Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review (or “Oh The Humanity Of It All”)

September 28, 2014

Apologies for not getting to this review sooner folks, but I was knackered last night by the time Doctor Who had finished and knew that if I’d started writing in that state my review would be crap.

So after a reasonable night’s sleep and a second viewing on iPlayer, I’m in the right frame of mind to review the sixth episode of the latest season, The Caretaker.

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

Relationships, human drama, a regenerating school and a killer robot that is very much an afterthought.

Thoughts – Oh The Humanity Of It All

Sorry to keep returning to my thoughts on fandom, but something occurred to me last night as I checked out viewers opinions on Twitter and Facebook.

He's obviously enquiring about a Dead Aunt

He’s obviously enquiring about a Dead Aunt

As you would expect, the very first reactions were negative. I say “expect” because it’s the most negative people who generally feel they have to get their opinions across within 47 seconds of the show finishing. Anyway, in amongst the usual “Moffat must go!” and “This is the worse (sic) episode ever” type tweets, I noticed some people suggesting that the main problem with The Caretaker was that it focused too much on human relationships instead of the Doctor’s battle against the monster of the week.

Now that’s fair enough; if people watch the show for that reason then they will most likely have been disappointed, because like I say above, this week’s alien threat was an afterthought. Beyond killing a policeman, and in spite of being trumpeted as a threat so powerful it could destroy the entire world, The Blitzer (and I actually had to look up its name, despite watching the episode twice in the last 12 hours, such was its insignificance) was easily defeated twice and without any fuss. It certainly won’t be remembered by the masses 40 years from now.

But to me, that’s not a problem. Long term readers of my reviews (*hint* and if you’re not a long-term reader, you can rectify that by buying my e-book *hint*) will know that I’ve always been of the belief that the show does not have to be about the monsters and should focus on other areas from time to time.

So I was happy with it, and to be fair, from looking again at fan reaction it appears that the majority agree with me.

This is one story where the alien threat didn’t need to be anything other than an afterthought.

I like that this was an episode that expanded upon Clara’s relationship with Danny Pink and finally moved their story arc forward by having the Doctor and Danny meet at long last. I also like that it developed both Clara and Danny more as characters. If you remember my main criticism of Clara last year, it was that she was an empty vessel; a character without a character, so to speak. Now that has been fully addressed and she’s fast turning into one of the most developed characters to ever travel with the Doctor.

And while I found the clashes between the Doctor and Danny a little forced at times – with their initial reactions to each other laid on so thick that nobody could miss the “I don’t like soldier/I don’t like officers” angle they were going for – it succeeded in moving

Mon then!!

Mon then!!

the season along nicely.

On the whole then, I’m happy with it.

And I enjoyed it to. It isn’t just that it was a creatively satisfying box-ticker of an episode; it engaged me, I found it funny and I enjoyed the viewing experience.

Bravo!

But to get back to what occurred to me, with people moaning about what Doctor Who should be about, rather than what it currently is about, it made me wonder what the social media reaction would have been to Season 7 of the show back in 1970. Nowadays people consider it one of the best and most consistent of all, but it was a massive change to the format at the time. Were people upset at the time? And do the people who get upset about the show now consider that over its 51 years, the show has switched gears a fair amount? Because if they don’t, then they should.

The Mystery of Coal Hill School

Coal Hill School confuses me.

I can't get my head around this school. It's in both a built up urban area and seemingly the countryside

I can’t get my head around this school. It’s in both a built up urban area and seemingly the countryside

I could be deliberately anal about it and say that it’s not the same school they used in Remembrance of the Daleks or even – it would appear – in Day of the Doctor last year, but I won’t. I won’t even say that it might be a school that can regenerate, because even if it could, that still wouldn’t be as confusing as Grange Hill suddenly upping sticks and moving to a completely different city.

No, what confuses me about it is that if appears to be a school set in an urban area on one side, hemmed in to an established, built up part of London that could not possibly have changed in decades or even centuries, and yet on the other side it looks as though it’s situated in the open space of the countryside, with vast areas of green and roaming play areas.

I just don’t understand it.

