Doctor Who – Deep Breath Review (or “Just Like My Unearthly Child Tagline, I’m Moved To Say That The Doctor Is An Utter Bastard. And Isn’t That Great?”

August 23, 2014

I like watching things without knowing what’s going to happen beforehand.

It baffles me that some people don’t seem to share that view and want to spoil things for themselves ahead of time, whether that be from reading plot details in advance or in the case of this new season of Doctor Who, watching leaked episodes in a quality unbecoming of the experience.

I just don’t understand why some people watched an apparently monochrome, low quality version of the opening story of Peter Capaldi’s reign as Doctor Who – Deep Breath – when it was accidentally put into the public domain a few weeks back.

What’s the point? Why not show the restraint to watch something in all its intended glory? Why ruin it for yourself?

It’s bizarre.

My brother asked me yesterday if I really knew nothing about this story before its broadcast, and I said that apart from it being set in Victorian England and involving Madam Vastra & Co, the answer was no.

He seemed amazed, but in my opinion, that’s how it should be.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that that wasn’t strictly true.

In actual fact – and assuming that nobody would be daft enough to read this review before watching it, and therefore operating under the assumption that I’m not spoiling this for anyone – I did know that Matt Smith was going to make an

What a bastard. Fantastic

What a bastard. Fantastic

appearance. And do you know what? That really pisses me off, because I shouldn’t have, and it ruined what would have been a terrific surprise.

Right now, reviewing this as I am mere moments after finishing watching the story, I can’t remember exactly how I came to know that. It was probably reported in a newspaper or on some website like Digital Spy, and that irks me. How is ruining the plot of a TV show newsworthy anyway?

Humbug.

Aaaaaaaanyway, here we are at the start of the Peter Capaldi Era of Doctor Who, and unlike every review I’ve written about the show, this is one I’m doing entirely based upon a first viewing.

It’ll be interesting for me to look back on this in the years ahead to see if my opinions on it will change.

Oh, and before we get into it, can I just take a moment to shamelessly plug my first book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – which is available to buy on Amazon for all Kindle, Tablet & Mobile devices. It’s great…honestly, and it gets 5 stars. Get it here

But back to Deep Breath.

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

A new, angry Scottish Doctor, a Dinosaur in Victorian London, robots looking for paradise, and a reference to an old story that I didn’t get until it was spelled right out for me.

Thoughts – The New Doctor

Ok, so let’s start with the new man.

Before I’d even watched this, I’d prejudicially made up my mind that I loved Peter Capaldi and was entirely sure that his take on the Doctor would be amazing.

Was I right?

Of course I was.

The first ten minutes or so of his character weren’t all that great, but they never are when a new Doctor comes along. Don’t get me wrong, this was hardly a “Three questions; who am I? Where am I? And who are you?” moment (oh…old story reference alert) but at the same time, it felt as though the lines given to him didn’t suit him as an actor.

Really, in his first few scenes, Peter Capaldi was sort of playing Matt Smith, and that was never going to work.

But from the scene with the tramp onwards, he was gold.

With the menace of a non-sweary Malcolm Tucker, but also with the gentle grandfatherly assurance of a William Hartnell style Doctor, Peter Capaldi – and I suppose Steven Moffat – have hit it out the park with this one.

Will the kids like him? I’m not sure. I’m writing this before I’ve read anyone’s feedback on his performance, so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt he’ll have the same appeal as David Tennant or Matt Smith to people of a certain age, and in a sense I feel he’s more aimed at viewers like me. I’m more than happy with that though.

Some of his lines cracked me up, and in particular, his exchange with Clara in the restaurant about the self obsessed egomaniac had me laughing out loud. Just brilliant.

The question of whether or not he’s a proper bastard is yet to be answered, but right now he certainly seems to be.

The Matt Smith Cameo

Like I said above, I don’t think Capaldi will have the same appeal as Matt Smith in certain quarters, and so, having Smith appear to convince Clara – and by association the viewing public who maybe hadn’t already decided Capaldi was awesome -

What a moment this would have been. had the press not ruined it in advance

What a moment this would have been. had the press not ruined it in advance

that he was a man who was vulnerable and needed to be given time was a smart touch.

Long term readers of my Who reviews might think “Hold on Stuart; you had a go at the writers for doing something very similar in both the Twin Dilemma and Time and the Rani“, but I think it’s different. Here, the audience identification figure – as Clara was in this episode – is being assured that he’s someone who must be given time and that she mustn’t judge by his older appearance (which is the thing that the kids will probably hold against him). In those other two stories, the new leading man basically told the viewer “You might think I’m a shite actor, but you’re stuck with me, so stick that up your pipe and smoke it”. It’s really not the same thing.

Anyway, Smith’s final appearance was handled very well, and I was impressed with him. I was less impressed with Clara not bothering to say goodbye to him, as she just hung up the phone. What a bitch!

If only that bit hadn’t been spoiled for me beforehand…

Clara

Speaking of Clara and her role as audience identification figure, I thought she was written for far better than in the past here.

My criticism of her last year was that despite being played well enough, her character was empty. There was nothing to her other than being the companion. We knew nothing about her.

Deep Breath managed to add some layers to her character, and with an actor that she actually seems to have some chemistry with, Jenna Coleman thrived.

With the news that she’s set to leave at Christmas – and once again, may I thank the press for ruining that one ahead of time – I’ve gone from being not fussed at all, to quite disappointed. On first impressions, these characters seem to work well together, and it’s a shame they’ll be split up.

And What Of The Story Itself?

It’s very easy in a new Doctor’s first story to forget about the plot and concentrate on the new man.

Not the best special effects. #BarryLettsCSOLoyal

Not the best special effects. #BarryLettsCSOLoyal

While I don’t think the plot was forgotten about per se, I do think it existed merely to help form the character of the new Doctor and his dynamic with Clara, and I’m happy enough with that.

There was nothing particularly groundbreaking or clever about it, and as a flowing narrative it won’t be remembered along with the classic stories, but then again I have no problems on that score.

