Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Nightmare Of Eden (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 24th November 1979
Written by: Bob Baker

In a nutshell: The Doctor, Romana II and K-9 answer a distress signal to find two ships have crashed into each other in space. Whilst trying to dislodge one from the other, one of the crew members is attacked and killed, but by what?

Review: This story gets slated a lot and often finds itself hidden in the bottom half of any survey, however from episode one I’ve really enjoyed it. The storyline is very obvious and full of stereotypes leading back to Patrick Troughton’s days but this works nicely as a character piece. There are few characters in the episode, but they are all explored well and given some good characterisation.

Still, there are one or two I dislike such as the idea of making Lewis Fiander’s Tryst German, as it falls back on the mad German scientist device which is boring, god knows how many times it’s been written before. Tryst aside; the story is a very clear representation of different members of society today. We have a reckless youth, a man who hates his work, a man obsessed with it and someone who just wants to do what he can.

In amongst this we have, as ever, the objector to society: The Doctor. Although in this episode he seems to just go along with what’s happened and act a little childish. The fact we have Romana here is a blessing, as Tom Baker during his sixth series just couldn’t work without her. Romana is, essentially, the Doctor when not being written or played for laughs; therefore she works well and gives a lot of answers to the audience. She’s very Jon Pertwee-like in her character. Baker does get some great lines, such as the one about not being paid as Galactic shut down twenty years ago (one of my favourite fourth Doctor lines) and isn’t as silly as some serials from the same time, such as ‘The Creature From The Pit’ so it’s not horrendous and, if anything, contrasts with Lalla Ward’s Romana perfectly.

There’s a scene just less than ten minutes from the end where the Doctor is shot, which surprised me for a moment. I don’t expect to see a scene like that 15minutes into a serial from 1980, I’d expect it to be played as the cliffhanger and, in fact, it was more interesting than this times ending, which contained a dodgy effects shot hitting Romana and the Doctor finding a cuddly Mandrel. To find out what happens next, log on to the next review!

The Fact Of Fiction

Hi everyone! Sadly the summer is ending and my blog has wavered a little due to some other bits here and there, but I'm back to marching through the big Mighty 200 (plus twenty!) stories Who has racked up in it's long history.

I'm currently writing an article about the missing episodes as well for a fanmag so will post a link to that one when it's all done and dusted (probably a couple months for the finished mag).

I've been digging through my old DWM's as well to read 'The Fact Of Fiction', which if anyone out there skips each month, seriously go back and read them! There's some good jokey lines now and again as Alan Barnes tries to explain away mistakes such as Susan's disgust at the factual info being wrong in her 'Reign Of Terror' book in the first episode, yet doesn't know anything about the reign when she visits for the series' finale. There's some wonderful reading there.

And I'm leaving you today with an old review I've dug from somewhere! It's on 'Nightmare Of Eden' starring Tom Baker's Doctor and it starts out better than its reptutation suggests.

Happy reading everyone!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Doctor Who And The History Of Comics

Your ever-friendly reviewer has been busy of late, compiling and reading all of Panini's 437 Doctor Who Comics as well as IDW's smaller, yet just as privligied range of stories for a new two-part article, posted on

Part One covers the DWM comics between 1979 and 2001 and can be found here, whilst Part Two deals with the comics ranging from 2001 to this very week and is published here.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Desperate Measures

Originally Broadcast 9th January 1965
Episode Two of: The Rescue

Written by: David Whitaker

Not quite as fantastic as episode one, the concluding half of The Rescue still provides a pretty decent, gripping instalment of the show. I already much prefer Vicki to the character of Susan, as she seems a bit more strong and independent. There is an important and fantastical scene where it all gets too much and she starts to break down in front of the elderly Doctor and it’s not until this point you realise how much rests on her shoulders and how terrible her life really is. This shows probably the strongest companion to this date as she is only meant to be in her late teens yet near enough supports and lives on her own-a huge difference from Susan who screamed “grandfather” before turning every corner.

The plot by Whitaker is clever and interesting, but the ‘wrap up’ of the story is pretty dismal and disappointing as two men (apparently natives on Dido) dressed in white suits merely walk toward Bennet and that’s that. Pretty pants to be honest, but it isn’t a huge factor as the story really is the thing that doesn’t matter in this two-part narrative. What the episode intends to do is, much in the same way as The Eleventh HourThe Edge Of Destruction from the previous year (reviewed early on in this ongoing blog), it’s clear Whitaker manages to achieve a lot in his two part stories without them getting too weighed down with having to stretch to reach the six part structure. (2010), introduce the companion/new characters and move on in one story but, granted, you have to throw in a story for the sub-plot for our characters to struggle through. Looking back at

From the difference in timelines between the new companion and the previous two, I hope that ‘joke’ of age difference and time difference becomes a running occurrence, as it fitted nicely into this script and would do so again. Instantly the Beatles reference in The Chase springs to mind, but let’s hope there are many more!

