TV: 24 – Live Another Day Review (or “One of These Days, The Daleks Will Show Up”)

July 17, 2014

Let me first start off by saying there are spoilers in this review, so if you haven’t seen all of 24 – Live Another Day, then I would suggest you skip it.

Anyway, for those of you who have seen it, here are my thoughts…

24 – Live Another Day Review: What’s It About?

The British widow of an Al-Qaeda commander killed in a drone strike by the US plans on taking over US drones and attacking London with them unless President James Heller – on a state visit to the English Capital – turns himself in.

Naturally Jack Bauer has heard about this and emerges from exile to help stop them.

And sure enough, he’ll kill lots and lots of people to make sure he doesn’t fail.

Also, because this is 24, once that initial threat is over, there’s suddenly a newer, bigger threat than ever before. Oh!!!! Em!!!! Gee!!!!!

24 – Live Another Day Review: Who’s In It?

Apart from the obvious one, 24 – Live Another Day brings back old cast members like the incredibly wooden President Hellerbot (James Devane), his daughter with the face like a soup ladle, Audrey (Kim Raver) and the fidgety and awkward to

"Destroy him! Destroy him at once!!"

“Destroy him! Destroy him at once!!”

watch Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub).

Other than them, major parts go to the likes of Yvonne “Typecast” Strahovski, Steven Fry, Tate Donovan off the O.C. and the most b00-hiss of panto actresses, Michelle Fairley.

Oh, and in terms of minor parts, there’s only bloody Denis Lill as the captain of a Russian ship!! Denis Lill getting TV jobs in 2014; awesome.

24 – Live Another Day Review: My Thoughts

Well in every way, this is the standard 24 formula. Jack Bauer reluctantly emerges to deal with a threat, the local authorities initially mistrust him and  - despite his record in the past – believe he’s fighting for the forces of evil until he proves himself; then the threat becomes critical, it gets stopped just in time, only for another, bigger threat to turn up. Throughout it all, Jack happily slaughters dozens upon dozens of people that he deems unworthy of living while screaming in people’s faces saying “WHERE IS (insert critical piece of information here)” and then just before the end he comes up against some kind of personal tragedy. Oh, and as always, someone working with Jack turns out to be a villain.

But who cares if that’s the formula, it’s a great laugh when it’s done correctly.

And unlike the last couple of seasons of 24 – which seemed to be unimaginative, uninspiring and at times plainly ridiculous – this did manage to get it right.

I’ll be honest; the first few episodes were a wee bit disappointing, and in general the Margot Al-Harazi storyline was let down by Michelle Fairley’s rather dodgy acting skills (cue Game of Thrones fanboys sending me angry emails), but it soon picked up pace.

And by the final quarter when the Chinese turned up, it was just fantastic.

Indeed, the bit where the Chinese showed up was such a great and unexpected swerve, that it reminded me as a Doctor Who fan of the end of episode one of Earthshock where the Cybermen suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The screen grab there reflects that.

So overall, I found it an enjoyable return to form for a series which shows that it still has legs. Long may it continue

Random Observations

  • I laughed at the bit where Heller tells the British Prime Minister “You’d have done the same if roles were reversed”. The understated look of “Don’t think so, mate” on Steven Fry’s face was great.
  • Going back towards the start of the season, was that meant to be the House of Commons Heller was speaking to the MPs in? If so, that was rotten.
  • I find that Yvonne Strahovski just plays the same part in every show now, and I’m getting pretty tired of her. There’s no doubt she’s well suited to playing the intense high action roles she’s cast in, but you’d think she’d try to amend her acting style at least a little bit.
  • At least we won’t see William Devane in the show again. What summed his acting ability up was the way he wandered back aboard Air Force One with a coffin containing his recently deceased daughter, and his emotions and expression were no different than they had been at any point in the show previously.
  • Hey look, it’s Kevin McNally off Dad!
  • I think Cheng Zhi would have been better if he was played by Ken Jeong
  • Do you think Jack will face any kind of enquiry for throwing Margot out that window?
  • You can’t not laugh at the bit where her daughter was hit by that bus.
  • In a real life situation where someone – even the US President – had to get to the centre circle of Wembley Stadium on a night when it was closed, they’d have far more trouble getting access than they did. Inevitably there’ll be some simpleton groundskeeper with the keys who would have come out with the line “I don’t care if you’re the Queen of Sheba mate, you’re not getting in there tonight” 
  • There’s a bit where someone – I think it was Strahovski – tries to get a shell-shocked child to open up to her by offering her a can of Ginger Beer. Ginger Beer? Really? I imagine most children these days would have told her to fuck off.
  • As always with 24, there were plenty of example of people being beaten to within an inch of their life in one hour, and being seemingly fine in the next. You’ve got to love it.
  • Similarly, the ease in which they got through traffic was astounding.
  • 24 simply has to have an episode where the Daleks show up towards the end. Surely you agree with me on that?

