Bridesmaids (or The Nadir of Comedy in the form of a ‘Chick Flick’)

June 24, 2011

“..the trailer put me off. Looked like they were aiming for the lowest common denominatior. The reviews have been pretty positive and Neil Martin liked it a lot, so I may have been a bit too quick to judge”
Paul Moir  – June 23rd, 2011

Above is a quote from a text I received yesterday from my mate Moir when I said I was considering going to see Bridesmaids. Personally, I hadn’t seen any trailers, but noted that it had got some sparkling reviews and I was interested in taking it in at the cinema. When word came through that Neil Martin – lead singer of the Bank Bar’s favourite band, the Violent Whispers – enjoyed it, I thought ‘I may as well go’.

Oh how I regret doing that.

Before we get to the film, I’m going to go on a little rant about cinema starting times…

According to the listings, this film started at 11:30. And yet, by 12:05, the trailers had only just started. I’d had to sit through a 5 minute pitch for something called Red Bull TV – which is about as interesting as it sounds – and then various

Despite what this poster says, it's not better than The Hangover

adverts for alcohol in which they assure the viewers that going out and getting pissed will save modern society as we know it. Need to socialise? Then drink booze! But make sure to visit drinkaware.co.uk before you do.

So eventually, the film started a full 48 minutes after it was supposed to. Absolutely incredible.

Films should start when they are advertised as starting. If you want to watch trailers, arrive early.

Anyway, I did go and complain outside, and was told “Oh, we’re really sorry. The screen broke down just before the trailers were away to begin, so we just started again from the adverts. But honestly, the film is great, so hopefully that will make up for it”

Well it wasn’t.

And it didn’t.

What’s It About?

Bridesmaids is a film about a 30-something woman called Annie (played by Kristen Wig). She’s not a particularly pleasant woman at any point in the film, but I think we’re supposed to empathise with her. Annie plays the stereotypical ‘Single woman in her 30s’. You know the type – deeply flawed and blaming the world for her issues. Hates men but can’t live without them. Wants a man but he must fit her lofty expectations that she probably got from watching romantic comedies herself. That sort of woman. The ones that men don’t understand and have no sympathy for (at this point you might be able to detect I didn’t like the film that much, but keep going with it…)

Anyway, Annie’s best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married, and Annie is going to be the Maid of Honour. But she has a rival in Helen (Rose Byrne) – a new friend of Lillian’s who is vying to be considered her best friend and wants to be in charge of planning all the pre-wedding stuff. Naturally this causes ‘mayhem’.

As the wedding gets closer, nothing seems to go right for Annie. The restaurant she takes the bride and all the bridesmaids to gives them all food poisoning while they try on dresses. The Hen Party in Las Vegas never gets started because she gets pissed on the plane forcing it to land in Wyoming, and eventually she falls out with Lillian, pushing her closer to Helen, who ends up taking over the wedding planning.

Meanwhile she starts seeing a policeman (Chris O’Dowd) but that doesn’t go that well because she is more used to men who treat her like dirt, and she can’t cope with a man being nice to her.

Finally, it all works out in the end, as everyone ends up friends, Annie and the policeman fall in love and Lillian has a nice wedding. And they all have a sing-song with Lillian’s favourite band, who turn up at the wedding to sing a well choreographed song.

Oh and also, for no reason whatsoever, time is devoted to Annie’s flatmate (the horrible bald bloke off Little Britain whose name escapes me) and his fat sister. I say ‘for no reason’ because its neither funny nor relevant to the plot in any way.

Doesn’t that sound like an amazing film?

Thoughts – Is This the Nadir of Comedy?

I came incredibly close to walking out of this film after 22 minutes. In that time we had the following ‘hilarious’ gags.

  • Annie & Lillian doing impressions of a penis
  • Fart jokes
  • A fat woman who is a source of ridicule because she doesn’t seem to realise she’s unattractive.
  • What seemed like 800 jokes about how Annie isn’t married while other bridesmaids are, and people thinking that random blokes standing beside her must have been her husband
  • One newly-wed bridesmaid who is very innocent (the sort who literally rubs noses with her husband like an eskimo) juxtaposed against another bridesmaid who is married and hates her life and her kids. According to this woman, kids are evil and her boys leave semen everywhere. And the oldest one is only 9 years old. Hysterical.
  • An excruciatingly overlong scene where Annie and Helen try and outdo each other with their speeches at the Engagement Party to show they are better friends. They really trample this joke to death.
  • A scene where – for no reason – we find that Annie’s flatmate’s sister has a serious skin infection having got a massive tattoo across her back from a random man in the street. This was followed by the suggestion she take some frozen peas out of the freezer to put on her back, which she duly did. She poured the peas over herself. HAAAAAAA!!!
  • The bride and her bridemaids go to an exclusive wedding dress shop to get the best possible dresses. But they all have food poisoning, so one ends up throwing up in the toilet, another shits in the sink, a third throws up on the head of the one throwing up in the toilet, and the bride ends up doing a shit in the middle of a busy road.

That last scene was possibly the Nadir of comedy itself. Awful.

What made the whole thing so bad was that nobody in the cinema laughed. I was filled with a deep sense of embarrassment, not only for those of us in attendance, but for everyone involved in the film.

Then all of a sudden, the jokes seemed to stop, and it became more about how unsatisfied Annie was with her life, how she had failed at her previous attempt to run a business, and also her relationship with Nathan (the policeman).

And in fairness, that part of the film wasn’t as bad. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t good, but I still watched it.

Is This a ‘Chick Flick’ or Simply A Film For the Lowest Common Denominator?

I’ve never had a problem with romantic comedies. I know a lot of men do – almost to the extent where you question their emotional capacity to deal with anything that isn’t an Action Movie. I recall an incident years ago when a few of us went to see Mean Girls – a fun film about the tribalism that exists in the American school system – and we bumped into someone we knew who refused to go to the film because it was, in his eyes, a ‘Chick Flick’. Incredible.

Well I – like many straight blokes out there – have the capacity to enjoy Romantic Comedies. I like the genre that is ‘Reese Witherspoon’.

Having said that, there’s plenty of TV I avoid – Sex & The City for example. I haven’t seen much of it, so I can’t comment with authority, but it struck me as TV made by women and made for women.

A lot of the content of this film is designed for women. I don’t think men find humour about womens’ views on penises, womens’ personal grooming or wedding related humour to be that funny. It also came across as man hating. In that sense, this seemed more like a ‘Chick Flick’ than anything else I’ve seen in recent memory.

On the other hand, I’d be doing womenkind a disservice if I assume they would all find some of this dross funny. Shit/Fart/Sick jokes are not funny, nor are they witty. Its lowbrow stuff to the extreme.

And speaking of extreme, what I always hate in any TV show or film is when you get unrealistic characters that you wouldn’t find in real life. I like to credit myself with some intelligence, and generally mix with people who are intelligent also. So the stupidity of Annie’s Flatmate’s sister doesn’t seem real to me. People can’t be that stupid.

