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