Friday, 29 November 2013

Amy's Choice, The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood

Amy’s Choice

Toby Jones.

This is a nice little episode in the middle of the series with some great character work by the three principals and a great guest appearance by Toby Jones as the ‘Dream Lord’. The Doctor and companions have fallen asleep in the TARDIS and are presented with two scenarios, one is purported to be real, the other fake. One – they approach a frozen star in the TARDIS which threatens to freeze them to death, the other takes place in the future in Ledgeworth where Amy and Rory live, Amy is pregnant and the elderly people of the town have aliens with deadly gas inside them. These people go a bit crazy and start killing everyone. Except both situations are actually dreams.
And the dream lord is in fact the Doctor, and they dreamt it all because of some psychedelic pollen that got caught in the TARDIS. It sags a bit in the middle, but is a lot of fun and is quite an enjoyable episode. Amy discovers that she loves Rory (for sure now!) which is nice. It’s not the most memorable episode, it’s not epic in any way, but it shows that there is still a place for this type of story after the attempted grandeur of episodes 2 and 3 failed to deliver. It also features Rory and Amy smacking elderly people with planks of wood which is extremely good value in my book.

The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

When I heard the Silurians would be featuring in this two-part tale, I was pretty excited. I thought they would be the perfect creatures to bring back for the new series. So imagine my disappointment at this load of rubbish!
The Doctor talks to Alaya (Neve McIntosh)
Am I being too harsh? Well anything’s possible, and to be honest ‘The Hungry Earth’ – the first episode, I thought was rather good but in the end we have to judge, as with ‘Victory of the Daleks’, on the whole story and the second part really didn’t hold my interest at all. The first part is creepy, we lose Amy early on as she is sucked into the Earth, we have poignant moments when the Doctor forgets Elliot who goes back home to get his headphones and ends up in the Silurian city with his Dad and Amy, the characters are for the most part well played and I had only minor quibbles.
Tony and Nasreen.
Then the second episode is a dull, predictable, no ULTRA predictable mess. In fact it’s a poor retelling of the original Silurian adventure back in 1970. And in some ways, it even feels longer. The writer, Chris Chibnall, writes a the young boy Elliot as dyslexic, which the Doctor relates too and all that seems a bit, hmmm, forced. Was he trying to make a certain point? We can all achieve despite things that might hold us back? Meh. We have the very forced romance between Tony and Nasreen, and they both stay behind in the Silurian city as Tony has been infected and goes into stasis. Honestly, it doesn’t feel natural at all and feels like it was added to the script because the script was missing something.
The Silurians, whose design I don’t mind but they certainly don’t resemble the originals (which were pretty poorly designed anyways), have a military who want to attack the humans and take back the Earth. Then there are the scientists who disagree. Meh. Again all a bit predictable.
The negotiations between Amy, Nasreen and the Silurians to try and broker a solution between humans and Silurians is painful, and as Amy and Nasreen don’t represent humanity as a whole, pretty bloody stupid. The saving grace is Arthur Darvill as Rory, who is a great character, the new Mickey in some ways. The ending is very dramatic, and the high point if the second episode as a crack appears Rory is erased from time. It’s wonderfully played by Matt Smith and Karen Gillan, as she fights not to forget Rory.
Except that, she wouldn’t right? The Doctor explains that as he’s part of her life, she will forget him despite having travelled in time, and she does. But that’s a retconned reason to make the rest of the season work and doesn’t ring true. But nevertheless, it’s an amazing scene and kudos big time to Karen Gillan. Very powerful stuff, and Amy is a very likeable companion despite a couple of wobbly moments which were more down to bad dialogue (writing) more than anything else.
These dramatic moments lift the score a little, but on the whole this was dull, predictable and extremely disappointing. Just goes to show, never get your hopes up.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Time of Angels, Flesh and Stone & Vampires in Venice

Allow me to start by apologising. I had meant to follow the worst stories of all by the best, but I have decided to reserve judgement until I have got through every single episode. Sorry for the break as well, it's been the anniversary week so a lot has been going on. For now, I return to the marathon where I left off, early in Series 5...

Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

Alex Kingston is back!

