The Daily Telegraph - Review - - COVER STORY -

from be­ing “a white-haired Scot­tish man”, you cut her some slack. Duck­ing, div­ing and flap­ping her arms, she had the charm of an Art­ful Dodger: “I’ve got a plan! Well, I will ’ave by the time we get to the top… It’s a work in progress. But so’s life!” Her digs at in­sti­tu­tional drab­ness (“A&E? I won’t go any­where that’s just let­ters”) felt like a cause that needs a prime time cham­pion, and only once did she slip into lec­ture mode (“only id­iots carry knives”).

Whit­taker smithed a new screw­driver out of scrap me­tal (“now with added Sh­effield steel!”), which seemed so easy that I worry for the fu­ture of the se­ries now there’s no scope for a plot in which she is with­out one. With it, she un­masked what had hatched from the gar­lic bulb: an old-school alien with a thespy voice, rub­ber skin stud­ded with warts and the teeth of his vic­tims, and a name that sounded like “Tim Shaw”.

Tim Shaw had a lu­di­crous weapon: a bomb that could melt DNA, de­picted with brazen cheap­ness as a spot of torch­light on the vic­tim’s col­lar­bone, and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the swash­buck­ling vague­ness with which the science side of things was han­dled. And that’s the prob­lem. As science fic­tion, Doc­tor Who doesn’t get more pro­found the more you think about it, and to de­light in the sheer rub­ber­i­ness of it in­stead, you have to be hold­ing it at one re­move of irony, which is tir­ing. What mat­ters more is that, in its good­na­tured daft­ness, it is quite un­like any­thing else on tele­vi­sion. I’m very glad it ex­ists.

While Doc­tor Who left me un­clear on how to make my own sonic screw­driver, Imag­ine… Hock­ney, the Queen and the Royal Pe­cu­liar, about the new win­dow in West­min­ster Abbey, was a bril­liant feast of prac­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion about stained glass. We saw how David Hock­ney’s iPad draw­ing was scaled up to a full, 29ft-high car­toon, with lead lines to mimic his strokes, into which was slot­ted glass cooked to new recipes to cre­ate Hock­ney’s pop colours.

Hock­ney has al­ways been good at tele­vi­sion, and in his con­ver­sa­tions with Alan Yen­tob, even though he seemed old and stooped, he had it down pat, with un­fussy gen­er­al­i­sa­tions that made the mind-bend­ing prob­lems of per­cep­tion seem sim­ple, and left Yen­tob flail­ing. He also deftly re­fused to say any­thing in­flam­ma­tory about his new pa­tron, the Queen (whom he once re­fused to paint), say­ing to Yen­tob, with a sharp look, “She has mar­vel­lous skin.” Later, “I sup­pose she now wants morn­ings in bed.”

In short, he’s an old hand, but his charm is that he al­ways knows he has more to learn. It felt mo­men­tous to watch Hock­ney re­alise, in the Abbey, that his win­dow would still be here in “a few hun­dred years, when all my other works might be dust”.

Ben Lawrence is away

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