As for the (literal) cliffhanger, wow is that a good one! The direction inside the TARDIS isn’t great, I don’t really think that needed to be there, but what a fantastic model shot we witness as the final shot, leading us into our next, somewhat different historical, The Romans

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Powerful Enemy

Originally Broadcast 2nd January 1965
Episode One of: The Rescue

Written by: David Whitaker

This episode is where the series is ‘shaken up’ a bit, as we’re still reeling from the loss of the first TARDIS companion, Susan, in the previous episode.
Because of this we get a true sense of continuity between stories, which is a fantastic change for the script.
The episode itself is great for a number of little reasons and one major reason, that being William Hartnell who gives a grand performance. You can really see his grief over the departure of Susan, it’s not something he can get over. Despite some poor moments of dialogue from Whitaker, such as the Doctor about to talk to an absent granddaughter, Hartnell performs it with ease, he’s believable and that’s what makes his Doctor so perfect.

It’s easy to site Ray Cusick as one of the greatest set designers of the show, as he arguably the most famous, but these sets are pretty nicely designed. You can see this is more the ‘cheap filler’ story, but Cusick has taken time over certain sets. Some look worse than others, it’s obvious there’s a backdrop behind Vicki’s spaceship and the prop of the oiled handle doesn’t really pull off too well, and the same can be said for the ‘spikes’ that are pushing Ian toward the ledge at the finale, but overall the sets are nice, well done and you can tell, despite it being clearly on a budget, that Cusick is an expert in his field.

One of the better aspects of this episode is Ian and the Doctor. This was at a time when it was more a ‘group of heroes’ rather than ‘The Doctor and stereotype companion’, as here Ian and the Doctor almost seem like a double act, injecting a lot of comedy into the script but also not sending the show up, giving nice little touches that shows a real bond between the group since their first adventure all that time ago.

Koquillion isn’t the best-designed costume in the world but it isn’t a total disaster. The problem with him is, is that you can see it’s a man in a rubber mask. If either the mouth moved when he spoke, they’d called in a specialist to provide the villainous voice and didn’t have him look so humanoid with the effortless ‘chuck a black robe on’ to finish the costume he would seem more powerful.

Personally, despite this being a story to ‘bridge the gap’ and provide a new companion between The Dalek Invasion Of Earth and The Romans on a tight budget, it’s very simple, effective and nicely done by all parts of the production team. A great first episode.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Image Of The Fendahl (Part Four)

Originally Broadcast 19th November 1977
Written by: Chris Boucher

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the final episode of this serial, as part of me feels as if it was a bit of a let down. Mostly it consisted of the Doctor and co finding a lot of salt and destroying the monster, when we had a great build up and some good three episodes.

Tom Baker and the rest of the cast did shine through the episode, however, with Tom getting to do his zany impressions again, which are always great fun to witness. Sadly some of the best guest stars have passed on by this episode, meaning the cast got smaller, so we didn’t have as many stories to follow, which is what made the low-budget cost of this serial work so well previously.
One thing that I’ve said didn’t work well at all previously, was Spenton-Foster’s transitional shot, but he puts the same shot in here as Wanda transforms and it’s such a fantastic, inspiring shot. I think this has gone down as one of the iconic images of Who, as it’s really something to see, although sadly only lasted a few seconds.

Daphne Howard is a good actress to look out for, she quickly emerges as a favourite in this story, as she’s quirky and easy to spot. She’s great as she takes all the ‘nonsense’ of monsters and lucky charms in her stride, which is a nice change for Who rather than characters refusing to believe and the script forcing them into denial.

Something else that works well is one of the characters committing suicide rather than being taken over by the Fendahl. It works, as it’s quite powerful, despite us not actually witnessing it on screen, as it’s Doctor Who and it’s 1977, we’re not going to see someone shoot themselves, yet it’s really effective.

There’s two surprising occurrences for our regulars in the final episode as well, which actually works well.
The first, for the Doctor, is taking the shotgun without a second thought, as there’s always this debate about the Doctor not using weapons. He’s informed it only contains rock salt, but after he’s already stolen the gun with force.
The moment for Leela is when she kisses Adam on the way to exiting the scene, I was quite surprised when I saw that, but at the same time it works. I think the reason it took me by surprise is that I could picture most other companions of the time doing this more than Leela, as she just doesn’t immediately strike as doing that. It’s worth noting that it didn’t feature in the script.

