Ten of the Best TV Show Finales of All Time

April 4, 2014

Ok, so since I did an article on 10 of the Worst TV Show Finales of All Time, it’s only fitting that I should do one on 10 of the Best TV Show Finales of All Time too.

Like I said in the last article, some shows could have had tremendous conclusions if they’d only left it at that point. I’m thinking about the likes of Chuck, Only Fools & Horses, Alias and Scrubs, but alas they did nothing of the kind, and they kept going long past the point of exhaustion.

But these 10 shows didn’t.

As always, Spoilers Ahoy!!

1. Blake’s Seven

How Did It End?: In the last episode, Avon and the crew of Scorpio meet up again with Blake. Only Blake is a bad guy! Or is he? A miscommunication leads to Avon shooting Blake dead, and then being ambushed by members of the

And there wasn't a dry eye in the house

And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house

Federation. All of Avon’s team are shot – presumably dead – and the last thing we see is Avon being surrounded by a group of gun-toting bad guys. He raises his gun, smiles to the camera, and as the end credits music is played, we can hear shots being fired.

Why Is That Good?: Because it’s such a fantastic and dramatic way to end the show. They brought back the original lead, killed him off, destroyed Avon’s ship, killed all the crew and it appears as though Avon too has breathed his last. Talk about shocking! And the way we don’t know for sure who was firing all those shots as the end credits rolled made it even better. Did Avon escape? We’ll never know.

2. The Shield

How Did It End?: After being kinda the bad guys all the way through, Vic Mackey and the Strike Team finally get their comeuppance in a dramatic, action packed conclusion to a long story arc (#ArmenianMoneyTrain). Rather than going to prison though, Vic’s punishment is being tied down to a meaningless desk job; his ultimate hell.

Why Is That Good?: Because the drama led somewhere and the right thing happened. The longer the Shield went on, the more the supposed heroes – Strike Team – showed themselves as being pretty horrible blokes. Vic’s punishment was an inventive way of wrapping things up; far more inventive than sending him to jail or killing him off.

3. Friday Night Lights

How Did It End?: Character Arcs were completed, The Coach made the right move by putting his wife’s career first for once, and it finished on a great montage that showed what happened to all the characters. And moreover, it didn’t show what happened at the very end of the final game of the season.

Why Is That Good?: Everything wrapped up nicely and the writers made the right choice when it came to Coach Taylor’s choice of whether to stay in Texas or accept a lesser job to allow his wife to pursue her dreams for once.

4. The Office (UK)

How Did It End?: Everyone got the happy ending they wanted.

Why Is That Good?: Because a happy ending once in a while is the right thing to do, and the finale to the UK version of the Office did it better than almost any other show. Just when you thought Tim and Dawn wouldn’t get together, they did, and at last David Brent stuck up for himself against Finch. A perfect way to end the show at Christmas.

5. The Office (US)

How Did It End?: A few months after the documentary is released, Dwight & Angela get married, Jim & Pam move away and Michael returns briefly but in a way that doesn’t overshadow the rest of the cast.

Why Is That Good?: Pretty much the same reasons as the UK version. It just seemed like the right time and place for the show to end, and it was well handled.

6. Breaking Bad

How Did It End?: Walt dies killing the bad guys and saves Jesse’s life.

With the odds against them, could Angel and his crew survive? We never found out, and that's a good thing

With the odds against them, could Angel and his crew survive? We never found out, and that’s a good thing

Why Is That Good?: The finale to Breaking Bad is a bit different to other shows in that the finale itself wasn’t meant to be sentimental or shocking on an individual level, but it was the end to a story-arc that had built up from the moment the show started. Everything that happened before it was key to getting the characters to where they were in the last episode. There were no cop-outs and no disappointments; this was the only way Breaking Bad could end, and it did not disappoint.

7. The West Wing

How Did It End?: With the handover of power from the Bartlett Administration to the Santos one.

Why Is That Good?: Because it was time for the show to end. Had it gone on for a few more years with a mostly new cast, it would eventually have just petered out and died. This was the right time for it to end. And when watching it, I knew that it was the right time for it to go. It didn’t outstay its welcome.

8. Angel

How Did It End?: A bit like Blake’s Seven. Angel and the remaining members of his team are trapped and under attack with practically no chance of survival. Can they do it? We never find out; all we know is that they try.

Why Is That Good?: Again, it’s a shocking way for the show to end; this was not the type of TV show that needed a flippant, cheery conclusion. And just like Blake’s Seven, it left you to speculate as to what happened.

9. Ashes to Ashes

How Did It End?: Both Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes are explained in this gripping and dramatic final episode.

A fitting end to a great series

A fitting end to a great series

Why Is That Good?: Because unlike Life on Mars, it explained what exactly was going on to the viewer, and it did so in a way that satisfied. The scene outside the “pub” at the end was moving and the way each character’s storyline is dealt with properly was executed perfectly.

10. Blackadder Goes Forth

How Did It End?: The troops in the front line are at last faced with the reality that they must go over the top and into battle.

Why Is That Good?: I think everyone loves the way Blackadder Goes Forth ends; it’s just so emotional and moving, and yet it still manages to retain the comedy element. The final shots of the troops going over the top and then the cut in of the poppy fields probably brought home the realities of the First World War to a whole new generation. Superb.


How I Met Your Mother Serves Up The Most Unsatisfying Ending To A TV Show Ever (Finale Spoilers)

April 1, 2014

Ok, so if the title of this article wasn’t enough to make you realise that this will contain spoilers for the finale of How I Met Your Mother, then consider yourself definitively warned now…

Last night in the US, after 9 seasons and 208 episodes, How I Met Your Mother came to an end.

Now you know that I’d long since grown tired of this show – a show which just hasn’t been even semi-consistently funny for two or three years at least and had only one good episode in its final season – but I still saw it through to the bitter end as I’m a completist and I wanted the fucking payoff.

And what is the payoff to a TV series called How I Met Your Mother? It’s him meeting the mother. That’s it; nothing else.

Is that what we got, and was I happy with it?

Two answer those questions in order, “Yes and No” and “Absolutely Not”

The Most Unsatisfying Ending To a TV Show Ever

The very last episode of How I Met Your Mother was actually going quite well I thought.

