Doctor Who – The Pyramid At The End Of The World Review (or “There’s No Room For A Tagline”)

May 28, 2017

So after the disappointment of last week – which I have to say a lot of people strongly disagreed with me on – I was skeptical of how good The Pyramid at the End of the World would be.

The only glimmer of hope was that this episode is written by some somebody different.

Could that make a difference?

Dr Who – The Pyramid At The End Of The World Review: What’s This One About?

A Pyramid at the end of the world, would you believe?

Well…that, monks and a midget. Whey-hey.

Thoughts – Much Better, But What Was The Point Of Last Week?

So this was vastly superior to Extremis in just about every conceivable way.

For one thing, it was a straightforward story that didn’t depend upon deliberately swervy detours just for the sake of trying to be clever,

Being blind is all fun and games….

nor did it jump about from one storyline to the next.

Put simply, there’s a threat to the world and the Doctor and his friends have to try to sort it.

It had purpose and wasn’t just reset at the end.

You’ll hear no complaints on that score from me.

And even though I still contend that the monks are a variation on all Steven Moffat’s recent monsters, in this episode at least they’ve got something to them. Their characterisation is interesting as it differs from the alien norm.

The one thing though that stood out about how this episode panned out was how pointless last week’s episode was.

Because nothing from Extremis really mattered here.

The Monks from last week were portrayed as aliens running simulations to plan the end of the world, but that’s not what their aim was this week. Even when it inevitably turns out next week that their motives were not entirely altruistic, that still doesn’t mean that this episode couldn’t have worked without Extremis.

The Cliffhanger

Last week I complained about how poorly The Doctor’s blindness was used.

This week is the polar opposite.

In Extremis there was no point to him being unable to see, especially as he very quickly got his sight back for the plot to be able to

…Until you have to open a combination lock on a LCD screen

progress.

In Pyramid, it was used as well as it could be.

The Doctor’s shortcoming played a part throughout the story, but it didn’t dent his confidence – in his words, his ability to save the world with his eyes shut – until the very last moment when the simplest of tasks resulted in his downfall.

That led to Bill offering her consent and will subsequently spill over into what happens next week.

In my opinion, this was such a good twist that it should have been saved for Peter Capaldi’s final episode. Yes, it’s similar to what happened to David Tennant in The End of Time, but I don’t think that matters.

The idea that the Doctor could end up dying as a result of something so simple is the basis of the best regenerations.

It would have been brilliant.

So there’d better be something amazing lined up for the end of this season/Christmas Day.

Random Observations

  • While not wanting to accuse a writer of having one idea and running with it again and again, the structure, characters and setting of this episode are very similar to The Zygon story from last season.
  • Oh Em Gee!!! The Monks aren’t voiced by Nicholas Briggs
  • My only real complaint about this episode is that they come to the conclusion that it must be some kind of bio hazard threat very quickly and without consideration of anything else. Even allowing for how brisk Doctor Who must progress in its 45 minute format, this was still a bit too convenient for me.
  • But once it was established that it was a bio hazard issue, the way the Doctor narrowed the location down was pretty smart.
  • I have a fear that next week will end up a bit of a damp squib in the same way as The Last of the Time Lords was a poor follow-up to The Sound of Drums
  • Once again I feel I have to praise Pearl Mackie. She’s just top notch as Bill. Hopefully she’ll still be in it next year.

Doctor Who: The Pyramid At The End Of The World – Final Thoughts

This was a great improvement on last week and an episode that built up to a superb cliffhanger.

Hopefully next week won’t disappoint.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon

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Football Manager 2018 Scottish Research. What’s Involved?

May 22, 2017

 

So it’s time once again to start researching teams for the new Football Manager release. I’ve been inundated with requests from people for more information of what’s involved, what’s expected of you and what you get in return.

Therefore I’ve decided to write up a little guide so you can decide if you fit the bill for any of the vacant position.

What’s The Job And What Do I Get For It?

The job is to offer your specialist knowledge of the club you support.

In 2017, basic knowledge for players and clubs is available for anyone who wants to look. I can pretty easily get a list of first team players at every SPFL club in the country, and so what I need from you is deeper than that.

Football Manager is renowned for having the most accurate data going, so we need people who are regular attendees at a club’s matches. We need you to tell us how composed the left back at Elgin City is, whether the central midfielder at Brechin City is a tough tackling bruiser or a slight, fast guy with an eye for a pass or which kids in the u20s are destined for greater things. The only way you’ll know that is if you’re a fan of the club and have been regularly watching them throughout the last season.