Nor, incidentally, do I understand the chess board in the corridor. Surely that would have been vandalised or at the very least be missing some pieces? It would have been in my school and I went to a “posh” one at a time before every second child had ADHD.

Random Observations

  • Once again, Peter Capaldi is just tremendous. Everything about him – and how he is written – is a joy. He just makes poor old Matt Smith seem incredibly crap in comparison. Long may Capaldi reign.
  • The scene where the policeman is killed by The Blitzer is actually quite grim for a show like Doctor Who. Even in these desensitized times, the sight of a severed and smoking hand falling to the ground is pretty strong imagery.
  • It’s often said by people who have an agenda, that the CGI and special effects in Doctor Who pale in comparison to those used on US TV shows, especially the big ones. Well I’d point anyone who thinks that in the direction of the newest episode of one of US TV’s biggest shows, Grey’s Anatomy. The scene with the helicopter trying to land on the roof was terrible compared to any effect seen on Who in the last few years.
  • I can’t look at the guy playing the Headmaster without thinking about his cameo in that episode of Coupling where he plays the guy smoking outside. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about #DeadAunt.
  • The PE teacher stuff went on a bit long for my liking, and I didn’t think it was particularly funny either. The rest of the comedy was great – especially the way the Doctor accidentally thought Clara was going out with the Matt Smith look-a-like – but that stuff left me cold.
  • It would appear that the school only had three teachers at parents evening, and two of them were English teachers.
  • That jumper the Doctor was wearing is awful.
  • This is the second story in a row that I could see Sylvester McCoy starring in. Of course, there wouldn’t be comedy; instead, the Seventh Doctor would be lying to Ace about the reason for being there, while Ace would have confronted some demon from her childhood. You know…like all the McCoy stories with Ace.
  • I weep for the death of the English language. Anyone who says “Bezzie Mates” needs a slap.
  • I didn’t realise soldiers were all Olympic Gymnasts too, or is that just another one of Danny Pink’s talents?
  • Outside of The Thick of It, Chris Addison’s acting style gets on my nerves.
  • And I only just remembered that since they were both in The Thick of It, if he has any scenes with Capaldi, it’ll be a reunion. Hopefully Peter can refrain from telling him to “Fuck Off”
  • First mention – I think – of the Incidental Music this season. I thought it was pretty good last night.

Doctor Who – The Caretaker Review: Final Thoughts

So it’s another strong story in a season which looks like it’ll be remembered as one of the best in a long time.

Hopefully I’ve not jinxed it now that I’ve said that, but anyway…

The Caretaker is all about character development and moving the season further along. I’m happy with that, and I enjoyed it.

It really is as simple as that.

Hey, it’s time for me to spam by book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Part One: The Classic Era. Have you bought it yet? If not, why not? Get it here

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Doctor Who – Time Heist Review (or “The One That’s A Bit Like A Casserole And A Sylvester McCoy Story”)

September 20, 2014

Well last week’s review caused a bit of a stir.

Some people thought I was being unfair and judgemental about other Doctor Who fans (note I say “Doctor Who Fans” and not the incredibly wanky “Whovians”, which is the first and last time you’ll see that word written on my blog), the most recent comment of its kind being  “So it’s ok to have an opinion, as long as it isn’t that you don’t like New Who?”.

That’s just silly.

Of course everyone is entitled to an opinion, but at the same time, for an opinion to carry weight – in my eyes at least – it has to be one from a fair and balanced starting position.

To me, if you are determined not to like something, then in the face of all the positives, you won’t.

On the other hand, if you are so biased towards something that you never see its faults, then your praise becomes empty. If you say you love everything, then when something really good comes along, you won’t be able to express that.

I was also accused this week of carrying myself as if only my opinion counts; like I’m the only person in Doctor Who fandom who is capable of expressing an objective opinion. That’s just silly.

I’m sure there are one or two others out there apart from me… 😉

Seriously though, if you convince yourself that you won’t like something before you watch, you may as well not watch it.

But anyway, that’s not the point of this article. You’re here to read my thoughts on the latest episode – Time Heist.

And as always, I’m happy to oblige…

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

The Doctor and Clara rob a bank, though they don’t know why.