Ted and The Mother Finally Meet, But Fuck You Viewers,  She's Already Dead

Ted and The Mother Finally Meet, But Fuck You Viewers, She’s Already Dead

In terms of character development and progression, the show had arguably been stuck in a rut since the Wedding was first shown back in episode 113 of 208 in September 2010, but now things were moving, and moving at pace.

While seeing Robin & Barney divorce was a very firm kick in the teeth to anyone who had endured the rest of the ninth season – set as it was for 23 mind-numbing episodes over one single weekend – it at least seemed to give their characters a bit of closure. Barney finally found love in having a child and Robin had a good career.

Lily & Marshall meanwhile continued to grow their family and we also saw plenty of interesting bits like the gradual breakup of the group over the years; something that inevitably happens a lot in real life.

And as it bounded back and forth between Ted finally meeting the mother for the first time and flashforwards to how their lives developed, it just – as I said above – felt good to see the show moving again after being stagnant for so long.

The first meeting, when it finally happened, was nicely written.

And I’d have been happy with that. That’s where it should have ended. It would have been a fitting end.

But to have Ted – and I should say Josh Radnor and not “Future Ted”  aka the voice of Bob Saget, which made no sense considering Saget was still narrating up until that moment – then finish the story by saying to the viewer “Lolz, she’s dead” and for his kids to then say “Oh dad, you’ve only been telling us this because you really love Aunt Robin; feel free to go and shag her since mum’s been dead for six years” just felt insulting and actually rage inducing.

How is that a good ending? Seriously?

Oh don’t get me wrong, it could have been a clever ending if the show had only run for two or three seasons, and it was interesting that they’d filmed that ending years earlier, but things had moved on, characters had developed, fan expectations had changed and it was no longer a valid or acceptable way to end the series.

Ted & Robin didn’t work. So many times we’d seen them realise that they were not meant to be together and in the last season alone, there were two supposedly final ends to any hope some people may have had that they’d end up together. It was a long since exhausted story arc.

Nine seasons in, the viewers of How I Met Your Mother just wanted to see Ted meet the mother.

And since she had popped up in flash forwards and flashbacks and since it appeared as though she was a nice person and that her and Ted were genuinely well suited to each other, why not just end the show like that?

I just find myself really irritated by the whole thing, and I’m not the only one.

Sure, there are other issues like why Marshall & Lily didn’t age as fast as previous flash forwards had suggested and why Ted bothered to even tell a 100th of that story to his kids, but the big one is that it’s just a terrible ending. Even worse than LOST.

And from looking at the amount of negative feedback from fans and reviewers alike (I think IGN is about the only site to give it the thumbs up), it seems as though I’m not alone.

Now if I was asked by friends if How I Met Your Mother is worth watching, I’d tell them to avoid the rest of Season Nine entirely and probably just skip to the last episode after the fifth season to avoid disappointment.

Because that’s what they’ll have if they don’t.

 


Movies: Veronica Mars Review (or “One For Older Viewers, But Probably Not New Ones”)

March 21, 2014

In my list of the Top 50 TV Dramas of all time, I ranked Veronica Mars at a respectable #28, so the news that a Kickstarter-funded movie was on its way in 2014 was welcomed by me.

Anyone who watched the show will remember that it didn’t exactly finish on a satisfactory note, with the show’s late cancellation meaning the last episode felt more like a cliffhanger than a conclusion.

But seven years have passed, so it’s not like they can just pick up where they left off. So how would they deal with that?

And then there’s the possibility that in a bid to satisfy all the fans, the film could end up just being one that wallows in nostalgia rather than seeks to work well in its own right.

The only way to find out if that was true was to watch it.

Veronica Mars Review: What’s It About?

10 years on from leaving school, former PI Veronica Mars has crafted a good life for herself in New York and is just about to start a new job working for a top legal firm.vmars

But when she finds out her ex boyfriend Logan has been accused of murder, she must go back to her home town of Neptune to prove his innocence.

Meanwhile, it just so happens that it’s her school’s 10 Year Class Reunion. What a lovely coincidence.

Oh, and for some reason, Neptune is also under the control of what seems to be a corrupt, almost post-apocalyptic police force. Ok then…

Veronica Mars Review: Who’s In It?

Pretty much everyone who was in the TV series and didn’t die, except for the Kane family. Obviously Kristen Bell stars.

Veronica Mars Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

It’s mixed. Wherever there’s an aggregate score based on votes, it does well, and that’ll no doubt be because of fanboys.

In the press meanwhile, some like it and others don’t.

Thoughts – Like An Extended Episode

Whenever a TV series gets made into a movie, you have to wonder whether or not it’ll work for new viewers. I suppose you could ask yourself who would bother to see a film based on a TV series they haven’t watched, but then I remember being forced to watch Serenity having never seen an episode of Firefly in my life. I found it boring and confusing; like starting to read a book from the middle.

And I guess that’s a bit of a problem with the Veronica Mars movie.

It’s been some time since I’d seen the TV show, so I can’t remember too much of it, and I’m certainly not a dyed in the wool fanboy, but I quickly got to grips with who the characters were and much of what I needed to know came flooding back.

Having said that, there’s no doubt that many of the cameos were unnecessary, and some of the plot was a bit tenuous.

I mean, why did the local Sheriff have to be the brother of the old one? What did that add to the film? And of all the characters who were in it, the only ones from the original series that actually needed to be there were Veronica, her dad and her ex boyfriend.

Having former classmates and friends drop in to say “Hi” didn’t add much.

Then again, this is a film that only exists because fans invested in it. So if that’s what they want, then it’s fair enough.

However, it does then set itself up as being something that is for the fans rather than for everyone. Really, in terms of pacing – and I suppose budget and production quality – this was just like an extended TV episode.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you. I was fine with it.

The Plot

Where I would take an issue with Veronica Mars though is in the plot, or at least the sub-plots.

The Who-Dunnit storyline was good enough, but the angry, evil police stuff just made no sense. Characters were killed, others were shot and the whole point of it was…well I’m not sure?

And it wasn’t even that it was resolved either, which seemed weird.

Maybe they are setting themselves up for a sequel?

But that area was definitely lacking.

Veronica Mars Review: Final Thoughts

So on the whole, I’d say that this was fine; not spectacular, but watchable and fun.

What it is, is a love letter by the fans to themselves. Since they are the ones who paid for it, I suppose it would be asking t0o much for it not to be heavy on the nostalgia.