Amy looks at a recording of an angel.
River Song (Alex Kingston) returns in this two-part story featuring the return of the Weeping Angels. It’s a strong story, well-paced full of suspense and in most ways living up to the promise of the Angels returning, although you’d have to say they are not the Daleks and if they bring them back again we are talking about the law of diminishing returns. But they worked well in this story.
Instead of River Song becoming clearer, Moffat (the writer) appears to have gone down the track of
making her more mysterious and confusing, deliberately posing the question ‘who is she’? to the audience. I’m not sure how this will all play out, and I still think she was best as a one off character. It’s straight away confusing because she is obviously younger than ‘Silence in the Library’ – where she died, and yet she not only recognised the tenth Doctor, but was surprised he didn’t know who she was.
And she lets us know she’s coming back later in the series at the end. She’s a prisoner, she killed ‘a good man’, who it is strongly hinted at was the Doctor. So waters are murkier still.
Still darn creepy on their second outing.
The story is shot in some caves and with the addition of a bit of CGI they look stunning, Moffat creates some amazing and gripping moments, like when Amy is stuck in a trailer with a video of an angel and she can’t get out. The time crack from episode one is back – although we’ve seen it reappear at the end of the previous two episodes two, which is the series theme it seems. On the other side of the cracks lives the vortex, and when you get sucked out, you are erased from time.
This leads to some great scenes with Amy when some of the soldiers disappear through it and they can’t remember, but Amy does as she’s a time traveller. The ending is great too, when the ship’s gravity is powered down and all the angels fall through the crack. It was a clever twist, and a very effecting ending to a strong tale.
And of course, we also have Ser Jorah Mormont himself (Iain Glen) in this one. What more could you want. Good to see the show back on its feet after two wobbly weeks.

Vampires of Venice

Redesigned console room.

The Doctor is confronted with some interesting ladies.
The previous episode ended on a strange note, with the Doctor and Amy returning to England, the Doctor finding out Amy is about to get married and then Amy throwing herself at the Doctor. So when this story opens on Rory’s stag party (Amy is marrying Rory by the way), the weirdness continues and the Doctor pops out of a cake (instead of a stripper).
The Doctor is being portrayed by Matt Smith as someone who really doesn’t have much idea about
Helen McCrory guest stars.
people. It’s strange that the Doctor can regress in such a way after regeneration, but I have to say it works nicely and provides some great comic moments. The Doctor takes Amy and Rory on a getaway to Venice back a few hundred years.
Turns out there are vampires there – ok fish from another planet, but for want of a better word. It looks beautiful, they did a great job in recreating Venice. We get a somewhat stock-standard story with
The Doctor does what he does best - he saves the day!
lots of running around and danger, and the Doctor winning through in the end. It’s all very competent without being a stand-out episode, the creatures look rather good, the plot is not complicated, there’s a healthy dose of humour mixed with the sci-fi and historical elements. I liked it.


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Ten worst stories of all!

a departure from the marathon over this weekend - the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Tomorrow I bring you my top twenty stories of all time, today though let's head to the other end of the spectrum - the ten worst Doctor Who tales of all! Do you agree? Are you shocked? What do you think?

10. The Invasion of Time
A lot of stories vied for this position. Timelash. Fear Her. The Satan Pit. The Keeper of Traken and The Leisure Hive were all chances. But I can only fit ten stories in here, and number ten is season 15’s ‘The Invasion of Time’. My least favourite Tom Baker series  - equal least, with season 18, this story destroys Gallifrey as an idea well before the Time War. The Vardens are as rubbish an enemy as they ever used. The Sontarans look like idiots. But not as much as the Time Lords. The choice of a mental hospital to be the TARDIS interior was a shocking call. Cheap, nasty, bad. The perfect way to start the top ten worst Doctor Who stories of all time!

9. The Chase
Six episode plot line – the Daleks chase the Doctor and his companions. That’s it. Whole plan. Milk the Daleks for all their worth production team. You know you want to. Pure, uninteresting silliness. A ridiculous robot double for the Doctor. Saving grace – nice ending for Ian and Barbara, and Peter Purves of course. Dreadful jungle planet with a studio floor.

8. Daleks in Manhatten/Evolution of the Daleks
DREADFUL American accents. Dreadful acting by Diagarus. Stupid plot, the Daleks have converted humans to Daleks before, why do they want to create Dalek-humans now? That walk and talk. Hardly invincible like the casing the Daleks wear. Pig men? WHY? WHY? Helen Raynor, you SUCK.

