Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Christmas Carol, The Impossible Astronaut, Day of the Moon & The Curse of the Black Spot

A Christmas Carol

Katherine Jenkins
The 2010 Christmas special was easily the most Christmassy of all thus far, taking it’s tale from the classic story by Charles Dickens. Sure it’s set on another planet with a space ship about to crash into the planet and kill a lot of people, and it features songstress Katherine Jenkins. Not only that but we have (the second) Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon as this story’s ‘Mr Scrooge’ –  Sardick . So what more could you want?
It really feels like an episode outside of cannon in a lot of ways. All the Christmas episodes feel separate from the rest of the series in some ways with perhaps the exception of ‘The End of Time’, but this seems to elevate the Christmas special to another place entirely. As it stands it’s a pretty good piece of work, written by Steven Moffat, the first time the special has not be written by RTD.
It’s not very fast paced, and it has a bit of singing which wouldn’t have been so bad but to be honest it was clearly to make the best use of Catherine Jenkins. The music sadly, lovely though it is, is clearly pre-recorded and so it almost doesn’t seem to belong. There is an art to making songs sound like they belong in the world of the movie, or in this case TV show. Look at the Buffy Musical. Now this is not a musical, I must stress that, but when Jenkins starts singing it is blatantly obvious it is not live.
Gambon as Sardick

The look of it all is rather superb though, even if it is all very blue! It’s also kinda sad I guess, another love story taking centre stage in a Doctor Who adventure. Clever use of time again. It’s a little slow, and it would have been nice for Amy and Rory to have more to do. I thought I was going too hate it, so I am glad you know, I didn’t.

The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon


For the first time a series starts with a two-part episode, setting up what appears to be a series arc as well and perhaps giving us the most impressive story visually in the show’s history. Steven Moffat makes a big statement here at the start of a 7 episode run, series six is the first season to be ‘split’ into two, airing in 2011 from April and then September.
It’s certainly epic, and that in part could be an issue going forward. When you start the series with an epic two-parter, where do you go? Can you lift it another cog or two? Is it actually possible? The story is set and filmed (location stuff at least) in America, and involves Richard Nixon (wonderfully played by Stuart Milligan) so again another figure from history. Moffat carefully is not very judgemental on the guy apart from a couple of comments.
But it all starts in Utah where Amy, Rory and River see the Doctor being killed by an astronaut, or at least a person in an astronaut suit. That evening, after they have burnt the Doctor’s body, they see the Doctor again! It seems the doctor that died, still Matt Smith looking pretty much the same, is the Doctor from 200 years in the future. Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey!
Milligan as Nixon.
The alien menace in this one is the ‘Silence’ or ‘Silents’ as I have seen some people write. They look excellent, very creepy indeed but that are very similar to the Ood. In fact I would say somewhere between the Ood and the gentlemen, from the Buffy episode ‘Hush’. The idea is wonderful – that they can erase themselves from your memory the second you don’t see them, and it presents some clever solutions too.
We begin the second episode months after the first, and to be honest I don’t think it made a hell of a lot of
sense. Everyone has split up and is found in different areas of the USA, gathering information on the Silence. Except they really don’t know anything new. Rory and Amy appear to spend a very long time inside body-bags as well which wasn’t very convincing. The Doctor is being held as a sort of mad prisoner, it seems like Moffat had a series of images he wanted to include in the story.
Then there is the little girl, because it’s
Rory and Amy share a moment.
all about her. She’s been calling Nixon, she is found in Florida in a space suit, and was apparently put there by the Silence. In the second part she forces her way out of the suit, rips it to get out. It’s full of wiring, has it been keeping her alive.
Who is the little girl? Is it Amy’s baby? Because big hints are dropped that it might be! We are setting up a big series six here it seems. Series Five had a spooky voice calling ‘Silence will fall’ a lot. Is this the Silence from this two part story? I am presuming it is.
Some wonderful, creepy images by the director too, Toby Haynes. Amy especially will the marks she makes to signify she has seen a Silent. Have to say they have used mostly if not entirely American actors this time for American characters which really helps (as compared with ‘Daleks in Manhatten’). Can they find another  gear through Series Six? We will have to see. But a very strong opening.

The Curse of the Black Spot

The Siren rises.

The third episode/second story of the series was always never going to match the opening for grandeur this time, and so taking it back to a simple, self-contained episode was the logical thing to do. ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ starts off as a bit of fun, with Matt Smith being suitably awkward before the threat of the Siren reveals herself. Are we falling into clichés? Sure, but that’s ok. I liked the episode, although it does sag in the middle.
What’s haunting the pirate ship becalmed on the ocean? In fact it’s another space ship in a different dimension occupying the same space. The Siren appears at the first sign of illness, injury or blood and whisks the pirates back to her space ship and puts them into stasis. It’s a rather nice idea that probably wasn’t played out as well as it could have been.
The guest cast are very good, and the pirates leave Earth in the space ship although I
Patients in stasis. 
am a little confused as to how the little boy will survive out of stasis. I guess the Siren takes care of that. The biggest issue is continuing on from ‘Day of the Moon’ – with a bunch of questions left unanswered such as who killed the Doctor in the space suit and who is the girl. Oh, and why did Amy think she was pregnant and then say she is not?
To just go ‘let’s have more adventures’ in the wake of that seems unlikely for the characters and proved frustrating for this viewer. Moffat has set up a list of questions we may well have to wait a further 11 episodes to understand. But hey, no-one’s perfect, right?


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