Faces of the Dead
This story completes the formal introduction to the latest in the line of DWAD Doctors, played by R. Douglas Barbieri. Mr. Barbieri's Doctor in many ways harkens back to the earliest of Doctors in his earliest of stories, both in age and in general disposition. But while the Doctor portrayed by William Hartnell in his first few episodes was a devious and cunning anti-hero, Barbieri's Doctor is just plain unpleasant. He's immediately beyond rude to his longtime friend and companion Robbie Peterson (Shawnie MIles) and by the end of the third episode of this four-part series, any sympathy we feel for the Doctor as he is captured is mostly out of inertia; we *know* he's meant to be the good guy even though he's hardly behaved as such. I say "mostly", because just when he comes across as possibly irredeemable, he does something Doctor-ish, opening the window to the true Doctor underneath that we at this point hope is still there, somewhere.
The year is 1944 and, at what would come to be known as The Battle of the Bulge, supernatural things are happening; in particular, the dead are walking. This spin on the ubiquitous zombie story is different in that this is no gore-fest. The people dealing with the walking dead are the soldiers of "the greatest generation" and their response is both human and heroic. The main protagonist, Lt. Williams (Bryan Reid), attempts to handle this unprecedented situation feel very real; they are logical, but, in many cases, ineffective. Reid's portrayal is strong; Williams is clearly in charge, but low-key; you can feel the war-weariness in his voice throughout the episode. The remaining cast of military are likewise believable in their performances; all performance were strong, but a particular shout-out to Cobus Huekelman as the German Private Ernst, many of whose lines were a part of extended monologues that he manages to pull off despite being a difficult task. Barbieri does a fine job portraying this Doctor; he dominates every scene he's in and pulls off some difficult material with great aplomb. Miles' Robbie is even-keeled as ever; her interactions with the Doctor here are mostly adversarial, and it'll be interesting to see going forward how her relationship with this Doctor, so different from the previous, plays out.
The plot of James Durkin's story is traditional Doctor-Who-By-The-Numbers, but his characters are memorable and it's their moments that stand out. In particular, his handling of the Doctor is very interesting. It's the fourth episode of this story in which this new Doctor's character comes through and we see he really is the Doctor. We also get some insight into the depths of his character, the darkness in his soul that the DWADs have never been afraid to investigate. And what comes out in the end is that it's the decisions we make despite our inner flawed nature that define us, whether we're soldiers on a battlefield or a near-immortal time traveling hero.
Last updated: Friday, September 30, 2011