Reviews: Doctor Who
The Eleventh Doctor Never Felt The Pain
The Doctor that we have grown to love has always had that dark side to him - the part that has been touched by death and breathed on by anguish. I mean, after all, he did watch his entire race die and then steal the time machine of his deceased buddy. Yet when the Eleventh Doctor came along it was like everything was 100% care-free. "Oh, look at that person. She's posessed. Oh well. One less life. At least it's for the universe. Bye-bye, dearie. Say hello to God for me." I mean, did anyone else notice how death didn't impact him all that much? When Rory died all three (or more - I didn't really count) times, the Doctor never really mourned him. It was almost like the Doctor didn't want to be associated with death anymore. I love Matt Smith, but I feel like Eleven was a bit too... how should I put it... Well, he never felt the pain that the others felt so strongly. Was he trying to move on? Perhaps we'll never know what went on inside of that head of his. But, if he really is the Doctor that we love, we know it's something far more amazing than any human could dream of. Allon-sy, Allon-so! - Doctor Eli
I have a wife now. Wives are cool.
Face it, River's a Mind Screw. Her story makes no sense; trying to figure it out gives me a headache. And you know what? I don't care! Because River Song is made of awesome, one of the most positive portrayals in sci-fi of empowered femininity, wifehood, and female sexuality. A few of the things I love about her:
- She can be sexy and stylish when she chooses, but she's equally comfortable in a spacesuit or army fatigues.
- She may have a nice body, but what we remember her for is her intelligence, ability, and sass.
- She's specifically written as a love interest, yet also manages to be an interesting and likeable character in her own right.
- She's a smart sexy action-middle-aged woman.
- She flirts shamelessly with the Doctor and makes no secret of her desire for him, yet never tries to force herself on him or demands that he reciprocate her feelings.
- She's the Doctor's spiritual and intellectual equal, she can fly his Tardis and use his screwdriver, and she doesn't take any guff from him.
- She reminds us that being horny doesn't only mean trying to seduce everyone you meet; it can also mean seducing just one person whom you love.
- She has her (awesome) job, her life, and her friends, and he has his life and his friends, and neither is dependent, possessive, or jealous of the other.
- She's tough but vulnerable, ruthless but kind, loyal but independent.
- She has character development: the awesome woman she is is someone she had to grow up to become.
- The Doctor spends three and a half years getting to know her before proposing.
- She's played by a woman in her forties, he's played by a man in his twenties, and somehow they make it work.
Why the Weeping Angels Scare You
The Weeping Angels are perhaps Moffat's most enduring creations and the most visible creations of New Who. They are widely renowned as terrifying. But why? Who's monsters represent a certain fear: Daleks=fascism/racism, Cybermen=dependence on technology, Silence=weakness of memory, Midnight entity=the unknown, Sontarans=war/militarism, etc., etc. But then, what are the Weeping Angels in this pantheon? They are just more complex than the other monsters in terms of fear. They play to several fears; firstly, the adult fear of looking away for just one minute, and turning around to their worst nightmare. The Weeping Angels strike when you're not paying attention. Adults worry about things they are not looking at or paying attention to, a very legitimate and pervasive fear. Secondly, the Angels play on this primal fear of death. Weeping Angels (real life, mind) are found in graveyards and mausoleums. This association with death subconsciously carries over to the Weeping Angels, awakening this fear of dying. Nobody wants to die, but the Weeping Angels confront you with the fact of your death anyway, particularly brutally in Time of the Angels/Flesh and Stone. In that specific episode, it also calls forth a fear of loss of faith; the soldiers are priests, and the implication is that is men of God cannot defeat them, what hope do we have? In their debut episode, Blink, they play off more of the fear of the unknown. We don't know wht these statues are, but they are moving. When we can't even see them. It is a lesser, but still very powerful, fear. Finally, they showcase this creeping fear that something is watching, even when you're alone. You might not even know it and a Weeping Angel could be right behind you. It also connects to a very human fear of things not in their place. The Angels exemplify this to the extreme. Look away, and they change! It's incredibly uncanny, and even plays into Uncanny Valley. In summation, Steven Moffat is portal to Hell, through which he spies the most horrifying things and transmits them to Doctor Who.
Midnight: Nothing happens
I'm not a fan of monster movies, but I can tell you how to plot one. It should go something like this: Act I, Introduction: Establishes characters, setting, situation Act II, Problem: Establishes the central problem Act III, Complication: Bring in a twist, a new development so the situation doesn't begin to stagnate Act IV, Defeat: Protagonist(s) try to resolve the situation and fail. There should probably also be another twist/development in here, too Act V, Resolution: Protagonist(s) try to resolve the situation and either succeed or fail again if it's that kind of movie We can quibble about details, but that's the basic structure. Here's what “Midnight” does: Act I, Introduction: The Doctor and Guest-Stars-of-the-Week are trapped in a disabled land rover hours from any help. Act II, Problem: The mysterious force which disabled the rover somehow enters the vehicle and infects Mrs. Sylvestry, causing her to sit in a corner whispering ominously Act III, ... Problem: Mrs. Sylvestry sits in a corner whispering ominously Act IV, Problem: She sits in a corner whispering ominously Act V, four minutes of Problem with Mrs. Sylvestry whispering ominously, two minutes of her getting up and speaking weirdly while the Doctor is reduced to whispering helplessly and one minute of Resolution in which Mrs. Sylvestry is killed and the Doctor saved in the process. There's no progression from the beginning of Act II until the end of Act V. Mrs. Sylvestry just sits around whispering—which quickly goes from mildly creepy to amazingly dull—and the other people in the rover stand around getting paranoid while the Doctor tries ineffectually to figure out what's going on. There are some developments, but they're minuscule and uninteresting. When Mrs. Sylvestry finally stands up and paralyzes the Doctor, it's at best a half-baked development, nowhere near good enough to justify 35+ minutes of holding pattern. “Midnight” has been hailed as Deconstruction. Fair enough, Tropes Are Not Good, after all. However, the climax hinges upon the all-time Doctor Who get-out-of-plot-free cliché (Heroic Sacrifice Ex Machina) played straight. This episode sucks.
Doctor Who- Now With 50% less Doctor!
For Peter Capaldi's first season, the showrunners decided to go a bold and daring new direction by deciding to turn the Doctor into a background character in a show named after him, while converting his companion into a supermassive attention devouring black hole. A risky move, certainly- but will it pay off? No but, to be honest Capaldi's first season is a letdown in many regards (Spoilers ahead, I suppose). Not for any faults on the actors part of course- Peter Capaldi makes for a very different character to how Smith and Tennant played the role, very distinct and very interested. Even Coleman does some very good acting, even if this season made me want to gouge my eyes whenever Clara was on screen, i.e ninety percent of the episodes. She wasn't as insufferable as say, River Song, but this season just makes her so much more unbearable than she was in last season. Quite a feat considering how forced that 'impossible girl' business was. Capaldi makes for a good and disinct incarnation of the Doctor, but it feels like we get so fucking little of him when his first season should have been all about defining his version of the character. Instead we're given a Coronation Street-tier romantic tumor that I couldn't give less of a fuck about serving as the focal point of the damn season. Missy made for a good villain, particularly when her backstory came to light, and hell she made for a barrel of fun in the season finale. The season, when not being shafted for the sake of that bland relationship, tends to dip and rise in quality with some episodes being rather good (Into the Dalek) some being absolutely fucking dire (Kill the Moon), some that set up good ideas and then did about fuck all with them (Listen) and some that are just kind of average (Mummy on the Orient Express). Hopefully the next season will be a better one. And hell, maybe if his next companion doesn't become the center of the universe that might well be possible. Maybe bring back K-9? K-9 was cool.
Kill the Moon. Seriously, kill it.
Kill the Moon is definitely the worst Twelfth Doctor story to date and I anticipate it holding the title for a long time to come. The problem isn't the controversial possible allegory to abortion (which I think is possible, but a stretch) or the mockery of basic science, but the complete lack of any logic to its resolution. I can accept the moon being a giant egg, and the giant spider-germs which are killed by disinfectant, and even the gravitational fluctuations which are the reason for the whole plot but never explained, even as technobabble. What I find pushes the episode from DW's usual so-ridiculous-it's-awesome into irredeemable stupidity is the non-solution. The moon is apparently the egg of a giant spacefaring life form, and it's hatching causing chaos on earth. The characters can either allow it to hatch, or nuke it to death. It's discussed that shell fragments could bombard the earth, destroying all life, or that the moon-sized creature could attack the planet instinctively; best case scenario, it just leaves, causing devastating changes with the tides gone and other factors. Several completely serious and valid points which were completely ignored in favor of the whole sanctity of life schtick. Clara prevents the bombs from being detonated, potentially dooming humanity. Fortunately, the creature conveniently leaves after its shell conveniently disintegrates harmlessly and it conveniently leaves a new egg...Which, unless it's the exact same mass somehow (not that surprising considering the level of science we're at) will still cause worldwide changes in weather patterns, the thing the astronauts were sent to try and fix because of all the death. Clara's decision is treated as the correct one, which is technically true, but deciding to drive home with 0.2 blood alcohol and somehow getting there without a hitch doesn't mean it was a good idea.