Similarly, there are two scenes in Annie’s work, where she has a job as a salesperson in a jewellery store. In the first scene she starts to argue with a couple who are in buying an engagement ring saying that their love will never last and that men are not to be trusted. In the second scene she argues with a girl who is in buying a necklace for her best friend, as she says best friends never last either and then starts laying in to the girl’s appearance, culminating in shouting ‘You’re a cunt’ at her.

Why would that ever happen? Surely she’d have the common sense to sell the items in a friendly manner so she can earn her living, even if she was thinking those things?

When characters stop acting in a believable way, then it just stops working for anyone with half a brain.

So on that note, I’d say that this is a ‘Chick Flick’, but it’s also one for the lowest common denomintor.

Summing Up

Overall, this film was really poor in my opinion. As you can tell, I didn’t find it funny. I won’t lie; I chuckled once at a joke about how the hen party should have a fight club theme, but that was it. In many ways, one chuckle is worse than none at all. It seems more pathetic.

The acting isn’t that bad, it’s just that they don’t have anything to work with. The only likeable character in the whole thing is Chris O’Dowd’s character of Nathan. Apart from him it just seems to be a film with terrible people doing terrible things, even though it’s not supposed to be.

Looking at other reviews, such as the 5 Star Review on Digital Spy, it seems like some women love the character of Annie, because she’s apparently something to be aspired to. Well sorry ladies, Annie comes across as an unlikeable cow. If that’s what you want to model yourself on then you’ve only got yourselves to blame when you’re in your late 30s, resenting your friends, eating entire buckets of ice cream in one sitting and having to have your hair pulled back while you throw up in a toilet. And hey, you’ll still be single. And if these films are to be believed, that’s the one thing you don’t want.

Should You Go And See Bridesmaids

Absolutely Not.

Neil Martin…what were you thinking!

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The Green Lantern Review (or That Mask Isn’t Fooling Anyone)

June 18, 2011

The problem with reviews that offer a score at the end is that the reader will be inclined to ignore what people actually write and instead base their judgement on on a purely subjective and in no way qualifed number or percentage.

I admit that I do that sometimes.

The first thing I do with a game review on a site like Eurogamer is skip to the final score. I’ve probably missed out on things or bought things I didn’t end up liking based on a numbered score (Chronicles of Riddick for the Xbox being a prime

Let's be honest - if you knew this guy personally, that disguise wouldn't fool you for a moment.

example – what a load of rubbish that game was).

So when The Green Lantern got 2 stars out of 5 in both the Daily Express and the Digital Spy website, I was wary. I didn’t read the reviews mind you, I just looked at the score.

But as you know, Superhero films are a genre I like, and I was bored this afternoon so I thought I’d use my unlimited ticket to go and see it.

Skipping to the very end now, I’ll tell you that the film is not without its flaws, but it is decent. You probably won’t want to watch it again in a hurry, but it was good enough to sustain my interest, and much like most films in the genre at the moment, the special effects and visuals are excellent.

But I came away from it thinking “I really need to read the reviews that gave it 2 stars and see what they had to say”.

When Reviews Just Don’t ‘Get It’

The Digital Spy one is more interested in talking about Ryan Reynolds’ back catalogue of movies. The woman writing the review wanted the film to explore Hal’s personal demons more and considered that the biggest problem. Essentially she wanted it to be something it wasn’t even supposed to be.

Meanwhile, the man over at the Daily Express’s main bone of contention was that it was a superhero movie, and he’s seen too many of those films lately. Hardly objective. In fairness he did at least try and be critical and complained that it had too many different sub-plots on the go at once, which was valid.

In both cases, they lay into the film for the ‘old fashioned 1960s’ design of the alien characters like Sinestro, Abin Sur and the Guardians of the Universe (in the Daily Express man’s case, he incorrectly states it reminded him of 1960s Doctor Who, even though there were absolutely no characters in 1960s Who that look anything like any of them. But hey, why bother to qualify your criticisms).

On that final point, I would say that the film makers should be congratulated rather than criticised. The film is about a comic-book hero whose hay-day was in the 1960s. A brief look at wikipedia will show that the likes of Sinestro, Abin Sur and the Guardians look like they are supposed to. And because the CGI and makeup is of such a high standard, they don’t just look like men in rubber costumes. I really do not see that as a valid complaint. If you go to see a Romantic comedy and

Apparently it's not a good thing to make the character of Sinestro actually look like he does in the comic strip

the male lead is played as a suave gentleman type, you wouldn’t criticise it for resembling a Cary Grant film, would you?

Similarly, you wouldn’t criticise a comedy on the basis that there have already been comedies out on the cinema this year?

Of course you wouldn’t. Or should I say ‘shouldn’t’

The Film Itself

As for the film itself, it is – as I say above – decent.

To be fair, the character of Hal Jordan is about as deep as you could expect from a comic book character. I was a little bit concerned at the start that he might be a little too one-dimensional when they went through the whole ‘He’s a maverick who plays by his own rules and the consequences be damned’, but that soon made way for his transformation into the Green Lantern.

And yes, at the start there is a fair amount of exposition, but being someone who has never read the Green Lantern comics, I appreciated it.

Despite what the DS reviewer says, as a concept, I think the Green Lantern is quite interesting – especially for a DC character. While Batman is just a wealthy hardnut in a rubber costume, the Green Hornet is just a bloke who has a mate that makes good inventions and Superman is symbolic of America’s opinion of itself on a world scale, the Lantern has a bit of imagination behind it – literally. With his ring, he is able to create anything he wants; his limitation is the strength of his imagination. That’s pretty good.

As I said above, the criticism of the film having too many sub-plots is fair. The stuff with Hector Hammund and his decline and mutation could have been explored more – I would have preferred it if he had been the main villain rather than the Unicron knock0ff we got – and being even more critical, I’m not sure the ending made all that much sense. Hal is considered as being held back by his own fear, but by the end he does manage to overcome it. The problem is there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme nor reason for that happening – all of a sudden he’s just fearless.

The Mask As A Disguise

Similarly, both Digital Spy and the Daily Express moaned that Abin Sur looked really hokey...

The one thing that bothered me the most about this film is something that bothers me a fair bit in fiction – the Crap Disguise.

Prince Adam looked exactly like He-Man, but had a slightly higher pitched voice and wore different clothes. That was it. You could tell that Prince Adam – who was supposed to be young and cowardly – spent a ridiculous amount of time at the gym and had the same physique as his alter-ego. He didn’t even go to the effort of wearing baggy clothes to hide it; instead he wore a skin tight, long sleeved white t-shirt. If anything, that would accentuate the problem.

Superman? Clarke Kent with his glasses off and a bit of hair gel.

Well the Green Lantern is almost as bad. It’s just Hal Jordon with a mask over his eyes. Not his face – his eyes. You can see the picture of it. And even though they made a joke about it when his love interest recognised him, she only rcognised him when she was standing under a foot away from him. He didn’t even bother to change his voice.