It’s set the scene for what’s to come, and incidentally, I have absolutely no idea where they’re going with that new story arc with Heaven.

Let’s hope it’s more Bad Wolf than River Song though, eh?

Random Observations

  • Surprisingly, I enjoyed the use of Vastra and Jenny here. They helped Clara and the audience understand the new Doctor that little bit better.
  • I’m not sure about Strax though. He’s clearly a comedy character, but I think that comedy is wearing a bit thin.
  • The scene at the end is very like the final scene of The End of the World. I’m sure that was not an accident.
  • From an effects point of view, there were a couple of scenes – particularly the opening one with the dinosaur in the Thames and the one with the Doctor standing on the roof – that looked shonky. In that latter example, you could so clearly see he was standing in front of a backdrop that you might have been forgiven for thinking it was Barry Letts and Season 8 all over again.
  • The “You’ve redecorated. I don’t like it” line should never be used again. Ever.
  • I’ve got to be honest; I didn’t see the Girl in the Fireplace reference until it was so obvious that a blind man couldn’t miss it. That’s a shame.
  • Ok, I’ll be pedantic; when a Giant Cyberman walked across Victorian London, at least they came up for a reason for why it wasn’t recorded in the history books. How will they explain away the dinosaur?
  • The main villain robot looked a bit too much like a cross betwee the Gunslinger from A Town Called Mercy, and Richard E. Grant’s Great Intelligence for my liking.
  • If they keep talking about how much they miss the original TARDIS interior design, why not just bring that back?
  • In a weird coincidence, I was watching an episode of Black Books the other night that included the guy who got his eyes removed in this episode. Not a very exciting coincidence I’ll admit, but a coincidence nonetheless.
  • Though they were no doubt written with Clara being the audience identification figure in mind, some of her lines about changing the Doctor back seemed at odds with what we know she knows about him.
  • As a native of the same country, I love that Capaldi is being played as an angry Scotsman.

Doctor Who – Deep Breath Review: Final Thoughts

The main aim of Deep Breath was to introduce the new Doctor, and Steven Moffat achieves that spectacularly.

Peter Capaldi is assured and pretty much awesome already in the part and on initial impressions, has the potential to be one of the best Doctors of all time.

That’s fantastic.

It’s also great that Clara finally seems to have some purpose to her character and that Jenna Coleman works well with the new leading man.

On all those scores, Deep Breath is a success.

Judged on the merits of a stand-alone Doctor Who story though, the likelihood is that Deep Breath will never be considered a classic, or at least not by me.

Still, it did what it set out to do, and I enjoyed it a lot.

So I’d say it was a success and a strong start to the new season.

 

Remember!!! Get Stuart Reviews Doctor Who over at Amazon. I have no doubts it’ll be the best $9.99/£6.14 you spend all week.


Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book One: The Classic Era – Now Available on Amazon

August 13, 2014

Hi guys,

Just a note to say that Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book One: The Classic Era is now available to buy on Amazon.

You can get it here http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MNK7F30?*Version*=1&*entries*=0 and it’ll work on your Kindle or tablet.

It’s available for a very reasonable $9.99/£6.14SG_Cvr

As a result of this – and because Amazon wouldn’t let me publish something that is fully available in the public domain – I’ve had to take some of the Doctor Who reviews down.

But there’s still plenty here for you to read and sample.

The book also includes my Stuart Reviews Stuff Doctor Who Awards, including my ranking of companions, cliffhangers, best and worst guest stars, most embarrassing moments in Doctor Who are more.

So if you’ve enjoyed my reviews over the years, please consider buying a copy, and of course leaving a review on Amazon.

In the very near future I’ll also be publishing Book Two, which will focus on the Modern Era, and most importantly of all, will include my Stuart Reviews Stuff Colossal 246, ranking all the stories from worst to best.


Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review (or “If You’re Going To Do Nostalgia, Go All In”)

November 22, 2013

It’s Doctor Who Anniversary Week which means there’s plenty of Who related stuff on TV, Radio and in the press.

Other than the main event, the Day of the Doctor, what I’ve been looking forward to is An Adventure in Space and Time, the biopic of the origins of the show and William Hartnell’s tenure as the lead character.

The show has been broadcast, the reviews are in, and on the whole the thoughts are that it was a resounding success. One particular Superfan – you know who I’m on about, I’m sure – declared that it was the best piece of drama in television history, no less. Naturally, this is not a man who engages in hyperbole; oh no.

But what did I think about it?

Read on…

Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review: Thoughts

While the majority of reviews have given it five stars – indeed I haven’t seen any lower than that – I wouldn’t give it quite as much credit.

Yes, it was very enjoyable, and as a piece of TV drama – which I suppose it the point of it rather than a documentary – it hit the spot.

Most of the actors were very well cast, with the star of the show in my opinion being Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert.

Indeed, Raine’s portrayal of Lambert was the main strength of the show. Well…that and the nostalgic reconstruction of the sets and costumes.

And despite being around 90 minutes long, I felt it flew by. So I was happy with it mainly.

But I didn’t think it was as good as it could have been, and here’s why…

If You’re Going To Do Nostalgia, Do It Right

I suspect that I might get some flak in my direction for being as nit-picking as I’m going to be, but to me, if you’re going to do nostalgia, do it right.

As much as I'd love to let the error of having a 1965 Doctor Who annual on display during the filming of the Reign of Terror slide, I just can't.

As much as I’d love to let the error of having a 1965 Doctor Who annual on display during the filming of the Reign of Terror slide, I just can’t.

In many ways, An Adventure in Space and Time got it right. It was cool seeing actors dressed as Menoptera or original Cybermen, just like it was good to see some actors cast because of their resemblance to the people they were playing.

But I don’t think you could expect anything less when it’s been so lovingly brought together by a Doctor Who fan like Mark Gatiss.

The thing is though, you would expect Gatiss to get some basic parts right.

