Thursday, December 29, 2011

Doctor Who - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe


I really like the Narnia stories and was very excited when I heard the Moff was taking inspiration from them for his latest Christmas special.

It turned out that the beginning was where most of the similarities lie with the Doctor being the caretaker of a house taking in war refugees from London and them walking through a doorway into another world. Other than some other faint similarities, it was mostly a different tale with a different moral and different concepts.

I really liked the family Madge, Lily and Cyril as played by Claire Skinner, Holly Earl and Maurice Cole. The children were well done acting like children but not being annoying which is so easy to stumble into when using kids in drama. Lily in particular seemed like good companion material.

The story was a nice enough Christmas story but it wasn't especially exciting or thrilling. I thought last year's A Christmas Carol was much better.

The scenes touring the house were fun and great Matt Smith moments. The scenes with the bumbling Androzani soldiers were less so. Obviously comedy relief but hard to believe that any soldier would disarm simply because a woman was crying. And I'm not sure how acid rain is used for harvesting a living forest anyway. Wouldn't chopping them down be more practical?

I didn't much care for the scenes of the Doctor exiting the spaceship and crashing on Earth. Again done for comedic effect, but only achievable by throwing science and logic out the window to have a gag. He did have a special crash suit on, but this part really stretched credibility for me.

I also thought it was weird that the children didn't age between the three years from when their mother first met the Doctor to when he shows up as caretaker to their refugee home. They seemed exactly the same which is odd because a three year age difference should have been more noticeable.

With the Doctor being referred to as the caretaker throughout I have to wonder if he's using this or other aliases next series to perpetuate the myth that he's dead.

The scene with the Ponds at the end was quite nice and touching. It worked very well and set things up for their comeback next series.

Not a terrible story but one I found to be just very average with nothing particularly special about it. Disappointing fare as it was coming from the Moff himself.

Here's my customary list of favorite 23rd stories:

1) The Invasion of Time by David Agnew (pseudonym for Graham Williams and Anthony Read)
2) The Monster of Peladon by Brian Hayles
3) Partners in Crime by Russell T. Davies
4) The Ark by Paul Erickson and Lesley Scott
5) The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe by Steven Moffat

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Doctor Who - The God Complex


This was another of the top stories of the series. Great performances from Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as well as all of the supporting cast especially David Walliams as the Gibbis.

A simple enough story with the TARDIS crew trapped with four other characters in a hotel that is not really a hotel. Each character has their own room wherein their greatest fear lies. When they see that fear, they fall back on their faith to support them, which is their inevitable undoing as that faith is what the creature in the hotel feeds upon.

A simple concept but what makes it great is how Toby Whithouse explores those fears which allows for great character development. We learn that Rory has no faith and as such is the only character the creature is not interested in. We learn that Amy's greatest fear is abandonment which makes total sense given her character background. And her faith is in the Doctor of course although to save her, he must break that faith.

The other characters in the episode are also explored quite well given the 45 minute running time. In just a few brief scenes, we get to know the psyche of the Gibbis, Rita, Howie and Joe surprisingly well. Part of this is due to Whithouse's script, part is the fine performances and part is the fantastic direction from Nick Hurran. Hurran utilizes the current choppy editing technique of Michael Bay and his ilk to great effect to show us the gamut of emotions the characters experience upon seeing their greatest fear from terror to giddiness as their faith overwhelms them.

Matt Smith gives a great performance as we truly see the frustration and agony he feels as he's utterly helpless to prevent the deaths of his new found friends. One of his best as the Doctor so far.

We do not get to see the Doctor's greatest fear which may be for the best as fans would probably argue about it relentlessly but it involves the cloister bell. (My guess would be him succumbing to his darker side ala the Dream Lord/Valeyard).

The Gibbis is a fascinating idea for a species that at first glance seems to be typical cowardice and willingness to be subjugated which leads to some great comedy but as the Doctor later points out, his species' cowardice hides a far more aggressive characteristic than is expected as they are willing to sacrifice any one and any thing to survive making them one of the most ruthless species out there. David Walliams is perfect as the Gibbis combining comedy, a sinister undertone and a hidden smugness as well.

Amara Karan is great as Rita portraying a legitimate potential companion which makes her ultimate fate even more tragic.

There's a great classic series nod of linking the creature to the Nimons which of course makes my inner geek smile.

The seeming departure of Amy and Rory and the reasons behind it make total sense. It was a great moment both story-wise and emotionally. At this juncture I would say its best to leave them there at this point, but as we now know, they are rejoining the Doctor for part of next series again. This departure was merely a story reason to get them off the TARDIS so that the Doctor can confront his fate at Lake Silencio. I really have to wonder if their real departure will be as satisfying and appropriate as this false one was. I hope so. And I hope it doesn't end with their death(s).

Here is my list comparing the twentieth stories for each Doctor from most to least favorite:

1) Blink by Steven Moffat
2) The Time Warrior by Robert Holmes
3) The Caves of Androzani by Robert Holmes
4) The God Complex by Toby Whithouse
5) The Myth Makers by Donald Cotton
6) Image of the Fendahl by Chris Boucher
7) The Space Pirates by Robert Holmes

Doctor Who - The Curse of the Black Spot


I was really looking forward to this one as there has been only one brush with historical pirates in Doctor Who in the past (The Smugglers). There have been plenty of space pirates (The Space Pirates, The Pirate Planet, Terminus, The Infinite Quest, etc.) but only the one historical. I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some modern pirate style swashbuckling ala The Pirates of the Caribbean. But alas, I was a bit disappointed.

The pirates wound up being a bit castrated as they were unable to shed blood for fear of going to their deaths. It made sense in the context of the story, but didn't satisfy that pirate aggression I was looking forward to.

I was also disappointed to learn the siren wasn't really a menace but rather a medical ships' emergency holodeck hologram. It all seemed a bit odd and contrived to get all these circumstances together so that she appeared to be the siren of legend including her ability to pass through reflections/water, the singing, her beauty, etc.

