Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma Review (or ‘In The Immortal Words of Krusty the Klown “What The Hell Was That?”)

April 30, 2013

At the time of writing, there have been 236 Doctor Who stories broadcast on TV; 239 if you consider the Trial of a Timelord to be four separate serials in their own right.

So it’s baffling that the highest and lowest rated Doctor Who stories of all time could be shown one after the other.

It just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

How can quality and audience appreciation differ so wildly in the space of one week?

How can you go from the final episode of Caves of Androzani – a success on every conceivable level – to the first episode of the Twin Dilemma?

Surely the people in charge of Doctor Who should have seen this coming and done something about it before it was broadcast? You’d think that until you realise that the Producer, John Nathan Turner believed the latter story had more potential.

Anyway, in this review I’ll look at the Twin Dilemma, assess if it’s bad enough to merit its infamy and try to get to the bottom of why it’s so disliked.

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

There’s a new Doctor in town and he’s an arsehole.

And a giant slug captures two horrible wunderkind  twins because…erm…he wants to move two planets into position so he can hatch some eggs or something. I’m not entirely sure.

Thoughts –  Why Is It So Bad?

On a previous run-through of Doctor Who, I got to the Twin Dilemma and ended up switching it off around half way through episode two. I just found it embarrassing to watch.


Well that’s the question.

As much as the plot is poor and a bit difficult to follow at times, there have been ones either equally bad or even worse. I found whilst watching it that Mestor, the Giant Slug, was quite a fun character to watch. He’s no Sharaz Jek, but he’s not without his comic charm, and under the makeup, Edwin Richfield (Captain Hart from the Sea Devils would you believe) does a good job on the voice and in gesticulating wildly.

If you had the same basic storyline with Peter Davison as the Doctor, I don’t think it would be considered quite as bad as it is.

So what are the problems?

The Baffling Characterisation of The Sixth Doctor

I don’t mind Colin Baker. As I said all the way back in my very first Doctor Who related post in 2011, he does an excellent job in the Big Finish audio adventures and is the man at the helm for some fine examples of Who done right, like The Holy

After four weeks of the Caves of Androzani, I can only imagine this was the look on most viewers faces after Episode One of the Twin Dilemma aired

After four weeks of the Caves of Androzani, I can only imagine this was the look on most viewers faces after Episode One of the Twin Dilemma aired

Terror, Jubilee and The Pirates.

But if you only get to see his television work – and the Twin Dilemma in particular – you’d be entitled to wonder why he was hired, because on the whole, his performances – mainly down to the character of his Doctor – are horrific.

I get it; they were going for a William Hartnell situation where he’d start of as a bit of a dick and then improve and become a favourite of the viewers. That might have seemed like a good idea on the drawing board, but in reality, it was a staggeringly

bad decision.

The problem is that Baker’s attempts to play the part come across as forced, over the top and alienating to the viewer. That’s both down to his own deficiencies as an actor and the writing of the character. With the Doctor bobbing from one extreme to the other, I doubt even the top actors the UK had to offer could have done any better.

I’m finding it difficult to put into words just how bad he is in this story because…well…where do you start?

Following on from the intense performance of Peter Davison and the brave characterisation of the Doctor in Caves of Androzani, why would the viewer want to see domestic abuse within the walls of the TARDIS and a lead who bounds from being rude, scared, stoic and content ten times each within the same scene?

Why would the viewer want to watch the Doctor bickering and attacking Peri? What good does it do? Where’s the payoff?

What’s the point of having the Doctor not be the hero, especially when the only other member of the regular cast isn’t a strong enough actress to step up in his place?

Why would you write a story that ends with your lead actor having to say to both Peri and the viewer at home “I am the Doctor, whether you like it or not”? What possible good can come from a statement that basically says “Fuck you viewers,

Michael Bluth reacts to the casting of Colin Baker with one word: "Him?"

Michael Bluth reacts to the casting of Colin Baker with one word: “Him?”

you’re stuck with me even if you think I’m crap”. And why would you broadcast a story where you know the new Doctor is so bad that you have to put that little disclaimer/warning at the end anyway?

He’s the Doctor whether we like it or not? Well who’d have believed the show would be canned a year later.

I just find Colin Baker, and Peri too in fairness, to be an embarrassing couple to watch.

And that’s the word that describes the viewing experience of Twin Dilemma best – embarrassing.

Costume and Design

Another aspect of the Twin Dilemma that’s embarrassing is the choices of costume for the cast.

Obviously I have to start with Colin Baker’s costume. What were they thinking? Or more particularly what was John Nathan Turner thinking? Or deeper than that; what were the BBC thinking letting a bloke who thought Hawaiian shirts were the

There are very few positives to take from the idea of the Nazis winning World War 2, but if they had, the Costume Designer for the Twin Dilemma would have been shot for this effort

There are very few positives to take from the idea of the Nazis winning World War 2, but if they had, the Costume Designer for the Twin Dilemma would have been shot for this effort

height of fashion oversee any costume design choices for the lead character in one of their top shows?

If it’s possible for a costume to define a character, this is it. How can you take the Doctor seriously when he’s dressed like a clown and he even acknowledges that himself? And if he acknowledged that he picked the costume because he wasn’t right in the head, why not change it later?

It’s not just him though, Peri’s outfit is horrible and how Kevin McNally’s character thought that the sparkly multicoloured item was the best thing he could take from the TARDIS’s wardrobe is a mystery.

Then you’ve got those silly minions of Mestor who I thought were meant to be raccoons but were apparently designed to look like birds, and on top of that, those twins with their smocks and pudding bowl hairstyles.

The Twin Dilemma looks gawdy, and people who defend it by saying that it looked “of the time” are clearly discounting all the stories that came before it.

It Feels Like Kids TV

The worst and yet most accurate thing I could say about the Twin Dilemma is that it looks and feels like you’re watching a kids show. Having just broadcast the most adult Doctor Who story they’ve ever done, this feels like an episode of the sort of thing that Andy Crane and Ed The Duck should have introduced in the Broom Cupboard.

There’s just a sense of the show being taken in a new direction that nobody will like.

The Colin Baker Cliffhanger Close-Up Count

So we had the Fifth Doctor Timeline, and I feel for the Sixth Doctor stories there needs to be a new gimmick.

Up The Mestor!! He can boil your blood with a look, transport his mind across space, open doors in rooms he's not even in...

Up The Mestor!! He can boil your blood with a look, transport his mind across space, open doors in rooms he’s not even in…

What I’m going for is the Colin Baker Cliffhanger Close-Up Count.

Four episodes in, and three of them have finished with a close-up of Colin Baker’s face. Two are in peril, one is a happy mugshot, but it all amounts to the same thing.

Current Count: 3.

Random Observations

  • Another element that goes against The Twin Dilemma is the incidental music. It’s a mess. Rather than create a score specifically for it, like…you know…every other story, Malcolm Clarke just borrows from his past work on serials likeEarthshock, Resurrection of the Daleks and Enlightenment, and fits it in wherever he likes whether it suits what’s happening on screen or not. The only new bits of music are ones that I associate with Attack of the Cybermen as well, and those bits are crap.
  • On the other hand, the updated theme music is pretty good, with the inclusion of the whoosh sound when the logo appears.
  • Those twins…bloody hell. For a start, nobody but nobody likes wunderkind children, especially ones who are over-confident, but to have unlikeable characters played by really bad actors makes it worse. It’s like Adric in stereo.
  • And that’s the thing here; some of the actors are just pathetic. One of those bird things that speaks to Mestor in episode four should have been paid off and sent home, while the second in command played the part as if he was in a Carry On film.
  • Mestor himself though is potentially the most powerful opponent the Doctor has ever faced. He can boil someone’s blood just by looking at them, take over the mind of a Time Lord, open the TARDIS door from afar through the power of his own will, project his mind across vast distances of space and use a random person as his own personal CCTV system before killing him without leaving a scratch.
  • And yet he needs two people to help him walk up a couple of stairs; a bit like my Gran.
  • Speaking of projecting his mind into that of a Timelord, when he does that to Azmael, you get to witness the worst ever example of an actor miming while another actor speaks the lines. Pitiful.
  • What exactly is the dilemma involving the twins? And could the story have done without them completely? Probably.
  • Edwin Richfield has been to the William Hartnell school of hand acting.
  • Even allowing for everything bad about Twin Dilemma, the fact is that having two stories within the same season where the villain is a giant variety of something you’d find in your back garden is one too many.
  • What sort of line is “The sound of giant slugs” anyway?
  • But clumsy dialogue plagues all four episodes. I don’t have the spirit to go back and find many specific examples, but one I distinctly remember is “It’s called compassion Doctor; it’s the difference that remains between us”. Urgh. You just wouldn’t say that.
  • It’s nice that the writer couldn’t be arsed coming up with a name for the two planets that needed to be moved.
  • As you’ll know, Colin Baker was cast on the strength of impressing JNT at a party. Unbelievable.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #200

Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma Review: Final Thoughts

So is the Twin Dilemma the worst Doctor Who story ever?

Well there have certainly been more boring ones, and there have been ones that have had more irritating music or worse actors in supporting roles.

But I don’t think there’s ever been a story where the worst part if it is – by any way let alone a long way – the character of, and the actor playing the Doctor.

...but fuck climbing two steps without help, he can't do that.

…but fuck climbing two steps without help, he can’t do that.

The production team have created a rod for their own back by going down the route of making the Doctor an alienating figure to the viewer, and it’s something that the show doesn’t recover from over the next year.

The plot of the Twin Dilemma ultimately pales into insignificance when compared to the antics of Colin Baker on screen, but as an overall package, it’s an embarrassment.