For example, you might say I’m being hyper-critical for pointing it out, but having David Bradley hold up the 1965 Doctor Who annual, complete with a picture of a Menoptera on the front, whilst filming the Reign of Terror is just sloppy as far as I’m concerned.

Similarly, why have Verity Lambert leave during the filming of the Web Planet when the truth was she left after Mission to the Unknown. Was it just to get the Menoptera costumes in? Surely it would have been more fun to try to recreate the costumes of the Delegates from MTTU?

If this was any other TV show, I wouldn’t notice, and I have no doubt that the average viewer neither noticed nor cared. But again, we’re talking about Doctor Who, one of the most written about shows of all time with some of the most passionate fans. You just know that people will notice, so why go out of your way to make things incorrect? I just don’t get it.

It’s actually making me feel autistic, because I know that it’s a small thing, but it just seems so willfully wrong. Mark Gatiss will have seen these issues himself after all.

Anyway, on a similar note, one thing that bugged me was David Bradley’s performance. Again, don’t get me wrong, he was mostly brilliant, and looked and acted like William Hartnell to a scary degree, but then on the other hand, he got things carelessly incorrect.

I’m not an actor, but if I was and I was doing an impression of William Hartnell, I’d look at the tapes and I’d make sure I got stuff spot on. So take his attempt at the “One day, I shall come back” speech. How difficult would it be to mimic the way Hartnell spoke those lines? They are, after all, some of the most iconic lines in Doctor Who history and were actually repeated at the end of the show. Yet Bradley almost seems to go out of his way to say the lines with different tones and inflections. I mean, why go to all the trouble of having William Russell and Jacqueline Hill standing there in their exact outfits and having everything dressed up the way it was and ruin it by having Bradley say the critical lines in a totally different way?!

None of the other issues, like dropping in lines about “This old body of mine…” and “I don’t want to go” bother me at all, despite some people getting up in arms about them. But that to me shows the double standards at work here. Why add stuff in specifically to get a cheap pop from the viewers and then do other stuff so clearly wrong? Very frustrating.

Anyway, beyond that, it was good, but those parts brought the whole thing down for me.

*sigh*

*sigh*

Random Observations

  • In terms of the main cast, the one major letdown was the guy playing William Russell. He was nothing like him, neither in looks nor acting style. When you compare him to the way the girl playing Carole Ann Ford went out of her way to sound like her, even though she came across a little bit over the top at times, he was desperately poor.
  • And indeed, the use of Russell and Hill in general were poor. You wouldn’t think they were important players in Doctor Who’s formative years at all based on this.
  • I did like that they tirelessly recreated the problems with the Pilot episode, like the TARDIS doors opening and shutting and the issues with the Doctor being too gruff.
  • But again, with one hand they give and with the other they take away. I seriously doubt the Doctor was originally conceived as being 600 years old, especially when the Pilot had then written as being from a specific point in Earth’s future.
  • Here’s something else that confused me…they went to the trouble to recreate the last scene of The Firemaker, but then had a discussion about potential future stories. Now, I could be wrong here, but surely The Dead Planet was written and all set to go by the time The Firemaker was filmed? The episodes directly link to each other.
  • Poor old Ray Cusick; overlooked again.
  • I liked the appearance of Matt Smith towards the end; I actually think that added to the show a lot.
  • Only when reading the cast list did I notice Mark Eden played the BBC Controller. That was a nice touch.
  • I’m aware Carole Ann Ford is in this, but I’ll have to watch it again to spot her.
  • While I applaud the casting department for finding someone who looked a lot like Maureen O’Brien, even though she only appeared for around 10 seconds, I suspect their enthusiasm for finding look-alikes had long since gone by the time they cast some random bloke as Michael Craze.
  • It would have been nice for the show to have included Hartnell’s return in the Three Doctors, although dramatically it probably had no merit.
  • Wouldn’t “An Adventure in Time and Space” have been a better title?

Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review: Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that there’s plenty to like about An Adventure in Space and Time. I enjoyed it a lot, and like I said earlier, the time just flew by.

But I just can’t get past the way they’ve been so meticulous in some respects and so willfully sloppy in others. The people in charge will have known the issues fine, and they’ll also have known that plenty of people out there would have spotted them too.

So that puts a dampener on it for me.

Only a little bit though.


Doctor Who – The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World Rediscovered Review (or “Do Opinions Change?”)

October 13, 2013

A couple of weeks ago on September 30th, I finally reached the end of my marathon Doctor Who review project. From An Unearthly Child through to The Name of the Doctor, I’d seen and written about them all. Sure, I knew I’d be writing about the two episodes still to come this year, but if you’d told me that less than two weeks later, I’d be writing about The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear having had a chance to watch them both in an almost entirely complete manner, I’d have declared you bonkers.

Of course, I’d heard the rumours of the massive haul of recovered material that was due to start with the staggered release of those two stories plus Marco Polo, so although I was thrilled to see them return, I wasn’t shocked about that. But lets put this into perspective; The Underwater Menace Episode 2 was announced to have been returned to the archives almost two years ago and we still haven’t seen it officially released (which is not to say I haven’t seen it *nudge nudge wink wink*) so the idea that these two stories would be announced and released in such short order seemed like fantasy.

But here we are.

Apart from Web of Fear part 3, the most valuable episode of the lot, which has…erm…”mysteriously” not come back with the rest of the episodes (make of that what you will), these two stories are now complete and we’ve all had a chance to see them.

Incredible.

Well done to Philip Morris for finding them and well done to the BBC for their iTunes strategy. Seeing as the episodes are charting world-wide, they must have made a ton of money on them, which shows that there’s an appetite for missing material from fans.

Anyway, having watched the two stories, has my opinion of them changed?

I’m not going to do full reviews of either here, because when I watched them, I wasn’t in the mindset to pick up minute detail; I just wanted to enjoy them as a viewer rather than a reviewer.

But here are my initial impressions.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Recovery Review: What Did I Say About It In My Initial Review?