And the other thing I didn't like was the fact that during the scripting or editing process, one of the pirates vanished without anything happening to him. He was taken by the siren because he's there at the end, but at no point do we see him get taken and that's a bit sloppy in the storytelling department.

On the plus side, we got to see more of Amy and Rory actually being in love and no sign of the love triangle of the previous series. We also got another instance of Rory being Doctor Who's Kenny from South Park. And we got to see Amy kick some ass for a few minutes anyway which has been lacking as of late.

I also liked how the Doctor had to keep modifying his theories as to what was going on as the story progressed. It showed that even though he seems to know what's going on most of the time, he may just be guessing a lot of the time and was good for some comedy spots.

Not a bad story, per se, but one I was disappointed with and my least favorite from the Moff era so far.

List of thirteenth stories for each Doctor from my favorite to least favorite:

1) The Hand of Fear by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
2) Smith and Jones by Russell T. Davies
3) The Mutants by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
4) Fury from the Deep by Victor Pemberton
5) The Curse of the Black Spot by Steve Thompson
6) The King's Demons by Terence Dudley
7) The Web Planet by Bill Strutton

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Doctor Who - The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People


At last I've gotten the chance to write this review.

Matthew Graham redeemed himself quite a bit with this two-parter. Although one of the weaker stories this series, it was still rather good. MUCH better than his previous story Fear Her which was the first story I really haven't liked since Ghost Light in 1989.

A big improvement on that was The Rebel Flesh. I've decided that to be the overall title as far as I'm concerned. I really like both titles but I feel that title fits best especially since The Almost People had the rather bland original title of Gangers. That makes The Rebel Flesh the title that stuck around so I'll give that precedence.

Arthur Darvill is again in fine form as Rory and it was very cool to see him have another girl pining after him after Amy's pre-marriage shenanigans last year. I don't think she liked that another girl was interested in her man. The good news is though that with every episode its more and more apparent that Amy has learned to appreciate her husband after taking him for granted for so long. Aside from that and the rather shocking reveal that Amy herself was a Ganger, she really doesn't get that much to do in this two-parter.

Matt Smith, however, gets twice as much to do as both "real" and ganger Doctor. As I've recently begun to realize, I prefer Smith in stories like this that are largely removed from the arc. I think these are the stories where his performance shines because he can mostly be the goofy hero which is so much fun to watch. I love the arc stories but Smith seems less confortable to me in those episodes.

The supporting cast is all really good with Sarah Smart and Raquel Cassidy in particular standing out. The only character that was a bit underdeveloped was Leon Vickers' Dicken. Other than that this two-parter really gave the story room to breathe and allow us time to get to know the characters better which for me personally makes me care just a little more when the body count starts to mount up.

I loved the idea and presentation of the Gangers. They were very creepy but you could also identify with their predicament. Great CGI. Especially the part where Jennifer's Ganger kills human Buzzer with her gaping maw was really well done and creepy.

There were quite a few issues I had with the story however:

1) For one thing, it became really confusing very quickly which Doctor we were supposed to think was real and which the Ganger was so the reveal that they actually switched places was a bit muddled. I think choosing different shoes to tell them apart was a mistake since we rarely see the characters' feet. Changing the bow tie or jacket would have worked much better.

2) I found it a bit odd they never told us why the heck they were mining acid in the first place. Is it used to make Ganger soup? What the hell was it for?

3) The Doctor pretty callously destroyed Amy's Ganger after spending two episodes fighting for Ganger rights. I realize she wasn't imbued with sentience like the others were but there were indications in the episodes that the Gangers on some level were always aware of the multiple deaths they experienced. Hypocritical much Doc?

4) The cliffhanger ending of the first part was way too telegraphed to be effective. Hearing the goop say "trust me", one of the Eleventh Doctor's catchphrases, totally eliminated any shock value. It could have been handled much better.

5) Why did Cleaves' Ganger and the Ganger Doc have to sacrifice themselves? Couldn't they have escaped in the TARDIS with the others? Or couldn't the real Doc have used his screwdriver on the crazed Jennifer Ganger while the rest were safely in the TARDIS? It seems like they sacrificed themselves only because it was in the script to do so.

Other than those complaints though I thought overall it was a very good story and I liked it. Its been a very strong series overall so even though most of the episodes were better than this, that's not really knocking it very much.

List of fifteenth stories from each Doctor from most to least favorite:

1) The Three Doctors by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
2) Warriors of the Deep by Johnny Byrne
3) The Face of Evil by Chris Boucher
4) The Rebel Flesh (The Almost People) by Matthew Graham
5) Gridlock by Russell T. Davies
6) The Dominators by Norman Ashby (pseudonym of Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln)
7) The Space Museum by Glyn Jones

Doctor Who - The Girl Who Waited

This has to be a contender for one of the best episodes of this year.


Tom MacRae has crafted a truly emotional romp that features the relationship between Amy and Rory better than any other episode. I thought Amy's Choice was their definitive story but no, its this one. With really only the three regulars as characters in the story it gives it room to breathe and fully immerse itself in their relationship to its fullest.

I really liked MacRae after Rise of the Cybermen but for some reason, that story has not proven popular with fandom. (Probably because the Cybermen in it aren't the originals, but that seems petty to me.) I think that story was underrated and hopefully this episode has redeemed him in the eyes of his critics.

Performances from both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have never been stronger. Gillan truly manages to capture her character at two different stages of her life with great ability. And Darvill does a fantastic job showing both love and compassion towards Amy and resentment towards the Doctor.