7. Delta and the Bannermen
What a pointless waste of three episodes this was. Running around to Keff ‘I’ve got a drum machine on my synth’ McKulloch. That’s all it is. Green babies, green men. Eat the baby food, become a Chimeron! Awful acting from the woman playing Delta. Everyone in the bus dies. In a story which is supposed to be just fun. It’s ok, gloss over that. Looks cheap and nasty. McCoy horribly awkward in scenes with Ray. Makes light of death. Gavrock sitting there eating raw meat. No understanding of who the Chimerons, the Bannermen are (apart from incompetent). It’s actually a story about genocide, but it’s light and fluffy too. So much to dislike.

6.  Arc of Infinity
Mind-bogglingly stupid rubbish from Johnny Byrne, who wrote three stories and the BEST was ‘Warriors of the Deep’. Omega is lame. The Time Lords are lame. We’re in Amsterdam for no reason – should have had the ghost of Anne Frank, that would have been an interesting story. It’s so very 80s. Ian Collier does not look like Peter Davison. The ending is – The Doctor chases Omega around Amsterdam for a bit and shoots him. Gallifrey got worse with every story as the show progressed.

5. Victory of the Daleks

For being the biggest disappointment the new series has dished up. Plot starts brilliantly – what are the Daleks up to? Only the Doctor knows they are evil. No-one believes him. Then 30 minutes of utter shite from the pen of Mr Gatiss. Cheap looking interior for the Dalek space ship and dreadful looking new Daleks. The Doctor holds the Daleks at bay with a jam biscuit. Yet they destroyed Gallifrey? Give me a break. Tension built in first 12 minutes, destroyed in less than 12 second. This is crap.

4. Time and the Rani
A quarry instead of a jungle. Writers and script editor at logger-heads. Awful costumes. Awful monsters. Incomprehensible convoluted plot. Pip and Jane Baker dialogue with no help from Eric Saward. Equals total shite.

3. The Twin Dilemma
It’s cheap. It’s needlessly violent. The Doctor attacks his companion violently which should never have been conceived of. The police uniforms are the cheapest look they could possibly conceive. The monster is STUPID, looks ridiculous, should never have been attempted. The plot involves firing a planet into a sun to shoot thousands of eggs into the universe. Why does Mestor, who seems to have a cavalcade of powers, need a couple of boy geniuses who cannot act to calculate how to blow up a sun? Why couldn’t Azmael see it would happen? Why does Hugo’s gun look light a lighter-gun for a gas stove? So many whys.

2. Silver Nemesis
A three-episode runaround which is mind-bogglingly stupid, stealing most of the plot from the far superior ‘Rembrance of the Daleks’. We have Nazis in there for no good reason, a stupid old crone running around saying she knows the Doctor’s secrets, Cybermen at their most impotent ever, dreadful music by Keff McCulloch, it looks cheap as chips, the CSO is dreadful on the Cyber-ship, there’s no meat to the plot at all and it’s only saving grace is the couple of moments of comedy which are quite funny – the scene in the limo and the lamas. Dreadful rot.

1. Time-flight

Time-flight is without a doubt the antithesis of what makes a bad story in Doctor Who. It’s plot is extremely convoluted, the ultimate sign in my mind of a bad Doctor Who tale, it makes little sense and alienates the viewer very quickly after episode one which is ok. The Master is needlessly in disguise, but not only that, it’s about the worst disguise I have ever seen. The sets are shoddy and small, the Concorde is represented for the most part by a single wheel. They definitely ran out of money for this story. The Master’s brilliant plan to get to the hidden power behind the wall is to kidnap Concorde passengers to bash the wall down. It’s as close to unwatchable as any Doctor Who. I give you the ultimate in bad Doctor Who – ‘Time Flight’.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Eleventh Hour, The Beast Below & Victory of the Daleks

The Eleventh Hour

Rory and Amy watch the Doctor do his thing.

Steven Moffat, whose stories I love, takes over from RTD. Matt Smith takes over from David Tennant. The first clear era shift in New Who, and thus far, the only one. New credits, new TARDIS interior, new companion, beautiful HD, and the Moff starts by getting it all pretty much spot on. ‘The Eleventh Hour’ was always going to be a tough one to get right – it comes on the heels of five amazingly successful years where Doctor Who quickly became a hit in a way it had never been before. The expectations on Steven Moffat to continue the brilliance were enormous, especially considering his stories had been so good and his pedigree impressive with a list of successes under his belt such as Sherlock and Coupling.
Caitlin Blackwood is amazing.
His first episode as showrunner does not disappoint, I am happy to say. Matt Smith is the eleventh Doctor, spelt out for the first time in the title of the opening episode. He comes across straight away as very ‘doctory’, with a level of eccentricity that Tennant didn’t have, but in other ways quite similar. He talks very fast, he’s a little on the arrogant side. A little? Well, yes…
We begin with the Doctor flying over London in the TARDIS which is exploding like crazy as the Doctor
Amy (Karen Gillan) sees the thing that's been living in her house all these years.
dangles precariously. I wonder if there will be any significance to that?
Enter Amelia Pond. As a young child – they cast brilliantly for the young Amelia, Caitlin Blackwood was just perfect, charismatic, likeable. There’s magic straight away as the Doctor looks desperately for something to eat – that he likes, settling on ‘fish fingers and custard’. A wonderful scene. I
Fish fingers and custard, Matt Smith.
warmed to Smith very quickly. Now the timey wimey stuff. He says he’ll be 5 minutes, but he is 12 years. When he returns Amelia Pond is now Amy Pond, grown up and played by Karen Gillan. Dressed as a police woman with a very short skirt!
Oh well, one for the Dad’s, right? Arthur Darvill is her ‘sort of’ girlfriend. He’s great as Rory Williams. The plot itself is necessarily light, but interesting enough and one that allows us to see how the Doctor, the new Doctor, operates. Getting the smarties of the world to show the Atraxi, rather cool looking space ships with giant eyes, to find prisoner Zero. Some clever stuff. Well directed, very stylish, by Adam Smith. I really loved the use of what comes across as stop-motion capture. Ok no, I don’t know what I am talking about, I admit that. But the bits where people are taking photos of the Atraxi – very nice.
The Doctor invites Amy on board the TARDIS, leaves for a quick test flight, returns two year later. She leaves with him, as the audience discover it appears she is soon to be married as it is revealed there’s a wedding dress in her bedroom! So there’s something akin to a story arc having its seeds sewn right here.
A very effective, fun, exciting and promising start to the Matt Smith era, which I hear  is due to end at Christmas! The teaser for the next episode looks great too, very excited about this series!

The Beast Below

A 'smiler'.

I must admit to be disappointed by this episode. It looks magnificent, but I ended the episode feeling like Moffat, who wrote it, had missed a trick or two with what had the potential to be another fantastic episode. I understand Moffat has said he wasn’t happy with this one, and I can see why because it has so many elements and ideas and great moments but as a whole it just doesn’t work.
Surprisingly it under-runs at less than 42 minutes, including a lead in to the next episode and a sneak peak at it too. It starts with the scary faces, a boy being sent below, it’s a very effective pre-credits start to the episode. The space ship UK, in the future where the whole country has become a floating space ship, looks great. Matt Smith is great, and I rather like the TARDIS interior now too, better than the last one which was very good don’t get me wrong.
Sophie Okondeo as Liz Ten.
‘The Beast Below’ begins being set at school, and a child who gets zero as his score is sent ‘below’ for whatever punishment lies there. And so you think the story is going to be about kids, but it’s not. We’ve got a big space whale attached to this space ship, being tortured as the leaders of Star Ship UK seem to think that will make it go faster. It’s very sad, and the fact that Moffat wrote it saying no-one would have the guts to say ‘stop it, it’s not right’ (as they are all reminded of the truth every five years) is somewhat of an indictment on the human race. Some good bits of casting, the kids are great and I liked the choice of Sophie Okonedo as Liz Ten, but I found her choice of accents to be somewhat strange. I wonder who came up with the line, ‘basically, I rule’. Yes. Hmmm.
Amy holds on above Starship UK.
Matt Smith has to get angry, and he does a good job early on as the Doctor. Amy Pond works really well in this one, Karen Gillan is a great choice to play her. We have the ‘Smilers’, strange almost clockwork men with faces that turn around and reveal a frown when they are not happy, the whale, the whole life of Star Ship UK, there was so much that could have been explored and expanded on. I think it’s a real pity it was only the 45 minutes.

Victory of the Daleks

Ian McNiece and Winston Churchill.

Hmmmm. I’m sorry Mr Gatiss, but this was the worst Dalek story of all time, the worst new-series episode and there’s not much else to say. Well, a brilliant opening 12 minutes. But it goes to show how easily that can be undone. And it is all down to the script. The fact that the new Dalek paradigm looks like awful coloured plastic is by the by.
It lends ideas from the classic ‘Power of the Daleks’. Humans don’t realise what the Daleks are, in fact they think
the Daleks are friends. The line ‘would you like some tea’ being uttered by a Dalek is utterly brilliant. But it’s the fact that this first twelve minutes is so fantastic that makes the rest of the story such utter shite.

The plot disappears. The Doctor gets on board a Dalek space craft which looks like a low-ceiling rehearsal room somewhere, and holds the Daleks to
The new Dalek paradigm. Perfect for four year olds.
ransom with a biscuit. Their plan was to wait for the Doctor to arrive to remind them they were the Daleks so they could create new, crappier-looking Daleks. And then very little happens for the rest of the story as spitfires are sent into space, got ready from an idea within minutes it seemed, and… look it’s rubbish. Then Bracewell is a bomb, the Daleks start the countdown but by remembering what it is to be human, the bomb is stopped and the Earth saved and quite frankly, it’s all appallingly bad.


Thursday, 21 November 2013

The End of Time

Well. Yes. Thank goodness that’s over really. I mean there’s stuff to like in there, don’t get me wrong, and it’s very very VERY epic, looks amazing in HD and all that. AND it has Timothy freaking Dalton as Rassilon, which is bloody brilliant, and Bernard Cribbins also being bloody brilliant, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to say that was ‘good’.
It's flippin' Timothy Dalton!
The Master is back, brought to life by some sort of witchcraft it seems which beggars belief honestly what a load of rot. John Simms however gives a great performance over the two parts, that I can’t fault, but the things RTD writes for the Master are not particularly well thought out or interesting. In particular his need to eat, the speed at which he devours food and humans, and more so the entire plotline of turning everyone on Earth into himself. That to me was just a gimmick. Ok, probably not a cheap one, but a gimmick none the less. Then we have Barack Obama’s plan to bring about economic prosperity which is written in as if it was aimed at 6 year olds.
John Simm (the Master) is up to some odd stuff..
We have RTD’s treatment of Donna, who ends up getting married in the end as if that’s the most satisfying way to resolve her character arc. After the brilliant use of Donna over series four, finale excepted, this was really unsatisfying. Then we have the last fifteen minutes where the Doctor, knowing the end is nigh, still has time to go and see everyone he’s met during his tenth incarnation when you just want him to DIE. Well, I did, it went on forever.
Sorry to all those into Doctor Who solely because of David Tennant’s hair.
Then we have the Time Lords. And personally, despite the awesomeness of Timothy FREAKING Dalton, I think they should have stayed locked in the time war. I guess there wasn’t anything bigger to bring back and RTD wanted a big finish for himself and David Tennant. And it is epic. I’ll give him that. But sadly this episode, these episodes, are a reflection of the parts of the era that I didn’t like – the overblown finale solved by touching a button, or in this case, shooting a gun at a machine.
He doesn't want to go. Which is why, I guess, he takes so long to do it!
The Master is just weird in this. Bouncing about in the air like a jack-rabbit, eating a turkey in a few seconds, Rassilon has a bizarre metal glove which zaps people a lot, we have the Naismith guy and his daughter who are barely used and stupid typical RTD characters who merely serve a purpose in the script. BUT it is in HD, and has an awesome sequence where the Doctor pilots the space ship back to Earth and Star Wars memories are invoked as Wilfred Mott shoots a laser cannon at incoming missiles.
And David Tennant. Look, my impression actually improved of the tenth Doctor as he went along, only the first David Tennant series really annoyed me, he was just too smug and a lot of that was to do with Rose. Oh by the way, Bille Piper has clearly had work done on her lips, evident also in series 4. Those lips just looking plain creepy now. I find it very hard to reconcile that the love of the Doctor’s life is a 19 year old girl. I’m sorry, I do and that’s RTD’s fault.
So long Bernard Cribbins, it's been an honour.
Tennant works best with Donna, a wonderful balance between the two lit up the show for a year, and he’s not bad with Bernard Cribbins either, that was a wonderful piece of casting and who thought the ‘companion’ for the last Tennant adventure would be someone approaching 80 years old, and male?
The RTD era is now over. If you take the series finales out and this one, which is effectively the Daddy of all series finales, then I think generally the episodes have been excellent. His casting has been good too, David Tennant being the most popular Doctor ever, and Christopher Eccleston, in my opinion, as perfect a casting job as could be dreamt of. I really loved Eccleston as the Doctor, it was an inspired choice. Billie Piper was a risk that turned out to be genius, and Catherine Tate was even better. Freema Ageyman was less successful, she starts off well but the writing for Martha unfortunately waned, and I think to be honest, some of the things they asked her to do at the end of series 3 and when she returned in series four were a bit beyond her range.
As a writer, opinion is divided on RTD. The man who wrote the each series finale also contributed – ‘Rose’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Turn Left’, and ‘Utopia’ amongst other episodes. All brilliant in my books. He shaped the seasons well, and he got better at it each year. Series arcs, character development, all that stuff he was great at. Was there too strong an emphasis on emotions? Probably. Was the Tennant-Piper pairing grating. Definitely. But the guy brought the show back. He made it a hit. I forgive him his foibles. All of them.
As for ‘The End of Time’, I wish I could give it a great score. But it really is awful!


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Planet of the Dead & Waters of Mars

Planet of the Dead

So they had an Easter Special in 2010. Well, I guess they had to. This story is a mixture of good and bad again. I think it look pretty fantastic, at least the stuff shot in the UAE in the desert certainly does, and for the most part being HD makes it all worthwhile. However, the CGI version of the red double decker bus looks pretty poor.
Lee Evans
RTD seems to have started with the idea of a London bus lost in the desert on a far-off planet. Ok. but then he needed more and besides vision, I’m not really sure what this story offers. Ok, it offers Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina de Souza, who is friggin awesome and I so wish had stayed as a companion. She is a cat burglar who starts the episode off by floating down on a wire and stealing a valuable gold cup from a museum. Doesn’t get much cooler than that?
But the plot is up to pretty much
nothing at all sadly. A massive swarm of metal creatures go from planet to planet through wormholes eating planets dry and leaving them deserts. Ok. But they really stretched it out to a full hour I felt, it could have been more effectively told in 45 minutes. I guess they had a lot of footage from the UAE and they didn’t want to waste it. We have a bunch of characters trapped on the bus which are quite under-utilised too, some of them were really interesting, especially the elderly couple. They basically just wait on the bus whilst the Doctor and Christina try to solve everything.
Then we have Lee Evans giving a wonderful performance as Malcolm which added a lot to the story, but for 60 minutes it did seem a little lacking to be fair.

The Waters of Mars

After watching this story through to the end, I have to say that it contains probably the most disturbing image of any Doctor Who story I have seen. Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan) takes her own life, she shoots herself. Although we don’t see the moment she shoots herself, we do see her pull out the gun, and we do see a flash as the gun is fired. I’m going to say that considering the intended audience is families, and particularly children, I don’t believe this was appropriate for the show and I am left feeling very uneasy about it.
The episode itself is somewhat disturbing and extremely dark in nature. The idea of water that kills, or transforms, the ideas behind the tale I think are very strong and we have an almost ‘Gerry Davis-esque’ crew on the Mars base who are from all countries of the world with lots of accents. Ok, it’s mostly limited to Europe to be fair.
It’s also the old ‘tried and true’ base under siege storyline, and it’s tried and true because it works. There’s
The Doctor and Adelaide Brooke
wonderful elements emphasising the inevitability of what is going to happen, juxtaposed against the Doctor’s determination that sod it all, he’s basically God and if he wants to change established history then he will! Despite the dangers, as Adelaide’s daughter is inspired by her to become a pioneer of space travel herself.
So this is where it all gets a bit screwy, and the Doctor comes across as so angry. I’m not sure I bought it, and that’s not because of the performances but because of who the Doctor is and has been. He certainly was more chipper in the previous two specials. And we are left wondering how the two characters who survive, Mia and Yuri, could possibly integrate back into life on Earth, let alone explain how they got back home from Mars.
It is great to see Australia actor Peter O’Brien in the cast, a veteran of many Australian shows. I think the story was very solid, the effects and the direction (directed by Graeme Harper) were outstanding. A bit of a hard episode to judge. It’s a bit preachy in places and I wasn’t convinced with the way RTD wrote the Doctor in places.


Monday, 18 November 2013

The Stolen Earth, Journey's End & The Next Doctor

The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End

By now I know what to expect with the series finales. They are big, very very big. A little reminiscent, and generally plotwise a massive disappointment. So, keeping that in mind you can’t be disappointed with The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, because they merely ran true to form. In fact, they were the pinnacle of overblown, over the top stories laced with awful plotting and a very drawn out ending.
Although there are a few specials to go, you could be forgiven for seeing this one as Russel T Davies’ and David Tennant’s swansong. We even got a regeneration of sorts! What really got me was how unsatisfying the resolution was. Which is RTD’s forte it seems, building up on a huge scale and then not really having anywhere to go except a big reset button or exploring the realms of incredulity.
So. We have planets throughout the universe disappearing, and at the start of the story the Earth becomes one of them. Why the TARDIS would not be taken with the Earth is anyone’s guess, it had landed there and so being left in the empty space when the Earth is stolen made no rightly sense to me.
Not only do we have a Dalek army, a Dalek supreme, but Dalek Sek and Davros are back too. Julian Bleach’s Davros is wonderful, perfect casting as the mad creator of the Daleks, and he looks fantastic, true to the original, so a big thumbs up for that. All the important characters are back for the finale – the characters that have made the first four years of the new series. Rose, Mickey, Rose’s Mum (grooooooan), Martha, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane (always wonderful to see her) and Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister. They all come up with ingenious ways to destroy the Earth so the Daleks can’t have it, but it all comes to naught in the end.

Because this series is about Donna. And she’s been saying she’s no-one, so it must be her who saves the day. So here’s the thing that killed the story for me. Donna-Doctor. Doctor-Donna. Whichever it was. As the TARDIS is seconds away from destruction, Donna touches the Doctor’s hand in a jar (this is the hand he lost in ‘The Christmas Invasion’ by the way) and creates a new Doctor, combined with Donna. So yes, we have two David Tennants! Then Donna herself inherits the Doctor’s mind, combined with hers, and presses a few buttons and stops everything.
Let’s look past the fact that pressing buttons is a very weak way to resolve the situation, and consider then that it is NOT Donna that saves the day, but the Doctor-Donna. It’s nothing inherit in Donna perse, but the combination of minds which allows her to be the heroine. For me, that defeated the purpose of having her being the key to it all. BIG TIME.

That for me was the single biggest issue with this epic story which looks great although it’s full of many other crappy elements like the Oster-Haagen key, and the end of the first part where the Doctor starts to regenerate and then doesn’t cause he didn’t want to. Then we have the ending with Rose. Rose is sent back to the alternate Earth and given the new version of the Doctor, who is incidentally human. I’m sorry, but AS IF. Let’s also look past the age difference and oh so much that’s wrong with the idea of a relationship between the two, he’s a friggin’ facsimile. It’s dreadful, awful, shite.
The ending doth drag too, and all we really needed to see was what happened to Donna, who has her memory of the Doctor wiped because otherwise it will kill her. And this is really sad. And again unsatisfying for this viewer. In fact, I may have preferred her to actually die. Dalek Caan is continually saying one of the companions is going to die, and then no-one does.
So, in short, grand on scale, vision and design, short on plot and satisfaction. In short, the antithesis of every series finale RTD has given us.

The Next Doctor

And we’re back with another Christmas special, starring David Morrissey as Jackson Lake, who thinks he’s the Doctor with his faithful companion Rosita (played by the brilliant Velile Tshabalala) facing off against Miss Hartigan (Dervla Kirwan) who is equally brilliant. In fact, the these actors make the show wonderful, seriously wonderful.
The first three quarters of the episode is just a great romp, with some clever twists. I love the idea of the Doctor thinking that Jackson must simply be a future incarnation, and then he has a sonic screwdriver which is just… a screwdriver! Brilliant! And the TARDIS is a hot air balloon! Wonderful stuff! Then we have the Cybermen, and their ‘Cybershades’ very strange creatures with cyber-faces but a sort of shaggy black carpet as the costume. Ok, they look pretty crappy.
The show is full of wonderful moments and reveals, it’s truly magical in places, sad in others. Highly entertaining. It was the best Christmas special of all.
Until… the Cyberking. Oh gawd. What were they thinking? A huge Cyberman walking around London destroying everything with like a control deck and Miss Hartigan at the controls. She appears to be an early feminist too, but the script doesn’t treat her well which I didn’t like and seems almost anti-feminist in the way it portrays her. It looks a bit rubbish this CyberKing, but in concept it’s even worse. It’s a kind of lame concept which may have been used because RTD couldn’t think of anything else when faced with the question – ‘What are the Cybermen up to?’.
The story is the first to be shot in HD, and it looks magnificent. The improvement in picture quality is massive. I enjoyed that aspect and the performances of the guest cast. And the first three quarters is pretty awesome. Hard to get past the CyberKing though…