Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror Review (or “Arguably Saving The Worst For Last”)

September 30, 2013

“Prepare for a Victorian Horror Show”, said the BBC continuity announcer before the initial broadcast of The Crimson Horror.

She couldn’t have been more correct.

On first viewing, The Crimson Horror was – without question – the worst received Doctor Who story by me in the entire history of the show.

When I was four years old, Time & The Rani probably didn’t seem as bad as it does now, and as a child and a teenager, I’m sure I approached every classic story I watched – even the shit ones – with some degree of enthusiasm the first time around on UK Gold or BBC Video.

I didn’t think The Doctor’s Daughter was good when I saw it for the first time either. In fact, I declared it a “load of absolute shite” after it was first broadcast?

But The Crimson Horror?

This was a story that I declared utter contempt for while watching it.

I thought it was diabolical.

I thought it made The Doctor’s Daughter seem good.

Will a second viewing be kind to it? Did I make a mistake? Was I just in a bad mood that day and judged it unfairly?

Let’s see…

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

A Yorkshire Woman in Victorian Times under the influence of a prehistoric leech wants to destroy humanity.

Thoughts – Any Better The Second Time?

So did I enjoy it more the second time around?

Mr Sweet: Looks like something out of an episode of The Young Ones

Mr Sweet: Looks like something out of an episode of The Young Ones

No.

I still thought it was crap.

Why though? What’s wrong with it?

Well there’s a number of things.

First and foremost, there’s just too much going on.

Time and time again I’ve criticised Doctor Who stories for having style over substance, but this is probably the worst example of the lot.

I can just imagine Mark Gatiss sitting there was that goofy grin on his face saying “Let’s do a story set in Victorian Times. And we’ll have it in Yorkshire. And we’ll have Strax, Vastra and Jenny in it. And we’ll have a pre-historic leech in it that will look silly. And we’ll have a blind girl who has been experimented on by her mother. And we’ll have The Doctor only appear 15 minutes in. And we’ll have the blind girl adore him as a monster because he’ll be bright red. And we’ll have a flashback in the style of a silent film. And we’ll have a rocket. And let’s get Diana Rigg to play the villain. And we’ll have humour”

It’s all just “there” and not one single part of it links, with a plot that barely makes sense.

Why is the Yorkshire woman insane?

Where did Mr. Sweet come from?

Why has he attached himself to her?

Why has she been experimenting on her daughter?

What’s the point of Sweetville?

Where did they get the technology for the rocket?

It just seemed so poorly explained and hollow. Events happened because they were written that way, not because they made sense.

Utter tripe.

No Good For The Casual Viewer

Diana Rigg: Definitely the worst guest star in Modern Doctor Who, but arguably the worst ever.

Diana Rigg: Definitely the worst guest star in Modern Doctor Who, but arguably the worst ever.

I’m a keen follower of Doctor Who – you all must have realised that by now – but even I struggled to identify Jenny at one point.

Sure, put alongside Vastra & Strax and put in an incongruous situation, she’s easily recognised. But if you place her in a crowd with other Victorian people, away from her alien friends, she’s not that identifiable.

When I watched it the first time, I think I must have blinked and missed the scene where it was explained that she was going into Sweetville because I had no idea who she was. But then when I watched it again, I still had to take a moment to think “Who’s that?”

Maybe it’s because she’s got an unremarkable face (which isn’t me being nasty, but rather me making the point that she doesn’t stand out from the crowd) or maybe it’s that she hasn’t been featured enough for her to be known automatically, but either way, I didn’t find her instantly recognisable.

So what must the casual viewer have thought?

And indeed, for the first part of the story, casual viewers were probably wondering what show they were watching. Was this Doctor Who or was it the Amazing Adventures of Madame Vastra?

Diana Rigg – The Worst Guest Artist In Modern Doctor Who?

All the way back in my review of The Moonbase, I passionately praised the work of guest star, Patrick Barr.

For me, he epitomised exactly what a guest star should do; he took it absolutely seriously and put his all into the part.

As a result, his enthusiasm became infectious and it raised the standard of the story as a whole.

Sometimes the guest stars don’t take it seriously, and this became more of an issue and the show became less popular and credible in the 1980s.

But most of the time in Modern Who, this has not been a big problem.

It is with Diana Rigg though.

Whether it’s just that she’s a lousy actress (just because she’s a well-known actress from a cult TV show, it doesn’t mean she’s any good) or whether she just isn’t taking it seriously, I thought she was beyond terrible.

A more over the top, playing it for laughs performance you will never see.

She took the piss from her first scene to her last and she did what thankfully so few of her counterparts over the years have done; she made the story embarrassing to watch.

People mock Beryl Reid’s doddery performance in Earthshock, but I’d far sooner have that than an old crow like Rigg going into business for herself like she does here.

Just awful.

It’s time she retired.

What Do We Know About Clara?

Something that struck me whilst watching the Crimson Horror is just how little we actually know about Clara.

Some fans accused the Doctor of sexually assaulting Jenny here. Oh get a fucking grip.

Some fans accused the Doctor of sexually assaulting Jenny here. Oh get a fucking grip.

As much as I criticised Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, at least we knew who she was, what her character was like as a person and what her back story was.

But Clara? Nothing.