Speaking of which, I can't help but feel this is the beginning of the end for the Ponds as companions. After the repeated dangers the Doctor has put both Amy and Rory in such as not bothering to check if their ever was a plague on the planet as Rory points out; and the clear resentment and horror Rory shows when he realizes the Doctor is making Rory more like him by making him choose between the two Amys, I can't see him wanting to stick around much longer. Oh, and them loosing their daughter to the Doctor's enemies of course.

Which brings up one the few flaws of the episode; the lack of a mention of River/Melody. It really stretches credibility that in such an emotional episode about the couple that there would be no mention of their daughter at all no matter how much they realize she's stuck in the machinations of the flow of time.

There are some other logistical problems with the episode like the nature of the disease conveniently not affecting Amy and Rory even as carriers. Why a resort planet wouldn't program its Handbots to recognize aliens. The unlikely scenario that they would be able to set up 10,000 different time streams for people and the immense energy that would probably take are things really best not thought about.

The story was about Amy and Rory and in that it accomplished its goals with flying colors.

Here's the list of nineteenth stories for each doctor from most to least favorite:

1. Human Nature (The Family of Blood) by Paul Cornell
2. The Girl Who Waited by Tom MacRae
3. The Green Death by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts
4. Planet of Fire by Peter Grimwade
5. The Seeds of Death by Brian Hayles and Terrance Dicks
6. Mission to the Unknown by Terry Nation
7. The Invisible Enemy by Bob Baker and Dave Martin

Friday, September 9, 2011

Doctor Who - Night Terrors

Time for a break from the big story arc which was a nice change of pace from the last two stories. I love the arc episodes but I still enjoy a nice self-contained romp as well.


Night Terrors was not an exceptional story but it was a good one. Kind of like Fear Her with the child who can change the world around them but done much better and not dumbed down for kids. The atmosphere was very creepy and the Peg Dolls were great ideas and great creations by Gatiss. In fact I would have liked to have seen more of them but I don't think there was enough story to sustain it over two episodes so its probably best they kept it to one. The transformation scene to a Peg Doll was very like the "empty child" style ones in the story of the same name but that didn't make it any less creepy. This is obviously a man who was frightened by creepy dolls as a child. The nursery rhyme Gatiss used makes the Dolls even creepier but unfortunately the director did not make certain it was actually audible during the episode except for the last line. Here it is in full:

Tick tock goes the clock
And what now shall we play?
Tick tock goes the clock
Now summer’s gone away?

Tick tock goes the clock
And what then shall we see?
Tick tock until the day
That thou shalt marry me

Tick tock goes the clock
And all the years they fly
Tick tock and all too soon
You and I must die

Tick tock goes the clock
He cradled her and he rocked her
Tick tock goes the clock
Even for the Doctor...

Obviously some great foreshadowing by Mark Gatiss here for the rest of the series and really the only arc element in it so its a great shame we couldn't actually hear it in the episode itself.

Speaking of the arc, it seemed a bit odd that there was no mention of River considering the events of the previous episode in a series that has had such tight continuity but this episode was switched with The Curse of the Black Spot after filming was completed on it so it does make sense why nothing was in there and I can forgive it for that.

I find that these are the stories where Matt Smith shines the most. The ones where he can just be the goofy hero saving people and worlds. I loved him in this episode. And his interactions with Daniel Mays were hilarious.

The landlord side plot seemed a bit pointless as Alex was still as far as I could tell in trouble of not being able to make his rent but perhaps his landlord will be kinder now or with George "cured" perhaps Alex will have more luck finding a job.

In doing research for this review I learned the title does actually refer to a condition children can suffer from which makes it more appropriate and less generic than I thought at first, but I still think I prefer the working title What Are Little Boys Made of?.

Here's the list comparing each Doctor's eighteenth stories:

1) Resurrection of the Daleks by Eric Saward
2) The Horror of Fang Rock by Terrance Dicks
3) Planet of the Daleks by Terry Nation
4) 42 by Chris Chibnall
5) Night Terrors by Mark Gatiss
6) Galaxy 4 by William Emms
7) The Krotons by Robert Holmes

Doctor Who - Let's Kill Hitler

The Moff was back in top form for this arc-heavy episode wherein we learn more about River Song than ever before.


A large part of the story arc of the last few series is pieced together and explained. Although there are still a fair amount of questions still to be answered, this story was a very satisfying part of the puzzle explaining the beginnings of River Song and her first real encounter with the Doctor (outside of briefly meeting him as a newborn or as a child imprisoned in an astronaut suit), what made her fascinated with the Doctor, who the regenerating child was and what happened to baby Melody.

The inclusion of Mels(River) as a childhood friend of Amy and Rory and her participation in getting them together as a couple in the first place was a beautiful piece of timey-whimeyness that has become the Moff's signature. And it works wonderfully with just one criticism; I think Mels should have appeared before Let's Kill Hitler so as to establish her as a childhood friend beforehand rather than make the idea seem like an afterthought. Even a brief appearance in The Impossible Astronaut could have established the character as being a part of their lives. That is, unless time is being rewritten and that's the Moff's intent that she was suddenly added to the timeline. We probably won't know that though until The Wedding of River Song is shown.

The performances are great all around, especially Alex Kingston and Nina Toussaint-White as Mels. Not to mention Arthur Darvill who gets a fantastic punch the air moment(or rather, punch the Hitler moment).

Speaking of Hitler; I felt he was underused in the episode as were the Nazis in general. This period of history is ripe for potential stories and would be perfect for a pure historical story without any sci-fi elements aside from the TARDIS and the regulars but its merely utilized as background for the story of River Song. Seems like wasted potential although the brief scenes where Hitler is used as comic relief are brilliant.

The Teselecta is mostly a plot device which is utilized well in the story but it raises the point of now that the Time Lords are gone, it seems like there are an awful lot of time travelers out there doing whatever they want without anyone to police them. Surely this kind of time travel where the Teselecta humans snatch war criminals out of the time stream to torture them is precisely the sort of meddling the Time Lords used to prevent. Good potential for a future story.

