The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Archive for September, 2011

Doctor Who: “Closing Time” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 24, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE

I’ve got a funny feeling that this episode is going to prove somewhat divisive.

There will be people out there who dismissed this episode before it even aired because of their impression of James Corden, the people who hated “The Lodger” and people who will have watched this and been disappointed that it wasn’t a direct continuation of that episode and do you know what thats a massive shame because this episode was a pure chunk of loveliness albeit with a few… issues

James Corden was brilliant as Craig and it was nice to see him being The Doctors straight man in some really lovely scenes,  the chemistry between Matt Smith and James Corden that obviously exists in real life came through on the screen and that really helped the scenes with just the two of them sing. I’m particularly fond on the scene of the sofa where The Doctor finally confesses to Craig that his death is imminent only to find his friend has fallen asleep. Also how wonderful was Alfie? or Stormageddon as he preferred to be called, it pretty hard to make a tiny baby a character in his own right but somehow this episode managed it, The Doctor’s monologue to little Alfie was wonderful and was a timely reminder to us old hands that The Doctor was once a Dad himself which added to the thread of melancholy that weaved through this episode. Another welcome sight for old fans was the guest appearance of Linda Baron, formally Captain Rack of the classic serial “Enlightenment” who was absolutely wonderful in her role as a shop assistant. I also loved the return of the Cybermats, I forsee a new Doctor Who toy in the offing for Christmas!

Despite all this lovely stuff there were a few problems, The Cybermen felt more than a little show-horned into the script as The Doctor needs a peril  to fight and their ultimate defeat was straight out of the RTD book of deus ex machina monster beating solutions. The River song scenes at the end of the episode also felt tacked on, although a lead in was needed to go into next weeks finale. The plot was more than a little reminiscent of the Tenth Doctor as we see him at the beginning of “The End of Time”, on a final pre-death “grand tour”.  Ultimately there will be plenty of viewers who will dub this episode a waste of time as it didn’t do much with the Cybermen, didn’t advance the overall plot and brought back a hated (by some) side character. On the other hand if you’re like me you really enjoyed this heartwarming tale where The Doctor came to town, beat the baddies, helped a Dad connect with his son and remember why he does what he does.

 

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Doctor Who: “The God Complex” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 17, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

Well, where on Earth do I start with this one?

After the triumph that was “The Girl Who Waited” last week I wondered what could possibly be store for us this week, on the face of it “The God Complex” is a straight forward and classic a story as Doctor Who gets. Trapped in a weird place with his faithful companions and a bunch of hapless/brave canon fodder characters The Doctor must find a way out and save the day, Doctor Who fans even have a name for this type of story “The Base Under Siege” and we’ve been watching them for 45 years now (on and off), so really this should have held no surprises.

Then once again the production team on this series subverted our expectations, theres so much to unpack from this story I think that The God Complex will pass into fan legend for its pick-apart-ability. The discussion of the concept of faith in this episode was something that will keep people far more intelligent and more qualified than myself going for a while I think. For me it wasn’t a criticism of religious faith, it was an criticism of the blindness of faith; “whatever goes wrong *insert belief here* will make it alright”, problem is, sometimes it just won’t. Nearly everything you would put money on happening in this episode is turned on its head as your focus is drawn away from the usual monster/companion shenanigans and forces you to really think about The Doctor’s nature. In a way it reminded me of “The Waters of Mars” as The Doctor is shown a reflection of himself, but where in The Waters of Mars The Doctor succumbs to arrogance here The Doctor opts for humility. He admits to all his failings, his destruction of Amy’s childhood, his interference with her marriage and his habit of letting her down. Did you notice how the door number of Amy’s door was the number 7? That was the age she was when she first encountered The Doctor and he didn’t come back like promised. I liked the way the parallels were drawn between the Minotaur stuck in a huge, sprawling maze feeding off the people trapped within and The Doctor trapped in his impossibly big TARDIS taking along people because they flatter his ego. It also brought back memories of “The Curse Of Fenric” where The Doctor destroys Ace’s trust in him, albeit in a far more unpleasant way (all of those people complaining that Doctor Who has gone ‘too dark’ go check that out, and that was 22 years ago). The post 2005 series view of The Doctor is that of “The Lonely God” and thats very much who were left with at the end of The God Complex as The Doctor forges on, alone again.

The performances in this episode were up to the high standard of this whole series, David Walliams who could have well overshadowed the whole affair was excellent and his character was also a neat subversion of expectations, I also loved Rita as played by Amara Karan, I’m sad that (seemingly) we wont see any more of her. Matt Smith was the star of the show in this episode, his speech to Amelia being particularly effective. I also loved the design and direction of the episode, at time recalling “The Shining” with its long gazes down corridors. The humour on display despite the heavy themes on show were both welcome and genuinely funny which contrasted with some brilliantly creepy moments.

To sum up I thought that The God Complex was a great little story and one that Doctor Who fans will be discussing for years to come, I mean after all, just what was behind door number 11…..?

 

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Reflecting On…. Torchwood: Miracle Day

Posted by emmahyam on September 15, 2011

WARNING THIS POST HAS EXTENSIVE SPOILERS FOR ALL OF TORCHWOOD AND DOCTOR WHO POST 2005

Welcome dear readers to a new feature here at The Blue Box Blog, “Reflecting On…”. In this occasional series I’ll be looking back on past series of Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, and maybe some shows outside of the Who-niverse if the mood takes me. Rather than writing a long essay I’ll be breaking down the points of interest in bullet point form as the fancy takes me. Besides, the thought of writing an essay is giving me unpleasant University flashbacks.

So why start with Miracle Day? Well, despite the fact I was reviewing each episode on transmission I feel it deserves an overview as a whole 10 part series, which is clearly the way it intended to be viewed, as a lot of the plot developed and only (sort of) made sense as the whole saga went on, I feel I’ve missed some points which I’d like to address in a longer format. So here we go, I think the best place to start would be…

  • Lets rate those episodes out of 10…
  1. “The New World”: AKA “Talkwood” My new contender for “The Worst Thing RTD Has Ever Written” award, all my hopes for Miracle Day were dashed in a brutally tedious 50 minute re-write of “Everything Changes” mixed with “The Silence of the Lambs”. What made it worse the fact there were little glimpses of good in there, the horrifying autopsy of the still alive suicide bomber and the helicopter Vs Land Rover beach chase. That couldn’t fight against the constant info-dumping, the plot holes and the baffling decision remove the concept of “logic” from the series. 4/10
  2. “Rendition”: AKA “Exposition Part 1” We’re introduced to two things that are about to become our new best friends in Miracle Day, padding and talking in dark rooms. They really should have just called this episode “Exposition”, because thats about all we get for our trouble, as for padding, are you seriously telling me most of what happens in this episode couldn’t have been handled in about a third of the time? Oh yes Jack’s poisoning scene is amusing, three problems though 1) I’d seen it all in the BBC’s preview clips, thanks Auntie! 2)Its a massive rip-off of The Doctor’s poisoning scene in “The Unicorn And The Wasp” and 3) It makes not a jot of sense. 5/10
  3. “Dead of Night”: AKA “Exposition Part 2”, the first episode in which we do nothing but tread water until we get to the final scene, which I think is meant to shock us, but then once again it was in all the bleeding trailers as well. Another issue, Oswald Danes, who killed a kid, and he liked it (yeah). What the bloody hell are we supposed to do with him then? I thought they would somehow try for a redemption angle with him, apparently not though. Utterly baffling from start to finish. 3/10
  4. “Escape To L.A.”: AKA “Its Always Sunny in L.A.” Stuff actually happens, the things that are meant to be funny are actually funny, some of it even makes some sort of sense. However taking Miracle Day as a whole nearly every second of this episode is rendered invalid by later revelations. Oh well, it wasn’t awful so 7/10
  5. “The Categories of Life”: AKA “This Makes NO Sense Part 1” AKA “So, So Sorry Doctor Basil Exposition”. Good Lord whose idea was this episode and the next one? Its like they realised they had to entirely change the overarching plot of Miracle Day and set about systematically tying off all the strands set up previously in the most boring, baffling way possible. Worst of all? Vera’s utterly pointless, stupid, pig headed death. 2/10
  6. “The Middle Men”: AKA “This Makes NO Sense Part 2” AKA “Pulling Up The Handbrake”, in which we learn all six episodes we’ve sat through were totally pointless, Vera’s death achieved nothing, Oswald Danes disappears out of the story for no reason, PhiCorp are  revealed as a shell company and workers  in The Overflow Camps do not know the meaning of the phrase “Criminal Trespass”, I’d give this 1/10 but Gwen looked hot as hell in her biker leathers and stuff exploded so 2/10
  7. “Immortal Sins”: AKA “Captain Jack’s Big Gay Adventure” AKA “Bullshit In Old New York” The best episode of the series by a country mile, a shame this was episode 7 instead of maybe episode 3 when it would have made some bloody sense. Despite being a  beautifully shot, intriguing story it was hamstrung by John Barrowman’s limited acting ability, the fact it changed the entire plot of the story arc 3 quarters of the way through and the decision by the writers to make Jack gay seemingly because they’ve just gone ahead AND FORGOTTEN HES SUPPOSED TO BE OMNISEXUAL (RAAAAAAAAAGE) so taken on its own 8/10 as part of the arc 1/10.
  8. “End of the Road”: AKA “This Is Not The Plot Line You Are Looking For” an enjoyable episode even though once again it mostly consisted of introducing plot threads that end up going no where and chit chat. I give it props for introducing my second favorite character of the whole series, John De Lancie’s hilariously gruff  Allen Shapiro, oh how I wish you’d been in it from the start  6/10.
  9. “The Gathering”: AKA “Gwen Vs The Gestapo” oh hey, Miracle Day should really be starting to wrap up now, so lets spend two thirds of an episode in Gwen’s Mum’s kitchen! *headdesk*… oh yeah and “The Blessing” is revealed to be a nonsensical geological fanny. 3/10
  10. “The Blood Line” AKA “Hey Audience, Go Fuck Yourselves!” Maybe the least satisfying series finale ever committed to television, everyone you’ve come to love dies pointlessly, all the bastards get away with it and just to add insult to injury it was boring as hell 1/10

What about the characters:

Lets have a chat about the main characters, how did the newbies do? What about our returning veterans? For the sake of some sort of brevity in this post I’ll confine myself to the main characters in the show.

  • Captain Jack Harkness/John Barrowman – Dear old Captain Jack, they still don’t know what to do with you do they? His main problem is that when the character moved over to Torchwood someone thought that his previous persona of cheeky, saucy space rouge wouldn’t do for the new dark and gritty Torchwood so they made him a broody, violent douchebag. Ever since then no one has been able to decide which way to write him, so most go for an uncomfortable mix of the two, which is what we get in Miracle Day. As for John Barrowman he was his usual self, sometimes great, sometimes utterly appalling, I think hes a good actor but limited, as long as being asked to play himself (Doctor Who style Captain Jack), when playing ‘dark’ he struggles.
  • Gwen Cooper/Eve Myles – I’ve got a great deal of admiration for Eve Myles, I think shes a great actor and is totally believable despite whatever scenario shes asked to play, the problem is she has to play Gwen Cooper. Gwen Cooper might just be one of the most dislikable heroines in TV history, shes a whiny, ungrateful, screechy, narcissistic cow who put her own selfish desire to be a part of Torchwood again above the safety of her entire family. Its tremendously hard to root for her, even when shes doing exactly the right thing, while its nice to have characters that have shades of light and dark, your heroes shouldn’t be so dark you want to throttle them.
  • Rex Matheson/Mekhi Phifer – speaking of wanting to throttle characters lets discuss Rex Matheson, for me the second most infuriating character in Miracle Day. A problem thats always plagued Torchwood is that when they want to write a character which is dark and complex, they just make them a massive douchebag. Enter, Rex who the very first time we see him is basically laughing himself insensible at the news of a colleagues wife’s Leukemia diagnosis. Rex’s most irritating trait is that he is in turns tremendously clever and tremendously dumb. In the space of 25 minutes he goes from cleverly entrapping Friedkin using some Torchwood tech to nearly giving away Jack’s ruse to disable the Null Field because he refuses to believe in the power of a different piece of Torchwood tech! I believe Mekhi Phifer is a decent enough actor but the writers didn’t help out at all with their contrary approach to the character… and oh yeah now hes immortal, thanks writers!
  • Esther Drummond/Alexa Havins – poor old Esther, she was by far my favorite character in this series of Torchwood and despite RTD’s best efforts to makes her a poor mans version of Gwen she absolutely shone, her compassion and good heart were a breath of fresh air amongst a bunch of cynics. I was truly upset when she was killed off, I think this was a really poor decision on the part of the writers. I loved Alexa Havins’ portrayal of the character, she was totally believable and tremendously sympathetic.
  • Oswald Danes/Bill Pullman – I absolutely hated this character, not just because of his past but because of Bill Pullman’s bizarre choices is portraying him and because there was absolutely no point in his character being there. Is he some sort of commentary on the modern media? A reflection of Captain Jack’s guilt over his murder of his own grandson? An extended job interview for Jilly? I have no idea, and I don’t think any of the writers did either. two lines of dialogue could have fixed it but no one bothered. I also don’t understand the decision to make him a pedophile, if he’d been guilty of virtually any other crime there could have been some chance at redemption and some sympathy from the audience, it seems the writers just decided to go for shock value. Bill Pullman seemed to have no idea what to do with him, starting off a pound shop Hannibal Lecter, then becoming a confident media mogul, finally settling on shifty slime ball. Bad idea all round.

Its time to talk plot(holes) Fundamentally the plot of Miracle Day is a great, simple one. “What if one day, nobody died”? The problem is, they didn’t just stick with resolving that storyline. Miracle Day’s run was at least 5 episodes too long for a plot the Torchwood members we see in Children of Earth could have knocked off in an afternoon. The level of padding on display in the show was quite astonishing, the first 4 episodes were full of newscasts which recounted plot information that we’d hear several more times from various of the cast, sweeping shots of landscapes and characters staring into middle distance looking concerned. The genius of Children of Earth was that it trimmed away all the fat and left a lean, mean story told at breakneck pace whereas Miracle Day seemed determined to do the exact opposite. I’m sure what they were actually aiming for was a sense of “world building”, adding a sense of depth to the universe but all they actually succeeded in doing was boring the arse off me.

The padding caused Miracle Day two enormous problems, firstly was the tremendous amount of story threads that were started and then left either unresolved or forgotten about entirely and secondly the gaps in logic on display which has the effect of making Torchwood (such as it is now) look like a bunch of morons and the audience wonder if the writing team had an impromptu lobotomy mid-script. I followed Jane Espenson’s live tweeting of the finale over here in the UK and judging by some of her responses to questions asked by audience members she didn’t have clue what was going on either. So let examine the first issue, dangling story threads, heres the ones I can think of off the top of my head;

  • “The Soulless” – in I think 2 episodes, nothing is made of this cult, I thought they’d be connected to Oswald eventually, seems not.
  • Esther’s sister Sarah – After Esther puts the authorities on to her we see nothing of the plot until episode 8 where shes about to incinerate herself and her children. Then shes at Esther’s funeral… and that it.
  • Rex’s Dad – seen once stealing painkillers then disappears forever.
  • Ellis Hartley Monroe and the “Dead is Dead” campaign – something that apparently conceived just to inconvenience Oswald for an episode, neither is heard of again after episode 4.
  • “The 45 Club” – Mentioned just to set up a gag in the pre-credits sequence of “The Middle Men”, no further information after this.
  • The device under Angelo’s bed – the super powerful null field, in episode 8, sod all else after.
  • “Category Zero” – intriguing idea, dropped like a hot potato after its one and only mention in episode 8.

Now lets talk about the much more irritating problem (in my opinion) the removal of Mr. Logic from the building, again, examples below are ones I thought of just while sitting and writing this;

  • When Gwen and Rhys’ safe house is first buzzed by the mysterious and threatening black helicopter why don’t they bolt the second it leaves? After all they broke out the shotguns at the sound of a knock on the door.
  • How on earth is Oswald Danes released? Even if the courts ruled in his favour I’m pretty sure that about 15 years worth of lawsuit, I mean after all the average stay on Death Row in the US is around 12 years while legal challenges and appeal are heard before anyone thinks about executing an offender.
  • Why does Lyn bother with the farce of poisoning Jack? Its not to avoid detection, it pretty clear Jack has been poisoned from the get go, and shes the only possible suspect on the plane. The Families seem to be pretty good at getting suicide bombers into tricky places, why not blow the plane out of the sky and solve all your problems in one fell swoop?
  • Speaking of which how exactly have The Families managed to not assassinate Jack by the time he comes face to face with them? He could have been killed about half a dozen times over, while he out in the open in Cardiff, picking up the bartender in DC or wandering around in broad daylight in LA to name but a few.
  • Why does Rex smuggle himself into The Overflow Camps using his real name when the CIA are still after him?
  • The Miracle means that no one can die… except if they’re totally incinerated. But then what happens? Surely you’d be left with a load of sentient ash flying around.
  • How are Gwen and Rhys allowed to stay in the Cowbridge Overflow Camp after attempting to get her Dad out?
  • Why recruit Oswald Danes as a spokesman for PhiCorp at all? Is he just there to see if Jilly can hack a job as The Families PR agent?
  • How exactly does Esther prevent Jack from dying from his bullet wound and despite this obvious handicap smuggle him into the UK?
  • If they didn’t want to take Oswald to Shanghai why didn’t they Just RetCon him so he forgot everything he’d heard about their plans?
  • If The Blessing was changed by feed it Jack’s blood over a long period (but only since 1998, the date given for The Blessing’s discovery) how does the sudden injection of about 20 pints of blood (the average blood volume of two humans) reset it back to “mortal”?
  • If Rex is immortal why does his old wound over his heart heal at the same time as his bullet wound from Charlotte?

I’m sure theres more where that came from as well.

Wherefore, RTD? Frankly at this point I’m at a total loss to explain to myself just what RTD and the writing team were thinking when they committed “Miracle Day” to paper and then to celluloid, they’re not novices at the art of scriptwriting, they must have realised at some point that the show just was not working, hence the abrupt changes seen at various point in the tale. Is it a case of “too many cooks”? There are 7 different writers listed on the Wikipedia page compared to 3 on Children of Earth. Was it restrictions placed by Starz? Miracle Day certainly seemed less explicit or violent than any previous Torchwood series or indeed the vast majority of Starz productions. The only thing that makes any sort of sense to me is that RTD’s heart just wasn’t in it, he’d brought Torchwood to an effective end with Children of Earth, he’d left Doctor Who behind and made for L.A. to make his fortune. Problem is he needs to get his name established out there before he can write whatever he likes. Theres nothing doing until Starz ask him to come give Torchwood another whirl and reluctantly he bashes out a story to fulfill his obligations so he can go and write his “kitchen sink” drama hes always wanted to do, and all the other writers just contented themselves to write down to his level. 

Talking Continuity: Just a brief note on this issue, the events of Miracle Day are taking place on modern day Earth, problem is, so is Doctor Who, so theoretically the events of Miracle Day are occurring while Amy and Rory are on Earth, you would have thought that would have come up in conversation. Torchwood and Doctor Who’s continuity have always been very closely intertwined so this throws up all sorts of odd little issues. Still sad RTD isn’t in charge of Who?

OK then hotshot, you’re in charge of Torchwood, what do you do? The eternal question of all armchair showrunners, well if I’d been totally in charge I’d have never made it in the first place. As I mentioned earlier I very much feel that Torchwood came to a natural conclusion with the climax of Children of Earth, but seeing as Starz are backing a dump truck full of cash up my drive way lets make Miracle Day. First step, I’d cut the run from 10 episodes to 5, this is plenty of space to allow the plot to unfold but cut away a lot of the subplots which went unresolved. Then I would have entirely removed Oswald Danes from the equation, his character just didn’t work. Now we’ve streamlined the plot down, I’d keep the PhiCorp/Families angle but incorporate sub plot of Angelo and Jack much earlier on in the proceedings, then have a series of flashbacks filling in information as the saga went on. I’d have also showed a lot more of the goings on in The Overflow Camps and have used Jilly in the role as The Families PR agent from the beginning.  Finally I’d have killed off Rex rather than Esther and certainly made The Blessing much less vagina like, that was a bit weird.

How about Starz? Will Torchwood be back? Was it right that Starz took over production of Torchwood? Well as John Barrowman has said several times in interviews that if Starz hadn’t stepped in there would have been no more Torchwood. Again maybe in retrospect it should have been a sign that after the BBC and Fox decided to pass on making new episodes that Miracle Day was a bad idea from the get go. Undoubtedly the injection of cash from an American network enabled the production to attract fairly big name guest stars for pretty minor roles, and in a couple of cases it paid for action sequences that the beeb wouldn’t have coughed up for. Mind you at times the distinct whiff of cheapness came over in the production, the sets for Shanghai and Buenos Aires looking particularly shonky. So will Torchwood be back? Well Starz have apparently signed the main cast into multi season contracts, however apparently Starz are unwilling to proceed with another series if RTD isn’t involved, he doesn’t seem to want to come back. What of Jane Espenson, who frankly seems to have done most of the donkey work? I’ve heard conflicting reports in regards to he continued involvement. So in my opinion it all comes down to whether RTD can be persuaded to return to Torchwood writing duties, while the ratings have been fairly impressive for a Starz production this doesn’t seem to be much protection these days, Starz canceled “Camelot” even after record ratings and good reviews. The future seems fairly bleak to me, while the cast are willing, the writing team and network seem weak.

In conclusion: A very wise person on the internet once said “Superman 4 makes Superman 3 look like Superman 2”, this maxim describes Torchwood Miracle Day pretty well, did it ever have a chance of standing up to Children of Earth? Maybe not, but could it have been a series 2 like attempt to relay the foundations of Torchwood for a whole new audience, very much so and it failed at that, badly. Speaking very frankly if this show had been under any other banner I would have turned off somewhere around episode 3. Genre fiction abounds on TV these days and while Torchwood is happy to coast with and very average cast, budget and plot line it will surely fall by the wayside. By moving to America I feel Torchwood has lost with it it unique charm, atmosphere and humour. I desperately wanted this to be good but it was not meant to be, however, all this being said I think there is yet hope for Torchwood. There were glimpses of greatness in this series, if  Torchwood can get back to its roots, tell a smaller story and put the expanded budget on the screen instead of in the pockets of the principals they might just have a shot.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day “The Blood Line” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 15, 2011

So this is it people, the final episode of the “Miracle Day” saga is upon us. Will all our questions be answered? Will any of it make the slightest bit of sense? Who will survive and what will be left of them? Will Emma have an acute RTD-induced Myocardial infarction whilst watching?

Well, I managed not to have a heart attack (just) but RTD didn’t half do his best to make me give up out of sheer frustration, at this point in the show the story should be accelerating to a huge climax, it should be breathlessly action packed and exciting but this episode seemed content to stick with the new Torchwood formula of endless chit-chat interspersed with the occasional explosion. The info-dump reveal of the true nature of “The Blessing” and the reason why the Families bothered with this at all felt so underwhelming I almost shouted “is that it?!”  at the TV. The other problem comes when you think about the plot for more than 10 seconds and realise that its got holes you could drive a tank through, lets just pluck one out of the air at random. Jack being alive is a problem because his mortal blood is the only thing that can reset The Blessing back to “mortal” setting. The Families have people everywhere, see the apparent ease with which they get a suicide bomber into that Brazilian special forces unit, why didn’t they just assassinate him any of the least half dozen times Jack parades around in the open, unprotected?

As if plotting idiocy wasn’t enough RTD then commits his greatest crime of the whole sorry affair, the utterly needless, pointless death of Esther. I mean other than deny the audience a “happy ending” what was the point of killing off the only character that had any sort of depth, likability, compassion and heart? Well, its not Torchwood unless we’re murdering its members left and right is it? It felt to me that RTD just felt that Torchwood’s victory over The Families lacked shock value and so duly killed off the best character in the show by miles. Also it seems RTD has told the audience a bit of a porkie in saying that Miracle Day would be an entirely self contained story as the seeds were sown for a possible series 5, but a series 5 not only without the lovely Esther but an immortal Rex? I shudder to think.

As the credits rolled I was left with the feeling that every possible character and plot point was given the least satisfying conclusion RTD  could think of. Best character killed off, most annoying character granted immortal life, Gwen’s Dad dies peacefully after everyone gives up on him, Jilly gets away with it basically scott free, Oswald Danes still the worlds most gleeful pedophile and The Families abide to continue on with “Plan B”. My mind is also drawn to the sheer volume of plot threads that were in the earlier episodes that came to absolutely nothing. The Soulless, The 45 Club, Oswald Dane’s use as a spokesman was left unexplained, “Dead Is Dead” and Category Zero.

To sum up, for me “Miracle Day” has been nothing short of a colossal disappointment, fundamentally the concept behind “Miracle Day” was a solid one however dumb plotting, impossibly stupid logic, awful characterization and endless padding combined to turn Torchwood from an enjoyably shonky UK sci-fi show into a crass, insultingly moronic “24” rip-off actioner utterly devoid of  wit, charm or intelligence.

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Doctor Who: “The Girl Who Waited” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 10, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR DOCTOR WHO SERIES 6

Every so often an episode of Doctor Who comes along that defies all your expectations, “Blink”, “Turn Left” and “The Girl In The Fireplace” come straight to mind, well now I can add “The Girl Who Waited” to my list. On first glance this seemed like it would be another fairly ordinary, mid season, arc-heavy entry into the canon but as the episode progressed my preconceptions were totally blown away

This was Karen Gillan’s finest performance as Amy bar none, her turn as the Older Amy, investing her with a totally different character, an Ellen Ripley trapped in a solitary hell, notice how she wouldn’t  make eye contact with Rory, she walks differently, she’s had to learn how to survive the hard way and Karen Gillan brings every second of her 36 year solitude to life. It also reminded the viewer about Amy’s ever present dangerous side, the woman who was willing to shoot at The Impossible Astronaut, waved swords at the hapless pirates of “Curse Of The Black Spot” and held a gun to the head of her own daughter. The real stand out moment of the episode for me was the Young Amy’s monologue about falling in love with Rory, and their willingness to tear apart the whole of time and space to grow old together. I believe also this was a big signal to the viewing audience that Amy’s bizarre little love affair with the Doctor is now well and truly over. Yes, part of her still loves him and is in love with the grand adventure of running away with her “Raggedy Doctor” but for once Amy’s true feelings that she works so hard to disguise come totally to the surface.

While we’re talking about Karen Gillan’s performance lets take a minute to praise the amazing Arthur Darvill. The true workhorse of this series of Doctor Who he had to carry the emotional weight of this episode and he did so magnificently as hes forced into yet another appalling  decision by the Doctor, surely his relationship with him has been forever changed. All he ever wants is for everyone to be happy and he keeps getting denied. This episode also made sure that we don’t forget about The Doctor even though he is very much not the focus of this episode, we’d better not forget that when push comes to shove the Doctor will make the hard calls, below his outwardly bonkers and jovial exterior the hardened sole survivor of The Last Great Time War is carved out of ice.

I’d also like to gush profusely about the design and direction of the episode, at first the stark white might seem like a cost saving measure but then once props like Rory’s huge magnifying glass and the sculptures in the gallery are added the place came to life. The TARDIS looking especially beautiful as it seemed to pop out of the screen against the blankness. I also really enjoyed Amy’s relationship with her environment and with The Interface. It brought to my mind Chell’s relationship with GLaDOS in the “Portal” series of games, also there were little elements of “first person shooter” in the direction through the use of the camera specs Rory and Amy wear.

It managed to be “timey-wimey” without being confusing, it questioned your morality without being heavy handed and if this didn’t bring a tear to your eye, you might have to check yourself for a pulse. Stunningly shot, amazingly written, directed with a wonderful lightness of touch and genuinely emotionally affecting this was one of the finest episodes since Doctor Who’s return in a series that may well turn out to be the finest series of Doctor Who since 2005.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day “The Gathering” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 8, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS DETAILED SPOILERS FOR ALL OF TORCHWOOD

Welcome everybody to the review for the penultimate episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day and its been quite the journey thus far hasn’t it?  In the run up to this show I’ve had quite a few chats with my fellow viewers across the interwebz and the consensus seems to be that if Torchwood can  just pull off a competent end to the “Miracle Day” arc then maybe it is not beyond salvation. Despite exceedingly negative reports in the preceding week I tried to maintain some optimism, all this individual episode had to do was not be too stupid and deliver a few revelations in order to set the scene for next weeks finale.

Well, it kind of delivered on those expectations but it felt oh so unsatisfying. The overwhelming feeling of going around in circles that pervaded last week rears its ugly head again as the episode for some reason chose to focus on Gwen’s ram-raiding shenanigans, prescription drug sale racket and the Cooper families desperate attempts to hide Geraint from the entirely too gleeful government official. I understand the need to tie up loose ends in the run up to next weeks final show but why make this the main thrust when you still have the massive elephant in the room of “The Blessing” still to be addressed? If this was a massive plot problem the logical thing to do would have been to have Gwen fail in her attempt to liberate her Dad from The Overflow Camp surely? Miracle Day’s general ability to fill 50 minutes with talking and running from place to place and lots of “serious face” pulling but yet leave the viewer with an overwhelming feeling of nothing having been achieved is quite remarkable. Once again I found myself wondering if the budget from Starz was spent entirely on set dressing as we spent the majority of yet another episode in offices, living rooms and cellars.

Yes The Blessing was revealed… and frankly I’m none the wiser. It appears (at least to Jilly as the Mysterious Blonde Lady seems to imply that you perceive The Blessing according to ones particular hang-ups) as, theres no way to put this delicately, a giant vagina. Make of that what you will. We learn that this is something to do with Jack’s blood as The Blessing appears to be draining Jack’s “life force” as he gets closer to it. Now I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, I can usually follow a plot but to be honest dear reader you find me utterly lost. I have no idea what “The Blessing” is, even though I’ve been shown in explicit detail, why this has got anything to do with Jack, why Jilly has been singled out to run the PR show, why Oswald Danes is still around, what a crappy pulp fiction writer has to do with any of it and most of all why any of it is happening at all. What does anyone get out of this? World domination? Profit? Enlightenment? Will we find out in the finale? I’m not holding my breath frankly.

Taken on its own “The Gathering” isn’t an awful episode, it was moderately entertaining if you can find it in you to excuse yet more forehead slapping gaps in logic. Ester managed to get Jack, shot in the guts, across the Atlantic, to Gwen and then on to Scotland totally undetected. Gwen is able to hide herself and her family with great efficiency but apparently can’t hide her Dad from the poor mans Gestapo, she doesn’t have contacts that could fake her Dad’s records? Ram-raiding a pharmacy in disguise? Make sure you rip off your disguise in front of a witness before you leg it. Oswald Danes is a problem and has given up all his useful information? Then by all means cart him all the way to China rather than, I dunno, smack him on the head with a shovel and drop him in the sea. Taken as a part of a whole then all “The Gathering” achieved was to kill any momentum gained in “End Of The Road” stone dead and obfuscate the truth for yet another episode just to meet its numbers.

I’m now honestly dreading episode ten “The Blood Line”, I do not see any possible way that Miracle Day can come to any sort of satisfying conclusion. Its such a shame that every week I turn on BBC One hoping just for some sort of competently told story, delivered in an entertaining fashion and nearly every week to date I have been disappointed. Actually, roll on  the 15th of September and lets get this while sorry mess over with.

 

 

 

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Doctor Who “Night Terrors” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 3, 2011

WARNING: THIS IS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE

Since its return Doctor Who has gone to great pains to show us the money. Huge, sweeping alien vistas, strange new races and intergalatic space stations, but every so often we’re reminded about the ordinary scariness of the everyday.

With “Night Terrors” Mark Gatiss takes the story of a seemingly ordinary little boy who is afraid of the monsters in his wardrobe and brings his characteristic flair for the macarbe to the proceedings. The episode is wonderfully atmospheric, with lingering shots of cracks in doors and long, empty hallways ramping up the tension to almost unbearable levels. The decision to set the episode in what Amy wonderfully calls “Planet Eastenders” was a brilliant one, an air of urban menace pervades the show, the people on the estate live in their own little boxes, deep down as terrified of their own surroundings and the “monsters” as little George is.

As well as the atmospherics of the show, the other stand out must be the guest performance from Daniel Mays, most recently the best thing in the otherwise forgettable “Outcasts” he turns in another excellent showing as a Dad at the end of his teather with his son. He provides an excellent counterpoint to a typically mile-a-minute Doctor who was also on great form. In another nod to Who tradition Amy and Rory are largely seperated from the main action, with an nice little acknowledgement to the audience as Rory wonders if hes dead yet again!

This is a very simple tale, I feel a more than a few will find it too simple for them, the story itself is very reminicent of Who episodes like “Blink” and “Fear Her” with the dolls immediatley bringing to my mind the Clockwork Droids of “The Girl In The Fireplace”. The old standard explantation of “the perception filter” is wheeled out for another airing, the formally clever idea is now getting slightly worn out with over use. While it was nice to get away from the River Song story line for an episode, I found it a little irritating that they felt the need to shoe horn in a shot of the Doctor’s death date, as if it would have slipped the viewers mind in the intervening week. That being said I feel that conversly some fans will find the lack of River Song action just as irritating.

Overall I personally found the change of pace refreshing, the direction of the episode really allowed the ideas to breathe and allowed the viewer to reflect on what was happening on screen. After the frenetic pace of “Lets Kill Hitler” a return to a good old slow burn horror story shows off the versaility and range Doctor Who. At the end of the day The Doctor came to town, saved a family and was magnificent in doing so and rather briiliantly I think theres going to be more than a few kids refusing to go to bed on Saturday night.

As it should be.

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Torchwood: Miracle Day “End Of The Road” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 1, 2011

Its that time of the week once again. Torchwood Miracle Day; seven shows down, three to go, so I went into this episode hoping at least for some signs that the story was starting to sow the seeds of wrapping itself into a nice package to end with in two weeks time.

Once again we are presented with an episode full of sound and fury but signifying nothing, while the show is happening in front of you you’re certainly being entertained, I enjoyed the guest performances this week, especially John de Lancie, even if he was just playing Q in a fancy suit and it was nice to see The Ghost Of Nana Visitor back even if only for a little while. The problem is once the credits roll at the end of the hour and you think about what you’ve just seen you realise that you’ve sat through another protracted run around (or stand-and-talk around in the case of Miracle Day) where it feel like the story has come on very little. Rather than feeling satisfying or interesting the revelations about Angelo and The Families only make me feel like we’ve been going round and round in circles for 6 weeks. You get the impression that the writers are just making this up as they go along, seemingly unable to settle on a consistent story they’re just chucking every half baked idea at the screen and hoping that the audience don’t notice. The Wikipedia page for Miracle Day says;

Miracle Day was developed through a collaborative plotting, with individual episodes subsequently assigned to individual writers. Gardner and Davies spent four weeks alongside their writing staff working through the complete story.

Really? Sure doesn’t seem that way to me, how the hell is this disjointed mess an example of “collaborative plotting”, the impression that I’m left with is that RTD had a good idea, realised it just would in no way fill 10 hours of screen time and started writing filler.

Case in point; Oswald Danes, returning after a two and half episode absence just to get told some home truths by a prostitute and then punch a couple of lumps out of Jilly, the reveal of the new “Category Zero” protocol and Oswald’s immediate reverting back to his character of episode one makes his whole arc feel like a colossal waste of time. To me the main “Miracle Day” story line suffered at the expense of giving Oswald Danes  air time in the early episodes. You were waiting for the big reveal of how Miracle Day somehow revolved around him or that he was involved with Jack somehow… yet nothing ever came. This wholesale shutting down of his story now feels like the writers acknowledging that this story line just does not work. When you’re writing a hierarchical story in this day and age you can’t afford any ‘fat’ on the bones of your show, anything that detracts from they main story line progressing forward just come across as padding, and Oswald Danes has been padding, pure and simple.

I give this episode credit for trying to get this story moving, if anything its now too much, too late. This should have been episode 4 of a maybe 6 part series, not episode 8 of 10, by leaving the introduction of Angelo and The Families until episode seven the narrative is left trying to impart an emotional impact or shock to us that we can’t feel because we simply haven’t had time to care about it. The writers are left info dumping on us from a great hight again because the events of “Immortal Sins” has effectively invalidated all the previous info dumps.

Once again the trailer for next week imparts little hope, looks like its Gwen Vs The Gestapo with some Jack shenanigans thrown in, in episode NINE for God’s sake! I really hope they’re is going to be an actual miracle. the Torchwood will somehow rise from the gutter and come to satisfying conclusion, but I sincerely doubt it.

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