Sure, some of her back story has been left purposefully vague as part of the Impossible Girl story-arc, but the result of that is she’s left with no identifiable character traits whatsoever.

I quite like Coleman as an actress – infuriating accent aside – but at this stage she’s an incredibly bland character.

The Humour

But going back to the story, the humour was also a major problem for me.

It just wasn’t funny, even though it tried so hard to be.

Doctor Who is Doctor Who; it’s a science fiction show, not a comedy. There have been great examples of it having comedic elements in it, but they only work in certain environments.

This wasn’t one of them.

Of course, humour is up to the individual; some people might have found Matt Smith doing a Yorkshire accent funny, or Strax going way over the top a delight, but I didn’t.

I also didn’t find Mr Sweet to be the “hilarious” character I was supposed to. The thing just looked pitiful, and the puerile way it got killed off was unbecoming of the show.

Worst of the lot though was the Thomas Thomas joke. Apart from it having no relevance to the script, it was just so out of left field that it made me despair. Why even come up with that?

Argh.

The Ending

Just when you thought it was over though, there was more.

Possibly the stupidest part of this whole tawdry affair is the idea that they posed for this photo and that it subsequently made its way onto the internet or into a school textbook

Possibly the stupidest part of this whole tawdry affair is the idea that they posed for this photo and that it subsequently made its way onto the internet or into a school textbook

The last scene, where Clara comes back to find the kids she nannies have found pictures of her from earlier stories is just breathtakingly stupid.

At what point did they have time to take pictures in these episodes? In the one from Hide, who actually took the photo? In the one from Cold War, why is she looking away from the camera when everyone else is posing?

And more to the point, why would they be available to download.

This idea that everything is available on the internet if you look hard enough is utter bullshit, especially for children.

Sure, it was written in to allow the two kids to take part in the next episode, but it’s still bullshit.

Random Observations

  • Today’s Cheap Pop moment, a Tegan reference. Oh, wonderful…
  • Maybe the Doctor always stops for group photos during every one of his adventures? There’s probably one with him and The Gravis somewhere.
  • When The Doctor has been afflicted with the Crimson Horror, his jaw is permanently open, and yet as he walks around he seems to forget that. No consistency.
  • Then, for no good reason other than to move the story along, he manages to be fine after going into a cupboard for a minute.
  • And not just that, he comes out with his proper clothes. What’s the story here? Are we supposed to just accept the plot is cack-handed and doesn’t make sense?
  • I heard that some Doctor Who fans claimed they felt The Doctor sexually assaulted Jenny when he emerged from that cupboard. These people need to give themselves a shake and then get a life.
  • What about all the women who have done exactly the same thing to him over the past few years?
  • What was the point of the people living in jars?
  • Mind you, what was the point of the whole bloody story?
  • Mr Sweet looked like something out of The Young Ones
  • Strax’s mask looks incredibly obvious here.
  • Why does Diana Rigg ask her daughter to forgive her, only to approve when she doesn’t?
  • One well-known Super Fan declared this episode a classic after it was first shown. I can only think he did that to suck up to the production team in the hope they might release missing episodes quicker.
  • But then this story seems to get good reviews from critics, with The Daily Telegraph and – unsurprisingly – Mr Positive at The Guardian loving it. I just don’t get it.
  • DWM Miighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Crimson Horror Review: Final Thoughts

Having gone through every story in Doctor Who’s history to re-view and review them, there are a very small handful that I just don’t think I’ll ever bother with again.

I have no desire to watch Terminus again, for example, and I just don’t see me wanting to give something like The Arc of Infinity or episodes 2-4 of Underworld another watch.

But I then if I’m honest, I probably will.

I’m making a promise to myself though that I will never watch The Crimson Horror again.

A genuine contender for Worst Doctor Who Story of All Time, I think it fails on pretty much every conceivable level. Ok, it looks good, but the performances, the attempts at humour, the “Throw Everything At The Wall And See What Sticks” style plotting and just the general rot surrounding it makes me think “Why would I waste 45 minutes of my life on this shit ever again”.

It’s that bad.

I hate it.

I absolutely hate it.

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat should be ashamed of themselves.

 


Movies: Rush Review (or “Oh My God, I’m Writing About Something Other Than Doctor Who”)

September 27, 2013

Oh my God, it’s an article that isn’t about Doctor Who!!!

That’s right, I’ve finally got something else to write about, and – having gone to the cinema today for the first time since June (hey, who says my Unlimited Card is a waste of money?) – I finally get to review a new movie.

What can I say? I’ve been busy and there just hasn’t been anything on worth seeing.

But I definitely wanted to go to see Rush.

Rush Review: What’s It About

Based on a true story, Rush is about the heated rivalry between 1970s Formula One drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda. It documents the six years between their first meeting and their showdown at the end of the 1976 Grand Prix season,

Rush Review: Who’s In It?

Though it includes a host of recognisable names like Suzie Miller (House, The O.C.), Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), David Calder (Starcops – and believe me, I sat through that film thinking “What the hell was that guy in” before getting home to check on imdb) and Stephen Mangan (Episodes, The Green Room), the stars of the show are Daniel Bruhl as the serious Austrian driver Lauda, and Chris “Thor” Hemsworth as the playboy Englishman, Hunt.

Ron Howard directs.

Rush Review: High Highly Is It Rated?