Thoughts – A Bit Like A Casserole

My aim for this season is to get each review out as soon as possible with my immediate reaction to the episode while it’s fresh in my mind.

"Hey look, it's the woman off Ashes to Ashes" said my brother. Oh thanks Steven, I really wouldn't have known that if you hadn't said...

“Hey look, it’s the woman off Ashes to Ashes” said my brother. Oh thanks Steven, I really wouldn’t have known that if you hadn’t said…

But it occurred to me while watching Time Heist that because the episode was built upon the mystery of why the bank is being robbed, who is responsible for getting them to rob it, and what it actually was they were robbing, then this is a story that probably needs a second viewing to truly appreciate it.

In a sense, it’s like when you make a casserole. You enjoy it when it’s fresh out of the oven – of course you do – but you don’t get the full flavour of the ingredients until you have some of the leftovers the next day.

With Time Heist, I think my lasting opinion will be formed properly the second time around when I don’t have to concern myself with keeping up with every line in fear of being left behind.

That’s not a bad thing though; for an episode to keep you on your toes so that you don’t want to miss any plot development is a sign of depth; it shows that it’s something worth paying attention to. And the good thing about it was that every question you asked as a viewer was answered in a neat and clever manner. That’swhat

Again, not that I want to continually criticise Mark Gatiss’s writing, but this didn’t feel like a predictable, linear chore dressed up with a few gags like the Robots of Sherwood did.

No, Time Heist was a good episode, and it’ll probably get even better the second time around.

It Could Have Been A Sylvester McCoy Story

Remember when I said that The Robots of Sherwood felt like it was written for Matt Smith?

Well here’s an episode that came across like a Sylvester McCoy story.

And for those of you who haven’t read my opinions on his era, I don’t mean that as an insult.

With its darker and more ponderous theme, I could quite imagine the Seventh Doctor put in this same position; the only difference being that he would probably have known what was going on the whole time and had simply refused to tell Ace. But it did have parts that were reflective of his era.

The Teller had the air of the Destroyer about him, while Ms Delphox could easily be compared to Helen A from the Happiness Patrol.

Does anyone else see that?

A Welcome Lack of Humour

Here’s another thing I noticed; for the first time, this story seemed to deliberately lack humour.

Am I the only one having trouble believing a Sensorite would want to rob a bank?

Am I the only one having trouble believing a Sensorite would want to rob a bank?

It’s good for episodes to have humour from time to time, but Doctor Who is not a comedy, nor should it look to parody different themes each week.

In Time Heist, I felt that Capaldi’s Doctor got a chance to develop even more without the crutch of being a less-sweary Malcolm Tucker (also his use of the word “shutity” was definitely written with Tucker in mind) and once again, he excelled in doing so.

Having had a quick look at Twitter before writing this up, I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that this was a “romp”, and I think the Telegraph’s idea that it’s a parody of the banking system is trying to find clever subtext for the sake of seeming deep.

No, to me this felt quite serious, and it was a welcome change.

Great Visuals

I’m a big believer in the importance of visuals, and this story – nay, this entire season of Doctor Who – passed that test with flying colours.

One of the crushing aspects of Matt Smith’s stories  – from his second season onwards – were that they all felt so dark and murky, with only the brightness of The Girl Who Waited really standing out as being dissimilar to the rest. Time Heist differs from Listen, which in turn differed from Robots of Sherwood and so on.

The setting of Time Heist was particularly good. The CGI looked of a high standard, the setting felt like there had been some real imagination put into it, and the appearance of the Teller – though definitely familiar from some other Sci Fi show/movie – felt new for Doctor Who and was actually very impressive.

Random Observations

  • I like a bit of clever writing, and so the part where it was revealed why the Doctor was specifically chosen to rob the vault – i,e. that it was a bank job specifically for a Time Traveller – was great. Well…I say that, but then I took a moment to think about the name of the episode and realised I should have seen that plot development coming.
  • One thing I didn’t quite get was why The Teller didn’t end up damaging the Doctor in any way whilst turning his mind into soup.
  • Being someone who likes to spot obscure character actors in other roles (the best one ever being my identification of an extra from the Daemons by looking at the back of his head in an episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads), my brother’s
    You know how babies have that soft bit on the top of their heads? Am I the only one worried that you might accidentally end up doing something like that to one if you hold it the wrong way? I probably am...

