The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Doctor Who: “The Snowmen” Review

Posted by emmahyam on December 26, 2012

I’ll come straight to the point with this review and say that I feel that with “The Snowmen” that the Doctor Who Christmas Special has finally come of age. This was an episode that struck the ideal balance of humour, scares and pathos so that it was not only a great hour of family entertainment but a fabulous episode of Doctor Who first and foremost.

Matt Smith, striding about Victorian London Town looking like an overgrown Artful Dodger was his usual excellent self, Vastra, Jenny and Strax were not only very welcome comic relief but also served as a great foil for a Doctor in the depths of grief over the fate of the Ponds. Special note must be made of the striking performance of Jenna Louise Coleman. Wether being a prim and proper governess or bouncing off the Doctor as a cheeky London barmaid she simply flies off the screen. Moffat has triumphed once again in setting up a fabulous little mystery to kick off the second half of series 7. Also for the old fans we have an interesting origin story for The Great Intelligence, foe of The Second Doctor. I’m looking forward to seeing if they reoccur, Moffat is the only producer of the show to really play with causality in Doctor Who and really treat out main character as existing outside of time. With all sense of restraint thrown off, he’s freed to do anything. It also helps when the show seems this effortless and the dialogue so witty, It shows the incredible popularity of the show these days that within minutes of the episode finishing “it’s smaller on the outside” tshirts were available to buy online. Once again the wait for spring and the return of Doctor Who seems a very long way away.

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Doctor Who: “The Angels Take Manhattan” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 29, 2012

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE

Scream, cry, kick the house down in excitement and reach for a box of tissues its time once again (all too soon it seems) for another Doctor Who mid series finale.

And what a finale, Moffat promised us a blockbuster every week and the past four episodes certainly stuck to that promises, going into this show it seemed we were being set up for an Al Capone type noir adventure full of tommy guns and fancy cars but as always The Moff put a swerve on us. This was very much an emotional story about our core four characters of Amy, Rory, River and The Doctor with everyone else pushed out to being somewhat extraneous characters, there to get our heroes to the right place at the right time.

That seems to be my main criticism of Who these days, if you can call it one, that we never seem to have quite enough time, I wish we could have spent some more minutes with Grayle and The Weeping Angels, surely Moffat’s finest monster creation, they were horrifyingly creepy as always with those nasty little cherubs another nice, if skin crawling addition to the monsters pantheon. That being said they felt a little bit off their game here, not quite as scary or horrible as they have previously been in stories like “Flesh and Stone”. I even began to feel a tiny but of sympathy for the one Grayle had been torturing, it reminded me somewhat of the eponymous Dalek from “Dalek”. I think the Angels are something that works best if they’re kept to being an occasional treat rather than a once-a-series regular, here’s hoping we don’t see them again for a little while.

On to the main meat of the episode then, The Ponds, as Moffat promised there were tears a plenty as Amy and Rory went to happily “live to death” courtesy of the Angels, never to see The Doctor or their daughter, River again. Blimey didn’t it seem a dark prospect, not many Saturday evening family telly shows where a couple commit suicide together! It all came good for them in an odd sort of way though, they got to live a long, happy life together and Moffat gave us a wonderful coming of full circle as we finally got an explanation for that odd little moment from “The Eleventh Hour” with the young Amelia. What he takes away with one hand he gives back with the other, it was a remarkably bitter sweet but fitting ending. That’s not to say that the episode had the air of a funeral as some previous departure episodes have had, there was plenty of humour and running around to be done, I particularly liked the sniping between The Doctor and River and their behavior towards each other raised a smile from me, check out The Doctor fixing his hair before he sees River again.

Our core regulars gave marvellous performances across the board, Alex Kingston was smashing selling River’s combination of grief and happiness at the fate of her parents, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill continued their good work from the previous episodes as did the wonderful Matt Smith, being particularly effective at portraying The Doctor’s rage and loneliness as once again The Doctor is left alone, albeit with River’s warning not to stay that way for long.

So what next for the good Doctor? It’s on to the Christmas Special and once again we’ve got the prospect of an unsettled, dark Doctor left to forge on through the universe alone, The Doctor says he hates endings and while its all said and done for The Ponds The Lonely God must move on and I for one can not wait to see what adventures and scrapes he gets himself mixed up in next. Roll on December.

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Doctor Who: “The Power Of Three” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 22, 2012

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE

Three: it’s the magic number, it’s a hat trick and according to Pythagoras it’s the noblest of all digits but what can it do for The Doctor and his companions? And more importantly what on Earth has it got to do with a plethora of small black cubes? The Power Of Three,  is an extremely good episode, that benefited from a lighter feel than the morality play of “A Town Called Mercy”. There were two story threads at work, the mystery of the cubes and the everyday life of Amy and Rory.

Chris Chibnall has come in for sometimes heavy criticism for his Doctor Who work in the past, something I touched on in my review of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” but once again he has come up with another Douglas Adams like idea of an extermination via the medium of small, black cubes, at first bewildering as the populace search for meaning in them but then slowly they are integrated into everyday life, only when people accept them as part of the furniture that the cubes strike. It turns out that the cubes are just as avatar of the Shakri, a Timelord fairy story made real come to wipe out the plague of Humanity. Bill Hicks once memorably described people as “a virus with shoes” and it seems the Shakri feel the same way, you wonder why, with the Shakri able to perceive all of time, Earth is due for the exterminators. It struck me as a little simplistic that the episode turned into another “are humans all that bad?” argument. I wonder if this is something that we will be revisiting at some later date? Especially as humanity is supposed to spread throughout the cosmos, as seen in Series One. I hope so. It’s a shame that Steven Berkoff’s baddie felt thrown away in the speed of wrapping everything up.

Chibnall gave the viewer plenty of treats, the now traditional celebrity appearances in the shape of ubiquitous cool science guy Professor Brian Cox and perpetually grumpy Sir Alan Sugar and for long time Doctor Who fans Jemma Redgrave led the return of UNIT to the show, and it was a lovely touch that it turns out she’s The Brig’s daughter. However as I mentioned to my other half, does this mean that “Dimensions In Time” is now canonical? God forbid. The dialogue was mile a minute, almost verging into screwball comedy in some of “lounge” scenes as The Doctor, Amy and Rory affectionately yelled at each other and it was just as laugh out loud funny.

Then there’s the other side of the episode: Rory and Amy, and a glimpse into their lives. Given that the pair are soon to leave the TARDIS, this was a chance to see what they do when the Doctor isn’t around to dump an Ood in their loo and run off again. It turns out The Doctor has been in their lives for ten years, a fact that actually took me back a little, it makes you wonder just how long some of his other companions knocked around the universe with our favourite Timelord. It’s probably not surprising then that a more domestic existence has appeal and an urge to settle down permanently has arisen. we also see the consequence that Rory and Amy’s lifestyle has on the people around them. We’ve had the families of companions taken into account before, but to spend some time deepening their lives was a great move, it’s nice that Rory’s career as a nurse, a flipping good one at that, is given plenty of airtime.

Hauntingly though we got Brian Williams’ realisation of what may be ahead. It was lovely to see a parent react to The Doctor without giving him a slap, unlike previous parents, Brian believes The Doctor is worth the risk but in between some excellent comedy work that sense of foreboding lingers. Mark Williams has for me been the revelation of this mini series of  Doctor Who. In just two episodes, he’s had a real impact on me. Matt Smith was fabulous as always, like the cubes I’m beginning to take him for granted, the episode asks lots of different things of him. He shows off his excellent physical comedy skills once again and in his delivery of the dialogue, for example when he’s getting in a grump about being bored, he’s mesmeric. As well as comedy he also manages to get across things like loneliness, guilt and sadness without any of the changes seeming clunky or forced.

There was a problem with the episode, for all of it’s quality ” The Power Of Three” just had a bit too much going on, it hit a stumbling block come the end of the episode. It felt there was plenty here for a two parter, the slow invasion storyline is wrapped up ridiculously quickly in a simple “reverse the polarity” solution. That being said “The Power Of Three” was enormous fun, very much in the manner of “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” I feel kindly enough towards the sheer fun of it all to excuse the plot wobbles.

Now though begins the wait for the mid-series finale. The promised tear jerker in our series of blockbusters. This is the end of  The Three, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are apparently closer than they’ve ever been. And with The Moff around that’s a sure sign that things are about to go horribly wrong.

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Doctor Who: “A Town Called Mercy” Review

Posted by emmahyam on September 15, 2012

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE

 

Amongst the best episodes of the last series of Doctor Who was for me Toby Whithouse’s The God Complex, a beautifully made piece of television that was happy to steer the Doctor towards much darker places. Whithouse has history with Doctor Who, having also previously written School Reunion and The Vampires Of Venice. But with A Town Called Mercy, he’s put together something very rare, a Doctor Who Western which actually works, the previous attempt in the shape of  “The Gunfighters” is not an all together well regarded effort, this is a vastly superior episode.

And this is a slightly darker proposition, too. After the comparable lightness of Dinosaurs On A Spaceship, A Town Called Mercy pushes the Doctor to more uncomfortable emotional places than we’ve seen this series thus far. The cracks and strain on the Doctor are starting to show. Series 7 has demonstrated the comedy skills of Matt Smith extremely well and we also get to see his strengths when things go more serious. Smith is just terrific, his faux swagger as he asks for something strong (a cup of tea with the bag left in) while he nearly chokes on this toothpick is in wonderful contrast to his rage at Jex (him shouting at him to sit down nearly caused my eyebrows to fly off my forehead). Its also interesting to compare Jex and The Doctor, deep down they both seek the same thing.

The Doctor, being shown this reflection of himself can’t cope and does something that may make some fans uncomfortable, it takes a simple statement of “this isn’t how we roll” from Amy to bring The Doctor back to Earth and to remind us that The Doctor seeks his redemption through the actions of his friends. Gillan and Darvill are still at their best, with another unspecified period away from The Doctor our companions relationship seems once again to be on an even keel but if the episode has one major flaw its that Amy and Rory don’t get a great deal to do, this very much being a tale of The Doctor’s conflicted nature.  This being said it does bring Amy Pond a little further forward than we’ve seen her the past week or two. It also exists pretty much as a standalone piece, even though there’s the odd hint of undercurrent developing, Jex’s comments on motherhood being both touching and ominous.

The production values ate absolutely terrific, Doctor Who has taken on three different genres this series so far, and each of them has looked outstanding. That’s no small feat, and A Town Called Mercy looks the best of the lot so far. The wild west landscapes look appropriately sunblasted and desolate, A Town Called Mercy is the most cinematic of the three episodes we’ve seen this series to date.

As for the episode itself, Whithouse certainly knows his onions when it comes to westerns. He throws in a few more ingredients, too, with a sense of The Terminator in places, and a tip of the hat to the mighty Westworld in The Gunslinger with a healthy dose of humour chucked in, the horse who really prefers to be called Susan especially amusing. The early part of the episode, where he’s having fun with the genre and exploring it, is arguably when A Town Called Mercy is at its strongest, as the episode progressed I found myself wondering why The Doctor didn’t just use the TARDIS to solve the whole problem, this is addressed somewhat within the episode however its a little dissatisfying, much as in “The God Complex” Whithouse tends not to let a slightly shonky plot holes get in the way of the message he’s trying to get across.

There is a small sense for me that there was a slightly better episode that could have been made out of the mix of ingredients here. That’s not to say A Town Called Mercy is a bad piece of Saturday night telly, far from it. As it stands, though, A Town Called Mercy is a very good episode, with some excellent moments, all draped in utterly lush visuals, another success for the much vaunted “flexible format” of Doctor Who and another blockbuster delivered with confidence and appropriate Wild West swagger.

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Doctor Who “The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe” Review

Posted by emmahyam on December 26, 2011

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE AND ALL OTHER CHRISTMAS SPECIALS

The Christmas Special as a concept is stuck in a weird catch 22 position, does it go for a intense, plot driven episode which is very much part of the overarching mythos or does it try a fluffier, more simplistic story?  The Doctor Who Christmas Special, despite only being in its seventh year has become enshrined as “traditional” now in the UK and Steven Moffat’s previous Christmas episode effort definitely favoured being “Christmassy” rather than just another episode that was the norm in RTD’s reign. This years effort was more of the same from Moffat’s preferred Christmas story telling, with “The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe” being a standalone, simplistic tale with and strong emotional core at its heart.

While the story itself was probably too simplistic for its own good, lacking in Moffat’s usual head scratching plot twists and favouring the crowd-pleasing ending of having Alexander Armstrong’s character being saved its emotional center and the outstanding cast carried the day to result in probably the most satisfying Christmas Special to date. It was funny yet heartbreaking without being maudlin, the story worked well and the effects work, particularly the wooden King and Queen, who were eerily effective.

The credit for the episode’s overall success must go to Claire Skinner as Madge Arwell, who was utterly compelling as a heartbroken mother desperately trying to keep Christmas sacred for her children and deal with the grief of cruelly losing her husband to war, she hit every note perfectly, in particular the scene where she is forced to witness her husbands death brought tears to my eyes. The two actors playing her children must also be recognized, I loved Maurice  as Cyril, being very believable as a kid mostly stunned into wide eyed silence. Matt Smith is always so good that these days you take his excellent performances for granted, the scene at the very end where he wipes away an all too human happy tear upon being reunited with The Pond’s was simply beautiful. If I have a complaint about the episode is that it almost seem to go by too quickly, the hour absolutely tore past at breakneck speed, Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir and Paul Bazely seemed to be barely on screen as the three tree harvesters from Androzani Major (a very pleasing shout out for us old hands, along with a lovely reference to the Forest of Cheem) and so it sadly seemed like a waste to cast them at all.

It is surprising, looking back on previous Christmas Specials how important they have been to the larger world of Doctor Who, take for example “The Christmas Invasion”, it establishes David Tennant as The Doctor, sees one of the first glimpses of Torchwood in action and prematurely ends Harriet Jones’ reign as Prime Minister, opening the door to The Master’s eventual take over of the world two seasons later. Even “A Christmas Carol”, on the face of it a fluffy modern interpretation of the classic Dicken’s tale has proven to be immensely important, establishing the eleventh Doctor’s willingness to use time travel to manipulate people to his own benefit and obliquely setting up The Silence, don’t believe me?  Go back and listen to Katherine Jenkins’ song at the end, doesn’t she say Silence a lot? In particular the line “when you’re alone/Silence is all you’ll know” seems pretty haunting in retrospect. So this being said what can we infer is coming for series 7? For me The Doctor’s assertion to Madge that he can’t feel as deeply as she does sticks out for as a possible future plot point, also the episodes underlying theme of motherhood and strength is ripe for further exploration, Amy Pond referring to River Song with a very maternal “shes a good girl!” is full of potential.

In summary, “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” was perfect Christmas fare, emotional and beautifully made and for us ubernerds, full of intrigue for the future as the long wait for series 7 begins.

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Review: The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 5

Posted by emmahyam on October 22, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS

 


Its an odd feeling of joy and sadness as I write this series of mini-reviews for The Sarah Jane Adventures as the show comes to an enforced end due to the untimely death of Elisabeth Sladen. The Sarah Jane Adventures was, for me at least, by far the most consistent and best of the Doctor Who spin offs and to say goodbye to such a fun, interesting and at times emotionally affecting show, and indeed its star is just cruel.

For those who maybe unaware of events leading up to this point, Elisabeth Sladen passed away on the 19th of April 2011 after a battle with cancer, due to her illness production on The Sarah Jane Adventures was split and three episodes (making up the first 3 installments of series 5) were filmed. Filming for the remaining three episodes was scheduled to begin in early 2011 but this was first postponed, then canceled as the BBC announced that with Lis Sladen’s death, The Sarah Jane Adventuress would be brought to an end.

So, lets have a look at the three episodes that make up the truncated series 5, firstly:

“Sky”: Something The Sarah Jane Adventures always excelled at was putting in scripts that entertained kids with bags of action and adventure while providing lots of little nods and plotting that will keep the adults in the room engaged too, “Sky” was a great example of that at work. To the kids this episode was another hour of Sarah Jane sorting out the baddies and gaining a new daughter, for the grown ups this was a Terminator pastiche with some lovely subtle comedic moments from Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane struggles to cope with first  a tiny baby who then turns into a 12 year old. Thats not to diminish the work of the rest of the cast,  Daniel Anthony (Clyde) and Anjli Mohindr (Rani) putting in their usual excellent turns. The episode itself is solid if not spectacular, the plot was pretty basic with the war between the Metalkind and the Fleshkind getting rather pushed into “B” story territory as the focus turned to Sky and her integration into the full time cast. If anything this episode almost had too much going on with Rani’s parents popping up for not much of a reason and the surprise reappearance of The Shopkeeper and The Captain hinting at a plot arc which would sadly go unfulfilled. I feel this episode was intended as a back door reboot of the series, introducing Sky and reestablishing Clyde and Rani’s roles within the show as they become surrogate aunt and uncle to her, a canny move on the part of the production team faced with a cast who in story terms are about to follow Luke out of Ealing and off to university.

“The Curse of Clyde Langer”: Its always a bit of worry when a kids show devotes an episode to ISSUES! In this case homelessness as Clyde, cursed via Portentous Sci-Fi Injury by a scary looking totem pole and is rejected by everyone who cares for him is forced to roam the streets of London. It came as a relief when the episode was a really strong one, Daniel Anthony was at his excellent best as Clyde and this episode acted as a wonderful showcase for the character. When we first meet him in “Revenge of the Slitheen” Clyde is very much a stereotypical secondary school clown and slacker, wisecracking and coasting his way through, trying to disguise a vulnerable kid inside. Clyde’s rejection by his family and downfall is really painful to watch and I think thats a tribute to the brilliance of the writers and a reminder of how central Clyde is to the show as whole. Clyde is the beating heart of the team, a lovely counterpoint to Luke (a Geordi to his Data is you will) and a great comedic foil to Rani. The big issue of the episode, homelessness, is actually beautifully handled and the script doesn’t shy away from the issue or try to sugar coat it. For instance, the fate of Ellie, who befriends Clyde on the streets remains unknown as Clyde is forced to leave her behind. I thought the show would go down the easy road of Clyde somehow rescuing her from her situation but that was passed by in favour of a more “realistic” ending where she simply disappears and Clyde is left with the realisation that he probably didn’t even know her real name. I wonder if Ellie would have made another appearance had the show continued?

“The Man Who Never Was”: Its fitting that the last episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures is very much Sarah Jane’s story as she, with the help of her gang of young apprentices helps to take down a unscrupulous business man and rescue some aliens from slavery. As with “Sky” this is on the face of it a pretty simplistic tale but it does the job extremely well as it mixes genuine laughs (check out the absolutely filthy joke Clyde makes in part 2!) with some great action and a interesting morality angle. Apparently this episode was intended to be the finale of series 5 had the season been made in full, this is somewhat borne out by the episode as to me it felt a little disjointed, as if plot points and character development that was planned but we never got to see were taken out. In spite of this episode was excellent with particular praise going again to the central SJA team. Lis Sladen was a hugely underrated comedic actress and her skills were beautifully showcased here, especially during her confrontation with the holographic Mr Serf. I think it very fitting that Sarah Jane gets involved in the story because shes one of the top journalists in the country, a lovely way for the writers to remind  us of how awesome Sarah Jane is in ‘real’ life, not just in world saving. Daniel Anthony and Anjli Mohindr were on their usual great form, again working wonderfully with the comedic aspects of the script. Tommy Knight (Luke) and Sinead Michael (Sky) have never come across as the most accomplished actors however this actually worked in their favour as they awkwardly tried to bond as brother and sister.

Overall looking over this truncated series the episodes were up to the excellent standard set by previous series, however its very much tinged with sadness as I’m left with an almost overwhelming sense of lost opportunities. The unexpected reappearance of The Shopkeeper and The Captain hints at an arc for the series that they were unable to expand on. The alien slavery story line is ripe for more exploration and it would have been awesome to see Sarah Jane putting a permanent end to it. There is a distinct possibility that Ellie would have reappeared and that could have been a brilliant way to explore the bubbling romance angle between Clyde and Rani (or ‘Clani’ as Luke had dubbed them) or even as a way to get the brilliant Trickster back to the series. I’m also sad that we’re not going to see any more of Sky’s story, presumably in series 6 when Clyde and Rani would be moving on to university we’d have a story with Sky’s friends discovering the attic and Sarah Jane embarking on a whole new set of adventures with some new youngsters.

Despite my sadness that there will be no more Sarah Jane Adventures the coda at the end of the episode gives us hope that somewhere, Sarah Jane is in an attic being brilliant and saving the world, and in that way, she’ll live forever. What a wonderful tribute to a phenomenal character and an amazing actress.

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Doctor Who: “The Wedding of River Song” Review

Posted by emmahyam on October 1, 2011

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE 

Well I never…

This episode was always going to have quite the challenge to resolve all the issues that were raised in this series and to do it in a way that was satisfactory even more so. So lets take the first issue, did it answer all the questions raised?

Well, sort of, no doubts there will be plenty of viewers crying “cop out” at the posing of yet another mystery to be solved but the episode was successful in answering the questions that series 6 threw our way and sorted some stuff from previous years. Eye patches? Check. River Song’s marital status? Check. The Doctor’s fate? Check. The nature of The Silence? Check.

And here lies the issue, the episode was so geared towards tying off loose ends that the episode whizzed by at such a thunderous pace as to leave me feeling somewhat bamboozled and underwhelmed, there were some fun little moments, the appearance of Charles Dickens, the carnivorous skulls left by the Headless Monks, The Doctor’s attempt to get Captain Williams to ask out Amy and River and The Doctor’s shotgun wedding. It was well acted, I loved Karen Gillan’s work in this episode, her coldness in allowing the death of Madame Kervorian was awesome and more than a little terrifying. The visual effects were overall excellent and the fate of The Brigadier brought a tear to my eye.

Despite these bits I found my eyes flicking towards to clock, wondering how on earth they were going to get this to a conclusion and trying to keep everything straight in my mind. More than a few times I found myself thinking of this episode as functional rather than entertaining. You could sometimes see the plot points being hit rather than a fluid move from cause to effect. Problem is how could the show do anything else? By setting this series up to move towards an event that could never really take place without ending the whole show, whether this was a wise decision on Steven Moffat’s part is going to be a debate that keeps fandom going for the rest of time I think.

I think people really weren’t expecting things to be this straight forward, that there would be an immense universe imploding shock to the system that we go with “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang” but we should know better than that by now, with Steven Moffat things are never really that complicated when you scratch at the surface and I think when push comes to shove that will disappoint more than a few viewers. I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw, it was the logical conclusion of  the last two series, in fact I’m looking forward to going back to series 5 and 6 and seeing how it works in retrospect, armed with the knowledge we have now. As I said earlier in this post the episode itself suffered under the weight of the purpose it had to fulfill but it was still a good piece of television. As series finales go it certainly wasn’t the worst we’ve been given, it wasn’t the best either but with me I’ll tolerate stuff from The Doctor that I’d never countenance from anyone else.

I’m sure as I type this the internet is ablaze with “MOFFAT MUST GO” and I think that was going to be the reaction whatever happened in this episode, it was always going to be seen as a cop out and thats a shame because whatever this episodes faults it doesn’t deserve that harsh a verdict. In 20 years time when people are writing clever books about series 6 and youngsters are discovering it for themselves I believe this episode will be held in much higher regard, much like series one’s “Boom Town”, hated by nearly everyone on transmission has now been subject to a great deal of revisionist praise.

So in conclusion I thought it was good albeit flawed, a lot of you who read this will think it sucked and Moffat should be hung from the nearest yardarm… as it always was and as it will always be, and when you think about it isn’t that just a tiny bit marvelous….?

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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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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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