Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Winner Takes All: Jacqueline Rayner, July 21—25 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Jacqueline Rayner pulls it out the bag and gives this series what it needs: a thoroughly decent episode. The basic premise involves the Quevills (alien porcupines) cranking up their long-running war with the Mantodeans (alien praying mantises) in order to breach their force field. To do so, they create a video game and hand it out to humans, not telling them they are controlling kidnapped people in a real maze to the Mantodean stronghold to detonate a piece of kit that will scramble their enemies.
Rayner is absolutely spot on with her characterisation. She nails the Doctor, Rose, Jackie and Mickey with perfect voices. Nine is on top form and shares some priceless dialogue with Mickey. Robert is a great guest star, slowly and carefully fleshed out and easy to care about.
The villainous Quevvils are difficult to define. Sometimes they seem comical, and at others quite threatening so I’m not sure how to take them. They are described often as interchangeable and there were some missed opportunities to let us really get to know them. The brutish Darren Pyne, on the other hand, is brilliantly sculpted.
What makes The Winner Takes All so much better than The Clockwise Man and even The Monsters Inside is that Rayner doesn’t waste loads of time on introspection. The books do provide an opportunity to explore the inner thoughts of the characters in a way that TV can’t, but Rayner seems to realise that endless discourses on the fear of the threat, the wonder of the TARDIS, the marvel of the alien creatures and planets and Rose’s relationships with the Doctor and Mickey are unnecessary. She understands these are common themes that need only be acknowledged and left at that.
Although the banter between Rose and the Doctor can occasionally grate, in the main it’s well written. It maintains the tone of the TV series more than its predecessors do, and could be easily be an episode of the show. For the first time, it feels like a genuine continuation of that story and a very good effort.