In my original review of The Web of Fear, which you can read here, I finished off by saying

Unlike some stories which I truly believe would not be considered as good if they survived (The Celestial Toymaker being the most obvious example, but I would perhaps controversially suggest Evil of the Daleks too), I don’t think that about the Web of Fear.

It is a classic story that works in the form of the reconstruction, but it would be even better if it survived. If it did, it would be held up as the ultimate Base Under Siege story, considered the real birth of the 70s Unit story and probably thought of as one of the top 10 stories of all time.

Without question, this is one to check out, reconstruction and all.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Recovery Review: What Do I Think About It Now?

The most startling thing about my viewing of The Web of Fear was that it didn’t seem to get massively better by watching it in almost its full glory.

While there wasn't much new from a visual standpoint in Web of Fear, seeing the Web (or the Foam Machine) in action was cool

While there wasn’t much new from a visual standpoint in Web of Fear, seeing the Web (or the Foam Machine) in action was cool

Now before you accuse me of being underwhelmed by it, I absolutely wasn’t. I thought it was as good and I rate it as highly as I did before.

But what was interesting was that when you put it against the other recoveries of the last 20 years, this is probably the one find that doesn’t feel “New”.

Why is that?

Well think of it like this…

Whether it’s Tomb of the Cybermen, The Lion, The Day of Armageddon, Airlock or Episode Two of the Underwater Menace, they’ve all seemed completely fresh. We were getting to experience new sets, new performances and a completely new visual experience.

With the Web of Fear, apart from a handful of additions, the recovered episodes mainly take place in the same sets as the previously existing first episode and mostly have the same actors.  Really, the majority of the story involves people in dark rooms standing around talking to each other.

So if you’ve seen the reconstruction as many times as I have – and to be absolutely fair to it, the reconstruction was very, very good and managed to capture most of the key facial expressions throughout – the recovery feels like being reacquainted with an old friend rather than seeing something completely new.

There are some exciting bits that turn the fanboy-o-meter up to maximum geekery though, like the brilliant fight scene in Covent Garden. Now that’s something that the reconstruction just couldn’t do justice. It was exciting, and I think it is truly an iconic moment in Doctor Who that had been pretty much forgotten about. I certainly had no idea about just how cool it was. People talk about the Daleks in Trafalgar Square or The Cybermen walking down the steps in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but this is right up there with it. Beautiful.

Incidentally, did you notice the guy who played Charlie Slater in Eastenders looking exactly the same then as he does now?

Seeing the episodes properly also allowed us to see the Web itself, which wasn’t in Episode One in the tunnels at least. In some respects it looked a bit ropey (such as when Jamie and Lethbridge Stewart opened that door to find giant bubble wrap on the other side) but the sight of the web flooding into the base at the end of Episode Five was very well done for the time.

The last notable bit that the recovered episodes managed to bring to life better was the final confrontation scene. Sure, it has exposed the Yeti as being blokes wearing outfits with massive visible zips on them, but it was still cool.

Perhaps the only thing that I was disappointed about was that there weren’t any visible cues that had been lost to reconstruction to suggest Staff Sgt. Arnold was the Great Intelligence’s body all along.

To me, it’s never made 100% clear whether he was always under the control of the GI or if it happened after he disappeared into the web. I know there was a scene early on where he implies that he knows The Doctor isn’t with the Yeti, but I’d have preferred more.

In the end though, I thought it was very good, but I don’t think my overall opinion of the story has changed any as a result of its rediscovery. It’s exactly as good as I thought it would be,

Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Recovery Review: What Did I Say About It In My Initial Review?

In my summing up of my review of Enemy of the World, which you can read here, I said…

Although the story slows down a bit towards the end, and starts off with an episode that simply cannot be appreciated in reconstructed form, I would urge you to track this one down.

It’s different from any other Dr Who story and offers you a chance to see Patrick Troughton play a completely different role.

Thankfully Episode 3 survives, and I would say that it’s the best one, so at the very least, give that one  a shot…if only to see Griff the Chef.

Meanwhile, in my Patrick Troughton Era Rankings article, I also said

I’d dearly love this story to exist because of how different it is to the rest of stories throughout the Troughton Era and the series as a whole. Who knows, maybe I’d think less of it if it survived. Maybe the best episode is the one that we have. But I like this story a lot and think it’s a sleeper hit.

Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Recovery Review: What Do I Think About It Now?

I was right about some things and wrong about others.

  • It is the sleeper hit
  • Episode 1 is massively visual
  • Episode 3 isn’t the best one
  • It doesn’t slow up towards the end
  • It is totally different

Basically, The Enemy of the World is absolutely brilliant.

And here’s the thing….

This is the exact opposite of the Web of Fear. The reconstruction of Enemy of the World did it no justice at all. We’re not seeing the same actors in the same sets, we’re seeing completely new Doctor Who here.

And while Web may have focussed a lot on conversations, Enemy of the World is a visual feast from beginning to end.

Seeing the story come alive rather than in the form of stills, you get to see stuff you never would have known about otherwise.

Look at the opening scene as an example. The reconstruction basically describes a scene where Patrick Troughton takes off his clothes and goes into the sea in his longjohns as “The Doctor goes into the water”. They also get the bit wrong about him

The reconstruction of Enemy of the World failed to pick up on a number of brilliant visuals, including this one of Salamander having a crafty smoke

The reconstruction of Enemy of the World failed to pick up on a number of brilliant visuals, including this one of Salamander having a crafty smoke

stubbing his toe and Jamie laughing. What actually happens is he falls into the sea.

But it’s more than that. There are so many interesting bits of direction throughout that the reconstruction misses.

What about the scene where the helicopter takes off with the cameraman in it and the shot pans out and out and out? That’s absolutely superb.

Or the scenes on the park bench and under the jetty?

Or all the location filming?

Or especially the scene where Salamander goes down into the underground base?

Every single part of that was lost to the appreciative eye for 45 years,

Then of course there are the performances of the actors. The looks that Patrick Troughton gives as both the Doctor and Salamander are brilliant, and that scene where Salamander is smoking a cigar in the underground base while he’s supposed to be checking equipment adds so much to the character and to the mood.

