Stuart’s 2018 Review: Top 5 Games I Played In 2018

December 29, 2018

I woke up this morning with an idea to do a few different articles to end 2018, ranking my favourite games, TV shows and movies from the last year.

Seems like a good enough idea and one that can work as both a recommendation tool for readers and as a means of me looking back and remembering the things I enjoyed best in 2018.

But I was surprised at how few games I’ve bought over the last year considering how often I actually play them.

And then on top of that, looking at the ones I did buy and indeed invested a lot of time in, I was more surprised at how many games I dismissed out of hand as being candidates for this article.

I mean…I’m fairly sure I enjoyed God of War for the PS4 when I was playing it, but I certainly am not looking back at it and remembering it with a great sense of fondness.

Furthermore, the only game I have actually reviewed on this blog this year – Red Dead Redemption 2 – will also be omitted in spite of the amount of hours I invested in it. Basically, the flaws with it annoyed me so much that they massively outweighed the positives.

Anyway, before I get to the Top 5, there are a few ground-rules to establish…

  1. It has to be a game I played through in 2018. It doesn’t have to be a game that was released in 2018.
  2. Platforms judged are PS4, Switch and PC (although there isn’t a single PC game that made the cut).
  3. The usual suspects – games like FIFA, COD, Football Manager – that come out every single year aren’t included. If anything, I’ve got sick of FIFA and can now no longer play any more than 2 games before switching it off.

With that in mind, here’s my Top 5 Games of 2018.

No. 5: Wonder Boy – The Dragon’s Trap (PS4)

That’s right folks, a 2017 remake of a game from 1989 has made my Top 5 Games of 2018.

But seeing as I only bought it in early December, I think that’s fair.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what I enjoyed about Wonder Boy – The Dragon’s Trap was its old school charm.

A side scrolling, platforming, Metroidvania game with a beautiful animation style, some charming music and a suitable – if sometimes frustrating – level of difficulty.

What’s also good about it is that I was able to finish the game after a few days. I have to admit that I don’t often like it when games become a slog, and thankfully this wasn’t one.

There’s a sequel to it just released, but I’m skinflint enough to wait for the inevitable price reduction.

No. 4: Far Cry 5 (PS4)

Though not as deep as Red Dead or as good looking as God of War, Far Cry 5 gets included on this list because it’s fun. Isn’t that what games are supposed to be?

It’s hardly what I would call a ‘fresh’ gaming experience, I didn’t like the ending, and I don’t understand why they always want to include an annoying stage where your character is off his face on drugs, but I definitely enjoyed playing it and look forward to yet another sequel next year.

If you’ve never tried a Far Cry game, it takes the open world environment that Rockstar Games seem to get all the plaudits for, and then makes it more like a game than an experience.

You blow things up, you kill people (and animals) and there’s a decent, non-linear story to keep things interesting along the way.

No. 3: Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Switch)

I never really got the hype for Smash Bros in the past, but I think that’s down to not really understanding the gameplay mechanics.

The thing is, previous iterations of the game were always bought by my brother, and as a result, he would play through the game on his own to unlock everything and then I would join him for some multiplayer after he’d done all that.

But unlocking everything is fun, and it helps you understand the depth of the game and which fighters suit your own playing style.

If you are a Nintendo fan, or even just a fan of games, you’ll love what Smash Bros has to offer, both in terms of the huge amount of characters and stages, but also the little additions like the 900 BGM tracks from just about anything Nintendo related, and more besides.

An incredible over-all package.

I got a few games for Xmas, but this is the only one I’ve played so far.

No. 2: Spider-Man (PS4)

Out of all the AAA titles released in 2018, Spider-Man must be just about the only ‘new’ game.

I’m not suggesting it reinvents the wheel, and obviously it includes characters that we all know from Marvel anyway, but as a gaming experience it stood out as being fresh and interesting.

Initially I didn’t think I’d get to grips with the webslinging control style, but it turned out it was a smooth and efficient way of playing the game.

Like most open-world games it has a lot of side mission and collectables, but unlike most open-world games, they are actually worth completing and collecting.