The final scene, on a final note, is the last scene, which feels so awkwardly hashed together and just doesn’t work in par with the rest of the story. The big problem with it is, is that it feels like the entire thing was adlibbed, especially by Tom Baker. A terrible, terrible final scene, and not quite as powerful a final episode, but overall I’ve quite enjoyed this story.
Last piece of trivia for the story, is this was Robert Holmes’ final story as script editor, who’s worked in that position since Baker’s opening series. Luckily Holmes would return to script another five (and a half!) stories.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Image Of The Fendahl (Part Three)

Originally Broadcast 12th November 1977
Written by: Chris Boucher

The guest cast for this serial is fantastic; I really like all the characters. Some of them perhaps not for who they are, just how the actor has portrayed them, this story really is more of a character piece than narrative and, in a bold move, it’s not afraid to have some of our characters rested from the story for ages on end.
I found myself surprised and not actually worried that I’m three parts through and the Doctor has barely interacted with 80% of this guest cast, I’m not sure if that’s actually happened before (one to think about!).

Tom Baker’s performance and the script surrounding him is pretty marvellous too, as we find out a few things on how the Time Lords live, as well as the Fendahl being a threat to the Doctor’s childhood dreams, it reminds me a bit of 2006’s The Runaway Bride with the Racnoss.
Baker gets to do both his wacky version of the Doctor with lines such as “I love fruit cake” as well as contrasting with his dark side, when he snaps at Leela in the TARDIS due to the level of the danger the pair have found themselves in.
To me, this is how Doctor Who and the character of the Doctor should be, perhaps because I’ve found myself being immortalised in the ways of the new show where the Doctor has to be funny most of the time as well as contrasting with his darker side once in a while. This really shows that off, so if you’re a fan of new, then maybe take a look at this one, albeit a much slower pace than some of the latter serials.

There are some dodgy moments, such as Dennis Lill having one of the most poorly recognised death scenes in the show, and I’m not sure how I feel about the Fendahl itself. The very first shot we see of part of it looks pretty poor (and a bit weird), the sound effects are obviously there to help do the job but they just don’t match up to the camera shot at all. When we see the monster (in all it’s glory) at the very climax of the episode, I think it looks pretty impressive, not the finest monster, but not a disappointment by any means. I’m not actually sure on fan reaction to the monster, or the episode at all in fact, but I think it’s going very well so far.

Note: Since writing this article I have looked up Image in The Mighty 200. This was a list conducted by DWM in 2009, where fans rated stories out of ten. The results compiled, the stories were entered into a list from 1-200, 1 being the best and 200 being the least well liked. This story came out at 73, so I’m guessing people are mostly in agreement with my acceptance of the story so far…

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Image Of The Fendahl (Part Two)

Originally Broadcast 5th October 1977
 Written by: Chris Boucher

Everything I asked for after viewing part one enters into the fray in this episode, making it a vast improvement in those areas at least.

Unfortunately it’s the other areas that are slipping a bit now, as Dennis Lill, despite being a fantastic actor in other performances (Only Fools And Horses for instance) can’t make up his mind whether he’s German or American. It’s a shame as he is a great actor but he does still carry some weight in this performance, accent aside and gets important plot points to deliver too, an actors dream.

I’m not overly fond of the story, as it’s a little tricky and, at times, uninteresting to follow, as well as not travelling miles in two parts, but it does have it’s interests. It’s strong point is definitely the characterisation given to not just the regulars, but to the supporting cast, who, to be honest, are better than our TARDIS duo in these episodes as they have more to do.
I’m not knocking Louise Jameson or Tom Baker, as when they get a scene they really shine, Baker gets some funny little scenes such as when he’s accused of having curly hair or when he talks to the skull (Alas, poor skull). As for Louise, she gets separated from the Doctor for the entire episode, giving her a chance to shine on her own, which she does and in style. Leela is one of my favourite companions because she gets good interaction with anyone not from her own time zone. Whilst she’s best when ‘learning’ from the Doctor, she’s great here too.

Director Spenton-Foster is still trying to push the boundaries of British Television on a budget too far, giving us the odd poor looking shot, which is a shame as he’s coming off worse than he should when perhaps he was struggling to meet the script requirements on his budget. The only other Doctor Who he directed was 1978’s The Ribos Operation, so maybe it’s worth me revisiting that soon to see just how well he copes on his year away from the show?

Funny trivia: When the Doctor offers the skull a jelly baby, it’s clearly a liquorice allsorts in his hand.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Image Of The Fendahl (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 29th October 1977
Written by: Chris Boucher

This episode broadcasts a nice change of pace in contrast to most serials as the Doctor and Leela don’t really play an important part nor do they appear in the story much. Personally, I usually like this when it turns up once in a while for a change, but here, it does work for a while but not for the majority of the episode. They should’ve begun playing more of a significant role around fifteen minutes rather than stretching it for the full first episode.