On the same note, we need guys who can look at the club information and say “Hey, that guy is missing from the Club legend list” or “You’ve not got the reserve stadium set correctly” and also keep us up to date with transfers, contract renewals and non playing staff like coaches/physios/u20s staff.

It’s not a particularly time-consuming job – a few hours between now and September – and the reward for it is a free copy of FM18 and your name in the credits. As such, while we often get people offering to start going to games so that they could research a club, it wouldn’t be right or fair to expect you to do that. Besides, as I said earlier, when rating players for FM18’s release, it’ll be largely based on how players have done in the past year. If you haven’t even started going to see a team play, you won’t be able to offer insight.

What Else Is Required From Me?

Apart from knowing your stuff about your club, there are a few other skills/requirements you’ll need as a researcher for Football Manager 2018.

  1. Basic IT Knowledge: Put simply, you need to be able to perform simple IT tasks like downloading the files, installing the editors, opening word documents to read instructions and the ability to use the bespoke software we provide. This might sound like the sort of thing everyone can do, but you’d be surprised. To be blunt, if you can’t do stuff like this there’s no point in applying.
  2. Either a PC or Windows Mirroring Software: The editors don’t work on Macs unless you have software for it that can replicate Windows. We’ve got one or two researchers who go that extra mile to use the editors on their Macs but if you’ve no idea how you would go about sorting that, then unfortunately the research may not be for you.
  3. Facebook: We use a private Facebook group for research discussion. Most people have Facebook and it works well because I can keep up with who has actually seen any important announcements etc. If you are – for whatever reason – not on Facebook and have no intention of getting a Facebook account then alas this is not the role for you.
  4. Knowledge of Football Manager: It’s an obvious one, but to be a researcher, it does help to know, have played and understand Football Manager.
  5. Deadline Keeping Skills: Though the workload is small and the time investment does not amount to much, you’re still doing an important job and so deadline keeping skills are vitally important. We can’t use your work if you don’t hand it in on time.
  6. A Mature And Objective Outlook: Everyone looks at their club with rose tinted spectacles, but you’ve got to be balanced in how you rate your players.

What Clubs Are Currently Available To Research?

Right now, we’re looking for researchers for the following clubs.

Albion Rovers
Berwick Rangers
Brechin City
Cowdenbeath
Edinburgh City
Elgin City
Inverness CT
Kilmarnock
Livingston
Peterhead
Queen of the South
Queen’s Park
Stirling Albion
Stranraer

If the club you support is not on that list it means there’s someone already researching the club, but things can change and you should look out for any future vacancies om twitter at @sgmilne.

How Do I Apply

If after all that you’re still interested in helping out, email me at officialfmscotland@gmail.com specifying which club you feel you could research.


Doctor Who – Extremis Review (or “The Worst of Steven Moffat”)

May 22, 2017

There’s always that point when you watch something when you decided within yourself how good it is.

Last week, during the scene where Bill wakes up after the airlock and the Doctor is revealed as blind, I knew I was watching one of the best stories in a long time. Good times.

This week watching Extremis, around the time the Doctor used some kind of special device to get his eyesight back for a few minutes and realised some faceless slithering creatures were right on top of him, I sadly realised I was watching the poorest episode of the season so far.

And when the episode ended, my first words were “Well that was a load of crap”.

I don’t like to dislike episodes of Doctor Who, but here’s why I did this time…

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

Underwhelming twists, the plot from the Android Invasion (yay?) and 45 minutes to get to the least shocking reveal in television history.

Thoughts – The Worst of Steven Moffat

I think we can all agree that when he’s firing on all cylinders, Steven Moffat is a brilliant and imaginative writer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink are two of the finest

“If you look inside the vault, I’ve got a little surprise for you…”

episodes of Doctor Who ever written.

But he’s also prone to taking a good idea and recycling it so often that it becomes annoying. He did it in Coupling and he’s done it a few times in Doctor Who.

In Extremis, we once again get an ghoulish alien with a warped face lurking behind the scenes. So it’s like the Whisper Men who were like the Silence. For crying out loud let’s have something different.

Hell, even the plot is entirely unoriginal. It’s just The Android Invasion with a modern lick of paint. And that was hardly a brilliant story in its own right.