Rush clocks in with a score of 8.4/10 on imdb from over 12,000 voters, and gets a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%

Rush Review: Thoughts (Contains Spoilers)

Like I said in my review of Senna a few years back, I’m not a fan of Formula One at all; I find it dull and clinical.Rush-2013-Poster-carwitter

But that doesn’t stop me enjoying movies about it.

It certainly seems as though it was more interesting – and a helluva lot more dangerous – back in those days.

Whether the movie turned Hunt and Lauda into caricatures rather than characters, I couldn’t tell you, although the chances are they did.

But the point is, I didn’t know the story.

And I think that made this better for me.

Had I known exactly how this true to life rivalry played out, with Lauda getting severely burned and then coming back to challenge Hunt in Japan, I probably wouldn’t have found it quite so interesting.

But because I didn’t know everything that was going to happen, the story was far more captivating for me as a result.

I had no idea about all the twists and turns, and though it was reasonably interesting finding out a little bit about their private lives, the hook for me was not knowing who would win in the end, and indeed if they would live or die.

It was a fascinating story, and one that was unsurprisingly reasonable and genuine, since it happened in reality.

Also, it was refreshing to see the story told without bias to one man or the other. Both have their flaws, both have their strengths. It doesn’t favour one man over the other like Senna did.

Apart from that though, it was well acted.

Bruhl and Hemsworth played their parts with style and managed to bring to life the differences in their characters that seem to have made them polar opposites and rivals. I had absolutely no problem on that score.

But where I think it excelled the most was in the realisation.

It must be a dream for a director and a costume designer to go back to an era like the 70s and recreate the fashion and the decor, and here it’s done particularly well. Visually, this is a treat.

The only flaw I noticed was right at the start. In his opening narration, Lauda talks “what he did to Hunt that day”, but it’s not really made clear what that is. Perhaps it’s that Lauda’s accident softened Hunt’s character, but that line of narration shouldn’t have ended up so loosely resolved.

Should You Go To See Rush?

Apart from that one niggle, I find myself not being able to come up with much to criticise Rush for.

It was well acted, looked great and had a top-notch story.

Furthermore, running at 120 minutes long, it never dragged and kept me interested throughout.

Had I know the story going in, I may not have enjoyed it so much, and while that might sound obvious, I suppose when it’s based on a true story, plenty of people will be familiar with it before they see it, and perhaps they won’t have found it quite as intriguing as I did.

But that’s not something for me to worry about. From my point of view, I’d say Rush is comfortably the second best film I’ve seen this year and I’d highly recommend you go to see it.

 


Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review (or “Making It Up As He Goes Along”)

September 20, 2013

Back in February, when I wrote my review of Warrior’s Gate, I called it “The Emperor’s New Clothes of Doctor Who Stories”, based around the idea that in spite of what we see on screen being crap and making very little sense, people adored it.

Fast forward to now and The Wedding of River Song and the same sort of thing applies.

Doctor Who – The Wedding of River Song Review: What’s This One About?

Cop-outs and desperate attempts to cover tracks.

Thoughts – So What Do The People Say

The Emperor’s New Clothes then; what’s that about?

This'll end well...

This’ll end well…

Well, I look at the sort of reviews The Wedding of River Song gets and I arrive at the conclusion that some of these critics must be convincing themselves that this episode is well written.

As far as I can remember, at the time this season was shown, there was an increasing amount of criticism of the complicated way Steven Moffat was writing the show.

Perhaps these critics, in a bid to make themselves feel clever, decided to ignore the flaws and declare it a triumph.

Because that seems to be what’s happened.

Some examples of critics thoughts on it include…

“A gripping race against time” (time stood still, so how can it be a race against time)
“Simplistic in its resolution” (you’re kidding me?)
“About nine tenths a great, great episode” (I’d love to hear an example of what a really good episode could be described as then)
“Pretty close to a perfect season finale for those not wanting all the answers” (who doesn’t want things to be explained?)

What?!?!

I should point out before I go on, that not every reviewer saw it that way and it’d be wrong of me to call them all out, but I want to focus on the praise of this episode and why I totally and utterly disagree

The Great Cop-Out

To start with, the story is one massive cop-out, but I don’t suppose we could expect anything less.

Oh my God, The Doctor didn’t actually die.

Who saw that coming?!?!?

From the off, Season Six was based around a story-arc that couldn’t end in anything other than the obvious, and at least, I suppose, in that regard, it didn’t disappoint.

That's right; you were lying all the time to preserve spoilers. Suuuuuure.

That’s right; you were lying all the time to preserve spoilers. Suuuuuure.

The basics are that River didn’t want to kill him, so she didn’t and it caused time to jumble up.

And what did that do? Oh I know, it allowed for Moffat to bring back lots and lots of recently used characters for the now completely over-done “Cheap pop”, it allowed him to go back to visual style over written substance and it allowed him to wrap up the character of River Song (in theory, but not in reality)

I mean even the name of the episode is arse-about-face. This is – or at least it should be – the story of how The Doctor died or didn’t die, and yet it’s once again all about River Song and for Moffat to find a way to get her married to The Doctor.

That’s what was important to Moffat here, especially seeing as The Doctor found his way out of the situation right at the start of the episode when he met with The Teselecta.

So River touches the Doctor and time gets reset, and then it turns out it wasn’t really him after all.