That said, we’re introduced to some decent characters in this episode, they’re pretty easy to spot character traits for, yet the settings are all the same, providing a bit of a dull direction after a while. The main problem with this episode lies in the lack of locations and the directing. I think (director) George Spenton-Foster is wonderfully experimental with his opening shot and lying one image on top of another, yet it doesn’t really pan out on the low-level television budget. It is clear to tell what he wants, however, and if you imagine that the directing is great, he’s got a real mind for what to do. Sadly, due to the restraints at the time it doesn’t really pan out, with a lot of the camera choices looking still and a bit boring to the casual viewer. I’d argue that based on this episode alone, Spenton-Foster is ahead of his time in the television field.

The Doctor and Leela get some nice interaction sequences when they’re used, there’s a fun scene in the TARDIS with a broken down K-9 and a slightly wonky TARDIS console, providing a few laughs for the younger audience, as does Leela’s motive later on in the episode with the running theme of attacking people, as is her custom.

The fact most of this episode’s key scenes take place at night makes for some amazing atmospheric shots both on the interior and exterior of the building. Little fact, the house used was owned by Mick Jagger and is the same location used for filming some exterior shots from The Pyramids Of Mars two years previous. The fog light mixes really well with the lighting and that is what succeeds in this episode. We have a somewhat good director, a pretty ok script with a decent set of characters, but it’s the atmosphere of the piece that really makes this episode it’s own, standing it above others. It’s not hard to believe this is the series that gave us Horror Of Fang Rock, another fantastically atmospheric piece.

As I’m about to enter part two, hopefully the problems will be ironed out, with a bit more depth to the plot, some more scenes of Tom and Louise doing what they do best and that wonderful tone kept up.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A Good Man Goes To War

Originally Broadcast 4th June 2011
 Written by: Steven Moffat

A Good Man Goes To War is one of those tricky little episodes that you come out of on first airing thinking “well that wasn’t very good”, but after a couple days and a rewatch or two you start thinking “that was awesome” and it really is.

I think holding off on showing the Doctor for almost twenty minutes was quite good, especially as you can reach over five minutes through before thinking “hang on, I’ve not seen him yet!” but maybe twenty minutes is a bit of a stretch.

Once the Doctor arrives, whilst I love the scene, I can’t help feeling Moffat was just trying to regain any sort of “epic scene” he could to rival the Pandorica speech the previous year, making the scene feel a bit less special overall. I don’t really like Moffat’s way of bringing back everything all the time. It worked when RTD did it for Journey’s End as it was a finale of sorts and it just about works at a push for the overdrawn goodbyes for Tennant, but Moffat’s pulled the same stunt twice in two years for episodes that don’t really hit as high a margin for epic as RTD’s two swansongs.

 The two River Song scenes are brilliantly written and performed, with amazing ‘trailer-like’ lines such as “This is the day he finds out who I am”, I still get a shiver down my spine when Kingston delivers that. And her speech to the Doctor when she arrives at Demon’s Run is pretty spectacular, only able to come from this character. The effects of what she tells him have the potential to become a bigger changing point in the Doctor’s life than his soul being revealed back in 2008’s Journey’s End if Moffat plays it right. I don’t think it’s something the Doctor can shake off like most things he does.

I don’t like Lorna Bucket as a character. She’s there to forward the story and prove a point, but as a character she’s a bit bland and doesn’t do much for herself. But I can’t help but fall in love with the rest of what DWM’s calling the Doctor’s ‘Barmy Army’! The Sontaran who’s a Nurse is incredibly funny and provides an emotionally packed punch for Rory on his deathbed. And as for Vastra/Jenny, well everyones saying spin-off series…

The episode is Matt Smith’s finest hour (so far) as the Doctor, every scene he performs is magical. We get the Colonel Runaway scene, the moment where he tries to shake off River’s lecture and more, I really think Matt proves himself as the best Doctor if judged on this episode alone, he’s just a fantastic actor.

Speaking of Colonel Runaway, I really dislike the moment where everyone has to chant, “we are not fools” and I dislike even more the army the Doctor puts together of Silurian and Judoon. Paired with the music it feels lazy, just a ‘raid the wardrobes’ set of costumes and I’d expect to see this in the live shows, but not in the middle of a finale.

As for the cliffhanger, it wasn’t as amazingly game-changing as Moffat promised, I think the previous ‘shock ending’ was much bigger and would’ve provided more want for the show over a summer break than this one.

Just a final note: On the end credits everyone gets their creation credited such as “Cybermen created by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis” but it says “Ood and Judoon created by RTD”.

Can anyone tell me: Where was the Ood in the episode!?!?

Friday, 5 August 2011

Sarah Jane Adventures: Death Of The Doctor

Originally Broadcast 25th-26th October 2011
Episodes 4.5 and 4.6 of ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’

Written by Russell T. Davies

After UNIT informs Sarah Jane of the Doctor’s death, she attends the funeral, unwilling to accept the inevitable. With everyone doubting her, it’s the arrival of former companion Jo Grant nee Jones that helps get to the truth of the matter.

