Doctor Who – Face The Raven Review (or “Who Cares About Spoilers When There Are A Few Extra Viewers To Round Up”)

November 21, 2015

Dateline: November 21st 18.02

I hate spoilers.

I don’t see the point in spoilers.

I don’t understand the mindset of people who want to read spoilers.

And for a TV station that is noncommercial and therefore doesn’t need to worry that much about viewing figures, I really don’t understand why the BBC would want to give away spoilers.

So I’m actually a bit pissed off at the moment.

Why? Because I was browsing the web earlier on and noticed that the main headline on Digital Spy this morning read ‘BBC Announce How Tonight’s Shocking Doctor Who Will End’.

I’m not daft.

I have a basic ability to work stuff out and I know what that headline means…

They’re going to kill off Clara.

But why would I want to know that before I see it? Why am I  – a regular viewer – having my enjoyment and sense of surprise ruined just so the BBC can attract some extra viewers who otherwise might not have bothered to watch.

Why are they more important than me?

To quote Bret Hart, “Frustrating isn’t the Goddamned word for it; this is bullshit!!!”

Of course, for all I know they might not be killing off Clara in Face The Raven, but I bet they will.

I’ll report back after the episode to let you know.

Dateline: November 21st 21:12

Doctor Who – Face The Raven Review

Nope, I was right; they’ve killed off Clara.

For fuck’s sake!!!

So as you’ll have gathered, I’m annoyed about this.

The death of a companion doesn’t come along often, so had the BBC not revealed it this morning, I would not have been expecting it (even though I knew Jenna Coleman was leaving at the end of the season). But

"Frustrated isn't the Goddamn word for it. This is Bullshit" said Bret Hart. I echo these sentiments

“Frustrated isn’t the Goddamn word for it. This is Bullshit” said Bret Hart. I echo these sentiments

since they did, and therefore I was, I think they ruined it.

To go all the way back to the 1980s and Earthshock, the big thing was that the BBC kept everything relating to it a secret. Nobody knew the Cybermen were going to be in it, and nobody knew Adric was going to die.

So both came as a huge shock.

There was that point where the first time viewer saw Adric left aboard the freighter and surmised that he would inevitably be saved. Then, slowly, they probably thought “Hmmm, maybe he won’t”, and when he died, it would have knocked viewers for six.

But the moment Clara suggested that she take over the death sentence, I knew that was it. So I felt robbed of that creeping realisation that she was going to die, and I feel cheated as a result.

And of course what happened was that a scene that probably should have been emotional ultimately wasn’t.

Now I would also argue that the overall presentation left something to be desired. I don’t think the music ramped up the drama, and I felt that the interaction between Clara and the Doctor – both in terms of dialogue and delivery – failed to capture the gravity of the situation. She was about to die and neither she nor the Doctor seemed particularly concerned about it.

It was just a bit weird.

My dad – who last week didn’t realise that the dreadful Gatiss episode was a single part story – didn’t pick up on the fact that she’s actually dead. Because it was played so loosely, he assumed that she’d be back in next week’s episode after the Doctor saves her.

And hey, maybe she will be. Maybe this isn’t the end for Clara and we’ll get something more dramatic in the two-part finale to send her off permanently.

But we probably won’t.

So to me, it felt like a damp squib.

I’d have expected better from all concerned.

So What About The Rest Of The Episode?

Well apart from that, this felt like the standard light episode you’d get before the finale in a Doctor Who season. The sort of Boom Town/Fear Her/In The Forest of the Night style affair that we’ve come to expect

Break Down The Walls of Jericho

Break Down The Walls of Jericho

over the years.

It brought back some characters we’ve already seen and it had the sort of frivolous plot you’d consider to be reasonable before the season builds to its dramatic conclusion. Basically it was fine; nothing amazing but nothing worth panning.

Exactly the sort of episode that would have been perfect to kill of a companion when the viewer least suspected it. So why ruin it!!!!!

Random Observations

  • I don’t really get how Ashildr has gone from being an average – yet immortal – girl to someone with the knowledge and expertise to organise a refugee centre for aliens.
  • Nor do I get how certain species – such as an Ood – would end up being on Earth in the 21st century.
  • Or why – beyond a direct comparison to Harry Potter – it’s designed like a Victorian street.
  • Or even why they had to disguise themselves as human if they were hidden away anyway.
  • And do we really need another plot like this when we’ve just had a Zygon story?
  • The bloke who is killed by the raven first was in the episode of Jonathan Creek with Maureen O’Brien and Bernard Kay. I hope at least one person reading this thinks “Oh yeah, that’s where I recognise him from.”
  • Clara’s actual death wasn’t plotted particularly well. There wasn’t a satisfactory reason for why Rigsy could be saved but she couldn’t. Note that I say ‘satisfactory’ reason; I know there was a reason given.
  • And as for Clara, I think from every angle you could approach it, she would have been better off leaving in Last Christmas. A story originally designed to write her out, it would have given her character a proper sendoff. Instead, we got a companion without direction for 10 more episodes before her disappointing demise in a nothing episode. She held on just a little bit too long.

Doctor Who – Face The Raven Review: Final Thoughts

Like I say, you’ll be able to tell that I’m not too impressed by the BBC’s actions here.

You might think “But I didn’t get it spoiled for me because I didn’t look at Digital Spy this morning so you have no grounds for complaint”. But I would counter that by saying pointed out that I should not have to avoid general entertainment websites before an episode has been transmitted to make sure major plot-points are not spoiled.

