Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Casanova revisited

When the Beeb first screened Russell T. Davies' Casanova in 2005 we were at the height of a bout of frenzied speculation that David Tennant was going to succeed Christopher Eccleston in the revived Doctor Who. That was confirmed very shortly afterwards (possibly while Casanova was still running if I remember rightly), and I remember thinking at the time, "ah, this seems like Tennant auditioning for the Doctor."

So watching it again now, as Tennant leaves Who and we eagerly await Matt Smith's debut, brings a revelation: blimey, Casanova pretty much is the tenth Doctor. Tennant's performance is absolutely stuffed full of the vocal and physical tics that characterised his tenure in the TARDIS, to the point where you have to remind yourself that it's not a Who story set in the 18th century. The copious shagging helps with that, of course.

What's even more remarkable is that Rusty D's script seems just as hewn from the same cloth. You'd expect similarities of tone, of course, but so much of the schtick present is similar - the running about, the cheery smart-alec persona occasionally leavened by hints of darkness, even some of the dialogue ("I'm sorry, I'm so sorry") bears a relationship beyond even what you'd expect from two shows with the same writer. I wonder if it was a dry run for Tennant's Who for Rusty, too. Minus the shagging, of course.

It's not all marvellous: the scenes with Peter O'Toole as old David Tennant seem strangely stilted. Maybe it's a lack of chemistry between him and Rose Byrne. Or maybe it's just that the entire set-up reeks too much of maguffin to allow the narration of Casanova's memoir. The other thing is that for a writer who's so vocal about the terrible amount of expositionary dialogue on telly, Rusty puts a lot of expositionary dialogue in, especially in the first episode. And Tennant's blue contact lenses don't convince. Honestly, if they're going to go to the trouble of changing his eye colour to fit O'Toole's, you'd think hey could go the extra mile and choose the right shade of blue. Having said that, the performances (particularly Tennant) fizz with energy, as does most of the dialogue, and I remain very fond of the Adam Ant-channelling court scenes.

It remains a wonderful romp, and surprisingly affecting at the end. It's a shame it also shares Nu-Who's weakest characteristic: Murray Gold's shit music. I know he has his fans (e.g. Rusty T), but to my ears it's clumsy, half-arsed rubbish that really lets everything else down. I cannot for the life of me understand why TV people are so enamoured of his stuff. Every so often he threatens to have an idea that will match the inventiveness on the screen, but the execution almost always falls flat. And the crappy synth strings don't help, either.

Still, if you overlook that, it still stands up well even after the unimaginably long time of five years.

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