The Doctor’s second (and final) appearance in the spin-off is much better than his first, for a year previously it was Sarah’s wedding and all eyes were awaiting the Doctor, who we all knew was coming, but never turned up for half the storyline.
Well the same happens here, but the story is more forgiving as it’s all about the Doctor, therefore there’s actually a valid excuse for only using him for one of the two episodes.
Once he turns up, Matt Smith is on top form, RTD really nailed the writing style for the eleventh incarnation (let’s remember, he never wrote the Matt Smith lines in The End Of Time, Part Two), making this Doctor even more fun and brilliant than the episode was before he showed up.
Useless trivia here: Matt Smith had to change his shirt for this episode from those worn in series five as the patterns made the SJA cameras blurred.

"Come Along, Smith"
 Russell’s return to writing the Doctor and Sarah Jane was an accident as well, when the original writer fell through, and I’m glad it worked that way as, tragically, this is the last time Sarah will share the screen with her best friend. There are so many good moments and nods back for both the characters and for Lis Sladen herself, with things such as one of the Doctor’s introductory lines being “Hello Sarah Jane” in the style of Tennant’s School Reunion.
The same can be said for the next returning character from the world of Doctor Who, notching up her debut SJA adventure, it’s Katy Manning aka Jo Grant aka Jo Jones. I love how her character has developed; it really feels like the route Jo would’ve gone down, being inspired both by the Doctor and her husband (from The Green Death).
Mix this up with masses and masses of old footage as the creators raid the BBC Archives and this episode is a real winner, all fans love to see old clips from the show so this is like a fangasm, all appearing at once in quick succession. Adding to this, this is the only place where you can see not just one Doctor but six! (Dimensions In Time doesn’t count!) Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, T. Baker, Tennant and Smith all whiz around our screen.

Enough of the love aside (we also get fantastic stories of past companions including the inevitable loving truth that Ian and Barbara got married) and we’ll finally move onto the story, which, really, isn’t that great. The fact is, the episode is so wrapped in fan-things and comebacks and the Doctor that we don’t care, but underneath it is a pretty naff storyline, full of clich├ęs. I think if we took out all of RTD’s overused plot devices, there wouldn’t be enough to fill fifteen minutes.
He also tries to hammer the point across to us about petitioning and not seeing parents and how hard it can be, which proves very tiring by the end of forty-five minutes. Russell also manages to stretch Tennant’s already overlong regeneration to even more ridiculous levels as the Doctor announces he looked back on all his companions when he was dying (damn you, Wilfred!). So if he did do this, he managed to cling to life long enough to say goodbye to around forty companions from the show plus all the ones from the novels and adventures we’ve not seen (if you class them as canon). A little bit ridiculous, although it did pave the way for some nice acting from the three Who legends.

To conclude and sum up the episode, it’s not very good, the music really needs to be toned down and used less, the script needs to be better and less obvious, but none of care about that. The episode is absolutely fantastic despite all this, because it has three amazing people on screen; Katy Manning, Matt Smith and best of all, Elisabeth Sladen, who all look like they had a fantastic time. To be honest I’d like to think of this as the final Sarah Jane Smith adventure, as it really sums up just how fantastic a person she is and how much she’s done for the show we all love.

The Matt Smith "Specials" 2011

Space and Time

Written by: Steven Moffat, broadcast 18th March 2011

These two little gems from Red Nose Day are really good fun, that’s all and that’s all they need to be. You can’t fault them for what they are (although maybe people are going to start saying Who’s got too rude) but Moffat provides a funny yet serious (what Who does so brilliantly) six-minute story with some of the best Murray Gold stock music. And the whole TARDIS-within-a-TARDIS thing is sorted faster and better than it is in Logopolis.

The National Television Awards: Opening Scene

Written by: Steven Moffat, broadcast 26th January 2011

Another silly little but of fun as the Doctor helps Dermot find his way to the NTA’s after he sleeps in. Some nice cameos from various people, just meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the TARDIS takes a stop or two too many and becomes a bit drawn out using the same trick too many times. Still enjoyable for what it is though.

Series Six: The Prequels (The Impossible Astronaut, The Curse Of The Black Spot and A Good Man Goes To War)

Originally aired on, 2011

I really like the idea of doing two-minute prequels to episodes within the series, although I remember when they were announced and I had no idea what style they were, I was hoping for more Doctor in them but they work even better without.
I think the episode three prequel was, however, pointless and didn’t really serve up anything the trailer and TV blurb hadn’t already given us, except some nice acting from Hugh Bonneville.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day (4 of 10) Spoiler-Free Review

With four episodes down and six to go, Torchwood: MD is finally getting close to forming a plot around who’s behind the miracle and it’s a good plot so far. The bad thing is how it’s taken four episodes for us to learn anything about these people (and about anything, really) and it’s beginning to look a bit like a Children of Earth reboot due to a fact I can’t reveal due to this being spoiler-free.