Ok, that makes sense on one level, but it’s hardly satisfying.

Where it doesn’t make sense is where The Teselecta starts to regenerate.  How can it? It’s a robot that has taken the likeness of the Doctor, not his DNA.

But again, Moffat probably hadn’t thought of that when he wrote The Impossible Astronaut.

If In Doubt, Call Spoilers and Reset The Universe

Perhaps the most astonishing part of this whole episode was the scene at the end where River has a drink with Amy and says she lies all the time to preserve spoilers. She cites “Pretending I don’t know you’re my mother; pretending I didn’t recognise the Space Suit in Florida” as examples.

Bollocks.

Utter bollocks and an absolutely shameful attempt to cover for bad writing.

As I say, before watching them again for these reviews, the only other time I’ve seen these stories was when they were first on, and I had forgotten about pretty much the whole of this one and how it went. So when I wrote my River Song Timeline a few reviews ago, I had no idea Moffat was going to try to explain all that stuff away with that.

Who does he think he’s kidding?

He calls spoilers when it suits his jumbled up, non-sensical plot developments.

The Doctor: Looks sleazy and a bit dirty with longer hair

The Doctor: Looks sleazy and a bit dirty with longer hair

And he does it because even lines in this episode don’t make sense. The Doctor tells the River who is about to shoot him that she won’t have any memory of killing him. Eh?!?!?! Every appearance of River beyond her first has involved talk of how she killed The Doctor.

The other thing that Moffat does is reset the universe when it suits him.

This is the second season in a row that ends with an alternative time line universe being closed off and a new one being rebooted with The Doctor living again in spite of the odds?

And something similar-ish will happen again in the next season.

It just means he thinks he can do whatever he likes and write it off as an alternative universe, and again, I think that is bad writing.

The Incongruous Death of the Brigadier

I’m all for paying tribute to the Brigadier, but slap, bang in the middle of this episode seemed a touch out-of-place.

For no good reason, The Doctor phones up a nursing home to be told “He’s dead, mate”.

And he’s upset about it, of course, but a) He already knew how and when he died as far back as Battlefield and b) He can go to visit him before he died.

I get what they were going for but it just seemed daft.

Put it this way; it would have seemed in bad taste if he went round to visit Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith told him she had died, would it not?

Random Observations

  • Though Moffat at least explains their motivation, if The Silence are so-called because they want The Doctor to be silent and not speak his name at Trenzalore, why do they hang about Earth, influencing the human race? Oh I know…because he hadn’t thought about that when he first wrote them.
  • No mention of Amy suddenly being a Supermodel here then.
  • Everyone thinks The Doctor is dead because presumably they watched him die and never bothered to look again. They should have known better.
  • Why did they get married anyway? As far as I can see it happened for no good reason, unless The Doctor doesn’t want to kiss someone without a certificate?
  • The Indiana Jones references amused me
  • Another aspect of the story that I don’t quite get is why he changed his mind about dying? At the end of Closing Time, he’d accepted his fate, and yet all of a sudden when we pick up the story he’s dead against it and eager to find a way to get out of it? More “Fill In The Blanks Yourself” stuff probably.
  • This episode didn’t have enough Rory in it. He tends to bring a certain level of sanity to proceedings.
  • Unsurprisingly, a Dalek turns up here. We’ve not seen one of them for a while…
  • I wonder what The Doctor has been doing for the last 200 years while we’ve not seen him?
  • Why are there cars being carried around in hot air balloons?
  • And why would children think feeding the Pterodactyls would be a good idea?
  • The Doctor looks incredible sleazy with longer hair
  • One of the comments from another critic was that this presses the reset switch on Doctor Who. It doesn’t really. It’s not like he’s been wiped from time.
  • Also, on that note, when they refer to him as “The Eleventh” it shows that Moffat hadn’t thought up the John Hurt or the alternate David Tennant stuff yet. What a writer.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Wedding Of River Song Review: Final Thoughts

The main thing to take from The Wedding Of River Song is that the worst story arc in Doctor Who history is over.

No, not River Song, but this crap about the Doctor dying. All told, that should have been done in one single episode or maybe two.

It didn’t need to be dragged across an entire season when the punchline was that he didn’t die. We knew that would happen. We also knew it was River Song in the space suit.

Everything else in this episode was just fluff around that. Like A Good Man Goes To War, it can’t really be enjoyed as a single episode either. The narrative is poor and it relies upon knowing about stuff that happened in previous episodes.

We criticised JNT for this sort of thing and so Moffat deserves it too.

But what’s worse is that Moffat is a good writer. We’ve seen what he can do with episodes like Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace.

Yet this is story arc, and indeed the River Song story arc as well is just dire. It’s amazing to think it’s come from the same pen.

Let’s move on and hope things improve in Season Seven…


Doctor Who – Closing Time Review (or “The Lodger 2: Killing In The Name of Love”)

September 20, 2013

I only wrote my review of The Lodger ten days ago.

I feel this constrains me somewhat in writing something fresh about The Lodger Part 2: Killing In The Name of Love…oh, sorry, I mean Closing Time

But I’ll try my best.

Doctor Who – Closing Time Review: What’s This One About

With only a day to live, The Doctor decides to go to visit a bloke he spent less than a week with a couple of hundred years earlier.

And it just so happens there are Cybermen hanging around nearby too.

Thoughts – Same Again

Much like The Lodger, Closing Time works on the strength of The Doctor’s relationship with Craig, and being put in a domestic situation.

Lolz, people think they are gay.

Lolz, people think they are gay.

The addition of the baby gave it a slightly new twist, but it’s essentially the same type of story again.

And I’ve got no problem with that.

The Lodger was good, and so is this, but it does leave me stuck for a massive amount to say.

So, assuming you know why I like it and how I think Smith & Corden (and this time Lynda Baron too) work well together and bring some good comedy to proceedings, I’ll just move on to what’s wrong with it.

The Cybermen Are Pathetic

This season of Doctor Who has essentially destroyed the credibility of The Cybermen,

Hell, the modern era of Doctor Who has destroyed their credibility.

While The Daleks get treated like the greatest and strongest of all threats, The Cybermen have made dynamic appearances in the following stories.

Army of Ghosts: Jobbed out to the Daleks to the point where they ended up being back-up to the humans
The Next Doctor: Servants of Dervla Kerwin
The Pandorica Opens: A Cyberman worked as an easily disposed of guard
A Good Man Goes To War: They get intimidated by Rory and have their ships blown up for no good reason, making them look fragile and pitiful.
Closing Time: They are reduced to having any old sod become their new Controller and their heads blow up because of the power of love.

Essentially, the Cybermen’s aura has lowered to the point where they are now bit-part characters at best, unable to carry a story on their own.

There was a time when that happened in the 1960s of course; The Invasion reduced them to henchmen of Tobias Vaughn with barely any lines.

The only way they managed to recover a bit was by making them into comedy figures in Revenge of the Cybermen (which was great) and then reinvent them as emotional blokes led by David Banks (which also had its moments)

These current ones are just crappy robots who say “Delete” and have that same bit of god-awful incidental music played over them whenever they appear.

The CybermenL Reduced to bit part drones killed by love. Pitiful. This one just looks crushed.

The Cybermen: Reduced to bit part drones killed by love. Pitiful. This one just looks crushed.

They can no longer carry a story on the back of their own threat or menace, but even if they could before Closing Time, it’s doubtful they would after.

I mean, come on; killed by love? That’s just pathetic.

So now, the least threatening supervillains in the world can add love to the likes of Radiation, Gravity and Gold in their list of terminal weaknesses.

There was no point in having them in this story at all, and I think it would have worked better for not just this story, but Doctor Who going forward, if Gareth Roberts had found some other threat in their place.

The Final Scene

And just when we all thought it would be another story that could survive on its own merits, Steven Moffat jumps in at the end with a crappy River Song scene.

You can just imagine Steven Moffat thinking “Wow, this will blow the viewers minds” as we see River Song end up in the Space Suit in the lake in Utah.

Were you surprised?

I know I wasn’t.

OH...EM...GEE!!! It's River in the Space suit in the Lake!!! Who saw that coming?!?!??!??? Oh right; everyone.

OH…EM…GEE!!! It’s River in the Space suit in the Lake!!! Who saw that coming?!?!??!??? Oh right; everyone.

In fairness, a scene to set up the finale was probably a good idea but it was the way it was done that bugged me.

Why would those three children a) know it was the Doctor when asked years into the future and b) why would anyone interview them about it?

It’s daft.

But that’s what we’ve come to expect from this storyline.

Random Observations

  • The comedy surrounding Lynda Baron thinking they were a gay couple was mildly amusing.
  • Similarly, the stuff with The Doctor being able to understand babies was good, although perhaps it came too soon after the joke was done in A Good Man Goes To War.
  • Shouldn’t everyone on Earth know who Cybermen are by this point? As they said in almost every Doctor Who story of the 60s, “There were Cybermen; every child knows that”. And how do they know that? The Mondas Incident of 1986.
  • But here, not only has nobody heard of them still (which doesn’t really make much sense, even allowing for The Crack In Time), but these Cybermen also come from a ship that crash landed 350 years earlier. Apparently the Cybermen are time travelling for the sake of it these days.
  • The lesson Craig should learn from this whole affair is not to keep his phone on silent.
  • Why is it The Doctor wants to visit Craig, of all people, on his second last day?
  • And how come Amy is a supermodel all of a sudden? What? How?
  • I’m surprised they found a Cyberman head to fit James Corden.
  • To be fair, they did do a good set up job, with the Doctor getting his cowboy hat and the materials for sending out his invitations from Craig.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – Closing Time Review

I like it for many of the same reasons as I liked The Lodger.

But this one had more problems.

Well…they are problems if you think destroying the last pitiful vestiges of the Cybermen’s aura counts.

If you don’t, then it’s fine.


Doctor Who – The God Complex Review (or “Too Soon”)

September 20, 2013

In my opinion, visuals play a big part in the success of a Doctor Who story.

Remember all the way in the Classic Era Reviews, I discussed how I felt that authenticity was a big thing; if it looked good, then it felt good.

In Modern Who, authenticity isn’t a major factor because everything looks good. With greater budgets, better camera work, a higher standard of direction and more location filming, it’s not like a story will look bad.

But as you’ll also know from three of my most recent reviews, the look played a big part in my enjoyment or lack there-of.

I can’t abide grim, post apocalyptic stuff, so I was put off by The Doctor’s Wife (although in fairness, the story wasn’t up to much either)

I thought Night Terrors’ well told story was helped along wonderfully by the eerie darkness of the visuals. Note: It’s not the darkness I don’t like about The Doctor’s Wife, but the way its all so washed out and colourless.

And I loved the bright contrast to that story in The Girl Who Waited.

But don’t misunderstand me; visuals can only take you so far.

Which brings me to The God Complex.

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

An alien who feeds on faith traps people in a ship designed like a 1980s hotel along with their greatest fears.

Thoughts – Style Over Substance

The ultimate goal of The God Complex is to engineer a situation that allows The Doctor to temporarily say goodbye to Amy & Rory.

This episode rests entirely on imagery like this. All style, no substance.

This episode rests entirely on imagery like this. All style, no substance.

The reason they are there is because of Amy’s undiminishing faith in The Doctor.

So he must break that to free them, and it occurs to him that his companions won’t be safe if they travel with him.

And that’s fine, but it means the rest of the story lacks a bit of substance.

It’s 35 minutes of shallowness to try to get to a punchline.

So what do they do in those 35 minutes?

They fall back on style.

The God Complex is an episode where design is there to compensate for a lack of plot.

Setting it in an old 1980s style hotel is a cover. Set the same thing on a generic alien space craft and people would notice the lack of anything particularly interesting happening.

Similarly, the compensation comes in the form of eerie things waiting in rooms like Weeping Angels and a Clown with a balloon.

When I watched the trailers for that season, I said “I can’t wait to see the episode with the clown in it; it looks great”. And I said that purely on the basis of that frame.

And that’s the point; the style of this one far exceeds the quality of the plot.

That’s not a good thing.

It’s Too Soon To Do This Again

Another problem I have with The God Complex is that it comes too soon after Night Terrors.

Oh look, it's David Walliams dressed as a mole. What fun.

Oh look, it’s David Walliams dressed as a mole. What fun.

To an extent, both stories play off the same principle – someone’s fears being brought to life.

Do we need two stories with that theme, a mere two weeks apart?

I don’t think so.

And maybe that also counts against it. If Night Terrors hadn’t done that same type of story – and done it better – a couple of weeks earlier, I doubt I’d think of it in as negative a way.

Don’t get me wrong; The God Complex isn’t crap, but it feels lacking, especially in comparison to that story.

Writing Amy & Rory Out

In my review of The Hungry Earth, I complained about the scene where Amy gets sucked into the Earth. I thought it tried too hard to pluck on the heart-strings when everyone knew that she wasn’t going to be dead. It cheapened scenes of genuine emotion.

The scene where The Doctor says goodbye to Amy & Rory at the end of this is similar.

Not being someone who reads spoilers (I don’t even read the names of upcoming stories), I asked my brother when this was first broadcast “Is that them written out then?”. I genuinely thought it was, based on the way it played out.

“No,” he said “as far as I’m aware they are in the last two episodes of the season”

I can't look at one of these without thinking of The Toymaker in the Big Finish story "The Magic Mousetrap". "Gottle of geer, Doc-tor" Check it out

I can’t look at one of these without thinking of The Toymaker in the Big Finish story “The Magic Mousetrap”. “Gottle of geer, Doc-tor” Check it out

I felt mugged.

Writing in that way is false advertising. It’s the boy who cried wolf.

For a guy like Moffat, who creams his jeans about spoilers, why write stuff designed to mislead the viewers? It just means that when characters like Amy & Rory do leave, they only way the viewers will believe it is when the press leak it first. And that goes against what he wants.

Halfwit.

Random Observations

  • I like David Walliams in Britain’s Got Talent, but when it comes to “talent”, I don’t think he has much as an actor. Whether you watch him on BGT, The God Complex, Big School or any other show he’s on, it just seems like he’s got one solitary style of acting; upright and camp. Dressing him up to look like a mole won’t make his character seem any different; it just becomes David Walliams in a funny costume.
  • And what’s the point of his character anyway? He doesn’t move the plot along, he doesn’t die, he doesn’t do anything; he’s just there, presumably to add to my point of style over substance
  • I imagine The Doctor’s fear was himself. What happened to fire and Sensorites?
  • It’s another story written by Toby Whithouse, so it’s no surprise it’s not up to much. At least this one had a different plot from his usual one though, eh?
  • I like that Rory had no fears, although if you think about it deeply that’s not very realistic, is it?
  • I think we’ve had enough appearances from Young Amelia now.
  • Watching this has made me go back and re-write part of my Girl Who Waited Review. I stupidly wrote that it was called The Girl Who Waited as a play on The Boy Who Waited. And yet obviously The Boy Who Waited was a play on The Girl Who Waited – i.e. Young Amelia. How foolish of me.
  • The monster in this story at least had a point to it.
  • Today’s “Cheap Pop” – a Nimon reference. That thing wasn’t a patch on the Nimon
  • I can’t look at wooden puppets without thinking of the Seventh Doctor Big Finish story, The Magic Mousetrap. Incidentally, that story is much better than this.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The God Complex Review: Final Thoughts

Although isolated this might seem ok, even if it is a case of style over substance, the big issue with it for me is that it comes too soon after a similar – and better – story in Night Terrors.

Ultimately though, as a Toby Whithouse effort, you can’t expect miracles.


Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited Review (or “Rory’s Choice”)

September 18, 2013

The reviews are coming thick and fast now as I write my fourth one in the space of two days.

Or to put it another way; I’ve just finished a work deadline and have plenty of time on my hands right now.

But that’s ok, as the next story – The Girl Who Waited – is another good one.

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

Separated and living in different time tracks, The Doctor and Rory must rescue Amy.

But they are 35 years too late.

Thoughts – Whiteness

The first thing that strikes you about The Girl Who Waited is the look of it.

Instantly this story stands out because of the stark whiteness of the set

Instantly this story stands out because of the stark whiteness of the set

It’s bright, it’s white and it’s clinical.

And that sets it apart from pretty much every other Doctor Who story Moffat has overseen.

So it immediately makes you sit up and take notice.

The funny thing is, when you watch a Classic Doctor Who story, and especially a Peter Davison one with the commentary on, the cast always moan about how it’s all so brightly lit.

I don’t really see the problem if it’s in a setting like this. Doctor Who has become so moody in its lighting under Moffat that it can become a bit off-putting.

Certainly when watching the episodes transmitted earlier this year (2013, for anyone reading this in the future) I felt that they all looked almost identical to each other and that they suffered as a result.

But I love the brightness here. The combination of the location, the brilliant whiteness and the design of the robots is a real positive for me.

It’s especially good coming straight after the wonderfully murky Night Terrors.

Another Ethical Dilemma

And thankfully, for the second story in a row, the plot matches the quality of the design.

Launching straight into the story without  any faffing around and wasting time, The Girl Who Waited moves along briskly from beginning to end.

And though I felt the science behind their separation was a bit hokey and difficult to comprehend, and also I didn’t really understand why the robots would be wanting to kill Amy if the point of the place was that people with the One Day Plague were there to die in comfort, I enjoyed it a lot.

Much like The Rebel Flesh, this is a Doctor Who story that poses an ethical dilemma.

What should The Doctor & Rory do? Take the 35-years-older Amy with them, or allow her to die (or to be more precise, make it so that she never existed) and save a younger one instead?

Old Amy: Looks older, but is still the same mediocre actress

Old Amy: Looks older, but is still the same mediocre actress

The obvious answer is to rescue the young one, but as the writing so effectively explains, they are the same person. And the older one has made it clear she wants to be the one they take.

In the end, the Doctor screws the old one over by locking her out of the TARDIS, and as he explains, he did it because he promised to keep Amy safe, and he felt that was the best way.

Now that I like, but where it possibly weakens a bit is that it’s really the older Amy who makes the choice in the end, telling a conflicted Rory not to let her back in.

Is that a cop-out? Does that absolve The Doctor and Rory from what would otherwise have been a callous decision?

Possibly.

But in the end, it doesn’t sully a great plot.

Old Amy

I’ve made no secret of my thoughts on Karen Gillan.

I just don’t think she’s a particularly good actress, or at least not compared to the likes of Catherine Tate and Billie Piper who have come before her (remember: I never thought Piper was a bad actress; I just didn’t like her Psycho Stalker character). Furthermore, in a TARDIS crew of three, she’s the weakest link by some distance.

If anything, this story highlights that The Doctor & Rory work better and more amusingly as a double act.

But getting back to Gillan, I’ve never felt she’s been able to handle drama all that well. She does loud brashness fine, and can even do some of the comedy ok, but transplant her into something like Planet of the Ood, Fathers Day or Journey’s End and I think she’d be shown up badly.

So here, where she’s acting the embittered old Amy, left alone for 35 years, she struggles.

Hiya!!

Hiya!!

She does well by her own standards, but I can’t help but feel other actresses would have portrayed the scenario far more effectively.

Luckily, she’s saved on two counts.

The first is that the makeup on her to age her is brilliant. It doesn’t look unrealistic at all, and is streets ahead of the “elderly” makeup worn by Mark Gatiss in the Lazarus Experiment. And you know what? In terms of movement, Gillan does well here. She walks as if she is older.

The second reason is that once again, Arthur Darvill carries the scenes to make them impactful.

He just might be one of the most underrated actors in Doctor Who history.

Random Observations

  • You probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t know it, but this is a Doctor-lite episode. By filming his scenes all in one place and at one time, Matt Smith was able to take some time off.
  • The way he keeps in the thick of the action, thanks to the glasses Rory wears, therefore, is clever.
  • Would being hit on the head by a painting knock someone out? Probably not, and even less so a robot. A knock to the head should affect a robot at all.
  • I can understand Amy becoming embittered after 35 years, but would she also not have gone mad too?
  • Even if she was left alone for 35 years though, how exactly did she manage to build her own sonic screwdriver? Even if she got the technical know-how from the helpdesk computer, where did she get the materials?
  • Seeing as she hadn’t laughed for 35 years, I assume she never went to the cinema or rollercoaster world.
  • I could argue a Grandfather Paradox style issue here, but I don’t think I’ll bother.
  • The reception area of The Centre looks like the reception area in Disney’s Contemporary Hotel.
  • Why did Amy press the red button? I imagine if you asked 100 people to open a door by “pressing the button” – and there was a choice of a red one and a green one – they’d either ask which one or press the green one, seeing as green is the internationally recognised colour for “Go”, while red means “Stop”. Ach well.
  • Old Amy must stink to high heaven by this point.
  • She also seems to have kept her hair at the same length. Impressive.
  • Sorry, but I’m going back to the crappy pre-credits intro that the US and Australian markets had to watch; you know, the “When I was a little girl…” one. The line about how the Doctor is from “somewhere else” really winds me up for some reason. It’s just so trivialising and written for the lowest common denominator.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Waited Review: Final Thoughts

There are issues, including one or two things that don’t add up so well and a reliance on a dodgy actress to step up, but on the whole, I think The Girl Who Waited is an enjoyable story; possibly the best story of the season.

And it looks great as well; something different for a change.


Doctor Who – Night Terrors Review (or “A Story That Defies The Odds”)

September 18, 2013

It’s interesting how my views on the stories from Season 6 have changed on repeat viewing.

So far it appears as though the only one I have the same feelings about the second time around is The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People.

That will certainly change soon, but as I move to Night Terrors, I’m actually watching this out of sequence.

Yesterday, when faced with the choice of watching an episode with my evening meal, I chose The Girl Who Waited as – going by my memories of it – Night Terrors didn’t inspire me with confidence.

So I watched some of it bed and the rest with my breakfast this morning.

And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.

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

A small boy – who is actually an alien – hides away everything he’s scared of in his bedroom cupboard.

But as it turns out, he does that in more than the metaphorical sense.

Thoughts – An Issue

To get my issues with it out of the way first…

Much like the guy who played Bill Kim in Prison Break, I'll never be able to see Daniel Mays as a sympathetic character again after Ashes to Ashes

Much like the guy who played Bill Kim in Prison Break, I’ll never be able to see Daniel Mays as a sympathetic character again after Ashes to Ashes

I felt like the stuff with the landlord existed purely to add another 10 minutes onto the plot.

It didn’t add anything to the story whatsoever, nor did it make all that much sense when he was sucked through his own floor.

You could argue that it’s because George was scared of the man, but that leads to two follow-up questions.

  1. Would he not also be afraid of the dog?
  2. On what grounds did the Old Lady get transported there as well?

So that was a bit poor, but beyond that I thoroughly enjoyed Night Terrors.

Atmospheric

For one thing, it’s dripping in atmosphere.

The low lighting in the flat, the fact it’s set at night (although it wouldn’t have worked otherwise, of course) and the darkness in the doll’s house all add to the appeal of the episode and heighten the drama.

And the set and costume design within the doll’s house, with everything made out of wood, and those dolls wandering the halls with their creepy childlike lullaby voices was just superb. They got it absolutely bang on,

But it wouldn’t work without drama to match, and I’d say the directing as a whole from Richard Clark is bang on.

The Story

Overall though, what helps it the most is that it’s a well written and acted story.

I give Mark Gatiss a lot of criticism on this blog, both as a writer and as an actor, and you can rest assured I will continue to do so when it’s merited (see The Crimson Horror), but here he deserves my praise.

Night Terrors is an interesting idea that is developed well throughout with fluid storytelling and some nice twists too.

The revelation that the boy is actually an alien is the sort of thing that might come across as ridiculous, but it’s explained well and makes sense in a Doctor Who type way.

There's an actress in Under The Dome who has a face to head ratio like this doll. Creepy

There’s an actress in Under The Dome who has a face to head ratio like this doll. Creepy

And it all built to a satisfying and happy conclusion.

So I was suitably impressed.

And I was also impressed with the performances of the actors.

Matt Smith worked well alongside Daniel Mays (last seen as the nefarious Keats in Ashes to Ashes) and Arthur Darvill managed to carry the scenes with Karen Gillan too. But most impressive of all was Jamie Orman, the boy who played George.

Usually child actors are crap, especially in the UK. They come across as obnoxious and/or totally incapable of performing the job asked of them.

But Orman manages to act being scared with a surprising amount of effectiveness, and – unsurprisingly this time – worked well alongside Smith.

Good stuff.

Random Observations

  • The guy who plays the Landlord was in an episode of Cracker I watched earlier this year. I knew when I watched it that I’d seen him in something before, and it turned out to be this.
  • The actor in question – Andrew Tiernan – has what can only be described as “Working Class Bone Structure”. I don’t think he could ever play anything other than gritty parts.
  • I would say this is a bit reminiscent of The Celestial Toymaker, but that wouldn’t be fair on it, seeing as The Celestial Toymaker is crap.
  • There’s some good humour throughout this. One of the very first lines “This is the sort of place we could have travelled to by bus” genuinely made me laugh out loud.
  • You’ll notice that – but for a tiny bit at the end – this is one story that has absolutely nothing to do with the crappy Story Arc, and it’s all the better for it. This is how Doctor Who should be done.
  • Did The Doctor drink out of the mug that Alex spat into? That’s disgusting.
  • The effect of people changing into the wooden dolls was excellent.
  • Surely that old woman was injured as a result of being dragged at speed into those bin liners?
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A

Doctor Who – Night Terrors Review: Final Thoughts

Taking into account the overall standard of this season so far, the previous output from the writer, and the fact that a large burden of acting responsibility rests on the shoulders of a young British child actor, I would say that Night Terrors is a resounding success,

Sure, compared against every other Doctor Who story ever made it’s probably no more than average, but compared to the likes of A Good Man Goes To War it’s deep, exciting and well told.

I’m impressed.