One side note; I will say its getting a bit repetitive to kill a member of the TARDIS crew and resurrect them in nearly every story but so far it hasn't affected my enjoyment yet.

All in all though one of the best stories of the series so far and I for one am loving the story arc episodes.

Here's my list of comparing each Doctor's seventeenth stories in my opinion from best to weakest:

1) The Time Meddler by Dennis Spooner
2) The Talons of Weng-Chiang by Robert Holmes
3) Let's Kill Hitler by Steven Moffat
4) The Invasion by Derrick Sherwin and Kit Pedler
5) Frontier in Space by Malcolm Hulke
6) Frontios by Christopher H. Bidmead
7) The Lazarus Experiment by Stephen Greenhorn

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Doctor Who - A Good Man Goes to War


This story again teams up River Song with Team TARDIS but although her presence is significant and really throughout it is much less than in previous adventures and yet we find out more about her character than ever before. We finally know who she is and where she comes from. I must say the name similarity between River and Pond did make me wonder if the two characters were connected and the idea that she might be the child of Amy and Rory did occur to me but I loved the reveal nonetheless. I did not suspect she would be a Time Lord though because she was obviously human and I loved the back story behind how she became one. Personally I love getting these little tidbits of info even though it does lessen the mystery of the Time Lords a bit.

Another smaller bit of the Doctor's history was showing us his cot which did make me wonder if Susan was at one time kept in their by her parents as well.

The story itself felt a bit rushed to me and could have stood some room to breathe a bit which has been a bit of an ongoing flaw in NuWho. That's the modern fast paced short attention span TV coming into effect and sometimes its nice because you don't often get the kind of padding you found in Classic Who but sometimes some of these newer stories feel a bit overloaded and this is one of them. Partially because the Moff throws so many great characters and ideas at us in this one I feel its a bit of a shame we don't get to see more of them or expand on the ideas.

From a seemingly throwaway line in The Time of Angels, The Headless Monks with their battle chants, light sabers and very creepy concept were awesome. I want to know more about them. Although I think they will prove popular, I don't know if we will get to learn how they walk around without heads and where they get their powers from and why they are after the Doctor.

Lesbian couple Madame Vastra: a Silurian warrior with a Samurai sword who was killing Londoners in revenge for for humans destroying her people to build their city's underground areas and sewers and her Victorian maid Jenny. That's an adventure I want to see!

I want to see how Commander Strax became indebted to the Doctor and how he was dishonored into becoming a nurse.

I want to see the adventure where Lorna Bucket met the Doctor as a child see how they ran through the Gamma forests.

I 'd be perfectly happy to read about those adventures in BBC books even but supposedly the BBC has a policy which prevents them from tying in their books that closely with their TV adventures. The books can not seem to be integral to enjoying the TV series. And with those adventures in the Doctor's past, we will probably never get to see them which is a shame as they sound fascinating to me.

However I do think we will learn more about the wonderfully evil Madame Kovarian who was Amy's midwife. I look forward to that and to learning why all these seemingly independent groups: The Silence aliens, the Headless Monks, the Clerics and Kovarian have come together to declare war on the Doctor.

Again, Matt Smith does a good job but he doesn't do angry quite as well as his predecessors Tennant and Eccleston. With the hype that we are going to see the Doctor angrier than ever before, it really doesn't come off that way onscreen. He's angry for sure, but angrier than ever before? Not so much.

And that's why I liked the working title a bit better, Demon's Run. It works as part of the poem the Moff created but it doesn't have the hype of this title. It really wasn't much of a war but a battle or skirmish even. However, I really liked that battle sequence. It was done very well. And it was interesting to see the Doctor call in favors to rescue Amy and the lengths he would go to do so.

The supporting cast was all excellent including our regular companions Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill.

Really a great story but what stops it from becoming one of my all time faves is the lack of time. I really think it should have been a two-parter to allow it to develop and feature all the fantastic concepts longer.

On a side note when are we going to get an action figure of Rory the Roman? Its begging to be made!

Here's the comparison of the Doctors' sixteenth adventures from best to worst:

1) The Robots of Death by Chris Boucher
2) The Mind Robber by Peter Ling and Derrick Sherwin
3) A Good Man Goes to War by Steven Moffat
4) The Chase by Terry Nation
5) Carnival of Monsters by Robert Holmes
6) Evolution of the Daleks (Daleks in Manhattan) by Helen Raynor
7) The Awakening by Eric Pringle

Doctor Who - The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon

I've gotten quite behind in reviewing Doctor Who this year but here I am at last.


At first I delayed reviewing these episodes because although I really enjoyed them, I thought they felt a bit incomplete because they raised so many questions. Today having seen several other episodes and a few others from the story arc, I feel more satisfied and although I feel these episodes improved with further viewing, I have to say its a bit of a flaw if I didn't feel that way on first viewing and without seeing more.

It certainly was an ambitious debut story and I quite liked them opening with a 2-parter to kick off the series. It made it feel big and epic as did shooting it in the big open spaces of the Utah desert. The location shoot was breathtaking as were the scenes by the lake.

I'm really growing to love the interactions more and more between the TARDIS team. The dynamic between the three regulars and River Song is great fun to watch. The chemistry between them all is obvious both as actors and characters. River is a great character and although I know she's either a 'love her' or 'hate her' type of character, you can count me in among 'the love her' category.

We are starting to see Rory's confidence build and his marriage with Amy grow stronger. But there are still obvious elements of envy and jealousy from him towards the Doctor. Its obvious from the way the scenes are played and the dialogue is written that The Moff likes to toy with us still that perhaps Amy hasn't really chosen Rory at all...but all of that is just him playing and teasing it always turns out that it really is Rory she's chosen. Which is good because after everything he's been through for her it would really turn a large portion of the audience against her character if she were to ditch Rory for the Doctor at this point. Except of course for the section of Doctor/Amy shippers out there.

Matt Smith has really totally captured the quirkiness of the Doctor. He's become many people's favorite Doctor even beating out David Tennant. Personally, while I absolutely love the quirky aspects of the Doctor he brings forth, I think sometimes he doesn't know how to balance that with other aspects of the character or other emotions. I've some to the conclusion that he doesn't have the range of Tennant or Christopher Eccleston as an actor. Perhaps that is because of his youth. That's not to say I don't like him, I do. Its just that I don't think he's going to be one of my favorite Doctors.

Kudos to Mark Sheppard for his performance as Canton Everett Delaware III. He made this an incredibly likable character and he really delivered his dialogue with just the right delivery. Also bringing in his father Morgan Sheppard to play an older version of him was brilliant.

The Silence are going to prove to be one of the Moff's best creations. They will undoubtedly return. They are given a great albeit brief back story and they truly are one of the creepiest creations to ever come out of Doctor Who. The scenes in the orphanage I think were among the scariest ever right up there with Blink. The idea that you can't remember them is brill...uhm, what was I talking about?

Oh, yes. I remember now. The idea of bringing an astronaut out of a lake to kill the Doctor is one of those ideas that only a genius could come up with because nobody else would be crazy enough to actually make it part of their story. I will say that although shocking and a great way to start off the series, I think The Moff shouldn't have made the statement that the Doctor is really dead and its not going to be a cop-out. The former part is fine and probably true but the latter is really going to depend on your point of view. I can't see how he can get out of this situation without doing something that isn't going to be branded a cop-out by a fair number of the audience. The Doctor obviously isn't staying dead so there's got to be a solution and therefore something that could be perceived as a cop-out if you're saying he's really dead. If its done well, I of course will forgive any solution as a cop-out personally but many won't. It seems like a promise one shouldn't make.

Nixon's scenes were very funny and entertaining. I loved him coming out of the TARDIS to get the Doctor out of trouble. Although Stuart Milligan didn't play the perfect Nixon is was good enough to pass and the writing made up for any shortcomings in the performance.

The resolution of the cliffhanger felt a bit rushed and although I liked the passage of time and the idea seeing everybody getting killed and the resolution of thus, it all seemed a bit contrived to get those scenes. I couldn't see how they actually managed to pull it off and the brief flashback really wasn't long enough to help figure it out. Why was Canton chasing them? Presumably post-hypnotic suggestion from the Silence. Ok, but why didn't he really kill them then? Presumably because the Doctor worked it out with him not to beforehand. But that doesn't make sense either because Canton seems to not realize there's any aliens out there to play act for. He needs it all explained to him so I can't see the point in the charade. Plus presumably Canton's men would also have to be in on the deception because surely trained CIA men would have noticed Amy and Rory not bleeding or having any damage done to them as they were loaded into body bags. It just doesn't fit together properly even though it was fun to watch.

The defeat of the Silence is absolutely brilliant although one has to wonder how the Doctor knew Canton would be able to conveniently capture a Silence saying they should kill them all on video. But otherwise a great resolution and the scene at the end of the little girl regenerating was a great cliffhanger for the rest of the series.

Overall this was a bit of a mixed bag, but it was fun to watch and overall I really enjoyed it. Many really great moments and great dialogue but also some things that didn't work as well as they might have.

I've decided for me the title of the story overall to be THE IMPOSSIBLE ASTRONAUT as although I like Day of the Moon almost as much, it really only pertains to the second episode and the former fits better as an overall title.

Here's my list of comparing the Doctors' twelfth stories:

1) The Romans by Dennis Spooner
2) The Sea Devils by Malcolm Hulke
3) The Impossible Astronaut by Steven Moffat
4) The Runaway Bride by Russell T. Davies
5) Enlightenment by Barbara Clegg
6) The Web of Fear by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
7) Survival by Rona Munro
8) The Masque of Mandragora by Louis Marks

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Doctor Who - The Doctor's Wife by Neil Gaiman


Comic Book fans like myself have been waiting for over two years for this episode since Gaiman let it slip that he was commissioned to write an episode. The biggest question is was it worth the wait? The answer is a resounding YES!!!

Gaiman crafted a tale that showed how he's a natural fit for Doctor Who's particular brand of sci-fi especially under the reigns of The Moff's run. Its an exciting, sad, happy, fun romp that has tons of continuity references without being inaccessible to newer viewers. Gaiman also introduced some of his typical bizarre characters into the episode particularly with Auntie and Uncle who were brilliantly realized by Gaiman and played amazingly by Elizabeth Berrington and Adrian Schiller.

Which brings me to Idris played to absolute perfection by Suranne Jones. She was everything a female personification of the Doctor's TARDIS should be; funny, quirky, sexy (both in body and name) and having a few brief tiffs with the Doctor. Gaiman stated that he couldn't believe no one had done this story before and after you see it and how brilliant it is, its hard to believe no one has especially under the Davies reign. (In fact, at one point I did suspect Astrid from Voyage of the Damned was going to turn out to be the spirit of the TARDIS in that episode since her name was an anagram of TARDIS and she was turned into energy after dying to be sent off wnadering the universe. But now I'm glad that never happened because this episode was much better than that one.) And there are so many great lines and moments from this episode especially brought about by Idris being the TARDIS that you just know this is going to become one of the most quoted and rewatched episodes from The Moff's era. I loved two bits especially: Idris making the TARDIS whooshing sound to prove that she's the TARDIS to the Doctor and the line from Amy responding to the Doctor's excitement that Idris is the TARDIS and a woman; "Did you wish really, really hard?" I also loved the lines about her being called "Sexy" by the Doctor. They will probably never bring Idris back because it would feel contrived to do so but I know there will be a huge section of fandom wishing for her return someday.