The first half of this episode was a bit dull if it’s seen as Torchwood, as the plot literally took twenty minutes to get anywhere and there wasn’t a whole lot of Jack and Gwen for a while, although they did get a few good lines and interaction, we needed to see more because it’s what the TW fan boys want. Instead, out focus shifted to personal matters in the lives of Rex and Esther, which I didn’t really care for. They are decent characters, they’ve certainly grown on me throughout this episode but it still doesn’t make me too interested in what they do away from Torchwood, which we had to witness here in a fair bit of detail.

The last fifteen minutes are full of tension and are fantastic, it was always obvious what was going to happen as soon as the scene came into play, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun, emotional and tense getting there as Jack and Gwen finally came into play in a major way.
Rhys plays more of a part in the fourth instalment as well, he’s one character that hasn’t been used anywhere near enough in this serial but it was nice to see him and all of his scenes were fantastic, as usual. Kai Owen is a great actor and really makes Rhys loveable.

The "I want more Rhys" campaign begins here!
The ending to the episode was a great surprise, a small part of it ruined by the BBC’s “coming soon” trail at the end of episode one and, on an unrelated note, Bill Pullman was brilliant yet again. I wouldn’t say he stole the show in this episode to the extent he has in previous, but he’s still an obviously great actor and I can’t imagine anyone else performing his scenes with the same amount of charm and attraction, he makes you forget he’s a convicted paedophile and that’s why he’s such a good actor and why Danes is a wonderful creation of a character.

I’ve a bad feeling we’re not going to see any major action again for an episode or two now, as Miracle Day seems to have this routine where we barely learn anything for a long time, and seeing as we got a few facts in the latter half of this one, I’m sorry to say the next episode may freeze a bit (like the first half of this episode!). I’d put this up as the most memorable episode since the first and, for that reason, its probably the best episode since the series premiere as well.

A fun little game to play at home:
Count how many times people say something along the lines of "Nobody dies" before fatally wounding someone.

The Almost People

Originally Broadcast 28th May 2011
 Written by: Matthew Graham

I know it isn’t what you’re expecting to hear from me, but I really love parts of this episode. It isn’t for the writing or the directing, but for Matt Smith and Matt Smith. When these two get together it is absolutely brilliant. Graham’s dialogue is really good here too, with the two talking together, it’s just a perfect scene.
Smith is the Doctor that works the best with having a double, as his dialogue is always as though he’s conversing with himself so here it just feels the same but with two on the screen. But we don’t have time to love this for too long, we get a close-up on the Doctor’s shoes (that’ll be important) and Amy’s told to breath (again).

“Damned headaches. I’m so tired”
I think, note it’s only a thought, that Matt Graham’s trying to tell us something here. Nah, he can’t be that obvious again, can he?
Oh and the next scene:
“Midnight. It’s Adam’s birthday”
Before both versions of Jimmy decide to tell us about him. It’s getting more painful. Yes, we get that these people are the same; do we need to get it twice?
I suppose Graham’s trying to tell us everything two (or many more) times over because he’s making a “fun” point looking at how we have multiples of the same character? Somehow I doubt it.

Two Doctor's are better than one
Amy’s interaction with the two Doctor’s is really good, I think it’s one of the points of this episode that work well, but then she has to go and spoil it all by seeing that woman with the eye patch.
We get this stereotypical writing, because Amy fell out with Doctor-Ganger, she has to be the one to have a quiet talk with him when he storms out the room. But if this is the real Doctor (as later revealed) he’s a really good actor when he pushes Amy against that wall!

This episode feels like the modern day version of showing the science-fiction equivalent of racial issues, which has been done to no end, most famously back in 1972 with The Mutants.
I said I liked Amy’s reaction to the GangerDoctor, but it’s really been pushed pretty soon into the point of too-far as Amy shouts at the Ganger again with lines about “he’s not real”.

I’m still in the same opinion with Rory, he doesn’t feel ‘in character’, he’s more doing all this stuff because the story demands a TARDIS character to do this to show more. I don’t like Rory here, he’s a brilliant companion but here it’s just not.
And now we get the Doctor’s phone call, which was painfully obvious and is meant to hammer home the point that these two are or are not the same person but it turns into overkill (not for the first time in Graham’s script).

Is that where the BBC's budget goes?
As the episode reaches it’s third act, it feels like we HAVE to have a giant, crap CGI monster just to fulfil the show. The episode was already bad, but it would’ve been more effective without a giant Jennifer stampeding toward them looking like an uncooked chicken.

I think this one of the worst five minutes in the show, due not only to the giant monster, but the really tedious goodbyes that are all pointless. They can all be saved and if two people need to hold that door, why can one go off and talk for a few minutes first? And the TARDIS just popping up like that? Really? It’s the most pathetically scripted co-incidence since The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit (2006) when the TARDIS randomly appears.