    You know how babies have that soft bit on the top of their heads? Does it ever worry you that you might accidentally end up doing something like that to one if you hold it the wrong way? Or is it just me?

    startling realisation of “Hey, that’s the woman off Ashes to Ashes” didn’t exactly blow me away. Thanks for identifying one of British Televisions’s top female actresses of the last 10 years, Steven, I’d have never have known if you hadn’t told me.

  • And as you would expect from an actress of her aplomb, Keeley Hawes was perfectly acceptable in her role.
  • But to be fair, I think every one of the guest cast was good, and added to my enjoyment of the episode.
  • Am I the only one who has a hard time believing a Sensorite would rob a bank?
  • The pacing of this story, as well as the direction, was great. The brisk nature and sharp scene changes added a lot to the episode.
  • In that respect, in some ways it felt more like a US TV Drama than a UK one.
  • Writer Stephen Thompson has clearly played Portal, based on that device used in the elevator.
  • I find the nature of the Doctor & Clara’s relationship an interesting one. Unlike every other companion, he just drops her off at home every week. I wonder why the Doctor has never thought of this before, or crucially, why any of his companions have asked him to do that? Wouldn’t it make more sense? Why doesn’t he go back and whisk Dodo off on a few adventures in between his time with her? Oh that’s right, because she just abandoned him without so much as a by-your-leave. The ungrateful bitch.
  • Thankfully, this is another story that is light on the season long story arcs. Yes, they bring up the woman in the shop, and Clara’s domestic relationship is in there again, but neither were major parts of the episode.
  • That we don’t get any scenes with Missy is a relief. The absence of that from the last three episodes is something I’ve very much enjoyed.
  • Next week’s episode looks like another big change, and I’m looking forward to it.

Doctor Who – Time Heist Review: Final Thoughts

So I’m pleased to say this is another episode of a high standard, meaning that this season – five episodes in – has had more hits than misses.

If the quality remains consistent over the next few weeks, we’ll have the makings of a pretty special season of the show.

But looking at Time Heist in particular, I thought it was an enjoyable, well paced yarn that has the potential to be even better the second time around.

A solid thumbs up from me again.

Enjoyed reading this Doctor Who review? Why not check out my book on Amazon. Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book One – The Classic Era. It’s available for a great price and can be read on any mobile or tablet device. Plus, you get a free preview of it so you can try before you buy. Get it here


Doctor Who – Listen Review (or “Oooooh, You Can’t Mess With Fandom’s Makey-Up Rules, Apparently”)

September 13, 2014

Up until the emergence of “The Omnirumour” in mid 2013, I never really frequented Dr Who forums or mixed in those circles on social media. What that meant was that I never took part in the immediate post-mortem discussion of new episodes of the show.

That’s changed now obviously, and I’ve found that the old saying – “Opinions are like arseholes; everyone’s got one”  – is absolutely true.

Take last week for example; I didn’t rate the Robots of Sherwood highly at all, but I would never go as far as to say it was dreadful. But some people jumped on it like it was television’s worst moment, while others engaged The Hyperbole Hyperdrive and proclaimed it amazing.

And that’s fine; people are allowed opinions, but it’s the agendas I don’t like.

Case in point; a tweet from the brand manager of Dr Who said that he thought it was a “Perfect episode”. Now obviously, that’s utter bollocks by anyone’s standards, even if it is his job to be positive, and when I pressed him on it – because if you’re saying it’s perfect then it must be, by definition, the best episode of Dr Who of all time – he backtracked and said he meant he wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Meanwhile, there are people so blinded by hatred for “modern Who” that they try to insist that literally any new episode is shit; they don’t give things a chance. There’s even a “Fans of Classic Who Who Hate Nu Who” Facebook group.

What happened to reasoned debate? What happened to people taking each episode as they come and offering a critical, but fair assessment? Why watch a show when you’ve convinced yourself you’re going to hate it anyway? Or why bother to comment on an episode if you’re going to be so ludicrously positive about it that people can’t take you seriously?