It’s the first and probably only time I’ve put on Doctor Who and felt wrong for watching it; felt like a show I couldn’t admit to being a fan of.

I can accept boredom over embarrassment.

So yes, the Twin Dilemma probably is the worst Doctor Who story, and the sad thing is that it didn’t need to be. If you had the same plot with a few better actors, Peter Davison at the helm and a costume designer who wasn’t on drugs, you’d have something a lot better.

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Doctor Who – The Peter Davison Era: Thoughts and Rankings

April 29, 2013

So the Peter Davison Era of Doctor Who has come and gone in a flash.

Getting through the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee Eras took six months each, while the overall time spent on Tom Baker amounted to just short of a year and a half.

And yet less than two months after I started Castrovalva, here I am on my final summary of the Fifth Doctor’s stint on the show.

Clearly there’s a lot less to get through (Davison has slightly more than half the amount of episodes the first three Doctors had each, and over 100 less than Tom Baker) but it’s still pretty quick going.

Why is that? Well I’ll be honest; I ended up watching some stories first thing in the morning just to get through them, and on other occasions – specifically Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Resurrection of the Daleks and Caves of Androzani – I was asked to watch them with other people.

And I think that sums up this period of the show. There are some stories that people know, remember and love, and there are others that are just absolute drivel. The show goes through some extreme highs and lows. But looking at my rankings, out of the 20 stories I have to go as low as 9th to find one I like, and 3rd to find one I really like. Much of it is poor.

As for the man at the helm? Well he only seemed to get into the swing of things in his last year. I’ve read it said that he ended up regretting asking to leave as he found that he’d just started to get comfortable. I think that shows in his performance as he ended up saving his best for last.

The Fifth Doctor is the favourite Doctor of both my dad and brother. Personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near that far, as to me he’s a clear 5th out of 5 at this stage.

But he’s better than the next two, that’s for sure.

Anyway, on to the rankings…


The Stories

20. Terminus

There’s bad and then there’s bad and boring. Terminus is just too dull for words. I don’t plan on watching it ever again.

19. Arc of Infinity

It’s just such a crap story, with practically nothing going for it. Like watching paint dry. It also has my least favourite actor ever to appear in Doctor Who in it.

18. Time Flight

Slightly more interesting than the last two. It’s awful but at least it doesn’t make me want to slam my head against a brick wall.

17. The King’s Demons

Pointless filler with an unacceptable conclusion and the most pathetic use of The Master yet.

16. Planet of Fire

Including the title of my review, I used the word “Dreary” six times when discussing Planet of Fire. That wasn’t even intentional; it was pointed out to me by someone else. But it summed up how I felt about it.

15. Warriors of the Deep

Crap on almost every level, but I think you can still have a chuckle at how bad it is.

14. The Awakening

Another filler. While not terrible, I have pretty much no interest in watching it again.

13. Castrovalva

It summed up Bidmead’s time in charge. A story that was confusing and went nowhere. Not the best start for the new Doctor.

12. Mawdryn Undead

A plot with too many inconsistencies and incidental music that drove me up the wall.

11. Kinda

I described it as a story that I “Did not enjoy”. What’s worrying is that it almost cracks the top 10.

10. Snakedance

Better than Kinda, but still pretty lacklustre.

9. Frontios

It has a good plot and it’s mostly well acted but the incidental music – again from the same guy – ruins it.

8. Four to Doomsday

People don’t seem to like this one, but I find it perfectly acceptable.

7. Black Orchid

A two-part story that isn’t filler. Amazing.

6. Enlightenment

The best part of the grim Black Guardian Trilogy. By no means a classic, but good enough.

5. The Visitation

I said at the time that it was the first story I’d seen in a while which was enjoyable. I like it. A proper Dr Who story.

4. Earthshock

A momentous affair, but one that perhaps wouldn’t be anywhere near as fondly remembered without the shocks.

3. Resurrection of the Daleks

Finally a story that I can say I really enjoyed without any major issues. It has a strong cast, it looks great and it’s a fun story.

2. The Five Doctors

Classic nostalgia. I love it and so does pretty much everyone else.

1. The Caves of Androzani

Genuinely brilliant. A strong contender for best story ever.

The Top 5 Cliffhangers

5. Warriors of the Deep Episode 3

Ok, when this gets into the Top 5, you have to worry, but there we go. The way the Sea Devil hisses/shouts “You’re turn” at the Doctor with such uncharacteristic rage makes me laugh. What’s even funnier is that the resolution is that he just doesn’t bother to shoot them. Nice.

4. Kinda Episode 1

The first properly strong cliffhanger of the era. The way the relentless incidental music stops to allow the bloke from The Bill to deliver his line is good, as is the delivery of said line.

3. The Caves of Androzani Episode 1

The Doctor and Peri are shot dead. You can’t get better than that, can you?

2. Earthshock Episode 1

To quote the guy from the Earthshock documentary…“Wow, shit, fantastic!!!”. The Cybermen showing up unannounced must have been a real treat for everyone watching.

1. The Caves of Androzani Episode 3

Top direction, great acting and a real sense that the Doctor could well be about to die/regenerate.

The Companions

6. Tegan

If you haven’t read any of my reviews, you probably think I’m mad, but I can’t stand Tegan. She’s an unlikeable brash character who does nothing but moan about wanting to get “Beck to the TAHDIS”. The actress playing her seems to have as much enthusiasm as the character.

5. Kamelion

Yup, Gerald Flood’s voice acting over a static piece of metal is better than Janet Fielding. If he’d been in at least one more story he’d have had a chance of finishing second. Hey, at least he tried to sing.

4. Peri

Not enough time to shine.

3. Turlough

He’s a bit of a nothing character, whose only development came in his first and last stories. He’s not bad, but he’s just so unremarkable.

2. Adric

I can’t believe I’m doing this, but Adric is the second best companion in the Peter Davison era as far as I’m concerned. He might well have been an annoying prat played by a terrible actor, but he actually had some level of significance in the stories he was in.

1. Nyssa

Nyssa is number 1. That says it all. Why is she number 1? Not out of any real merit but she was the only one who properly worked in the role of a companion to the Doctor. And she worked well with Peter Davison’s character.

The Seasons

Based on their positions within the rankings, the seasons end up as follows…

3rd. Season 20 (14.0) A contender the worst season of Doctor Who ever. Remember, the Five Doctors isn’t in it.

2nd. Season 21 (9.67) A close second. Two very strong stories let down by three particularly poor ones.

1st. Season 19 (9.43) Finishes top for being a solid if unspectacular season on the whole. The only real let down was Time Flight.

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Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani Review (or “Has the DWM Mighty 200 Got One Right? Is This The Best Ever?”)

April 29, 2013

The DWM Mighty 200 – Doctor Who Magazine’s rating of all the Doctor Who stories as voted by the fans – has played a key role in my Doctor Who reviews.

As I go through each story, I compare what I think about them to how Doctor Who fandom as a group rates them in relation to the other stories in the series.

More often than note, I find myself disagreeing with what they have to say, with stories such as the Gunfighters, The Underwater Menace and The Monster of Peladon being criminally overlooked, while the likes of  Logopolis, Warrior’s Gate and the Curse of Peladon are massively overrated.

Well now we come to the big one; the number one rated story in the DWM Mighty 200 – The Caves of Androzani.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by asking whether or not I’ll like the story, because of course I do. As I see it, if you don’t like a story of the undoubted quality of Peter Davison’s final adventure as the Doctor, then you’re watching the wrong show.

And yet I must admit, as a child I didn’t get the fuss. It’s not that I disliked it, but for a boy of around…oh…10-14 years old, it flew over my head a bit.

I’ll explain why and also determine whether I agree with the DWM Mighty 200 assessment as the review progresses.

Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani Review: What’s This One About

Robert Holmes was given a brief; Kill the Doctor.

And that’s what he does, in a story devoid of any “monsters” to speak of (unless you’re talking about the character of the main players involved) and about greed, revenge and the Doctor’s determination to save the life of a girl he’s only just met (if you ignore the Big Finish stuff).

Thoughts – The Most Adult Doctor Who Story of All Time

Now I said above that I didn’t get the fuss about Androzani when I was a child, but then I doubt I’d have enjoyed I, Claudius at that age either.

Here's some pretty intense "Breaking The Fourth Wall" acting from John Normington. He taught Lovejoy everything he knew

Here’s some pretty intense “Breaking The Fourth Wall” acting from John Normington. He taught Lovejoy everything he knew

The Caves of Androzani didn’t seem like it was written with a youngster like me in mind, and I’ve got no problem with that.

It’s a story where The Doctor doesn’t try to save the world or overthrow a corrupt regime, but one where simply by being there, he sets off a chain of events that results in the death of the President of Androzani Major, the overthrowing of a tyrannical business owner who ruled oppressively over its population and the end of a brutal war over the stockpiling of a drug that the people of that civilisation believed was worth dying for.

That all this can happen without the Doctor doing anything so much as appearing as a captive on a video screen is genius.

As far as the Doctor and Peri are concerned, the key moment happens less than five minutes in. When Peri falls into the Spectrox Nest and the Doctor brushes it off her legs, that really is it for them; the die is cast and nothing they do between now and the end of the story can prevent the regeneration.

Throughout the rest of The Caves of Androzani we’re treated to a story of relationships, and how each of the characters react to one another. There’s Jek & Morgus, Stotz & Jek, Jek & Peri, Morgus & Stotz, Morgus & The President, Morgus & Timmin, Stotz & Krelper and finally Jek & Chellak.

Other than Peri, every single one of those characters is – in their own way – a nasty, selfish piece of work.

And what is so good about the writing of Caves of Androzani is that every single one of these relationships, deep and intricate though they are, comes to a head in Episode 4.