I would have liked to have watched this without the ending being telegraphed, and even though I felt it lacked the level of drama and gravitas that it should have done (and I think everyone involved can take some of the blame for that) it still would have been better if it had come as a shock.

So I’m disappointed.

I hope the BBC got their extra viewers to justify it.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

Doctor Who – Sleep No More Review (or “Find Out If I Liked It In Real Time”)

November 15, 2015

Sunday, Nov 15 2015 – 16:29

So it’s 16:29 on Sunday and I still haven’t seen the newest episode of Doctor Who, Sleep No More.

“How is that even possible?”, I hear you ask.

Well it was my brother’s birthday meal last night and so I had to miss it. It means this is the first episode of Doctor Who I’ve missed on transmission day since my dad forgot to record episode four of Paradise Towers while I was at Beavers (a sort of Scouts for younger kids) back in October 1987.

And the strange thing is, my brother is more intensely interested in Doctor Who than I am, so I had to ask him why he had arranged a meal for that time.

The conversation went like this…

“You realise if we go out for a meal at that time, we’ll miss Doctor Who?”
“Yeah, but it’s the Mark Gatiss episode that night”.
“Oh, well fair enough then”.

Yes, that’s right, because this episode is penned by Mark Gatiss, I really couldn’t have given less of a toss about missing it.

Because – as long time readers of this blog will know – I think Mark Gatiss is crap.

Generally, his episodes – with the notable exception of Night Terrors – are average to poor, and are often comfortably the worst episode of each season. In the case of The Crimson Horror meanwhile, he was

Hey, it's a random appearance by The Hand of Omega

Hey, it’s a random appearance by The Hand of Omega

responsible for the worst Doctor Who story since the show came back, and in my opinion the third worst of all time. It was horrendous.

So it annoys me that this man continues to get to write for the show when I’m sure there are so many more talented writers out there who aren’t mates with the Producer or in with the bricks at Television Centre. No other writer gets to have interviews with the press to promote his stuff before it’s broadcast, no other writer – as far as I can tell – gets to cast his unsuitable mates in lead roles within the episode and no other writer would get chance after chance to come back again in spite of producing sub-standard writing. So why does Mark Gatiss?

Incidentally, you might get a chuckle to know that I recently found out that the man himself has blocked me on Twitter. Why? Well I’ve never tweeted him, so he must have either searched for his own name and found a tweet from me saying he was crap, or he’s read one of my reviews where I’ve said he’s crap. Either way, he must not have liked being called crap.

It’s my opinion though, and I think I’m fair in my criticisms.

But look, I haven’t even watched the episode yet, so for all I know it could be great and I’m putting the cart before the horse.

Then again, I did see a few tweets today from people saying “Well that was the worst in the series so far” and my dad – under the assumption I’d already seen it – asked me if it was a two-parter because it didn’t seem very clear.

So the warning signs are there.

Like I say though, I think I’m a fair-minded bloke, so I’ll watch the episode without prejudice and report back in an hour or so with my findings…

Sunday Nov 15 2015 17:47

What The Hell Was That?

Ok, I’m back…

For the first ten minutes of Sleep No More, I was busy trying to recite the recipe of Humble Pie in my head, because it seemed like it might actually be a good episode.

What the hell was that?!

What the hell was that?!

The story was set up well enough, even if it was a bit too expository for my tastes, but it was at least on the right track.

Then it all just went to shit.

Maybe I’m tired, but I lost the thread of it completely. The crew were devoured by sleep dust monsters, the ‘found footage’ wasn’t really found footage, the guy played by Mark Gatiss’s mate was actually the villain who was narrating it while events were going on and there was some kind of evil plan involving a guy who hadn’t been to sleep in five years?

It was not easy to follow or enjoy and it was summed up by the resolution being The Doctor running away shouting “It doesn’t make sense; none of this makes any sense”.

I think I’ve said before that Gatiss comes across as an ideas man rather than someone with the ability to make those ideas come to life reasonably on the page. Victory of the Daleks was just “Let’s redo Power of the Daleks” while the episode with Robin Hood was reasonable in theory. Here, he had a selection of ideas that aren’t bad, but he didn’t have the ability to string them together and make them work. Ideas were built up and then thrown out (such as devoting time to the Grunt which went nowhere) and others failed to click at all.

Really, it was just rubbish.

But are you surprised?

Let’s Give Credit To The Guys Who Make Peep Show

The main take home from Sleep No More though, as far as I’m concerned, is that I have a new-found appreciation for the actors in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show.

I felt Peter Capaldi struggled with the Peep Show style First Person Perspective acting

I felt Peter Capaldi struggled with the Peep Show style First Person Perspective acting

The style of Peep Show – in case you didn’t know – is that everything is filmed from a first person perspective, and the actors never look anything less than natural.

I don’t think you could say the same of the cast of Sleep No More.

You know I think Peter Capaldi is brilliant, but I thought he really struggled  to find his acting form when he was addressing the camera directly, and the rest of the cast were no better.

I would say it looked awkward, but I think the most appropriate thing to say about it is that it looked like the sort of thing you’d expect to see on the monitors in the queue for a theme park ride. It felt very ‘Hey kids, I’m The Doctor, and with your help, I can defeat these nasty sand monsters’.

Poor stuff.

