Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 13)

doctor who the infinite quest review animated cartoon tenth doctor martha jones totally doctor who alan barnes gary russell anthony head

Just held together by wishful thinking!

Technically, I’m cheating doing this.

The last part of The Infinite Quest didn’t air on its own – the thirteenth instalment and overall conclusion to the piece was only broadcast as part of an omnibus edition of the story. Really, right now, I should be reviewing the entire story as a whole, to comment on and analyse how it fits together as one piece. Indeed, I certainly would have watched it that way, and it would have been in this format that any occasional rewatches would have been.

But, to be honest, I can’t take it. I cannot bring myself to go through The Infinite Quest in that much detail. I’m sure it’d be mildly entertaining, and a perfectly pleasant way to pass the time – but if I watch it in its entirety, I’m inviting myself to write a full thousand and something word review. And I’ve already dedicated more than enough time to The Infinite Quest. (I suspect I’ll come to regret it and some point.)

In any case, it’s not actually a very good conclusion. There’s a point at which it’s worth being forgiving of a child’s animated story, and a point at which you have to say – actually, no, look, there was a lot of potential here that you simply didn’t use. In the end, the story flounders, and it’s a shame. The idea of “your heart’s desire” is an interesting one – a simple one, and a basic one, but undeniably an interesting one. It’s surely one of the more resounding ideas across fiction and storytelling across time; there are countless Greek myths that refer back to it, and it’s a staple of fables and allegories and so on. It comes down to temptation, basically – which is right there in the Garden of Eden. So it’s a pretty grand idea, but there’s still a lot to do with it.

To simply go “I don’t believe in this” as a way of resolving it is – well, it’s weak. There’s no other way of looking at it. It could have been taken in a much different direction; really, the idea of your heart’s desire is enough to sustain a single 45-minute Doctor Who episode on its own merit anyway. (Consider The God Complex, which basically proves that concept, albeit by working from ‘greatest fears’.) What does it mean that Martha’s greatest desire is the Doctor?

Actually, it’s worth considering what this might have been like as a full episode. Not to pre-empt a future post, but I’m firmly of the opinion that Martha’s love for the Doctor should have been built up much more gradually – it was, to my mind, established far too early. It might have been interesting if, following a few episodes of set up, seeing the Doctor as her heart’s desire was what made Martha herself realise how she felt. There’s something interesting to play around with there, I’d argue (especially if she doesn’t get it at first – “my desire is to be rescued”, perhaps?).

Still, though. I’m overthinking this a bit. Of course I am. It’s a cartoon for kids – a bit of fun, throwaway fluff that wasn’t subject to anywhere near the level of oversight as proper episodes. It’s just a little bit of “ooh, this exists, that’s nice” filler. I suspect I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn’t trying to draw blood from a stone each week – or, you know, five hundred ish words a week.

It’s alright. That’s about that, really.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 12)

doctor who the infinite quest review animated cartoon tenth doctor martha jones totally doctor who alan barnes gary russell anthony head hearts desire

You’re a bad influence.

There is literally nothing to say about this one. Less than nothing in fact, I suspect.

The opening, I admit, confused me – the Doctor on his own, stranded on the planet. Is that how it ended last week? I’m fairly certain I haven’t missed an instalment; rather, it just didn’t make that much of an impact on me week-to-week. That, I suspect, would have been a weakness of the series as it aired – could anyone actually remember each bit, week on week? Was that ever a concern, particularly? Difficult to get inside the mind of an eight-year-old to ask about it, really, and I certainly don’t remember myself.

Again, I’m inclined to question the necessity of the serial structure somewhat. I don’t think, given the format of the series, it actually works – with three-ish minute episodes, there’s not going to be enough time to develop an ongoing narrative appropriately. In part that line of thinking might have motivated this – the belief that you can’t build a discrete narrative each week, hence you should have a cliffhanger structure to build something larger. But, as I think I’ve elaborated on at length, this doesn’t actually work here.

Certainly, there some meat on the bones of this story. There are lots of interesting ideas throughout; I wonder how this would have worked as a whole series, expanding each minisode to 45 minutes in length? It wouldn’t, I suspect, have been wholly sustainable – an interesting experiment, but you’d end up spending too much time on single ideas for a series that’s meant to thrive on variety and change and the fact that there’s something different week on week. Perhaps a novel series, then – a series of quick reads? That I suspect would work – indeed, they did something quite similar to that in 2009, following the same basic structure, and the search for a similar mysterious MacGuffin. I think Alan Barnes might have written for it, actually.

There is something quite nice about The Infinite Quest, which I perhaps haven’t given the series adequate credit for. It does, obviously, aim to be “Doctor Who for children” – but at no point does it dumb things down. It’s not patronising, it’s not simplistic; in short, there’s nothing here that couldn’t sit quite comfortable within an actual television episode of Doctor Who. (Irrespective of quality and all that.)

Which is because, of course, Alan Barnes is remarkably well steeped in all of this. I mean, I know that, of course – I’ve read and enjoyed lots of his Doctor Who work before. I fear I’ve given him too much of a ribbing for The Infinite Quest, really; it’s limited by its format far moreso than its content, but it really could have been both. Much as I’ve complained about the difficulty of writing about it, the fact that some sort of intelligent (ish!) comment can be sustained about it demonstrates that, in the end, there is something good about this.

And, you know, having something good to write about is my heart’s desire, or something. I don’t know. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to tie my posts together with nice little concluding lines.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor Reviews

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