As such – in spite of the studio’s attempt to make it something for everyone by providing a brief summary of the entire plot of the TV show narrated by Bell  in the first minute – I would say that you should only bother with this if you’ve seen and enjoyed the TV show.

If you haven’t, then watch the TV show first and then watch it.


Jonathan Creek Series 5 Review (or “Could They Recapture The Magic?”)

March 14, 2014

If you’ve read my Top 50 TV Dramas article series – available to view in the Index section of the site – you’ll see how highly I rate Jonathan Creek.

Without question, it’s one of my favourite TV shows of all time.

So it came as good news to me that there would be a new season of the show this year. Of course, it wasn’t a long season – running for only three episodes – but it was still a season, and that was to be cherished after a mere three episodes in total over the last 10 years.

Whenever a show like this comes back after a reasonably long absence, you do have to wonder if it could still hit the right notes, especially when you consider there had been another cast change – Sheridan Smith and Stuart Milligan were not returning, leaving Creek’s wife, played by Sarah Alexander, to be his sidekick – and the magic advisor to the series and inspiration for so many of the mysteries, Ali Bongo, had long since died.

I decided to wait until the season ended before reporting back with my opinions.

Jonathan Creek Series 5 Review: ThoughtsCreek

I should preface this by saying that at the same time as these episodes have aired, I’ve been watching the show from the very beginning, so no doubt my opinions will be influenced by that. However, I’d say that was a valuable thing. If you watch an episode of one of your favourite TV shows after only getting three new episodes in the past decade, you might be inclined to look at it with an unnaturally positive outlook.

Comparing the old shows with the new ones I think gives a greater sense of perspective.

And though it pains me to say it, that perspective leads me to the conclusion that Season 5 just hasn’t been that good.

But why is that?

Well, there are some obvious problems, and I’ll break them down into bullet points for you…

  1. Messing With The Format: Whether it was the first episode operating like a Columbo - i.e. it was a “How Solved It?” rather than a “Who Done It?” – or whether it was the change from Creek being a magician’s assistant living in a windmill to a stuffy marketing executive solving minor mysteries in somewhere like Midsomer, it just didn’t work so well. Jonathan Creek is at its best when the mystery is the main event, but this time around, David Renwick seemed to want the mystery to be a side attraction to the comedy show he really wanted to write, and that leads me to…
  2. It Was Written Like A Half Hearted Episode of One Foot In The Grave: Just watch the interactions between Jonathan and his wife Polly, and the way they seem to land themselves in awkward situations and you just feel you’re watching an episode of Renwick’s other big show, One Foot In The Grave. Sarah Alexander’s character especially is written and performed almost exactly like Annette Crosbie’s Margaret Meldrew. Now sure, on the one hand that led to some humorous moments, but it didn’t suit the show we were actually watching, and the actors were neither able to, nor supposed to play it like it was a sitcom. Why? Because Jonathan Creek is not a sitcom. Some of the set pieces – like the bit from last week’s episode where Jonathan accidentally helps the burglars – was copied straight out of One Foot. I was just sitting there waiting for him to accidentally kill a tortoise or find a wig inside a loaf of bread.
  3. No Chemistry Between The Leads: Sarah Alexander’s character worked in her debut episode because she wasn’t playing Alan Davies’s sidekick. The idea of the wife who has tried to domesticate Jonathan while Joey leads him astray was great. Having her drain the life out of our hero to the point where he doesn’t seem interested in the mysteries just made the whole thing feel flat. You didn’t even get the impression the characters liked each other, although considering they’re married, maybe that’s realistic, eh?
  4. The Mysteries Were Weak And Took Too Long To Get Going: When the legacy of the show includes clever tricks that kept you guessing until the reveal – as was the case in episodes like Jack In The Box, The Black Canary and…well…almost all the episodes  - stuff like how a man wrote down a lottery number years earlier, or how a watch got into someone’s bed just seemed limp. And more to the point, they took far too long to get going. In the second episode, The Sinner & The Sandman, nearly half the episode was gone, wasted on “hilarious” town hall meetings and stuff involving a vicar’s wife thinking Jonathan was talking about wanking when he wasn’t, before they even started the mystery. I think this was the poorest point of all.

But surely it wasn’t all bad?

No, it wasn’t, of course it wasn’t. In the main, I enjoyed all three episodes, but there’s no doubt that the overall quality had declined, especially when directly compared to the older shows.

Can it be turned around? I would say so, but it needs to get back to having Creek solving proper mysteries. It’s fine that he’s moved on with his life and is an older, married man now, but you can still retain the essence of what made it good in the first place.

Let’s hope it’s given a chance to do that, and considering it still gets very high ratings by today’s standards and there’s an appetite from all concerned to make it happen, I’d like to think it will.

What did you think? Let me know.

 


Stuart’s Entertainment Review Feb 10 (Including 2 Broke Girls, Community, Scandal & WWE)

February 10, 2014

It’s time for a long overdue Entertainment Review (or in particular, TV Review)

2 Broke Girls: I started watching this in spite of warnings not to from people on Twitter. I’m glad I did, because it’s brilliant. Sure, it’s never going to win any awards for subtle humour, but unlike the sort of show you’ll find on BBC3, this

Better than many give it credit for

Better than many give it credit for

 

show manages to be quite clever along with the sledgehammer-esque crude jokes. It’s not rude for the sake of it, and it has a direction and plot.

The cast is pretty good too. Although I initially looked at the performances of the likes of Beth Behrs, Matthew Moy and Jennifer Coolidge and winced, I soon realised that was part of the charm.

Top stuff. If you haven’t given it a go, do so.

Celebrity Big Brother: Another show that gets looked down upon by the masses, Celebrity Big Brother was immense this year. While people will look at it and think of Big Brother as a tired old concept, the fact is that with the right group of people in the house, it’ll never get old. That’s where Channel 4 and Channel 5 have gone wrong in the past, filling the house with wannabees and try-hards rather than people who have a little bit of depth and interest in them.

So while I didn’t bother with the previous CBB for more than a few days because it focused on crap like the girl from Geordie Shore pissing the bed and Lauren Harries being…well…Lauren Harries, this edition actually had decent people in it.

More importantly, it had good storylines too. Jim Davidson’s war with Coleen Nolan & Louisa Zussman was epic, while the love triangle with that cad Lee Ryan and the two girls whose names I’ve now forgotten also provided a bit of drama.