Random Observations

  • I’m not just saying this because he’s Gatiss’s mate, but Reece Shearsmith was honking. Just an awful performance.
  • To go back to the problems with the writing, I thought that The Doctor managed to work a lot of things out without any explanation. Every time the plot needed advancing, he suddenly had all the solutions. It was like being at school and cheating on your maths homework by giving the answer but not showing your working.
  • This week’s fanwankery comes in the form of a ‘The Silurians Were Named Wrong’ reference. Yay.
  • How did Clara end up in that pod so quickly?
  • I wonder how much they had to pay for the use of the Mr. Sandman theme?
  • To go back to the direction, it was all over the place. For me, you either go all in or you don’t bother. There weren’t scenes in Cloverfield filmed ‘normally’; it was all about the lost footage. By switching back and forth in styles, it felt awkward.
  • At the end of the episode, I just sat there, opened mouthed, in awe of just how bad it was. The last scene in particular felt like he was trying to channel the last scene from Blink, and failing miserably.
  • The only thing I can say in a positive light is that I welcomed the return of the single part story.
  • My brother just told me that Dr Who fandom just let out a collective groan at the news that – against all sensible odds – Mark Gatiss will return to write another episode in Season 10. For fuck’s sake!!!!

Doctor Who – Sleep No More Review: Final Thoughts

I wanted to be proved wrong, but I wasn’t.

Once again Mark Gatiss has written the worst episode of the season.

Is anyone shocked?

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review (or “UNIT Soldiers Are Fucking Morons”)

November 8, 2015

I read an interesting point on a forum the other day.

Despite running for 52 years and with a mammoth 270 stories and counting to its credit, people tune in to Doctor Who every week with an unfair level of expectancy. For some reason, there’s this view among some fans that if each new episode isn’t one of the top 10 best of all time, then it somehow is a disappointment.

Some may argue that’s not the case, but I think it is, and to an extent I’m guilty of it too. I’ve seen shows with similar amounts of episodes – Grey’s Anatomy being a good example with 251 episodes broadcast – and don’t tune in expecting the best episode ever, but I personally hold Doctor Who to a higher level of account. If it’s not good, I’m disappointed; if it’s only average I hold it against the writer.


And probably not very fair either.

But then I guess part of that is down to the show having such a wide remit. Because you can do anything with it and because it’s so popular among people who have made a career writing for TV, you’d hope there will always be fresh and interesting ideas and high quality penmanship in the scripts.

And then instead Mark Gatiss gets to write another episode…

But the Gatiss-bashing can hold off for another week.

For now, it’s time to review the latest two-part story, The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion.

Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review: What’s This One About?

Asylum Seekers and the futility of war.

Thoughts – Let’s Not Dwell Too Much On The Obvious Subtext

I don’t really want to spend my time going into a deep analysis of how the subtext in this one is relevant to the society we live in at the moment. It’s not a new thing (look at The Green Death for an example of

"Listen son, I refuse to answer any personal questions you might have that would prove I'm your mother and not an alien that can change shape to look like her. Just trust me and come inside here; you've got nothing to worry about. Honest."

“Listen son, I refuse to answer any personal questions you might have that would prove I’m your mother and not an alien that can change shape to look like her. Just trust me and come inside here; you’ve got nothing to worry about. Honest.”

another story driven by a moral dilemma in the public consciousness at the time of broadcast) and it’ll be done again.

And it didn’t overshadow the story either. I didn’t come away from it thinking that this was a writer making a political stand at the expense of an interesting plot, but that instead he used current world events to build a story of his own.

The asylum seeker stuff perhaps didn’t resound with me as much as it might with folks in England – where immigration is a far greater issue than it is in Scotland – but I did like the anti-war message at the end. Using the Doctor as an outsider, writer Peter Harness presented a simple but effective point about the folly and futility of war. Peter Capaldi meanwhile acted out that point with gusto. Some are calling it his defining moment as the Doctor, but I just see a great actor maintaining the high quality of work we’ve come to expect from him.

As a story, this was yet another game of two halves over the two episodes. The Zygon Invasion was the globe-trotting action packed one, while The Zygon Inversion was more thought-provoking and low-key. While they do of course amount to single story, if I was to rate one episode over the other, I’d say Inversion was easily the better of the two.

But Sometimes The Writing Isn’t Great

The writing wasn’t of a high standard throughout though, as there were plenty of aspects of this story that irked me.

Take for example the way Bonnie took over Clara. Where do you begin?

For one thing, how did she manage to look like Clara before she’d even placed her in a pod? Because that’s what happened. While Clara was lying unconscious on the floor of her neighbour’s flat, she was already in the other room looking like her.

And then there’s the scene where we the viewers find out that Bonnie actually is Clara; that one was terrible in retrospect. Why? Well think of it like this…

Bonnie – acting like Clara – brings the armed UNIT soldiers down into the underground lair with the instructions to shoot all the pods. She then knowingly reveals the original Clara in the pod before – still acting as Clara remember – suggesting that the Zygons must be growing humans. It was only after Jac reminded her that Zygons didn’t grow humans and then realised herself that Bonnie mustn’t be Clara that she suddenly turned heel and became evil.

I think that’s bad because it was written and acted out for the viewer. Jac was telling us “That’s not really Clara” and once that had happened she was disposed of. In reality, people don’t talk and act in exposition

"Fair do's maw. I'll come in"

“Fair do’s maw. I’ll come in”

for some hypothetical third party who might be watching.