An excellent game, but not the best one I played in 2018.

No. 1: Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)

I actually bought Mario & Rabbids along with my Switch in 2017, but it remained unopened all through November and December as I played through Mario Odyssey and routinely went back to Mario Kart.

Then in January, with nothing fresh to play, I decided I may as well give it a go. I think my hesitance was down to it being a third party game rather than a Nintendo one, and apart from a brief attempt at playing X-Com on the Xbox 360 a few years earlier, I’d never played a turn-based tactical RPG before.

Turns out it was excellent.

Kingdom Battle is an engrossing, challenging game where you have to think about your approach to each level if you have any hope of completing it, and unlike most games I’ve played, it had the immediate replay value of wanting to go back and get full stars on each of those levels.

Furthermore, unlike any game since – I think – the original Red Dead Redemption, it had a story-mode DLC that I bought and played through the moment it was released.

I’m sure people will scoff at this and tell me that I should be playing X-Com 2 instead, but I think much of the appeal here is down to the colourful Nintendo style, and cutesy weapons like Mario’s hammer or throwing honey in someone’s face. If it was dark and grim, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it nearly as much.

So there is a lot to be said for style as well as substance.

Honourable Mentions:

Mario Party (Switch) and Overcooked 2 (PS4) are two games that I haven’t been able to play much, as it’s difficult to round up the troops to play it enough, but what I have played I have enjoyed immensely.

Dishonourable Mentions:

Although not a game released in 2017, I did buy two highly rated games in PS Store sales this year and found them to be a total waste of money.

Sniper Elite 4 clearly requires the patience of an actual sniper to enjoy, but I couldn’t muster up the energy to get as far as the third level. Rubbish.

The Witcher III was described to me as an essential purchase by my brother. He felt it was one of the best games he’d ever played. But I got this right at the beginning of the year after playing through Mario Odyssey at the end of 2017 and I just couldn’t believe how awful the controls were in comparison.

An unresponsive, boring and overly complicated mess of a game with a dreary unoriginal story. I gave up after about 10 hours when I realised that I wasn’t under any obligation to finish it.

And lastly, on the subject of awful controls, I recently played Mafia III, which came free with my PS Plus subscription.

Now I’m by no means a fan of the way Red Dead 2 controlled, but it was streets ahead of this clunky pile of garbage.

Definitely not worth your time.

 


The Rocky Movies Ranked.

December 23, 2018

My girlfriend Mhairi and I have been together for three years as of last Wednesday and this year we’ve bought a house together.

So I decided that I would take our relationship to the next level recently and made her do something that she has resisted doing for so long; make her do something that I’ve always been dead keen on but that she herself thought might be painful and not particularly enjoyable for her.

Obviously, I’m talking about making her watch the Rocky movies with me.

You knew that, didn’t you?

Anyway, having watched them all again over a period of a couple of weeks, I felt it was time to rank them for this blog.

My enjoyment of a Rocky movie comes down to a few key factors in no particular order…

  • Plot
  • Training Montages
  • Opponent/Other Characters
  • Music
  • How much screen time Adrian gets

I’m not too interested in how it’s filmed or how much inner truth the director gets out of the characters. Call me superficial, but I believe a Rocky movie is about the reason for the fight, time devoted to the build up to the fight, some drama in the fight itself, some good music throughout and as little of Adrian as possible.

There’s no question that Rocky’s awful shrew of a wife is the worst aspect of the franchise, thanks both to the character being so annoying and Talia Shire being such an awful actress.

I understand that she is an important part of Rocky himself, but I don’t care. Less Adrian = Better Movie.

Mhairi disagrees with we on Adrian by the way, as she thinks he helps balance the movies, but I’m resolute on the matter.

Anyway, on to the rankings and you’ll be shocked to read what comes last…

8th. Rocky V

Here’s a Rocky movie with no boxing match for Rocky, no training montages, no opponent and a lot of Adrian moaning. She also stops washing her hair to sell the point that she’s moved from a mansion to a reasonably sized house.

Obviously it was always going to finish last on this list.

But I had forgotten just how bad Rocky V was until I watched it again.