One of the Best Sci-Fi series ever.
Since the revival series started back in 2005 I have been hooked. I think that everything fits in perfectly. The two actors that have played the Doctor have been brilliant, although I sometimes got the impression that Christopher Eccleston did not want to be there. And before you say anything I know he asked to play the role. I do think he has given a good performance throughout his single season. The thing that I cannot understand about his decision to leave is that if you act in something as iconic as Doctor Who there will always be those that see you as that character. David Tennant has shown that is a brilliant actor and also that he is enthusiastic. When I heard he was leaving I felt a bit disappointed but it needed to happen eventually. For me he has been the better of the two and should be praised for the way has taken to the role. As for the companions I do not feel disappointed. I think that all of them have been great. My favourite companion has to be Martha Jones, played by Freema Agyman, her development was probably the best of them all. I thought that Donna Noble, played by Cathrine Tate, was great but a bit to in your face. Rose Tyle, played by Billie Piper, was good but a seemed a little bit of a brat. Captain Jack I think is a good equal to the Doctor and is portrayed brilliantly by John Barrowman. The writing is for the most part 'fantastic'. There have been a few episodes/stories that have not been quiet so good such as Love and Monsters, Fear Her and The Unicorn and the Wasp. On the other hand there have been episodes that are just hands down brilliant, examples include, Blink, Dalek and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit. The music is great. They definitely went down a different route from the old series that was famous for its mostly electronic music. This series uses an orchestra instead. Overall a great series with only a few tiny flaws. Oh and good luck Matt Smith.
The "we don't have much TIME to resolve the arcs" of the Doctor
After the Day of the Doctor, I was really very excited for Time of the Doctor. I'm always interested in regeneration stories and I was glad that they were trying to wrap up loose plot threads. I was a little concerned, because the main arc had been largely (not completely) ignored for an entire season that lasted 2 years. Could one special really wrap it all up? The answer is, sort of. On paper, the episode sounds good. It could have been an elegiac, poignant send off and a Grand Finale of epic proportions. After all, this arc has been going for 4 years right? Eh... in the end, half of the episode was a big info dump mixed with a overabundance of enemies, and the other half was some actually rather nice drama. I wish that they didn't feel the need to throw every monster on here somewhere. So.... in the space of a few minutes we find out that: The Silence are a splinter group of the Papal mainframe who went back in time to kill the Doctor terminator style, In order to prevent the question being answered and the Time lords coming back through. Also a Room 11 resolution that we didn't need. It all just felt.... well it's a bit much to absorb in a short time. If this information was spread throughout all of Season 7 it would feel natural. This is what happens when you halt your story arcs right near the end. I thought that the Christmas elements detracted from the episode, as it wastes screen time and, to be honest, making Trenzalore into a Christmas hovel is....a bit anti climactic, after the fantastically cool Battlefield grave planet of the Name of The Doctor. There are positive elements however. Clara is finally growing into a somewhat relatable character, somehow despite being a blatant Mary Sue. The regeneration sequence does not disappoint. There ARE some lovely scenes, and Handles is one of the most surprisingly sad things in a while. I don't need to mention the regeneration limit plot, because it was necessary in order to carry the show on. They pulled it off the best they could. Overall, it's obviously important to watch, but if feels more like a necessary story created to "get all the problems out of the way" before Capaldi comes in. That is to say, a bit artificial. So the worst of "The Doctor" trilogy, but not terrible. I guess a 6-7 score would be appropriate.
The Day of the Doctor
So, I figured I should give my thoughts. I personally loved Day of the Doctor. It was a spectacular affair from start to finish, uniting three Doctors, showing us Time War Gallifrey, etc, and I can only applaud the writers and everyone involved for its sheer scale. There was one line which summed up the whole thing, and I remember walking home from the cinema with my girlfriend at the time and we were discussing it and we'd just keep repeating it because really what else was there to say. That line was 'No, sir, all thirteen!' That just sums up what made Day of the Doctor for me. It was a glorious epic, and while there may well be complaining that it focused too much on Nu Who for such a massive anniversary, I personally feel that the War Doctor being essentially an incarnation of Old Who was celebration enough. I was initially disappointed that the War Doctor turned out to be the Time War Doctor, but John Hurt portrayed him fantastically and I truly felt by the end that he was indeed a Doctor in spirit if not name. And of course, the cameo by Tom Baker was a brilliant, brilliant moment. I think that if I had a problem with Day of the Doctor, it would be that the Zygons ultimately felt somewhat superfluous, but then their entire purpose was to unite 10, 11 and War Doctor, so it wasn't particularly a problem. And it was good to see them, hopefully they'll return in a more standard episode in 12's era or beyond. Also the Time War looking decidedly mundane compared to 10's descriptions (particularly the Time Lord soldiers looking suspiciously like they just crawled out of a sci-fi FPS), but then I suppose budgets will do that. Ultimately, my opinion on Day of the Doctor is that it was a truly fantastic celebration of the show. It gave us nothing more than three Doctors interacting and ultimately saving Gallifrey along with Stock Footage of the others (and 12's eyebrows), but that was more than enough. I commented earlier that at the time, my girlfriend and I spent the walk home from the cinema trying to discuss what we thought of Day, and we kept coming back to 'no, sir, all thirteen!' And I think the reason we kept coming back to that was that line being the Wham Line, the thing the special was building to. All I can say is that it was a spectacular 50th. May the 60th and beyond be just as amazing.
The Doctor. An immortal alien genius with a time machine who has save the universe so many times that it seems that the cosmos was constructed just to plague/amuse him. He is the centre of everything, he is very nearly always right and all the people around him (including himself) wax lyrical about how he is amazing in-a-can. He has amazing powers that he just seems to pull out of his Deus Ex Machina, and the entire universe recognises his authority. If you have a skill you can be certain that The Doctor has it too and he is a million times better at it than you and always will be. How does he manage not to be a Mary Sue? I have a theory. Please feel free to add your own, but here is my impression of how the Doctor has managed to coat himself in Mary Sue replant. He cares. He genuinely cares about others. Just listen to the way he talks about people. While everyone looks at him with awe he looks at us with the same respect. While a Mary Sue is a black hole that sucks up all the admiration and gives nothing in return The Doctor always is excited and impressed by our efforts, because he just knows one day we’re going to be fantastic. And if a man as awesome as him can have hope for us, maybe we do have a chance. Anyone else have an opinion?
Doctor Who seasons 5&6
I'm not going to lie, at first I found Matt Smith charming and witty, but now his performance has gotten somewhat disgusting. In fact, both of these seasons are kind of disgusting. Aside from the Flesh and Stone story arc, which was lovely, I just couldn't stand season 5. Matt Smith's constant fast-spoken mumbles and River Song's awkward, forced attempts to get into the Doctor's pants have just become incredibly grating, and the plots have turned into complete rubbish. I tell you, if one thing's apparent, it's that they've completely run out of ideas for monsters to the point where they've ripped off Slenderman. Freakin' Slenderman! The plots have become so unnecessarily complicated and convoluted that I found myself having to re-watch certain episodes in order to make sense at their nonsense. They don't even explain half of the premises. In "The Doctor's Wife," for example, how did they get to that weird, surreal dimension? Why was the TARDIS a woman? How did that woman get there? How did those odd people get there? What exactly was that thing that was behind the whole thing? Are any of these things ever explained? Probably. Was it in a way that complete dumbasses like myself and children could understand. Not in the least. I seriously pray that Moffat picks up his game, or else the rest of the season is going to be quite disappointing.
Surreal and epic
Please note, I'm reviewing the new series, seasons 1-6. This show is wonderful in its flexibility. There is nothing that it can't cover, no emotions that it can't pull, no concept that it can't run with. The series is an adventure story, a character piece and so much more. The secondary characters constantly change, the setting and premise is radically different in each episode and even the main character goes through some radical changes from start to finish, but it retains that same heart and soul that keeps pulling me in. The series is enormous, but there is not a single episode I could honestly say I dislike. Not even the infamous "Love and Monsters". I love these characters, I love following the adventures they have, and I love the insane sci-fi concepts. Doctor Who doesn't bother with technobabble. It just tosses random words around and that's our premise for the week. Sometimes I think the writers just pull a few words out of a hat, make a scenario about them, and then try and figure out what in Yog's name is going on. That is NOT a criticism. Doctor Who is essentially a framing device for whatever story the writers want to tell, but it's so much more! It can be as big or small as it wants, but the world it's built and the characters it follows are just amazing. It manages to pull some of the most cringe-worthy cliches in the book, and makes them believable, heartwarming or hilarious as the story sees fit. The narrative quality ranges from masterful to sub-par, but it never stops being great. While not everyone has a tolerance for everything this series throws at you, it's so broad, versatile and fun that it's accessible to just about anyone. Anyone who has even the slightest interest in science fiction or adventure should give it a shot.
I really like the writing of the newest series; especially the rebel flesh and the almost people, the Doctor's wife and the God complex but I seem to find myself having a problem with Matt Smith as the doctor. At first, his eccentricity was endearing; and it still is, that isn't the problem; the problem is that with David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston; you felt they had seen death, touched it; whereas the 11th Doctor has humour and intelligence, but no real weight; granted there are moments of it, and episodes like that, but usually he brushes his past of like it never happened. I assure you I am not a troll, and I still like the series, and I know I'll get backlash, but I just can't see him as a doctor who has touched death; that's all.
And it was all going so well.
I love Doctor Who. That is, the 1963-1989 series. Despite its age (dodgy special effects, occasional cheesiness, hammy acting) it was entertaining and was written for intelligent audiences and respected those audiences. My favourite Doctor was always Sylvester Mc Coy (please don't lynch me), playing the Doctor as an enigmatic schemer with a dark past. In close second came Jon Pertwee, followed by Patrick Troughton and then Tom Baker. In fact, every actor to play the Doctor has brought their own charm to the role and pulled it off well. Classic television stories such as "The Sea Devils", "The Curse of Fenric", "Earthshock" and "The Invasion" rank up as some of my all-time favourite television episodes/serials. Now things have changed. Now we have to deal with the utter garbage the Russell T. Davies and Steven Moffat eras of the new series have provided. I was just as excited as the next fan when I heard the show was getting a modern reboot. RTD did a good job on the first two seasons (with exceptions being the episodes "Love and Monsters" and "Fear Her"). After that, something went awry. Season Three was mostly rubbish, with daft plots ("The Lazarus Experiment", anyone?) and plentiful Deux Ex Machina ("Last of the Time Lords", the vortex manipulator/sonic screwdriver dramatic tension-killing combo, etc.). Season Four was even more rubbish, with Donna being the unfunny comedic sidekick and the episodes somehow managing to be even more daft than the last season ("Partners in Crime", I'm looking your way), culminating in the disappointing "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End" two parter where the only thing Davros and the Daleks do is sit around and talk a lot ("I WILL! DESTROY! REALITY! AND! YELL! A! LOT!") Steven Moffat's continued the trend. Matt Smith may make a good Doctor, but the overall tone and feel of the show has changed so drastically it's now less like Doctor Who and more a dumbed-down action adventure series that tries to be clever, with daft and convoluted plots such as in the episode "The Pandorica Opens" (Rory's back? But, wasn't he like, erased from existence?) River Song is annoying, it's obvious Moffat's pulling ideas out of his ass whilst alluding to a planned arc (that he obviously doesn't have) while slipping in snooze-fests such as "The Beast Below" and "Vampires in Venice". I've lost faith.
Love & Monsters
Yes,this is episode which everyone seems to hate. But I feel that this gem does not deserve all this hate. Love & Monsters is an unconventional,funny and dare I say brilliant episode.It may not be on par with "Blink" and the likes,but it is still enjoyable and fun to watch. It reminds us that Rose's family isn't the only one in London who has seen alien invasions,with Elton giving a fresh perspective on events and giving a nice nod to Series 1. Not only that,it also shows that the Doctor can have a positive impact on those who have never met him,creating friendships just like in real life. Jackie's loneliness,for the first time,is shown to us and though she craves companionship (in this case,Elton),her loyalty towards Rose and the Doctor is extremely heartwarming. In contrast to Series 1,where Jackie is distrustful of the Doctor,this episode,along with other episodes in this series (for example,in Army of Ghosts) shows that people can change and that to her,the Doctor is also part of her family. As expected,Rose and the Doctor are not at all amused by Elton's antics,further showing that although the 'family' is physically separated,their emotional bonds are not,reminding us of the importance of having a family. While I do agree that the Abzorbaloff isn't the most handsome of monsters,it does show us what being overly obsessed with something/someone is like,going as far to use others as disposable puppets for his own goals,whereas Elton,who is also obsessed with finding the Doctor,eventually realizes his mistake and wants to stand up to Victor. This reaffirms that people cannot be treated as puppets and that we need to stand our ground for what is right,which is a simple and basic but important principle. Although the possibility of an Elton/Ursula-in-concrete romance is a bit icky,it is still sweet as Elton accepts Ursula for who she has become instead of outright rejecting her. In short,this episode was refreshing,interesting and incredibly underrated.
The Angels Didn't Take Manhattan Very Well, Did They?
So, Amy and Rory are gone, and to avoid spoilers, that's all I'll say on the matter of their departure. It's not very easy for me to decide whether I like this episode or not, so I'll just make my problems known and then make my final judgement. First, some real-world annoyances: 1. No, Lady Liberty CANNOT be an angel. Angels are made of stone, yes? Lady Liberty is not. She is made of Copper, and honestly, I'm not willing to overlook this on the grounds that "it's a TV show". Why? Because you made her an angel...That didn't do a damn thing. Either get your facts straight, or make her have a purpose. 2. I don't know, man. I'd really like to think that someone would notice a giant national landmark stomping through New York. Again, I don't know. Maybe New Yorkers are just notoriously unobservant and no one told me. 3. Baby Angels? Okay. Make what is arguably the most creepy thing in Doctor Who creepier for no reason. For that matter, why add all these new Angels designs if they aren't going to play out? Moffat...Stop starting plots you can't close. 4. Build up the entire episode to how they'll go, then send them off in two minutes. Right...Right. Because the companions that have been with Eleven for his entire run so far deserved it. Oh wait...They didn't. 5. This is more of a season-wide issue, but...Stop padding the episodes. It seems like all of Series 7 so far builds up the problem for the entire episode, then resolves it in two, maybe three minutes. Perfect example? The Power of Three. What was accomplished? The Doctor did something fairly simple compared to his previous feats, and the problem was drawn out across the entire episode. What's worse? The Doctor was stumped. And then he wasn't. ...Brilliant? No, I've made up my mind. Series 7 is off to an abysmal start, save for a few moments. I hope it gets better...I really, truly do.
Series 7 - A bit of a strange one
It's going to be interesting to see how history is going to view series 7. The production levels were fantastic, Doctor Who has never looked this good. The music isn't as quite as good as the heyday of 'I Am The Doctor', but it was solid. It had both the Ponds and Clara, the best companions of the new series (in my opinion of course) and Matt Smith is a good actor whose been consistently been putting in a solid performance in his incarnation and the overarcing mystery of who Clara is, is probably my favourite long-term plot of New Who. (It even has a satisfying conclusion!) Moreover, there wasn't really one episode that was a bad idea from the start, nor one episode that didn't have a completely brilliant aspect to it, except maybe the Bells of St John. And yet the Bells of St John is probably one of the better episodes, because almost every other one had some horrible flaw that prevented it from realising it's full potential. The most consistent problem was establishing an adequate threat and then resolving it in a satisfying manner. I'd say a full 8 episodes ended up feeling really rushed and a bit awkward in saving the day. If it were any one on it's own, it would be a forgiveable mistake and the episode might have been remembered for the parts that were great (the British humdrumness of the cubes in a Power of Three, the beautiful visuals and vocals in the Rings of Akhaten, the atmosphere of the Cold War etc). But when there wasn't a single two part episode and so there was never really a time where it felt like the threat was adequately built up and solved the effect became too much and the longing for something unflawed ruined what was there. And the remaining episodes were also all flawed in various ways. The Ponds had an incredible emotional send-off that didn't make much sense and once again only weakened the Weeping Angels as monsters, taking it into absurdity and it was hard to take those evil snowmen seriously in the christmas special. But then there was the finale, in this problematic series when Doctor Who has always struggled to have a good finale (Bad Wolf being the only other one) they pull off one that makes sense, is satisfying has scary interesting villains and sets up a whole lot of intrigue for the up and coming specials. It's a strange season, not to be repeated, but maybe not irredeemably bad.
My problem with Series 7
I love Doctor Who. It's the most flexible and dynamic sci-fi show ever made. You want a horror story, they can do it. You want a love story, they can do it. You want an action piece, they can do it. Anything can happen on this show. The problem is that you need good writers to make a good story. And lately, we just haven't been getting that. I'm talking, of course, about Steven Moffat. Now before anyone cries out, let me explain. I like nearly all of his works on Doctor Who, and I love Sherlock. But that doesn't change the fact that this series has done poorly under his direction for the show. In an effort to distance himself from the convoluted mess of Series 6 (which I liked, but still found convoluted) he's completely abandoning the idea of a story arc. Not only does this show that he didn't actually plan anything out like some people believe, it's also a huge whiplash. We go from the ending of Series 6 where the Doctor is forced to fake his death and step back into the shadows of time after learning that eventually, the answer to the question "Doctor Who?" will cause Silence to fall. And then this premise is completely forgotten about in the Christmas special, and when series 7 starts. If you're not going to follow through with this stuff, don't set it up in the first place. Furthermore, "Asylum of the Daleks" was TERRIBLE. The Daleks didn't have any trouble killing each other in "Remembrance of the Daleks" and all the other times they killed each other, why should they hesitate now? They find them beautiful? Pardon me, but I thought "Daleks have no concept of elegance" which therefore means no beauty either. And Amy and Rory's divorce? Not only was it poorly handled, it had no impact. At all. It was filler! Then there's The Angels Take Manhattan" where Steven Moffat completely rewrites his own rules on altering time. Also, River defies the book to no affect, and they still treat it like they have to do exactly what it says. And the Statue of Liberty does absolutely nothing! If you're going to use that, make it do something at least! And then of course there's Rory's departure. While it does give good closure for Amy's character, Rory himself deserved better. He's just whisked away by sheer coincidence. Bottom line: Moffat needs more people who will say No, this isn't a good idea.
"Blink", writted by Moffat during the RTD era, is one of those episodes that really captures what Doctor Who is about: there is adventure, thrills, scares, excellent villians and likeable characters, and an ending that leaves the viewer feeling satisfied. The episode, described as being Doctor-lite, follows the story of Sally Sparrow (played by the brilliant Carey Mulligan) as she tries to defeat the Weeping Angels with the help of the Doctor who is stuck in 1969 without the TARDIS. The plot itself has a lot to fit in a short time span, but the excellent direction and acting help it ease along at its natural pace without it feeling rushed. The strongest points are the Angels themselves. Instead of being your standard monster of the week, they make a long lasting impression. They proved so popular that they have been brought back for several more appearences, each time proving that they deserve to be voted the scariest Doctor Who monster. Another strong point is the protagonist, Sally. We know nothing about her background, yet we still root for her. She is described as the "greatest companion that never was" for a very good reason. For people who have never seen Doctor Who, this is the episode to introduce them to the Whoniverse, despite it not having the Doctor as a central focus. But as I said at the beginning of this review, it captures what Doctor Who is all about. Just don't watch it alone in the dark.
I really regret not having gotten into this series earlier
It wasn't until a bit of curiosity, largely from my friends' obsession with Doctor Who, that I began to get into Doctor Who. Thankfully series 1-6 is on Netflix, so I decided to watch the pilot to see if it would hook me... Let's just say I finished the first season in 3 days. I'm currently on season 2, episode 5 and not a single episode has failed to entertain me. Eccleston was a fun, quirky and charming doctor, and Tennant is sexy, handsome, flamboyant and insanely funny, it's really interesting to contrast the two, because they both have their own personalities, and each is better than each other in their own way. Add to that the beautiful Rose who is a badass chick, her hot boyfriend, and her hilarious mother, and you have a show that is impossible to get bored whole watching. Of course my opinion may change later on with regards to the quality, i hope it doesn't, but it's a fun and addictive show. Well worth a look, and very addictive. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to assemble my Doctor cosplay outfit, and watch another episode.
Revisiting those last two episodes of Series Four, "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End"
Much has been said of this inane two-parter. It ends a season that was full of stupidity: the incessant lame comedic actions of Donna Noble, the daftness of the majority of episodes in the season (the idiotic "Partners in Crime" comes to mind, as well as the dull and contrived "The Poison Sky", in which the Doctor lights the Earth's atmosphere ON FIRE). David Tennant can give a consistent performance as the Doctor, but the sheer shite that accounts for most of the scripts in Season Four doesn't help him at all. To end an idiotic season we need an idiotic two-parter. Thus, we get the ridiculousness that is "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End". The Daleks somehow move planets, in a way that is never really explained. Every past companion shows up again, including those who were supposed to be trapped in Pete's World (get the hell out of the show, Rose). Davros returns...only to do nothing but sit around and yell a lot. The Supreme Dalek is there...and does nothing but stand in place for most of its screen-time. About a hundred million Daleks are on screen, in what I take is an effort by RTD to make things seem "epic". Millions of Daleks doesn't automatically make things epic, especially when the audience is practically forced to distance themselves from the plot and characters because of the absurdity of it all. "Dalek" was an effective episode because it made the lone Dalek look like the tremendous threat it was. Here, in this two-parter, the Daleks are nothing but the "baddies" the Doctor must destroy through the use of plot coincidences and Deus Ex Machina. They do nothing but yell "EXTERMINATE!" a lot. The absurdity of the Dalek plot, to destroy reality with a really big bomb, presents all manner of problems if it can indeed destroy all parallel universes through the Medusa Cascade. Wouldn't there be a reality out there where Davros succeeds, thus dooming the Multiverse to destruction? The Daleks receive a final insult by being reduced to nothing but bumbling pepper-pots by the "Doctor" Donna through the use of Technobabble and conveniently placed switches. The Doctor gets "winged" by a Dalek extermination beam, which is a first in itself and a convenient one at that because it provides a decent cliffhanger...that gets ruined in the next episode. I could go into more detail, but this word count won't let me.
Victory of the Daleks
Again another Moffat era episode leaves me feeling rushed and unsatisfied. This time round the Doctor shoots back to WW 2 and discovers that the Daleks have devised a cunning scheme of resurrection. What follows is a crazily rushed, quite unsatisfying Take That to the RTD era. Let me start with the good. The dialouge is fast paced and quite witty. The new Daleks (In a range of shiny designer colours)lose a lot of scariness but gain a funky retro look. The subplot involving the robotic man realizing his own nature was played beautifully well and written superbly. Winston Churchill was a highly amusing character and his interactions with the doctor were jolly good fun. Now lets move on to the rest of the episode. First off, my biggest complaint is Amy Pond. She is already a Mary Sue. The centuries old doctor is unable to stop a dalek bomb exploding, but she is? The doctor is forced to threatening the daleks with a biscuit, while she figures out an ingenious plan to send fighter jets to destroy the mothership? Furthermore she is irritating. She has little personality and isn't very much fun. Secondly, this was a very important storyline, which really needed more time given to it, as I said in my last DW review. Perhaps a double episode would have sufficed. Nothing is done to the standard of the RTD era. The characters are hardly established at all and the episode and dry and lacking emotion. The setting is particularly bad. If Churchill were not in the episode I would probably have not known it was set in WW 2 Britain. We see no warfare or screaming civilians. And someone needs to tell the writers to stop trying to force a moral dillema into every episode, even where it doesn't fit. With Tennant these dillema's felt important and horrifying. Here they feel annoying and lifeless. Also, all the episode really does is attempt to distance itself as far as possible from RTD's DW. Why? Why has Amy forgotten the Daleks? Will we never see any of our beloved RTD characters again? Will the atmosphere of every episode be moody and dusty? All in all the episode feels half baked. It needed more depth, more clarity and less RTD bashing. I hope this series picks up soon, and look forward to a new Weeping Angels episode next week, which looks promising.
Vincent and the Doctor
After seeing a strange, evil-looking face in Vincent Van Gogh's The Church at Auvers, the Doctor travels back in time to meet the artist himself. Although another "celebrity historical", this story is quite refreshingly different from the usual Doctor Who episodes in terms of pacing and concept. After I first saw this episode, I felt that the monster - a sort of chicken-dinosaur hybrid called a Krafayis - was perhaps unnecessary to this story, though decently entertaining and a welcome addition all the same. On a second viewing, however, I've changed my mind; the monster adds another dimension to the story, and in spite of its relatively small amount of screen time, it infuses the entire episode with another layer of awe, of humanity (yes, humanity), and of sadness. There is more, in short, to the Krafayis that meets the eye, just as there is more to this episode than meets the eye - and this peculiar quality is, I think, all the more apt given the story's emphasis on that which is more than meets the eye. However, all that said, the episode primarily concerns itself with Mr. Van Gogh himself, and the world which he paints. I have to applaud the casting choice; Tony Curran makes a truly excellent Vincent, playing the part with sensitivity and charm - which makes his inevitably dark and tragic story all the more poignant. Nevertheless, there are also moments of marvel and wonder here, which the actor captures perfectly. In fact, I should go so far as to say that this was one of the most moving Doctor Who episodes I have seen, although one suspects it might be a little sentimental for some in places. Personally, I thought it magnificent.
The Curse of Fenric
Okay, I thought I'd backtrack through some old Who, given that I was introduced to the mythos through new Who. Watched a bit, enjoying things so far, but I have a problem with an episode that's been deemed an all-time classic: The Curse of Fenric. Eh. Everyone always brings up The Curse of Fenric, but man, the plotting of that episode is all over the place. They introduce a billion elements, and it never really comes together in 90 minutes. We've got a guy who tries to think like Hitler, an early computer that decodes German codes AND ancient runes, Soviets attempting to steal the computer (during WWII!), a turn around plot to get the Soviets to steal the computer so as to destroy the Kremlin, Sealed Evil inna Can that is conveniently found by Ace, an evil poison produced by said Evil, sort-of vampires, an evolved humanesque fish person brought to the past by force, mention of the child refugees from London, a quick flirtation between the Soviet captain and Ace in which he cares enough for her in the 20 minutes he knows her that he gives up his talisman, a self-doubting vicar, a town founded by Vikings who were touched by Pure Evil that ran through ancient lines, Ace meeting her mother and grandmother with allusions to Ace's poor relationship with her mother,an allusion to the Doctor meeting Pure Evil in the past and playing a game of chess with it — and playing yet another game of chess and *GASP* Ace being forced to lose faith in the Doctor, which is never clearly explained since before it is mentioned that the sort-of vampires are repelled by the psychic forcefield formed by faith. I mean, it's admirable that the writers tried to cram so much into one episode, but we're never allowed to sit back and explore any one aspect. Ace suddenly loves her baby-mom (before she knows it's her mom), even though she's known it less than a day. The Soviet captian, again, shows affection for Ace after a few hours tops. The vampires being repelled by faith rather than actual, physical talismans was an excellent idea. Evil in a chess match with the Doctor? Awesome! Any of these could have made one excellent, in-depth episode. Having them stirred into Doctor gumbo ruins the soup — too many spices in the pot, and now it tastes sour and undercooked. I haven't watched any other Mc Coy eps, but I certainly hope he're better than that one.
City of Death
Hated by critics at the time for it's overtly comedic bent, The City of Death holds up well in an era where fans quote things like "timey-wimey" and "What gas?" "This gas" with pride. Who wasn't serious, per say, at least not to the extent of being an outright drama, but it shied away from comic relief enough for critics to bitch about more comedic serials whenever they cropped up. The first thing I need to say about this serial is that it's written by Douglas Adams. That in a nutshell should tell you all you need to know—great one-liners, great concepts, fairly linear plot. The cast has great chemistry, especially Duggan with the Doctor and Romana and the villains in their own little group. The bad guy is fun to watch but rarely menacing, and considering it's both Who and Adams his plan is surprisingly intricate. (One gets the feeling that it's Moffat's favorite serial—references to "cracks in time" and "time running out" abound.) Save for a fair amount of padding (namely a crapload of running through Paris) and a rubber alien head that looks like it was fished out of an Italian restaurant's dumpster, this one's just fun, and anyone who likes modern Who or the works of Adams should get a kick out of it—though those who liked Dirk Gently should find the villain's plot and motives incredibly familiar.
The Caves of Androzani
It's not hard to see why this was voted the best serial ever back a couple of years ago when Doctor Who did it's Mighty 200 poll, even with new-series episodes filling the top ranks. In spite of Nicola Bryant turning in a barely decent performance and how completely Out Of Focus the Doctor and Peri are this episode, it works for two reasons— The first is that this story would work fine on it's own as an episode of any anthology series without the Doctor's involvement. Yeah, it's got a Kill Em All ending, but it avoids one of the main pitfalls of the show's regular supporting-cast-of-the-week format and actually makes the political intrigue...well, intriguing. Nothing is completely spelled out for us, the characters are all manner of morally ambiguous, and everyone's motives are fairly air-tight—more than can be said for the usual Doctor Who villains. In fact, it's not even clear who the villains are here, as damn near everyone's out for personal gain or the supposed greater good and therefore most are consciously hindering the Doctor or using the results of his subplot to railroad him into local affairs. The second is that it's rather fascinating to see the Doctor's influence on the people around him when he's not "bringing down the government" as Eleven would put it. It's utterly fascinating how his mere presence in the episode brings everything to a screeching halt without any of the supporting cast being aware of who they're dealing with. All the Doctor wants in this episode is to save himself and his companion from the poison they accidentally got dosed with, he pays no regard to the government waging war to up morale or the corporation trying to stop it to improve trade. Seeing the Doctor as a pawn is great because he simply refused to move across the squares properly or even acknowledge there's a game going on. And, of course, it contains two of the best cliffhangers in it's history (I know, not saying much), the single most badass moment in the entire classic series, great performances with only one ham in the entire cast (and even he comes off as more Shakespearean than anything), and is generally the perfect cap to an otherwise uneven run for Davison, who just acts his heart out and totally sells you as the Doctor as a single-minded determinator without breaking character. In a word: classic.
A Sci-Fi Series That Is So Much More
As a first-generation "Whovian", I've been able to watch as the series progressed and eventually became the wildly popular cult franchise it is today. Over the years, there's been moments of hopelessness, loss, tragedy, and hatred which the programme handles well, but there's also been moments of hilarity, happiness, innocence, and wonder. Watching Doctor Who, I was surprised to find some very heavy themes within all of the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey adventures of the titular Doctor. Themes of abandonment (the Companions and, sometimes, the Doctor), guilt (the Doctor's shame over destroying the Time Lords and his subsequent fervor to connect with the last one, the Master, even though he's a psychopathic "villain"), and an inability to help the ones you love, even though your heart is in the right place. Personally, the way the antagonists are treated is impressive. Very few of them are pure evil and many of them have understandable reasons for opposing the Doctor. Often, hurting humans or the Doctor is merely a by-product of whatever goal they were trying to achieve. They're not wicked aliens who try to destroy the Earth for the fun of it. They're just doing what is best for themselves, a notion most of humanity can relate to. Overall, it's an excellent series. If there is an overarching message to it, it would be that the Universe, while there is terror and evil in it, is a wonderful, magical, and beautiful place, full of wonder and adventure.
Other - A review of many episodes past and future
I think it's fair to say that there are 4 main elements of Dr Who episode, Scary, Cheesy, Funny and Other. Episodes contain different balances of the 4 and normally focus on one main ingredient. So you get The Empty Child which is Scary. The Christmas Special where David Tennant has a sword-fight on top of an alien spaceship is pure Cheese. The recent pirate episode was Cheese and Scary. The episode where the Doctor plays football was Cheese and Funny. (Cheese is a big part of DW :D) All types and balances are good and I think peoples enjoyment of an episode can be predicted quite well, depending on which blend people prefer. However I want to make the case for Other. By definition, Other is that little ingredient which you can't fit into the categories, the special thing that makes you stop and think about this episode in particular. Midnight, where the Dr is a trapped on a ship with just a handful of people which is supposedly about a monster stealing someones voice but the real monster is the speed with which a group of people are willing to kill another human being, just because someone won't stop copying someone else is Other. The Van Gough episode, pretends to be about a monster-of-the-week, is actually about the analysis of a flawed but brilliant mind that saw the world in a way that no-one else could, and what you can do for a man who you know, in the end, will kill himself because he can't ever quite come to terms with himself. The special part of a Christmas Carol was the way which a man has to deal with loving someone, when he knows exactly how little days he has left to love her and how that can destroy the persons soul and character. Something, which isn't Cheesy, or Funny, or Scary, but is altogether brilliant. Of the latest episodes, the Doppelgangers were scary, but again the best part for me is how people tried to learn to accept there being someone else in the world who is them too and the way in which memories define a person. All these episodes and many more like them are the very best that DW has to other. To those not Other oriented they seem boring. Nothing happens. But I feel, it's the little touches of special which allow us to enjoy the cheese and humour. Because beneath all the fun, DW who has a heart that will always make us stop and think, which something very little else does.
Day of the Moon
In the second part of the season 6 opener, we join the Doctor after a 3 month timeskip. It's all rather mysterious at first. Why are the Doctor and his friends all in separate states? What's Canton up to? And what's with those tally marks? Thankfully, we're soon brought up to speed, and so follows another exciting, scary Doctor Who adventure. As with the previous episode, it features some great character moments, and River and Rory in particular gain a great deal of depth. Also featured is Richard Nixon, who is probably my favourite historical guest character following this episode. Be warned - there's a real risk that "Hail to the Chief" will not leave your head by the time the episode finishes. In spite of BBC America's involvement, this is a very British take on the USA, and the writer's attitude is perhaps best described as playfully affectionate. It's not a negative portrayal, by any means, but it's rather larger-than-life, and there are moments when Moffat's tongue seems to be planted firmly in his cheek. That said, it's not a particularly funny episode; there are amusing moments, but they're far outnumbered by the scenes which are dramatic, tense or eerie. Much of the time, the highly creative story unfolds at breakneck speed, hurtling you from touching moments to unnerving ones at the blink of an eye. The snag is, frankly, it's all a bit confusing. There's a lot to take in, and I must admit, it took me a second viewing to make sense of parts of it. The story is rendered still more confusing by the introduction of elements which, in hindsight, are clearly part of a plot that will presumably span the whole of the series. This is not a bad thing - in fact, it's rather intriguing - but it's not something we generally expect from Doctor Who, and unlike in the previous season, the plot hooks in this story are extremely visible, to the extent that, at the end of the episode, you still don't really feel like you've seen the whole story (because you haven't). Furthermore, if this is supposed to resolve the plot hooks set up in the last season's finale, it does a pretty poor job of it, I must say. On the whole, mixed feelings - mostly positive, but mixed. Not a bad episode, by any means, and certainly recommended to fans of the series, but not one of the best episodes, either.
The Impossible Astronaut
The Doctor invites Amy, Rory and River Song on a trip to America in the first half of this two-part adventure, the first of a new series. What starts off as a simple picnic soon takes an exceptionally dark turn, and soon it's off to the Sixties to visit President Nixon and meet a man named Canton Everett Delaware III. It's an exciting, enjoyable episode, big on both laughs and scares. It's also a very character-focused episode, with some very tense moments where the greatest present threat is the characters' failure to trust one another. That's not the only threat, though - this episode introduces some creepy new monsters which, while perhaps not as original as the Weeping Angels, certainly rival them in terms of ability to induce paranoia. River Song remains potentially somewhat problematic, but is shown to have more depth than had previously been indicated. She's still hypercompetant and still knows it, which will doubtless annoy those who dislike the character. On the other hand, this is the first episode to give a real insight into her character and her point-of-view, and may perhaps win some viewers over who weren't convinced before. There's also more chemistry between her and the Doctor than there was previously, which appears to be deliberate, and which makes them more amusing and entertaining to watch. River Song aside, there's little to complain about here. The special effects are convincing, the editing is tight, the writing is superb and the humour is plentiful. All things considered, an excellent start to the series, and one which leaves the viewer looking forward to the second half.
A Christmas Carol
The first Christmas episode to feature Matt smith in a starring role is a magical, festive delight. In one of the Christmassiest (I'm sure that's a word) specials yet, the Doctor must travel to a misty, wintery planet, where two of his friends are trapped in a doomed spacecraft. The only man who can save them is Kazran Sardick, a notorious miser with absolutely no intention of helping the Doctor whatsoever. What follows is hardly a faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel, but is instead an inventive and moving story about love, heartbreak, and flying fish. Michael Gambon makes a highly entertaining performance as the sneering Scrooge Kazran Sardick, while singer Katherine Jenkins contributes some beautiful music as the fairytale princess-like Abigail Pettigrew. The story itself is pure fantasy propped up by the flimsiest of Technobabble, but is easily enchanting enough to pull it off. The resulting product is sweet, moving, and a very welcome addition to the Christmas viewing schedule. Would very cheerfully watch again next year. Or any time of the year, really.
The Big Bang
OK, kid. This is where it gets complicated. In the final episode of series 5, and the second half of the first Season Finale to have been written by Steven Moffat, we find ourselves transported back to the 1990s, where, once again, the fate of the universe is at stake. Initially, as the above quote lampshades, we are dragged out of our comfort zones somewhat and presented with some rather strange and confusing occurances. Fortunately, these are intriguing rather than alienating, and before long it all starts to make sense. While this story delivers all the excitement, dramatic scenes and big explosions that we've come to expect from these finales, it also contains a number of scenes that are very funny, particularly towards the start. Moffat also takes quite a different approach to plotting from Russell T Davies, and I felt it for the better: rather than attempt to tell an entire, especially dramatic narrative over the course of two episodes, with perhaps a few callbacks to earlier episodes, Moffat instead uses this episode to finish the story we didn't realise we'd been watching since "The Eleventh Hour". True, we had some clues in the form of the cracks in the universe, which have a clear precedent in the form of Davies' use of Arc Words, but Moffat takes the idea one step further. In this instance, not a single prior episode of the season is forgotten, and moments which might have seemed irrelevant (or at most a bit strange) the first time around are revealed to have been of vital importance to the story. The upshot of this is that "The Big Bang" is able to pace itself, allow time for the laughs and the scares and those wonderful character moments - this episode contains some absolutely perfect scenes and lines of that nature - and still manages to resolve itself, if not completely plausibly, then at least without resorting to deus ex machina. Of course, one can easily turn that around into a criticism, which is that this story simply does not work as a standalone; you have to watch it in context to get the full effect. For that reason, I would not say it was an outstanding episode in its own right. As a season finale, however, it's definitely the best so far, serving as an excellent conclusion to the most cohesive story arc since the show's revival.
The Pandorica Opens
At the start of this episode, I had a surprising realisation - River Song is growing on me. Yes, really. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that she seemed pretty awesome. This happened in the first five or so minutes of what proved to be a funny, dark, surprising and epic story, in which this season's fairy-tale themes come to a head, and we finally get to see the fabled (and much-foreshadowed) Pandorica. And when I say "funny, dark, surprising and epic", I mean, this is a rollercoaster. Details can be funny one moment, heartwarming the next and heartbreaking the next. Scary becomes epic, epic becomes agonising, agonising becomes sad. It's a superb piece of writing which never ceases to surprise. Meanwhile, longtime fans will be pleased to note the return of a number of enemies seen in previous episodes, and allusions to many more. Heck, even the Chelonians get a mention, and the Uvodni and Weevils get blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos. All this in Roman Britain. At Stonehenge. Really, what's not to like?
In the opening scene of this Amy-lite story, the TARDIS takes off without the Doctor, leaving him stranded in present-day Colchester and forcing him to move in with Craig Owens, played by James Corden. Craig, initially happy to have found an amusingly weird lodger, soon finds the Doctor to be more than he bargained for... This is a fairly simplistic story, and one which is outside the usual Doctor Who genre. It's rather like a Perspective Flip on the standard Romantic Comedy plotline. The antagonist, however, is a rather bizarre choice that feels rather out-of-place, although it's an interesting enough concept and as viewers we expect there to be some form of menace, so I'm not complaining about the antagonist's presence. This is a very silly, lighthearted episode, and it's great fun. Blending in with humans has never been the Doctor's strong suit, so it's rare that we get to see the him attempting to live a reasonably everyday life, and naturally he comes across as quite the eccentric. He is, however, an insightful eccentric, moreso than he initially appears. One thing I've been consistently impressed with this series is Matt Smith's portrayal of the Doctor. If I may be controversial for a moment: David Tennant took the role of the Doctor and made it his own, and he did so superbly. But Smith plays the Doctor, and perfectly captures everything that makes the character great. Now, I don't know how popular that opinion is, but either way, I have to agree with considerably less controversial assessment that the Doctor rocks.
And so, here they are, back after all these years: the Silurians. Reimagined, without the extra eye thingy or the Sea Devils, but very much Silurians. Compared to much of this series, this is a relatively slow and sedate episode, with more talking than fighting, and little in the way of scares. Instead, the drama comes strictly in the form of a conflict of interest between the original inhabitants of Earth and their mostly oblivious invaders. The Silurians might be cold blooded in the literal sense, but there's little figurative cold bloodedness to be found here. This is a good thing, because it really ups the level of concern you have for all the characters - not just the humans, but also the Silurians. This is real Grey And Gray Morality, and neither side appears to be entirely in the wrong or the right. The Silurians and the humans alike are portrayed, first and foremost, as people. It's a refreshing change from the usual Doctor Who monsters, and the resulting conflict is every bit as fascinating, if not moreso. If I had to pick one word to describe this episode, I think it would have to be "bittersweet". In many respects it's quite an optimistic episode, but it has some darker and more cynical themes as well, and there's no comic relief to alleviate the more tragic moments. A final word of warning - have a hanky at the ready. It's a Tear Jerker.
"The best idea ever invented in the history of the world"
If you like your series to have top-notch special effects, you might not like Doctor Who. That's the only possible reason for disliking it, though. It's the only flaw that the entire series, from the first ever episode on the 23rd November 1963 to whenever you're reading this, actually shares. Everything else comes and goes. To me, saying that you don't like Doctor Who is like saying you don't like fiction. Are you sure? There's quite a lot of it. Doctor Who is a franchise so massive it would be a lifetime's work trying to experience it all. It ranges from comedy (City of Death), to romance (The Girl in the Fireplace), to violence (Vengeance on Varos), to so-bad-it's-good (The Chase), to cosy family viewing (The Christmas Invasion), to 'proper' science fiction (The Ark in Space), to the downright weird (Ghostlight)... I could go on for some time, and that's just the TV stories. On top of that, there are hundreds of books (from the more adult-orientated Virgin, EDA and PDA ranges to the child-friendly modern BBC releases), hundreds of audio dramas and countless comics. If you can think of a medium for storytelling, you can be pretty sure that there will be Doctor Who stories produced in it. You might not like the new series - fair enough, there are still 40+ years of Doctor Who you might like. You might not like watching things in black-and-white - fair enough, there are still 39+ years of Doctor Who in colour. Plus all the aforementioned books, comics, audios etc. It's almost ridiculous to try and talk of Doctor Who as a whole because there are no traits that apply to the whole of it. There are reasons to criticise any era of Doctor Who, from excessive violence to excessive moralising to excessive romance. But, please, if you've only seen a couple of episodes from the same producer and didn't like them, try something else. This review may seem very apologetic rather than enthusiastic, but just as the whole series doesn't have the same flaws, it doesn't have the same strengths. That's why, in the words of Russell T Davies (producer 2005-2010), it's "the best idea ever invented in the history of the world." It's fabulous and funny and scary and thrilling, but, above all, wonderfully, brilliantly varied. And very highly recommended.
The Hungry Earth
In time honoured New Who tradition, the Doctor travels to Wales for this two parter by regular Torchwood writer Chris Chibnall, this time assisting the small mining community of Cwmtaff against an assault from the ground itself. Near the start, we see the ominous signs of this being a time paradox story, but fortunately the Doctor is having none of that and quickly leads Amy away towards paradox-free waters, the rest of the episode instead revolving around vanishing miners, sinister forcefields and graves that eat people. As one might expect from Chibnall, this is a fairly dark seeming episode, with quite a bleak flavour to it. Thankfully, this is balanced out somewhat by some superb characterisation - both of our regular protagonists and of the residents of Cwmtaff - and some beautiful dialogue, but nevertheless this episode as a whole felt rather dark to me, particularly one scene which was claustrophobia-inducing to the point where I actually felt slightly uncomfortable viewing it, and another rather grim scene involving a dissection room. The soundtrack to this episode is rather enjoyably reminiscent of old-school sci-fi, I think. Speaking of old-school, long time fans may recognise the antagonists of this episode...
The RTD Era
I'm a long time Doctor Who fan and I admit I have mixed feelings about the new series. The obvious good point about it, of course, is that it revitalized a long-dead series that now became wildly popular in its home country again and may last another 27 years, with better special effects, good stories, and classic monsters. The bad points boil down to one thing: Running The Asylum. Almost everything I find wrong with the series is a classic sign: the Rose/Doctor Shipping (and Rose Is SPESHUL), and shipping in general (he even retconned in that Sarah Jane loves the Doctor). Emphasizing the fan writer's creations (non-Mondas Cybermen, Torchwood instead of UNIT) and plot devices (Time War). Emphasizing the Doctor's loneliness. Going for spectacular, huge scale scenes with no consideration of 1) how to solve the problem the story used to get you to the spectacular scene (leading to Peril Rollover and Reset Button endings) or 2) what impact it has on the series in the long run (leading to problems like "how come nobody believes in aliens with all these public invasions" and Timey Wimey Ball). And of course, setting almost every story on Earth or variations like New Earth, which I can't even blame on Running The Asylum. I hope this will change in the new era, but I have a sinking suspicion that it will just change to different problems...
The Stolen Earth/Journey's End
We all know what to expect from series finales now, and Stolen Earth/Journey's End is another misguided attempt to top the previous years'. This time around, everything runs on nonsensoleum, and I'm not just talking about the science for a change; character interactions, the plot's progression and the show's increasingly bizzare moral core are all powered by twisted, nonsensical Narnia-logic that locks the viewer out from the word go. Months of retroactive Fan Wank are needed to even begin to make sense of The Doctor's actions in this episode, and no-one else fares much better. Like the other finales, it tries painfully hard to up the Holy Shit Quotient to insane levels, but the problem is it may be epic but it's generic epic; it tries to hit all the "awesome" notes in the most unchallenging, uninspired ways. It never elicits a gasp or a "Holy shit!", just indifferent groans and Olympic-grade facepalming (okay, I admit it was pretty funny when K-9 showed up out of nowhere, but probably not for the right reasons). If you look past the posturing and the overblown attempts at a Wham Episode, there's just no reason to give a damn; certainly the plot is the biggest case Like You Would Really Do It I've seen in a while and doesn't do anything to try and allay that. To reclaim a little balance, it does have its good points; Julian Bleach is brilliant as Davros, and I dearly hope we get to see him reprise the role in a more watchable episode. Donna's "sendoff" is poigniant and well-written in total contrast to the painful, Narmtacular way it was set up. Murray Gold's score delivers as always, although it's increasingly clear his best work on Doctor Who was done by series 2. It's all the usual suspects that are to blame; Protection From Editors (in particular, it's clear that Dalek Caan went from the drawing board to the final draft without anyone to say, "Hey, maybe there's a better way to do this character than Multiple Miggs Skaro-style!"), Running The Asylum, Deus Ex Machina, Russel T Davies smells of wee, you know the score by now. My advice is watch the very end and the bits with Davros on You Tube and just enjoy the pretence that the rest of the episode was that good.
The first Moffat/Smith season retrospective
Just a note, this review won't contain any spoilers. This I vow. So series Fnarg has been and gone, Matt Smith has become the most predictable "surprise success" of TV history and before everyone else who has the same idea gets around to it, I thought I'd do a review of the series as a whole. First up, the cast and characters. My first impression of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan was that while he was a very good actor, she was better suited to her role. By the end of the series, my opinion had done a u-turn: Matt Smith inhabits the role more thoroughly after one season than David Tennant did after four. His portrayal of the Doctor owes a lot more to past incarnations, and the result is a level of consistent, enjoyable, believable characterisation that we haven't seen in a long time. Amy Pond, meanwhile, is left without solid characterisation and Karen Gillan...is far from a bad actress, but if there's a dodgy line that could go either way, she will make it painful. Supporting cast wise, there's just River Song and Rory. River remains a stillborn character, a living abortion of forced chemistry, awkwardly-misaimed attempts at sex appeal and grating smugness disguised as female empowerment, but she does have a genuinely good rapport with Amy. Rory...has his moments, but his actor isn't good enough to be sharing the camera with the two leads. The writing has improved overall, with better plots and better dialogue. I've seen complaints that the Story Arc of this season is too unsubtle (and, "Torchwood Torchwood Torchwood! In conclusion: Torchwood!" and "Shit, the episode's halfway through and we haven't mentioned Mr. Saxon yet, give him a ring" was subtle?), but what it actually does is incorporate the arc into the plots of individual episodes. It works better in some episodes than in others, but it's a much-needed shake up of the formula. The most important element it brings back, though, is imagination. Ideas. The aliens are alien, not furries, the plots are more intriguing and better resolved. This season reminds us at long last what Doctor Who has to offer that other franchises don't. It's not great; there are still lots of dud episodes and good episodes that nosedive, but it's an improvement and it gives me hope.
Best Science Fiction Show on TV
THAR BE (MILD) SPOILERS IN THESE WATERS. After a five year Time Skip, we join the now-pregnant Amy and her husband Rory in the sleepy West Country village of Upper Leadworth as the Doctor pops around for a visit. Then they wake up in the TARDIS to find that it was All Just A Dream. Or Was It A Dream? So begins the plot of one of the most bizarre episodes of the new Doctor Who to date, in which the Doctor and his companions are menaced by the sinister Dream Lord. The episode takes place in two worlds - one real, one imaginary - and the only way out is to die in the dream. But which is which? Whether it's due to the setting, the humanoid villains, the dodgy special effects or some combination of the above I don't know, but I feel that the episode has quite a retro flavour. It kind of makes me wish it was filmed as an arc consisting of multiple 25 minute episodes, rather than a single episode. The aforementioned villains are not particularly scary, but that's not much of an issue, since this is absolutely a character-driven episode. As the title implies, there's a lot of focus on Amy, and we get to see a side of her character that we hadn't seen before now. However, it's ultimately the Doctor whose character shines through the most. All in all, good fun, and the premise is interesting and inventive. Definitely recommended viewing.
The Time of Angels
Damn this was good. The Doctor and Amy meet up again with the mysterious River Song, and together with an armed team they hunt the last of the Weeping Angels in a cavernous temple. Full of statues. Spot of bother, that in itself really. I'm not going to beat around the bush here - this was utterly brilliant. This was the best episode of the Moffat series yet. Moffat himself is back behind a horror-based episode, the sort he does best. And goddamn he pulls it off well. The writing is brilliant, particularly the dialouge between River Song and The Doctor. Although like all women Moffat writes she does become annoying after a while it is fun to see more of River Song. The Nightmare Fuel comes thick and fast, and some scenes are truly horrifying considering this was supposed to be a childrens show, once. The action scenes are done particularly well, even more fun than your average Hollywood adventure flick. Matt Smith, at the end of the episode, delivers a stunning line that Tennant would have been proud of. Still, there were some irritating points. The overwhelming resemblance of the episode to Moffats previous Silence In The Library is an easily overlooked one, but Matt Smiths dullness isn't. In my last review I noted that Amy was always one step ahead of the doctor. I called her a Mary Sue. I take all that back as I have now realized something quite important. Matt Smith simply isn't a very smart Doctor. In fact, he's quite dim. Emotionally he is obviously a lot drier than Tennant, but he just isn't intelligent either. Amy is always the one who has to figure out the solution to the problems The Doctor finds himself in. The Doctor just seems confused. It is a bas sign when I find myself thinking, whilst watching the episode, "David Tennant would have done that so much better." Then again Smith is finding his way. And if the end of the episode is anything to go by he may well turn into a good doctor yet. Overall, best episode of the series yet. Hungry for more already.
The Vampires of Venice
In a desperate effort to help Amy recall her feelings for her fiancé Rory Williams, the Doctor takes the couple to Venice for a romantic outing. Unfortunately, as the title implies, the city is currently the haunt of some extremely hostile vampires... I absolutely loved this episode. Even from the pre-title sequence, in which the Doctor crashes Rory's stag do, it was clear that the script for this episode was going to be absolutely brilliant, and the rest of the episode did not disappoint. This is an episode packed with smart, witty dialogue and self-aware humour (watch out for the Doctor's library card). The plot is creative and entertaining, and while it's a fairly standard good-versus-evil conflict, there are some nice shades of grey morality in the mix here. There's also some nice action scenes, including a rather comical swordfight. Rory is a welcome addition to the team, bringing with him a degree of conflict as he is none too pleased with the Doctor. However, the real stars of this episode are villains Rosanna and Francesco, who manage to be both deliciously silly and menacing all at once. The episode does suffer from some very Conspicuous CG. However, this does not detract greatly from what is arguably the most entertaining episode so far this season.
