Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Invaders from Mars written and directed by: Mark Gatiss: The Aliens Have Invaded Jersey

Invaders from Mars stars Paul McGann as the Doctor with Simon Pegg as Don “The Phantom” Chaney, Jessica Stevenson as Glory Be and India Fisher as Charley.  It was written and directed by Mark Gatiss and released in January 2002 by Big Finish Productions.


The ending episode of Minuet in Hell only added to the intrigue of the mystery of Charley Pollard with the revelation that she is already dead and that Charley and the Doctor are going to Singapore which becomes the motivation for the next three stories.  Invaders from Mars sees the Doctor missing the mark by eight years and being on the other side of the world.  Mark Gatiss’ story uses a concept that took way too long to actually come up in Doctor Who, which is what if the famous War of the Worlds Orson Welles broadcast was actually a forefront to an actual alien invasion and the CIA covered it up.  This story takes place on that night in 1938 with the Doctor and Charley finding the dead body of a private investigator which the Doctor cannot help to take when he gets wrapped up in a woman finding her uncle taken by the New York Mafia led by the mysterious Phantom, named for his disfigured face in reference to The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux.  The story however doesn’t have the Doctor and Charley in the middle of the action as Gatiss instead focuses on the Phantom who is having Professor Stepashin experiment with alien technology which has fallen to Earth which leads to actual aliens showing up to pick it up.  Simon Pegg is standout as the Phantom as he is basically your stereotypical mobster, but as played by Simon Pegg.


A complaint from a lot of people is the New York accents, like the Southern accents in Minuet in Hell, are horrible, which yeah I can see bits of it.  They aren’t very bad as there are quite a few characters who vary the accent even when you have one actor playing multiple roles.  David Benson plays Orson Welles which as far as I can tell is a good interpretation, while it isn’t perfect it still feels like Orson Welles much in the way of Katy Manning’s impression of Jon Pertwee.  There is also in this story a Nazi sympathizer, Cosmo Devine played by John Arthur, who is completely camp.  He seems to be a reputable man on the outside but is a complete ass on the inside and with that in mind and his name, it feels like Gatiss was parodying Ian Levine which I honestly found kind of funny.


Now let’s talk about Paul McGann and India Fisher, who here both feel like they are even more comfortable with each other.  Their first season together, while hosting some great chemistry between the two leads, at times felt like they were a little on edge especially in Storm Warning and bits of Minuet in Hell.  They work off each other so well that I don’t really want to see them leave as the Doctor is getting himself into trouble while Charley is just along for the ride as she knows she can’t stop him from getting them into trouble.  She wants to go to Singapore but knows the TARDIS will get her there in time so she enjoys the ride while she can.  McGann is good as well as he is completely in love with the script as they have to go through everything.


The story isn’t completely perfect however which is down to two things.  First, the pacing is a bit off as the first part takes a while to get going and the ending of the story feels rushed and the second thing is just how this feels like a traditional Mark Gatiss story which has the same tropes of good ideas with some weak characters, mainly because there are a lot of stereotypes of gangsters and Cold War era Soviets even though it doesn’t take place during the Cold War, but the Great Depression.  I will praise Gatiss for actually directing this story which makes it feel different from a production from Gary Russell or Nicholas Briggs.  It feels like the direction is for a comedy with the timing of the music to let the jokes sink in.  The music was done by Alistair Lock who makes the score feel very American yet very much fitting with the depression era with a lot of trumpets and horns.


To summarize, Invaders from Mars is nothing perfect but it’s got a story which was well done with some great comedy.  Paul McGann and India Fisher are the best and the guest talent is also really good with Simon Pegg having a guest part, but there are quite a few stereotypes which bring it down along with some lackluster pacing.  85/100

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