What if the UNIT soldiers managed to kill all the Zygons? How would that have helped her cause?

There’s more examples of the bad writing too, such as…

  • We were supposed to believe that Kate had been killed and replaced by a Zygon, but the truth was that she resolved her sticky situation by shooting the Zygon in the head.
  • The Doctor and Osgood jumped out of an exploding plane, but the only people they meet when they parachute into a town by the shore are two policemen who just so happen to by Zygons.
  • When Bonnie turns that guy back into a Zygon, nobody around him is remotely fussed. Now if we are to assume they are all Zygons too, why does he run for cover like he doesn’t want to be seen?
  • The way the local Zygon leaders are two children; that’s just unnecessarily quirky.

But worst of all there’s the scene outside the church in the first episode.

The Scene Outside The Church

Ok, so you’re a trained UNIT soldier on a mission to rescue one of your co-workers from a church that you know is filled with Zygons, a species you’re well aware can change its shape to look like anyone, including the people you know and love.

When you get to the church something looking like your mother comes out to meet you on the steps.

Initially you’re not fooled by this, and her claims that she is real and your commanding officer is really a Zygon seems ridiculous, but to be sure – and the behest of your commanding officer – you’re told to ask her

Oh My God!!! How will Kate get out of this one?! Answer? Shoot him in the head mate.

Oh My God!!! How will Kate get out of this one?! Answer? Shoot him in the head mate.

some personal questions just to make sure it definitely is a Zygon. After all, if it’s your mother, she’ll know the answers to them.

So you ask …

“Date and place of my birth?” – after all, any mother would know that and the Zygon wouldn’t.

It answers…

“They brought us here; there’s using us against you. I’m scared.”

Ok, so maybe that’s not answered the question, but rather than ask for clarification – because this is a life or death situation – you decide you should ask another one instead…

“Name of my favourite teddy bear?”

It answers…

“Sorry mate, I can’t remember, but I tell you what; come inside this building and I’ll prove we are who we say we are. Honest”.

So what do you do? Do you…

a) Ask her another question; if she’s your mother, she will know something about you.
b) Decide that she’s clearly bullshitting and shoot her.
c) Conclude that she must be your mother, and then walk into an ambush and die moments later.

Nobody would pick C. Nobody.

Absolute garbage.

Random Observations

  • So when did Osgood become such a fan favourite? The press and reviewers were getting their metaphorical cocks out and having a massive wank over this character’s return?

    Osgood is back. I'm so terribly excited. Hold me back.

    Osgood is back. I’m so terribly excited. Hold me back.

  • Personally I can take or leave her, but I’d err on the side of leaving her because she is the physical embodiment of fanwankery, even down to the clothes she wears.
  • I imagine the line about Osgood hearing about two different meanings for TARDIS was fanwankery too.
  • And so was the name dropping of Harry Sullivan. How did he manage to create that anti Zygon gas anyway? They all died?
  • Oh, and how about the ‘Five Rounds Rapid’ line? Fankwankery overload!!!!
  • It was a little bit too convenient that Clara was able to control Bonnie in such a simple way. In spite of just being a school teacher, Clara seems to be the most incredible human being to have ever lived.
  • Well…apart from Rose Tyler of course. She was able to build a device that allowed her to travel between dimensions, in spite of never even going into Further Education.
  • I’d have preferred it if Clara explained she knew that Truth or Consequences was a town in New Mexico by saying “Cactus Jack mate, innit”.
  • Hey look, Peter Capaldi gets to act alongside another star of The Thick of It.
  • The line about Clara being dead for a month is obviously going somewhere…

Doctor Who – The Zygon Invasion & The Zygon Inversion Review: Final Thoughts

To go all the way back to my point from my introduction, this is quite clearly not one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time.

There was plenty to nit-pick and really, some of the writing was just ludicrous, but both episodes still entertained me.

Is that enough? Yes, I think it is.

While I hold Doctor Who to a higher standard and will call it like I see it in my reviews, the key is whether or not it was good enough to enjoy watching and not whether it’s as good as The Talons of Weng Chiang or Blink.

So far this season hasn’t delivered anything close to a Top 10 story, and I don’t think it’s hit the heights of most of last season, but it’s still been good enough for me to appreciate.

But will I be able to say the same thing next week?

After all, it’s Gatiss…

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

Movies – Spectre Review (or “Nothing You Haven’t Seen Before”)

October 31, 2015

When I write my reviews of Doctor Who, I tend to bemoan the way it can be written more for the die hard fans rather than for everyone. Even though it’s not necessary to the plot, there will be references to old stories just to give long term fans a kick.

For me that’s ok, because I am a long term fan and I get the references, but I always thought that it must be frustrating for the casual viewer.

Having seen the new James Bond movie – Spectre – yesterday, I now know how those casual viewers feel.

Like I said in my review of Skyfall, I’m not a James Bond enthusiast by any means, but I think I’ve seen all the films at some point or other with the exception of Quantum of Solace. Of course it just so happens that a key character in this plot was someone from that particular film.

Beyond that there were countless references to old characters from the previous Daniel Craig Bonds and of course the shock reveal that the enemy is 60s Bond villain Blofeld, which seemed about as mundane as spectreThe Daleks showing up in Doctor Who yet again.

I just felt like I was out of the loop a little bit.