The story builds up until it reaches boiling point – which incidentally works wonderfully with the idea of the mud burst being set to blow up at the same time – and it kicks of big time with around 15 minutes to go. At the same time as all of this is going on, the Doctor – fighting against death – is simply trying his best to find a way to cure Peri.

I could go on for a long time about how wonderful the depth of the storytelling and characterisation is here, but I think you get the picture.

And I say it’s undoubtedly the most adult story there is. It’s bleak, the characters have no real right to be in a show considered suitable for family entertainment and there are no scary monsters in funny costumes (but for the minor cameo of that Cave monster, which is the one element the story could do without) to scare the kids.

The most gritty scene of the lot – and possibly in Doctor Who history – has to be the one in episode 2 where Stotz forces Krelper into eating what Krelper believes is a deadly pill. I mean, for crying out loud he even shouts at him “Come on you slut, bite!”. This is what Doctor Who should always be like!

The Acting

A good story is one thing, but it needs talented actors to pull it off.

"Come on you slut, bite (the deadly pill in your mouth)" shouts Stotz while holding a knife to Krelper's throat by the edge of a cliff. Perfect teatime viewing for all the family

“Come on you slut, bite (the deadly pill in your mouth)” shouts Stotz while holding a knife to Krelper’s throat by the edge of a cliff. Perfect teatime viewing for all the family

The Caves of Androzani has these in abundance.

Every actor understands their role and is cast perfectly, from Christopher Gable as the masked and insane Sharaz Jek through to John Normington as the cold and ruthless Morgus.

Of the guest cast, I think my favourite performer is Maurice Roeves as Stotz.

Stotz is – to be blunt – a maniac, and Roeves knows exactly how to play him. It would have been wrong to write and perform a character like him as a guy who is always shouting and bawling, so the idea that he’s often quite relaxed and yet is more than capable of killing his colleagues when their backs are turned is fantastic.

That scene I describe above wouldn’t have worked were it not for the intensity of Roeves’s performance.

As to the regular cast, Nicola Bryant is far better as Peri than she was in her debut, but most credit has to go to Peter Davison.

Davison has saved the best for last, with a multi-layered and thoroughly confident performance as the Doctor. You look at the likes of Pertwee or Tom Baker in their last story and get a sense that they’d ran out of enthusiasm and it was time for them to go.

But Davison’s performance here shows that there’s life in the old dog yet. It wasn’t his time to go, and his character – written more like the character of the Fourth Doctor before he became all comedic and then maudlin – is far better than it has been probably in any of his previous stories.

He’s just superb, from his interactions with Jek through to his breathtaking performance in the cliffhanger to Episode 3.

The Direction

What takes Caves of Androzani over the limit of being an excellent story into a genuine contender for the #1 slot though for me is the direction.

I don’t want to say that the standard of direction we’ve seen in the show up to this point has been primitive, because that’s not necessarily true. There’s been a range of quality from very poor to pretty darn good, but Graeme Harper leaves them all trailing in his wake.

The fade outs, the fast movement, the choice of camera angles, the accidental-but-brilliant fourth wall break by Morgus; it is literally awesome compared to what we’ve seen before.

What I love about it most is that Harper has invested in what he’s doing. He’s not some freelancer going through the motions just to pick up a pay-cheque at the end of the shoot; he’s put his heart and soul into it.

The little things, like the way we see the same effect used in the regeneration clouding over the Doctor’s eyes only for him to shake it off is brilliant. There’s nothing in the script about it and it’s never mentioned again, but the idea – straight from Harper’s own vision of what’s happening – is that he’s about to regenerate there and then but manages to hold it back. I mean, how good is that?

Harper is a cut above, and it’s no surprise he’s been used so many times since the series returned (although suspiciously never by Steven Moffat).

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

So this is it; it’s time to count it all up. The Caves of Androzani I believe takes place over two days, so that leaves us with…

  • Castrovalva (2 days)
  • Four to Doomsday (1 day)
  • Kinda (2 days)
  • The Visitation (1 day)
  • Black Orchid (Story lasts an afternoon, but they stay for maybe 3 days to attend funeral)

    Here's the one thing Caves of Androzani could have done without

    Here’s the one thing Caves of Androzani could have done without

  • Earthshock (Half a day)
  • Time Flight (One and a half days at a push)
  • Arc of Infinity (1 day plus an unknown amount of time between stories)
  • Snakedance (2 days)
  • Mawdryn Undead (1 day)
  • Terminus (1 day)
  • Enlightenment (2 days at a push)
  • King’s Demons (1 day)
  • Five Doctors (1 day plus an unknown amount of time between stories)
  • Warrior of the Deep (1 day)
  • The Awakening (1 day and then they stay there for a week’s holiday)
  • Frontios (1 day)
  • Resurrection of the Daleks (The same day)
  • Planet of Fire (1 day)
  • Caves of Androzani (2 days)

Therefore, on-screen, the Fifth Doctor’s entire tenure lasts for between 27 and 34 days.

At no point does the Doctor travel alone, and though perhaps as much as a year passed between Time Flight & Arc of Infinity, and maybe some time elapsed between The Five Doctors & Warriors of the Deep, for a man who’s supposed to be around the 1000 years old range, his Fifth incarnation really was as fleeting visit.

Random Observations

  • As amazing as Caves of Androzani is, there are still one of two niggles. The cliffhanger to Episode 3 isn’t resolved all that well, with the Doctor not actually crashing the ship but landing safely.
  • Also, the Cave monster is a bit crap as I’ve said, you have to ask why the Doctor didn’t get enough bat’s milk for himself (and if he did and he dropped it getting into the TARDIS, which was the original intention, why would he not have drank it straight away in the cave), and you must also wonder why the Doctor didn’t tell Jek about the Spectrox Toxemia earlier? Considering Jek had a vested interest in keeping Peri alive, he would have helped sooner.
  • I’ve been very critical of Roger Limb’s efforts at Incidental Music up to this point, but he gets it spot on here.
  • Knowing that this was going to be the last story Peter Davison appeared in but that the season would continue with the new Doctor, the cliffhangers to episodes 1 and 3 must have been really exciting to watch the first time around. Viewers will genuinely have wondered whether or not he actually did die.
  • And how brave would it have been if he had done; if he’d regenerated at the end of Episode 3? The story would have suffered, but it would have been the bravest piece of plot development seen in Doctor Who in years, perhaps ever.
  • If you are to assume that the best story ever has to have everything, where this suffers compared to the likes of the Talons of Weng Chiang and Blink is in the sets and costumes. As an unfortunate by-product of where and when this is set,


    the designers had to go “Space Age” and that never looks as good or as genuine as period drama or modern-day stuff.

  • My heart sank at the end of this one, seeing Colin Baker turn up. I think Baker is very good in the Big Finish audios, but his TV stuff – as I’ll expand on in the future – is often brutal.
  • To me, Robert Holmes is a hit & miss writer. A chunk of his Dr Who output ranges from mediocre to crap (and the worst is yet to come) and yet when he’s on form, he’s capable of writing some of  the – if not the –  best stories ever written for the show. It’s just difficult to know how to rate him based on his entire body of work.
  • Did you know that Graeme Harper wanted to cast Michael Craze as Krelper but JNT vetoed it? I only found that out last night.
  • Robert Glenister has some great “Eye Acting” as the android, does he not?
  • I’m perfectly alright with the idea that the Doctor and Peri travelled together for some time in between Planet of Fire and this, as it’s never speficially stated that they’d only just met here and many of the Big Finish stories with the two of them are good. However, what I do believe is extremely tenuous is the Big Finish story that takes place during the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration sequence involving Nyssa.
  • The regeneration sequence itself is probably the best one up to this point in terms of storyline, but it’s still not a patch on the very first one for the quality of the special effect.
  • And why is the Doctor thinking about Kamelion?
  • DWM Mighty 200 Rating: #1, but you knew that

Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani Review: Final Thoughts

The Caves of Androzani is an excellent story. It builds throughout with tension, drama, top quality acting & directing and finishes with all the linking and complex storylines and relationships coming to a head.

The greatest pity when watching it is knowing that this is how good Doctor Who could have been around this era, with a motivated and talented lead actor, strong supporting cast members and an excellent director. And yet it so often isn’t this good, or anywhere near it.

What’s wrong with the likes of Eric Saward and John Nathan Turner – the latter of whom thought this didn’t have the potential of the Twin Dilemma – that they couldn’t see that the best stories are done with minimal interference from talented writers. It’s bizarre and makes no sense.

We’ll see the baffling situation where following on from this – the top rated story of all time – we move onto the story that finished last in the same poll.

So I guess you have to ask yourself this; much like Ian told Barbara that Autloc was the odd man out rather than Tlotoxl, is Caves of Androzani just a blip? Is it that Doctor Who couldn’t reach this standard by anything other than an accident in this period of its history, or is it that the people in charge of the show genuinely misused it so that it rarely got anywhere near its full potential.

Who knows? I suppose we should just be grateful for what is a work of art and a genuine contender for my Best Story of All Time.

Stuart’s Top 30 Sitcoms of All Time: Part 3 (#20 – #16)

April 28, 2013

In the last part of my countdown of the Top 30 sitcoms of all time, I included the US version of The Office, and after writing it I thought to myself “Why was it that I never went back to watch any of it after Season Six”.

Then I remembered; I saw the opening montage of the first episode of the seventh season, thought “Nope, that’s disappeared up its own arse” and didn’t return to it.

But I should have because I’ve started watching it again and have really enjoyed it.