Then on top of that there were references to River Song, talk of future regenerations, another trip to the Oval Office, the return of that biography-cum-diary and all that nonsense with Missy.

Twists For The Sake Of Twists

The other major issue with Extremis was that it had twists for the sake of twists.

Again this goes back to Steven Moffat thinking he’s cleverer than he is at times. Either that or he doesn’t credit the viewer with being able to work out the simplest of things.

Now fair enough, this is the first part of a three episode story, but the conclusion to 45 minutes of viewing – that nothing we’ve seen actually mattered because it was just a simulation – felt to me like a waste of time

“Oh. Missy. Great.”

rather than a warm feeling of shock, surprise and satisfaction.

And as the story aimlessly jumped between that world and the scenes with Missy, do you think anyone hadn’t seen it telegraphed that it was indeed Missy in the vault? My jaw didn’t exactly hit the floor at that revelation.

So the big feeling was that this was recycled and aimless and tried to be too clever by half.

It Wasn’t All Bad

But let’s not kick this Extremis to death. It wasn’t all bad and may of course redeem itself in the next couple of episodes (though I doubt I’ll come around to those awful monsters).

There were elements that were enjoyable.

I liked Bill again and found her contribution to the episode to be generally strong, while there were also plenty of amusing lines of dialogue and scenarios early on.

But those were smaller moments of relief in an otherwise tedious affair.

Random Observations

  • How come the Pope wasn’t speaking English? Does the TARDIS’s universal translator not work on leaders of the Catholic Church?

    Look, it’s more spooky monsters who look the same as the last few

  • Nardol was a bit hit and miss. He’s a good character for the most part, but in spite of Matt Lucas’s comedic skills I’d rather he was kept slightly more serious.
  • I’m surprised at how well received this episode has been from some. It definitely feels a bit Marmite though; some will love it while others will…well let’s just say they won’t love it.
  • As good as the cliffhanger was in Oxygen, I remain to be convinced after seeing this episode that the Doctor being blind has even the shortest term life span. I was getting tired of his inability to see pretty quickly.

Doctor Who – Extremis Review: Final Thoughts

Taken as a three-part piece, Extremis might turn out to be the beginnings of a good story, but as an individual episode, it was all fluff with very little substance to it.

I felt it was derivative, dull and if I was merely a casual viewer, I doubt I’d be inspired to tune in next week.

But then I’m not a casual viewer, so I will tune in on Saturday and hope to be impressed.

Fingers crossed

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon


Doctor Who – Oxygen Review (or “A Flawed Classic”)

May 15, 2017

On Friday night at Tannadice Park, the home of my team Dundee United, I saw one of the finest goals I’ve seen scored in years. It was an absolutely blistering strike; a joy to watch.

So when I sat down to watch Oxygen, I hoped my good fortune would continue and that I would see one of the best episodes of Doctor Who in a long time.

What would be the chances of that?

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

An attack on capitalism.

Or if you prefer, Space Zombies!! Aaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!

Thoughts – A Classic Episode, But Not Flawless

As luck would have it, this did turn out to be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who I’ve seen in years, and I say that without hyperbole.

Almost everything about it, from the pre-credits sequence – which I might add does the job it should do as a prologue to events rather than just a few scenes before a randomly placed opening credits sequence – it

Presumably they are all looking at this corpse and wondering how he still manages to look healthier than Burn Gorman

hits the ground running with great direction, appropriate incidental music and as good visual effects as you could expect from a show with Doctor Who’s non-Hollywood budget.

And from there it flows. There are no lulls, no pointless scenes; it’s one continuous uninterrupted thrill from beginning to end, culminating in that tremendous cliffhanger.

But it wasn’t perfect.

There were parts of it – like some of Nardol’s dialogue about the voice of the suits and where he joins in the hug at the end – that didn’t quite fit in with the overall mood of the episode.

Also, I found the resolution to Bill’s supposed death a little confusing on first viewing and had to go back a second time to double-check.

But those are minor issues that don’t drag down what is an excellent Doctor Who story.

Like The Best of Tom Baker

Remember last week when I said that Knock Knock could only be a Peter Capaldi episode?

Well there’s no question that Oxygen could be an early Tom Baker story. And that’s a good thing.

The setting and set-up is pure Ark in Space, the excitement of answering a distress call has been lifted out of Planet of Evil, while the anti-capitalist agenda is like a modern-day twist on Robert Holmes’s attack on the HMRC in The Sunmakers.