And let’s face it, who ever thought you’d see the visual of Lionel Blair dressed in PVC aggressively shouting “Suck my dick” at someone. Class.

The best thing about it was that neither Sam Faiers nor Ollie Locke won, thus proving the general public has a sense of free will.

Community: Community’s back! Yay! And all the signs are that in spite of the departures of Chevy Chase and Donald Glover, the return of original show runner Dan Harmon has brought with it an increase in quality on Season 4.

It’s not like Season 4 was bad, but it certainly wasn’t as good as it had been in the past.

The only thing I’d like is if there were more “normal” episodes rather than deliberately “Meta” ones.

The Musketeers: Tried it, fell asleep. Didn’t bother to watch it again.

Scandal: Considering I think Grey’s Anatomy is one of the greatest TV shows ever (and I don’t care if that loses me man points, because it is) it’s strange that I hadn’t given Shonda Rhimes’ political fixer drama a go before now. But now that I have, I’m glad. It’s another (mostly) well written TV show that does a great job on cliffhangers. Almost every episode ends with some startling revelation or event that makes you want to watch the next episode immediately.

What drags it down though is the relationship between main character Olivia Pope and the President of the United States. Their tiresome love affair hasn’t moved along an inch in the near two seasons I’ve seen, and yet every…single…episode involves a scene where they stare longingly at each other while that same irritating piece of incidental music plays over it.

Since I’m not up to date with it yet, I don’t know if it has moved forward or not, but my attitude right now to it is “Shit or get off the pot”.

The thing is, it’s like Rhimes thinks that a TV show won’t appeal to people – or more likely to women of a certain demographic – unless there’s a love story in there. And while Grey’s Anatomy has that too, I can count on one hand the amount of episodes where that becomes more important than the medical drama side of things.

With Scandal it’s too often the centre point.

I’d sooner it focussed on Huck killing more people in morally ambiguous ways.

WWE: Right now, WWE is fascinating to watch because of the turmoil surrounding it.

I don't know whether to boo or yawn

I don’t know whether to boo or yawn

Fans are openly rejecting the product on offer by booing the people the writers want them to cheer, and cheering those that they’d rather they didn’t.

The recent Royal Rumble almost became uncomfortable to watch. The guy the crowd unanimously wanted to win the Rumble match wasn’t even in it, and when the final entrant came in and they realised this, they booed. And booed. And booed some more. And when it was over, the guy who won it – who was supposed to the returning hero – was met with almost feral levels of hostility.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest stars in the company – CM Punk – appears to have quit without warning and the whole situation has left management scrambling for ways to sort things out in time for the upcoming Wrestlemania 30 (or as they’ve stupidly called it, Wrestlemania XXX, which is probably already commercially available as a porno).


Stuart Reviews Stuff 2013 Entertainment Awards

January 9, 2014

2013 was a transitional year for media.

Plenty of terrific TV shows came to an end, while the gaming industry moved on to its next generation.

But what came out on top and what failed to cut the mustard?

Here’s my take on 2013.

Films

At the cinema in 2013, I saw the following films…

The Impossible, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Flight, Hitchcock, Wreck-It Ralph, Side Effects, Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man of Steel, Behind the Candelabra, Rush, Thor: Dark World, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Saving Mr Banks

A wonderful cinematic experience

A wonderful cinematic experience

and Frozen.

Surprisingly enough that means I got value out of my Unlimited Card. Huzzah!

What’s not surprising though is the seasonal pattern of good films to bad. From January to March you get good films, then in the spring and summer months there’s nothing but big budget dross, and then things improve again around October.

I suppose that’s just the nature of the industry though.

But what came out on top?

Well for a long time it looked like Side Effects would take the prize, but it was knocked off the no.1 spot late on by…

Best Film: Gravity

Both in terms of story and visualisation, Gravity was superb. Sometimes a film can be a work of art, and this is exactly that.

The only thing that will go against it is that I doubt it’ll seem have as impressive when watching it home on your own TV.

Runner Up: Side Effects

While the likes of Captain Phillips and Saving Mr Banks ran it close, I thought Side Effects was the best story of the year. I went in not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by what I described as a “Modern Day Hitchcock film”.

Worst Film: Man of Steel

I’ve had many a debate with friends and acquaintances over this, but I just thought it was garbage. Utter dross. Who wants to watch two blokes no-selling each other for an hour in yet another “epic” fight scene where a city gets destroyed? Big fucking whoop.

Runner Up: Lincoln

Over long and ultra dull.

Biggest Surprise: Frozen

I went to Frozen on a whim one afternoon in December and was taken aback by how good it was. A strong music score, beautiful animation and a fun plot.

Biggest Disappointment: Hitchcock

It should have been so much better.

Television

To give awards for television shows is a bit of an odd one for me.

I tend to wait until a show has already started and has achieved some critical success before giving it a go.

So while this year, two of my favourite “new” shows have been Luther and New Girl, neither are actually new.

On a similar note, this year I also got into plenty of other old shows thanks to NetFlix. So while the likes of Cracker, Forbrydelsen, Californication and Suits aren’t new, these are the types of show that have commanded my attention.

In terms of actual new TV, I gave the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D a go and was seriously underwhelmed, while I’ve put the good-on-the-face-of-it Sleepy Hollow on the back-burner until it has enough episodes for me to have a binge watch.

Really, the only standout show that debuted this year that I can think of right now is House of Cards, which was excellent. Well…that and the preposterous Under the Dome.

So here are some alternative TV Awards…

The “Ruined A Sure Thing” Award goes to Arrested Development.

Like any true fan, I watched the Arrested Development NetFlix season with hopeful optimism. I wanted to love it, and in my review I was quite complimentary, though still had reservations. It’s been almost a year now since it was released

and in retrospect I can say it was a bit of a cock-up. Arrested Development’s biggest strength was the interaction between the members of the Bluth Family, and that’s the thing they decided to strip away from the new episodes. Sure, there

Aaaaah!!! It's The Eighth Doctor!!!!!!!

Aaaaah!!! It’s The Eighth Doctor!!!!!!!

were still plenty of amusing moments, but it could have seen so, so much better.

The “Damp Squib” Award goes to the final season of Dexter

I mean…come on. I still liked it, but compared to the drama of other seasons, this was crap. The season was filled with pointless storylines that went nowhere – such as Masuka’s daughter and Quinn’s attempts to become sergeant – and Dexter’s own fate just felt like a cop-out, or as Dundonians would say, a “Wet pump”.