Season Seven isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Anyway, with that lovely and I’m sure life-changing-for-the-reader anecdote out-of-the-way, let’s continue on with Entries #20-#16

#20 Family Guy

Had you asked me to do this article ten years ago, Family Guy would have been Top #5 stuff, but not now.familyguy

It’s not that my tastes have changed or that it doesn’t hold up well, but it’s that it’s gone on too long and they’ve changed so many of the good things about it.

The early seasons before the initial cancellation, where Stewie was a matricidal super-genius were just hysterical.

But as things progressed and Seth MacFarlane spread himself too thin with all his other shows, repeated the same old jokes and decided that what the viewers really wanted was to hear him sing every week, the quality went down the toilet.

By the time it got to Season 8, there wasn’t a laugh in it, with episodes like Dial Meg For Murder being offensive and uncomfortable to watch rather than funny.

In fairness though, it improved a bit again, and episodes like Back To The Pilot in Season 10 were excellent.

On the whole, there’s enough good stuff in Family Guy to justify finishing 20th, but not enough to merit a higher placing.

Best Episode: Stewie Kills Lois/Lois Kills Stewie

If you were to ask me for a favourite scene, I’d say the original fight between Peter and Ernie the Giant Chicken from Da Boom, or even the “It’s a boy” culmination to the plot in Chitty Chitty Death Bang.

But as a two parter, Stewie Kills Lois & Lois Kills Stewie is my favourite because it returned Family Guy to its roots and told a proper story for a change, complete with some great humour. The end was a cop-out though.

#19: Gavin & Stacey

I know a lot of people who don’t like Gavin & Stacey but I found the humour hit the spot and the continuous narrative between episodes made the whole thing more watchable.GavinStacey

What I suspect some people dislike about it is the character of Smithy and the way he continues to annoy on Television Award Ceremonies and Telethons year after year.

In context though, he’s a funny and realistic character.

Unlike many sitcoms, the humour in Gavin & Stacey isn’t over the top and the characters are the sort of people you would expect to meet in real life.

Best Episode: The Wedding (Season 1, Episode 6)

As the satisfying culmination of a season long storyline, the Wedding episode was both funny and touching

#18: How I Met Your Mother

I know, I know, How I Met Your Mother is rubbish now. I even wrote a scathing article on it here.HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

But much like Family Guy, it used to be really good.

With clever writing, likeable characters and mostly good acting, the early seasons of How I Met Your Mother were must-watch TV.

It’s easy to discount a show that has become poor and compare it to something like Fawlty Towers, but you’ve got to remember that while the classic BBC sitcom had pretty much a 100% record for excellence, there were only 12 episodes.

How I Met Your Mother has aired 181 episodes at the time of writing, and it only started to decline after around 130 of them.

Before that it was consistently excellent, and the first two or three seasons in particular are gold.

Best Episode: Slap Bet

Launching two of the major recurring storylines that are still running in Season 8 (Robin Sparkles and – as you might have guessed from the name – The Slap Bet) it’s just a superb episode.

#17: Coupling

Hidden away on the BBC2 schedule in the early naughties, Coupling is one of the most cleverly written sitcoms I’ve ever seen.coupling

There are so many classic set pieces like the Dead Aunt, the Giggle Loop and Brucie’s Bar & Grill, and on the whole it’s well acted.

Current Doctor Who chief Steven Moffat has a thing for narratives that run out of sequence or are shown from two perspectives, and it works here so well.

If it has any problem though, it’s that the jokes relied too much upon the comedy talents of Richard Coyle as Jeff, and when he left, the show died a death in its final season.

Best Episode: The Man With Two Legs

The Girl With Two Breasts (an episode from the perspective of two characters who don’t speak the same language) runs it close, but for sheer brilliance of punchlines, acting and just insanity, the episode where a flustered Jeff tells the most beautiful woman he’s ever met that he’s got a false leg, and she falls for him on that basis is one of the best episodes of any sitcom you could possibly watch.

#16: Community

Still on TV despite circling the drain of cancellation for the last couple of years, Community is a riot.Community logo

Relying mainly on self-aware meta humour and pop culture references, the genius of the show is the inclusion of the character of Abed.

When you’ve got a comedy that so often bases itself on sitcom clichés and TV & Fim parodies, it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t aware that it was doing it.

Through Abed – a character whose entire life revolves around watching TV shows and movies – Community is able to acknowledge that it – and it’s characters – know exactly what is happening.

It’s a brilliant concept.

Arguably the quality has been hit and miss over the last two seasons, but when it’s on its game – as it has been for the last two weeks – it’s one of the highlights of my TV week.

Best Episode: Paradigms of Human Memory

Most American sitcoms get to the point where they do a flashback episode. These tend to be episodes where they film about 5 minutes of new stuff and then make the rest up of existing clips from previous editions of the show.

Community parodied this, but by having the flashbacks being of ridiculous scenarios that we – the viewer – hadn’t seen. The flashbacks took the form of things like when they filled in for the Glee Club that died, and when they ended up in a Ghost Town in the Old West.

Top notch writing from start to finish.

Parts One and Two

You can read Part One and Part Two of the Countdown by clicking on the links.

Get Involved In The Debate

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

You can also follow me on twitter @sgmilne

Feel free to get involved in the debate.

Doctor Who – Planet of Fire Review (or ‘Nice Location, But Utterly Dreary’)

April 27, 2013

We’re off on holiday again as the Fifth Doctor era begins to draw to a close.

This time, John Nathan Turner decided he wanted to go to Lanzarote for his yearly jolly boys outing.

If you recall, the last time they went away was for Arc of Infinity – when they visited Amsterdam – and it was absolutely redundant to the plot.

Will it be any less redundant this time for Planet of Fire?

And will the story be any good? The last two have been acceptable, so will this be a rare three out of three for JNT-era Who?

Doctor Who – Planet of Fire Review: What’s This One About?

A Google search for a synopsis of Planet of Fire comes back with this…

“The Master re-establishes psychic control of his robot slave Kamelion. He wants to hijack the Doctor’s TARDIS to reach the planet Sarn, where he seeks the healing power of Numismaton Gas to restore himself. Once on Sarn, Turlough comes face to face with his destiny”

Thoughts – What’s This One Really About?

I had to look that synopsis up because I couldn’t find a way of explaining the story without saying what it’s really about.

Peter Davison just looks on in despair at having to work with Kamelion again

Peter Davison just looks on in despair at having to work with Kamelion again

In many ways the plot doesn’t actually matter, because ultimately, Planet of Fire is a means to an end.

The brief for the writer – “Oh No It’s” Peter Grimwade – was most likely to do the following.

  • Write out Turlough
  • Tie up the loose ends with who Turlough is and where he came from (since nobody bothered to explain it before now)
  • Bring back and then write out Kamelion, since he couldn’t actually be used as they would have wanted (hey, who’d have thought that?)
  • Introduce a new companion
  • Give the Fifth Doctor one last confrontation with the Master
  • Make use of the Location Filming

And to give Peter Grimwade credit, he does do all of those things, and in particular he manages to give Turlough an interesting backstory that works alongside what we knew of him from Mawdryn Undead. There’s even a mention of the lawyer that was said to be his guardian in that story. Grimwade created the character of course, so that shouldn’t be too much of a shock.

But what Grimwade fails to do is turn these key plot points into an interesting story.

Maybe there’s too much on his plate; too many boxes to tick, but Planet of Fire just ends up being extremely boring.

Do We Really Need To See Another Master Story?

I liked the Master in the Five Doctors because the character was written by the guy who invented him.

It almost made me forget how utterly dreary the Anthony Ainley version is.

I can accept that they wanted one last confrontation with him and the Fifth Doctor, and it seems as though this one is written as a final battle, seeing as he clearly dies at the end of it (although one would wonder why he didn’t just step out of the

fire since there was nothing stopping him), but even so, the character is just so dreary,

No doubt I’ve said this before, but Roger Delgado’s Master worked not only because he was a better character and actor, but because in the eight stories in which he appeared, he wasn’t the sole villain in any of them. Alongside him there were

This is a perfectly healthy and normal Stepfather/Stepdaughter relationship...honest.

This is a perfectly healthy and normal Stepfather/Stepdaughter relationship…honest.

The Autons, The Keller Machine, The Axons, The Company, The Daemons, The Sea Devils, Kronos, The Ogrons and the Daleks.

But in the Anthony Ainley stories, he’s the sole villain in all but one (and that one was – you guessed it – the Five Doctors).

There’s only so much interest that can be gained from seeing a one dimensional boo hiss villain lay traps like a crap Dick Dastardly and flaunt his little shrinking gun. We don’t need to him come back for a seventh time in 21 stories.

And what does he even bring to Planet of Fire?

Nothing, that’s what. He just sits around in a box for ages, while Kamelion pretends to be him.

Overall we’ve just had far too much of this character.

Sadly he’ll be back, although thankfully with less frequency.

What We’re Left With

The rest of Planet of Fire is – as I say – boring as all hell.

Other than the guy who looks like the Iron Shiek (Timanov), I couldn’t identify any other character from Sarn either by name, appearance or relevance to the plot, and I only finished watching it 20 minutes ago.

There are very few stories – if any – that I could say the same for. Even duds like Underworld, Terminus and Time Flight have recognisable characters whose roles within the story are clear.

Not here though; it’s just dreary.

From memory, the plot as far as they are concerned is “There’s a chosen one coming! It’s him! No, it’s him! Let’s just go to a different planet”.

Oh just piss off Master. I can't even be bothered doing my usual caption with him anymore

Oh just piss off Master. I can’t even be bothered doing my usual caption with him anymore


So Grimwade did what he needed to do, but what he failed to turn it into was an interesting tale.

