. That's alright then. This isn't the oly time something like this has happened in the show. One of the surprise twist endings involved Jack Bauer having to fake his own death to escape the Chinese government (which person hasn't had to do this once in a while?). However, tune in next series to find Jack in CTU running about in charge. Lovely. Good old Bauer.

Another show which has a problem resolving it's cliffhangers is Doctor Who. If it's the first episode of a two-parter, the final few seconds have to be tense. Sometimes, the Doctor can be stuck at the edge of the universe, surrounded by Slitheen or nearly attacked by Cybermen. It's tense and dramatic and makes us watch Part Two. However, why haven't we learnt that the resolution of the cliffhanger will be the same every time: the Sonic Screwdriver will sort it out. I watched Who last night to see how they'd escape the savage pointy-teeth future humans after the Master had escaped in the Doctor's TARDIS. I was hoping to find cunning and Moffat-esque writing. No. I see the time-travelling trio already arrive in the present. Bam. The sonic screwdriver has saved the day again.

Despite last night's episode being a bit funny in places and a reasonably enjoyable watch, I still say it was as bad as all the other Episode Twelves this show has had. Let's hope for a decent finalé.


Paul said...

At least we didn't get flying Daleks.

We got flying Toclafane instead.

Although precisely what Toclafane are has yet to be explained...

Mark Taylor said...

Oh, come on, one of the main characters had a time travel device on his wrist. It wasn't exactly a massive leap.

I agree there've been a few di ex that particular machina, but by my recollection it hasn't been all that ubiquitous in resolving cliffhangers.