Well I hope that I don’t come across that way and that I judge everything as fairly as I can.

As it turns out, this review – of the latest episode, Listen – is the 500th Article I’ve published on Stuart Reviews Stuff.

And thankfully – and fittingly – fate has dealt be a positive story to review.

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

The Doctor wants to establish whether there’s a form of life out there that has perfected hiding as a defence mechanism, while Clara tries to enjoy a date with Danny Pink.

Thoughts – Now We’re Talking

To cut right to the chase, I’ll just say that I thought Listen was brilliant; it really was a fantastic episode of Doctor Who.

What a fantastic, shit-eating grin

What a fantastic, shit-eating grin

Indeed, I’d go as far as to say it’s the best episode we’ve seen since Steven Moffat took over from Russell T. Davies back in 2010 (not that that’s especially hard of course).

That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise though; when he’s on form, Moffat is capable of writing some of the best stories of Doctor Who ever, as we saw with Blink and The Girl in the Fireplace. Does this rank that high? Probably not, but it’s too soon to say, considering this is being written on the same day that it was broadcast.

All I know is that on every level by which I judge this show – Drama, Pacing, Originality, Direction, Acting Standards etc – this was a success.

To be more specific, I’d break it down as…

Drama: The notion of the Doctor trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of that feeling that you aren’t alone is a clever one, and what I liked in particular was that it avoided falling into the Moffat cliche of him deliberately looking to scare children. It’s quite the opposite; by finishing the way it did – not specifying if there really were aliens living a hidden existence, and revealing that the truth behind it was that the Doctor himself used to be scared of the dark and had a “dream” of someone underneath his childhood bed that turned out to be Clara – was genius. A refreshingly different and interesting conclusion.

Pacing: It hit the ground running with that scene with the Doctor “talking to himself” (but actually to us) and just kept going for the entire 45 minutes at a smooth, enjoyable speed. I thought it was slick.

Originality: This felt different to other Doctor Who stories. If Robots of Sherwood was depressingly by-the-numbers, this stood out as something fresh. And to bring up the Doctor’s childhood was a top notch twist, in my opinion at least.

Direction: While nothing out of the ordinary, it still hit the notes it needed to hit with style.

Acting Standards: With a relatively small cast, the emphasis was on the two leads and they were both tremendous. Unlike last week – which I remain convinced was written for a generic Doctor character rather than Capaldi specifically – this one was the former Malcolm Tucker’s best story yet. He was sensational throughout, with a wide range of emotions and a character so engaging that he brought the viewer along with him for the ride. I can’t speak highly enough of him. And in fairness, Jenna Coleman was great as well. Each week, she becomes stronger and more assured in her role and compliments Capaldi beautifully. But her strength as a character also allowed Danny Pink to have credibility as a character too. I was impressed. I hope she’s not leaving.

Beyond that, annoying nods to Moffat’s “clever” season arcs were left out, unwanted references to 40-year-old episodes for cheap pops were avoided and the episode felt like it could appeal to almost anyone.

Almost…

Ooooh, You Can’t Interfere With Fandom’s Makey-Up Rules

I’m going to be honest here; I have cheated a little bit.

The first thing I did when I finished the episode was to have a quick check on Twitter and Facebook, and wouldn’t you know it, there are some fans out there who are being negative about this episode.

And why is that?

Because they – *gasp* – showed us the Doctor as a child.

Apparently, some people have decided that this is a n0-no.

Give me strength…

I’m the first person to criticise messing around with established continuity, but when I do, I feel there’s some level of reasoned thought behind it. I thought Terry Nation’s rewriting of established Dalek lore in Genesis of the Daleks was poor because he should have

"Oh my god, she's talking to the Doctor as a child!!! I'm going to get all upset about it and rate this story 0/10. That'll show them"

“Oh my god, she’s talking to the Doctor as a child!!! I’m going to get all upset about it and rate this story 0/10. That’ll show them”

known better, and I thought the “Half-Human” nonsense from the TV Movie was just stupid.