The other major issue – beyond the usual daft suspension of disbelief parts like how he managed to source a white tuxedo on that train – was that this was yet another Bond film with an underlying sub-plot of ‘This Is So Out Of Date’.

Last time around it was that Bond himself was a relic of the past who needed to be retired, and this time it was the entire Double O branch of the Secret Service coming under fire.

To me, that comes across as the writers and directors projecting their own insecurities and embarrassments about how the Bond franchise is no longer relevant in today’s society. But even if it’s not, who cares? And why draw attention to it? Bond is a cinema powerhouse that will always attract audiences. People like it for what it is, so be proud of it.

Anyway, beyond that, it’s a decent enough film for what it was, although it won’t come as a surprise that I thought it was too long, and just seemed to move from one set piece to the next. Of course, the effects and music were as grand, and the characterisation was exactly as you’d expect from a Bond movie.

Really, it just ticked the boxes and went through the usual Bond plot from start to finish. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll be happy and if you don’t you won’t.

Just don’t expect anything wildly different from what you’ve seen two dozen times before.

As for me, I just think it would have been better if he regenerated at the end, seeing as he’s obviously a Time Lord.

At least there’d be some tension.

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived Review (or “Keep Your Main Course Separate From Your Dessert”)

October 25, 2015

As you know, my policy is to only review two-part stories at the end of the second episode.

But I’ve made a bit of an error there because despite thinking that The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived was indeed a two-parter, it actually wasn’t. Instead it was just two linked but separate stories written by different people.

I wish I’d known that last week.

But hey, it is what it is, and so I’ll just review them both now.

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived Reviews: What Were They About?

A Viking Dad’s Army and a Dick Turpin-esque affair that managed to show that sometimes comedy, serious human drama and alien invasions work and sometimes they don’t.

But it mainly shows that they should be kept apart.

Thoughts – Keep Your Main Course Separate From Your Dessert

Here we have two episodes that could and should have had markedly different tones, but unfortunately everything was mixed in together and it didn’t work.

The Woman Who Lived would have been infinitely better if this guy was played by Ken Dodd

The Woman Who Lived would have been infinitely better if this guy was played by Ken Dodd

Think of it like going for a meal; you have your savoury main course and your sweet dessert. Individually they work, but if you put them on the same plate, it’s far from ideal.

That’s what’s happened in these two episodes.

To begin with we have the comedy romp that is The Girl Who Died. The Doctor is faced with training up a bunch of rag-tag Vikings, without a warrior among them, to face off against one of the most fearsome alien races in the galaxy. It’s light, it’s amusing and it never takes itself too seriously.

And that’s great; that worked. I thought the stuff with the nicknames, the guy who had a phobia of seeing blood (which upgraded to passing out at the mention of blood) and the way the Mire were vanquished was all entertaining enough. I found it amusing and it all seemed to wrap up well.

On that basis, this could have been an episode from any David Tennant or Matt Smith season and would be one that people would think was decent enough and be mostly happy with. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad.

But then all of a sudden with 10 minutes to go it got all serious with Ashildr dying, the Doctor flashing back to his past (which I’ll get to) and then turning her into an immortal. It was a mix that led people last week to consider that it was a single episode in two parts of its own.

Fast forward a week and we have The Woman Who Lived start off as – and should have stayed as – an episode about the fallout from the Doctor’s decision to save her. Now, hundreds of years and several lifetimes later, Ashildr is an embittered, isolated woman who has forgotten most of her past and lives alone.

But then all of a sudden there’s an alien involved and it turns into an absurd comedy with played-for-laughs policeman and Rufus Hound as a Carry-On style highwayman.

It didn’t work at all.

What should have happened here was that one episode stuck to comedy and the other one was entirely serious.

By blending it all together, neither episode was as good as it should have been, especially The Women Who Lived, which was just a mess.

The slow pondering nature of the Doctor’s examination into Ashildr was totally juxtaposed against the silly comedy, and there was no reason for the alien lion thing other than this belief that Dr Who needs one to fill some kind of quota. It added nothing to the story and only served to annoy me.

Is Doctor Who Becoming Too Insular?

The great success of Doctor Who’s return in 2005 was that it was written to appeal to everyone, and that’s exactly what it did.

"Mummy, Mummy, who's that? " "I'm not sure; I've tried this show for the first time and am utterly lost"

“Mummy, Mummy, who’s that? ” “I’m not sure; I’ve tried this show for the first time and am utterly lost”

Now though, I wonder.

If I had never seen Doctor Who before this season, I imagine I’d struggle to understand what’s going on. I think I’d feel like I was missing something and that too much foreknowledge was expected of me.

While it can be cheap, there’s nothing much wrong with the occasional nod to the past, such as last night’s mention of the Terileptils in relation to The Great Fire of London. But when foreknowledge is almost essential to understanding the point of an episode (like the first two episodes of the season where knowledge of Davros, the Daleks, UNIT and even the Master was important to the flow of the narrative) then it becomes a problem.

In The Girl Who Died, I don’t think it was necessary to flash back to The Fires of Pompeii. The Doctor could quite easily have decided on a course of action to save Ashildr that didn’t involve remembering that his 10th incarnation saved the life of a guy who looked like he does now. Why could they not just ignore the fact that they cast Peter Capaldi twice? I’ve said it before, but if that’s important why did the Doctor not wonder why he kept seeing Michael Sheard or Philip Madoc throughout history considering the amount of times they were recast?

No, that was just pointless. It probably appealed to 0.2% of the viewers, with everyone else either thinking it wasn’t needed or not having a clue what was going on.

Meanwhile, next week’s episode appears to require knowledge of The Day of the Doctor.

There’s no doubt that the Doctor Who production team should be mindful of the show’s past when writing new episodes, but history shows that living in the past can have a detrimental effect on the quality of episodes. You’ve only got to look at the JNT era to see that.

Clara – Marking Time Until She Leaves

I’ve mentioned it already this season but Clara seems to have lost her identity and her purpose. Now it’s like they know she’s leaving so why bother developing her character any further?

"Hiya, I'm just popping in for a minute to fulfil some contractual obligations before I leave"

“Hiya, I’m just popping in for a minute to fulfil some contractual obligations before I leave”

The strides she made last season are gone, and have been replaced by a rather smug shallow companion who was has become so incidental that she was only in The Women Who Lived for a couple of minutes at the end, presumably to fulfil contractual obligations.

Remember how she was originally expected to be written out in Last Christmas? That would have been better.

Random Observations

  • Originally Brian Blessed was lined up to play the leader of The Mire. That would have been so much better.
  • I suppose if Ken Dodd played Lady Me’s butler that would have been amazing too, but sadly it was not to be.
  • I’m not entirely sure how or why Ashildr died. I even watched The Girl Who Died a second time and it’s not mentioned. Have I missed something?
  • For all the talk of the second dose of that immortality stuff, for it to be wasted on Sam Swift was a very poor way to go. Personally I’d have either given Ashildr a happier ending or saved it for a subsequent story, because let’s face it, she’s coming back at some point.
  • Another aspect of The Woman Who Lived that I didn’t get was the way Ashildr knew so much about The Doctor. Before you say that it was explained by her saying that she’d spoken to people the Doctor had met in the past,  I don’t think it was. Sure, people may have known the Doctor but it’s not as if he tells everyone his life story, and it doesn’t explain why she’s so keen to travel away from Earth or into future times. Ultimately, in spite of the wisdom she’s accrued over her 800 years or whatever it was, she’s still someone who has lived her entire life in primitive times. I think that’s sloppy, but you might think I’m being picky.
  • Also, while I get the whole 10,000 hours to master a skill stuff, I really don’t understand how she was able to put on a completely different man’s voice.
  • Other than to give Clara the line about how she’s wearing a spacesuit, what exactly was the point of the beginning of The Girl Who Died?
  • To give the story a little bit of credit, the Doctor at least trying to explain the ripples/tidal waves rules was interesting.
  • I feel I need to reiterate just how pointless that alien lion/tiger thing was in The Women Who Lived. It’ll go down as one of the most nondescript aliens in the show’s history.
  • Done well, these two episodes could have worked like The Ark, with the Doctor and Clara immediately landing in the same place hundreds of years later to find Ashildr has turned into a properly evil despot who needed to be stopped. Alas, it was not to be.
  • It also would have worked better if both episodes were written by the same person.

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived: Final Thoughts

Ok, so it was an interesting idea for a two-part story, but that’s not how it turned out.

Had The Girl Who Died stuck to light comedy and The Woman Who Lived remained exclusively serious, then it would have worked so much better.

Unfortunately by trying to accommodate comedy and drama in both episodes, and also giving the second episode an unnecessary token alien invasion, neither episode was as good as it could have been.

And that’s a shame because in theory it could have been top notch.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 


The 14 Types of People You See On Internet Forums

October 22, 2015

Internet forums are interesting places, both in a good and bad way.

No doubt they are handy places to discuss mutual hobbies or interests with like-minded people – for me over the years it’s been Dundee United, Scottish Football, Gaming and TV mainly – or to seek out advice on subjects you might not be entirely familiar with.

As someone who has been active on social media of various forms since the 1990s, going back to mailing lists and even IRC chats, where I was actually offered my job with Sports Interactive way back in the day, I’ve seen all sorts of people come and go.

Mostly people are normal, but I was having a think about the different categories of weirdos that you’ll come across from time to time, and decided to make a list.

The chances are if you fit into one of these categories, you don’t really know it – or at the very least can’t accept it – but I’m sure if you’ve ever posted on a web forum, on Twitter or in a Facebook group, you’ll know a lot of people who these apply to.

I imagine I might be persona non grata on some of the forums I post on after this….

1.  The Nazi Admin/Mod/Owner

Internet forums attract all sorts of people, but generally speaking, the sort who wants to be an administrator or moderator is the type of person who craves power.

In their real lives they are probably bullied at work, hen-pecked by their wives or have an extensive collection of military memorabilia that they have set up in their bedrooms while they play Ride of the Valkyries on a loop.

Without question the worst type of forum I’ve seen for this are ones relating to TV. Doctor Who ones are terrible for it and in particular there’s one Facebook group I’m a part of that has a list of rules so long and become internet forum moderatorextensive, it’s like a political party’s manifesto.

Here’s the response I got from the admin of one place relating to a post of mine that they deleted…

“Dear Stuart, If you check Rule 6 you will see that your post is in violation of that rule. Using the word “hypothetically” does not remove the intent of this denigration. This would lead on to Rule 5, baiting of forum members, which is also in violation. Finally, Rule 16 on not bringing up moderation in thread, but asking a member of the team via PM. The latter on no fewer than three occasions! Given the above the admins feel any further violations will result a 24 hour timeout from the group. Please note, all decisions of the admin team are final and no further discussion will be entered into. Regards ____ on behalf of the admin team.”

How can you not read that and think “What a prick”. It’s the internet you sad bastard.

2. The Prick

Speaking of pricks, every forum seems to have one.

You know the sort; the one who everyone clearly dislikes because he’s such a…well…such an objectionable prick.

He’s rude, he’s aggressive, he’s got views that most people find utterly reprehensible; essentially he’s a sociopath.

And yet he either doesn’t realise it, or he doesn’t care.

Despite how much everyone would love him never to post on the forum again, he remains there, like a fixed point in time.

3. The Guy Who’s Never Off The Forum

No matter what time of day it is, this guy is on the forum and will always reply to comments instantly, and then get a bit upset if nobody has replied to his point within 30 seconds. He’s only been a member for a year, but he’s already got 35,000 posts to his name.

Mate, step away from the PC.

4. The Guy Who Tries To Get Along With Everyone

If everyone had the same opinion, what would be the point of discussion forums?

But there’s always that one guy who never wants to ruffle any feathers. He sits on the fence the whole time and agrees with everyone about everything.

You might think that’s nice, but after a while you just think “Oh have an opinion for crying out fucking loud!!!”

5. The Guy Who Only Posts To Tell People They Are Wrong

On a similar note there’s the guy who only posts to tell people they are wrong; usually because he’s set himself up as the resident expert, the Superfan or the guy with ‘Insider Contacts’. Ask him to expand on any points or to enter into a reasonable discussion and he won’t do it.

Probably because he can’t.

He lives only to hold the ‘I Know Something You Don’t’ card over people for all of time.

6. The Rival Fan (aka The Troll)

Usually found on Football forums, there’s always the guy who spends more time posting on the rival team’s forum/thread than anywhere else. It’s rife everywhere, whether it’s a specialised forum for a specific club trollor a thread on a general football site.

As an example of this, there’s a Dundee United thread on a general Scottish Football forum that I occasionally post on where in the last 5 pages the amount of posts from Utd fans are outnumbered by a ratio of probably 10:1 by fans of other clubs trying in vain to ‘wind us up’.

What’s the point?

It’s not just football related though. On gaming forums you’ll get people who post in threads of ‘rival’ consoles and slag it off, or on TV threads in the off topic section of forums it’ll be full of the sort of person who feels it’s their job to come in and post about how the subject matter is shit. Over the years I’ve noticed this is especially true of wrestling and Big Brother. Instead of the topics actually being about them, it’s crammed with people who need to remind others that they don’t like it and that only morons watch such things.

That’s fine mate, but my attitude is that if I’ve no interest in a subject, I’m not going to post about it online.

Trolling is something I’ve never understood.

7. The Guy Who Takes Everything Personally

You know the sort; they post an opinion, someone disagrees and then it’s  ——->MELTDOWN TIME<———.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve been annoyed/stressed by forum arguments in the past, but never to the degree where I’ll throw the toys out of the pram just because someone has dared to disagree with me.

8. The Forum Resignation Letter Guy

Every forum has had that moment where a guy has had enough and decides to stop posting. But there’s that extra special moment – the moment to savour – where someone decides that they must announce their intention to stop posting with a heartfelt resignation letter that will bring a tear to a glass eye.

Presumably the intention is really for people to reply to the post demanding that they stay because they are too valued to leave.

But without fail, whenever someone does this, the reaction amounts to “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out you fucking drama queen”.

Again, it’s just the internet folks, stop being so fucking precious.

Oh, but those guys always return a week later anyway.

9. The Unofficial Technical Expert

There’s always a guy who takes up residency as the technical expert. If you’ve got a problem with any piece of kit, whether it’s a tablet or a toilet, he’s the man who has all the answers. This can happen on any forum, but my particular favourite are the ones who post on the official forums of mobile phone or electronics firms. They’ll answer questions, unpaid, at any time of the day in the hope of being offered a job.

I wonder if that’s ever worked?

10. The Guy Who Never Posts On The Subject Matter

He’s a regular poster and he’s been there for years, but does he actually contribute anything on the actual subject matter?

It’s like he’s hidden in plain sight.

Why’s he there?

Who knows.

11. The Guy Who Writes In His Local Dialect

I’ve got no problem with someone speaking in a local dialect, but why write in it? Surely that requires additional thought?

Or if I was to write that in Dundonian…

Ehve git nae prawblum we someone speakin in thir local tongue, ken.

Perhaps this is at its worst in Scotland, but you’ll inevitably get it all over the world.

I imagine forums in the Southern States of the USA will be full of people referring to each other as y’all.

12. The Resident Joker

Ah the Joker.

He’s liked by everyone and he’s able to defuse a heated debate with a witty bon mot.

Then there’s the 20 other guys who think that describes them.

But it really doesn’t.

13. The Creepy Guy

In the off-topic section of every forum there’s always a thread run by a guy who exists solely to post pictures of naked women and/or offensive jokes.

The very best (or worst) is example of this is a boy on a football forum I frequent who posts around 100 times a day with pictures and gifs of nothing but nudity.

Why he does it, I couldn’t tell you, but I imagine a psychologist would love to find out.

14. The Woman

Finally there’s that rarity; the one woman who shares a common interest with the guys and posts about it.

She’s instantly treated slightly differently by blokes who probably think “I might be in with a shot if we ever have a forum night out”.