The “So Bad It’s Amazing” Award goes to Revenge.

Revenge is over the top, dodgily acted, ridiculously plotted and just sort of crap, but I love it.

The “What The Hell Am I Watching Here?!” Award goes to the Doctor Who episode “The Crimson Horror”

Doctor Who fans are a positive bunch…well…they used to be. It’s not often I’ll watch an episode of Doctor Who and hate it – it’s my favourite TV show after all – but The Crimson Horror was just insultingly bad.

The “Now That’s How You Do A Final Season” Award goes to Breaking Bad

Everything about the final season of Breaking Bad was spot on. Having Walter & Hank face off at the end of the first episode was a masterstroke, and it just ramped up and up until the exhilarating finale. Dexter writers, take note!

The Funniest Television Moment of the Year goes to The Dead Daughter Argument from Big Brother

Just watch. Honest to God…

Coolest Television Moment of the Year goes to Night of the Doctor

Because it’s a new Paul McGann Doctor Who episode in 2013. Superb.

The “Just Fucking End” Award goes to How I Met Your Mother

Drawing out an entire season of that shit over the course of three days in the characters lives just feels like the writers are kicking us in the nuts for fun now.

Worst Television Character goes to Luke from Modern Family

The boy stumbles over his lines in every scene and drags down an otherwise good show. The runner-up to that, by the way, would be Raj from The Big Bang Theory, who hasn’t had an even half-way decent storyline for a few years now.

Best TV Theme goes to New Girl

Got to love a catchy and cheery tune.

The “I Don’t See How They Can Come Back From This” Award goes to The Newsroom

It’s not that the writers have written themselves into a corner in terms of a character dying or something like that, but the last episode of Newsroom’s second season neatly wrapped up every storyline. Where does the show go from here?

And finally, the Best Television Moment of 2013 goes to the return of 9 missing Doctor Who episodes. #Omnirumour

Obviously. And there’s a great chance things could get even better on that score in 2014. Fantastic.

Video Games

Like I said in my intro, 2013 was a transitional year for the gaming industry. The old veteran consoles – the Xbox 360 and PS3 – made way for the Xbox One and PS4. Meanwhile, Nintendo suffered from poor market share due to the initially threadbare title selection for the Wii U.

Late in the year, I took the plunge and bought both a Wii U and a PS4, which surprised me. But Microsoft really cocked up their Xbox One launch with all that nonsense about licenses for games etc. I think they backtracked, but it was too late; I’d already made my mind up.

2013 was also another year for cheap gaming in the Steam Sales. So it’s inevitable that I’m now in a position where I have a huge backlog of games that I’ve bought but just haven’t had the time to play.

Unsurprisingly, for the most part my gaming was the standard mix of FIFA, Call of Duty Multiplayer and Football Manager, but there have been other games that have grabbed my attention too, both in a good and bad way.

Easily 2013's best game

Easily 2013′s best game

Best Game of 2013 goes to Super Mario 3D World

When they are on form, no other video game developers in the land can touch Nintendo. I mean, do they ever do a bad game?

Super Mario 3D World is superb and has rightly won game of the year awards from most reviewers. It’s sleek, looks great and is just a joy to play.

But I’d still prefer it if it was structured like Mario 64…

Worst Game of 2013 goes to Bioshock Infinite

I’m sorry, but I just cannot get on board with the hype. The ultimate in style over substance, this felt like a game that wanted to give the impression it was open world, but really wasn’t. Poor on all scores for me.

Biggest Gaming Disappointment goes to Halo 4

Though this came out in 2012, I played it in 2013 and instantly regretted the purchase. The Halo franchise is the proverbial dead horse being flogged. They ended it nicely in Halo 3, then brought it back again with the same tiresome villains and visuals.

Console of the Year goes to the Wii U

Like I said above, when it came out there weren’t too many games available for the Wii U. It’s a little bit cumbersome and it doesn’t have the graphical prowess of a PS4 or Xbox One, but right now, the Wii U has a killer lineup of solid – mostly Nintendo made – titles that any gamer could enjoy.

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Doctor Who – The Matt Smith Era Rankings

December 27, 2013

Will I miss Matt Smith?

No, I won’t.

Why?

Well on the one hand, you look at his stories and think they weren’t very good on the whole. When I come to rank all the Doctor Who stories from An Unearthly Child all the way through to The Time of the Doctor, I can’t imagine that many will feature in the Top 100 let alone the Top 50.

I would honestly say that there are four or maybe five really good Matt Smith adventures, and that’s it.

Meanwhile, at least two will definitely feature in my Bottom 10, and one is a genuine contender for the worst story ever.

So what’s the problem? Is it him?

Not entirely, but I’ll get to him later.

The big problem with Matt Smith’s era is Steven Moffat. He’s just not a very good show-runner. When he was just a guest writer for the show, his output included stone cold classics like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace, but when the responsibility of carrying the entire Doctor Who brand fell upon his shoulders, I think he failed and continues to fail to this day.

In the Matt Smith Era, Doctor Who became a mish-mash of repetitive fantasy yarns weighed down by convoluted story-arcs, recurring monsters and far too much fan-wankery. Don’t get me wrong, when fan-wankery is done well, it’s great, but some of just seemed so forced.

Of his 39 Matt Smith stories, 19 of them involved a monster/enemy who would appear in more than one of his adventures. I haven’t compared that to other eras of the show, but this is the only one where it’s been so obvious.

It’s not Matt Smith’s fault, but in his era you look at characters like River Song, The Daleks, The Cybermen, Madam Vastra and even the Weeping Angels and just wish they’d piss off, never to return.

And of course, with Moffat in charge, it’s not just that the quality of the show’s output has suffered, but the amount too.

As for Smith, I always felt his acting was too showy and performance-like. I’ve always believed that a good actor shouldn’t be seen to be visibly “acting”, but Matt Smith never showed anything less.

To me, Smith’s wild movements, delivery and gestures – along with the way he was written – felt forced compared to…well compared to almost every other actor who has ever played the part. In recent months we’ve seen him shown up by David Tennant, John Hurt, a really old Tom Baker, a 30 second cameo by Peter Capaldi and even Paul McGann. The public outcry from fans to get a Paul McGann series after only 10 minutes was incredible, but people wanted him because he just seemed a lot better – both in terms of characterisation and performance – than Smith.