But showing the Doctor as a child? What’s the problem? The bases were covered by having it established that under Clara’s control, the TARDIS could operate outside its normal parameters – meaning that it could find its way to Gallifrey – and more importantly, it worked within the confines of the story.

And perhaps more importantly, it was a plot development that doesn’t have far-reaching consequences. It was important for this episode only, and that’s what counts. It made *this* episode make sense. Actually, it also made some sense of The Day of the Doctor too.

So what’s the problem?

The answer is that there isn’t one, so may I just say this to people who have got themselves upset over this incident…

Get over yourselves. You don’t “own” Doctor Who and you don’t get to impose fandom set ground rules.

Rant Over.

Random Observations

  • Once again, the humour in the exchanges between The Doctor and Clara was a highlight. Though thoroughly convincing as a serious – nay menacing – actor, Peter Capaldi’s history playing Malcolm Tucker means he has an understanding of comic timing and expression that his predecessors perhaps lacked.
  • Highlights on that score included the scene with the TARDIS in Clara’s bedroom and the one where he introduces her to Orson.
  • But what makes him so good is that he’s also able to flip that switch and be dark and serious too. The scene where he demands Clara go back into the TARDIS was superb.
  • The writing of that scene was brilliant too, because it made sense of the Doctor’s motivation for wanting to find the answer to his question.
  • And it was then followed up by the scene with Clara hiding under the young Doctor’s bed.
  • That bit where she grabs onto his leg was one of those “Aha, it all makes beautiful sense” moments. I love those.
  • This episode plays up to Steven Moffat’s strengths as a writer. And I think that’s what makes his run as series show runner so frustrating. It’s clear to me that his strengths lie in these one-off episodes, and when he’s charged with overseeing an entire season, he struggles under the weight of writing these tiresome 13 episode arcs and of trying to be too clever by half.
  • Anyone who seriously suggests that Mark Gatiss is a good writer should sit down, watch the Robots of Sherwood, then watch this and explain to me how they can think that way.
  • So what was underneath the bedsheet? Not knowing is actually better.
  • And you might say “But hold on, wasn’t this supposed to be some sort of universally shared dream? Where’s the resolution”, but I think that was covered. The suggestion – as I saw it – was that the truth of the matter was that it is probably just in your head. The true story was the Doctor’s insecurities from childhood.
  • In my criticism of the show as it currently stands to the Brand Manager, I made the point to him that it doesn’t always have to be about aliens. Doctor Who is a more flexible beast than that. This proves it. How crap would it have been if the episode had ended on aliens pouring through that airlock, only to be very quickly defeated by a triumphant Doctor? That would have been flat and predictable.
  • Hey, it’s the same space-suits as in The Waters of Mars.
  • Ok, I’ll criticise it a little bit and question how the last planet has a sun when the idea put forward in Utopia was that the last of the suns was dying. Pedantic? Maybe, but I have to be even-handed.
  • Did I see a Sensorite in the next time trailer? At last!!!!

Doctor Who – Listen Review: Final Thoughts

So I think it was excellent.

On almost any level, this story was a home run.

It’s frustrating then that the show can’t be like this every week, especially when the guy in charge of it is responsible for writing an episode of such high quality.

But alas that hasn’t been the case for some time.

Hopefully next week retains the high standard set here.

Oh, and one more thing; if you’re going to watch Listen and genuinely dislike it because of the scene with the Doctor as a child, I have three simple words for you.

Get a grip.

Enjoyed reading this Doctor Who review? Why not check out my book on Amazon. Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book One – The Classic Era. It’s available for a great price and can be read on any mobile or tablet device. Plus, you get a free preview of it so you can try before you buy. Get it here

 

 

 


Doctor Who – The Robots of Sherwood Review (or “Does Anyone Else Think This Was Written For Matt Smith?”)

September 6, 2014

September 6th, 2014 – 18:00

Ok, so we’re 90 minutes away from the next episode of the new season of Doctor Who – The Robots of Sherwood.

Now this is a story from the pen of Mark Gatiss, who I personally don’t rate much as a writer. Indeed, I thought his most recent effort – The Crimson Horror – was genuinely the third worst Doctor Who story of all time, and I mean that with all sincerity. It was absolutely diabolical. Not only was it unfunny, it had an insultingly bad cameo from a supposedly talented actress in Diana Rigg.