 


Stuart’s Television Review – May 2014 (including Continuum, Game of Thrones, Legends House and More)

May 16, 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of my Entertainment Review posts, with the last one being back in February, and with the US TV Season drawing to a close for another year, it’s time to catch up.

Here are my thoughts on some of the shows I’ve been watching lately…

24: Live Another Day

Yes, Jack is back (three words that have probably been used together in just about every single review of the show since it made its return last week) and this time he’s in London.

On hearing the news that Kate Ramsay, with her smug smile and Auton-like face had been killed off in Neighbours, I watched it again

On hearing the news that Kate Ramsay, with her smug smile and Auton-like face had been killed off in Neighbours, I watched it again

What can you say? Well it’s the tried, tested and a little bit tired formula all over again, with the first three episodes focusing on the Level One villains who will ultimately be killed off by someone higher up than them on the food chain.

But it’s been a while since 24 was on our screens and so even though it’s not breaking any new ground, it’s still entertaining.

I’m gutted about Maurice being killed off between seasons though.

The Big Bang Theory

As much of a fan of this show as I am, there’s no doubt the quality is going downhill. It’s not going downhill as fast as Kaley Cuoco’s appearance (cue angry feminist comments being left), but it’s still suffering from a drop in quality. Much of that has to do with the repetitiveness of it all, but with some level of character development in the past few weeks, I’m still confident that this is a show that will still be worth watching next year.

Castle

Castle, meanwhile, is a show that is going from strength to strength. But for one episode in the 2012/13 season that was a rushed clip episode, it has remained one of the most consistently entertaining shows on TV.

The recent instalment with the mobster who still believed it was the late 1970s was well written and superbly funny.

If you’ve not given this show a go yet, do so ASAP.

Community

It’s been cancelled! Nooooooooo!!!

Creatively, you could argue that it was time for it to go, because it finished on a happy ending and for the characters to still be hanging around Greendale for another year would just seem tenuous.

But I’m still disappointed as I’ve been mostly enjoying this latest season. With the exception of the episode centring around the phone app – which turned into yet another post-apocalyptic, Hunger-Games style war – it was of a high standard throughout.

My favourite episode – and one that I would implore you to watch, even though it didn’t get the ratings in the US – is the GI Joe one. By presenting most of the episode in an authentic GI Joe cartoon from the 80s, it was just one of the smartest/coolest/geekiest things I’ve ever seen.

Continuum

Now here’s a show I’ve just recently starting watching.

And better yet, Doug Willis is back!

And better yet, Doug Willis is back!

A Canadian Time Travel/Police Drama that is somewhere between Life on Mars and The Butterfly Effect, I have been thoroughly enjoying this, and would recommend it highly.

Starring Rachel Nichols from the final season of Alias, it has had me hooked for the past week of binge watching. Now I’ve read some people say it’s a bit too complex for them, and I can sympathise with that, but I’ve had no problems keeping up.

After a few episodes, I was wondering how they would keep the show fresh and interesting, but they’ve managed that by developing the storylines and characters and not being afraid of making key changes to the dynamic.

What I also like about it is the location. Because the show is made in Vancouver and primarily uses lesser known Canadian actors in the cast, it gives the show a different look and feel to the majority of shows from across the pond filmed in New York or Los Angeles.

On the whole, I’d give this a hearty thumbs up.

Game of Thrones

I just don’t get the hype.

I’m a few episodes behind on this, and that says it all about my desire to see this show.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Game of Thrones is bad – indeed I think it’s quite good – but the way you read people fawning all over it on social media baffles me.

It especially baffles me that some of the people who think it’s the coolest thing going are the sorts of people who’ll go out of their way to criticise shows like Doctor Who as being “sad”. It’s apparently acceptable geekery.

Personally, I do think it’s a case of style over substance, and has several issues, including a cast that is too expansive for the average viewer to fully invest in or even recognise the characters they play, and a narrative flow that is uneven at best.

There are some episodes where nothing happens, and if people weren’t willing the show to do so well, you would be right to say that the storyline with Daenerys Targaryen (I had to look her name up there despite watching this from the start) is moving at far too slow a pace.

Maybe I’m being too critical here, but I think there are plenty of more entertaining TV shows out there and that this is the classic example of a show that is best watched in bulk rather than episode by episode.

But it looks nice.

p.s. Don’t get upset…this is just my opinion. If you like it then good for you ;-)

Grey’s Anatomy

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I've seen. Class.

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I’ve seen. Class.

I can just see the anger on the faces of some blokey readers getting past my entry about Game of Thrones and then seeing me praise Grey’s Anatomy. How dare I!

It’s been a decent season of Grey’s, although probably the weakest one they’ve done.

Like a couple more programmes I plan on discussing, this is one show that could probably have finished for good here, with most of the story arcs of the characters being wrapped up nicely.