Considering his previous efforts, he did remarkably well as it was.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

Like Frontios moves directly into Resurrection of the Daleks, Planet of Fire appears to happen straight after that one. Either that or the Doctor just felt like commenting on the Daleks long after the fact.

If you are to take it that it did follow directly on, there’s an argument to suggest that all three stories happen in the same day. I haven’t seen anyone sleep yet, have you?

Random Observations

  • So we’ve got a new companion, and watch out dads and schoolboys, she’s got breasts!!! And she’s wearing a fucking bikini!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!
  • As Peri, Nicola Bryant turns out to be a decent companion. Well…maybe she does. She’s good in the audio dramas at least. But Planet of Fire isn’t the best of starts for her, as she not only doesn’t seem to be the best actress, but her character comes across as a bit of a whiny brat. And yet she’s still a marked improvement over Tegan.
  • Kamelion really was a waste of time, but at least they managed to get Gerald Flood back to do his voice. I’m not sure why there was a need to have him occasionally turn into a silver Howard though. I think it would have been funnier for them to use the prop like one of the Weeping Angels and have it move about when the camera is off it. That would at least have given me a chuckle.
  • Of course, the plot with the Master doesn’t really make all that much sense. Even if we allow for him to have piggy backed along with the TARDIS to Sarn by influencing Kamelion after his accident, surely his accident would have killed him?
  • And even if we allow for it not to have killed him, how did he manage to make a control room in a shoebox? And if the control room was shrunk when he was shrunk, how did it get into the box? And how does it have a lid?

    "Fuck the Michael Michael Jackson. And that jabroni piece of shit Hulk Hogan" etc etc

    “Fuck the Michael Jordan…er…the Michael Jackson. And that jabroni piece of shit Hulk Hogan” etc etc

  • How come Turlough had previously wanted to go back to his home planet (see: Enlightenment) if he was a political exile.
  • Why was the thing in the sea in the sea? Why would it be on Earth and why would it take them to Sarn rather than to Trion?
  • Isn’t it massively convenient that the Doctor and Turlough are on holiday somewhere that has a landscape that is exactly the same as Sarn?
  • Why did Turlough bother to save Peri, and seeing as he did save her, why not leave her on the beach?
  • And how did Peri’s hair not only dry, but restyle itself while she was asleep in the TARDIS?
  • Let’s be honest; there’s clearly something a bit mucky about the relationship between Peri and her stepfather.
  • Just watching this, you’d have to think that Peri’s family not only must assume she’s dead, but that Howard was responsible for it. He probably got arrested. Indeed, the Big Finish audio , The Reaping (which is really good by the way and is worth listening to) makes that point.
  • At long last, Turlough changes his clothes, but he was better with what he was wearing before.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #134. Hmmm, I’d have it lower.

Doctor Who – Planet of Fire Review: Final Thoughts

Planet of Fire does what I assume it sets out to do, and unlike Arc of Infinity, the use of location adds to it, but beyond that it’s just a very boring story.

I’m not even sure if it’s bad, it’s just dull. There are no issues with sets, costumes, noticeably bad acting, music or anything else.

But it just oozes a sense of being totally unremarkable.

Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review (or “The One With Rodney Bewes In It”)

April 26, 2013

I used to have a Betamax video recorder, and unlike I assume most people, I kept and used it up until around November 1993.


Because I had a recording of Resurrection of the Daleks  that would only play on that machine.

That’s almost all we had left for it by about 1987 (other than a tape that had the last 90 seconds of Attack of the Cybermen on it) and yet we kept it hooked up to one of the TVs for all those years, just for that.

Resurrection of the Daleks then falls into the Five Doctors category; a story I’ve seen more times than I’d care to remember and one I associate massively with my childhood.

But is it any good?

Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review: What’s This One About?

It’s the one with Rodney fucking Bewes in it.

And Dirty Den.

And Rula Lenska

And the Daleks

And Davros

And Lytton.

And 74 people are killed making it the highest on-screen body-count of any Doctor Who story.

And Tegan leaves!!

Thoughts – The Strongest Dalek Story Since The 1960s?

You’re going to read that title and – assuming you subscribe to popular opinion amongst fandom – think that I’m mad because I’m saying that this is better than Genesis of the Daleks.

I'm surprised there weren't frantic rewrites to kill off that pedestrian crossing the bridge.

I’m surprised there weren’t frantic rewrites to kill off that pedestrian crossing the bridge.

Well I thought Genesis was slightly overrated anyway, but I also believe it wasn’t really a Dalek story. To me, they played such a minor part in it that it was more a Davros story.

Resurrection of the Daleks is obviously about Davros too, but his creations share equal billing.

So really, the competition includes the Pertwee stories – which were all decent enough – and Destiny of the Daleks, which was pish.

But it’s not even that it wins the vote by default. I really enjoy Resurrection of the Daleks, ridiculous death count and all.

To me it’s one of Davison’s strongest adventures, complete with a plot that you can mostly follow, a far more gritty theme, comparatively high quality sets, far better special effects than we’re used to and a guest cast brimming with quality.

The Guest Cast

So I praised the guest cast of Frontios. and deservedly so I felt, but Resurrection of the Daleks leaves it trailing in its wake.

You’ve got current (at the time) and future household names like Rodney “Immortal” Bewes, Rula Lenska, Lesley “Dirty Den” Grantham and Maurice Colbourne who all do  a top notch job.

They are ably assisted by the likes of Del Henney, Phil McGough and Jim Findlay.

Probably the best of the lot though is Terry Molloy as Davros.

I know it’s easy to disregard him because he’s so well known for his performance in this and subsequent stories, but you have to take into account that though he had been a radio stalwart, before he took on the part of Davros he’d only had a handful of TV roles.

Compared to David Gooderson’s bland performance, in Destiny of the Daleks, Molloy is different class. There’s an argument to be had on whether or not he’s better than Michael Wisher. Certainly I think he injects more into the role in terms of mannerisms and voice range (helped by his radio background), although you could say Wisher played him in an a preferably understated way.

No matter how you look at it though, Molloy puts in a powerful performance as the Daleks’ creator, and in particular, his scene at the end of Episode 3 (in the four part version) is excellent.

The Amount of Death

Resurrection of the Daleks stands out because of the sheer amount of death that happens over the course of the two (or four if you watched that version of the DVD) episodes.

This guy thought he was going to survive the ordeal. Sadly not

This guy thought he was going to survive the ordeal. Sadly not

Eric Saward seems to have an unquenchable bloodlust.

From the very start, he writes in characters who have no real meaning to the plot, just for the shits and giggles of seeing them killed. That poor old bloke and the boy with the metal detector really don’t need to be in the story at all, but he puts them in just so he had the thrill of seeing them bumped off. More effort is given to building up the character of the Captain of the ship than them and he’s never even seen.

Throughout the story, guards keep getting killed for the sake of it, characters would get so far into the process of doing something like setting up the self destruct switch, only for them to get killed and them someone else take over later on. And what about the bomb disposal squad who are killed, duplicated and killed again?

It’s all a bit bizarre but works within the gloomy nature of the story. Going slightly off at a tangent, the choice of filming location in the Docklands area of London also adds to it all.

Coming back to the amount of death, and I have to say though, the scene where Lytton says “They’re dying, and so are you” before shooting the guard he’s with takes it into laughable parody.

All good fun though.

The Dalek Voices

One thing to notice about Resurrection of the Daleks is that the voices of the Daleks are about the best they’ve been since the 60s.

None of them sound like Zippy, all of them have depth to them, and for me – as someone who watched this story so often as a child – they do feel a bit like the definitive voices.

Obviously Peter Hawkins was better, but these are also good.

My only complaint is that I felt they got the Dalek voices the wrong way round. The Black Dalek ends up with the softer of the two voices, when he really should have had the other one.

Stein and the Dalek Trap

Ok, I might be missing something here, but the stuff with Stein doesn’t really make all that much sense.

I could accept him being a Dalek agent if it was hinted at before the cliffhanger, but to me it seemed more like something Saward decided to do to make for an interesting cliffhanger.

I mean, why would he escape to Earth with that other bloke? And was the other bloke a Dalek agent as well? If so, why was he killed? And if he wasn’t, and Stein knowingly was, why would Stein be surprised and upset to see him killed when he’s

"What the hell did you tell him Davros was on board for!! Idiot!!!"

“What the hell did you tell him Davros was on board for!! Idiot!!!”

on his own.

Indeed, much of the stuff on Earth makes little sense to the overall story. The Doctor escapes from the Time Corridor, so presumably if he hadn’t the TARDIS would have landed on the Dalek ship. Are we to assume that they anticipated this and set up a situation where they’d know exactly where and when he’d escape from it to? And that’s why Stein was there; to get him from Earth back to the Dalek ship?

Ok, but then what’s the point of the cylinders of gas (which are there only to kill the Daleks at the end), alerting the bomb squad and duplicating them long in advance?

And while it’s a perfectly reasonable plan for the Daleks to duplicate the Doctor and his companions, why duplicate people like Stein if they are so volatile that their programming fails? Why not just program the original Stein? And was it not a little bit out of left field to have the Black Dalek start talking about duplicates of key Earth figures at the eleventh hour and then just disregard it straight afterwards?

I suppose though that if the focus is on killing as many people as possible, sometimes logical plot development falls by the wayside.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

It’s another single day adventure, so when Tegan said “It’s stopped being fun” to the Doctor, maybe she should have phrased it as “I’ve travelled with you for about four weeks and every single day we are put in life or death situations. I can’t take it any more, and I don’t understand how you can either. And change your clothes!!”

Random Observations

  • Has anyone noticed that they never bother to name Professor Laird on-screen? There have probably been loads of characters like that over the years, but this one sticks out. Having said that, it’s better she’s not named at all rather than they name her in every sentence like what happened in Warriors of the Deep.
  • Another Professor Laird one; when the duplicate of Colonel Archer first appears, she decides that it’s not the real Archer because he’s wearing a gun belt and he’d given his to the Doctor. Is that not a bit of  a reach? Is it not more
    Go on yerself, Rodney Bewes

    Go on yerself, Rodney Bewes

    reasonable to assume he found a new one before concluding that it’s an Dalek-created replica?

  • I’m a fan of Rodney Bewes, but isn’t everyone? Last night I was finishing watching this story and someone came into the room and said “Ha, it’s Rodney Bewes! Brilliant”. That sums it up. Apart from being in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, BBC comedy show QI proved that Bewes is actually a time travelling immortal. Check it out on YouTube
  • I’m sure everyone will agree that Bewes’s death scene is a corker. And the incidental music adds to it rather than detracts from it.
  • Seeing as Bewes is in it, I started thinking about who James Bolam could have played. This led me to the following alternative casting choices for the show. Lytton should have been played by Donald Gee or even by Dirty Den who would than have to be recast. Best of the lot though, and if you’ve ever seen Parks & Recreation you won’t be able to unsee this, but Lt. Mercer would have worked far better if he was played by Aziz Ansari.
  • Speaking of Dirty Den, does it not trouble some of you that – on the basis of those uncensored tabloid photos that did the rounds a decade ago – you could watch any scene with him in it and say “Well, I’ve seen that guy having a wank”. I couldn’t say that about any other character in Doctor Who history, thankfully.
  • Dalek ‘acting’ is a difficult skill because they are so limited and emotionless, being that they are metal cases with flashing lights on top. But there’s a scene where the Doctor tricks Rodney Bewes into admitting that Davros is on board, and the Dalek turns round without saying anything and gives him a look as if to say “Oh well bloody done. What did you have to tell him that for?!!” It’s hilarious.
  • The idea that the Doctor might kill Davros is alien to many fans of the show, but I don’t see the problem. There’s a double standard that suggests it’s perfectly all right for the Doctor to kill as many Daleks, Cybermen, Autons or Myrka as he wants, but if he tries to kill Davros then that’s completely unacceptable. Weird.
  • How exactly did the Black Dalek get a direct link to the TARDIS scanner?
  • Yay, Tegan’s gone. Probably my least favourite companion in the show up to this point. She was a miserable cow from beginning to end (with the exception of the Five Doctors where she seemed to be in a decent mood) and she won’t be missed. People might disagree, but I just don’t see the point in a companion who didn’t want to travel with the Doctor.
  • Turlough’s an interesting one. Here’s a character who has had very little character development beyond the basic brief that he “wanted to kill the Doctor”. He’s still wearing a school uniform, yet nobody comments on it. What I did notice about him here though, was that rather than being the generic companion that he has been for most of the stories out-with Mawdryn Undead and Enlightenment, he has a bit more to do and say. In particular, it’s a bit shocking for a companion to suggest murdering two guards.
  • So we have to assume that Davros was killed. Right?
  • Where’s Kamelion?
  • Why did that bloke who went to try to kill of Davros not wear a mask when the woman he was with did? And what a terrible actor he was.
  • That death scene, along with all the other ones caused by the deadly gas, was pretty horrific for a show like Who.
  • How come Turlough manages to avoid being killed by the gas just by putting a handkerchief loosely over his mouth?
  • That Dalek mutant really had it in for that solider, didn’t it?
  • And what’s with the bulletproof tarpaulin?
  • When the bomb disposal squad are killed off for the second time, they appear to be having a competition to see who can die in the most over the top way.
  • Fair play to the Dalek who managed to shoot back after he’d been exterminated himself.
  • As I mentioned above, the Incidental Music worked…thankfully. Once again, it was by Malcolm Clarke, who did a good job on both Earthshock and Enlightenment. Paddy Kingsland and Roger Limb should have taken notes.
  • Where was Leela when the Doctor was having his mind scanned? I know the answer, but I’m just making the observation.
  • Also, if I’m going to be really difficult, I would question why the character of the Doctor would be thinking of the likes of Katarina in his mind scan. Not only did he travel with her for about 5 hours before she was killed and barely said a
    Sadly, thanks to the UK Tabloid Press, I've seen the cock of one of these four men. Can you guess who it is? Dirty...

    Sadly, thanks to the UK Tabloid Press, I’ve seen the cock of one of these four men. Can you guess who it is? Dirty…

    word to her, but he travelled with or mixed with other characters, like Benton & Yates or even Marco Polo for far longer. Hmmph!

  • Poor old Peter Purves get barely half a second on screen, and he’s all blurry.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #93. I’d have it a lot higher I think. I can’t understand the sort of thinking that states this isn’t as good Doctor Who as The Unicorn & The Wasp, Kinda, Enlightenment or The Keeper of Traken.

Doctor Who – Resurrection of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s my childhood memories coming into play, but I very much enjoy Resurrection of the Daleks.

It looks good, has a very strong cast, a story that – despite some nonsensical faults – is easy to follow, the Daleks sound better than they have in a long time, the new Davros is better than the last and it just feels like a more polished piece of work than many of the other stories in this period.

I’m not sure how high I’ll rank it when I do my own ones at the end of this process, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere near as low as #93.

So it comes with my recommendation.

Enjoy it.

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Stuart’s Top 30 Sitcoms of All Time: Part 2 (#25- #21)

April 25, 2013

Ok then, let’s get into Part 2 of my 30 Top Sitcoms of All Time.

Remember, these are just my opinion, so I urge some of the more sensitive souls out there not to get too upset.

25. The Office (US Version)

There’s been many a debate on which version of the Office is better, the UK or US versions.The Office US

To me there’s not much of an argument to be had.

The US version of the Office has perhaps a less realistic set of characters (I mean, how did Michael Scott actually get the job as manager in the first place?) but it had better actors, funnier and more diverse plots and achieved success over a much longer period.

I talk about it like it’s a thing of the past, despite it still – as of April 2013 – being on the air, and that’s because I stopped watching it.

So what’s it doing on the list? Well this, like many more shows that will feature probably go on longer than they should. As it stands, the Office has had 195 episodes, and it would be remarkable if they were all funny.

From Season 2 (because Season 1 was a terrible rehash of the UK series) through to Season 6 it was must see TV for me.

Best Episode: Safety Training

There’s a consistency about the Office that runs through the seasons I mention, but one of the defining moments for me – and one that still makes me laugh just thinking about it – is the bit where Michael plans on jumping off the roof onto a trampoline, and they try it first of all by using a watermelon.

The whole episode is good, but that bit still makes me laugh just thinking about it.

24. Futurama

Here’s another show I haven’t really watched much since it made its return, but in its original form, Futurama was a wonderful and totally underrated series.futurama

Smothered a bit by the more popular – and by that time for less creatively satisfying – Matt Groening show, the Simpsons, Futurama is one that is deserving of anyone’s time.

Much like a lot of comedies, the first few episodes aren’t that great, and it’s easy to switch off before things start to get interesting. I only got into Futurama after it had originally stopped airing on TV.

The stuff they did after the series was initially cancelled was poor though, and while I’ve not seen much of the Comedy Central stuff, the straight-to-DVD efforts like Bender’s Big Score were brutal.

Best Episode: The Problem With Popplers

Even though – as far as I can remember – it doesn’t include the always amazing Hypnotoad, the Problem With Popplers is a gem.

23. Modern Family

Here’s a show that started out really strong, dipped a lot and is now operating on a bit of a hit and miss basis.

It’s a great idea for a comedy, even though I’m not quite sure why they occasionally talk to camera other than for the purposes of exposition.Modern Family

The first two seasons are consistently excellent, the third became fairly terrible (the episode for example where they go to Disneyland was Modern Family at its worst, with all the characters having become caricatures) but now it’s mostly back on form.

By a long way, the worst character is Luke, but the odds of them killing him off aren’t especially high.

Best Episode: Not In My House

IMDB lists this as an episode much worse than the Disneyland one, so there’s no accounting for taste.

They all blend in a bit, if I’m honest, but the episode with Jay’s statue of a canine butler stands out for me as the funniest.

22. Parks & Recreation

When I recommend Parks & Recreation, my advice is to skip the first season entirely.

The key to the success of Parks is that it turmed the character of Lesley Knoppe from being an incompetent moron – a poor woman’s Michael Scott if you like –  into a silly, but incredibly talented and enthusiastic Government employee.parks_and_rec_logo

Still on and into its fifth season, Parks & Rec has suffered a bit by making some of the characters – like Andy Dwyer – unrealistically stupid, but there have still been some excellent episodes in 2012/3.

And it’s got Ron Swanson in it; one of TV’s finest characters.

Best Episode: Hunting Trip

There’s a fairly high standard set from Seasons 2-4 at least, and my top one in my opinion is the episode where – and you might be able to guess this from the title – they go on a Hunting Trip.

21. Outnumbered

Outnumbered is – or at least was – a brilliant premise for a TV show.

Two adult actors, one child actor and two kids just making things up as they going along.outnumbered-logo

It was one of the best representations of a real British household ever seen on TV, and in the first three seasons it was a sensation, mostly down to the character of Karen.

The problem is that the kids have grown up into the sort of unlikeable brat you’d cross the street to avoid and the semi-improvised nature of the show has made way for a fully scripted and largely unfunny show.

The Christmas Special was the classic example of a show that should never have been made, and I’d urge them to forget about any further episodes, but when it was good, it was terrific.

Sadly, there does appear to be a new season in the works.

Best Episode: The Wedding

Probably the best example of how the show worked, you had the Brockmans going to the wedding of a member of their extended family they’d slagged off, Karen telling all this to the bride and the kids questioning the Vicar about God and how it didn’t make sense.

It was superb.

Get Involved In The Debate

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

You can also follow me on twitter @sgmilne

Feel free to get involved in the debate.

Doctor Who – Frontios Review (or “The Curse of Kingsland Strikes Again”)

April 24, 2013

Oh no, Christpher H. Bidmead is back.

The man who thinks the viewers are interested in makey up science pish is back with a new story, Frontios.

Will it be any better than his previous efforts as a writer and a script editor?

Let’s hope so.

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

Burrowing insect creatures known as Tractators led by their well spoken controller, The Gravis, keep sucking human beings into the ground to help them turn the planet of Frontios into one large spaceship.

The Doctor is initially hesitant to get involved, because apparently it’s not ok to meddle so far into the future (make sense of that one if you can), but he does it anyway.

Thoughts – Paddy Kingsland Does It Again…Unfortunately

Much like my review of Mawdryn Undead, I have to start with a complaint about the Incidental Music.

In the aforementioned Season 20 story, the music was both in-your-face and largely unsuitable for what was on screen, and it led to it overshadowing what was on screen.

Oooh he's butch. And the boy behind him appears to be Brodus Clay's dad.

Oooh he’s butch. And the boy behind him appears to be Brodus Clay’s dad.

It’s almost the same in Frontios, and would you believe it, the composer here is the same as in Mawdryn Undead. It’s Paddy Kingsland.

To be fair, it’s not that the music is unsuitable, because it fits quite well.

But it’s that it’s just so bloody relentless.

Every damned scene has the same piece of woodwind music played over it. Eventually it just got to the point where I was being made tense and irritable by it.

I have to ask the question again; does Paddy Kingsland understand what Incidental Music is supposed to be? Because it doesn’t sound like it.

The Story

That the Incidental Music of Frontios is the ‘Big Ticket Item’ on this review perhaps does a disservice to what is on the whole a perfectly acceptable story.

To me, Frontios is ahead of its time in that it’s the sort of setting you’d expect in the David Tennant era.

There’s a gritty survivalist theme going on where the TARDIS has landed in amongst one of the last colonies of the human race left in the universe, and they are struggling to survive.

I like that, even though it goes against my irrational hatred for anything bleak and murky looking.

And the concept behind the Tractators is good too,  although there are one or two elements about them and their plan that don’t make all that much sense. I’ll get to that later.

The Acting

One of the main strengths of Frontios is the quality of the guest cast and the depth of character they perform.

The likes of Lesley Dunlop, William Lucas and especially Peter Gilmore are all of a high standard, Gilmore especially. He plays a character with more than one layer, and displays a good range of emotion in his performance.

So he’s good, but one I’m not too sure of is Jeff Rawle as Plantagenet.

Either he’s a bit hammy, in which case he’s bad, or he’s acting the part of a character who is deliberately hammy and full of false bluster in the role of an unprepared leader. And if Rawle is acting the latter, he’s top notch. I’m not sure he is though.

Finally, the voice acting of the Gravis is fun – certainly far more emotive and full of character than that dreadful Silurian voices from Warriors of the Deep – and the Doctor’s dealings with him are a fresh and interesting take on the Doctor/Monster dynamic.

Race Memory

While on the whole, it’s good story, there are still things that I take issue with…

For a start, the concept of Race Memory seems very much like something Christopher H. Bidmead has read about in some scientific journal and thought would make a good plot device. Either that or he’d recently watched Quatermass and the Pit. Either way, I’m not so sure about its use here.

If Race – or Genetic – Memory really is a thing, it’s meant to be subconscious. There’s a school of thought, for example, that suggests it’s hard wired into us to be afraid of snakes. People can be afraid of snakes without having ever seen one, and it’s

Poor old Gravis. At the very least he's lost a few teeth there.

Poor old Gravis. At the very least he’s lost a few teeth there.

because they were such a deadly threat to early man when living in tropical climates.

Now let’s take a moment to assume that’s true, even though it probably isn’t. If it were true, it manifests itself in being afraid of snakes, not being able to recount an entire history of the battle between snakes and humans over the years. That’s what I don’t like about its use in Frontios.

Here, Race Memory = A Chance For Easy Exposition.

Either that or it’s been used to give Turlough something to do.

No matter what the use though, the execution was silly. I can understand Turlough having an inbuilt fear of Tractators, but I can’t accept that he knows exactly what happened when they invaded his planet, nor can I accept that he knows how they operate and that the Tractators are useless without the Gravis. To me that’s just taking the easy way out, especially considering the latter piece of info was key to wrapping the story up.

Leave Me, I’m Not Worth Saving

Another thing that really grinds my gears is the death of Brazen.

It’s death for the sake of death.

For much of Episodes 3 and 4 we see Plantagenet sitting in the Mining Machine quite the thing. He didn’t look in any great discomfort and was freed from it reasonably easily by the Doctor.

But when Brazen sits in it? All bets are off.

Not only is sitting in the machine somehow fatal for him, but he’s got no interest in being saved. He just says “Ach well, leave me. I’ll just die here”.

I’m not sure whether to blame Bidmead or Eric Saward for that, but it comes across as lazy writing and a means of getting rid of a character that no longer served a purpose in the plot.

And actually, the next time we see the Gravis’s control room, the machine has inexplicably blown up.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

I’d say that once again this story lasts about a day, maybe a day and a half.

It could be that the Doctor & Tegan went off and had their own adventures for years while dropping off the Gravis, but don’t tell that to Big Finish, because they’ll run with it and have a series of adventures with The Doctor, Tegan and a new companion that just so happens to be a streetwise youngster from 2013 London.

Random Observations

  • The designers on Frontios deserve credit for trying to make the setting look grand through the use of model shots and CSO (or whatever it was that was being used by 1984). Obviously it doesn’t work to a standard that would be deemed acceptable now, but on the whole it’s good for the time and budget available back then.
  • I’m not sure I get the reference to Tegan’s defective walk. Perhaps someone could explain that to me.
  • One thing that I noticed watching this that doesn’t make sense – and no I’m not talking about the breakup of the TARDIS which just seems bonkers – is that the plot suggests that the Tractators are harmless creatures when they aren’t under
    "It's ok, leave me here to die for no good reason. In fact, I'll strap myself in,"

    “It’s ok, leave me here to die for no good reason. In fact, I’ll strap myself in,”

    the influence of the Gravis. I can accept that, but what seemed a reach was that the Gravis just becomes dormant without them. That wasn’t mentioned as part of the explanation was it? And if it were the case, why would the Gravis – an intelligent creature who is well versed in what a TARDIS is – put himself in the situation where he would be separated from them?

  • When coming up with the names for the characters, do you think Bidmead thought “Well I can’t call her Norma, that would just be ridiculous! I know, I’ll call her Norna instead; that sounds very space age”
  • Once again Tegan is a delightful ray of sunshine in this story.
  • And again, she thinks that problems can be solved simply be hammering at buttons. In this case, she thinks she’ll be able to unlock Mr Range’s filing cabinet by randomly pressing the keypad.
  • I believe that there’s a fair amount of footage cut from Frontios, much of which is relating to the sub-plot with Cockerill, played by the “ultra charismatic” Maurice O’Connell. Without that footage, the sub-plot is just a waste of time.
  • And what about his buddy who looks like someone from a particularly sleazy Village People tribute band?
  • I can just about accept the Gravis turning Frontios into a moveable planet, but how do they plan on plundering other planets once they’ve moved there?
  • To give some credit to the director, I think the Tractator’s first appearance – turning round when they appeared to just blend into the background – was genius.
  • Why does the Gravis have a nose but the rest don’t?
  • I’m not too keen on the cliffhanger to Episode 3. As the viewer, I didn’t feel that Captain Revere was a big enough character to justify being used as a cliffhanger, even though it was more to do with a human being used as part of the mining machine.
  • There’s something a bit pathetic about the bit where Cockerill gets mugged. People are “hitting” him but there’s no sound coming from the blows. Or maybe there is and it’s just lost behind the interminable Incidental Music.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #104. I think that’s about right although I’m surprised it’s not higher based on how that list ranks other stories.

Doctor Who – Frontios Review: Final Thoughts

So I like it, even though it’s not without its problems.

What saves it is good acting in the most part, a nice look and decent dialogue.

Plot wise, things are a bit iffy, but it’s a Bidmead story so you can’t expect miracles.

Having said that, this is unquestionably his best story.

It’s just ruined by Paddy Kingsland.

Stuart’s Top 30 Sitcoms of All Time: Part 1 (#30 – #26)

April 23, 2013

Following the interest and debate stirred up by my Top Wrestling Themes article, I’ve decided to branch out a little more in that direction.

This series of articles – which will be spread over the coming weeks and months – will include everything from TV dramas, films, Kids TV shows from my youth and more.

Last year I also did one on TV Theme tunes, which you can read here

This article though is about my Top 30 Situation Comedies of All Time. The 30 shows that I consider to be the best sitcoms ever shown on TV.

Unlike the other list articles I’ve done – and at the request of some of the blog’s readers – I’m going to list them in order of preference (#30 downwards). It’s been pretty tricky, but I’m happy enough with my choices.

Now obviously these are just my opinions and there are plenty of shows I’ve not seen or shows that I just don’t like.

For example, I’ve never seen 30 Rock, a show which is considered by many as one of the best sitcoms or indeed comedy shows of the last 10 years.

So – and I can’t believe I have to say this – don’t get upset if your favourite show isn’t there.

30. Only Fools & Horses

What? Only Fools & Horses so far down the list? But it’s a British institution?