Everything about it was bad; nothing about it was good. I hate it.

So that has left me concerned about tonight’s episode. I think to myself “Why has this man been given another chance to write for the show? Is it just because he’s Moffat’s mate?” The answer to that is most likely “Yes”.

But then if I’m being objective, not everything he has written is unworthy of reaching our screens. That’s not saying much though; while the likes of the Unquiet Dead, The Idiots Lantern, Victory of the Daleks and Cold War aren’t that bad, they aren’t that good either. The only one that I gave a positive review to in my run-through was Night Terrors.

Thinking rationally then, this will probably be ok, although it carries a risk of being terrible, with the slight possibility of being enjoyable.

I’m a glass half full kinda guy though, so I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best.

I’ll report back afterwards with my findings.

Doctor Who – The Robots of Sherwood Review: What’s This One About?

Clara wants to see Robin Hood. The Doctor doesn’t believe he exists. It turns out he does.

And there are robots involved too.

September 6th, 2014 – 20:32

Thoughts – An Uneventful Rollercoaster

So I hoped for the best. Did I get it? Did I buggery.

You wouldn't know it by looking, but the guy in the water is the hero

You wouldn’t know it by looking, but the guy in the water is the hero

I don’t think it would be fair to say that The Robots of Sherwood is bad, but it just felt all over the place.

What I mean by that is that certain elements of the story felt extremely rushed (such as the Robots and their motivation), some felt overdone to the point of being boring (The Doctor’s petty arguments with Robin) and others just felt pointless (beyond there being a need for the inclusion of characters from the traditional Robin Hood story, neither Marion nor the Sheriff of Nottingham contributed anything).

So I’d say the pacing was all wrong, and that’s never a good thing.

Perhaps if a little less time had been spent in that dungeon with the Doctor and Robin bickering about who had the better plan, the scenes with the Doctor planning an escape wouldn’t have seemed so rushed that they came across as an afterthought.

But I suppose this is a Mark Gatiss script, and there are limits to what we can expect from him.

Was This Story Written For Matt Smith?

I can’t be the only person who watched a lot of the scenes with the Doctor and Robin and thought “This was written with Matt Smith’s Doctor in mind”.

For the past two weeks we’ve seen Peter Capaldi’s Doctor scripted with a combination of sarcasm and menace, and yet in the Robots of Sherwood it felt like we were back with Matt Smith and his childish, fidgety interactions of the past few years.

It didn’t work, and Capaldi himself seemed to struggle with it.

As big a fan of him as I am, I will criticise him when I have to, and because the writing of his character wasn’t the best, some of his delivery seemed unnatural and awkward.

His delivery in the next time trailer was probably his most assured of the day, and that just backs up my point.

This Idea Has Been Done To Death

I moan about Dalek stories, and justifiably so.

Hey, it's a midget who looks like a combination of Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins. At least the Cribbins bit is new

Hey, it’s a midget who looks like a combination of Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins. At least the Cribbins bit is new

You can only see the same thing so many times before it becomes boring.

Well I’ve had enough of the “Doctor meets a historical figure and leads them on a journey of self discovery” gimmick.

Since the show came back we’ve had Dickens, Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Vincent van Gogh and now Robin Hood.

That’s enough.

By the time this episode reached its conclusion and we saw The Doctor talking to Robin about their legacies and how similar they are, I thought to myself “We’ve been down this road too many times before”.

I would hope that we don’t see an episode like this for a while, but sadly if the show is still being run by the same people next year, we’ll probably see a story involving the Doctor meeting Enid Blyton as we find out that the Famous Five were real and had helped save 1930s England from The Rutans or something. And it’ll be written by Gareth Roberts.

Actually, I bet that there’s a Doctor Who writer out there somewhere wishing that the Harry Potter books were written 100 years ago so they could do one about J.K. Rowling and alien wizards.

Change the record please!

Is It Good To Have a Fan Write For The Show?

But that leads me to a point about the way the show is currently run.

If you’re a Doctor Who fan who pays attention to online discussion – and if you’re reading this review there’s a chance that you might be – you might have noticed the debate lately about the way writers are picked to pen episodes of the show. Some of that debate it childish attention seeking from people who know better, but there’s an interesting point hidden in amongst the agendas.

Doctor Who right now is produced by a “Super fan” and he generally invites his Who-loving friends – like Gatiss – to write for him.

Ben Miller - or as I call him, "The Guy Who Looks Like The Guy"

Ben Miller – or as I call him, “The Guy Who Looks Like The Guy”

Now the problem with that is that there’s this desire to put in lines to appeal to like-minded fans of the show. Throughout my reviews I’ve called this fanwankery.

Sometimes it has its place – like in the 50th Anniversary year – and other times it doesn’t.

I don’t think it did tonight. The reference to the Miniscope was too prominent and the picture of Patrick Troughton dressed up as Robin Hood was fanwankery at its worst.

You’ll notice that last week there weren’t any direct references to The Invisible Enemy, were there? And that was a good thing.

I’ve got no problems with anyone writing for the show if they do a good job, and it seems more likely that it’ll be fans who want to write for Doctor Who, but I’d much rather they concentrated on making their own stories worth remembering, rather than taking time out to pointlessly shoehorn in references to old episodes to impress their mates.

Random Observations

  • To give The Robots of Sherwood credit, there were some lines of dialogue that made me chuckle, like the Doctor’s “And do people ever punch you in the face when you do that” and the line about how he made an arrow with a homing device installed.
  • Similarly, the scene where the Doctor was investigating the Merry Men and diagnosed the guy with six months to live was the best part of the whole thing.
  • But at the same time, other lines – like the aforementioned argument about who has the better plan in the dungeon – were puerile.
  • The one person to emerge with full credit in this episode is Jenna Coleman. Once again, she played her part with confidence and assurance and was written for well.
  • Though now I come to think of it, this story seemed to forget about the new Doctor/Clara dynamic entirely, which is disappointing.
  • And where was the army teacher guy? Why introduce him last week and not bring him back tonight?
  • If they go to the trouble of saying how Robin has too good a set of teeth for the era, how come Marion also had perfect teeth and that was ignored?
  • Why was Marion waiting round the back of the TARDIS when the love of her life was audibly standing mere feet away from her, having a chat?
  • When the Sheriff of Nottingham first appeared, I asked “Oh, is that the guy who looks like the guy” and my brother said “You mean Ben Miller?” He knew exactly who I was on about. I’m sure everyone would.
  • The midget looked like a cross between Roy Castle (as they all do) and Bernard Cribbins. Spooky.
  • No Missy tonight, but another reference to “The Promised Land”. Let’s see how that develops.
  • What the hell was up with The Spoon? Again, a bit childish for my liking.
  • The scene with Robin and the Sheriff’s final confrontation did nothing for me. I sense we were supposed to care about it because we accept that the two are arch enemies, but within the confines of this story, it was just two thinly written characters having a tentative fight, the outcome of which was entirely predictable.
  • Final thought: what was up with the laughter stuff? Did I miss its resolution? Or did Gatiss not bother?

Doctor Who – The Robots of Sherwood: Final Thoughts

I’d sum up my feelings on The Robots of Sherwood by saying that it felt directionless.

It’s all well and good deciding that a story with Robin Hood would be fun, but it has to have an interesting hook to it, and this idea of bland robots/aliens interfering with a historical figure is something we’ve seen quite enough of.

Moreover, it felt like a story written with Matt Smith in mind, and it didn’t seem to have much in common with what we’ve seen from the Peter Capaldi/Jenna Coleman stories so far.

To bring it all back to the start of this review, I’d say this was down Steven Moffat giving yet another chance to a man who just isn’t a particularly talented writer.

Mark Gatiss doesn’t have it in him to consistently write good TV. Come to think of it, he doesn’t have it in him to consistently act well on TV either. He should concentrate on one, and I’d recommend acting because he can do less damage that way.

Next season, he needs to be passed over for someone more talented.

Sadly, if Moffat is still in charge, that just won’t happen.

On the plus side though, it was better than The Crimson Horror.

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