This Is For Children?

It’s a common misconception that Doctor Who is ‘For Children’. It’s a family show aimed at adults and children alike.

He looks like he’s drawing a thingy. Lolz

Except that Oxygen doesn’t seem like it’s aimed at kids at all.

The sinister suit wearing zombies are the sort of thing that would have kept me awake at night when I started watching the show, while the Doctor’s  unusual vulnerability and Bill’s near death must have proved pretty upsetting.

Mind you, I’m all for it.

Random Observations

  • With Nardol featuring more heavily – apparently because this is the first broadcast episode where it was written knowing he was a major part of the show – we’ve seen the good and bad of Matt Lucas. As touched upon earlier, I found the stuff with Velma silly, but enjoyed the humorous exchanges with the Doctor in the TARDIS at the start. Best of all though was the scene at the end, where Lucas played it straight and was effective in doing so.
  • The incidental music in the vacuum of space reminded me of Four to Doomsday and Enlightenment. I wonder if that was intentional?
  • Having the real villains of the piece – the company – never appear was a refreshing touch. Similarly having space suits be the immediate threat proved different to the norm. I liked it.
  • I found the explanation that “These suits will probably be offline” to be a trifle convenient.
  • Bill seems to have a different hairstyle every week,
  • I’m intrigued to see where the blindness angle is going. Perhaps it will be the trigger for the next regeneration.
  • Looks like it’s Missy in the vault. Oh…yay.
  • Unusually, this episode has been well received by most fans, with the main criticism from people who disliked it being that they felt it had too many speeches. I didn’t really consider that a problem.
  • Overall I thought the best scene was the one where Bill’s helmet malfunctions. The quality of direction was spot on and it also moved the action along nicely. Bravo.

Final Thoughts

In my overall rankings of every Doctor Who story up to Last Christmas – which as you know is available from Amazon as part of Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two – the highest rated Peter Capaldi story is Listen, while the highest rated Matt Smith one is The Day of the Doctor. At this moment I think Oxygen is better than them both. It’s not better than the next David Tennant story on the list – the thematically similar Waters of Mars – but it runs it close.

So therefore, I can say in all honesty that this is the best Doctor Who story I’ve seen in almost 8 years.

That’s pretty good going.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon


Movies – Unlocked Review (or “Clunky But Enjoyable”)

May 10, 2017

Apparently the bar for being considered a Hollywood A-Lister has been lowered just a little bit based on the description of the lead actress in some reviews of Unlocked.

I’d honestly never heard of Noomi Rapace before, and a quick look on IMDB shows she’s appeared in very few English language productions. How is she an A-Lister?

The answer is that she’s not, and in truth she wasn’t even good enough to star in a throwaway movie like this that nobody will remember in 2018.

She might well be a terrific actress when speaking in her native tongue – she was the star of the Swedish versions of The Millenium Series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc) after all – but she struggled to adapt to acting in English. Without wanting to sound all xenophobic and Brexit about it, it is the case that people who act a part in a language that isn’t their own can struggle to deliver lines with the correct inflections and so it drags their performance down.

So she was pretty clunky.

Mind you, so were most of the English speaking actors in the cast, including Orlando Bloom – trying his best to act like Grant Mitchell off Eastenders – and Michael Douglas. Really, the only one who stood out in a positive way was John Malkovic.

To be honest, the plot was pretty clunky too. It was very much a by-the-numbers anti-terrorism/24/Spooks style story with ridiculous swerves and some daft motivations.

And yet, I actually enjoyed it.

It was stupid, but it was fun. it didn’t do a whole lot to stand out as amazing but it was relatively short, it didn’t lull and it kept me entertained.

What I would say though is that it’s the sort of movie I’d only recommend going to see if you have an Unlimited Card for the cinema.

It’s what I’ve described before as the sort of movie you’d watch on a plane, but would be annoyed if you paid full price.

 


Doctor Who – Knock Knock Review (or “A Welcome Change of Style”)

May 7, 2017

This season of Doctor Who has been dubbed as a reboot for the show; a jumping on point for new viewers or old ones who may have been disillusioned in the recent past.

On the face of it, it certainly looks like it, as the order and style of episodes mirrors the formula from Russell T. Davies’ first season back in 2005.

First we had the new companion introduction episode, then a trip to the future followed by an adventure in Earth’s past.