Perhaps my favourite performance though is that of Milton Johns as Benik. He’s just so much better in this than in any of his other appearances, and again, the strength of his performance only truly comes to life here. To be fair, in my original review I said he was the stand-out, but scenes like the one where Fariah dies or when he interrogates Jamie and Victoria just seem so much better now.

As I stated above, I said that I felt it slowed down a bit too much when watching the reconstruction, but I’m reviewing my stance on that. Maybe it was the two-minute scene with no dialogue that put me off a bit at the time or maybe the reconstruction just couldn’t realise the dialogue in the bunker properly, but I had no problems with it watching it here.

Finally, the confrontation between Salamander and the Doctor looks better than I think anyone had given it credit for.

Do I have any problems with it? Not really. The only bits that stands out a little are the cliffhangers. Episode 3 ends on a dramatic one, but the rest don’t. I quite like ones that are just pauses in the action rather than  putting The Doctor or one of his companions in “mortal peril” that you know they’ll get out of, but at times, these ones just seemed too abrupt and undramatic.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World Rediscovered: Final Thoughts

These are just my initial thoughts of course and I’m sure more will come to my attention when I watch them again, but my initial final thoughts (if that makes sense) are that The Web of Fear is as good a story as I thought it was in reconstructed format. I did think it would be better if it was recovered, but I don’t feel moved enough to say that is is. It was very good and it still is, but it’s nowhere near being a Top 10 of All Time.

The Enemy of the World though has gone up massively in my estimations.

I liked it before, but I absolutely love it now.

The visuals make such a difference to the acting performances, the feel and the direction.

It truly is an underrated gem and for me, I would go as far as to say it’s in my Top 3 Patrick Troughton stories now.

Of course, the rumourmill states we’ll be seeing many more missing stories returning to the BBC in the months and years ahead, so maybe that’ll change when we get to see the likes of Power of the Daleks in their glory.


Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror Review (or “Arguably Saving The Worst For Last”)

September 30, 2013

“Prepare for a Victorian Horror Show”, said the BBC continuity announcer before the initial broadcast of The Crimson Horror.

She couldn’t have been more correct.

On first viewing, The Crimson Horror was – without question – the worst received Doctor Who story by me in the entire history of the show.

When I was four years old, Time & The Rani probably didn’t seem as bad as it does now, and as a child and a teenager, I’m sure I approached every classic story I watched – even the shit ones – with some degree of enthusiasm the first time around on UK Gold or BBC Video.

I didn’t think The Doctor’s Daughter was good when I saw it for the first time either. In fact, I declared it a “load of absolute shite” after it was first broadcast?

But The Crimson Horror?

This was a story that I declared utter contempt for while watching it.

I thought it was diabolical.

I thought it made The Doctor’s Daughter seem good.

Will a second viewing be kind to it? Did I make a mistake? Was I just in a bad mood that day and judged it unfairly?

Let’s see…

Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror Review: What’s This One About?

A Yorkshire Woman in Victorian Times under the influence of a prehistoric leech wants to destroy humanity.

Thoughts – Any Better The Second Time?

So did I enjoy it more the second time around?

Mr Sweet: Looks like something out of an episode of The Young Ones

Mr Sweet: Looks like something out of an episode of The Young Ones

No.

I still thought it was crap.

Why though? What’s wrong with it?

Well there’s a number of things.

First and foremost, there’s just too much going on.

Time and time again I’ve criticised Doctor Who stories for having style over substance, but this is probably the worst example of the lot.

I can just imagine Mark Gatiss sitting there was that goofy grin on his face saying “Let’s do a story set in Victorian Times. And we’ll have it in Yorkshire. And we’ll have Strax, Vastra and Jenny in it. And we’ll have a pre-historic leech in it that will look silly. And we’ll have a blind girl who has been experimented on by her mother. And we’ll have The Doctor only appear 15 minutes in. And we’ll have the blind girl adore him as a monster because he’ll be bright red. And we’ll have a flashback in the style of a silent film. And we’ll have a rocket. And let’s get Diana Rigg to play the villain. And we’ll have humour”

It’s all just “there” and not one single part of it links, with a plot that barely makes sense.

Why is the Yorkshire woman insane?

Where did Mr. Sweet come from?

Why has he attached himself to her?

Why has she been experimenting on her daughter?

What’s the point of Sweetville?

Where did they get the technology for the rocket?

It just seemed so poorly explained and hollow. Events happened because they were written that way, not because they made sense.

Utter tripe.

No Good For The Casual Viewer

Diana Rigg: Definitely the worst guest star in Modern Doctor Who, but arguably the worst ever.

Diana Rigg: Definitely the worst guest star in Modern Doctor Who, but arguably the worst ever.

I’m a keen follower of Doctor Who – you all must have realised that by now – but even I struggled to identify Jenny at one point.

Sure, put alongside Vastra & Strax and put in an incongruous situation, she’s easily recognised. But if you place her in a crowd with other Victorian people, away from her alien friends, she’s not that identifiable.

When I watched it the first time, I think I must have blinked and missed the scene where it was explained that she was going into Sweetville because I had no idea who she was. But then when I watched it again, I still had to take a moment to think “Who’s that?”

Maybe it’s because she’s got an unremarkable face (which isn’t me being nasty, but rather me making the point that she doesn’t stand out from the crowd) or maybe it’s that she hasn’t been featured enough for her to be known automatically, but either way, I didn’t find her instantly recognisable.

So what must the casual viewer have thought?

And indeed, for the first part of the story, casual viewers were probably wondering what show they were watching. Was this Doctor Who or was it the Amazing Adventures of Madame Vastra?

Diana Rigg – The Worst Guest Artist In Modern Doctor Who?

All the way back in my review of The Moonbase, I passionately praised the work of guest star, Patrick Barr.

For me, he epitomised exactly what a guest star should do; he took it absolutely seriously and put his all into the part.

As a result, his enthusiasm became infectious and it raised the standard of the story as a whole.

Sometimes the guest stars don’t take it seriously, and this became more of an issue and the show became less popular and credible in the 1980s.

But most of the time in Modern Who, this has not been a big problem.

It is with Diana Rigg though.

Whether it’s just that she’s a lousy actress (just because she’s a well-known actress from a cult TV show, it doesn’t mean she’s any good) or whether she just isn’t taking it seriously, I thought she was beyond terrible.

A more over the top, playing it for laughs performance you will never see.

She took the piss from her first scene to her last and she did what thankfully so few of her counterparts over the years have done; she made the story embarrassing to watch.

People mock Beryl Reid’s doddery performance in Earthshock, but I’d far sooner have that than an old crow like Rigg going into business for herself like she does here.

Just awful.

It’s time she retired.

What Do We Know About Clara?

Something that struck me whilst watching the Crimson Horror is just how little we actually know about Clara.

Some fans accused the Doctor of sexually assaulting Jenny here. Oh get a fucking grip.

Some fans accused the Doctor of sexually assaulting Jenny here. Oh get a fucking grip.

As much as I criticised Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, at least we knew who she was, what her character was like as a person and what her back story was.

But Clara? Nothing.

Sure, some of her back story has been left purposefully vague as part of the Impossible Girl story-arc, but the result of that is she’s left with no identifiable character traits whatsoever.

I quite like Coleman as an actress – infuriating accent aside – but at this stage she’s an incredibly bland character.

The Humour

But going back to the story, the humour was also a major problem for me.

It just wasn’t funny, even though it tried so hard to be.

Doctor Who is Doctor Who; it’s a science fiction show, not a comedy. There have been great examples of it having comedic elements in it, but they only work in certain environments.

This wasn’t one of them.

Of course, humour is up to the individual; some people might have found Matt Smith doing a Yorkshire accent funny, or Strax going way over the top a delight, but I didn’t.

I also didn’t find Mr Sweet to be the “hilarious” character I was supposed to. The thing just looked pitiful, and the puerile way it got killed off was unbecoming of the show.

Worst of the lot though was the Thomas Thomas joke. Apart from it having no relevance to the script, it was just so out of left field that it made me despair. Why even come up with that?

Argh.

The Ending

Just when you thought it was over though, there was more.

Possibly the stupidest part of this whole tawdry affair is the idea that they posed for this photo and that it subsequently made its way onto the internet or into a school textbook

Possibly the stupidest part of this whole tawdry affair is the idea that they posed for this photo and that it subsequently made its way onto the internet or into a school textbook

The last scene, where Clara comes back to find the kids she nannies have found pictures of her from earlier stories is just breathtakingly stupid.

At what point did they have time to take pictures in these episodes? In the one from Hide, who actually took the photo? In the one from Cold War, why is she looking away from the camera when everyone else is posing?

And more to the point, why would they be available to download.

This idea that everything is available on the internet if you look hard enough is utter bullshit, especially for children.

Sure, it was written in to allow the two kids to take part in the next episode, but it’s still bullshit.

Random Observations

  • Today’s Cheap Pop moment, a Tegan reference. Oh, wonderful…
  • Maybe the Doctor always stops for group photos during every one of his adventures? There’s probably one with him and The Gravis somewhere.
  • When The Doctor has been afflicted with the Crimson Horror, his jaw is permanently open, and yet as he walks around he seems to forget that. No consistency.
  • Then, for no good reason other than to move the story along, he manages to be fine after going into a cupboard for a minute.
  • And not just that, he comes out with his proper clothes. What’s the story here? Are we supposed to just accept the plot is cack-handed and doesn’t make sense?
  • I heard that some Doctor Who fans claimed they felt The Doctor sexually assaulted Jenny when he emerged from that cupboard. These people need to give themselves a shake and then get a life.
  • What about all the women who have done exactly the same thing to him over the past few years?
  • What was the point of the people living in jars?
  • Mind you, what was the point of the whole bloody story?
  • Mr Sweet looked like something out of The Young Ones
  • Strax’s mask looks incredibly obvious here.
  • Why does Diana Rigg ask her daughter to forgive her, only to approve when she doesn’t?
  • One well-known Super Fan declared this episode a classic after it was first shown. I can only think he did that to suck up to the production team in the hope they might release missing episodes quicker.
  • But then this story seems to get good reviews from critics, with The Daily Telegraph and – unsurprisingly – Mr Positive at The Guardian loving it. I just don’t get it.
  • DWM Miighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror Review: Final Thoughts

Having gone through every story in Doctor Who’s history to re-view and review them, there are a very small handful that I just don’t think I’ll ever bother with again.

I have no desire to watch Terminus again, for example, and I just don’t see me wanting to give something like The Arc of Infinity or episodes 2-4 of Underworld another watch.

But I then if I’m honest, I probably will.

I’m making a promise to myself though that I will never watch The Crimson Horror again.

A genuine contender for Worst Doctor Who Story of All Time, I think it fails on pretty much every conceivable level. Ok, it looks good, but the performances, the attempts at humour, the “Throw Everything At The Wall And See What Sticks” style plotting and just the general rot surrounding it makes me think “Why would I waste 45 minutes of my life on this shit ever again”.

It’s that bad.

I hate it.

I absolutely hate it.

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat should be ashamed of themselves.

 


Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review (or “Making It Up As He Goes Along”)

September 20, 2013

Back in February, when I wrote my review of Warrior’s Gate, I called it “The Emperor’s New Clothes of Doctor Who Stories”, based around the idea that in spite of what we see on screen being crap and making very little sense, people adored it.

Fast forward to now and The Wedding of River Song and the same sort of thing applies.

Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review: What’s This One About?

Cop-outs and desperate attempts to cover tracks.

Thoughts – So What Do The People Say

The Emperor’s New Clothes then; what’s that about?

This'll end well...

This’ll end well…

Well, I look at the sort of reviews The Wedding of River Song gets and I arrive at the conclusion that some of these critics must be convincing themselves that this episode is well written.