Another thing I really enjoyed was even though the Doctor leaves Amy and Rory locked up in the TARDIS to get them out of the way from the interactions with the Doctor and Idris, they don't disappear from the action. In fact, there's quite a bit of potential character development from it as we get to see Amy's possible guilt projected by the telepathic House at how she's sometimes treated Rory. The projection of the abandoned Rory screaming at her and then writing DIE AMY, KILL AMY before he dies obviously comes from a deep seated knowledge that she has taken him for granted repeatedly even after he seemingly died in Amy's Choice and died for real in Cold Blood. I'm hoping that she will start trusting and appreciating him more and that he will grow to be more confident and secure in their relationship before they inevitably depart the TARDIS crew whenever that happens. I'm hoping that's the journey we're taking with these two characters because sometimes I just want to slap her for not treating him like a proper husband by trusting him and treating him with a little respect at least occasionally and I want to slap him for being so insecure all the time. On a side note, Rory has died so often that some members of fandom are calling him Kenny. If he continues to die in nearly every story I hope we get the following exchange;

Doctor: "You killed Rory!"
Amy: "You bastards!"

Its a bit of harsh language for family TV but it almost has to be said.

TARDIS corridors! Its about bloody time! I think the post-2005 series has not given the audience the full appreciation of just how big the TARDIS really is inside. There have been references and a wardrobe and an alcove with a trunk in it but nothing on this scale and I could see newer viewers not really getting the picture that its much bigger than just the console room. Now that they've spent the money and built a set of corridors, hopefully we will get to see them again on occasion and maybe even other rooms in future.

The title is a quite misleading (although its obvious where it comes from) which is slowly becoming a staple since the show's return in 2005 but unlike The Doctor's Daughter and The Next Doctor particularly The Doctor's Wife is a story that doesn't leave you disappointed after finding out the title is false. The problem with the former two titles being that what the characters actually turn out to be while interesting and good are still a big let down from your expectations which is a mistake on the writers' part. Your title shouldn't be better than your payoff and leave people disappointed. If you're going to do the deceptive title thing, the payoff should be equal or greater than what the title made you think it was,

The only downside for the episode that I can think of is that it was never fully explained what House was exactly. But perhaps there wasn't more to it than the explanation given and my brain is just looking for more details where there aren't any.

My list of favorite fourteenth stories in order from best to last:

1) The Five Doctors by Terrance Dicks
2) The Doctor's Wife by Neil Gaiman
3) The Deadly Assassin by Robert Holmes
4) The Crusade by David Whitaker
5) The Shakespeare Code by Gareth Roberts
6) The Time Monster by Robert Sloman and Barry Letts
7) The Wheel in Space by David Whitaker and Kit Pedler

This was a tough one! The Five Doctors wins because I do love me a bit of fanwank and its one of the most fun stories ever even if its not the best written or achieved story ever. Its just pure fun! A lot of fans hate fanwank because they feel they have to be above such things and they don't want to be thought of as fanboys but I'm a FANBOY and fiercely proud of it! They often cite how stories like this are inaccessible and how they alienate casual viewers. I honestly think that the general audience appreciates stories like this far more than anybody thinks. Imagine if The Moff had a story with the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors together for the 50th anniversary? I bet ratings and audience appreciation figures would be higher than normal even if the story was just ok in and of itself. I think that its mostly self-loathing fanboys who hate these sorts of stories rather than the general public. Partially because the general public doesn't analyze it to death and doesn't think about it beyond their watching experience and can appreciate a fun romp. That's my opinion anyway.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Doctor Who - The Edge of Destruction by David Whitaker

This story is an oddity in Doctor Who. Unusually for science fiction, Doctor Who doesn't have "bubble" episodes like Star Trek or Stargate to save on budget. But this is the only Doctor Who story to take place entirely inside the TARDIS with the exception of last year's Amy's Choice but even that had location shooting in it.

This story was written by then script editor David Whitaker in a weekend at the last minute to fulfill the initial 13 episode order by the BBC. All the other scripts being worked on were longer and wouldn't be given the go-ahead until after the ratings success of The Daleks. So its amazing that this story is so good given all of that.

The surreal atmosphere and the mystery of what is going on is unlike anything else in Doctor Who and it entirely relies on the acting abilities of the main cast to see it through. The story is a bit uneven and the eventual resolution and the leaps of logic needed to get to the solution are a bit much but otherwise its a very solid story script-wise.

This story builds the conflict between the TARDIS crew to a crescendo leading them to suspicion and even suggesting throwing Ian and Barbara off the ship but it also leads to a peace of sorts at the end with Ian and Barbara being accepted as crew members and the Doctor mellowing quite a bit. It is here that he starts moving from anti-hero to the true hero he is later.

William Hartnell, William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are excellent throughout doing an excellent job of building tension and acting oddly in this somewhat surreal story. Carole Ann Ford goes a bit over-the-top at times but otherwise she's fine. This story is another that gives her the opportunity to be a bit more alien.

Definitely a very solid third story. I give it 6 out of 10 TARDISes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Doctor Who - The Daleks by Terry Nation

In this second story, the series begins to improve greatly. A fairly blatant allegory on Nazis and Jews from WWII about racial superiority with the Daleks vs. the Thals, its still a very powerful message. Also included is an early warning about the dangers of nuclear war and its possible side effects.

The story tends to lag in the middle when you watch it all at once, but I found watching it an episode at a time to be consistently entertaining. Which, lets face it, is how these stories were intended to be watched. Still, there is quite a bit of padding. Enough so that the story would probably be stronger if it was cut to 6 episodes instead of 7.

Again, I found the story to work quite well on the limited budget. There's a few little glitches like pieces of the styrofoam cavern wall breaking away at one point but all in all it works.