The Beast Below
Having missed the first episode of the new season, this was my first taste of the new Doctor Who. My first impression was confusion as to why the theme music had been needlessly and quite radically altered to a less effective tune, although liked the new opening. This along with the brand spanking new logo show clearly that the new series is distinct in every way to Davies series. I am unsure whether this cut off is a good thing or not yet. Matt Smith has been criticized a lot for attempting to emulate the brilliant David Tennant's tenth doctor. Conversely I found him much more similar to the ninth doctor. He is faster to be made angry or upset and appears more brooding than previous doctors. There is no doubt he is copying some of Davids mannerisms and techniques, but he does feel different. Something superficially concerning about the new doctor is his age. He looks and acts much younger than previous doctors. He is also a man with a very interesting face. The doctors of the new series have been good to average looking in a very normal way. The ninth was an averagely attractive character and the tenth was good looking in a very normal way. The eleventh is either the best looking or worst looking of the three. He has a very unusual face to look at and it is an odd choice for a doctor. Onto the episode itself. It was rushed. It could have been a double episode. Even a full length movie. It did not work in an hour time slot. There was no build up, the story was quite emotionless and it seemed underwhelming. That said many of the things that were ouched upon were fun and the moral dilemma towards the end was certainly nice but needed more emphasis. My biggest fear with the new series is it is biting off more than it can chew, by attempting to be a serious, dark sci-fi show. Doctor Who has always been about Narm Charm. It is quirky and enjoyable. The new series is driving for something a lot more mature and realistic, which ironically causing the Narm to stand out like splinters in a broken toe. Still I found the episode to be interesting and look forward to seeing the rest of the series.
Flesh and Stone
Y'know, I think what makes the Weeping Angels stand out as much as they do is the fact that they aren't typical science fiction monsters. They're horror movie villains. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this two-parter. The second episode of this story sees the Doctor, Amy, River and the clerics being menaced by the aforementioned angels, which by this point stand as strong candidates for "scariest Doctor Who monster of all time". However, as was hinted in the trailer, there are worse things than angels afoot, as the nature of the crack in Amy's wall is finally revealed. It's an ambitious concept, but I think Steven Moffat pulls it off with aplomb. This is the episode which properly introduces us to the overarching plot which will presumably be the basis of the finale. It also pushes the characters to their emotional limits, with Matt Smith putting on a stunning performance as a Doctor in a terrible and desperate situation. The pacing is good, the dialogue is fantastic, and there's a good balance of sad, happy, funny and scary moments. My one, minor (and admittedly rather nerdy) complaint is the damage that this story looks set to inflict upon the series' continuity. I'm a little unsure what the implications are with regards to the spin-off series. As with "Victory of the Daleks", this episode feels in some respects a pointed rejection of the Russell T Davies era and a sweeping away of the old to make room for the new; whether or not this is a good thing will probably depend on how you felt about RTD's take on the show.
Victory of the Daleks
Winston Churchill and British Daleks. Let that sink in. I won't lie; I had serious misgivings about this episode even before it aired. However, it subverted almost every preconception I had formed from the trailers. I was expecting a rather brutal war story dripping with nauseating patriotism; instead, what I got was a sugar-coated heavy assault on my suspension of disbelief. If this was intended as an introduction to the concept of Daleks, it fails. The story is reliant upon "Journey's End" to the point where it will likely be difficult to follow if you haven't seen that story... but it then proceeds to give the RTD era Dalek stories the middle finger and do its own thing. The contrast between this story and 2005's "Dalek" is striking; where "Dalek" was dark, gritty and scary, this is bright, colourful and cheery. The Daleks behave less like the cold blooded killing machines we've grown used to, and more like the villains of a Saturday morning cartoon. They look like plastic toys, and they're about as scary as plastic toys, too. On the face of it, this is very much a science fiction episode, but in practice what little science there is takes a backseat to sentimentality, Rule Of Funny and Rule Of Cool. It almost works - the sight of Spitfires engaged in space battles is so awesome that you can forgive the scene for making absolutely no sense - but there are moments where it really doesn't, and as a story, it's rather unsatisfying, because there's very little substance to it. If I had to pick an aspect of this episode where it really shines, I would have to say the dialogue, which is very witty and amusing. Also very entertaining is Ian McNeice's show-stealing, larger-than-life performance as Winston Churchill. Ultimately, whatever criticisms you want to level at the programme, it's an entertaining piece of nonsense, but entertaining nonsense is still nonsense. As New Who goes, this was not one of the stronger episodes.
The Time of Angels
The Weeping Angels are back, and scarier than ever. This was an excellent episode, and I think one of Moffat's best. The Doctor and Amy join River Song to track down a Weeping Angel in some dark catacombs filled with statues. Nothing could possibly go wrong, right? The Angel is very well executed, and it really is genuinely creepy. I think this episode compares favourably with 2005's "Dalek", which follows the similar premise of taking a single, already frightening monster, and then upping the ante with each scene, to the point where it clearly is staggeringly dangerous. This episode is, however, much more understated than "Dalek"; it's a dark, suspenseful, psychological episode, and at times it truly is quite unnerving. The dialogue is perhaps less understated, but it absolutely rocks. The Doctor gets a superb Badass Boast in this episode, and the exchanges between the Doctor and the other characters - River, Amy, Octavian - are brilliantly written, and at times wonderfully telling. A final note, on River Song: as a character, she still hasn't really grown on me. Somehow her competence itself seems slightly obnoxious, possibly because she breaks the series' usual rules by always being one step ahead of the Doctor himself, which hasn't been true of Amy, Jack or even Jenny from "The Doctor's Daughter". On the other hand, she's a fascinating character, because she has this real mystery behind her, and I look forward to learning more about her background and her past (or should that be future?) relationship with the Doctor.
The Beast Below
The Eleventh Doctor's second outing takes him and Amy to a very British starship with a sinister secret. This was an episode heavily reliant on Rule Of Cool. The central plotline, revolving around a Moral Dilemma, is rather overshadowed at first by the various bizarre inventions of the writers, most notably the Smilers, sinister smiling faces whose heads turn to reveal displeased and evil faces whenever rules are broken. Also featured are the ship's black robed police force, the Winders, and a mysterious Action Girl-type character named Liz, who makes for very entertaining viewing. Amy quickly finds trouble, and the whole thing is a very lively and fast-paced romp... up until the end. I'm not going to spoil it, but it's worth watching for that scene alone, which reveals a great deal about our two heroes. In fact, it feels almost as though the entire episode is a vehicle for that one scene, and all the other flashiness is simply window-dressing. This would explain why so little of the aforementioned weirdness in the episode is actually explained at the end. It's not that it doesn't make sense, mind - you aren't asked to suspend your disbelief any more than with any other episode - it's just that the usual explanations never come. Still, it's nevertheless great fun and any failing in terms of exposition is more than made up for by the characters, so my advice is to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Eleventh Hour
"The Eleventh Hour" was not only the start of Matt Smith's tenure as the Doctor, but of Steven Moffat's tenure as executive producer, so expectations were high. I'm happy to say that this episode did not disappoint. In a somewhat surreal, dreamlike opening, the Doctor crashlands in the garden of Amelia Pond, a young Scottish girl in England who is troubled by a strange crack in her bedroom wall. The interaction between the eleventh Doctor and the child Amelia is glorious, including an absolutely golden scene in which the Doctor demands and rejects various foods - "You're Scottish; fry something!" But it's not all fun and games, because this being Doctor Who, the crack in the wall turns out to be a sign of some decidedly sinister goings on. What follows is an extremely fast-paced, tightly-plotted story, with excellent special effects and superb dialogue (and delivery - seriously, Matt Smith can make even a simple line like "I've commandeered a vehicle!" sound hilarious). Nothing is superfluous. All in all, it's an excellent introductory episode, because that's what it is, an introduction to an entirely new series. As with the 2005 episode "Rose", this episode would make a good starting point for anyone who isn't familiar with the Doctor Who characters and universe, and was clearly written as such. Of course, even for returning fans, it's an introduction to the Eleventh Doctor and his new companion, Amy. So, what of them? Well, Matt Smith doesn't disappoint. His portrayal of the Doctor is rather similar to David Tennant's: larger than life, emotive and energetic, with a kind of childlike glee that snaps back to seriousness at precisely the right moments. As for Amy, she's already one of my favourites of the companions, and a perfect foil for the Doctor. Actually, she's quite like the Doctor herself in some respects - she has the same childish sense of fun, balanced by a no-nonsense attitude; from the start, she makes it very clear that she is not a person to be trifled with. We don't get to see the new TARDIS design until late in the episode. It's more traditionally sci-fi than RTD's organic/clockpunk look, and I'm honestly unsure how I feel about it. I'm unsure, too, about the new titles, which are so very different from those I'm accustomed to. Perhaps they'll grow on me. We shall see.