Matt Smith has said he’s influenced by Patrick Troughton, but he’s nowhere near Troughton’s level. Smith, not now or ever, will command the screen when he is up against his peers.

So I won’t miss Matt Smith in the least; he wasn’t the worst Doctor, nor did he have the worst stories on average, but he’s a long, long, looooong way off being the best Doctor.

Anyway, here’s how I’d rank his stories…

MattSmith

The Stories

39. The Crimson Horror

I say this without hyperbole; The Crimson Horror is a serious contender for Worst Doctor Who Story of All Time. It is awful. With a terrible script stuffed to the gills with misfiring humour and a dottled guest actress who wasn’t taking it remotely seriously, it’s just embarrassing.

38. The Vampires of Venice

While I consider Matt Smith’s first season to be his best, this was a real let down. It has a funny pre-credits sequence but after that it’s just style over substance.

37. Hide

An incredibly boring story. I can’t muster up much more to say.

36. Let’s Kill Hitler

Classically bad River Song drivel. One of these stories that you can’t watch on its own merit either.

35. A Town Called Mercy

There’s that word again; boring. Nice setting, nice costumes, shame about the script.

34. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

A good idea, but poorly executed.

33. A Good Man Goes To War

See “Let’s Kill Hitler”. Slightly better though.

32. The Wedding of River Song

Same again, though on the plus side it finally put that tiresome “Does the Doctor die” story-arc to bed.

31. The Impossible Astronaut & Day of the Moon

And again.

30. The God Complex

I feel we’re going round in circles, but this is yet another case of style over substance. So many of these stories look interesting but don’t have the plots/scripts to back it up.

29. The Beast Below

I described it as dull and awkward, and complained that Steven Moffat usually did better work than it. A sign of things to come I think.

28. Nightmare in Silver

Just what we needed; more Cyberman episodes. And bratty children

27. The Snowmen

This felt like more of a set-up of what’s to come, rather than a solid episode in its own right.

26. The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe

While by no means a stand-out, this did what it set out to do; it provided a decent bit of Christmas Day viewing for fans and casual viewers alike

25. The Doctor’s Wife

I seem to be a lone voice in my lack of enthusiasm for The Doctor’s Wife. We’re beyond the bad stories now, but this just isn’t one that peaks my interest. The look is too grim for my liking.

24. The Curse of the Black Spot

Conversely, I enjoy this more than most. I don’t see much in the way of flaws and I described it as “inoffensive fun” in my review.

23. Cold War

It’s great to see The Ice Warriors back, but I felt this was more a case of fitting them in to an existing story rather than finding one for them to thrive in. To give it credit though, it was atmospheric.

22. Victory of the Daleks

While I really laid into this in my review, and branded it “ridiculously lazy and stupid”, its main problem was that it tried to redo Power of the Daleks in 12 minutes. That was never going to work, but what was left was still ok.

21. The Bells of Saint John

Though it all felt a bit “by-the numbers” this was a reasonably good episode that introduced Clara properly at last.

20. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Not as good on second viewing as it is on first, this has its moments, but struggles to find the middle ground between grimness and buffoonery.

19. Asylum of the Daleks

This on the other hand is better the second time around, mainly because the first time I watched it I was caught up in the BBC’s lie about how it had every Dalek ever in it.

18. Closing Time

Not nearly as good as The Lodger, but still a pleasant watch. Cybermen being killed by love though really is them at their lowest ebb.

17. The Hungry Earth & Cold Blood

It’s “The Silurian Story 2K10″

16. The Rings of Akhaten

A sing-song in space. I thought it was breezy but enjoyable. Don’t understand the hate.

15. The Name of the Doctor

Strip away all the admittedly enjoyable fan-wankery, this is just the usual recent-Moff guff. But the fan-wankery was good this time.

14. The Eleventh Hour

A good start to Matt Smith’s era.

13. Amy’s Choice

I summed it up by saying “It’s a fresh, interesting idea and the small cast make the best of it, but there are some obvious flaws that hold it back.”

12. The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People

While it didn’t need to resort to having a “Monster” at the end, I thought this one was actually pretty impressive.

11. The Angels Take Manhattan

I said…

“As long as you don’t think about it too deeply (and by too deeply I mean “at all”), The Angels Take Manhattan is a very good story that combines emotion and visual impact to send off Amy & Rory in style.

But it doesn’t stand to reason, and that takes away from it.”

10. The Time of the Doctor

While it is what is it because of Steven Moffat’s inability to write story-arcs properly, I liked it. While not a patch on David Tennant’s final 20 minutes, Matt Smith manages to bow out with grace.

09. The Pandorica Opens & The Big Bang

I said it was “epic in its scale, clever,funny, charming, witty, good fun and like a modern-day fairy tale, but also riddled with continuity errors and plot holes that just drags the whole thing down.”

08. Night Terrors

Featuring surprisingly highly on the list is Night Terrors, which is this high because in a sea of story-arc pish, it managed to be an enjoyable, self-contained episode that hit the spot.

07. The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone

While it weakened The Weeping Angels, there’s no doubt it’s still a solid piece of television.

06. The Girl Who Waited

I like that Doctor Who can still – when it wants to be – be fresh and interesting. This was that, both in terms of setting and storyline. And Karen Gillen was actually quite good, which is saying something.

05. The Power of Three

A pleasant change from what Steven Moffat usually churns out/commissions, this felt like an episode from a happier, by-gone era.

04. The Lodger

This story played to the strengths of everyone involved. Great stuff, though it would have been better if Meglos was in it.

03. A Christmas Carol

My favourite Christmas episode, I just don’t see how people couldn’t find this enjoyable and also a bit sad. Top cast, top effort.

02. Vincent & The Doctor

There’s a guy on the Pie & Bovril Scottish Football forum who’ll be raging at me for having Vincent & The Doctor this high, but I think it’s fantastic. The best story of its genre. Very well done.

01. The Day of the Doctor

That The Day of the Doctor finishes top of the pile sums up the Matt Smith Era for me. This is the best one in part because Smith shares the lead with other, more talented people. It’s also a brilliant story and a wonderful way to celebrate 50 years of this amazing TV show.

The Companions

03. Amy

Though Clara has far less to her character – in fact, she has almost nothing – I generally enjoy her performances. Amy Pond had more invested in her character than almost any other companion, but I didn’t like that character much, nor the actress who played her.

02. Clara

If only she had a reason to be there she’d be good, because Jenna Coleman is an accomplished actress

01. Rory

Some of the best bits of Matt Smith’s time in the TARDIS were when he worked alongside only Rory. A very underrated companion.

The Cliffhangers

Were there any?

By default this surely goes to the cliffhanger at the end of The Name of the Doctor.

The Music

05. The Long Song (Rings of Akhaten)
04. The Sad Man With A Box (Various)
03. Abigail’s Song (A Christmas Carol)
02. Gallifrey Falls No More (The Day of the Doctor)
01. Four Knocks (The Time of the Doctor)

The Seasons

05. Season 7: Part Two (Mean Score: 26.625)

Absolute garbage for the most part. Not a single stand-out story in it.

04. Season 6 (Mean Score: 23.181)

Though it contained three stories in my top 12, the groan-inducing River Song/Doctor Dying story-arcs weighed his down heavily.

03. Season 7: Part One (Mean Score: 19.5)

A mixed bag, but it certainly had its moments.

02. Season 5 (Mean Score: 14.364)

In terms of actual seasons, this was Matt Smith’s best. Obviously before Moffat ran out of good ideas.

01. The 2013 Specials (Mean Score: 5.5)

There are only two of them, but one was good and the other was excellent.


Doctor Who – The Time of the Doctor Review (or “How To Write Yourself Into a Corner, by Steven Moffat”)

December 26, 2013

Christmas TV in 2013 has been rubbish.

In the weeks approaching it, I knew that, and had joked to people that the only good thing about it this year would be watching Matt Smith die.

Of course, that raised a chuckle, but it made me think about how The Time of the Doctor would play out.

Oh sure, people die in grim soap operas like Eastenders almost every Christmas, but Doctor Who is family entertainment. Could they have Matt Smith’s Doctor die in a harrowing fashion on Christmas Day? Would that be appropriate?

Lest we forget that David Tennant’s final moments were broadcast on the less cheery holiday of New Years Day.

But of course, die Matt Smith would, so it was always going to be interesting to see how it happened.

Doctor Who – The Time of the Doctor Review: What’s This One About?

Matt Smith departs as the Doctor and Steven Moffat realises he actually has to explain his tiresome story-arcs before it’s too late.

Thoughts – Haters Gonna Hate

Before I get to my thoughts, I think it’s worth noting how “The Internet” has reacted to Time of the Doctor.

Haters Gonna Hate

Haters Gonna Hate

As I’ve said before, Doctor Who fans traditionally have this instant Rose Tinted Spectacled view of a new Doctor Who episode before forming a long-standing opinion a bit later.

In the past, every episode was met with people shouting from the rooftops about how amazing it is. And yes, I think a lot of people – especially in the press and on one particular Doctor Who forum – are like that. Whether that’s them being honest with themselves or wanting to keep in with “Cardiff” is a question only they can answer, but they seem to be becoming the minority in fandom.

These days, the default view of new Doctor Who episodes – whether its on Twitter or on most of the forums – is that they are crap.

And you won’t get any argument from me that some of the recent episodes have been crap, but the difference is that I like to go into watching a new episode with an open mind. What I think has changed with Doctor Who fans is that they are beginning to go into these things with a deliberately negative mindset, almost looking for a reason to dislike stuff. They don’t like the direction Moffat has taken the show in so they’ll be damned if they like what he puts out, no matter the quality.

So take The Day of the Doctor as an example. I just couldn’t get my head round how so many people struggled to comprehend the Tom Baker cameo. It wasn’t difficult, was it?

Now that’s not true of everyone, and I’m not having a go at anyone in particular, so don’t get upset with me, but it’s definitely what I’ve observed.

If you'd told them both a couple of years ago they'd have to film this scene with wigs on they wouldn't have believed you

If you’d told them both a couple of years ago they’d have to film this scene with wigs on they wouldn’t have believed you

Anyway, it’s Boxing Day morning as I write this Time of the Doctor review, and the feedback is exactly how I expected it to be. People on the forums are hyperbolically saying that it’s the worst thing they’ve ever seen, while everyone associated with Doctor Who in an official capacity - whether they be writers, members of the Restoration Team (Boooooo!!!! Give us our Missing Episodes!!!!) or the fabled Überfans - are saying its wonderful.

So what’s the truth of the matter? How good or bad was The Time of the Doctor? Well here are my thoughts…

A Bargain of Necessity 

Rather than just “hilariously” using the name of the fifth episode of the Reign of Terror, I think the sub-heading sums up The Time of the Doctor.

I’ve written before about Steven Moffat’s obsession with story-arcs and this need for everything to make sense in the end. It’s as if his desired reaction is not “Oh, that was brilliant” but rather “Aaaaah, so that’s what that meant”.

At some point after writing Blink he seems to have decided that Doctor Who should no longer be about writing a good stand-alone story, but rather about complex story-arcs that don’t need to make sense right now; like he thinks that is the only way to keep viewers coming back for more.

But I would say writing good stand-alone stories is exactly what makes people want to keep coming back. It doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.

Anyway, the result is that seeds Moffat planted as far back as The Eleventh Hour still hadn’t borne fruit, and Matt Smith had announced he was leaving, so this final episode had to explain everything.

Ageing and with nothing left to lose, The Doctor gets a bit rapey

Ageing and with nothing left to lose, The Doctor gets a bit rapey

There’s a chance Moffat had planned to wrap everything up in Smith’s final episode from the start, but I doubt it.

And so The Time of the Doctor is unfortunately a bit of a mish-mash of things that I’d have a hard time believing any writer would be truly happy with in an ideal world.

In one hour, we had to get through…

  • Christmas Day on contemporary Earth
  • The War on Trenzalore
  • The reason for the Crack in Time
  • The meaning of “Silence Will Fall”
  • The reasoning for why The Daleks know the Doctor again
  • The explanation of how this is actually the Doctor’s final regeneration
  • A means for him to get another set of regenerations to keep to show going
  • A way for him to actually die
  • The regeneration sequence/Matt Smith’s goodbye.

There’s too much there, and so while I’d like to make it clear that I don’t think it was bad – because I did enjoy it – I think it could have been far better if things had been explained earlier on in Matt Smith’s run so that his final episode could have had a chance to breathe a bit more.

Instead, much of what was going on ended up being explained away in a couple of rushed exposition scenes, and what seemed like good ideas on paper just felt flat in execution.

So for example, it seems as though it was decided that the only way to give the Doctor new lives was to reintroduce Gallifrey, and by doing that, the Daleks had to be around, and for the story to work, the Daleks also had to know who the Doctor was. But didn’t they have their memories of him wiped? Of course they did, but they’ve found out about him again by harvesting information from the mind of the Doctors never-before-seen-but-long-time-close-and-personal-friend Tasha Lem. So what was the point of having them forget him if the first time they’d see him again they’d have to know who he was?

And while it’s a nice idea to explain the Doctor’s ultimate fate as having to stay on Trenzalore for the rest of his life, that wasn’t exactly exhilarating to watch.

Ach well

The Regeneration

For me, the big draw of The Time of the Doctor was seeing how Matt Smith would die.

If his first line was "Who the fuck are you" it would have been the best thing ever

If his first line was “Who the fuck are you” it would have been the best thing ever

Now as you know, I thought David Tennant’s departure was by a mile the best of any Doctor. Many people disagree with me on that, but I thought it was brilliant.

How would Smith’s departure compare? Could it match Tennant’s or even the understatedly brilliant departure of Christopher Ecclestone?

For me, it’s a no.

The reason for the Doctor dying was done well enough – even if I was a bit confused about how everyone in the village of Christmas seemed to age at a far slower rate to the Doctor – and the scenes with Coleman and an ancient Doctor were nice, but they couldn’t compare to Tennant and Cribbins for emotion. And that was made even more obvious by the welcome return of one of the two greatest pieces of incidental music in Doctor Who – nay Television – history, Four Knocks. Watch both scenes played out to the same music and you’ll know exactly which one hit the right emotional chord.

(*Writer’s Note 2014: You know what though; as much as I said that, and as much as I’d probably stick to that, I actually find I now associate Four Knocks more with Time of the Doctor than The End of Time. That one scene there was wonderfully played and probably just needed a bit of time to settle in my memory)

But where I got a little confused was that he appeared to regenerate while standing atop that building, and yet didn’t.

Again, maybe that’s another case of Moffat writing himself into a corner. He wanted The Doctor to die an old, old man, but also wanted Matt Smith’s final scenes to be as the Doctor we knew and so had to fudge things a bit. He just never learns.

But Smith’s final scene was well done, and the surprise appearance of Amy Pond was a nice touch, even if it did make the characterless Clara seem even more of an afterthought than she already is. If I’m going to complain about anything it’s that it maybe tried a bit too hard to be poetic, although the symbolism of him removing his bow-tie was surprisingly good.

Actually, that’s not my only complaint. Here’s another one…

If the villains in this were the Monoids, it would have been immeasurably better

If the villains in this were the Monoids, it would have been immeasurably better

Though Peter Capaldi’s very brief cameo was excellent and made me very excited to see him in the part, complete with his Scottish accent and scary demeanour, the lines he was given were crap. They were funny, but they were crap.

He’s thrown by the changing of one of his body parts and the TARDIS is flying out of control. Wow, that’s original isn’t it? It’s not like that’s how the last two regenerations were done, was it?

Personally I’d have preferred it if his first words were “Who the fuck are you and what the fuck are you doing in my TARDIS”. If it had been, it would have been the finest moment in Doctor Who history.

But you can’t have it all I suppose.

Random Observations

  • Despite the story being rushed, there was still time for the Doctor to abandon Clara twice. That’s a bit much isn’t it?
  • For the second episode in a row, events of previous stories have been rendered nonsensical. So yet again, this stuff just doesn’t tie in with The End of Time at all, but more pressingly, the idea that Matt Smith is the final Doctor confuses the story arc of Moffat’s second season. When River Song shot the Doctor by that lake, he was about to regenerate. How? Oh I know, because when Moffat wrote that, he hadn’t thought up the War Doctor and wasn’t considering what happened in Journey’s End to be a regeneration.
  • How many times can the entire Dalek fleet be destroyed? Leave the Daleks alone, we’re sick of them.
  • And we’re sick of the bloody Cybermen too.
  • And the Weeping Angels.
  • But by all means bring back the Monoids.
  • The early stuff round at Clara’s house seemed incongruous, and while I did laugh along with bits like the hologram clothes and Handles, I think perhaps that time could have been better used in making the main plot a bit smoother.
  • As I say above, Clara is still an afterthought. I don’t think anyone could say that Jenna Coleman is a bad actress or that Clara is unlikeable, because neither is true. I have no complaints on those scores at all, but I still don’t know who she is really. What’s her motivation? Beyond the Impossible Girl stuff, who is she? We got a glimpse of that when she said she travels with The Doctor because she fancies him, but that’s hardly fresh material is it? And I can’t see that being her motivation for staying with Peter Capaldi, can you?
  • If The Doctor hasn’t seen Amy for hundreds of years, would he not take a moment to think “Who’s that?”
  • And didn’t the Daleks kill everyone on board the Church? And if so, how did the Doctor end up fighting alongside The Silence and those soldiers?
  • Does this mean we’ll never say River Song again? Fantastic.
  • Look everyone! A Cybermen voice not done by Nick Briggs!!! Amazing!!!!!!
  • I wasn’t particularly enamoured by the latex masks Matt Smith was wearing to make him look older. Not the most convincing if you ask me.
  • Going through the episode on iPlayer I’ve seen Peter Capaldi’s cameo a few times now and every time I have a beaming smile on my face. Superb.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Time of the Doctor Review: Final Thoughts

Far from perfect, but not nearly as bad some are making out, The Time of the Doctor unfortunately felt like it was hamstrung by Steven Moffat’s need to conclude his tiresome story-arcs.

As a result, Smith’s final story feels like it could have been better.

Will I miss Matt Smith? No, not really.

Do I want this to be the end of Steven Moffat in charge of Doctor Who? Yes.

Will it be? Probably not (although if you’re reading this down the line and it actually was, or if he got his act together to make the next season amazing, then chuckle with hindsight)

The main thing to take from this is that there’s a new Doctor in town, and going by first impressions, he’s going to be great.

Look Out For The Book

And so that’s 50 years of Doctor Who reviewed. As I’ve said before, my plan has always been to release all this as an e-book and I’ll press on with that in the New Year.

If you’re looking for my own Doctor Who Mighty 245 or whatever it’ll be, that’ll be part of that.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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.


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