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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence