Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night Review (or “Never Work With Children or Animals”)

October 25, 2014

Doctor Who has been on a fantastic run lately, and I’ve joked about how that run would inevitably come to an end for the last few weeks.

And yet the quality remained constant.

Until now… (oooh, I sound like a Top Gear presenter).

Yup, it’s all come crashing down with In the Forest of the Night.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night Review: What’s This One About

Working under the incorrect assumption that the entire planet goes to bed at the same time, Earth “wakes up” to trees everywhere.

And it’s all to do with a little girl.

Thoughts – Never Work With Children Or Animals

Some people like children. I’m not one of those people.

Ok, so I’m sure there are some out there in the world who aren’t irritants, but those are few and far between, and they certainly aren’t the sort who are involved in show business.

Tigers - Always Wary of Torch Induced Epileptic Fits

Tigers – Always Wary of Torch Induced Epileptic Fits

No, the ones in show business tend to be overconfident, obnoxious teenagers filled with a misguided sense of self-importance.

Sadly, In the Forest of the Night was full of them.

And without a shadow of a doubt, the worst of the lot was Harley Bird, who played Ruby.

I just looked her up on Wikipedia as I was sure she could only have got the gig through nepotism, or a parent calling in a favour, but it turns out that she is in fact the voice of Peppa Pig. And that explains a lot.

For while it’s ok – indeed, probably ideal – for a girl voicing a cartoon character aimed at preschoolers to over exaggerate every line she speaks, it’s not ok in a show like Doctor Who, which is aimed at adults and children alike.

Bird’s performance actually made me tense – that’s how bad it was – and it brought the whole episode down as a result.

*Shudder*

The thing is though, having so many kids in the story implied that this was an episode aimed at children, just like Fear Her was. And indeed, this episode in many ways – including the way Maebh could communicate with whatever those shiny things in the air were – resembled that David Tennant episode.

But why would you want to pay homage to a story many people consider crap? It’s a mystery.

To be fair, it is a family show and in recent weeks you’d struggle to find what parts of it were aimed at kids, but I would argue that as long as it doesn’t break any pre-watershed rules, kids can enjoy episodes aimed more at adults. The thing is though, that adults will struggle to enjoy something aimed at kids.

So that’s In the Forest of the Night’s biggest failing in my opinion.

Apart From That Though…

Beyond that though, the writing doesn’t stand up to criticism.

Urgh. Just fuck off you obnoxious, overacting bastard

Everything I hate about kids – and especially child actors – is in this photo.

The idea that the world has been taken over by trees is good, and so is the twist that the trees are actually saving the planet from a solar flare, but that’s about it.

Essentially, there’s around 15 minutes of plot here, stretched out over more than double the time, and that left us having to watch people wander aimlessly around a forest. The parts with the wolves and the tiger existed purely to fill dead air.

Meanwhile, other aspects of the plot – and I’m thinking of the storyline with Maebh’s mother coming to find her – only served to make you ask questions that the writer forgot to ask himself. For example, why are the only people wandering around Central London a couple of school teachers and a very small class of children? Why weren’t any of the other kids’ parents looking for them? And in a 24 hour world, how did nobody notice the trees emerging?

It’s just  sloppy.

And that’s a pity because the show has been so good lately.

Random Observations

  • A quick check on Google brought me to the review of this episode by Neela “Caves of Androzani is shit/Arc of Infinity is awesome” Debnath. Naturally, she thought the kids were the best thing about the episode. Just reading what she has to say makes me think that she’s been hired by someone whose life mission is to wind me up.
  • There really was no need for the Doctor to “speak” to the trees in the form of those lights; it didn’t add anything to the story at all, and indeed the deepness of the voice of the trees was such that I didn’t even take in what it said on first viewing.
  • Another pointless aspect of this episode was the girl’s missing sister, and I just thought that her turning up at the end was utterly ridiculous.
  • The way that boy stormed out of Clara’s classroom would have earned him a suspension at the very minimum if he’d gone to my school.
  • And on that note, since when were class trips to spend the night in museums a thing?
  • And why would there be a trip to a museum taken by an English and Maths teacher? Surely it’d be a teacher of Geography, History or a science?

    This woman is smug because she realises she's the only child's parent who cares

    This woman is smug because she realises she’s the only parent who cared enough to look for her child.

  • Wouldn’t the kids know the Doctor as the school janitor?
  • I get what she was going for, but the hand acting of the girl paying Maebh’s was really bad. But then kids rarely make good actors.
  • There’s only so many times you can accept thin explanations for stuff. I’m happy with the idea that the Moon is an egg, even though it’s a wee bit ropey, but the explanation that the entire human race will simply choose to forget about the trees is ridiculous.
  • Until it was explained as Clara looking for an excuse to get the Doctor back to the TARDIS, I thought she was bi-polar. “Let’s save who we can” she says in one scene before admonishing the Doctor for saying he was taking the kids with him in the next.
  • Am I the only one who thought the direction of Nelson’s Column falling over was paying homage to the cliffhanger in Revelation of the Daleks?
  • The resolution of having the kids send everyone a message to their mobile is a bit too similar to Clara asking the world to decide on its fate in Kill the Moon.
  • Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were once again on good form, but alas that’s not enough to make me enjoy this episode.
  • I’d be very surprised if the writer of this episode wasn’t a member of the Green Party.
  • Doctor Who has taught me a valuable lesson. If I’m ever confronted by a hungry and dangerous tiger, all I have to do is flash a torch at it and it’ll wander off without incident. Presumably, tigers fear epileptic fits.
  • To its credit, this story looks great, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night Review: Final Thoughts

Alas, the great run Doctor Who has been on has come to a temporary end.

While containing some good features, the unfortunate truth is that In the Forest of the Night is flawed on just about every level.

It doesn’t contain enough plot to justify its existence and it contains glaringly obvious logic issues in the plot.

Plus the children just really annoy me.

Maybe this wasn’t aimed at me at all though? Maybe this was one to appeal to the kids before moving on to a grittier finale starting next week? After all, that was the excuse used to justify Fear Her?

But I don’t think that’s good enough. If you want to do a kids show, do a kids show, and don’t put it on at 8.20pm.

Otherwise you’re just asking for moans.

Hey, you know I’ve written a book with my reviews of all the Classic Era Dr Who stories right? Bought it yet? Why not? Sort that out immediately!! As someone on a Dr Who forum said, “The humorous nature of the reviews is worth the asking price”. He’s right! Buy it now.

 


Doctor Who – Flatline Review (or “The Tagline ‘The Golden Age Express Trundles On’ Would Have Worked Better Last Week”)

October 18, 2014

Last year on December 26th, I wrote my review of Time of the Doctor and my final thoughts on the Matt Smith Era.

In those two articles, I was pretty clear in my thoughts; Steven Moffat had to go.

Examples of  lines used in those articles include…

“The big problem with Matt Smith’s era is Steven Moffat. He’s just not a very good show-runner.” and “Do I want this to be the end of Steven Moffat in charge of Doctor Who? Yes.”

And I feel I was justified in saying that. Matt Smith’s final season was easily the sixth worst of all time, which is incredible when you think about how much more money and effort is spent on the show these days, and how much more talent there is supposed to be on the creative side of things.

Yet there it was; episode after episode of dreariness.

I did write something else in that article though. In it, I said to future readers – in the event of Moffat staying on for another year - ” …if he got his act together to make the next season amazing, then chuckle with hindsight”.

The sophisticated amongn you will immediately identify that the wall there needs "Kilroy Was Here" written on it

The sophisticated amongn you will immediately identify that the wall there needs “Kilroy Was Here” written on it

Well it’s time to chuckle with hindsight, because against all expectations, that’s exactly what he’s done.

So far this season, we’ve had two decent episodes, one poor one and then a run of five crackers in a row.

It seems almost unfeasible that we could have six. That would put it up there with some of the best runs the show has ever had.

It would get people considering it a Golden Age.

So there’s a lot of pressure on Flatline to be good then…

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: What’s This One About?

2D Monsters attack Bristol, and the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS

Thoughts – To Start With A Criticism

Well I’ll start with my one big criticism of Flatline.

Put simply, the monsters were too easily defeated.

Now I can understand why that was the case; this was an episode based around the idea of the Doctor being trapped and Clara filling in for him. To centre the story around that meant that time could not be devoted to the Doctor hatching a plan to defeat them, and

This guy wouldn't have got the part if John Bennett was still alive

This guy wouldn’t have got the part if John Bennett was still alive

it was also unfeasible for Clara to be the one to send them packing.

So what could the writer do? Probably not much else.

And while our hero saved the day and Clara had her own victory by being the one to bring the TARDIS back from the brink, it just ended up making it feel like the 2D monsters were no match for the Doctor.

Now you could argue that this means the monsters are so weak that any return for them would be unfeasible – after all, if the Doctor hadn’t been trapped, it would have been over in two minutes – but why would they need to come back again anyway? One story with them is enough.

Overall though, that was a relatively minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, and once again another highly enjoyable episode has been delivered.

And Now To The Praise

Yup, Flatline is another quality story.

In particular, what I liked about it this week was the freshness of ideas.

It’s not just that writer Jamie Mathieson has come up with completely new ideas for the show – like the 2D monsters – but he’s also taken previously used ideas like the psychic paper and the Doctor being stuck in the TARDIS and made them feel reinvigorated. It’s a remarkable thing for a writer to achieve at this point in the show’s life, and it’s definitely something he deserves a massive amount of praise for.

Already, fans are throwing his name into the hat as a potential new show runner – which is a huge relief because a year ago the best picks were Gatiss, Whithouse or even Hinchcliffe again – and it’s something I would agree with, but I think people are forgetting that it appears as though there’s life in Moffat’s reign yet.

Either way though, it’s great to have such a talented writer delivering enjoyable scripts for the show; everyone benefits from that.

A great special effect but perhaps not one that translates to Screen Caps

A great special effect but perhaps not one that translates to Screen Caps

And it’s not just the freshness of ideas that made those scripts enjoyable, but it was also the tone.

At times during Flatline there appeared to be a sense of serious urgency that the show has perhaps missed for the last wee while. I think the reason for that is largely down to the setting. While last week, there was some level of urgency, as a viewer, I think I was more disconnected from it because of where it was set. Having a mummy attack people in fancy dress aboard a train in space doesn’t have that same sense of familiarity about it as two-dimensional creatures living inside walls and sewers in contemporary Bristol.

So that was great, and what made it even more great was that in amongst that seriousness, there was still plenty for the viewer the chuckle at, and it was done in such a way that didn’t detract from the overall tone.

All that adds up to Flatline being another rousing success. Long may it continue.

Random Observations

  • This is yet another story that presents Clara in powerful way. Here, she is the Doctor, and as the Doctor says, she was “exceptional”. Much like the turnaround in Steven Moffat’s abilities, I still can’t quite get over how much my perception of Clara has changed in the space of a year.
  • I like that the Doctor impressed upon her though that goodness had nothing to do with it though.
  • The Missy cliffhanger was a bit of a game-changer. I’m keen to know where they are going with that.
  • My brother seemed to get awfully excited upon hearing the noise the TARDIS console made when the Doctor opened the doors remotely. I can’t say I was blown away by it, but hey, whatever floats his boat, eh?
  • But seriously though, there can’t have been made times in Modern Who where the TARDIS doors have been opened from the console?
  • Among the most amusing parts of today’s episode were the Doctor moving the TARDIS by hand, and him passing Clara a sledgehammer from her handbag,
  • The special effects for the 2D monsters were mostly good, but perhaps a little hit and miss. I thought the scene in the living room looked excellent, as did the bit where the door handle was made 3D, but the movement of the aliens near the final confrontation seemed less impressive.
  • The part played by Christopher Fairbank would have been ideal for John “LiH’sen Chang” Bennett, but unfortunately he’s dead. Them’s the breaks, I’m afraid.

    If you're anything like my brother and are the sort of person who looks at the pictures before reading the review, this screencap will confuse you. But Waaaaaaassssssssssssuuuuuuuuup!! anyway

    If you’re anything like my brother and are the sort of person who looks at the pictures before reading the review, this screencap will confuse you.
    But Waaaaaaassssssssssssuuuuuuuuup!! anyway

  • I’m assuming this was really a “Doctor-lite” episode and we just weren’t supposed to know it?
  • Characters in TV and Film who die for the sake of it is one of my bugbears. There’s no need for people to give up their lives in that sort of “Oh just leave; I’m happy to die here even though there must be a simple way for us both to escape” way and yet it happens time and time again. I like how the scene on the train addressed that.
  • In my review of Kill the Moon, I noted that I hadn’t picked up on the abortion subtext, but even I couldn’t miss the nod to Banksy in Flatline. A graffiti artist in Bristol called Rigsy? Yup…I spotted it. Well done me.
  • For no good reason, I got sidetracked writing this review by a sudden desire to watch the Budweiser “Wazuuuuuup” adverts from 2000 on youtube. So while you read this, roll back the years and give me a “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup” for good measure.
  • Danny only seemed to be in this episode to remind us he still exists, although it looks like he’ll play a bigger part next week, judging by the trailer.
  • This is yet another story I could imagine involving McCoy and Aldred. Weird.
  • I’ve not mentioned Capaldi yet. Awesome as usual.
  • I thought a good title for this review would be “The Golden Age Express Trundles On”. And it is, although it occurs to me it would have worked better last week considering the episode was set on a fucking train!! Oh Stuart, you do come up with good ideas at the wrong time.

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: Final Thoughts

Last week when I watched the Next Time trailer for Flatline, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for it, and I based that purely because of where it was set. To me it looked a bit dull.

So I didn’t expect this run of quality episodes to continue.

But it did.

Since Doctor Who came back in 2005, consistency has been hard to achieve, and yet here we are with an extraordinary sixth hit in a row.

We’re in a Golden Age folks.

And now that I’ve said that. just wait for it to come crashing down next week.

Hey, you know I’ve written a book with my reviews of all the Classic Era Dr Who stories right? Bought it yet? Why not? Sort that out immediately!! As someone on a Dr Who forum said this week, “The humorous nature of the reviews is worth the asking price”. He’s right! Buy it now.

Also, if you’re on Facebook, remember to “Like” Stuart Reviews Stuff to keep up with all my articles.


Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express Review (or “The One Where Frank Skinner Found His Way Onto The Set”)

October 11, 2014

I can’t help it.

I just have to read what people say about these new episodes so I can appreciate the seethe from people determined not to enjoy them for reasons I just can’t fathom.

The one that’s caught my eye this week – because it’s 21:37 and I can’t actually see much in the way of feedback yet – comes from a comment made *before* the episode was broadcast on the wonderfully titled and presumable glass-half-full and agenda free Facebook group “CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FANS WHO DISLIKE NEW DOCTOR WHO” (all in caps).

The line was that this person was upset about the ridiculousness of an Orient Express in Space because it was fantasy, and when someone asked him how it’s no more or less fantasy than a Police Box that is actually a Time Machine that’s bigger on the inside, along with a lead character who can regenerate and has two hearts, the retort was that “Right. Because NONE of those things serve a purpose on the series”.

What?

Well anyway, while you get your head around that gem, it’s time to discuss that particular story, Mummy on the Orient Express

Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express Review: What’s This One About?

Well…and I know this might come as a surprise to you…it’s about a Mummy on the Orient Express.

You’ve got to love an enigmatic episode title.

But then I would also say, is it really about that? Hmmm?

Thoughts – Is Doctor Who More About Relationships In This Season?

I do scoff a bit at the way some people are so negative about Doctor Who these days, as you can probably tell, but to be absolutely fair about it, in amongst the downbeat “I will always hate this no matter what” style doom mercantilism some people do have a point.

Not a screencap, but I felt the need to bring this wonderful retro poster to your attention. All credit must go to the artist, Stuart Manning for this. Just brilliant.

Not a screencap, but I felt the need to bring this wonderful retro poster to your attention. All credit must go to the artist, Stuart Manning for this. Just brilliant.

Mummy on the Orient Express is another example of a Doctor Who episode where the alien – in spite of it being the selling point of the story – plays second fiddle to a relationship drama.

As much as the side-attraction of the story was about a mysterious Egyptian Mummy who appeared only to the person it was going to kill, 66 seconds before it killed them, at the heart of it was Clara’s continuing relationship troubles with the Doctor.

From the get-go we learned that following their bust up last week, this was a supposed last-hurrah; a final adventure for her with the Doctor before they said their goodbyes and parted company forever. Then, throughout the episode, while the Mummy made its appearances and killed off characters we didn’t have any reason to care about, the characters we do care about continued to discuss and develop their own relationship.

And finally, once the Mummy had been killed off (and I must admit, the way it was so easily cast aside was the one thing I found disappointing about the episode, although I don’t suppose there’s anything else the writer could have done considering the build-up) we went back to Clara and the Doctor.

I get why people don’t like it, or at the very least struggle to accept it if their first love is the Classic Series where none of that happened.

But I do like it.

For me, it’s a more complicated and mature way of story-telling, and rather than be criticised, it should be praised.

I mean, as much as I love Doctor Who almost all the way through, character development wasn’t even a remote consideration at some points during the Classic Era. A companion would join the show and either stay exactly the same or slowly morph into a generic Doctor Who companion before suddenly having one episode’s worth of development to give them a reason to leave the show. Hell, in JNT’s time, the companions never even changed their clothes. So if you have a look at Earthshock as an example, where suddenly in Episode One, Adric wants to go home because he feels he’s overlooked by the Doctor and picked on by Tegan & Nyssa, you think “When did this happen?”.

I’m sorry, but that’s not quite as good as what we get now.

And sure, overdoing the relationship stuff, or writing it badly can be worse than having no development at all; I found Rose’s psychotic unrequited love for the Doctor in NuWho’s Second Season to be annoying and missing the spot. Instead of empathizing with Rose, I just thought “Bitches be crazy”.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that here we have a situation where the companion now really matters, and her relationship with the Doctor makes a difference to stories and to the Doctor’s character. Clara – as the audience identification figure – asks the

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

questions about the Doctor that we need to know, and he answers them. It works. It’s a more grown up and intricate style of writing and it’s one I welcome with open arms.

As a story arc, this is shaping up to be the best one Doctor Who has ever done, and I really mean that. There’s still time for it to be ruined of course, but I actually feel that the Clara/Doctor/Danny dynamic is the most important part of the show now. If next week there was just this generic “Alien invades planet before the Doctor stops them” style storyline without any mention of the existing character dilemma, I’d be disappointed.

Times change and shows move on. This is what Doctor Who is currently about, and I think that’s brilliant.

But Back To The Matter At Hand…

Anyway, to go back to this episode, I will happily say that once again, I really enjoyed it.

Not only was it a fun gimmick, even if – as I said above – the Mummy was defeated rather easily, but it was another example of a story flowing well and keeping me both guessing and interested.

Frank Skinner appears to have wandered onto the set in fancy dress, and Bald Bruiser Brody in the back there doesn't look happy about it

Frank Skinner appears to have wandered onto the set in fancy dress, and Bald Bruiser Brody in the back there doesn’t look happy about it

In particular, what sold this story for me was the entire creative process around it.

It looked fantastic, with great sets both before and after the change to Gus’s space craft and a nice claustrophobic atmosphere, but perhaps more importantly it sounded great too.

Tonight, I thought the incidental music was a stand-out; it brought the very ethos of the episode alive and – not to sound poncy – made me feel like I was watching something made from the period the Orient Express decor was suggesting.

Brilliant stuff.

To criticise it though, I did feel that Frank Skinner was a bit…well…not the best. If this was the John Nathan Turner era, people would probably be complaining about hotshot casting, considering it just felt like in the middle of this interesting story, Frank Skinner was just wandered onto the set in fancy dress. While he was no means bad, he’s never going to win any acting awards, is he?

That’s a minor issue though, and certainly from an overall first impression, this was another hit in a long line of top episodes.

Random Observations

  • In my review of Kill the Moon, I said this; “Put it this way; if Clara goes back to being a happy-go-lucky companion without a clear reason for why she has forgiven the Doctor, then I’ll be disappointed.” When she walked out of the TARDIS at the start with a smile on her face, I did feel disappointed, but as it turns out, I actually think the way it was dealt with was fine. I’d much rather it was woven throughout the entire episode rather than addressed in a pre-credits sequence with her forgiving him and then dropping the matter entirely.
  • I’d be interested to know whether the Mummy on the Orient Express idea was always planned to work as an episode – considering it’s mentioned at the end of Season 5’s “The Big Bang” – or whether the writer, Jamie Mathieson, was inspired by that episode to write it.
  • And speaking of Mathieson, it’s pleasing to see yet another new writer be given the chance, and grab the opportunity with both hands. He did a top job.
  • Looking at his Wikipedia bio, it also turns out he wrote a movie I love and would heartily recommend to anyone who watches Doctor Who, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. My watching of it pre-dates Stuart Reviews Stuff, hence the lack of a review, but I’d urge you all to seek it out.
  • I could spend more time enthusing about just how good Peter Capaldi is, but is there a need? Faultless again. He’s just superb; it’s like Doctor Who was made with him in mind.
  • Here’s a comment to enrage the feminists who are happy to pass judgement on men’s looks but go mental if a man does the same to a woman…Didn’t Clara’s legs look chubby in those pyjamas?
  • Perhaps I’ve not given enough credit to the Mummy and the 66 second gimmick? It deserves it because it was tense and also very well directed.
  • Hey look, it’s the woman off The Curse of Fenric.
  • The line about the Doctor lying about visiting that planet didn’t really go anywhere, did it?
  • Another episode without Missy? Fine by me.
  • The Mystery Shopper line stands out as a highlight.
  • It’s now 22:37 and I’ve had a look at general views of this episode and for once it’s mostly positive. Indeed, I can’t see any 1/5 or 1/10 marks for it anywhere, with even the most savage of critics begrudgingly stating that it was “ok”.
  • But there’s always one. Over on the aforementioned NuWho bashing club, someone said they didn’t like it and remarked that “Clara served no purpose”. Presumably anyone who thinks that would watch Twelve Angry Men and say there was no need for Henry Fonda’s character.
  • Finally, I have to give credit to Stuart Manning, who has been making retro posters for every episode made during this season. His latest one, as you can see, is just superb. If these are available to buy, I want one.

Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express Review: Final Thoughts

So while I thought the storyline involving the Mummy played second fiddle to what this story was really about – the Doctor’s relationship with Clara – I thought as an overall package, this was yet another magnificent episode of Doctor Who.

Golden Age? It’s looking like it to me.

Now I’ve gone and jinxed it!

Enjoyed this review? Buy the ebook of my Classic Series reviews over at Amazon


FIFA 15 Ultimate Team Mode: Solid Gameplay or a Gateway to a Gambling Addiction?

October 11, 2014

It was the kick off to the second half of a game of Scottish Premiership Football at Tannadice Park; Dundee United’s Nadir Ciftci took the ball from the centre spot and ran at the opposition defence, ultimately winning a free kick at the edge of the box from which United ultimately scored.

That was great to watch, but it only worked because it seemed an unusual way of attacking from kick-off. Subsequently, Ciftci has tried it plenty more times in other games, but it’s never had the same effect.

If only that was the case in FIFA 15.

Almost every game you play online starts like that, as your opponent seeks to exploit the new style of defending – or should I say hopes that the opponent has yet to grasp it – and makes a beeline for your goal.

And what’s annoying is that even if you are a solid defender in your own right, if someone tries that on you ten times, the chances are it’s going to work for them once or twice.

I like FIFA 15, but it’s not without its flaws  – although it has thankfully improved some of the issues I brought up last year in my “Five Things That Piss Me Off About FIFA 14” article – and that’s probably the biggest one of the lot.

Well…that or the way that because EA have probably twigged that people will find themselves through on goal more often, they’ve decided to make shooting an almost completely random act where you’re never quite sure if you’ll tuck it in to the corner of the net or send it out for a throw-in.

Argh.

Anyway, that aside, the point of this article is to discuss one particular element of FIFA 15 that I’ve paid more attention to this time around and have found mildly baffling.

I want to focus on FIFA Ultimate Team.

FIFA Ultimate Team: Solid Game Mode or Gateway To Gambling Addiction?

Ok, so you’re probably going to roll your eyes at that title, but it’s something to ponder.

Spend double the price of the game to get the best deal on FIFA points! Sounds like a good use of your money

Spend double the price of the game to get the best deal on FIFA points! Sounds like a good use of your money

The idea behind FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is that you build a team based on getting player cards through a sort of sticker-pack system, or you buy them on the FUT transfer market.

Then you play matches with the team to earn coins that can be used to buy new players or the contracts to keep the ones you’ve got.

The catch is that to build a good team, Chemistry is important. So if you build a team based around players from the same division or of the same nationality, they’ll have better chemistry than a random 11 build from players from all around the world. What they trumpet is that a weaker team with solid chemistry can defeat a better team with poor chemistry, and they do that by tweaking the game engine so that players in teams with poor chemistry fail to make good runs, misplace passes to each other or – as was the case in a game I played yesterday – in the case of goalkeepers, misread the flight of an easy cross and walk the ball into their own net.

What this does is make you want to get the right players to build your Ultimate Team. And the best players are rare. Like any system of economic scarcity, the players with the best stats are not readily available to buy on the transfer market, and if they are, they go for highly inflated prices. When you consider that you’ll only win about 300 coins for each match and a player like Gary Mackay Steven goes for 10,000, how can you expect to afford the world class players?

The answer? You spend actual money. And that’s where EA make their dough; the microtransactions.

As far as I can see, what they hope you do is buy the card packs in the hope of landing a rare gold card; a Lionel Messi card or a Gareth Bale card. On their own, the packs aren’t expensive, but I sense there’s a chance that people out there – and that includes kids – will spend 50p time and time again in the hope of getting that elusive card that will help their team do better. Soon enough they’ll have spent the cost of the game twice over.

And these Premium Gold Packs are dressed up as being a guarantee of getting something amazing. It has a picture of a big-name player on it and it proclaims itself as containing more rare cards than a  cheaper regular gold pack. I’ll admit to having bought a few of these packs when I started out, but it became apparent that it was a scam. The rare cards  contained in the packs weren’t player cards – the only cards that really matter – but instead were “rarities” like a slightly longer player contracts or a differently designed football that you could use in games.

You get the feeling that the sort of card you really want to get will only come up once in a blue moon. It’s like a scratch card basically; you’re gambling on the contents of a card pack, and it could become quite addictive to some. When you buy points – and I bought 750 for £5 because that was the minimum amount I could add to my wallet – it proclaims the best deal to be 12,000 points for £79.99. Who needs that? But what’s scary is that 12,000 would only buy you 80 Premium Gold packs, and the chances are you won’t get that many good cards from it.

Having had a brief look online, there are posts from people on forums and Reddit discussing how they’ve spent hundreds of pounds on FUT, and one of the top search results is from someone proudly showing off the ultimate team he spent 24,000 points (or £160) to get.

Amd what’s the point? If you want to play as world class team, why not just play regular online games? And if you want to sign players to build a bespoke squad, why not play career mode?

Premium Gold Packs contain more "Rare" cards, but those cards are usually ones you don't care about like balls or contracts

Premium Gold Packs contain more “Rare” cards, but those cards are usually ones you don’t care about like balls or contracts

The alternative of course is to play FUT as a slow slog, building up coins and playing against teams online with your own modestly crafted 11. I make a good Scotland side consisting of Silver and Gold carded players and achieved 100% Chemistry. That’s what I want is it not?

Well yes, but then when I play online seasons or tournaments on FUT I find that most of the people you do play have a better team, full of players with FIFA’s most important stat, Pace. Casual players like me just don’t have the time or the want to spend five hours a day playing relentlessly to get that better team, and when the option is there to play against equally matched opposition online with a game engine that hasn’t been tweaked to handicap players, then that seems a more attractive proposition, and one that ultimately, to pardon the pun, I’ll stick with.

Don’t get me wrong; I see why people like FUT and it will undoubtedly be the main source of appeal for some, but for me, I just don’t quite get it, and I have tried my best.

 


Doctor Who – Kill The Moon Review (or “So We Have To Call The Patrick Troughton Story ‘The Eggbase’ Now Do We? Hmmph”)

October 9, 2014

A couple of notes before I launch into this review.

1) This is late because I’ve been away on holiday, although I did get to see the episode as it was transmitted.

2) I’ve just gone through the comments section of my blog and realised there were about 30 Dr Who comments that I hadn’t actually approved. So if you’ve been making comments and wondering why they haven’t appeared, I apologise.

But anyway, back to the review and it’s Kill The Moon.

Like I say, I watched this on holiday with friends and I had to impress upon them with great sternness that they must not talk at any point during it. And they managed to achieve that, but by keeping quiet, they also fell asleep after about 5 minutes.

I certainly wasn’t complaining…

Doctor Who – Kill The Moon Review: What’s This One About?

The Doctor makes a schoolgirl feel special (and isn’t it sad that people will read into that the wrong way in this Yewtree era) and falls out with Clara after pissing her off once too often. Also, some fans who look for reasons to dislike have also now got the trump card of “I can’t watch The Moonbase anymore without thinking it should be called The Eggbase”)

Thoughts – Fallout Watch

Every time I write a new Doctor Who review, I promise myself I’m not going to spend too much time analysing what other people think. As you’ll remember, a few reviews back I was pretty critical of fandom to the point where it upset some people, and what I

That kid is looking over his shoulder thinking "Why is that substitute Caretaker still hanging around? And why is he so well dressed?"

That kid is looking over his shoulder thinking “Why is that substitute Caretaker still hanging around? And why is he so well dressed?”

don’t want is for people to think that I’m scoffing at their opinions.

And everyone is entitled to an opinion, although I’ll take it more seriously if it’s well thought out (and I’m sorry, but hating on this story because it “Ruins the Moonbase” is not something I’ll take seriously)

My opinion will come soon, but writing this on the Thursday following its broadcast, the dust has well and truly had time to settle and the reviews are in.

And there’s no doubt that Kill The Moon has been divisive.

Forums are split between people giving it 5 stars and 1 star, Twitter was ablaze with negativity and positivity and reviews have fallen on two sides of a very large fence.

But what I’ve noticed is that the ones who are being more full of praise are people looking to be entertained for 45 minutes on a Saturday night, while the ones who are being negative are ones who perhaps are holding Dr Who to a certain standard, not necessarily of script quality but rather or maintaining a certain ethos.

Or to put it another way, if you go to a general entertainment site like Den Of Geek, IGN, Digital Spy or the majority of the newspaper websites, you’ll read glowing reviews of this episode, but if you visit Dr Who forums, there will be large sections of the membership base who’ll dislike it because it doesn’t follow what they believe Doctor Who should be about (an example of which was that Clara threatening to slap the Doctor was wrong because you never saw a Classic Era companion do that)

And that’s an opinion people are entitled to have, although I’d question why they continue to watch the show.

Having checked out the fan polls of each of the season’s stories so far on a few sites, I see some people have given every story either 1/5 or 1/10. To those people, may I suggest that you save yourself pain and just stop watching?

Anyway, that’s enough of me discussing other people’s opinions, here are mine.

A Top Story With Issues On Second Viewing

Now I know there are going to be some people who sit back and scoff the moment they read this, but I really enjoyed it on my initial viewing.

Not a happy camper

Not a happy camper

It worked for me because it told a story that developed from beginning to end, it kept me engrossed, it had me guessing and it provided me with that brilliant “Ah, now it all makes sense” conclusion. The whole point – on first viewing – was that the Doctor had brought them to a key and decisive moment in the Earth’s history so that Courtney could feel special and so Clara could blossom. That’s fantastic and ticks all the boxes for a good story.

On second viewing though, I think there are some issues.

The first thing is that the prolepsis pre-credits sequence is utterly pointless. But I’ll let them off with that because I think sometimes the need to have a pre-credits sequence works as a bit of crutch anyway. The idea is that it has to be dramatic and hook you in before the opening credits, even though it makes not the slightest bit of difference in the UK – where we don’t have a commercial break between these scenes – whether or not you start with one of not.

And because Kill the Moon is a slow burner, there’s no obvious point where you could insert a pre-credits cliffhanger moment anyway.

The main issue I have with it on second viewing though is the Doctor’s involvement.

On first viewing, I didn’t really spare a huge amount of thought to how he acted for the first 35 minutes of the episode when it was revealed – or at least heavily hinted at – that he knew what was happening there the whole time. On second time, you can’t help but focus on it and question why he acts like he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on before the reveal.

That they outright did not say that he knew what was going on pardons that to some extent, but it still gets marked down a touch in my eyes for it.

These are not game changers for me though; I hugely enjoyed watching Kill the Moon on both occasions.

The Way The Doctor & Clara Are Written

Central to my enjoyment was the way the Doctor & Clara were written and performed.

I’ve given a lot of credit to Peter Capaldi on this blog, and he deserves it. Once again, he delivered some fantastic lines – best of which was his superb delivery of “Oh don’t be so stupid” when Courtney asks if the TARDIS has any games – but it’s easy for me to only

Someone just told these Cybermen that they are standing on an egg. In particular, the one on the left feels like a right cunt

Someone just told these Cybermen that they are standing on an egg. In particular, the one on the left feels like a right cunt

give him the credit and not the writer for coming up with these lines in the first place.

The Doctor – now probably more than ever before – has a character that feels deep, interesting and believable and that is massively down to Moffat and his team.

The best comparison for that would be Matt Smith’s Doctor, who for me was unbelievable. He was quite clearly a guy trying his very hardest to act wacky and alien and he was written inconsistently by writers who didn’t seem to know what his character should be from one episode to the next. Capaldi on the other hand almost comes across like he’s making these lines up himself, such is his comfort in the role and credit must be shared all round for that. When you go back to watch this entire season in quick succession, you’ll watch one episode and see how even the best of actors can have a bad day when the lines they have had written for them don’t match the character. Most of the writers (*cough* except Gatiss *cough*) have done themselves proud.

The credit for them doesn’t stop there, as – like I’ve been saying all season – Clara is also written well and she too is comfortable and believable in her role.

I had read some criticism of her performance here in the aftermath of its transmission and I just don’t have a clue where that is coming from. She’s terrific throughout, and is on fire in her scene with the Doctor at the end.

And that scene, by the way, was probably the very best thing about the episode. It would have been the perfect way for a companion to leave if that was the aim, and it’ll be interesting to see how they follow up on this next week.

Put it this way; if Clara goes back to being a happy-go-lucky companion without a clear reason for why she has forgiven the Doctor, then I’ll be disappointed.

Random Observations

  • There’s no doubt that the science is crap here, but I really don’t care about that. This wasn’t the Wheel In Space where the plot was based around a ludicrous lack of logic, but instead it was based around the notion that we accept the Moon is an egg and that when it hatched, it laid another moon sized egg in its place. If you can’t do that for the sake of enjoyment, then how can you accept any of the monsters?
  • The other thing I’ve seen people criticise the story for is that it’s a tail about abortion beneath the surface. Even after two viewings, I didn’t pick up on that, although it’s an interesting theory. I’m not fussed by it though, because it would only make a difference to me if it was so obvious that it overshadowed the story, and it didn’t.
  • To go back to how the Doctor is written, I loved the “You can’t post pictures of me online” bit, as if that was the most important thing to talk about.
  • I also thought the “Somebody deserves a thank you” bit was great.
  • One criticism I would have though is that the other two astronauts were only there so they could be killed off.
  • Another one would be the way Courtney Woods suddenly ignored the life threatening situation she was in to have a crack at Clara for dating Danny. That seemed silly.
  • Will the kids of Coal Hill School not be thinking “The Caretaker dresses a bit fancy does he not?”
  • Or even “Why is the substitute Caretaker still hanging around?”
  • It’s good to see a new writer given a chance here. Peter Harness (which unfortunately for him sounds like a brand of underwear) knocked it out of the park with Kill the Moon.
  • I’ve noticed that society has a problem – especially when it comes to children – with not being considered “special”. This whole episode was based around trying to solve a “disruptive influence’s” behavioral problems. You see that these days in schools and kids sports clubs where certain age groups now never have winners or losers, and everyone gets a medal. Not that this is the sort of place for this debate, but I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. If kids are mollycoddled to that extent in school then they are in for a shock when they enter the real world.
  • So the point is, maybe this whole episode should have finished in less than five minutes with the Doctor suggesting that Courtney get a grip and see a behavioral psychologist?
  • If you’ve ever thought of watching the horror film Apollo 18, don’t. This is far better.

Doctor Who – Kill The Moon Review: Final Thoughts

While Kill the Moon has certain issues that make you criticise it more on second viewing, it is still – on the whole – a fantastic episode of Doctor Who.

For me, it felt fresh, it flowed well and it had a top ending with Clara reading the Doctor the riot act.

Once again, another episode in this season has been a success.

Surely the run has to stop soon?

As always, here’s my reminder to buy the book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: The Classic Era

 


Gone Girl Review (or “Bitches Be Crazy, Yo”)

October 4, 2014

There’s no way around it.

I can’t write a good review of Gone Girl without spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it. I tried, but I ended up with a vague, unsatisfying mess about how it was “Interesting”.

So basically, if you plan on seeing it, wait until afterwards to read this.

But if you’ve come this far and want a basic recommendation on whether or not you should go to see it, then I would say yes, you should.gonegirl

Gone Girl Review: What’s It About?

When his wife disappears on their 5th Anniversary in suspicious circumstances, a man comes under intense media scrutiny as being the one to blame.

Gone Girl Review: Who’s In It?

Just like What We Did On Our Holiday, this stars Rosamund Pike, who now has an American accent. Other actors involved include the lead actor Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Conn and Kim Dickens. It’s also got that creepy bloke who played Mouth on One Tree Hill. Urgh. And even more annoyingly, nobody killed him. Creepy bastard.

Gone Girl Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

With an 8.8 on imdb from just under 10,000 votes and reviews of 4 or 5 stars across the board, this is one highly rated movie.

Thoughts

This is a movie that works because of its twist. An hour or so in, I was getting bored with the “Is the husband to blame” angle, and though I think everyone could see the revelation that Amy was still alive coming, what made it work was that the majority of what we’d seen of her so far – i.e. her diary entries – was fabricated. That’s a fantastic swerve in the plot and saved me from genuinely feeling like I might nod off.

Up to that point, it wasn’t entirely clear whether or not Affleck’s character was the villain of the piece, but after the reveal that Amy had planned the whole thing to frame him for kidnap, rape and/or murder, it made it clear in my eyes. Oh sure, he had an affair, and I imagine there will be some people out there who take the view that a man who plays away from home is the worst possible type of person in the universe, but his indiscretions were dwarfed by the madness and villainy of Amy.

The silly thing is, having the woman be the villain and having her impart her views on sexual politics (i.e. that she felt women model themselves in the image of their partner’s ideal) has drawn controversy towards the writer. It’s like in some people’s eyes, a woman can never be seen to be the one in the wrong. Then again, there’ll be some blokes out there who just take the view that “Bitches be crazy. yo” and that Amy’s actions are par for the course.

That’s daft of course. There are bad eggs everywhere, men and women alike. As is the case here, both of them are flawed people, it’s just that she’s a lot worse.

Going back to the plot though, and I did feel that her villainy was confused at times. With her husband at last under arrest, she could easily have kept under the radar, but then decided she’d murder the bloke she was hiding out with (the unconvincing Neil Patrick Harris, who I expected to break into Barney Stinson-isms at any moment) and return home, surely knowing her reception would not be a welcome one.

Also, why did she die her hair a colour that was practically the same as her previous one and why did she hit herself in the face with a hammer?

And the ending annoyed me a bit. As story-book as it might have been, I did want to see her get her comeuppance, and was disappointed not to. I get that showing how flawed the two of them were adds more depth for sophisticated people, but I wanted to see her put to jail.

Ach well.

Anyway, on the whole, this was a good story that just managed to save itself before I switched off. It had an engaging plot, an interesting method of telling the story that felt fresh, and it was mostly well acted.

I just would have preferred it was slightly shorter and had a more conclusive ending.

 

 


What We Did On Our Holiday Review (or “Outnumbered: The Movie”)

October 2, 2014

The problem with reviewing What We Did On Our Holiday is that to discuss it in great detail involves revealing a major plot development, and that wouldn’t be fair on people who haven’t seen it yet.

But I’ll try to do it as spoiler free as possible.

What We Did On Our Holiday Review: What’s It About?

A separated couple pretend to still be together when they go on a family holiday to the Scottish Highlands to visit the husband’s terminally ill father on his 75th birthday.

What We Did On Our Holiday Review: Who’s In It?

Containing a strong selection of actors like Billy Connolly, David Tennant, Ben Miller and current flavour of the month, Rosamond Pike, the real stars of the show are the three kids, whose names I can’t even find.

What We Did On Our Holiday Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

With 6.6% on imdb and general three star reviews across the board, I wasn’t expected that much from it.What-We-Did

Thoughts

You can sum up What We Did On Our Holiday review in five words…

It’s like Outnumbered: The Movie.

Written by the same guys who brought us that popular BBC sitcom, What We Did On Our Holiday basically puts a different family in an Outnumbered style situation.

So really, if you like Outnumbered – and by that, I mean the early seasons before the kids grew up and it lost its charm – then you’ll like this.

And I loved the early seasons of Outnumbered, so I was very much in my element here.

Now, this isn’t the sort of movie that could be described as “big budget”, because it’s not, and though I’ve seen some reviews be critical of that, I don’t really see why that should represent a problem. Why should a movie about a family travelling to Scotland need a big budget spent on it? That’s just criticism for criticism’s sake.

Nope, this is about the humour, the dialogue and the plot development, and it scores highly on all three counts for me.

Funny, absorbing, well acted and – dare I say this without coming across as twee – heartwarming, it didn’t outstay its welcome at 90 minutes long, and so I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I’d highly recommend it.

It’s just a shame I can’t go into more detail without ruining the plot for you all.

So go see it and enjoy it yourselves.

But if you don’t like Outnumbered, don’t bother.

 


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