The costumes of the Thals are unashamedly alien and even though they look a bit silly, I applaud them for it in this day and age where much of science fiction television has humans in the future and even alien races wearing suits and ties or t-shirts and jeans instead of alien or futuristic clothing. I know its supposed to help non sci-fi fans identify with the characters more, but I find it ridiculous that hundreds of years in the future that fashion won't have changed or that aliens wear the same clothes we do on their home planet.

The Daleks are thoroughly single-minded in their desire to exterminate all that is unlike making them truly monsters not only in form but even more so in intent. I never found them particularly scary but even so there's something about them that is just a wonderful design. Again, so many aliens are humanoid or downright human its cool to see aliens that are totally alien to us. (Even though we only get a glimpse of the creatures inside in this early adventure.)

Ian and Barbara continue to be just as important as the Doctor as leads and Susan although pushed a bit more into the background this time, gets a nice bit in the story where she is their only hope of salvation from dying of radiation poisoning.

The Doctor isn't as villainous in this story but he is very much still the anti-hero as he lies to his fellow travelers putting them in mortal danger just because he wants to investigate the Dalek city while they all insist on leaving. Viewers at this point must have been very unsure of whether this character of the Doctor was really a hero or a villain.

A very good start for the Daleks and a sign of even better stories to come. I give it 7 out of 10 TARDISes.

Doctor Who - An Unearthly Child by Anthony Coburn

The very first Doctor Who story. But certainly not the best. As with most television shows, the opening story is not the best one. The flaw mainly comes from the story setting chosen which was during prehistoric times with cavemen. Cavemen are difficult to portray in relation to modern man because they are so far removed from us that we really can't relate to one another. And it usually fails dramatically when its tried especially in a serious manner. That's really the main flaw in the story. Otherwise its fine. The performances are as good as could be expected under the circumstances given that cavemen are conversing and relating to modern man. We can make the apologists argument that the TARDIS was translating their language to make the TARDIS crew able to communicate with them but that's just what it is.

The pilot episode, "An Unearthly Child" however is top notch and as good as just about any other piece of Who. Very dramatic and very effective in setting up a mystery and dramatic tension and then ably explaining it all in easy-to-understand terms. I absolutely love that episode.

And watching the rest of it in episode format daily made me enjoy the rest of the story more than I usually do, especially once I get past the caveman limitations inherent in the story.

William Hartnell is fantastic as the Doctor. Far from the lovable grandfather figure he would later become, he is almost the antagonist and villain of the piece. Threatening Ian and Barbara often throughout the story and then kidnapping them. Forced to team up to survive the Doctor throughout the story, he seems only concerned with his own well being and that of his granddaughter Susan. He even goes so far as suggesting they commit murder to survive and it appears as if he is going to go through with the act before Ian stops him.

Carole Ann Ford is also very good as Susan making the most of playing a normal teenager at times and at other times seeming a bit otherworldly. An aspect of her character mostly played down in later stories unfortunately.

William Russell and Jacqueline Hill as Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are not only the audience identification characters but the real heroes of the story as well. Its them we wind up rooting for mostly and in these early episodes they are just as much the leads as William Hartnell is.

Not the best story even watching it in episode format but it has much going for it still mostly due to the interactions of the four main characters. I give it 5 out of 10 TARDISes.

Doctor Who - Spearhead From Space by Robert Holmes

I've started a quest to watch every episode of Doctor Who in order. Well, actually I started it back in 2009 but as I've just reached the Pertwee era, I've decided to write reviews of them all!

Spearhead From Space is one of the very best opening stories for any Doctor. Its the debut of the Autons, one of Doctor Who's most prominent monsters. They are great creations, utilizing the creepiness of animated dummies to great effect. The effect is enhanced by this being the first Doctor Who story to be shot entirely on film due to strike at the BBC and one wonders if the show wouldn't have been improved if all of it had been shot on film from that point on. Although the form that controls the Autons, the Nestene consciousness takes at the end is much less better realized, its pretty much the only effect in the story that's a bit shoddy. Other than that the effects, pacing and direction is top notch.

The story itself is a fairly straightforward alien invasion plot but that's part of what makes it so strong. Its familiarity allows for the story to breathe enough to also serve as an introduction to the new Doctor portrayed by Jon Pertwee and Caroline John's Liz Shaw as well. Not to mention the reintroduction of Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart and the concept of UNIT.

In contrast to Patrick Troughton who had to find his way to a consistent portrayal of the Doctor, Jon Pertwee is immediately giving the same performance he delivers throughout his era and is much more comfortable in the role initially. His portrayal is a bit more quirky than usual due to the regeneration crisis but it is still the least quirky of all the Doctors as Pertwee chose to play it as a man of action. Basically the James Bond of Doctor Who without the womanizing. The only flaw in his performance is his comical expression when the Nestene is trying to choke him. Its more like something out of a vaudeville comedy rather than the actual expression of someone with their life in jeopardy. Other than that though, he's brilliant!

Caroline John is also very good as Liz Shaw and its a shame that after this story her character was pushed back to being the mere lab assistant as opposed to the primary scientific advisor she was brought in to be. In this story more so than others she is portrayed as almost an equal to the Doctor which is a big change from most of his companions. Apparently Barry Letts, the producer and Terrance Dicks, the script editor felt the companion needed to be more of a damsel-in-distress type. But then, it was the 70's and the idea of strong females was still new in concept in television particularly.

Nicholas Courtney is absolutely brilliant as the Brigadier and the chemistry between him and Jon Pertwee is already apparent this early on.

Hugh Burden gives an excellent performance as Channing, the Auton leader, especially in his facial expressions and vacant stare. You immediately realize there's something not quite right about him based on that alone.

Derek Smee goes a bit over-the-top as Ransome, drooling in fear at the sight of Autons. But you have to admire him going for it all the way even if its a bit unintentionally funny.

But the only performance that really doesn't work is Hamilton Dyce as General Scobie. He gives such a bland performance that even when confronted with his own duplicate, he has absolutely no reaction whatsoever. The director edited in an off-camera scream when he his captured but its obvious that the actor must have been confused as to which version of him was supposed to be the Auton.