Dreadful acting from all concerned, far too much calling back to the first movie, too many major plot threads – none of which were interesting – that didn’t have enough time devoted to them, and it ended with a crappy fight outside a pub. Yay.

While it’s not inconceivable that Rocky could lose all his money, it is inconceivable that he would have no means of earning anything else. It’s also ridiculous that his son aged five years while Rocky was in Russia fighting Drago.

Although it wouldn’t take much to make Rocky V better, I think if they ignored the storyline with his son entirely and instead had Rocky goaded out of retirement by the Don King guy to fight Tommy Gunn even at the risk of his own health, then it definitely would have worked.

What we ended up with though was just dreadful

7th. Rocky III

Based on my ranking criteria you’re probably surprised this ranks so low down, but I just thought it was a bit of a chore to sit through.

It starts off well enough and has a good set-up, with Rocky taking his eye off the ball and being swayed by the glitz and glamour of his lifestyle. His defeat to Clubber also makes a lot of sense, with him being further distracted by Mickey’s heart attack.

But it’s the second half of Rocky III that lets it down.

Rocky loses his heart and trains poorly. Then after a pep talk he focuses again and trains well. Then he easily defeats Clubber.

Wow, great resolution.

There was no drama in the build-up to the fight and even less in the fight itself, so for me there just isn’t much to enjoy.

6th. Creed II

The same problems with Rocky III are displayed in Creed II.

Man loses fight convincingly, man trains, man wins fight.

Certainly the second Creed is told in a less shallow way than Rocky III, but other aspects let it down, such as the music and the direction of the fights.

It’s not a bad movie, and I enjoyed how unlike previous entries to the Rocky series it actually spends a bit of time dealing with the back-story of his opponent and making him a sympathetic character, but it doesn’t deserve to be any higher than 6th.

You can read more of my thoughts about Creed II in my full review, which can be found here.

5th. Rocky

Disagree if you want, but as its own standalone movie, I actually don’t think the first movie is all that great.

It definitely has a good premise and a charm to it, but too much time is invested in the permanently awful Talia Shire and most of the stuff people remember from it actually happens in Rocky II.

Surprisingly little time is actually given to the build-up to the fight, but I suppose it’s down to it being about Rocky the person and not Rocky the fighter.

As a stand-alone movie it does what it needs to and has an iconic soundtrack, but as part of an ongoing series – which I appreciate it probably wasn’t originally intended to be – it feels like it lacks a certain amount of what makes a Rocky movie a Rocky movie.

Or at least what I expect from a Rocky movie.

4th. Creed

Judged on its own merits, Creed is a good movie, but it’s definitely made better by being part of the Rocky cinematic universe.

Creed is the main character, but Rocky is the character people want to see the most.

As opposed to the sequel, the fights are actually very well-directed and the storyline is solid.

But the music is nowhere near any of the Rockys. The same applies for Creed II.

You can read my review of Creed from 2016 here.

3rd. Rocky II

Like I said above, most of the stuff that people say they remember from the original – not least Rocky winning the fight, but also him chasing the chicken and shouting “Yo Adrian, I did it” – actually happens in Rocky II.

Yes, there are parts of it that drag a little in the middle, but I actually found Rocky’s inability to make a life for himself outside of boxing to be more interesting than him taking Adrian ice skating.

Also, the build-up to the fight was much better, and Apollo Creed gets more screen time.

I think that if you put both movies together to make one long one – because Rocky II is a direct followup to the first one in terms of plot and characters – then people would say the second half of it was better than the first.

Definitely underrated by the majority.

2nd. Rocky Balboa

In terms of story and nothing else, I actually think Rocky Balboa is the best one.

It provides the best balance of all things that I personally enjoy about the movies, it doesn’t have Adrian in it  – and it benefits hugely from that – and it feels more polished.

It also gave closure to his character as an in-ring competitor; closure that was sorely missing from Rocky V.

What I liked about the fight at the end was that by having Dixon break his hand, it made it much more feasible for Rocky to mount the comeback he did, and while it would have been a little too corny for him to have actually won, by having him lose by split decision it allowed him to leave with his head held high.