It’s a long shot, but it’s as close as some might get.

Have I missed any categories out?

Let me know on twitter @sgmilne or leave a comment on here,

I’ve already had a suggestion for ‘Statistics Guy’ – the one who thinks he’s an expert because he’s looked up Wikipedia.

A great shout.

Games: Five Things That Bug Me About FIFA 16.

October 20, 2015

FIFA 16 has been out for about a month now, and having had plenty of time to play the modes I like, I thought I’d share some thoughts.

First off, I’d like to say that I’m enjoying it and the tweaks to the gameplay system seem to suit my style of play. This isn’t going to be a rant based on me not being very good at the game, because in truth I’m doing pretty well. I won the annual tournament I have with my friends when we go on holiday in early October, I’m doing well in Ultimate Team, I’m undefeated against anyone I know who I play online with and I’m even scoring FIFA16regularly from free kicks for the first time ever.

There are moans about the passing system from some, but I’ve got no problems with it. Never being one to spam the lofted through ball, the slow build is how I want to play FIFA, so that’s fine.

The actual player ratings can be a bit dodgy though, especially for the leagues EA deem to be less important, but considering my job, maybe I’m being fussy.

Anyway, while it’s going great so far – I say so far because last year I found that Ultimate Team mode seemed to handicap my team once it became too good and it meant I lost my enthusiasm entirely – there are still some issues I have with the game. Some are fair, some are maybe a bit nit-picking, but here they are…

Online Matchmaking Is Broken

This is a big one.

My working hours mean that mid-afternoon is the best time for me to play FIFA. But can I get an online game at that time? Can I buggery. Hell, it’s even difficult at times to get a game sorted out at night. Often the game just hangs there while it tries in vain to sort you out with some opposition. This never used to be a problem in previous FIFA games and EA’s response to this – asking people to tweak the ports in their router – is unacceptable. Sort it out EA!

The Ultimate Team Transfer System

Before the game came out I read some stuff about how they were going to sort out the transfer system so that player prices wouldn’t artificially inflate, but that was just bluster. As you might expect, certain players are out of the reach of anyone who just wants to play the game as a bit of fun. I’ve played around 50 games in Ultimate Team mode and have made my way up to Division Six, and in that time I have earned 58,450 coins. Despite the long slog and the hours, a quick check on the transfer market means shows that if I hadn’t spent a single one of the coins I’d earned, I still wouldn’t have enough to buy players like Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Schweinsteiger or Giorgio Chiellini, who are being sold for 60k. It would cost double the amount I’ve earned to sign Sergio Ramos, and if I ever wanted to go for the likes of Messi I’d be paying over 1,000,000.

Now this doesn’t bother me too much, because the difference between signing a guy like Sergio Ramos (118,000) and Stefan Savic (800) is negligible to the game, but I still don’t see the point of prices like that, nor do I understand who actually manages to sign these guys on the transfer market.

The funny thing is that occasionally I’ll play against a team full of stars and the person controlling them is absolute shit. A couple of days ago I found myself up against a team with a veritable World XI, replete with the likes of Ibrahimovic, Di Maria and Thiago Silva and I pumped them 5-0.

How did this person manage to build that team? He must have spent a fortune in buying pack after pack of Premium Golds, and for all the good it’s done him in terms of results, he’d have been better off playing with bronze players.

Like I said last year in this article, it’s like people have a gambling addiction with this stuff, but when these same people could just go into online seasons mode and play as PSG or Barcelona for free, you almost think they deserve to have their money taken away from them.

Of course, the irony is that when I play these guys, I know I’ll win comfortably with my modest team of Liga BBVA players, and yet if I’m ever put up against a team of silver card players, the chances are that I’ve got a far greater challenge on my hands.

People Who Lack Imagination

Staying with FUT mode, if there’s one thing that irrationally winds me up it’s playing against people who call their team ‘Liverpool’ or ‘FC Barcelona’.

You can name your team anything you like as long as it’s not rude, and the best some people can muster is the name of the side they probably like to watch on TV? Oh, and they also buy that team’s badge and strips.

Get some fucking imagination!!

Nobody Is Scoring From A Corner Again

Away from FUT, I’ve noticed that it’s now almost impossible to score from a corner. Of the hundreds I’ve taken and defended against, my record is scored one, conceded nil. And the one I scored was a ridiculous, unrealistic one where my player headed in to the near post from the edge of the box.

Now fair enough, corners shouldn’t always result in a goal, but that’s ridiculous.


Ok, now I sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I do think there’s an element of scripting in FIFA that perhaps shouldn’t be there.

I’m sure you’ve all had a situation where you’re comfortably defending an aimless long ball with your fullback and then suddenly your AI controlled goalkeeper has decided to run out of the box to almost the halfway line to clear the danger without you calling for him to do so, bumped into you and let the opposition in for an easy goal.

Similarly I’m sure you’ve had situations like where the opposition keeper comes up for a corner late on, and you know that no matter the outcome of the corner, whether you clear the ball or not, you’re not going to get possession of the ball whilst he’s in your half of the pitch.

And what about the games where no matter how many chances you create, you can’t score?

That sort of thing bugs me.

It shouldn’t be there and it feels as though just occasionally actual skill comes secondary to luck and how the game engine wants things to play out.

Or is that just me?

Like I say, in the main I think FIFA 16 is great, but there are still issues that need ironed out.

If you agree or disagree with any of these points, be sure to let me know.



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