You know what? I had to consider whether or not I wanted to put this show into the list at all.Only_fools_logo

Why? Because I just don’t think it’s aged all that well.

You watch an episode of Only Fools in 2013 and it’s just not as funny as it once was.

There are loads of comedies – comedies that have made this list – that are just as old or even older than Only Fools that have stood the test of time better.

Maybe it’s that it’s so ingrained into our psyche that I don’t appreciate it any more. How many times have we seen Del Boy fall through the bar or the witness the chandelier fall through the roof?

And maybe in amongst the quality, we see that it relied heavily on lines like “You plonker” and “This time next year we’ll be millionaires”.

And it also made the massive mistake on coming back after finishing on such a high. The final few episodes were just rubbish.

But despite all that, there are still some moments to be appreciated, and for what it was, it deserves inclusion on the list.

I must admit that in spite of everything I’ve just written, I still laugh when I see the Batman & Robin bit.

Best Episode: The Unlucky Winner Is…

The episode where Del Boy wins a holiday to Spain stands out as the best of the lot.

29. Scrubs

As a sitcom, Scrubs is the sort that you could describe as pleasant to watch, but not necessarily “laugh out Scrubsloud funny”.

But it’s a show that I’ve seen fit to buy the boxed set of, and will happily watch whenever I see it on E4 or other such channels.

Sure, it’s silly, and yes, Zach Braff just has something about him that oozes “unlikeable”, but Scrubs had a certain level of depth beyond the surface that few sitcoms contain.

Best Episode: My Lunch/My Fallen Idol

The two-part story where J.D. blames himself for the suicide of a patient and Dr. Cox blames himself for the death of three transplant recipients typifies what Scrubs is like when it’s firing on all cylinders.

28. Black Books

At one point, Black Books was considered an under-appreciated, little known hit tucked away on the Channel 4 schedule where nobody knew it existed.

In the age of Netflix and cheap DVDs, I’m not sure that’s really true any more though.

The show about Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey running a book store is a British comedy gem, with some Black Bookswonderful moments.

Who can forget the episode where they try to write a children’s book because “they are so bloody easy”.

Best Episode: Grapes of Wrath

For me, the episode where Bernard & Manny house-sit for a friend and accidentally drink all the expensive wine instead of the cheap stuff is gold.

27. The Goodies

Whether the Goodies is a sitcom or not is up to your own interpretation.

For the first few seasons at least, they operate from their own house and take on different jobs under the auspices of “We Do Anything, Any Time”, so I think it does.

When I was a child, I thought The Goodies was one of the funniest things in the world, but as I’ve grown up, I the_goodies_titlemust admit I find it…well…a bit too childish.

And I also feel that the later seasons are of a generally poorer standard, going further and further away from the initial concept. I’ve never even bothered with the ITV stuff.

Having said that, there are still excellent episodes of the show that you can enjoy, including The End, The Race, Earthanasia, The Stone Age and Snooze.

Basically, the better ones tend to be the ones that focus more on dialogue than wacky video montages.

Best Episode: Bunfight at the OK Tearooms

A very clever, well written and performed episode that is still laugh out loud funny in 2013.

Not just that, but the whole setup of the final confrontation between the three men as they battle for control of the “Gold Rush” for Clotted Cream, Scones and Strawberry Jam is brilliant, and has a top-notch song to accompany it.

26. The Office (UK version)

I know a few people who absolutely love The Office and can’t see anything wrong with it.

It was funny, clever and unique for the time and it had some terrific characters, but I must admit that I soured a little bit to it when I realised that almost everyone in it was acting in the only style they knew how.TheOfficeUK

Maybe I’m wrong; maybe directors have cast the likes of Martin Freeman, Mackenzie Crooke and Lucy Davis to act in exactly the same way as they did here in everything they’ve subsequently been in, or maybe they just aren’t as good as people think.

And what sours it more for me is that I just cannot stand Ricky Gervais.

I suppose then that’s it’s a testament to how good it is that it makes the list in spite of that.

Best Episode: The Office Christmas Special: Part Two

The conclusion to The Office is a television at its best.

It wrapped up all the storylines and characters in a perfect way, with Brent finally being liked by his former co-workers and Tim finally – and at the last moment – telling Dawn how he feels about her.

Excellent, feel good viewing for Christmas time.

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

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Doctor Who – The Awakening Review (or ‘Awakening Is The Opposite Of What Happens With You Watch This’)

April 22, 2013

Following on from two big reviews – reviews that occupied opposite ends of the complimentary scale – we come to a story that provides some level of relief for me as a writer.

Why is that?

Well it’s the Awakening, and there’s just not much to say.

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

A monster is living in a wall and making Dennis Lill a very angry man.

Thoughts – A Nothing Story That Relies Upon Expositi0n

This is the third two-part story in the Peter Davison era and certainly the least remarkable of them.

While I thought Black Orchid was pretty decent and felt that while the King’s Demons wasn’t up to much, it certainly had topics worth discussion, The Awakening just comes across as two episodes of nothingness.

Well, nothingness and horrific exposition.

What’s wrong with the Awakening is that for any of it to make sense, it relies upon some serious info dumping, and I suppose that’s down to the threat being something that cannot speak or explain itself. So the Doctor – upon finding a piece of metal

"Hello, my name's Andrew Verney. I'm incidental to the plot and I only have an Australian accent for this one scene"

“Hello, my name’s Andrew Verney. I’m incidental to the plot and I only have an Australian accent for this one scene”

– has to come away with a long-winded explanation of what it’s called (Tinclavic) where it comes from (it’s “…mined by the Terileptils on the planet Raaga for the almost exclusive use of the people of Hakol”), where that planet is (“…a planet in the star system Rifta”) and what that planet is known for (one where “…psychic energy is a force to be harnessed.”)

All that information in one sentence just because he found a piece of metal.

And it’s a problem throughout the story. What happens during the two episodes doesn’t really matter to how the story concludes.

For all it’s worth, it could have been wrapped up in five minutes flat.

I just found watching The Awakening to be both a bore and a chore. You would think that a two episode story would allow for a brisk pace and a tightly put together and enjoyable adventure. Sadly not.

And it’s not like there’s anything hugely wrong with it beyond the exposition; it’s just that it’s so…meh.

Tegan’s Unfortunate Family

So this is the third time a member of Tegan’s family has unwittingly stumbled across an alien presence. Either there’s some kind of cosmic interference going on, or they are just very unlucky.

Or maybe it’s just unimaginative writing and script editing. Yes, that’s most likely what it is.

But what I noticed about Tegan’s Grandfather – Andrew Verney – is that he is completely redundant to the plot.

The story could have worked without the character, let alone the link to Tegan. Surely the TARDIS could have just landed in Little Hodcombe and – on going for a walk – the crew find a bunch of locals acting ridiculously aggressive?



That would have worked just as well without the tenuous link to Tegan’s family.

As a side point, Verney only appears to be Australian in his very first scene. Beyond that he speaks with an English accent.


Speaking of accents, the ones in The Awakening annoy me. On the one hand you’ve got actors like Dennis Lill, Polly James and Glyn Houston adding a smattering of West Country (is that right? I’m not sure) over their BBC English accents, and then on the other you’ve got the insufferable Keith Jayne as Will Chandler laying it on far too thick with his one, presumably because he’s from the past.

The Fifth Doctor Timeline

Again, it’s a story that lasts merely a day, but it appears as though the Doctor is being pressurised into staying in the village for a week.

He needs the rest.

Random Observations

  • Other than Keith Jayne, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the acting, even if Dennis Lill does ham it up a bit. Indeed, there’s nothing massively wrong with anything here.
  • The Malus looks impressive, but comes across more like something you’d pass as part of a theme park ride than as a Doctor Who monster.
  • That door Turlough breaks down falls to pieces a bit easily does it not?
  • The scene where the guy gets beheaded – even though we don’t see it – is fairly gruesome by Doctor Who standards
  • Similarly, the idea that it’s ok to bash someone in the back of the neck with a large rock is a bit much is it not? “Well done Turlough” says the Doctor upon seeing two men knocked unconscious and potentially paralysed.
  • The only memorable part of the whole story for me  is the cliffhanger, mainly because of the way Polly James shouts “Doctooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooor” in such a melodramatic ‘end of the episode’ style. He’s standing right
    What's Nigel Planer doing in this? And why does he look so old?

    What’s Nigel Planer doing in this? And why does he look so old?

    beside her – so she doesn’t need to shout – and before the music hits for the end credits you can even hear her voice wobbling and nearly having to stop and take a breath. Stupid.

  • Where’s Kameleon?
  • The story would have been made far better if it involved either Jack or Victor from Still Game instead of Verney, shouting stuff like “What the hell’s that great bastarding thing in the wall. Oh Jesus”
  • I was reminded of that because the guy who plays Verney is clearly younger than he’s made up to look. Why not just hire an old man?
  • To sum up how boring The Awakening is, the documentary on the DVD is about the villagers’ memories of the story being filmed. I skipped through it and stopped at one point to hear a woman say “And my son was the one who managed to stop the horse. We were very proud”. Exciting stuff.
  • I really hate the “You’re gonna be dead” line, both in terms of the writing and the delivery, when Will kills Lill. It’s so kids TV.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #110. The phrase “You can’t mean that” comes to mind, especially considering #111 is the Seeds of Death.

Doctor Who – The Awakening Review: Final Thoughts

It’s not so much that The Awakening is a bad story, but rather it’s just a nothing one; a waste of time.

I just cannot understand why anyone would objectively consider it to be a better story than The Seeds of Death or any number of other stories it’s ranked higher than.

It’s just bizarre to me.

I wouldn’t say avoid it, but rather I’d suggest you just don’t bother with it.