The stuff with the woman and her son lets things down a little, but hey, even if it didn’t, it was never finishing on top of this list regardless.

One thing I clearly remember about seeing Rocky Balboa in the cinema back in 2006 was the cheer in the room when the training montage started.

Because as I said at the start, training montages are a huge part of what makes Rocky movies great.

And on that note…

1st. Rocky IV

Rocky IV is the ultimate Rocky movie, but more than that, it’s the ultimate montage movie of all time. 31% of the entire running time of the movie is spent in montage form, and apart from the time-wasting guff where he’s driving around thinking about Apollo – the ‘No Easy Way Out’ montage – they are all great.

You’ve got to admire the balls of the director to do a montage of Rocky training in the mountains and Drago training in the gym, then 75 seconds after it finishes, do another one where they both work even harder.

The two montages encapsulates everything about Rocky and in fact everything about any movie that has ever had a montage. Plus, you’ve got to respect the impressive fitness on display in them. This was no CGI fest; the two guys were genuinely fit as fiddles and an inspiration to any bloke looking to get fit. Just amazing.

It also has the greatest soundtrack of any movie, ever.

But it’s not just about that. While people criticise how shallow it apparently is, it has a good plot.

Apollo is killed in the ring by Drago and Rocky must go into the hostile territory of Russia to seek revenge and defeat him. Sure, he also seemingly ends the Cold War, but that just adds to the fun.

Drago is the best Rocky opponent too. He looks mean, he has some great, ice-cold lines of dialogue that people still quote to this day – “If he dies, he dies”, “You will lose” and “I must break you” are among his only lines of dialogue yet anyone who knows anything about Rocky is familiar with them – and he has the boo-hiss villainy of his wife and his steroid abuse.

Rocky IV also has the best final fight – where they hurt each other for real – ably assisted once again with a montage and some excellent background music.

I can’t speak highly enough about it.

If you don’t like it, I simply have to ask what’s wrong with you?

As always I’m keen to hear if you agree or disagree with me. Let me know.


Movies: Creed II Review

December 19, 2018

People who know me know that I like three things…

  • Doctor Who
  • Dundee United
  • Rocky IV

Ah yes, Rocky IV, the movie with the greatest soundtrack ever and a montage for every occasion. Sure, it doesn’t have much of a plot or indeed acting quality, but who cares when you’ve got lines like “I must break you” and scenes with Rocky and Drago working out to the sort of tunes that should be on every gym playlist. Wow, that sounded a lot more homoerotic than I anticipated…

As I sit here at my desk writing out this review there is a movie poster of Rocky IV directly behind my monitor. I just think it’s great.

So any movie that acts as a proper sequel to it is bound to be awesome, right?

Well 33 years later, we have one in the form of Creed II.

Yay!!

Movies – Creed II Review: What’s This One About?

Apollo Creed’s son fights the son of the man who killed his father in the ring, Ivan Drago.

And Rocky himself once again returns to train the young Adonis Creed

Thoughts

Creed II follows the basic plot you’ll find in any Rocky movie, so there’s not too much to dislike about it.

Basically our hero gets beaten up, he rallies and wins the return fight. Throughout the film we also see some highs and lows from his personal life.

That’s what you go in expecting, and that’s what you get.

Bosh!

And yet there was one significant element of Creed II that was a little bit different to any other Rocky movie…

I wanted Creed to lose.

I felt that they did such a good job of making Drago and his son into sympathetic characters that I would have rather seen the more humble Russian fighter – whose mother left him as a child and whose father was made a pariah in society for losing to Rocky and letting down his country – take the win over the cocky, brash American with the more comfortable life.

Was that the point? I’m not so sure, but I doubt it.

The other thing that I found a little bit odd was the direction of the boxing matches. Unlike any Rocky movie (or the first Creed), the fights were presented within this bubble where you couldn’t hear the crowd and it almost felt like they were boxing in a room empty of everyone except their trainers.

And two aspects of the plot that were also slightly odd were that Creed’s heavyweight title victory was shoehorned in to the start of the movie and his initial defeat to Drago did not result in him losing the title.