As far as I can remember, at the time this season was shown, there was an increasing amount of criticism of the complicated way Steven Moffat was writing the show.

Perhaps these critics, in a bid to make themselves feel clever, decided to ignore the flaws and declare it a triumph.

Because that seems to be what’s happened.

Some examples of critics thoughts on it include…

“A gripping race against time” (time stood still, so how can it be a race against time)
“Simplistic in its resolution” (you’re kidding me?)
“About nine tenths a great, great episode” (I’d love to hear an example of what a really good episode could be described as then)
“Pretty close to a perfect season finale for those not wanting all the answers” (who doesn’t want things to be explained?)

What?!?!

I should point out before I go on, that not every reviewer saw it that way and it’d be wrong of me to call them all out, but I want to focus on the praise of this episode and why I totally and utterly disagree

The Great Cop-Out

To start with, the story is one massive cop-out, but I don’t suppose we could expect anything less.

Oh my God, The Doctor didn’t actually die.

Who saw that coming?!?!?

From the off, Season Six was based around a story-arc that couldn’t end in anything other than the obvious, and at least, I suppose, in that regard, it didn’t disappoint.

That's right; you were lying all the time to preserve spoilers. Suuuuuure.

That’s right; you were lying all the time to preserve spoilers. Suuuuuure.

The basics are that River didn’t want to kill him, so she didn’t and it caused time to jumble up.

And what did that do? Oh I know, it allowed for Moffat to bring back lots and lots of recently used characters for the now completely over-done “Cheap pop”, it allowed him to go back to visual style over written substance and it allowed him to wrap up the character of River Song (in theory, but not in reality)

I mean even the name of the episode is arse-about-face. This is – or at least it should be – the story of how The Doctor died or didn’t die, and yet it’s once again all about River Song and for Moffat to find a way to get her married to The Doctor.

That’s what was important to Moffat here, especially seeing as The Doctor found his way out of the situation right at the start of the episode when he met with The Teselecta.

So River touches the Doctor and time gets reset, and then it turns out it wasn’t really him after all.

Ok, that makes sense on one level, but it’s hardly satisfying.

Where it doesn’t make sense is where The Teselecta starts to regenerate.  How can it? It’s a robot that has taken the likeness of the Doctor, not his DNA.

But again, Moffat probably hadn’t thought of that when he wrote The Impossible Astronaut.

If In Doubt, Call Spoilers and Reset The Universe

Perhaps the most astonishing part of this whole episode was the scene at the end where River has a drink with Amy and says she lies all the time to preserve spoilers. She cites “Pretending I don’t know you’re my mother; pretending I didn’t recognise the Space Suit in Florida” as examples.

Bollocks.

Utter bollocks and an absolutely shameful attempt to cover for bad writing.

As I say, before watching them again for these reviews, the only other time I’ve seen these stories was when they were first on, and I had forgotten about pretty much the whole of this one and how it went. So when I wrote my River Song Timeline a few reviews ago, I had no idea Moffat was going to try to explain all that stuff away with that.

Who does he think he’s kidding?

He calls spoilers when it suits his jumbled up, non-sensical plot developments.

The Doctor: Looks sleazy and a bit dirty with longer hair

The Doctor: Looks sleazy and a bit dirty with longer hair

And he does it because even lines in this episode don’t make sense. The Doctor tells the River who is about to shoot him that she won’t have any memory of killing him. Eh?!?!?! Every appearance of River beyond her first has involved talk of how she killed The Doctor.

The other thing that Moffat does is reset the universe when it suits him.

This is the second season in a row that ends with an alternative time line universe being closed off and a new one being rebooted with The Doctor living again in spite of the odds?

And something similar-ish will happen again in the next season.

It just means he thinks he can do whatever he likes and write it off as an alternative universe, and again, I think that is bad writing.

The Incongruous Death of the Brigadier

I’m all for paying tribute to the Brigadier, but slap, bang in the middle of this episode seemed a touch out-of-place.

For no good reason, The Doctor phones up a nursing home to be told “He’s dead, mate”.

And he’s upset about it, of course, but a) He already knew how and when he died as far back as Battlefield and b) He can go to visit him before he died.

I get what they were going for but it just seemed daft.

Put it this way; it would have seemed in bad taste if he went round to visit Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith told him she had died, would it not?

Random Observations

  • Though Moffat at least explains their motivation, if The Silence are so-called because they want The Doctor to be silent and not speak his name at Trenzalore, why do they hang about Earth, influencing the human race? Oh I know…because he hadn’t thought about that when he first wrote them.
  • No mention of Amy suddenly being a Supermodel here then.
  • Everyone thinks The Doctor is dead because presumably they watched him die and never bothered to look again. They should have known better.
  • Why did they get married anyway? As far as I can see it happened for no good reason, unless The Doctor doesn’t want to kiss someone without a certificate?
  • The Indiana Jones references amused me
  • Another aspect of the story that I don’t quite get is why he changed his mind about dying? At the end of Closing Time, he’d accepted his fate, and yet all of a sudden when we pick up the story he’s dead against it and eager to find a way to get out of it? More “Fill In The Blanks Yourself” stuff probably.
  • This episode didn’t have enough Rory in it. He tends to bring a certain level of sanity to proceedings.
  • Unsurprisingly, a Dalek turns up here. We’ve not seen one of them for a while…
  • I wonder what The Doctor has been doing for the last 200 years while we’ve not seen him?
  • Why are there cars being carried around in hot air balloons?
  • And why would children think feeding the Pterodactyls would be a good idea?
  • The Doctor looks incredible sleazy with longer hair
  • One of the comments from another critic was that this presses the reset switch on Doctor Who. It doesn’t really. It’s not like he’s been wiped from time.
  • Also, on that note, when they refer to him as “The Eleventh” it shows that Moffat hadn’t thought up the John Hurt or the alternate David Tennant stuff yet. What a writer.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Wedding Of River Song Review: Final Thoughts

The main thing to take from The Wedding Of River Song is that the worst story arc in Doctor Who history is over.