And it all gets one step worse as the Doctor pulls out a magic cure for a brain clot. I honestly can not believe Graham, who feels the need to point out he’s a fan, let this through into a first draft let alone Moffat letting it get onto the screen. It’s a incredibly terrible plot. Now the Doctor can go and save anyone like that.

Meanwhile, we get a fantastic scene tagged onto the end as we learn what happened to Amelia Pond all along. The cliffhanger is what this episode, quite rightly, known for. I think this ending is bigger than the one at the end of the next episode, A Good Man Goes To War, in which a review is coming very shortly…

The Rebel Flesh (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 21st May 2011
 Written by: Matthew Graham

I have to admit I was against this episode from the beginning. I thought “Matthew Graham=Fear Her” and the episode itself looked cheap and not as important in comparison to the others in all the trails. Even when the two clips were released a week early it still looked poor in relation to the previous four episodes.

Unfortunately I would be proven right as this story turned out as one of the weakest Smith instalments to date.
Pre titles sequence: It looks well shot and written until we get the lazy “show his foot, yes that means he’s going to slip in the acid” and the lack of care feels very sci-fi. Then we get the line “If I miss my boy’s birthday due to filling out forms”. OK, lazy writing, we’re going to need to know that later one. Point taken.

There are a few shaky camera angles as well but there’s a bit of good dialogue here like “Almost coming?” “Almost people” along with some really good dialogue lines for the Doctor as he rambles.
It’s clear from the outset the Doctor knows more than he’s letting on, which is a great plot piece, yet I don’t seem to recall people picking up on it too well in the weeks gap upon original broadcast.

I think Graham’s problem in his writing is how he feels he has to spoon feed his audience. He might as well put up alarm bells and a slogan onscreen saying “YOU NEED TO REMEMBER THIS”. We even get a long sequence of people telling us everything about the Flesh in one go. And oh look the Flesh scanned the Doctor. Well it scanned him, he said it did and then the same thing happened again before the Doctor gives a speech on it. I wonder if that’ll be important later on in the episode? Nah, I’m sure we won’t need to know the flesh is scanning the Doctor; I mean Graham’s only told us twice.

I suppose I’d best give something positive in here so I really do like the locations used, this episode certainly had a good locations expert to find these castles. The interiors certainly do look the same, despite there being two or three actually used for filming.
Back to the episode and “Amy breath”, oh look that might be important.

The further through this episode the further I think it’s just a mess. It just feels cluttered with so much same-y stuff that it doesn’t need. Graham’s script really could’ve done with being redrafted again. And when the writing isn’t there, we get pretty CGI scenes to look at such as when the Doctor tries to stop the solar storm hitting the monastery.
“We’ve been out for an hour. I’ve seen whole worlds fall inside out in an hour. A lot can happen in an hour,” says the Doctor. OK, that’s three times we’ve been told that little nugget of information.

I’d say the episode tries to change the normal storyline of doppelgangers, yet it falls down the “we have rights” issue and really hits you over the head with it. If it were underplayed a little bit more maybe it’d be more effective. But now even Buzzer’s realised what’s happening as he says “I’ll say it again, Isle of Sheppy”.

"Can you repeat that for us, Doctor?"
 I hate to say it but I feel I need extra motivation to bring myself to watch an episode of the show I love so much, as this one is kind of painful.
I’ve always stood up for the BBC’s CGI in Doctor Who, despite the bad rep it usually gets by non-believers, but this episode seems to ruin ALL of that. The CGI on the Ganger’s is really bad. Jennifer’s neck stretching looks dreadful, I hate to say it because the effects on Who can usually stand up on it’s own two feet, but not here.

I don’t really understand Rory in this episode either, it’s certainly nice to see him do something rather than being played as the “back bencher” or the third companion, but he’s incredibly faithful to Amy, I don’t really get his characterisation in following Jennifer around, especially when it comes to a close on the episode. It feels like he has to do this for the storyline and not for his character.

And there’s eye-patch lady again, so I can cross that off my “series six checklist” along with seeing the TARDIS scanner saying Amy’s pregnancy result. Now all I need is to see or hear about the Doctor being killed in episode one and I can cross everything off my shopping list.

Thankfully the episode has reached its end, with a ganger Doctor, which is quite a good ending I have to admit. I really like this cliffhanger, but it took too long to get there. Hopefully the conclusion will be infinitely better than this, but I’m not holding out hope…

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Doctor's Wife

Originally Broadcast 14th May 2011
Written by: Neil Gaiman

“Someone or something that hasn’t been seen since The War Games is returning” was the quote left by scripter Gaiman months before this episode aired. I went around thinking about that for so long. The War Lord? The War Chief? A SIDRAT? Bernard Horsefell in black and white again (does Planet Of The Daleks part 3 count?). So many options and, of course, it was that great little thought box for those not in the know. That never even entered my mind in all those months.