A great start to the Pertwee era and one of my favorite stories of his Doctor. I give it 10 out of 10 TARDISes.

On a side note, I realized that I have probably never watched this in episode format before due to it being on public television in the states and they usually played the stories in movie format. When released on VHS it was still movie format. I must say although I often enjoy watching a story all in one sitting, I prefer the episodic format better with cliffhangers intact.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Camelot - "Homecoming" and "The Sword and the Crown"

I am a huge fan of the Arthurian mythos and a bit uptight when it comes to altering it too much. I have enjoyed various re-tellings of the legend of the Knights of the Round Table. Some like the musical film "Camelot" and the 1953 film "Knights of the Round Table" offer fairly faithful versions of the main legend and are quite good. Others like "First Knight" and "King Arthur" (2004) I found disappointing due to their reinterpretations of the source material. The former due to its representation of Lancelot as a rogue rather than as in the traditional legend a deeply flawed man who tries so hard to be the perfect knight but comes up short. The latter due to its supposed presentation as a "realistic" version of the story which ends up neither being realistic nor being faithful to the possible inspirations for the legend. And still others like the TV movie "Merlin" I found to be taking such liberties with the legend that I found it distracting. And the most recent television version also entitled "Merlin" has taken broad liberties as well but its fun enough whilst occasionally throwing something from the tales into the plot to keep me entertained.

That brings me to Starz first two episodes of "Camelot". I have to say I haven't been this satisfied with a version of King Arthur since the magnificent film "Excalibur" (1981). So far this is the version of the tales I have wanted to see told in a serialized format for years. The problem with films is the shortness of the running time. When it was compiled by Sir Thomas Malory he incorporated as many legends as possible together so its an incredibly massive work. With a television show, however, they have the ability to take their time portraying more of the story than ever before.

Included in this version for example is King Lot who was Arthur's chief opponent when Merlin revealed him to be Uther's rightful heir. He is rarely included in films and yet he is one of the two main villains of the first two episodes. We also get Sir Kay (Arthur's foster brother) and Sir Ector (Arthur's foster father) in very prominent roles which is rare. There are are even references or cameos of other Arthurian knights like King Nentres, Sir Brastias, Sir Ulfius and King Pellinore.

Of course there are some liberties and/or combining of characters as in any retelling of Arthurian stories. Morgana is, as usual, combined with her sister Morgause into one character and one of Pellinore's chief deeds is actually done by another character. While it would have been nice to not have those changes, it is understandable as there are so many characters that even in a television series they are going to have to pick and choose whom to use.

There's also one major character named Leontes who is totally an invention of this series but who he turns out to be makes for an interesting unexpected plot twist.

As usual for a made-for-pay channel show there's plenty of sex and violence incorporated into the plot but with this legend that's certainly not forced into it as much of the original story's plot is driven by who slept with whom and a lot of killing so its a big plus in the win column that they have the liberty to portray those things without the hindrance of a censor.

I hope the rest of the season turns out to be as good as the premiere. I have hopes that they will be willing to show some of the other tales that are often skipped in the films. I would love to see some of the quests of Lancelot, Gawain and the quest for the Grail told in greater detail. Not to mention my favorite quest, the tale of Sir Gareth. In it he battles not only the famed Black Knight, but also Green, Blue and Red Knights as well whilst being harassed and berated by an ungrateful maiden he repeatedly saves on the way to rescue her sister from Sir Ironsides. Perhaps that's a bit much to hope for but if the series lasts for a while, who knows what they might do? Hopefully they remain faithful.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Doctor Who - A Christmas Carol

Here is my much-delayed review having watched it the day after Christmas initially.

Steven Moffat said that this was to be the most Christmasy Christmas Special ever. And he wasn't wrong on that count. Not only was it the most Christmasy Doctor Who special it was also the best of them yet.

Moffat weaves a virtually self-contained tale free of almost any references to last series and turns in a superb romp of a story. Full of timey-whimey plot and lots of jokes and some genuinely touching moments this story shows that the Moff has plenty of heart and emotion to go around despite what some of his critics say. Its perhaps a bit more natural and more restrained than RTD's way of doing things but the emotion is there nonetheless.

Matt Smith gives what is perhaps his best performance to date as the Doctor giving it plenty of energy and his expected off-the-wall manner but also delivering agreat performance of comedy and drama whenever the script requires.

Amy and Rory are largely absent from the action but they nonetheless have some great comedy bits in the special and its great to see Arthur Darvill's name in the opening credits as a full companion by any definition.

Michael Gambon gives a expected great performance as Kazran Sardick, the Scrooge character of the episode. and Katherine Jenkins does a fantastic job especially since this was her acting debut. And she really does have the most lovely voice.

The only real complaint I have is that I could see is that with the Moff allowing the Doctor to change history so frequently now that its going to start raising the question as to why he doesn't do it all the time. The Moff seems to be taking away all of the reasons to not do so such as the "Laws of Time" as enforced by the Time Lords or the "Blinovitch Limitation Effect" which is apparently no longer an issue. Although I suppose The Waters of Mars shows what happens when it goes wrong but there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason as to why its ok sometimes and not others. I suppose I'm over-thinking it and should just accept the Doctor knows best but it does start to raise questions.

As always here's my 11th story comparison list from favourite to least favourite:

1) The Ultimate Foe by Robert Holmes, Pip Baker and Jane Baker
2) Doomsday (Army of Ghosts) by Russell T. Davies
3) The Seeds of Doom by Robert Banks Stewart
4) A Christmas Carol by Steven Moffat
5) The Curse of Peladon by Brian Hayles
6) Terminus by Stephen Gallagher
7) The Curse of Fenric by Ian Briggs
8) The Enemy of the World by David Whitaker
9) The Rescue by David Whitaker