Monday, 4 November 2013

School Reunion, The Girl in the Fireplace, Rise of the Cybermen & The Age of Steel.

School Reunion

Anthony Head AND Elizabeth Sladen. Bloody brilliant.
Toby Whithouse gets thrown the baton on this one and well, he certainly got given a lot to go on with! The return of a past companion in Sarah Jane Smith (played by the late Elizabeth Sladen) and K-9, and a special guest star in Rupert Giles himself -  Anthony Head. The story is somewhat light again, but these are forty-five minute episodes and a self-contained story with characters from the past returning and the like could hardly have a million plot-twists, could it?
K-9 is back too!
It’s set at a school where these evil aliens – Krillitanes – are making the students smarter via oil the chips are cooked in, so that they can uncover the Skasis Paradigm, and have control over the building blocks of the universe. Does that make any sense at all? Nope. And I would have loved to have seen Anthony Head do more but them’s the breaks in a 45 minute story. It’s all rather fun and enjoyable, and feels like it could have easily been made into a two-part story.

We address some important issues too – what happens to the companions when the Doctor moves on? The idea that Sarah kept waiting and waiting is very sad indeed. The Krillitanes are bat-people, completely CGI which is, as usual, obvious, but not a bad design all told. There are some creepy teachers at that school as well, not just the headmaster. It’s well directed and well-cast. Just a pity about the plot in retrospect.

The Girl in the Fireplace

See, barmy crazy ideas CAN work. This episode, penned by Steven Moffat, is a truly beautifully written and realised episode, one of the best since the series returned in 2005. We have a spaced ship with doorways linked to 19th century France following the life of the mistress to the King, Madame Du Pompidou (Reinette), played perfectly by Sophia Myles. The space ship is trying to repair itself using human parts, but still need a controlling computer, and it believes that Renette’s brain at age 37 (the age of the space ship) is what will complete the repairs. The doorways to her life are scattered through her timeline.
Sophia Myles
It looks beautiful. The whole story. We have a horse roaming around a space ship in the far future, how cool is that? The palace in France is glorious in its detail, and the clockwork robots which are sent to France to find the brain at the right time are a superb piece of design. Mickey has joined Rose and the Doctor in their travels which is nice because Noel Clarke is fantastic, and the biggest thing in the episode is that the Doctor falls in love.
Yes, the Doctor gets to snog Madame Du Pompidou. How about that? And the series didn’t crumble and fall down because of it. And then in the end he returns to late to take her with him in the TARDIS, she has died – far too young. It’s a very sad moment. David Tennant plays it all very well, that seems to be his ‘thing’ – he is the romantic Doctor. Perhaps.
The Doctor is 'wowed' by the clockwork roboty-things.
It’s very hard to comment further on these single episodes. This crazy plot works. There are only two characters with much relevance to the story beyond the Doctor and his team – Renette and the King of France. Well, we also have ‘young’ Renette, and Renette’s friend. The design is perhaps the best the series has ever seen, it really blew me away. It’s a brilliant 45 minutes of TV.

The Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

We are whisked away to a parallel world to see a new Cyber-race created at the hands of John Lumic (Roger Lloyd-Pack) for this two-parter. It’s filled with a lot of excitement and more Cybermen than we have ever seen on screen before. The Cybermen have had a redesign, unlike the Daleks which basically had the same design before but just tweaked a bit.
Noel Clarke as Mickey.
The Cybermen design, whilst perhaps being better than the way we last saw them in ‘Silver Nemesis’, didn’t really grab I have to say. What was clever was the use of ‘computer speak’ in their dialogue (their new catch phrase is ‘delete’ rather than ‘excellent!’) and their wish to ‘upgrade’ everyone, back to concept of ‘you will be like us’ which is where they started back in ‘The Tenth Planet’ all those years ago.
They are Cybermen from a parallel universe, we must remember that! So
Roger Lloyd-Pack
they will of course be a bit different, and this lot originated on Earth rather than Mondas. They did an interesting parallel Earth – to a point. We had Zeppelins in the sky and no royal family, instead Great Britain had a President. However, the idea of bringing the Cybermen back via another dimension to me was pointless. If you are in a parallel world, you want a story exploring how the society is different and what is therefore WRONG with that society. If you want to take it up a notch, what is RIGHT in the other dimension which is WRONG is ours. Explore the paradoxes, rather than just ‘Rose’s father is alive and is a success’.
Which was nice, because Shaun Dingwell is fantastic as Peter Tyler, and to be honest I was happy to see Jackie turned into a Cyber-woman. That Rose and Pete should care so much about her to go and save here with basically no chance in hell was mystifying, she is bloody awful and instead of reversing that for this episode, she is WORSE!
Mickey leaves in this story. He didn’t travel with the Doctor and Rose long, did he? I make that… two stories! I am going to miss Mickey, Noel Clarke has been the highlight of the second series thus far and am sorry to see him go. Of course, he might yet come back. Lovely that he finds his Gran, and amusing that the parallel Mickey is called Ricky – the name the Ninth Doctor always used for Mickey. I still find it a bit hard to believe he would stay, but he did have his Gran to look after, who had died in the ‘main’ universe.
The Cybermen stomp around a lot in this one. The suit is a combination of the older design, say from ‘The Moonbase’, and a storm trooper from Star Wars. They make a lot of noise when they walk and electrocute people by touching them this time. That wasn’t very convincing to this viewer to be honest. But, such is life.
The show must go on, sans Mickey now it seems. This story saves itself with Graeme Harper as the director bringing his famed energy to the show, so it keeps moving and is strong on action. The only director to return to the show, it’s great that Harper is still alive and kicking and really adding something more to the Doctor Who legend.


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