But hey ho.

Most of all though, considering the music is such a large part of what makes a Rocky movie so enjoyable, I found that to be poor.

In spite of all of that, it was still an enjoyable affair and one that I will no doubt revisit in the future.

Enjoyable, but not awesome.

Let’s just hope despite what the direction suggested, Rocky himself will return in any future offerings.


Doctor Who – The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos Review (or “The Worst Episode Title In Television History”)

December 16, 2018

Throughout its rich history, Doctor Who stories have often had some pretty catchy names.

Whether it’s the punchy one word titles like ‘Blink’, ‘Inferno’ or ‘Terminus’, titles that use lines of dialogue from the scripts like ‘State of Decay’, ‘Full Circle’ or ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang’ or even ones that just take a good old fashioned Ronseal approach like ‘Revenge of the Cybermen’, ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ or ‘The Sea Devils’, the chances are you’ll remember them and be able to identify them easily.

I bring this up because the final episode of the current season of Doctor Who – The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos – has the worst episode title in the entire history of the show. There is no debate. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I haven’t come across a worse episode title in any TV show.

Putting aside that there wasn’t actually a battle, what sort of name is Ranskoor av Kolos for a planet? Sure, I’ve taken the piss out of Terry Nation in the past for his on-the-nose planet names like ‘Aridious’ and ‘Mechanus’ but at least they are memorable. I can’t see anyone rolling ‘Ranskoor av Kolos’ off their tongue any time soon, can you?

Of course, a name will only get you so far, hence my use of Terminus above. Regardless of the quality of the title, what matters most is whether the episode is any good.

So how good was The Battle of Thingamajig?

Doctor Who – The Battle of Somethingorother Review: What’s It About?

The Doctor and her pals once again tangle with the dude from the first episode. It’s the return match nobody asked for.

Thoughts – I Fell Asleep

I cannot argue that The Battle of WhatsItCalled looks good. The cinematography throughout Season 11 has been of a very high standard, and they’ve done their bit going to various different locations in a bid to

Oh my god it’s…erm…what’s his name from the first episode. I can’t believe it. What storytelling!!!

make each episode look distinct.

Similarly, costume design and lighting has been great too. The incidental music is an abomination, but that’s just my own personal opinion.

But that is just style. What about the substance?

Put simply, in this case I fell asleep.

Yes, I’d had a busy day and yes I’d eaten a lot of food, but it was 8pm when I watched it, not 1am, and quite frankly if it was an interesting episode I’d have stayed awake and alert.

But it was neither of those things, and so I dropped off for a good 20 minutes.

Then it took me until today (Friday) to summon up the will to even bother watching it again for the purposes of this review. And I didn’t enjoy it much this time either.

So what’s the problem?

It just wasn’t interesting. It involved the Doctor and chums walking about and handling things in a flat and tension free way. Yet again there was no threat to speak of, yet again the villain was vanquished fairly easily and yet again as an episode written by Chris Chibnall it was all just one-note.

I just found it all dreadfully dull, and judging by the general reviews, I’m not the only one.

And like I said above, I don’t think anyone had an appetite to see “Tim Shaw” make a reappearance. Tim Shaw Mania did not sweep the nation.

Wait, That’s The Finale?

If The Battle of Racoon and Kodos was just another episode then I’d maybe be a bit more forgiving, but it’s the end of a season. Surely they wanted to go out with a bang?

Now I’ll hold my hands up and say that when I heard this season wasn’t going to have a story-arc to speak of, I thought it would be a refreshing change. Indeed, I think I might have said as much in some earlier reviews or on social media. In the past, story-arcs have overpowered the individual episodes and led to finales that have perhaps been a bit too unwelcoming to the casual viewer. Plus some of those story-arcs (and I’m looking at you, River Song) have just been annoying.

But this season proves that they do have their place, because that episode showed that it was no way to end a season.

I read Ian “I’m NOT watching this season” Levine’s comments on the season after he…erm…watched every episode and he says it’s the weakest end to a season ever. To be fair, as someone not shy to use hyperbole he was always going to exaggerate, because you can’t argue that Time Flight was a powerful end to Season 19, or The Kings Demons ended Season 20 on a high, but as far as Nu Who goes, he is bang on.

Along with many of the other issues people have with this season of the show, hopefully Chris Chibnall will learn from it going forward.

I’m not going to hold my breath though.

“I Don’t Like Her”

Less specific to the episode – because there is so little to say about such a dreary affair – I think it’s worth commenting on Jodie Whittaker’s performance throughout the season.

Alright Charles Bronson, calm the fuck down

Taking everything into consideration, she’s been ok but not great.

I think it’s fair to say that it took four of the first seven Doctors at least 10 weeks to fully embrace the part, some of them longer. Actors do need to find their feet in the role and I’d like to think that come her second season, she might be a bit more comfortable.

However…

She is, so far, the weakest Doctor since the show returned, and yes, that could be down to her having an altogether weaker run of episodes than her counterparts. But it’s also worth noting that casual viewers I’ve spoken to have all said the same thing; “I don’t like her”.

Why? Because they still see her as someone who is trying to hard to be quirky and to replicate David Tennant. It’s a criticism I’ve brought up before, and after 10 weeks, it’s disappointing that it’s still valid.

They also have said to me that they don’t think she plays the part as naturally or as commandingly as the likes of Peter Capaldi or the aforementioned Tennant.

It’s worth noting that everyone who has said this to me has been a woman…

I’ll just say that I do think the quality of the writing helps determine the quality of a Doctor, but as an actor, she’s not got the gravitas to match her predecessors since 2005.

Random Observations

  • All of a sudden, Graham turned into Charles Bronson from Death Wish. I’ve liked Bradley Walsh’s performances throughout but I thought his take on that was a little subdued.
  • They nicked part of the plot from The Pirate Planet
  • Unlike just about every episode of the season, I didn’t think there was any chuckles to be had. Disappointing.
  • As nice as it is that they traverse the globe looking for splendid filming locations, I’d sooner they did it locally and produced more episodes.
  • Nothing really came of those patches they wore on their heads, did it? If you’re going to make a big deal about something early on, make use of it appropriately.
  • Guess who didn’t really do anything in this episode? Did you guess Yas? Clever you.

Doctor Who – The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos Review: Final Thoughts

Rarely has an episode of Doctor Who filled me with such withering apathy than The Battle of Rocky Road.

It might have looked good but it was the personification of dullness, and certainly unbecoming of a season finale.

They really must do better in the next season.

But can they? It’s a worry.

Hey, at least the Daleks are supposed to be coming back; that’ll be a refreshing change.

No, I can’t believe I said that either.


Doctor Who – It Takes You Away Review (or “Will Someone Please Report Erik To Child Protective Services”)

December 8, 2018

Almost an entire week late, I bring you the review of It Takes You Away.

Apologies for the delay…

Doctor Who – It Takes You Away Review: What’s This One About?

A deadbeat dad leaves his blind daughter trapped and isolated so that he can spend some time with his dead wife.

In Norway.

Thoughts – The Difference Between Rating A Story On Its Own Merits vs Rating It As Part Of A Season

That’s a bit of a long tagline, but hey ho…

Anyway, my overriding feeling from watching It Takes You Away was that in isolation, it’s a good story.

Look at those scumbags. Unkempt hippies in dire need of a knock on the door from a social worker

It ticks a lot of the boxes you’d want from the show, in that it’s got an interesting premise, a well paced (but not flawless) script that has a beginning, middle and an end, it uses all the cast members appropriately, it looks good but also unusual for the show and it feels sufficiently ‘Doctor-Who-ish’.

And on its own merits, the ending is fine. Although by any standards it’s a bit twee having the Doctor make a new friend with a conscious universe masquerading as a frog, if it was a one-off then I don’t think people would complain. After all, you’ve only got to watch The Doctor Dances to see that a happy ending isn’t a bad thing.

But to me it just felt like once again a story ended in a proverbial warm hippy hug, and we’ve all had enough of that.

So as part of any other season, I think I’d appreciate this episode more than I actually have.

Hold On, Has The Writer Actually Attempted Character Development?

The big surprise from It Takes You Away was that for the first time since The Woman Who Fell To Earth, not only did every companion have something worthwhile to do during the episode, but there was some proper use of their characters too.

Yas used her police training, Ryan’s abandonment issues and relationship with Graham were explored, and of course Graham had plenty of scenes with Grace.

It’s like the writer actually wanted to make use of what the characters are supposed to be, which is a hugely novel concept that nobody else has bothered to pursue…

Build Up A Threat And Then Ignore It

If I had one major criticism of the episode though it would be that a lot of time was spent building up the threat of those moths. When the Doctor, Yas, Graham and Ribbons were making their way through the

The universe there, making the internationally accepted symbol for “Table for four please”

passages, the moths were treated a bit like the Dalek from Dalek. One single moth was deadly enough to mean if any of them moved a muscle they were dead.

But when Ryan and Hanne came across them later in the episode, they were able to avoid swarms of them just by running away and hiding.

It’s a bit inconsistent isn’t it?

Random Observations

  • By any standard, Erik needs a visit from Child Protective Services.
  • As is often the case on TV, Hanne was given these extra sensory special powers because she’s blind. Unlike Erik, she was instantly able to detect that wasn’t her mum.
  • And yet she was tricked by some speakers in the garden. Fancy that.
  • Incidental music once again annoyed me.
  • While I still think it’s weird that Graham wants Ryan to call him granddad, it was a nice moment for him when he finally did. But that’s a story arc that had long since been ignored, and more to the point it’s one that – had they persevered with it – probably should have climaxed in the final episode of the season.
  • Speaking of Ryan, his interactions with Hanne were probably the most animated Tosin Cole has managed to get. I still think he’s a rubbish actor.
  • There’s quirky and then there’s just stupid. The stuff with the sheep was the latter.
  • What was the point of it being set in Norway? Is it so people can use the term ‘Scandi-Noir’ even though it really wasn’t?

Doctor Who – It Takes You Away Review: Final Thoughts

My brother asked me yesterday if I planned on publishing my review of this story any time soon, and I said I just hadn’t got around to it yet.

The question I suppose is why?

Like so many other episodes of Season 11, I’ve enjoyed them enough while I’ve watched them, but haven’t been inspired enough to immediately go to write about them.

Now on one hand, that shows that these stories aren’t necessarily bad, because nothing gets the creative juices of a reviewer bubbling more than crap TV, but on the other they aren’t really good enough to want to talk about immediately either.

And it doesn’t help that at their heart, pretty much every episode has the same underlying strengths and flaws. I could write these reviews now with my eyes closed.

With one final episode left this season, plus a New Year’s Day special, I think it’s fair to say that Season 11 hasn’t set the heather alight.

But hey, there’s still time…


Doctor Who – The Witchfinders Review (or “The One Where The Doctor Finally Gets A Distinguishable Character”)

December 1, 2018

Apologies for the lateness of this review; there’s no sinister reason behind it, I just didn’t have time on Sunday and it kept getting put on the back-burner.

Before I set about discussing The Witchfinders, there’s other Doctor Who business to discuss first…

I recently watched the Blu Ray of Shada for the first time since getting it last Christmas (I’m a stickler for watching Doctor Who in order so I only got the chance last week) and I have to say it’s excellent. The animation isn’t exactly Disney standard, but it did the job. Moreover, the quality of the picture for the filmed parts was superb and the reworked incidental music – done very much in the style of the City of Death – was great. Now obviously you all know that Tom Baker filmed new footage for the last scene which is obviously fantastic, but knowing that already going in (and obviously having already watched it the moment I got the Blu Ray) I think the biggest surprise was the way they used the late David Brierley’s voice in the animation by using archive recordings for K-9. They could so easily have just dubbed John Leeson’s voice over the entire story, and I’m glad they didn’t.

When I mentioned this on Facebook, I was asked if I would rate Shada any higher now. The answer is probably not; it’s a good story, but there are still 12 better Tom Baker ones in my view.

