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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

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
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own