No, not River Song, but this crap about the Doctor dying. All told, that should have been done in one single episode or maybe two.

It didn’t need to be dragged across an entire season when the punchline was that he didn’t die. We knew that would happen. We also knew it was River Song in the space suit.

Everything else in this episode was just fluff around that. Like A Good Man Goes To War, it can’t really be enjoyed as a single episode either. The narrative is poor and it relies upon knowing about stuff that happened in previous episodes.

We criticised JNT for this sort of thing and so Moffat deserves it too.

But what’s worse is that Moffat is a good writer. We’ve seen what he can do with episodes like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace.

Yet this is story arc, and indeed the River Song story arc as well is just dire. It’s amazing to think it’s come from the same pen.

Let’s move on and hope things improve in Season Seven…


Doctor Who – Closing Time Review (or “The Lodger 2: Killing In The Name of Love”)

September 20, 2013

I only wrote my review of The Lodger ten days ago.

I feel this constrains me somewhat in writing something fresh about The Lodger Part 2: Killing In The Name of Love…oh, sorry, I mean Closing Time

But I’ll try my best.

Doctor Who – Closing Time Review: What’s This One About

With only a day to live, The Doctor decides to go to visit a bloke he spent less than a week with a couple of hundred years earlier.

And it just so happens there are Cybermen hanging around nearby too.

Thoughts – Same Again

Much like The Lodger, Closing Time works on the strength of The Doctor’s relationship with Craig, and being put in a domestic situation.

Lolz, people think they are gay.

Lolz, people think they are gay.

The addition of the baby gave it a slightly new twist, but it’s essentially the same type of story again.

And I’ve got no problem with that.

The Lodger was good, and so is this, but it does leave me stuck for a massive amount to say.

So, assuming you know why I like it and how I think Smith & Corden (and this time Lynda Baron too) work well together and bring some good comedy to proceedings, I’ll just move on to what’s wrong with it.

The Cybermen Are Pathetic

This season of Doctor Who has essentially destroyed the credibility of The Cybermen,

Hell, the modern era of Doctor Who has destroyed their credibility.

While The Daleks get treated like the greatest and strongest of all threats, The Cybermen have made dynamic appearances in the following stories.

Army of Ghosts: Jobbed out to the Daleks to the point where they ended up being back-up to the humans
The Next Doctor: Servants of Dervla Kerwin
The Pandorica Opens: A Cyberman worked as an easily disposed of guard
A Good Man Goes To War: They get intimidated by Rory and have their ships blown up for no good reason, making them look fragile and pitiful.
Closing Time: They are reduced to having any old sod become their new Controller and their heads blow up because of the power of love.

Essentially, the Cybermen’s aura has lowered to the point where they are now bit-part characters at best, unable to carry a story on their own.

There was a time when that happened in the 1960s of course; The Invasion reduced them to henchmen of Tobias Vaughn with barely any lines.

The only way they managed to recover a bit was by making them into comedy figures in Revenge of the Cybermen (which was great) and then reinvent them as emotional blokes led by David Banks (which also had its moments)

These current ones are just crappy robots who say “Delete” and have that same bit of god-awful incidental music played over them whenever they appear.

The CybermenL Reduced to bit part drones killed by love. Pitiful. This one just looks crushed.

The Cybermen: Reduced to bit part drones killed by love. Pitiful. This one just looks crushed.

They can no longer carry a story on the back of their own threat or menace, but even if they could before Closing Time, it’s doubtful they would after.

I mean, come on; killed by love? That’s just pathetic.

So now, the least threatening supervillains in the world can add love to the likes of Radiation, Gravity and Gold in their list of terminal weaknesses.

There was no point in having them in this story at all, and I think it would have worked better for not just this story, but Doctor Who going forward, if Gareth Roberts had found some other threat in their place.

The Final Scene

And just when we all thought it would be another story that could survive on its own merits, Steven Moffat jumps in at the end with a crappy River Song scene.

You can just imagine Steven Moffat thinking “Wow, this will blow the viewers minds” as we see River Song end up in the Space Suit in the lake in Utah.

Were you surprised?

I know I wasn’t.

OH...EM...GEE!!! It's River in the Space suit in the Lake!!! Who saw that coming?!?!??!??? Oh right; everyone.

OH…EM…GEE!!! It’s River in the Space suit in the Lake!!! Who saw that coming?!?!??!??? Oh right; everyone.

In fairness, a scene to set up the finale was probably a good idea but it was the way it was done that bugged me.

Why would those three children a) know it was the Doctor when asked years into the future and b) why would anyone interview them about it?

It’s daft.

But that’s what we’ve come to expect from this storyline.

Random Observations

  • The comedy surrounding Lynda Baron thinking they were a gay couple was mildly amusing.
  • Similarly, the stuff with The Doctor being able to understand babies was good, although perhaps it came too soon after the joke was done in A Good Man Goes To War.
  • Shouldn’t everyone on Earth know who Cybermen are by this point? As they said in almost every Doctor Who story of the 60s, “There were Cybermen; every child knows that”. And how do they know that? The Mondas Incident of 1986.
  • But here, not only has nobody heard of them still (which doesn’t really make much sense, even allowing for The Crack In Time), but these Cybermen also come from a ship that crash landed 350 years earlier. Apparently the Cybermen are time travelling for the sake of it these days.
  • The lesson Craig should learn from this whole affair is not to keep his phone on silent.
  • Why is it The Doctor wants to visit Craig, of all people, on his second last day?
  • And how come Amy is a supermodel all of a sudden? What? How?
  • I’m surprised they found a Cyberman head to fit James Corden.
  • To be fair, they did do a good set up job, with the Doctor getting his cowboy hat and the materials for sending out his invitations from Craig.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – Closing Time Review

I like it for many of the same reasons as I liked The Lodger.

But this one had more problems.

Well…they are problems if you think destroying the last pitiful vestiges of the Cybermen’s aura counts.

If you don’t, then it’s fine.


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