Anyway, let’s get back to the present and the The Witchfinders.

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

The gang try to stop witch trials and come across a mud monster.

Thoughts – A Welcome Addition

When I read back all of my Season 11 reviews, I’ll probably find a lack of continuity in my attitude towards this new style of storytelling employed by Chris Chibnall on a week-to-week basis.

I wonder what the reaction would have been if they cast Bradley Walsh as the Doctor with that hat, and Alan Cumming as his companion in those clothes?

Yes, I’ve long since advocated for more episodes that don’t have an alien threat and I’m pretty sure I’ve praised some of Season 11 for that, but I have to admit that when I was watching The Witchfinders, my thoughts during the first half were largely “Oh for Christ’s sake; not another episode without any proper monster”. That would have been too much. It is possible to go too far in the opposite direction.

Thankfully though, there was, with the Morax showing up half way through to inject some horror into what would otherwise have been a pretty bland episode.

While there’s definitely room for variety in episode styles, for the show to be Doctor Who, I think more often than not the episodes need to include a monster. It’s what the majority expect.

That’s not to say that this episode was suddenly amazing because of the monster, because there are loads of examples of stories including them being poor, but it did make it better.

The Doctor Under Threat

Another novel change based upon what we’ve come to expect from Season 11 is that the Doctor actually comes under threat! Oh Em Gee!!

Also, I think for the first time her gender has been used in the plot, and that’s a good thing. Though while the Doctor did comment “If I was still a bloke…” there are still countless occasions when s/he was unfairly accused of stuff as a man. Mind you, I don’t think he’d ever been accused of being a witch.

Anyway, the point is that by actually playing up to the fact the Doctor is now a woman, it actually gives her a unique selling point; a character that can be used within stories.

Yay!

Companions…Blah Blah Blah

Not enough for all companions to do? Check.

I don’t need to harp on about that any further

Alan Cummings: Playing It For Laughs

Alan Cummings by nature is a bold and – and I say this in a good way – hammy actor, so it’s no surprise his take on playing the King was to make it Carry On-esque.

Go home Doctor, you’re drunk

I’m in two minds about it, because it could be argued he wasn’t taking the role seriously.

But the bits he did approach more seriously – notably his one-to-one with the Doctor when she was strung up – were good.

It’s just that if he’s trying to be serious in one scene and then chatting up Ryan like Sid James lusting after Barbara Windsor in the next, it’s a bit jarring.

Random Observations

  • Did the old woman at the start not drown very fast?
  • I’m at the point now where I’m beginning to hate the incidental music. I just felt in the first half of the episode especially, it was totally out of place with what we were seeing on screen.
  • Noted dissenters of the current production team would know doubt have groaned at the leader of the village being a woman.
  • I can get on board with the episode starting with the Doctor and her companions already being in Lancashire at the start of the episode, but I know it confused my mum. Maybe there should have been a little intro first?
  • Personally I think The Mark of Satan would have been a better episode title.
  • Graham had some amusing lines in this episode, not least “It’s obvious when you put it like that”. Out of context that doesn’t look funny at all…
  • But I do have a bit of an issue with Graham here. Much like Yas and Ryan in the Rosa episode, I felt he had far too much specialist knowledge about the Witch Trials. Obviously it’s not impossible for him to know all about it, but it seems a bit too convenient for story-telling purposes that they’ve once again accidentally landed in a reasonably obscure point in history that one of them happens to know all about.
  • Also it was a bit convenient that the King happened to be in the neighbourhood.
  • I like the continued use of the psychic paper, but it does presume knowledge from a while back.

Doctor Who – The Witchfinders Review: Final Thoughts

Season 11 of Doctor Who has had a number of episodes that on first viewing are enjoyable enough but will largely be forgotten about in a few years time.

The Witchfinders is another example of that.

It entertained when it was on, but like a lot of episodes it doesn’t have enough about it to be memorable.

But at least for once I felt the Doctor had a distinguishable character. Unfortunately, what has made her stand out here is the fact she’s now a woman, and I don’t think that would have been what Chris Chibnall wanted…