With original cast-member Sandra Oh leaving, and potential storyline exits for the likes of Meredith, Derek and Alex also hinted at in the last few episodes, it could well have ended here and nobody could complain from a creative standpoint.

But it will continue, and that’s not a bad thing. My only concern is that the end of season cliffhanger – that the new Head of Cardio is Meredith’s half-sister and the Chief’s long-lost daughter – feels like a Jumping The Shark moment.

Let’s hope it’s not.

Neighbours

I’ve got back into Neighbours!! Well..sort of.

Continuum - Well worth your time

Continuum – Well worth your time

Having read that one of the characters that put me off the show so much that I stopped watching it was getting killed off (the horribly smug Kate Ramsey with her Auton-like head), while the Living Legend, Doug Willis, was making a comeback, I decided to give it another go.

It’s been ok. It turns out that there’s been an almost entire turnover of cast since I stopped watching, but I’ve picked it up again.

I’m not hooked, but my brother and I are having a sort of ironic laugh watching it again.

Oh, and quite clearly Susan and Karl Kennedy are immortals. They just don’t age.

Revenge

Another show that probably should have ended this year is Revenge.

As hilariously bad, yet weirdly engrossing as it is, the whole point of the show was for an undercover Emily to avenge her father’s death and to bring those responsible for his incarceration to justice. And she did that.

And now everyone knows exactly who she is, removing that element from it too.

And yet it was renewed for another season.

Why?

Probably because it makes money, and that seems to be more important than making a creatively satisfying show.

The season ended with Conrad and Aiden murdered, Victoria in a mental institution and most ridiculously of all, David Clarke returning from the dead.

As much as I’m sure I’ll have a laugh when it returns, this show should have ended by now.

Scandal

And so should Scandal.

Olivia Pope from Scandal - a deeply unpleasant woman

Olivia Pope from Scandal – a deeply unpleasant woman

Here’s a show that has long outlived its welcome, despite only running for three seasons.

Unlike Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge, what’s even more ridiculous about Scandal getting a new season is that every storyline was wrapped up at the conclusion of the last episode. Why would it need to come back, and how can it come back without it seeming ridiculous?

The problem is that over the last season and a half, it moved away from being a show about a team of political fixers taking on a new case every week and put all its eggs into the one basket – Olivia’s relationship with the President.

And though I did watch the season all the way through, it got really fucking boring by the end. Every single episode had a scene shoe-horned in where Olivia and the President – a man who she’s having an affair with – talk about their feelings while that incongruous incidental music that makes me want to slam my fist through the TV played over it. Just awful.

But what gets me about Scandal the most is that – not unlike Shonda Rhimes other shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice – the lead character is supremely unlikable. Olivia Pope is – I think – written to be a strong and independent black woman (with the “black” part being important, hence why I highlighted it), presumably because that’s how the show’s creator sees herself, but what she actually comes across as is an overconfident, hypocritical and deeply unlikable bitch. Meanwhile, the First Lady, who I imagine is written to be a villain, comes across as someone who is victimized and more often than not in the right.

The scene where Olivia tells the guy having an affair with the First Lady that he has to stop sleeping with her or she’ll destroy him – while she herself is openly having a relationship with the President in front of his wife – took the cake.

This is one show I may not return to.

Two and a Half Men

This is not so much a TV show that I’m watching at US Pace, but one that I decided to get into recently by watching the DVDs from the start.

I feel quite underwhelmed by it, and it amazes me that it’s still on TV now.

A bit like when I watched the boxed set of NCIS, I just sort of drifted away from it by the third season.

It made me smile, but not laugh, and I found myself frustrated, hoping that Alan’s ex-wife would get some level of comeuppance. I even googled it to find out if she did.

But she didn’t as far as I can see.

Meh.

WWE Legends House

Hillbilly Jim is back on our screens in 2014. Result!

Hillbilly Jim is back on our screens in 2014. Result!

Finally, as a fan of WWE going back years, the idea of the likes of Hacksaw Duggan, Hillbilly Jim, Mean Gene, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart living in a house together is the perfect show.

Filmed years ago (as evidenced by the now UK based Ashley Roberts working as the host) but never picked up by any TV network, this has finally seen the light of day on the WWE Network.

And it’s crap, but a great laugh.

If you don’t know the characters, you won’t get it, but if you do, you will.

Simple.

Get Involved In The Debate

Stuart Reviews Stuff is a free entertainment blog. If you enjoyed this or any other article on the site, please consider taking a moment to Like the official Facebook page. You can do that by clicking like on the side panel, or visiting the site here

You can also follow me on twitter @sgmilne

Feel free to get involved in the debate.


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.

 


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.

Get Involved In The Debate

Stuart Reviews Stuff is a free entertainment blog. If you enjoyed this or any other article on the site, please consider taking a moment to Like the official Facebook page. You can do that by clicking like on the side panel, or visiting the site here

You can also follow me on twitter @sgmilne

Feel free to get involved in the debate.


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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,364 other followers