I think this is the episode that makes the series. It slightly edges above the two-part opener in terms of quality and it knocks the black spot out of the water. It’s so obvious from watching this that Gaiman is a fan of the show and he really understands what to do with a script.

The Doctor is a very unique character, you can add to his backstory but you can never add too much otherwise the entire show will be ruined. There’s no doubting that, the day we find out the Doctor’s real name is the day the show dies. So with this knowledge, Gaiman cleverly gives a few little ‘extras’ as to what happened in the events prior to An Unearthly Child (1963) yet we don’t get enough facts to spoil the illusion of the character. And what we do get are some really fantastic pointers, such as the TARDIS chose the Doctor not the other way around, as we’ve been told for almost fifty years.

There are no faults with the script in this episode, it really stands out as such a strong idea and one that has very surprisingly not been done before. However, what I’m not a huge fan of is the casting.
A big deal was made when Sheen was cast as the voice of House, yet it’s indistinguishable from any other voice, giving the impression that anybody could provide this to the role. I’m also not keen on Uncle, as Adrian Schiller doesn’t perform all the lines in a powerful or great way, such as his first lines in the pre-titles sequence, it just seems off.
But moving away to Suranne Jones as Idris/Sexy and she is the best possible person to be cast as the TARDIS personified. She delivers her lines with such enthusiasm, such comedy and such emotion. She can do everything required of her, giving the idea that she is just as powerful an actress as the TARDIS regulars

The messages given about the TARDIS and the Doctor’s relationship with her is really heart-warming as Gaiman really captures the essence of the show and puts it in forty-five minutes of script.
And with Smith, Gillan, Darvill and Jones on top form, nothing can go wrong with this episode. There isn’t any point rambling on, as you can watch it for yourself and witness how absolutely perfect this episode is. It really shines above the others.

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Curse Of The Black Spot

Originally Broadcast 7th May 2011
Written by: Steve Thompson

It’s a much known fact that to fill a forty-five minute adventure of Doctor Who you need twist after turn as the Doctor eats up plot. Moffat once said “you know you’ve got a good Doctor Who if you think ‘well I’ve just blown that feature film idea’” and none prove this more than The Curse Of The Black Spot.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say Curse gets tedious for me as it is just twist after twist, we get told “this is the answer” before five minutes down the line being told “actually, no it’s this”. The episode only clocks in at forty-four minutes but it ends up feeling a lot longer and we all know that isn’t a good feeling whatever you’re watching. Even the Doctor has to say, “Ignore all my previous theories” (twice).
The episode previews for this sound excellent, a curse on a pirate ship, but the overall plot of the Siren being a nurse is a bit bland after all the trouble we went through to get there, there was no ‘big bang’ at the end to make it all worthwhile.
At one point one of the crewmembers randomly disappears (maybe this was due to editing), never to be heard of again until we reach the Siren’s ship. That’s a bit weird!

"Come on guys, a bit more laughter"
What Thompson is great at, however, is his characters, even if the plot isn’t so good. The Doctor is very well written here, but most of it goes unnoticed, as he isn’t really at the centre of anything. In a way that makes it better, as the Doctor isn’t the most important character of an adventure (he’d be the first to admit that), but in the long run it makes you forget what the Doctor does and says in comparison to the surrounding episodes in the series.
Rory gets a chance to finally shine in the start of this episode and he’s fantastic. There’s a lot of little touches Arthur Darvill gives in his performance, such as giving a little wave in the pre-titles sequence, that are really funny and stand out for the character. This is the perfect episode to show that Darvill can make a script his own; he should be given the lead in a comedy after his involvement with the show to prove that to everyone.
Unfortunately Rory takes a bit of a back seat the further the episode runs for and his ‘death’ for this episode is really drawn out, maybe the script was under running so they needed a padded death scene (doesn’t everything?).

Moffat has to squeeze in his ongoing plot points in a painfully obvious way, especially when the link-in scenes are EXACTLY THE SAME as the other episodes in the series. Oh look, a woman in a wall. Oh look, flashback to the Doctor dying. Oh look, the Doctor’s checking the scanner of Amy’s pregnancy test. Wow, those are tedious and a long step from being able to go back and rewatch episodes to find the lines about bees disappearing and the big, bad wolf.

The praise I can award this episode is the characterisation and the acting, although the script is still easy to fault with it’s characters. I’m not sure how many times this series we rely on a child to provide an emotional bond with one of the guest characters. These writers are meant to be the best in the UK, surely they know how to make an audience sympathise in a way that doesn’t result in the character having a child in trouble?

At least the next time trail for The Doctor’s Wife looks awesome-a review for that episode coming very soon!