Last Night's TV: Extermination without inspiration

Doctor Who, Sat, BBC1; Casualty, Sat, BBC1; Top Gear, Sun, BBC2

It would take a fair amount to make me watch Doctor Who these days, but the prospect of both Richard Dawkins and Paul O'Grady taking cameo roles in a script written by Russell T Davies did the trick. That must be interesting, I thought, curious as to exactly how he was going to deploy them. Could they possibly be in a scene together? Would they, in some way, interact with the Doctor himself, perhaps offering their respective expertise in evolutionary theory and cross-dressing comedy to help the save the world? It all seemed rather promising. So you'll understand that I felt a little gulled when they came and went during a bit of in-drama channel flicking, as some of the characters hunted for information about the day's big news story: the instantaneous removal of Earth from the solar system and its arrival in a planetary cluster of 26 alien worlds.

I would have thought this might have caused a bit of disruption to the schedules, but Paul O'Grady was still stalwartly doing his afternoon show, sticking in a topical joke that put the astronomical change of view down to his own excesses: "What was I drinking last night? Furniture polish?" he yelped, to the obedient laughter of a studio audience who were apparently unwilling to waste their tickets simply because the laws of time and space had been violated and left for dead. Professor Dawkins, meanwhile, was appearing on a programme called "Universally Speaking", where he was still fighting the good fight for scientific reason. Both guests did rather well, though I couldn't help but feel that they were slightly upstaged by the dummy news bulletin that had preceded them: "The United Nations have issued an edict asking the citizens of the world not to panic," read a solemn newsreader. Oh, yeah, that'll do it, I'm sure.

After that, I'm afraid I began to lose interest, since for every new planetary neighbour Earth had gained, there seemed to be an encore appearance from characters who had appeared in earlier episodes or spin-off series, all of them coming together at one point for a video conference about how they were going to get Earth back home in time for tea. There were also a lot of Daleks, of many different types and dates of production, as if they'd chosen Earth for an enthusiasts' convention, at which the bonnets would be opened up so that the various squirming octopus-like inhabitants could be inspected at leisure. And my brain began to lock under the repeated assault of the kind of lines that could be scattered at random over any Doctor Who episode at all without seeming out of place: "But... that's impossible!"; "It can't be!"; "Exterminate! Exterminate!" Change the record, guys.

I wouldn't usually watch Casualty either, though millions of people do, a number increased by one this week after I saw that the title was a Larkin quotation, "They Do Not Mean To But They Do", this being the printable bit of his famously gloomy couplet about what your mum and dad can do for you. It turned out to be a reference to a couple of separate storylines about difficult mother-child relationships knitted together (as storylines so often are in Casualty) by a crunching collision of automotive steel and human flesh. After which everyone repairs to accident and emergency to throw punches, learn home truths, hiss poisonous remarks at their colleagues and occasionally despair about the future of the National Health Service. Always worth dipping into, though, because of the writers' matchless devotion to melodramatic coincidence, which can make it one of the funniest programmes on television. Stand-out scene this week was the perfect timing of the long-lost son's heart attack, felling him just as his mother had finished screaming that she never wanted to see him again. She did not mean to, but she did.

Top Gear is back, too, equally self-parodic in its commitment to the tried-and-tested recipe. This is yet another programme that is giving me extra reading time at the weekend, but it's not hard to see why it is so popular with its target audience, which it hits with a crackshot accuracy. Jeremy Clarkson always strikes me as the sort of person who would swerve to hit a kitten, but there's no denying the brio with which he maintains his brand image.

Last week's opening episode feinted towards social responsibility with two items on fuel consumption: a supercar race that established that, flat- out, you'll only get 1.7 miles per gallon from a Ferrari, and a race between a Prius hybrid and a BMW in which it was the latter that proved to be more economical. The team's persistent implication that they are the naughty boys of the BBC is, incidentally, ridiculous. They are golden boys, in terms of foreign sales and audience figures, and probably wouldn't be expelled even if they drove a Hummer across Mark Thompson's lawn and in through his front door.

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?