And let’s not forget, Hal Jordan is a well known guy in his world.

Quite frankly his disguise is a bit insulting to the viewer, and even though they tried to make light of it, it still bugged me.

A Final Point

Even though it wouldn’t sound anywhere near as catchy, from this film I got the impression that if he was going to be named after the source of his power, the character should be called The Green Ring. Essentially, his Lantern is his ring’s charger. You wouldn’t name a mobile phone after the USB cable you use to power it up would you?

Should You Go And See The Green Lantern?

You’ll notice this review hasn’t given a plot summary, but that was intentional. I went into the film not having a clue what it was about, so for a change, I thought I would write a review that gave an opinion on

...but look at it - it doesn't look remotely bad. It is faithful to the comic book character while also looking extremely realistic. 1960s throwback by arse.

it that wouldn’t spoil a thing before you go and see it, but hopefully has enough to it that allows people who have seen it to appreciate it.

As you know, I don’t give scores – they can be too influential. If I was to give a score, it wouldn’t be 2/5 because that implies it’s worse than average on a scale of anything I’ve ever seen. And that’s not fair, nor is it true.

I’m not going to tell you this film is great – it’s not. It looks great but the entire package is just ‘decent’.

For the genre that its in, it’s better than the Green Hornet and it’s better than Thor, but nowhere near as good as X-Men: First Class.

The makers should be applauded – not criticised – for keeping the film true to its comic book roots.

Should you see it? It’s certainly worth a watch if you like this sort of thing, but whether it’s worth paying to see at the cinema, I would say probably its not. I’ve got an unlimited card so it’s no extra expense for me.

Oh, and I’d also say that I went to see it in 2D rather than 3D and I doubt I lost anything from the experience.

 

 


Doctor Who – The Time Meddler Review (or The Dark Horse of Dr Who Stories)

June 14, 2011

So a new era is upon us in Doctor Who. William Russell & Jacqueline Hill have left the show and been replaced by everyone’s favourite no-nonsense straight shooter, dog lover and Blue Peter presenter – Peter Purves (as Steven Taylor).

But that’s not all that’s new here.

Significantly, for the first time since the series began, they introduce another member of the Doctor’s race – The Monk (people often call him ‘The Meddling Monk’ but he’s never called that on screen) – who has his own TARDIS.

Unlike the Doctor, The Time Meddler is up to no good!

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

The Doctor, Vicki and Steven land on a beach in the North of England in 1066, shortly before the Battle of Hastings.

The Doctor presents Steven with either a Viking Helmet or a Space Helmet for a Cow. Which is it? You decide.

While they set about trying to convince Steven that they have really travelled in time, something just doesn’t seem right. If they are in the Viking era, why do they find a 20th century watch on the ground in the forest? And why does the sound of the monks singing in the monastery slow down like a (wind up?) record player running out of energy?

The reason is – as you’ve probably guessed from what I’ve written above – that the monastery is inhabited by a fellow time traveller, and his intentions are to stop the Viking Invasion by using mortar fire to destroy the Viking ships before they arrive in England, all so he can change history and meet King Harold before his defeat to William the Conquerer.

And of course, it’s up to the Doctor to stop him!

Thoughts – The Pseudo Historical

I’ve written at length in previous reviews about how the show has used historicals to varied effect. This is a historical, but it has a twist. While it educates the viewer about 1066 – a key part of every primary school’s history curriculum – with as much info as it needs, it also brings the mystery and time travelling of a ‘non-historical’.

Up until this point we’ve heard the Doctor say that you can’t interfere with the established order of events in history. That’s why he couldn’t interfere in King Richard’s Court and why he wouldn’t entertain Barbara’s attempts to ‘improve’ the Aztecs. The viewer has come to understand that it isn’t the done thing (although this is only ever an issue for the Doctor in

Don’t Fuck With the Vikings – especially the guy at the back

pre-20th century Earth for some reason – he’s quite happy to interfere in Earth’s future and on other planets).

But now we find another member his own race who happily travels through time, changing things as he goes, all to try and improve things. He freely admits he wants to destroy the Vikings before they invade because he thinks King Harold is a better man than the history books show, and he wanted to give him the chance to prove what kind of a King he could be. He also believes that if Harold lives there will be less wars in Europe and mankind will progress quicker.

More than that, we find he’s already changed history as ‘we’ know it anyway, by helping in the construction on Stonehenge using advanced anti-gravity technology. I liked that – a very nice touch.

So what we’ve really got is a pseudo-historical – it’s a story that adds a futuristic element to an established and relatable point in Earth’s history. In many ways this is a prototype for a lot of the stories we get in ‘modern’ Doctor Who, like the Doctor’s meetings with Shakespeare, Dickens, Queen Victoria and Vincent van Gogh.

And it’s done very well too!

The Monk

The Monk is an interesting and unique character in the Doctor Who universe. That’s because the show’s mythology tells us that there are three kinds of Time Lord…

  1. The vast majority of Time Lords who are stuffy, unadventurous, governed by rules and…well…boring
  2. Evil renegade Time Lords like The Master and The Rani
  3. The Doctor

Of course, while those Vikings might be tough – they made one massive mistake. Don’t rape this man’s wife, because he’ll come after you. And when he’s got a mate with scary eyes like the bloke in the background, he’ll have his revenge.

But then there’s the Monk. He’s not evil, he’s not wanting to conquer the world and he’s not governed by Time Lord rule.

In fact, he comes across as a nice enough guy. When confronted with a man in need of medical attention, he was quite happy to provide it. But he just likes to meddle. He wants to change history to suit his own whims, and despite the Doctor telling us how wrong this is, he still seems likeable. He comes across as ‘naughty’ rather than evil and someone that the audience can appreciate.

And that is in no small part to the man who plays the role – Peter Butterworth – who does a fantastic job playing the Monk exactly how he’s supposed to be played.

Most people will know Butterworth best as one of the ‘second tier’ of Carry On actors. He’s not quite Sid James, Bernard Bresslaw or Kenneth Williams, but he’s still well kn0wn for his appearances in those films. It may or may not be coincidence that his first Carry On role came shortly after his performance in this story, and it’s certainly no surprise that he becomes the first ‘humanoid’ character to be brought back in the following season.

Random Observations

  • This story contains one of my favourite lines of dialogue in the show’s history. When presenting Steven with a Viking Helmet he’s found at the beach to prove they’ve travelled back in time, the Doctor replies to Steven’s scepticism that it merely ‘may be’ a Viking Helmet by retorting sharply “What do you mean maybe? What do you think it is – a Space Helmet for a Cow?” A superb line – which the makers of the main menu of the DVD seem to agree with me on.
  • It’s good to see Alethea Charlton back, playing Edith. I don’t know what it is about her, but she seemed to be perfect for playing ‘historical’ female characters (her previous appearance was playing Hur in An Unearthly Child). Having just looked her up to see what else she appeared in, I was saddened to read she died only a few years later at the age of 44.
  • There’s a scene in Episode 2 which – from my interpretation anyway – strongly implies that Edith has been raped by the members of the Viking Scout party. Rape – in a 1965 kids TV show. Think about that for a moment…
  • Apart from the two actors already mentioned, I thought Michael Miller was well cast as the big, burly Wulnoth, and I also liked – perhaps due to the blatant ‘stereotyping’ involved – the casting of the three Vikings. Especially the bloke with the eye patch.
  • For anyone who watched the 1991 BBC2 repeat of the show, you’ll remember the massive and obvious cut in Episode 3. Thankfully, this has been resolved for the release of the DVD. The fact that the cut was made at all (the reason being

    In case you weren’t sure, The Doctor proclaims in Episode 1 that he’s “Not a Mountain Goat” and that he “Prefers Walking To Any Day”. I’m glad that’s been cleared up then.

    because the Doctor pokes his walking stick into the Monk’s back and pretends it’s a shotgun) is ridiculous.

  • All of a sudden, Vicki has moved from being the ‘young girl attached at the Doctor’s hip’ to a free thinking and independent woman – presumably to pick up some of the slack left by Barbara’s departure. If anything, this improves Vicki’s character tremendously, and it’s a shame that there are no further surviving episodes with her in it.
  • On that note, this story is unique in that it’s the only surviving example of the Steven/Vicki double act. Again, I find this to be a shame as they work well alongside one another.
  • When you come to think of how the Doctor is currently portrayed as the last of the Time Lords, isn’t it sad to think that this means The Monk is dead?

Doctor Who – The Time Meddler Review: Final Thoughts

I notice that this review is considerably shorter than most of the Doctor Who reviews that I’ve done, but it’s because I find it hard to criticise this story, and therefore it leaves me with less to say.

While it won’t ever be considered as the best Doctor Who story, and probably won’t feature in many people’s top 20s, it really is a solid effort, and considering it was the first story without Russell & Hill, it needed to be.

As I say above, Peter Butterworth is excellent as the Monk, but it’s not as if he’s salvaging a dodgy part with a great acting performance; the character of the Monk and the story in general is cleverly done and well written.

Shoved away at the end of the second series, with a Doctor/Companion combination that only exists on tape in this one story, it is very much the under-appreciated gem. I sense people will find it easy to forget it when there are better known stories around it, but I wouldn’t let that put you off. It’s an excellent story with sharp dialogue, a good flow and an exciting plot.

It’s well worth your time, and can be purchased for a mere £5 online.


Doctor Who – The Chase Review (or How to Book the Daleks)

June 10, 2011

And so we come to a sad point in the running order of Doctor Who – the departure of Ian & Barbara.

While the likes of Billie Piper and Catherine Tate shared equal billing with David Tennant in more recent Dr Who, the characters were still – to an extent – supporting ones. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s the formula; you have the Doctor and his companion/s.

I’ve always looked upon Ian & Barbara differently. What made them unique was that they were treated as equal members of an ensemble cast. Yes, the show was called Dr. Who, but throughout their run – and in the first series especially – Ian & Barbara are as much the main characters as the Doctor, if not more-so.

Awwww. Ian & Barbara get a happy ending

That would never be repeated.

So yes, this is a key point in the history of the show in my opinion.

As for the story itself, The Chase is one which seems to get a lot of mixed reviews. Some people say it’s crap, others say it’s ‘silly’ and most criticise Richard Martin’s performance as director.

What’s my take on it all?

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

The Daleks decide to build a time machine and hunt down the TARDIS in a chase through time & space.

The Doctor & Company must try and stay a few steps ahead of the Daleks in an attempt to find somewhere to take them on and defeat them.

After landing on the top floor of the Empire State Building, on board the Marie Celeste and inside a Haunted House (all to ‘Hilarious Consequences’) they finally land on the planet Mechanus, where they decide to stay and fight.

Ultimately they don’t have to, as in their attempts to find the TARDIS crew the Daleks pick a fight with the inhabitants of the planet – the robotic Mechanoids – and are destroyed.

The story also introduces Peter Purves as Steven Taylor in the final episode, although he also famously played a different character – Morton Dill – in Episode 3.

Thoughts

The Daleks and The Way They are ‘Booked’

Some ‘purists’ claim the Daleks in this story are ridiculous and the worst example of their kind in the series’ history. This mainly stems from them doing things that could be considered ‘silly’ – like the way they react on board the Marie Celeste (desperately trying to get one of the sailors to stop so they can ask if they’ve seen the TARDIS), their conversation with Morton Dill, the way they too get spooked (pardon the pun) in the Haunted House and of course the fact there’s clearly a

Seriously, how can they not tell which is the fake Doctor? If I was the real Doctor I’d be insulted.

bumbling ‘idiot’ Dalek among their ranks who stumbles over his words. But it also comes from the way the Doctor and his companions perhaps don’t react with the same level of fear towards the Daleks as they do in later stories.

I disagree. I fail to see how that’s not an entertaining use of the Daleks in what is supposed to be an entertainment show. They still have a menace about them – the way they treat the Aridians and the Mechanoids is testament to that – but the way they show fallibility gives them depth.

Remember as well that at this point, the Daleks aren’t written as the most evil and calculated force in the universe like we’re supposed to believe now. That comes in the next Dalek story, but only lasts for the subsequent two (Power & Evil) before they do a bland reunion tour under Pertwee and then just settle down as easily defeatable background muscle in ‘Davros Stories’.

The way the Daleks are written can be compared to the way ‘heels’ are presented in wrestling. The traditional way of making money from a match in wrestling is to bring in a new bad guy, have him appear utterly indestructible as he easily brushes aside every wrestler that stands in his way and position him to face the good-guy champion.

How on earth is the good guy going to defeat the bad guy when the bad guy appears to have no weaknesses? And so people pay money to see that match. There are various different scenarios of how this can play out; for example, the bad guy could lose to the current champion, or he could beat him but with the intention of losing to a brave new good guy somewhere down the line. But no matter what, the money is to be made by a good guy overcoming the odds to beat the bad guy.

That’s all well and good, but what happens to the bad guy? He’s no longer indestructible and so he’s lost his selling point. So in the old days of wrestling he would move on to another territory and start his act again.

Now let’s compare that to the Daleks.

The Daleks never win. They are written like the most deadly force in the universe, but only in the story ‘Dalek’ did they avoid defeat, and that was because the single Dalek went to a ‘non finish’ with the Doctor because it chose to kill itself. For new audiences, that was the best possible way to write for them, because the Daleks were positioned to be so invincible and so ruthless, new viewers believed that one Dalek could bring down an entire planet.

So when the Doctor comes up against a whole army of them, what’s he going to do? That’ll get viewing figures. People would tune in – and they did – to see how the Doctor could possibly get out of that one.

But once he’s defeated them, where is there left for them to go? And yet the Daleks are brought back time and time again, and each time we are fed the same line about how they are oh-so dangerous. The Doctor has convincingly defeated the Daleks so many times that they should hold no fear for the Doctor anymore. I’ve had this view for years, but my thunder is perhaps stolen here by Steven Moffat coming out and saying the same thing only a couple of weeks ago.

It’s the classic example of diminishing marginal returns.

“This is Dalek Scout Force One. Some White Guy has gone nuts and we’re getting the fuck out of here”

We will eventually get to the point where there is a story called ‘Pudding of the Daleks’ – a story in which the Doctor and his companion go to the most famous restaurant in the universe, only to find the Daleks are running the kitchen.

So to bring it back to the Daleks in the Chase, I think it’s refreshing that we aren’t fed the usual ‘OMG the Dalekz r going 2 kill us all, yo, coz they iz sum seriously bad dudez’ stuff. The Daleks here are positioned as being clearly very fallible. We know they can be defeated by the Doctor, and he knows it too. He’s already defeated them twice. Yes, he knows they are dangerous, but they can be beaten. The point of the story is that the Daleks are chasing them and they have to find somewhere to fight them. That’s what it sets out to do, and it does it.

Still, with all of that in mind, even I have to criticise the stupidity of the Dalek who comes across Ian in episode 4 and asks him ‘Where are the time travellers’. Surely they’ve been shown pictures of the people they’ve gone to the trouble of building a time machine to track down?!

The Direction

Another thing that the ‘purists’ attack this story for is the direction. I’d agree that it’s not great at times, but it’s not as bad as people make out. The main problems are in Episode 4 and 5. In the Haunted House, there’s a scene where the Doctor and Ian go down into Frankenstein laboratory, and you can clearly see a Dalek in the background, even though the Daleks are yet to arrive. Only when they go back to the lab later in the episode does the Dalek get used. Very sloppy.

Also, with the doppleganger Doctor, the way he keeps switching back and forth between William Hartnell & Edmund Warwick is both confusing and unnecessary.

The other things people criticise him for, such as the sets and some of the plant life on Mechanus aren’t his fault, even though he seems to beat himself up about it on the DVD.

Personally though, I would criticise him for the cliffhanger to Episode 1. When you look back at the cliffhanger to the first episode of The Space Museum, this is the polar opposite. It’s a story where we know the Daleks are in it, the Doctor & Barbara know it too and they’ve already appeared. So why is the Dalek coming up from under the sand a cliffhanger? It’s a surprise to nobody! It’s terrible, and a blatant copy of the end of episode 1 of the Daleks Invasion of Earth. Bad Richard

Can you spot the Dalek who shouldn’t be there?

Martin!

The Writing and Flow

There’s more to The Chase than just the Daleks or the Direction – the general story is also reasonably solid, even if there are plenty of ridiculous things that happen in it.

Much like the Keys of Marinus from Series 1, I like that the action shifts from place to place. You couldn’t do an entire story in a Haunted House like they do Episode 4, nor could you base entire stories around the set pieces of the Empire State Building or the Marie Celeste. The latter example is also quite clever I would say. We’ve seen the Doctor be responsible for the burning down of Rome and being present at points of historical significance, so it’s amusing to think that the Daleks might have been at the heart of the mystery of the Celeste.

And going back to the Haunted House, it might well be criticised for the direction, and it might be a little bit confusing, but for the key audience of the time – kids – it must have been

Mon Then!

great. I watched it for the first time when I was 11 I think, and it’s my favourite part of the story by a distance. The idea that everyone – even the Daleks – are comically scared by what’s going on is amusing. Best of all is the bit where the Doctor – a man not exactly renowned for having fear – mocks Ian for not wanting to go down into the laboratory, and then when they find Frankenstein’s monster on the table, he bolts from the room, stumbling over his line by proclaiming “I say, I think we’d better check where Vicki and Barbara is”. Great stuff from Hartnell.

And then, just when everyone has decided that they must have been inside the human mind rather than in a real place, the reveal that it’s a closed down exhibit from the World’s Fair is a great punchline.

On the other hand though, how do the likes of Frankenstein’s monster & Dracula resist the Daleks’ weaponry? And why does the monster decide to destroy the Daleks?

Another small complaint is that the name ‘Aridious’ is classic lazy Terry Nation. It’s a planet without much water? Well it must get called something directly related to that!

Random Observations

  • Even though they eventually manage to get back to 1965 in the Dalek Time Machine, Ian & Barbara must have been a little disappointed that the TARDIS finally managed to land on Earth in 1966 but in a place where they couldn’t stay. But what’s stupid about it is that they never even bother to mention the irony of it all, and the Doctor still uses the excuse that he can’t get them back to their own time in episode 6.
  • The way there isn’t a ‘goodbye’ scene with the Doctor and Ian & Barbara could be considered a missed opportunity. In a way though, it’s quite poignant that in its place we get to see the Doctor watching them on the Time/Space Visualiser. And indeed, The Doctor’s reaction is very natural. He’s sad to see them go because Hartnell himself was sad to see them go.
  • Speaking of the Time/Space Visualiser, all I’ll say is this; it’s ridiculous. Even in a show like Dr Who, it’s far fetched. I could write an entire article about how it doesn’t make sense.
  • Anyone who risks their life to save a cuddly toy Panda (who incidentally never makes a reappearance in the show) is an idiot who deserves to burn alive.
  • How did they manage to have enough rope to climb down 1500 ft? And how are the likes of Barbara or the Doctor strong enough to climb down that distance without the proper safety equipment?
  • How could anyone think the Mechanoids had the mileage to be brought back again or become merchandise successes? Seriously?
  • How is the tour guide in the Empire State Building doing a bang-on impression of Columbo four years before Peter Falk first played the role? Spooky!
  • Barbara’s reaction to being told Ian has been killed by the fake Doctor is a little bit underwhelming, as is the real Doctor’s reaction when Ian mistakenly thinks he’s the robot and is about to cave his skull in with a rock. “What does it matter now” he says. Surely he could have made a more compelling case for the defence?
  • What was that nonsense about ‘The Ring in the Field’ that Vicki was going on about? Is that what passes as character development?

Doctor Who – The Chase Review: Final Thoughts

I would agree with the people who say the story is a bit ‘silly’, but I’d sooner have that than almost any Dalek story between 1972 and 2005. Here the Daleks show vulnerability and – from the perspective of the viewer – likeability.

The story itself is fun. Things move at a reasonably pace and it flows well. The set pieces all work from a storyline point of view, if not from the point of view of the direction, and it ends with one of the key moments in the history of Doctor Who. All but one of the original cast have now left the show and from here on in it really has become a show about The Doctor.

If you go into The Chase with a view to be entertained and not to see major drama then you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a Fan-Wank Purist, you might not like it, because the Daleks are portrayed differently to any appearances before or since, but since everyone knows they are always defeated, I don’t see the problem.

So yes, I’d recommend it.


X-Men: First Class Review (or Well Done Marvel, No Post Credit Scene This Time)

June 8, 2011

So it’s established – Superhero films are a genre I love.

That said, even though my review of Thor has me summing up with ‘I enjoyed it’, in the month that has passed since I went, my feelings towards it have soured a bit. I just can’t help but think that it wasn’t what it could have been. A lot of the Marvel films do a great job of introducing characters and providing genesis story-lines, but that just…didn’t.

And those feelings were compounded last night when I went along to see another Marvel offering – X-Men: First Class.

What’s It About?

Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s, it tells the story of how the X-Men were formed and how the battle-lines between the factions led my Professor X and Magneto were formed.

This is a picture of the poster of X-Men: First Class. Now, you might think that's a boring caption, but that is genuinely a caption used in a newspaper review of the film I read over the weekend. They get paid to write that. Think about that for a moment.

In this film, the Americans and the Russians are used as pawns by a band of ‘mutants’ known as the Hellfire Club – led by Kevin Bacon as the nefarious Sebastian Shaw – to bring the world to the point of nuclear war. The CIA turn to Mutant expert (and of course, mutant himself) Charles Xavier to help them.

Using his powers, Xavier manages to identify and recruit a group of his own ‘advanced humans’, including the likes of Raven, Havoc, Banshee, Beast, Angel, Darwin and of course Magneto, to fight against the Hellfire Club and save the world from what seems like it’s inevitable fate.

Thoughts

So there you go, that’s the basis of the plot. Sometimes I think I give too much away when I write that part of my reviews, so I’ve been deliberately concise about it. Of course, there’s a lot more to it, but if I went scene for scene,  it would give away too much.

It does go without saying though, that like the first trilogy of X-Men films before it, First Class places a great deal of emphasis on the angle that there’s a racial divide between the normal people and the mutants, and it delves a little bit deeper into that theme by exploring the prejudice that exists between the mutants themselves, when it comes to how they look. I liked that, but I can’t help but think that it was trying to teach us the moral that it’s not all about how you look. That would be fine if this were an episode of He-Man and I was 7 years old, but I’m not.

The Good – Origins and Different Characters

The major plus point about this film that I enjoyed the most was the story of how the X-Men came to be.

Oh Look! It's Oliver Platt! You'll have seen him playing a suit wearing 'intelligent authority figure' in many things. But he's not even the most obvious case of typecasting in the film...

Going back to the first trilogy – if my memory serves me right – the X-Men are already in full swing and the story is told from the perspective of Wolverine and Rogue and how they came to join them. That made sense and it worked well, but this is better. I tend to find the best story-telling Marvel does is when they explain the origins of a character (which is one of the reasons I have come to be disappointed with Thor).

This film works in the same way as the final Star Wars film. You know where the final destination is (in this case that Professor X and Magneto would ultimately end up on opposite sides) and that’s ok, because the fun is finding out how they got to that situation. If I was to be critical, I could maybe argue that they crammed a little bit too much of ‘getting there’ into the last 10 minutes rather than a slow burn throughout the film, but that’s a minor complaint. I still enjoyed that side of it very much.

Another thing I liked was that because they used up a lot of core X-Men characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Ice Man, Storm, Nightcrawler, Collossus, Juggernaut, Wolverine et al in the first three films, the writers had to go off the beaten track and use some of the lesser known characters. The likes of Havoc and Banshee are ones that someone like me – who doesn’t read the comics but has an interest in the Marvel Universe – has heard of but knows very little about. So it was a bit of a learning experience for me, which is another tick in the win column.

And in line with the Superheroes, there are also good Supervillains. As much as I enjoyed the Iron Man films, I wanted to see him go up against the likes of Grey Gargoyle or Fin Fang Foom rather than the Taliban (incidentally, a trip to wikipedia to look at a list of Iron Man villains sees ‘Alcoholism’ listed as one of his enemies. I don’t know whether it’s brilliant or a pity that they mean the addiction rather than some sort of alcohol themed villain who shoots vodka from his eyes).

But I digress.

The point is this film has proper Supervillains with their own powers which they use for villainy and all round bad-eggedness. And they look like Supervillains too. It adds to the whole experience.

Finally, I like that they finally give Beast some proper development. He wasn’t used in the first film, he only had a brief cameo in the second film and he was portrayed by Kelsey Grammar in the third (and worst) film. But Beast is an important part of the X-Men so it was good to get to see his ‘origins’ too. I have to say though, the choice of casting was seemingly – to use an American expression – from way out in left field. Who would have thought the little boy from About A Boy/annoying git from Skins would be the right choice for Beast? I’ve got to be honest though, Nicholas Hoult did a good

No, that goes to The Military Guy from 24, or the West Wing, or Transformers, or Call of Duty, or Bones, or Black Hawk Down, or Dollhouse, or Law & Order, or...

job.

He showed sometimes that casting people who aren’t the obvious candidates can work.

On the other hand…

The Tiresome – Typecasting

This isn’t having a go at the film, because their involvement didn’t in any way ruin anything, but there are certain things in TV and Film that annoy me. For example, in a lot of shows – especially sitcoms – they just press the reset switch at the end of every episode.

Similarly, I find it bugging that everyone in TV land uses a Macbook when in reality most of us use PCs.

And then there’s typecasting. You just know that for certain types of character, casting directors will just get the same guy to come in and play the part. That doesn’t just happen once in this film, it happens twice.

But then they go completely in the other direction by casting Nicholas 'I have face you know you want to slap' Hoult as Beast to try and redress the balance. And it's so stunning that it works. Him?! Really?!

Ever heard of Oliver Platt? Probably you’ve heard the name, but you’ll definitely have seen him. He always plays ‘Knowledgeable Man In A Suit’ roles, like government officials, doctors, journalists lawyers and CIA agents. Look at the picture, you’ll know his face. Think you’ve seen him? Try The West Wing, 2012, Frost/Nixon, the American attempt at The Thick of It, and many more.

A name you might be less familiar with is Glenn Morchower, but you’ve definitely seen him playing a military/CIA man in something. In 27 of the 35 films he’s appeared in, he’s played a role like that, and that’s not even counting his TV work like the West Wing or most famously 24. Hell, he’s even typecast in video games. You just get to the point where you let out an ironic cheer and get closer to winning one of life’s Achievement Awards – Xbox 360 style.

Random Observations

  • Overall, the acting was of a good standard. James McAvoy (who is in far fewer films than I realised) plays Professor X in a way that makes the character far more interesting than if he just tried to be a young Patrick Stewart. Similarly, I thought two of the other ‘leads’ – Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and Jennifer Lawrence (Raven) played their parts well too.
  • One thing I wasn’t so sure of was Kevin Bacon’s character. Was he was a Nazi pretending to be an American or an American pretending to be a Nazi? Considering he never even slipped back into a German accent once beyond his initial appearance as a Nazi Doctor, I just wasn’t sure.
  • I’ve read some people consider setting the film against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis to be lazy, but I thought it was clever. It had to be set in the early 60s for the events of the first three films to make chronological sense, and it gave the scriptwriters something to work with, and the viewer something to identify with. So no problems as far as I’m concerned.
  • The special effects were great. They weren’t ‘Oh My God! That Looks Stunning’ effects like they set out to use in Thor, but the way the mutations were used was effective and believable, especially Angel’s wings and Raven’s ability to shape-shift seamlessly.
  • And of course, this film showed that you don’t need the gimmick of 3D. There were certain aspects that could have been done in 3D, but ‘could have been’ and ‘needed to be’ are two different things. I’m yet to see a film that ‘needed to be’ in the 3D.
  • Finally, I checked before I left the house and I found that there was no post credit scene. Much like 3D, the post credit scene is unnecessary. Unfortunately, you could tell that some people in the film – most likely having been burned by hearing about the Thor scene – were staying behind to watch the credits. That’s 7 minutes of their lives they’re not getting back.

Should You Watch X-Men: First Class

When the dominant issue I have with this film is hiring a couple of typecast actors, I think it’s fair to say this is a good film. It’s well written, well paced, keeps your attention and is set against an identifiable backdrop.

It gets to where you expect it to get to, and it’s fun to find out how that happened.

It’s far better than Thor

And you don’t need to waste the extra few quid for 3D.

Highly Recommended

But then, I love Superhero movies.


Doctor Who – The Space Museum Review (or The Great Exposition with Boba Fett)

June 1, 2011

The next story on the list is one that gets an awful lot of criticism from Dr Who fans. Overall, people consider this to be crap, though the common belief is that Episode One is great and it is let down badly by the three episodes that follow.

Going into watching The Space Museum, I probably shared that viewpoint. I think Doctor Who Magazine wrote an article years ago about how it has one of the best ‘first episodes’ of any Dr Who story, but what follows is complete and utter horse-shit. Maybe that’s true, but maybe it’s not.

What I’ve discovered about watching Dr Who stories from the point of view of a reviewer is that I often find my perceptions challenged. It certainly happened with Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror and The Crusade, and maybe it’ll happen with this one too.

Ian Chesterton breaks the fourth wall! He’s staring into our souls.

We shall see…

Doctor Who – The Space Museum Review: What’s This One About?

Well it can easily be split into two parts.

Episode One.

The TARDIS has landed outside a Space Museum, but there’s lots of peculiar stuff is going on. For a start, the travellers find themselves back in their normal clothes – instead of their Crusader outfits – without having consciously changed into them.

Then Vicki drops and smashes a glass of water but it reforms in her hands before her very eyes.

When they exit the TARDIS they don’t leave any footprints in the dust on the ground outside and there is not a sound to be heard in the air.

People are walking about, but they don’t see/hear the travellers, and in turn the travellers can’t hear them, even though they are talking mere feet away.

Furthermore, they are able to pass their hands through solid objects as if they aren’t there.

And then the clincher; they stumble upon themselves, dead, frozen and on display in glass cases in the museum.

As it turns out, they aren’t really there yet, but when the display cases vanish into thin air, the Doctor realises that time has caught up with them and from that point on they can be seen by other people…and those people want to turn them into museum artefacts.

Episodes 2-4

The TARDIS crew deliberate about how not to end up in the cases. They question their every potential move and wonder if this will take them away from – or further towards – their fate.

But here he is turning into a gun-toting ‘Nothing Left To Lose’ Bad-Ass. He’s damned if he’s ending up in a glass case.

Meanwhile, the episodes are dominated by the ongoing war between the weary owners of the museum – The Moroks – and the young male rebels who are native to the planet, The Xerons.

The Doctor gets caught by Lobos – Leader of the Moroks – while Vicki starts a Xeron revolution, Ian turns into a gun-toting bad-ass with nothing to lose and Barbara does almost nothing.

Eventually they all end up captured and look set to be frozen, but they are saved by the Xeron revolution that Vicki started. Ultimately there was nothing they could do to stop themselves falling into Morok hands, but by influencing the actions of the Xerons, they managed to save themselves.

Thoughts

As you can see, there is a lot more plot in Episode 1 than the subsequent three. The mistake I think people make is that eps 2-4 are terrible, but I wouldn’t go that far at all. It’s just that Episode 1 is so good that anything that follows it would be a disappointment.

So let’s start with that…

The Good – Episode One

Episode One is terrific – possibly the best self contained individual episode of the entire classic series. Sure, we look at stories like The Talons of Weng Chiang, Caves of Androzani etc as the classics they undoubtedly are, but we look at them as the overall sum of their parts rather than on an episode-by-episode basis. I can tell you that I really enjoy The Seeds of Doom for example, but I certainly couldn’t say that episode 4 was better than the rest or anything like that.

With the Space Museum, everyone knows Episode One is right up there.

But what’s so good about it?

Well it approaches the concept of time travel from a completely different angle than anything in the 18 months previous to it or the 45 years that followed. There’s a genuine mystery to it all. It asks so many questions.

Nice face. Would he get the part these days? The simple answer is no.

  • Why aren’t the leaving footprints?
  • Why can’t anyone see them?
  • How did the glass reform in Vickie’s hands?
  • How are they back in their normal clothes?
  • Why can’t they hear the Xerons in conversation?
  • Why can’t they touch anything?
  • How are they standing there and yet also frozen in the display cases?

Then the question is answered. They weren’t really there yet. Towards the end of the episode we then see events quickly catching up. The glass breaks and stays shattered. The footprints they didn’t leave before have now appeared. The Moroks know they are there!

How the hell are the going to get out of this one?

And if that doesn’t make you want to tune back in the next week, then nothing will.

Brilliant from start to finish.

The Bad – Episode 2 and The Great Exposition

So how do you follow that?

Well it’s difficult. But what has damaged the Space Museum’s reputation beyond repair is the terrible scene that starts Episode 2. Episode 1 finished at 120 miles an hour, and yet Episode 2 starts as if the writer has slammed on the proverbial brakes to do an emergency stop.

It’s a slow, poorly acted and poorly written scene where exposition (or ‘info dumping’) is on the agenda. I remember seeing an interview with Russell T. Davies where he said he hates exposition with a passion and recalled an Afternoon Play on TV that opened with the line ‘Happy Wedding Day, Sis’. As he pointed out, nobody would say that in a real life conversation. The line purely exists to let the viewer know that it was the girl’s wedding that day and she’s speaking to her sister.

While this picture is unremarkable, it’s from the Great Exposition Scene, so it’s in here to help you visualise the magnificence of it all.

Well that is world class writing compared to what the ironically named second episode – Dimensions in Time (there’s a little Dr Who reference for you) – starts with, in the scene with Lobos and a couple of guards.

Indulge me because I have to write it out. Join in as we find the exposition points…

Guard  1(having fixed an artefact): Best I could do sir. Should be good for another hundred years or so.

Lobos: What was wrong with it?

G1: Well the clasps had broken. Rotted.

Lobos: Like everything else on this planet…including us (This is the first one to an extent). I’ve got two more milliums before I can go home (Two). Yes, I say it often enough but it’s still 2000 Xeron days (Three). And it sounds more in days. Yeah, I know, I volunteered; you were ordered (Four). If the truth were known, I was just as bored on Morok (Five). Still, it was home, and youth never appreciates what it has. Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Still…let’s get on with it shall we? I have to make these reports. I don’t know.

Another Guard Walks In and salutes Lobos.

Lobos: I’m the Governor of this Planet (Six). You’re supposed to show some respect and knock.

Guard 2: I’m sorry sir, but the matter’s urgent.

Lobos: Nothing’s so urgent that you can’t knock on my door.

G2: A ship has landed.

Lobos: From home? There was no advance notification.

G2: Not from the Planet Morok (Seven). Alien.

Lobos: Alien? Well this will indeed be a red letter day for the Xeros calendar. Have the crew been detained?

G2: No sir, they’ve left the ship. We’ve found footprints but no trace of them. We were unable to enter the craft but it appears to be uninhabited at the moment.

Lobos (using his phone): Commander B Division, we have uninvited visitors. (to Guard 2) How many?

G2: Unknown, but at least three.

Lobos (to phone): Three or more. Organise a search then detain them for questioning.

There’s Boba Fett, once again standing with his hands triumphantly on his hips. As an aside, Vicki really is wearing a terrible outfit. Maureen O’Brien spends the DVD commentary bemoaning that fact.

Lobos (talking to guards again): Visitors? Well we won’t be the only ones looking for them.

G1: The rebels? (Eight)

Lobos: Rebels? This local rabble? They’re children. (Nine)

G1: Hmm, the ‘Children’ as you call them are growing up. (Ten)

Lobos: When they pose a danger, we will destroy them. Until then, the problem will keep. Nevertheless, they’ll try and contact our visitors for help. I must remember to notify the commanders to keep watch. As for the aliens who have just landed…we may even be able to add to the museum.

So there you have it. 10 different pieces of info dumping that just wouldn’t happen in a real conversation. None of it needs said. It’s like me entering the kitchen in my house and saying to my own brother. “Well brother, here I am in our kitchen. Yes, I know what you’re thinking; I’m hungry because I teach exercise classes and doing exercise can leave you needing food. Well I’ll tell you one thing; I won’t be making mushroom soup. I like soup but I’ve never liked mushrooms. And I never will. But we’ve both got meal coming up for our friend Kevin’s return to the city of Dundee from his work as a lecturer in Scarborough, and when we go to have dinner at the Invercarse Hotel – a hotel near the university we all went to – I’m concerned Mushroom Soup will be the only soup on the menu”.

That conversation just wouldn’t happen. Everything I said, my brother would know. So why would I say it? Well it’s the same with that scene above. It’s incredible and it makes the whole thing so comically bad.

There’s a scene as well in episode 3 where a guard finds Ian, Barbara & Vicki, points a gun at them and tells them not to move. What follows is literally 58 seconds of casual conversation between the three of them as they ponder whether or not the guard is able to kill them or not since they know they end up in the cases, or if going with him will get them closer or further away from their fate.

They discuss this openly, right in front of the guard but with no acknowledgement he’s there. Then, once they’ve exhausted the conversation the guard wakes up again and says “Right, that’s enough talking”.

So yes. it’s fair to say that dialogue and exposition from episode 2 onwards is shit.

The Bad – Xerons and Moroks

And the bad stuff doesn’t just end there. The acting extremely ropey. Episode 1 works so well because the only speaking roles go to the four lead actors and they are on top form. But once the Moroks and the Xerons get their awful lines…well, what can you say.

The Guard on the left maintains remarkable composure while being subjected to some rather inappropriate ‘Leadership’ by Ivor Salter and his wandering hand.

The Xerons aren’t exactly a fearsome bunch of rebels. They are what Lobos says they are – a group of hip 60s kids who stand around deliberating about what they should do and ultimately end up doing nothing. The fact that it took Vicki about 25 minutes to overthrow the Moroks on their behalf (seemingly out of boredom on her part) really called into question their competence and leadership.

But then their leader – Tor – is played by Jeremy Bulloch. Bulloch is best known for his performance (where, let’s not forget he didn’t speak) as Boba Fett in the Star Wars films. Here though he has lots of lines, sadly. And he spends his time standing with his hands on his hips in practically every scene. It doesn’t surprise me that with him in charge nothing got done.

Then there are the Moroks…

We’re supposed to believe that these guys have conquered the universe (including the Daleks it would seem, since a Dalek is an exhibit there) yet the sum total of their power on Xeros is an arms locker which the Xerons haven’t been able to get into. Pathetic.

And the acting isn’t up to much from them either. You’ve got Lobos (played by some Australian bloke who displays all the charisma of a carrot), a few guards (the main one played by Peter Diamond, the stunt arranger who also played Ian’s mate Delos in The Romans – i.e. Jobs for the Boys) and the guard captain (played by Ivor Salter, a man who didn’t really bother to learn his lines).

Poor stuff.

On the plus side the main cast are good, and Maureen O’Brien seems to relish finally getting to do some stuff on her own, and not attached at the hip to the Doctor.

The Good – The Premise

Despite those problems though, Episodes 2-4 are still interesting. The idea that you can’t escape your own destiny but you can change the future by altering the destiny of others is a bit like the Butterfly effect. It’s a good way to explore a show like Doctor Who, and it’s not something that they’ve done enough of.

Random Observations

  • We’re supposed to believe that they have got lost in the Museum, which is believable if we’re supposed to think it’s big enough. But their sense of direction must be terrible since the Doctor hides inside the Dalek at one point, and the Dalek is – according to what we saw in Episode 1 – only one room away from the entrance to the building.
  • The music used in this seems incongruous. They use the same soundtrack as was used a couple of years later in The Tomb of the Cybermen. It suits Tomb, but here it just seems weird.
  • The DVD contains some interesting things worth checking out. There’s a 10 minute documentary with writer Robert Shearman where he defends the Space Museum even stronger than I have. Also, there’s a good commentary track chaired by Peter Purves. The only problem with that is that he rips into the direction a lot (as the director is presumably dead) but isn’t so cutting about the writing, because the writer (Glyn Jones) is with them. Jones blames all the story’s shortcomings on the script editor, who isn’t there to defend himself.
  • Throughout the story, Ian really is written as the gun-toting badass I discussed above. He’s so pissed off with the situation that he comes across like he’s ready to pistol whip Barbara just for looking at him the wrong way. Time travel must have hardened him.
  • I love the whole ‘1960s vision of future technology’ thing going on here.

Doctor Who – The Space Museum Review: Should You Watch The Space Museum?

Well you should certainly watch Episode 1 – it’s fantastic. The rest isn’t that good, but while the acting and dialogue leave a lot to be desired, it isn’t as bad as the general consensus would have you believe.

And the exposition is almost literally unbelievable.

If you compare this story to the Crusade you’ll find that the latter story has far better acting, design and sets but it just isn’t that interesting. This has bland sets, ropey acting, basic direction and ridiculous design/costumes, but as a premise it’s far more interesting.

And therefore far more worthy of your time.