Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 3)

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Well, that I didn’t expect.

The most difficult thing about this is the shape of it, really.

We’ve already established by now just what The Infinite Quest actually is – a series of three-minute shorts for Totally Doctor Who. While it does make up a ‘proper’ 45-minute episode of Doctor Who in the end – and that’s the form it’s collected in usually – that’s not really what it is. Indeed, it’ll be interesting to watch it in that omnibus edition eventually (I feel committed to it at this point) because it’ll no doubt be an entirely different experience to what this is now.

Because at the minute, The Infinite Quest is primarily just a series of set-pieces and exposition, dispensed at great pace, before ending on a cliffhanger. Obviously, as an animated series, it’s able to throw in a few great visuals too as part of these set pieces, but that’s more or less the extent of it. As a result of the format it’s in, it is inherently limited.

Which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing. Limited perhaps connotes a greater level of negativity than is accurate – constrained might be a better word to used. There’s not really anything wrong with that, because this is working to a fairly specific brief. Much as a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, there’s very little reason to criticise a cigar for being a cigar.

And it is worth noting that The Infinite Quest was actually successful at its job. It’s one of those odd little things that did make quite an impression on me back in the day – akin to an explanation of how they made the theatre foreman in The Shakespeare Code drown on Doctor Who Confidential, or odd little anecdotes from magazines, The Infinite Quest is another one of those idiosyncratic memories that I’ve got from back in the day.

It’s this episode particularly that stood out – and understandably so. (Well, this plot arc might be more accurate.) While there’s not a lot going on plotwise, there are quite a few interesting ideas – the oil corporations, the pirates, the robots, and the skeleton crew. It’s all quite well animated, with some impressive visuals, too. Captain Callico stood out the most, though; an intriguing character, caught between admirable Robin Hood-esque motivations and a rather more cutthroat disposition, she’s exactly the sort of fun and broad character who’s right at home in an animated special like this.

This third part is probably the best of the three we’ve seen so far, in that it begins to step beyond pure exposition for the rest of the series; it has something more of, if not a plot, but ideas that are interesting in their own right. I’ll be glad to see more of it over the next few weeks, because here The Infinite Quest has set up something quite imaginative that can be sustained over a couple of weeks – which is exactly what it needs to.

So, while I might be taking exactly the wrong approach in terms of how to write about The Infinite Quest, I do think I’m going about the right way of watching it – an unfolding little oddity that revels in how imaginative it can be, week on week. It’s “week on week” that’s the important part there, though; I can’t help but feel it’ll be diminished when watched in one go.

(I am still, more or less, managing to maintain my target of ~600 words per post. That, I suspect, is a minor miracle – albeit one I only managed to meet with this sentence of waffle at the end.)

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 2)

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It’s said that if anyone were to find the Infinite they’d receive their heart’s desire.

And we’re back doing this again.

I’m not going to lie: I’m sort of regretting the decision to cover these individually, week-by-week, and if I didn’t feel obliged to stick with it for consistency’s sake then I wouldn’t be doing it at all. I want to be thought of as a serious writer! Can’t be spending my time writing thousands of words about a forgotten Doctor Who cartoon from ten years ago that no one really cares about.

But I do want to keep it all consistent, so… here I am.

The obvious reason why this was a stupid endeavour to undertake is that there’s not really a lot to say about The Infinite Quest without a significant amount of filler. I more or less got away with last week’s one by writing a fairly lengthy introductory segment, but you can’t quite manage that every week (for obvious reasons). And I also can’t make these a regular place of reminiscence, because I don’t actually have deeply ingrained memories of every single episode of The Infinite Quest. We’re probably still a few weeks away from that, and indeed a few weeks away from when… I left to do something else and forgot how I was going to end this sentence. Sorry.

Anyway. Let’s make a stab at treating this seriously.

What stands out most is how reflexive this is in terms of its shorthand – the Infinite is a concept that’s very easy to grasp, and it’s sketched out in terms of some very obvious, Hinchcliffe-era stuff, positing it as a relic of the dark times before the universe. It’s an easy shorthand, yes, but that’s because it’s an effective shorthand – within the confines of the medium and structure of the piece, this is the best way to contextualise the MacGuffin.

(Something that occurred to me though, there’s a little similarity between this and the Skasis paradigm from School Reunion, isn’t there? Both linked, oddly enough, by the voicework of Anthony Head. Though I suppose the power to rewrite reality is actually a little different from the “heart’s desire”, isn’t it? That again is quite an interesting level for the MacGuffin to play upon – there’s a concept here that is actually quite fascinating. Maybe when I’m showrunner I’ll bring the Infinite back for an episode. I’m sure no one would expect a reference to The Infinite Quest in Doctor Who, but then I don’t suppose anyone would expect thousands of words of analysis on it either.)

In that vein, then, you can understand it as a clear part of a larger (not grander as such) tradition – which makes sense, given the people behind it. Written by Alan Barnes and directed by Gary Russell, this is straight out of the minds of the Big Finish team who had developed over the past decade or so. They know Doctor Who well, and they know how to do Doctor Who by the numbers – which is essentially what this is.

That’s not to denigrate The Infinite Quest particularly. It’s fun. I enjoyed it, for the three minutes or so that I was watching it, and I do remember enjoying it during Totally Doctor Who. As strange ephemera goes, this is a perfectly serviceable piece of entertainment; indeed, it was probably elevated above that, built up as it was to be the crown jewel of a light entertainment show. I doubt it benefits in the same way in the YouTube home that I’m watching it on.

Hopefully, though, moving forward, it’s going to try and do something a little more interesting. I sense this might get worse than Primeval was when I tried to write about that.

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Ten Years of the Tenth Doctor: The Infinite Quest (Part 1)

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I like to stir things up.

I mean, this is quite blatantly a joke, of course.

I did um and ahh a bit over how, exactly, I was going to try and cover The Infinite Quest – obviously the most sensible thing to do would be to just go over the omnibus version, halfway through the series, as a fun little add on, treating it essentially as superfluously as it was. To do proper weekly coverage of these little shorts, and trying to string 500-odd words out of each one, is patently bizarre – for one thing, it’d mean that minute per minute, The Infinite Quest would actually be the ‘episode’ of Doctor Who that I’d dedicated the most words to! (You can probably tell that, 135 or so words in without actually mentioning the meat of the episode, this is going to be a difficult task.)

In the end, though – as you can see – I am electing to do weekly coverage like this. Quite apart from the fact that it’s funny to treat it entirely seriously, it’s actually far more reflective of how I would have experienced The Infinite Quest in the first place anyway. As I’m increasingly trying to position these retrospectives as being just as much a personal journey through my own experiences with Doctor Who – and that The Infinite Quest would undeniably have been part of that – it seems appropriate to deal with this animated special exactly as I would have experienced it then.

A word on what this actually is, for anyone who hasn’t come across it before. In 2006 and 2007, there was a CBBC programme called Totally Doctor Who – basically a Blue Peter-esque magazine show, dedicated solely to Doctor Who. (I watched it religiously, as an eight-year-old obsessed with Doctor Who, and I’m planning on writing something about it at some point anyway.) The big draw for the second series of Totally Doctor Who was The Infinite Quest – weekly instalments of an exclusive animated episode of Doctor Who, which would eventually come together to make a single 45-minute story.

It’s probably about as good as you could meaningfully expect it to be, given the constraints that have been put upon the thing. The most obvious limitation is the length of it – we’re looking at a very short, three and a half (ish) minute vignette. (I do recall being quite disappointed by this the first time I saw it, because I’d been expecting something a little bit more substantial; I’ve no idea whether that was reflective of other people’s opinion on the thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case for them too.) Still, it works within those constraints well enough, essentially showing the Doctor and Martha rocking up at the end of another adventure, and leaving Balthazar with a broad enough characterisation that it’s obvious enough what’s going on with him.

What is interesting, though, is that this would have been Martha’s second real appearance as a companion to a chunk of the child audience, presumably myself included. The nice part, actually, is that she’s still fairly well characterised – these moments are fairly scant, but little things like deducing Balthazar’s plan before the Doctor reveals it continues to position her as that ideal companion we saw in Smith and Jones. Sure, it’s in a weird position in terms of the continuity of the series, but I doubt anyone cared. (Well, I might’ve. Nerd.)

Right. Nearly 600 words to the post, but only 230 or so that are actually about the ‘episode’. This may prove increasingly difficult to sustain over the coming weeks, but… well, we’ll see.

(I’m not going to give it a grade, though, because that’s just silly.)

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