The Blue Box Blog

Emma Lou's adventures in Doctor Who fandom

Blue Box Blog Sidesteps: Rambling About Genre TV

Posted by emmahyam on November 12, 2011

It feels like theres been quite a lot going on in the sci fi/fantasy/genre TV world lately and I’ve been watching plenty of bits and bobs that I’ve been keen to write about, but nothing that felt long enough to justify a full blog post so I decided to throw it all down here and see what you all think about this stuff. A note of caution, there are SPOILERS for all the shows below up to their episode of current UK transmission, so please read at with care. First up…

The Fades:  I liked this interesting little show, its got its flaws for sure, at time it could be too juvenile, the pop culture references could sometimes feel forced and the drama seemed to move at too slow a pace, however these minor gripes aside its got bags of potential for another series. It was visually stunning, the mythology of the show was brilliantly set up and the characters were well thought out and sympathetic. Handled right this could easily be a success in the mold of “Being Human”, a move up to BBC 2 and few more pennies spent on the effects could move this show from ‘good’ to ‘great’. TV in the UK lacks a show that aims for out and out horror in the way that The Walking Dead does in the US and its important than even if The Fades doesn’t make a return that these sort of shows are made.

The Walking Dead: The second series has just started here in the UK, running about a week behind the US, I had plenty of problems with the first season of the show (see my epic post ranting about it on this here humble blog) and they were almost enough to put me off watching the second season all together. Despite my reservations I’ve enjoyed the first three episodes far more than anything since that stunning pilot, things still grate on me a little though, the continual stupid decisions made by the group and the marginalization of characters like T-Dog and Glenn in favour of Rick and his family. The cut in budget the show took from the network is beginning to become evident, with some of the zombies looking a bit cheap. I also wonder how they’re going to sustain the drama over 13 episodes with Carl’s predicament and Sophia’s disappearance already starting to feel dragged out, even though we’re only 4 episodes in. This being said they’re are still plenty of reasons to watch, primarily for me, what on Earth Shane will do next, his motivations are mysterious and he appears to be getting more and more unhinged as signified by him shaving his head in episode 3. I’m also pretty intrigued by Daryl, the softening of his character seems pretty deliberate and hes easily the most competent of the group. This mean hes probably doomed to die horribly. The show has already been renewed for a third season and I think the production team is going to be faced with some increasingly hard choices regarding  just how much of the comics plot line they can put on TV.

Supernatural: Just finished watching the sixth season (yes I know I’m terribly behind) and despite some of the negative buzz I actually enjoyed this season quite a lot, I think it suffered from having to continue an arc beyond its prescribed life span, the early episodes felt unfocused and inconsequential as if the show couldn’t quite decide whether to return to a more “monster of the week” format or start a new arc story. Once it found its feet those Winchester boys were as good as ever and the supporting cast were also excellent, Castiel being the stand out, I loved him in his showcase episode “The Man Who Would Be King”, I’m intrigued as to where season 7 is going to go with the arc, I’m starting to worry that they’re going to run out of Big Bads, having laid waste to daemonic entities of all nearly every type, the progenitor of all said monsters, Satan and most of the heavenly host!

Terra Nova: just a quick note on this one, I’d love to know what they’re doing with that 4 million dollar an episode budget because they’re certainly not spending it on dinosaur effects, if they’re managing more than one dino and episode I’d be amazed and frankly the one they did have in the most recent installment looked flipping awful. I don’t understand why a show that sells itself on the basis of being about people trying to survive on a prehistoric parallel Earth chooses to concentrate on said people having arguments either in living rooms or a clearing in the jungle. As a very famous singer once said – a little less conversation, a little more action please.

Fringe: Fringe seemed to be in an odd sort of holding pattern for its first 4 episodes of its fourth season, it almost seemed afraid to kick on with its story without Peter, returning once again to a season one “monster of the week” format. As such it was beginning to get frustrating, it seemed like they’re were a million questions left to be answered at the end of season 3 and the producers were actively cocking a snook at viewers by ignoring them all together. Thankfully with the reappearance of Peter the story has really got going, with more going down in episode 5 than in the previous four installments, however I really hope they’re going to make more of the fact that they’re in contact with the “Over There” team, this story line feels totally neglected and I want to know what the Walternate is up to!

Buffy and Angel: Myself and my other half have embarked on a rewatch of the seminal Joss Whedon shows, watching them in broadcast order, I’m finding it a quite rewarding way to watch, especially as living in the UK means we often got shows months after their US transmission and sometimes edited bizarrely, or shown in the wrong order, thus rendering the intertwined story nonsensical. We’re in the fourth season of Buffy/first season of Angel and I must confess I’m enjoying Angel a great deal more, I hated Buffy season four on the first time around and now I know whats going to happen it seems interminable. Its thirteen episodes before we finally meet our Big Bad of the season, I found the whole concept of The Initiative fairly silly and the weakening of Buffy as a character (all that rubbish with Parker) was massively irritating, whereas with Angel I’m loving the beginning of their Myth Arc and the relationship between Angel, Cordy and Wesley. As a Doctor Who fan I’m finding the parallels between Buffy/Angel and Doctor Who/Torchwood really interesting, RTD cited Buffy and Angel as a major influence and doing this rewatch very much brings that home, especially comparing the tone of Angel to Buffy, it feels exactly like the Who/Torchwood relationship.

Are you watching any of these shows? I’d love to hear what you think, leave your comments below!

Posted in Blue Box Blog Sidesteps | 1 Comment »

Top Ten: My Favourite Doctor Who Stories (Part 2)

Posted by emmahyam on November 7, 2011

Welcome to my second installment of my top ten Doctor Who stories, this time focusing on the post 2005 episodes, once again I’m not shying away from SPOILERS here so proceed at your own risk. I’d love to know what your favourite stories are so please leave a comment below! Lets begin with…

10) School Reunion

School Reunion could have easily fallen into the trap of “Very Special Episode” bringing back as it did the wonderful and sadly missed Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, luckily for us the episode neatly side steps the schmaltz in favour of a good, strong story. The acting talent is on good form, Anthony Head’s Mr. Finch making for a great baddie, Noel Clarke’s Mickey Smith making a solid return and upgrades Mickey from being mostly useless in the viewers mind and Lis Sladen moves back into Sarah Jane’s skin as if she’d never been off our screens, don’t forget that this success of this episode lead directly to the creation of The Sarah Jane Adventures. I’ve found that this is a story that benefits immensely from repeated viewing, on the first pass its a great, traditional Who story but on the rewatch the subtle themes of pain and loss that weave through the episode come to the foreground, making this installment stand out.

9) Partners in Crime

My second favourite season opener since the shows return Partners in Crime is a wonderful romp from beginning to end, moving effortlessly from brilliantly funny to poignant. This episode also does a great job of redefining the character of Donna Noble in only 20 minutes, utterly erasing the screechy, annoying Donna we first met in “The Runaway Bride”. This episode makes a great use of Catherine Tate’s comedic talent, especially in the scene where the Doctor and Donna, separated by a room but able to see each other through a window mime their adventures so far at each other. I also love that the script keeps our two protagonists separated for most of the episode  so when they finally bump into each other you feel like punching the air with delight.

8 ) Amy’s Choice

I love surreal, labyrinthine plots and this episode delivers that in spades, also I love the exploration of the relationships between The Doctor, Amy and Rory. If nothing else this is the episode that proves beyond doubt that Amy really does love Rory after 6 episodes of mixed signals. We also get a  good long look at The Doctor’s always just below the surface dark side. I really hope we get another encounter with The Dream Lord who is wonderfully brought to life by Toby Jones.

7) The Time of Angels

After their stunning debut the Weeping Angels needed an appropriately awesome return and The Time of Angels delivers in spades, it also gives us the return of the lovely River Song who makes the entrance to end all entrances. What I really enjoy about this story is that it takes an brilliant Who monster and actually makes them even more scary! It shows us the full, horrifying power of one of the most ruthless and unstoppable baddies the Doctor has every encountered with Amy’s predicament becoming genuinely disturbing, the part where she rubs her eye and a bunch of dust falls out makes me shudder every time.

6) The Girl in the Fireplace

For me, this is the episode that got Steven Moffat the job as Doctor Who supremo, an amazing, melancholy love story with such a clever plot the episode actually suffers from being constrained to 45 minutes, this could have been a movie. Sophia Myles is excellent as Madame de Pompadour and her chemistry with David Tennant is very apparent. Even though it constitutes a continuity error as Moffat hadn’t read the script for “School Reunion” I also like the less acrimonious relationship between Mickey and Rose as most episodes with them in made me wonder why they were ever a couple to begin with. The script really sings in this episode and I love the final reveal of the name of the space ship our heroes are on, as all the pieces fall neatly into place.

5) The Unicorn and the Wasp

If you look up “romp” in the dictionary I think you’ll find a screen shot from this episode, this one is just great fun from beginning to end and uses one of the great Who traditions of taking real events (the mystery of Agatha Christie’s 10 day disappearance)  and revealing that the good Doctor had more than little involvement. This one is not just funny, its also clever, putting in loads of references for Christie buffs and once you realise that our heroes are stuck in the middle of an Agatha Christie mystery thats happening for real its great fun to play along and see if you can figure it out before The Doctor.

4) Eleventh Hour

My favourite series opener, its a brilliant introduction to our new cast of characters and a rip-roaring adventure, I love that hurls you straight in the deep end as The Doctor tries to deal with a turbulent regeneration and the imminent destruction of the Earth. Matt Smith comes out of the blocks sprinting in his performance as The Doctor, wiping away all worries that he wouldn’t be able to fill the shoes of the previous TARDIS occupant. I really enjoyed Moffat doing something different with the companions as well fully exploiting the time travel element of the show in a way that no one else really has. Groundbreaking and awesome.

3) The Doctor’s Wife

The jewel in the crown of series 6, touching, funny, devastating and ultimately triumphant this is a truly beautiful story focusing on the  real love story in Doctor Who, between The Doctor and the TARDIS. Plaudits must go to Suranne Jones, asked to personify a machine which exists in all time and space and is thousands of years old she pulls it off with aplomb. For us old hands though the sheer amount of call backs to the classic years, which all feel completely natural, is wonderful. Its also a story which has endless potential for expansion, I wonder if we’ve really seen the last of House and I really hope that one day we get to meet The Corsair, who sounds like a great foil for the Doctor.

2) Turn Left

One of my very favourite types of story in any genre is Alternative History and this one of the best examples ever done in genre TV, on  the face of it this episode is “Sliding Doors” done Who style but as the nightmare begins to unfold we realise that this is so much more and the profound effect that The Doctor has on the lives he touches. Catherine Tate’s second attempt at playing the “unenlightened” Donna is much more successful this time around and RTD’s writing of this alternate Donna is incredible. The dystopian Britain that we end up in is brilliantly realised and when the government starts the internment of foreign nationals it becomes utterly terrifying. I really enjoyed the reveal that the “time beetle” is part of the Trickster’s Horde in a lovely reference to The Sarah Jane Adventures and the Bad Wolf revelation is shocking and exciting, even years later.

1) Blink

What can I say about this episode that hasn’t been said before? Incredible acting, great characters, touching and funny dialogue, a brilliantly clever idea  and the single most terrifying monster ever conceived of in Doctor Who history, not only one of the greatest Doctor Who episodes ever made but one of the greatest examples of genre TV in the last 10 years. Simply amazing.

Posted in Top Tens | 2 Comments »

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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Top Ten: My Favourite Doctor Who Stories (Part 1)

Posted by emmahyam on October 13, 2011

Welcome to my first top ten list of the post-season, and of course straight off the bat, I’m cheating (a bit) by doing a two part list, this is a list of my favourite  stories from the classic series, the second part will be a run down of the same for the post 2005 run. Be warned however, I’m not going to shy away from SPOILERS here, so if you’ve yet to see these stories and want to remain unspoiled, proceed with extreme caution.

So without further ado, lets begin..

10) Carnival of Monsters

My second favourite Third Doctor adventure, in this serial the Doctor and Jo, aiming for Metebelis Three and missing it end up on a mysterious cruise ship the SS Bernice and needless to say shenanigans ensue as they eventually realise that they’re trapped inside the Miniscope. This is a machine that keeps miniaturised groups of creatures in miniaturised versions of their natural environments as an entertainment, not least of all the notorious Drashig (see the pic above). This story is wonderful, the relationship between The Doctor and Jo is never better, Jon Pertwee plays his interpretation of The Doctor at his putting-the-world-to-rights best as he shuts down the Miniscope. I also love travelling showman Vorg and his assistant Shirna in some top notch support work, but I think I thing I love the most is the quality of the FX work, the scene where Vorg tries to extract the TARDIS from the Miniscope, and look at the Drashig! Its the skull of a fox inside a handpuppet but on screen its awesome and scary!

9) Tomb of the Cybermen

Without doubt my most loved of the Second Doctors serials, The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria tag along with an archaeological expedition on Telos who are trying to find the remains of the legendary Cybermen who apparently died out 500 years previously, this being Doctor Who, of course it turns out the Cybermen aren’t quite as extinct as everyone thought. This adventure is simply great, a rip-roaring boys own tale. Matt Smith cites this story as direct inspiration for his Doctors look and general demeanor and he couldn’t have picked a better model as Patrick Troughton is on fire in this one. The script is amazing and has two of my favourite bits of dialogue in all of Classic Who, firstly theres The Doctor’s withering put down of Klieg:

Eric Klieg: Doctor, you seem to be very familiar with this place.
The Doctor: Oh no, not really, um, it’s all based on symbolic logic, the same as you use in computers. The opening mechanism to this door, an or-gate you call it.
Eric Klieg: Yes yes, I can see that, but how did you know in the first place?
The Doctor: Oh, I used my own special technique.
Eric Klieg: Oh really Doctor, and may we know what that is?
The Doctor: Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut.

Then theres The Doctor comforting a in mourning Victoria in a wonderful early glimpse into The Doctor’s loneliness:

The Doctor: Are you happy with us, Victoria?
Victoria: Yes, I am. At least, I would be if my father were here.
The Doctor: Yes, I know, I know.
Victoria: I wonder what he would have thought if he could see me now.
The Doctor: You miss him very much, don’t you?
Victoria: It’s only when I close my eyes. I can still see him standing there, before those horrible Dalek creatures came to the house. He was a very kind man, I shall never forget him. Never.
The Doctor: No, of course you won’t. But, you know, the memory of him won’t always be a sad one.
Victoria: I think it will. You can’t understand, being so ancient.
The Doctor: Eh?
Victoria: I mean old.
The Doctor: Oh.
Victoria: You probably can’t remember your family.
The Doctor: Oh yes, I can when I want to. And that’s the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they… they sleep in my mind and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You’ll find there’s so much else to think about. To remember. Our lives are different to anybody else’s. That’s the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.

Simply wonderful.

8 ) The Caves of Androzani

Recently voted the number one classic Doctor Who story by readers of Doctor Who Magazine to say this story is seminal doesn’t quite  do it justice. The Fifth Doctor and Peri get caught up in the politics of mining spectrox, the most valuable substance in the universe, things are further complicated when Peri contracts spectrox toxaemia and The Doctor makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his friend. Its such a crying shame that the Fifth Doctor’s adventures came to an end here but on the other hand what an incredible way for Peter Davison to bow out. His rescue of Peri at the cost of his own life is heartbreaking and Davison is magnificent, the story is also gifted with truly memorable baddies in the shape of Sharaz Jek and fourth wall breaking Morgus. I defy any fan not to join in with The Doctor as he yells “I’m not going to let you stop me now!” during the episode three cliffhanger.

7) Ghost Light

The Seventh Doctor and Ace’s finest hour, Ghost Light is a dark, gothic fariy tale where in 1883 the mansion house of Gabriel Chase in Perivale near London is under the control of the mysterious Josiah Samuel Smith the TARDIS arrives and there is a deadly test in store for Ace. This is a serial I’ve seen many times but I’m still not quite sure what actually happens! Its an unforgiving, complex tale that forms what fans call “The Ace Trilogy” a three-story arc that explores the turbulent personal history of the Doctor’s companion, Ace. Such detailed exploration of a companion’s earlier life was unusual in the original series and that dear reader is the origin of modern Doctor Who as we know it, emphasizing the Doctor and the companion equally.

6) The Time Meddler

Choosing a first doctor tale for this list was really hard, because so many of them deserve multiple spots here, although I love stories like “The Romans” and “The Aztecs” “The Time Meddler” presses all the buttons that for me make a great Who serial. The TARDIS lands in 1066 on the coast of Northumbria, and their arrival has been witnessed by a Monk who oddly does not seem fazed by the materialisation. It has great humour, a delicious baddie in the shape of The Meddling Monk (some fan theories hold that he is in fact an early incarnation of The Master), a wonderfully complex plot and a really cool “alternative history” setting. Its by no means perfect but I defy you not to shout “YES! IN YOUR FACE!” when The Doctor totally flim-flams The Meddling Monk to strand him in 1066.

5) State of Decay

This story marks the beginning of the “E-Space” trilogy of stories that came towards the end of Tom Baker’s reign as the Doctor, conventional fan wisdom holds that the quality of Tom Baker stories drops off sharply post series 17 but there is some real excellence to be had, and this story is by far my favourite of the bunch. Canny readers will probably be concluding that I tend towards the “goth” in my stories and there is no story more goth than this, the Doctor, Adric and Romana arrive on a planet experiencing what appears to be a feudal period. The villagers live under the thrall of three lords—Zargo, Camilla, and Aukon (AKA The Three Who Rule) who dwell in a shadowy Tower, for me the serial is like if Castlevania and Hammer Horror had a child and stuck Tom Baker in and its absolutely magnificent for it. The design alone makes this episode stand out, just look at the richness of the Tower, the relationship between The Doctor and Romana is never better (as in real life Tom Baker and Lalla Ward’s love affair was at its hight) and the story adds greatly to the mythology of Gallifrey and its ancient past.

4) The Mind of Evil

Number 10 on this list was my second favourite Jon Pertwee tale, and heres my absolute  favourite, this is another story that has several contenders for its spot (oh how it pains me to leave “Inferno” out!) but this story completely made me fall in love with Pertwee’s  interpretation of the good Doctor. In the serial The Doctor and Jo visit Stangmoor Prison to examine a new method of “curing” criminality, whereby the negative impulses are removed from the brain using the Keller Machine to enact the Keller Process, of course it turns out to be a nefarious plot by The Master to disrupt the first World Peace Conference, seemingly just to annoy The Doctor. The story features great work from “The UNIT family”, Jo at her resourceful and compassionate best, some brilliant Third Doctor zingers (“do you think for once you could arrive before the nick of time?!) and most intriguingly of all some real insight into The Master as portrayed by Roger Delgado, a performance never bettered in my opinion.

3) The Pyramids of Mars

If you want a Doctor Who story to show someone who wants to get into Classic Who, you can’t go far wrong with this absolute gem of a story, the TARDIS materialises inside a Victorian gothic mansion which formerly stood on the site where U.N.I.T.’s headquarters exists during the time of the Fourth Doctor. The Doctor and Sarah become aware that something is very wrong: the owner is missing and the estate has come under the control of a mysterious Egyptian. A dangerous alien power is at work, and the Doctor recognizes the mastermind of all this as Sutekh the Destroyer, the last of the Osirians. Mixing everything you’d come to expect from Doctor Who at its best, one of the best villans of all time, alternative histories, many horrifying deaths, genuine chills and an irresistible companion and Doctor combo. Its also one of the most quotable stories of all time; “I’m a Time Lord! I walk in eternity!”, “Kneel before the might of Sutekh!”, “Evil? Your evil is my good!” and “I am the servant of Sutekh, he needs no other!” to name but a few. Its this Doctor Who fans equivalent of comfort food and lovely cup of tea.

2) Genesis of the Daleks

Let me take you back to the heady days of 1994, when I was 11, I’d been brought up in a ‘Star Trek house’ and all I knew of Doctor Who was the kind of British pop culture stuff like, he has a TARDIS, he travels around with a load of screaming girls and there are these things called Daleks. I just so happened to catch a repeat of Genesis… on UK Gold, when they used to show Blakes 7 before it and you had to get up at about 5.30 am to watch it all. I did just that and lo, an fan was born. Its just an incredible achievement from beginning to end , that shocking beginning, the cliffhangers to episodes 2 and 5, the torture af Harry and Sarah Jane, Davros’ ‘tiny pressure of my thumb’ speech and most of all, the moment in episode 6 where the Doctor holds the future of the Daleks in his hands. Granted the serial is by no means perfect, there are plot holes you can drive a ford fiesta through, that never ending scene in episode 1 with the landmine and most of all, that god forsaken giant clam but it does contain all the elements of truly classic Who. It has all everything that you most associate with the classic series,Tom Baker’s portrayal of the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith as resourceful girl adventurer and the dashing, wise cracking Harry Sullivan.The rest of the supporting cast are superb, especially Michael Wisher’s Davros, who dominates almost every scene he is in.

1) The Brain of Morbius

So here we are, my favourite Classic serial of all time, years ago, the Time Lord known as Morbius tried to lead a revolution but was executed for his ambition on the planet Karn. When the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive on the planet, they discover that, thanks to Dr Solon, the dead may rise. This short synopsis hardly does justice to the most demented, wonderful, funny and down right amazing story. Incredible performances, amazing creature design and more quotable dialogue gems than you can shake a stick at (“you chicken-brained biological disaster!”) this story is for me the full package. Sure its cheesy, the Morbius creature visibly bumps into the camera at one point, The Sisterhood of Karn all seem to be auditioning for a Kate Bush video, Phillip Madoc appears to trying to eat the scenery and the set is audibly and visually made of plywood and cardboard but that doesn’t matter in the slightest, everything comes together to make “The Brain of Morbius” far more than the sum of its parts and for me, you cant get much more “Doctor Who” than that.

So there you have it, there are so many stories I wish I could included, it was so hard to narrow it down to just 10! I’d love to hear what your top classic stories are, leave your run down in the comments!

Posted in Top Tens | 1 Comment »

Coming Up Soon On The Blue Box Blog…

Posted by emmahyam on October 7, 2011

Hi everyone! This is just a quick post to let you all know my plans for the blog during the off-season of Doctor Who.

As readers will be aware Doctor Who is now off our screens until (we presume) Christmas time, Torchwood probably not coming back until 2013 at the earliest and The Sarah Jane Adventures now winding to an enforced end. I want to make sure that I keep writing for this blog  and keep bringing you all interesting and entertaining (I hope!) missives.

So my plans for the blog are:

  • Before Christmas I’ll be writing another fairly lengthy “Reflecting On…” for Doctor Who series 6
  • I’ll be doing roughly weekly “Top Ten” pieces, I feel thats a category I’ve rather under utilized around these parts and I’ve got a some cool ideas for lists.
  • I’ve also been toying with ideas for a new series, tentatively titled “Who 101”, this would be a series of articles aimed at people who have either never seen the series at all, or who have only watched Doctor Who since the 2005 return that took a look at dissecting some of the old Who tropes, stories and companions.

Most of all I’d love to hear your feedback! Is there anything you want me to write about? What do you think of the “Who 101” idea? Any suggestions for Top Ten lists? I’d love to hear them! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for my upcoming review of the last three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures and the first of my Top Tens…

 

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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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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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