For the fourth episode it’s a return to contemporary Earth for the latest episode. Knock Knock.

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

Bill and her mates move into a spooky old house that eats people.

Thoughts – Like A Russell T. Davies Story

There’s a lot to enjoy about Knock Knock.

It’s got a simple premise that’s mostly easy to follow, strong performances from the lead actors and the main guest star, plenty of witty, snappy dialogue and a great look and environment to set it in.

That old pro Suchet acted his arse off. You shouldn’t be surprised.

Throughout the story, I laughed but I was also engrossed, and that’s a great combination.

What’s more, this was like a welcome change of pace from what we’ve come to expect to be the norm for Steven Moffat. In many ways – just like other standout episodes of his stewardship like The Lodger – this felt like a throwback to the Russell T. Davies era. It was contemporary and relatable but had that Doctor Who twist so you knew what you were watching.

And yet at the same time, this also felt like it could only be a Peter Capaldi episode. Sometimes you get ones like that. Ghost Light stands out as the sort of story that could only fit Sylvester McCoy’s take on the Doctor, while the aforementioned Lodger wouldn’t work with Jon Pertwee making Craig an omelette and going down the park to play football with the lads.

This story largely works because of Peter Capaldi’s age compared to Bill and her friends. It’s the little things like Harry going past and saying “Oh wow, Doctor! Legend!” and the way Bill feels a bit embarrassed to be seen with him; it’s written with Capaldi in mind, and that’s great.

But it’s not the only reason it works. David Suchet – well-known and respected actor that he is – does a brilliant turn as The Caretaker. He takes what another actor might have made a bit ‘one-note’ and adds some layers to it. He does an excellent job.

Knock Knock looks good as well, both in terms of the setting but also the effects. I thought the wooden Eliza looked fantastic, while the lice in the wood didn’t look in any way ropey.

On the whole, I have to say I enjoyed this more than any other episode so far this season.

But it wasn’t without its faults.

The Problems

For as good as Knock Knock was, some parts of it didn’t really make much sense.

First of all there’s the character of the Landlord, despite how well he’s played.

The reveal that he was actually Eliza’s son rather than her father is something I had mixed feelings about. I was glad that they addressed it because it made sense of the fact he wasn’t made out of wood and

Apparently the impact of Eliza was dampened by people looking at publicity photos in advance of the episode. That’s their problem.

seemingly had been living for well over a hundred years, but that opened up other questions based on how he was presented earlier in the episode. While there was some flimsy line of dialogue that explained his lack of memory or knowledge of the outside world, they didn’t touch upon the way he was able to appear out of thin air and vanish at the drop of a hat.

I felt it let the character down.

The resolution was also a bit of a damp squib too. It’s not as bad as the reset switch from Smile, but the way Eliza decides that she doesn’t want to cause any more fuss came across as limp.

Most of all though, I think what stood out in a negative way was how Bill’s character changed compared to last week. In Thin Ice, Bill confronts death properly for the first time. It had an impact on her and left her a bit shaken.

This week, as far as she was concerned, her flatmates were all killed in the space of a few minutes; some right in front of her. And yet it doesn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference to her.

Now I know that it wouldn’t have worked too well if she was a blubbering, hyperventilating mess over it, but to be so aloof directly opposed what she was like last week. That’s worth criticising.

Random Observations

  • While I wouldn’t really consider it a problem, part of me – perhaps the psychotic part – was a tad disappointed the dead didn’t stay dead.
  • Seemingly Harry was supposed to be Harry Sullivan’s grandson but that was cut. I can’t say I’m disappointed as it certainly wouldn’t have added anything.
  • So far, Nardol’s been a bit pointless hasn’t he?
  • What’s in the vault? The obvious guess is Missy but I hope it’s not.
  • There are lots of references to the Doctor’s impending regeneration. This makes me sad.
  • Watching this, I found myself comparing Knock Knock to Hide because of the setting. What a load of shite Hide was, eh? It shows that an idea just isn’t enough, neither is a setting. This was night and day in comparison.
  • I read a review where someone said the impact of Eliza was dampened by the BBC releasing pictures of her before transmission. Well that’s why you don’t look for spoilers then isn’t it?
  • I didn’t want to go back and change my review of Thin Ice from last week, but it suddenly occurred to me on Thursday that I forgot to mention that the wrestling moves used in the scene towards the start were completely and utterly anachronistic. For shame.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon