Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book Two: The Modern Era Now Available

February 26, 2015

Hi guys,SG_Cvr_04

Just an update to let you know that at long last, Stuart Reviews Doctor Who – Book Two: The Modern Era is now available on Amazon. Prices vary in different markets depending upon exchange rates, but it hovers around the $9.50/£6.50 region.

You can buy it to use on any smartphone, tablet or ebook reader.

For anyone who doesn’t want to buy from Amazon, perhaps because of geographical restrictions, you can buy a PDF to use on any device directly from me and pay through Paypal. Just get in touch either through the blog or through the Stuart Reviews Stuff Facebook site for more info on that.

The book deals with reviews from Rose through to Last Christmas and also contains the Stuart Reviews Doctor Who ‘Colossal 258′, ranking all the Doctor Who stories from worst to best.SG_Cvr_03

Spoiler Alert: As a random example, The Long Game is ranked #194.

If you’ve followed the blog over the years, I’m sure you’ll be interested to see how my own personal rankings differ from the flavour of the month style rankings by fandom in the Doctor Who Magazine.

At the same time as launching the second book, I’ve also gone back to Book One and sorted out some of the niggling formatting issues and any errors/spelling mistakes that people have pointed out to me. If you’ve already bought the book, you’ll be able to get an updated version through Amazon.

So I hope you buy it, and if you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon.

The links to the books are…

Book One
Book Two

and for the US Store…

Book One
Book Two

Cheers,

Stuart Milne

 

 


Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review (or “Nobody Likes The Tangerines? Sounds Like a Classic Case of West Coast Bias To Me”)

December 30, 2014

I’ve written the original introduction to this to review in my Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two document (available early 2015). It makes sense in that, but not here.

So in lieu of writing a completely different intro to this article specifically for the blog, let me just take the opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year, to thank you all for reading (and for tweeting me, emailing me and putting comments on Facebook to tell me to hurry up and write the bloody review ;-)) and to look out for my Stuart Reviews Stuff Year End Awards which I’ll be writing soon.

Anyway, back to Last Christmas

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

Inception style dreams within dreams, with a mild dash of Alien, a dollop of Christmas and a surprise rewrite at the end.

Thoughts – The Stuff You Miss On First Viewing

So it’s December 30th and I’ve only just got round to reviewing the Christmas episode. Apart from the fact I was in a mild food coma whilst watching it the first time on Christmas Day, it also seemed to me to be the type of episode you’d want to watch again before committing your thoughts to eternity.

That’s not to say Last Christmas was complicated, but rather that I wanted a second look to spot the hints for plot twists to come. For example, it was interesting seeing the scene in the infirmary where the Dream

According to one review, the only good thing about this story was the casting of Michael Troughton. O....kay.

According to one review, the only good thing about this story was the casting of Michael Troughton. O….kay.

Crabs first attack them. How did I not notice the first time that there was a long cut between them dropping from the roof to Santa turning up to save them? And when he does save them, why didn’t I spot that they are standing in a different place with the Dream Crabs nowhere in sight? The second time around it seems obvious.

Also, the other bits like the hints about Shona clearly not being a scientist and Clara wanting to stay in the dream at the end (for reasons I’ll get to) stood out.

And that’s to Last Christmas’s credit. It’s well and written and has more than one layer to it.

On a more general level, it was also just an enjoyable episode of Dr Who that could have worked on its own merits without any Christmas influence. But the influence it did have worked well and used Santa appropriately.

Certainly based on the end of season cliffhanger I thought it was going to be about some kind of evil alien Santa, but this turned out far better, even though his initial sinisterness didn’t necessarily make that much sense.

From what I’ve read, some people are proclaiming this to be the best Christmas special the show has ever done, but I’d disagree. As you’ll see reflected in my episode rankings in the book, I do rate it highly, but not as highly as the brilliant ‘A Christmas Carol’. That will take some beating.

The Curious Case of Clara and The Suspected Rewrites

So everyone assumed that Jenna Coleman was leaving in this episode. The tabloids had reported it, she’d been coy about it, and both the title of this episode and the first one of the next season was suggestive of it too.

But as it turns out, she stayed.

And I’m glad about that because not only has the she improved immeasurably since Matt Smith’s final season, but it seems as though there’s further for her character to go. Plus she’s got great chemistry with the

Speaking of his character, won't his family find him dead and with that attached to his face? Bit grim isn't it?

Speaking of his character, won’t his family find him dead and with that attached to his face? Bit grim isn’t it?

fantastic Peter Capaldi.

The word on the pavey though – as they’d say in Dundee – is that she had a late change of heart and the final scene was hastily rewritten to allow for that.

Though it’s just a rumour, it’s one that I believe.

It seemed to me that this episode was built around the revelation that the Clara who was dreaming was now an old woman. Apart from the continual references to it being a Last Christmas, the way she didn’t want to leave the dream – especially in scene in the sleigh – suggested she was remembering that she was old and that this was her back in her prime.

If it turned out that was the case, it would have been a solid and acceptable end to her character. The scene with the Doctor not acknowledging how she’d aged and helping her pull the cracker was a mirror image to the one from Time of the Doctor one year previous. It was sad, very well acted and would have given her realistic conclusion.

Still, I’m glad that it didn’t end like that and that she’s staying aboard the TARDIS.

The Even More Curious Case of Clara and Her New Home

Clara is a school teacher at Coal Hill in London. She’s not the head of a department, she’s young and has only been in continuous employment for a short while (before which she was a nanny).

'mon then

‘mon then

As far as I can tell, her small family aren’t particularly well off either.

So how the hell did she manage to afford to move into that new house?

Maybe she’s been using time travel to her advantage by investing in stocks that she knows will turn out good? Or maybe she’s got a copy of Sports Almanac hidden away somewhere?

That seems to be the only logical conclusion to arrive at.

Random Observations

  • Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi are both from the Glasgow/Paisley area of Scotland. Therefore, I’m calling out West Coast Bias and anti-Dundee Utd sentiment with the “Nobody likes the Tangerines” line that was used twice. Could they be Zombies? Does anyone who doesn’t follow Scottish football know what I’m talking about? Stephen Thompson, ya bass!!!
  • When The Doctor asked Clara to pick a page number and she said “57”, my brother declared – totally seriously – “Did you know in that situation, everyone picks 57?”. Erm…no they don’t. Of course, he’ll read this and tell me that he was deliberately playing me in the hope that I’d write this in the review, just like he supposedly did with the Keeley Hawes thing (see: Time Heist Review). Aye…right.
  • The bit where the Doctor took the reins on the sleigh was very ‘Punchtheairtastic’. I thought we’d seen the last of that.
  • I loved the line about how it’s no wonder Earth gets invaded so much if we have a film called ‘Alien’.
  • I also liked the line about how Danny Pink might be “…texting women of low moral character”. It was a very 12th Doctor thing to say.
  • Why was Shona walking through the infirmary at the start anyway?
  • Given the attitude that Clara has towards the Doctor on being asked to collect the specimen Dream Crab, do you think the Doctor longed for the days of having companions from the 1960s who offered up cups of tea without giving him grief?
  • On proof reading, I noticed I’d originally written that as ‘Dram Crabs’ in the paragraph above. That could either be whisky based crabs or an affectionate nickname for the Macra.
  • As you might expect, the Doctor Who forums are full of mixed reactions with some people declaring it the worst thing in the history of the world. If I knew I didn’t like a TV show, I certainly wouldn’t waste my Christmas Day watching it.
  • The best piece of criticism I read though was that the only good thing about it was the casting of Michael Troughton. Why is that good? From what I could see, he just seemed like a nondescript fat bloke who had the fewest lines and had the indignity of being the only person killed off. Oh wait…I know why it’s good; because he’s the son of Patrick Troughton and therefore he’s amazing. #WarpedLogic.
  • But speaking of Troughton’s character, I assume somewhere in the world at some point in time, he’s going to be found dead with a Dream Crab attached to his face. Does The Doctor not plan on cleaning up that particular mess? No? Oh well.
  • Ok, so in the Doctor Who universe, is Santa real or not? And is it not a leap for the 8 year old believers who were watching to pick up on the subtext of the Tangerine at the end rather than the other 59 minutes of ‘Santa is a fictional character’.
  • I’m surprised that nobody tried to sue the BBC for ruining their offspring’s childhood with that one.

Doctor Who – Last Christmas Review: Final Thoughts

It was a solid episode and it was an enjoyable episode; I’m happy with its quality.

But for me, the most significant thing to take from it was that Clara is staying, and that’s better news than I would have thought possible a year ago.

Bring on Season 9.


Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review (or “Long Live Peter Capaldi”)

November 8, 2014

And so the latest season of Doctor Who draws to a close.

Compared against any season in the show’s history, this has more than held its own in terms of quality, but especially after how poor Matt Smith’s final season – excluding the late 2013 specials – was, it just seems all the better.

Still, if you’ll recall, the last review I did wasn’t exactly favourable.

Following a run of six quality stories in a row, they hit a brick wall with In the Forest of the Night.

So my hope was that the season would reclaim its consistency in the two-part finale, Dark Water & Death In Heaven.

Did it?

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: What’s This One About?

The Master is back…and she’s a woman now!

And the Cybermen are back, and they don’t say much!!

And Danny Pink dies!!!

And Clara Leaves!!!!

Or Does She??????

And The Brigadier makes a comeback from beyond the grave!!!!!

Oh Em Gee!!!!!!!!

Thoughts – Storylines Wrapped Up, Even When They Didn’t Make Sense

It’s always a good thing to wrap up a story-arc, and to Steven Moffat’s credit, he did that on every count with this story.

Whether it was the mystery of Missy, the bits about dead people, the “Who left the ad in the paper/Who gave Clara the number” stuff, the “Am I A Good Man” question, the Danny Pink/Clara story or even giving a fitting send-off to a character whose actor died a few

To be fair, this Cyberman is more convincing as Nicholas Courtney than Sylvester McCoy in a wig was as Colin Baker

To be fair, this Cyberman is more convincing as Nicholas Courtney than Sylvester McCoy in a wig was as Colin Baker

years ago, this two-parter managed it.

And I liked that.

I especially liked the end to Danny Pink’s story. It was quite a shock at the beginning of Dark Water when he was killed off, but everything that followed it made sense to me, and the way he managed to save the day not only suited the writing of his character, but it also settled his issues with the Doctor and Clara. Powerful stuff.

No, Danny’s character and the romance storyline is not to everyone’s liking, but hey, that’s just tough. It appeals to me as much as the other elements of the show, but it’ll also appeal to people who are less interested in elements like the Cybermen.

Meanwhile, though it may be a bit cheesy, and though it may also not make a huge amount of sense that one Cyberman evaded Danny Pink’s orders, it was still a powerful moment to see the Doctor – and the viewer – get a chance to salute and say goodbye to the Brigadier. That was more emotional than it had every right to be.

But if I was to criticise anything about the wrapping up of story-arcs, it would be the one about how Missy had engineered it so that Clara and the Doctor would come together. Maybe I’m just missing something obvious, but I don’t think it was explained all that well. Yes, she did it, but why? Who knows.

And speaking of Missy…

A Female Master: Does It Set A Precedent?

First off, in spite of her suddenly becoming Scottish in the second episode when she wasn’t in the first, I thought that Michelle Gomez was excellent.

Unlike the terrible John Simms, she managed to combine being amusing with a large dollop of menace, and unlike any actor to play the part since Roger Delgado, she actually made the Master seem multi-layered and likeable.

But should she be a woman?

Well on the one hand, why not? It’s never been explicitly stated on TV that a Time Lord can’t change gender through regeneration. Indeed it’s been quite the reverse.

From an equal opportunities sense, why shouldn’t a woman be able to take on a role and make it her own, if she’s good enough?

But on the other hand, what it does is set a precedent. If the Master can become female then why not the Doctor? That’s what the tabloids have been after since the 1980s.

Well call me sexist if you like – even though I don’t think I am being – but I’d rather the Doctor didn’t become a woman.

I mean, I don’t think he ever will, because ultimately any casting of a female in the title role would be seen as gimmicky hot-shotting, but even beyond that, it just wouldn’t feel right.

It’s not wrong to say that the character of the Doctor is male, and that the dynamic of male Doctor, female companion works. Why change it?

The Cybermen: Best Seen But Not Heard

Meanwhile, the Cybermen are back.

When I heard that the finale would be a two-part story involving them I groaned with anguish. Why?!

The Pink Slip: In there just in case idiots hadn't worked it out yet

The Pink Slip: In there just in case idiots hadn’t worked it out yet

But to be fair, they were well handled here.

First of all, despite I think everyone watching knowing fine it was them in the dark water, it was written and handled with the right amount of pacing so that it still had the entertainment factor.

In the second episode, they were used the only way I think they can be these days – as silent back-up to a more charismatic villain.

In the 70s and 80s, the Cybermen only worked when they went against type. You all know I love the Christopher Robbie Cyber Leader, and have a soft spot for David Banks’ efforts too, but with the way the Cybermen are presented these days, that sort of character could never make a comeback.

So instead, Moffat went with Tobias Vaughn/Invasion Cybermen dynamic and presented them as mostly non-speaking background foot soldiers.

That worked better.

And let’s hope that’s an end to them for a long time, with the only exception being if they come back as Tenth Planet ones.

That would be awesome.

The Supposedly Offensive Subject Matter

I couldn’t believe it when I read that people had complained to the BBC about the subject matter of Dark Water.

Apparently, some viewers found the notion of the afterlife being presented as a con, while people from beyond the grave praying that they aren’t going to be cremated was deemed upsetting and offensive.

Give me a break.

The sort of people who do that just make me shake my head.

It’s a TV show. It’s fiction. Please take that piece of information in.

I’ve never understood how people can be so moved by a TV show that they feel they have to complain.

What is it I’m missing? Is it that some people are so entrenched in their beliefs of the uncertain (for that is what an afterlife is) that they can’t accept anyone having a differing opinion, or is it that by questioning it, it makes them question themselves and they don’t like it.

Either way it’s just bloody stupid. It’s like people who get scared by horror movies. The bad man with the knife is not coming out of the TV to get you, you fools.

Random Observations

  • Killing off Osgood was a bit of a shocker, but I liked it. What it did was give Missy some level of credibility, and it added some uncertainty as to the outcomes of the other incidental characters.
  • And I was more surprised that they killed off Kate, until I realised they hadn’t.
  • The Doctor’s freefall into the TARDIS was more than a little bit ridiculous, but it was still also fun.
  • And his line on the plane to Missy about how she’s always wanted to rule the world, and he managed it without even trying was fantastic.
  • I hope the long running references to the Doctor being the General of his own army now get rested for a few years.
  • Not only was it poor form for the Next Time trailer after In the Forest of the Night to include a scene from an episode two weeks later, but the “I’ve never been Clara Oswald” stuff was a total bait and switch.
  • Chris Addison is a bit of an over-actor, let’s be honest.
  • Clara, meanwhile comes across as a certifiable nutter at the start. I accept she was grief-stricken but what she planned on doing to the Doctor at the volcano was poor form.
  • And wouldn’t they be sweating a bit more if they were at a volcano? Ok, I know that they weren’t, but at one point we were supposed to believe they were.
  • Danny being a Cyberman was something I didn’t expect to see, but I liked it.
  • When Clara told him – without realising who he was – that the Doctor was the one she trusted more than anyone, it was a sad moment.
  • And by the way, having the camera zoom in on the name in his hand was unnecessary for anyone with a brain and reasoning skills.
  • Probably the funniest moment over the course of both episodes was the bit where you hear the scream of someone who has left their body to science.
  • I think we know that this is not the end for Clara, but even so, if it was, that would have been a nice way for her to go. Ultimately, she’s not going to be in the show for too much longer you wouldn’t have thought, so that would have been a nice point for her to bow out.
  • Does the Doctor still keep a spare key in David Tennant’s coat?
  • I don’t get why Dr Chang said something nice to Missy when she said “I’ll only kill you when you say something nice”. Why not tell her to piss off and then leave? Surely the worst that could happen was already going to happen?
  • Why didn’t Clara hear a crash or any sort of noise when Danny got hit by the car?
  • The notion that the Cybermen could turn the dead into more Cybermen is hokey, but I can live with it. It certainly made for some good visuals.
  • If the Cyberman had said “Nice to see you again” before shooting Missy, I’d have loved it.
  • I would have preferred it if Missy had turned out to be either Susan or Romana. They could have made that make sense easily.
  • Yay, it’s Santa Claus
  • Noooooooo, he’s played by Nick Frost.

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: Final Thoughts

You could argue that the resolution of this episode is slightly anticlimactic, but when you build up a threat as big as the one in this story, I suppose it was always going to be.

So I don’t consider that a problem.

Indeed, I thought this was a fine story, and one of the best finales to a Doctor Who season in a long time.

The absolute best? No, probably not. Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways and The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End probably pip this, mainly because the emotional impact centred around characters bigger and better than Danny Pink, but it was still very good.

Even the Cybermen were used well, and that’s saying something.

Roll on Christmas, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Peter Capaldi’s First Season: Final Thoughts

So there you go, a season with 11 stories and only two of them were what I would consider to be poor.

The Best Doctor. No Question

The Best Doctor. No Question

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Steven Moffat has turned things around and has done a great job this year.

But what of the star of the show?

I think I speak for almost everyone – because there are bound to be some people out there who disagree – when I say that Peter Capaldi has been nothing short of excellent.

Playing a different kind of Doctor than we’ve ever seen, he’s been a breath of fresh air for the show.

I’ll lay my cards on the table now and say it; based upon these performances, Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor.

And as I write this and prepare to release my second Stuart Reviews Doctor Who book, I think it’s superb that we’re in a situation now where 51 years into the show’s existence, it’s got its best ever leading man in the title role.

Will his stories make him the highest rated in terms of that? You’ll have to read my rankings to find that out. But even if they don’t; even if there are Doctors out there whose stories are more consistently high on my list, that doesn’t change the notion in my eyes that he’s the best one we’ve ever had.

Long may he reign.

Keep Following the Blog

So for a lot of you, this’ll probably be the last time you visit the blog before Christmas, but I’d urge you to stick around and either like this on Facebook (on the tab on the right) or follow me on Twitter @sgmilne.

Like & Retweet The Article

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share it on social media

Buy The Book

Remember that my complete reviews of the classic series can be found  on Amazon. But it today.

Look Out For the New Book

Finally, with this season coming to an end, I’ll shortly be releasing my second book, which will contain all the reviews from Rose to Death In Heaven. It’ll also include my rankings of every Dr Who story from the start.


Doctor Who – Dark Water Review (or “Not Yet Folks”)

November 1, 2014

No doubt you’re opening this expecting to read my review of Dark Water.SG_Cvr

But one thing you might have noticed about my reviews is that I review the stories as a whole.

Dark Water is only Part 1 of 2.

So not yet folks; you’ll have to wait a week until the finale has been transmitted to read my overall thoughts on this one (although I will say this; The Master is a woman? Uh oh)

But until then, a cheap plug…

After next week’s episode is transmitted (well..maybe within a few days of it) I’ll be releasing Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two – The Modern Era, but what’s most crucial about that is that it’ll be the one and only place to read the Stuart Reviews Doctor Who Colossal 257, where I rank every story from worst to best. Let’s just say it’ll differ ever so slightly from the most recent DWM fan poll.

So look out for that, and if you want to get a copy of my first book, you can either get it from Amazon or – as was the case this week with one reader who couldn’t access Amazon from their corner of the world – I can sell you a PDF copy directly.

See you back here next week.


Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night Review (or “Never Work With Children or Animals”)

October 25, 2014

Doctor Who has been on a fantastic run lately, and I’ve joked about how that run would inevitably come to an end for the last few weeks.

And yet the quality remained constant.

Until now… (oooh, I sound like a Top Gear presenter).

Yup, it’s all come crashing down with In the Forest of the Night.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night Review: What’s This One About

Working under the incorrect assumption that the entire planet goes to bed at the same time, Earth “wakes up” to trees everywhere.

And it’s all to do with a little girl.

Thoughts – Never Work With Children Or Animals

Some people like children. I’m not one of those people.

Ok, so I’m sure there are some out there in the world who aren’t irritants, but those are few and far between, and they certainly aren’t the sort who are involved in show business.

Tigers - Always Wary of Torch Induced Epileptic Fits

Tigers – Always Wary of Torch Induced Epileptic Fits

No, the ones in show business tend to be overconfident, obnoxious teenagers filled with a misguided sense of self-importance.

Sadly, In the Forest of the Night was full of them.

And without a shadow of a doubt, the worst of the lot was Harley Bird, who played Ruby.

I just looked her up on Wikipedia as I was sure she could only have got the gig through nepotism, or a parent calling in a favour, but it turns out that she is in fact the voice of Peppa Pig. And that explains a lot.

For while it’s ok – indeed, probably ideal – for a girl voicing a cartoon character aimed at preschoolers to over exaggerate every line she speaks, it’s not ok in a show like Doctor Who, which is aimed at adults and children alike.

Bird’s performance actually made me tense – that’s how bad it was – and it brought the whole episode down as a result.

*Shudder*

The thing is though, having so many kids in the story implied that this was an episode aimed at children, just like Fear Her was. And indeed, this episode in many ways – including the way Maebh could communicate with whatever those shiny things in the air were – resembled that David Tennant episode.

But why would you want to pay homage to a story many people consider crap? It’s a mystery.

To be fair, it is a family show and in recent weeks you’d struggle to find what parts of it were aimed at kids, but I would argue that as long as it doesn’t break any pre-watershed rules, kids can enjoy episodes aimed more at adults. The thing is though, that adults will struggle to enjoy something aimed at kids.

So that’s In the Forest of the Night’s biggest failing in my opinion.

Apart From That Though…

Beyond that though, the writing doesn’t stand up to criticism.

Urgh. Just fuck off you obnoxious, overacting bastard

Everything I hate about kids – and especially child actors – is in this photo.

The idea that the world has been taken over by trees is good, and so is the twist that the trees are actually saving the planet from a solar flare, but that’s about it.

Essentially, there’s around 15 minutes of plot here, stretched out over more than double the time, and that left us having to watch people wander aimlessly around a forest. The parts with the wolves and the tiger existed purely to fill dead air.

Meanwhile, other aspects of the plot – and I’m thinking of the storyline with Maebh’s mother coming to find her – only served to make you ask questions that the writer forgot to ask himself. For example, why are the only people wandering around Central London a couple of school teachers and a very small class of children? Why weren’t any of the other kids’ parents looking for them? And in a 24 hour world, how did nobody notice the trees emerging?

It’s just  sloppy.

And that’s a pity because the show has been so good lately.

Random Observations

  • A quick check on Google brought me to the review of this episode by Neela “Caves of Androzani is shit/Arc of Infinity is awesome” Debnath. Naturally, she thought the kids were the best thing about the episode. Just reading what she has to say makes me think that she’s been hired by someone whose life mission is to wind me up.
  • There really was no need for the Doctor to “speak” to the trees in the form of those lights; it didn’t add anything to the story at all, and indeed the deepness of the voice of the trees was such that I didn’t even take in what it said on first viewing.
  • Another pointless aspect of this episode was the girl’s missing sister, and I just thought that her turning up at the end was utterly ridiculous.
  • The way that boy stormed out of Clara’s classroom would have earned him a suspension at the very minimum if he’d gone to my school.
  • And on that note, since when were class trips to spend the night in museums a thing?
  • And why would there be a trip to a museum taken by an English and Maths teacher? Surely it’d be a teacher of Geography, History or a science?

    This woman is smug because she realises she's the only child's parent who cares

    This woman is smug because she realises she’s the only parent who cared enough to look for her child.

  • Wouldn’t the kids know the Doctor as the school janitor?
  • I get what she was going for, but the hand acting of the girl paying Maebh’s was really bad. But then kids rarely make good actors.
  • There’s only so many times you can accept thin explanations for stuff. I’m happy with the idea that the Moon is an egg, even though it’s a wee bit ropey, but the explanation that the entire human race will simply choose to forget about the trees is ridiculous.
  • Until it was explained as Clara looking for an excuse to get the Doctor back to the TARDIS, I thought she was bi-polar. “Let’s save who we can” she says in one scene before admonishing the Doctor for saying he was taking the kids with him in the next.
  • Am I the only one who thought the direction of Nelson’s Column falling over was paying homage to the cliffhanger in Revelation of the Daleks?
  • The resolution of having the kids send everyone a message to their mobile is a bit too similar to Clara asking the world to decide on its fate in Kill the Moon.
  • Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were once again on good form, but alas that’s not enough to make me enjoy this episode.
  • I’d be very surprised if the writer of this episode wasn’t a member of the Green Party.
  • Doctor Who has taught me a valuable lesson. If I’m ever confronted by a hungry and dangerous tiger, all I have to do is flash a torch at it and it’ll wander off without incident. Presumably, tigers fear epileptic fits.
  • To its credit, this story looks great, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Doctor Who – In the Forest of the Night Review: Final Thoughts

Alas, the great run Doctor Who has been on has come to a temporary end.

While containing some good features, the unfortunate truth is that In the Forest of the Night is flawed on just about every level.

It doesn’t contain enough plot to justify its existence and it contains glaringly obvious logic issues in the plot.

Plus the children just really annoy me.

Maybe this wasn’t aimed at me at all though? Maybe this was one to appeal to the kids before moving on to a grittier finale starting next week? After all, that was the excuse used to justify Fear Her?

But I don’t think that’s good enough. If you want to do a kids show, do a kids show, and don’t put it on at 8.20pm.

Otherwise you’re just asking for moans.

Hey, you know I’ve written a book with my reviews of all the Classic Era Dr Who stories right? Bought it yet? Why not? Sort that out immediately!! As someone on a Dr Who forum said, “The humorous nature of the reviews is worth the asking price”. He’s right! Buy it now.

 


Doctor Who – Flatline Review (or “The Tagline ‘The Golden Age Express Trundles On’ Would Have Worked Better Last Week”)

October 18, 2014

Last year on December 26th, I wrote my review of Time of the Doctor and my final thoughts on the Matt Smith Era.

In those two articles, I was pretty clear in my thoughts; Steven Moffat had to go.

Examples of  lines used in those articles include…

“The big problem with Matt Smith’s era is Steven Moffat. He’s just not a very good show-runner.” and “Do I want this to be the end of Steven Moffat in charge of Doctor Who? Yes.”

And I feel I was justified in saying that. Matt Smith’s final season was easily the sixth worst of all time, which is incredible when you think about how much more money and effort is spent on the show these days, and how much more talent there is supposed to be on the creative side of things.

Yet there it was; episode after episode of dreariness.

I did write something else in that article though. In it, I said to future readers – in the event of Moffat staying on for another year – ” …if he got his act together to make the next season amazing, then chuckle with hindsight”.

The sophisticated amongn you will immediately identify that the wall there needs "Kilroy Was Here" written on it

The sophisticated amongn you will immediately identify that the wall there needs “Kilroy Was Here” written on it

Well it’s time to chuckle with hindsight, because against all expectations, that’s exactly what he’s done.

So far this season, we’ve had two decent episodes, one poor one and then a run of five crackers in a row.

It seems almost unfeasible that we could have six. That would put it up there with some of the best runs the show has ever had.

It would get people considering it a Golden Age.

So there’s a lot of pressure on Flatline to be good then…

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

2D Monsters attack Bristol, and the Doctor is trapped in the TARDIS

Thoughts – To Start With A Criticism

Well I’ll start with my one big criticism of Flatline.

Put simply, the monsters were too easily defeated.

Now I can understand why that was the case; this was an episode based around the idea of the Doctor being trapped and Clara filling in for him. To centre the story around that meant that time could not be devoted to the Doctor hatching a plan to defeat them, and

This guy wouldn't have got the part if John Bennett was still alive

This guy wouldn’t have got the part if John Bennett was still alive

it was also unfeasible for Clara to be the one to send them packing.

So what could the writer do? Probably not much else.

And while our hero saved the day and Clara had her own victory by being the one to bring the TARDIS back from the brink, it just ended up making it feel like the 2D monsters were no match for the Doctor.

Now you could argue that this means the monsters are so weak that any return for them would be unfeasible – after all, if the Doctor hadn’t been trapped, it would have been over in two minutes – but why would they need to come back again anyway? One story with them is enough.

Overall though, that was a relatively minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, and once again another highly enjoyable episode has been delivered.

And Now To The Praise

Yup, Flatline is another quality story.

In particular, what I liked about it this week was the freshness of ideas.

It’s not just that writer Jamie Mathieson has come up with completely new ideas for the show – like the 2D monsters – but he’s also taken previously used ideas like the psychic paper and the Doctor being stuck in the TARDIS and made them feel reinvigorated. It’s a remarkable thing for a writer to achieve at this point in the show’s life, and it’s definitely something he deserves a massive amount of praise for.

Already, fans are throwing his name into the hat as a potential new show runner – which is a huge relief because a year ago the best picks were Gatiss, Whithouse or even Hinchcliffe again – and it’s something I would agree with, but I think people are forgetting that it appears as though there’s life in Moffat’s reign yet.

Either way though, it’s great to have such a talented writer delivering enjoyable scripts for the show; everyone benefits from that.

A great special effect but perhaps not one that translates to Screen Caps

A great special effect but perhaps not one that translates to Screen Caps

And it’s not just the freshness of ideas that made those scripts enjoyable, but it was also the tone.

At times during Flatline there appeared to be a sense of serious urgency that the show has perhaps missed for the last wee while. I think the reason for that is largely down to the setting. While last week, there was some level of urgency, as a viewer, I think I was more disconnected from it because of where it was set. Having a mummy attack people in fancy dress aboard a train in space doesn’t have that same sense of familiarity about it as two-dimensional creatures living inside walls and sewers in contemporary Bristol.

So that was great, and what made it even more great was that in amongst that seriousness, there was still plenty for the viewer the chuckle at, and it was done in such a way that didn’t detract from the overall tone.

All that adds up to Flatline being another rousing success. Long may it continue.

Random Observations

  • This is yet another story that presents Clara in powerful way. Here, she is the Doctor, and as the Doctor says, she was “exceptional”. Much like the turnaround in Steven Moffat’s abilities, I still can’t quite get over how much my perception of Clara has changed in the space of a year.
  • I like that the Doctor impressed upon her though that goodness had nothing to do with it though.
  • The Missy cliffhanger was a bit of a game-changer. I’m keen to know where they are going with that.
  • My brother seemed to get awfully excited upon hearing the noise the TARDIS console made when the Doctor opened the doors remotely. I can’t say I was blown away by it, but hey, whatever floats his boat, eh?
  • But seriously though, there can’t have been made times in Modern Who where the TARDIS doors have been opened from the console?
  • Among the most amusing parts of today’s episode were the Doctor moving the TARDIS by hand, and him passing Clara a sledgehammer from her handbag,
  • The special effects for the 2D monsters were mostly good, but perhaps a little hit and miss. I thought the scene in the living room looked excellent, as did the bit where the door handle was made 3D, but the movement of the aliens near the final confrontation seemed less impressive.
  • The part played by Christopher Fairbank would have been ideal for John “LiH’sen Chang” Bennett, but unfortunately he’s dead. Them’s the breaks, I’m afraid.

    If you're anything like my brother and are the sort of person who looks at the pictures before reading the review, this screencap will confuse you. But Waaaaaaassssssssssssuuuuuuuuup!! anyway

    If you’re anything like my brother and are the sort of person who looks at the pictures before reading the review, this screencap will confuse you.
    But Waaaaaaassssssssssssuuuuuuuuup!! anyway

  • I’m assuming this was really a “Doctor-lite” episode and we just weren’t supposed to know it?
  • Characters in TV and Film who die for the sake of it is one of my bugbears. There’s no need for people to give up their lives in that sort of “Oh just leave; I’m happy to die here even though there must be a simple way for us both to escape” way and yet it happens time and time again. I like how the scene on the train addressed that.
  • In my review of Kill the Moon, I noted that I hadn’t picked up on the abortion subtext, but even I couldn’t miss the nod to Banksy in Flatline. A graffiti artist in Bristol called Rigsy? Yup…I spotted it. Well done me.
  • For no good reason, I got sidetracked writing this review by a sudden desire to watch the Budweiser “Wazuuuuuup” adverts from 2000 on youtube. So while you read this, roll back the years and give me a “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup” for good measure.
  • Danny only seemed to be in this episode to remind us he still exists, although it looks like he’ll play a bigger part next week, judging by the trailer.
  • This is yet another story I could imagine involving McCoy and Aldred. Weird.
  • I’ve not mentioned Capaldi yet. Awesome as usual.
  • I thought a good title for this review would be “The Golden Age Express Trundles On”. And it is, although it occurs to me it would have worked better last week considering the episode was set on a fucking train!! Oh Stuart, you do come up with good ideas at the wrong time.

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: Final Thoughts

Last week when I watched the Next Time trailer for Flatline, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for it, and I based that purely because of where it was set. To me it looked a bit dull.

So I didn’t expect this run of quality episodes to continue.

But it did.

Since Doctor Who came back in 2005, consistency has been hard to achieve, and yet here we are with an extraordinary sixth hit in a row.

We’re in a Golden Age folks.

And now that I’ve said that. just wait for it to come crashing down next week.

Hey, you know I’ve written a book with my reviews of all the Classic Era Dr Who stories right? Bought it yet? Why not? Sort that out immediately!! As someone on a Dr Who forum said this week, “The humorous nature of the reviews is worth the asking price”. He’s right! Buy it now.

Also, if you’re on Facebook, remember to “Like” Stuart Reviews Stuff to keep up with all my articles.


Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express Review (or “The One Where Frank Skinner Found His Way Onto The Set”)

October 11, 2014

I can’t help it.

I just have to read what people say about these new episodes so I can appreciate the seethe from people determined not to enjoy them for reasons I just can’t fathom.

The one that’s caught my eye this week – because it’s 21:37 and I can’t actually see much in the way of feedback yet – comes from a comment made *before* the episode was broadcast on the wonderfully titled and presumable glass-half-full and agenda free Facebook group “CLASSIC DOCTOR WHO FANS WHO DISLIKE NEW DOCTOR WHO” (all in caps).

The line was that this person was upset about the ridiculousness of an Orient Express in Space because it was fantasy, and when someone asked him how it’s no more or less fantasy than a Police Box that is actually a Time Machine that’s bigger on the inside, along with a lead character who can regenerate and has two hearts, the retort was that “Right. Because NONE of those things serve a purpose on the series”.

What?

Well anyway, while you get your head around that gem, it’s time to discuss that particular story, Mummy on the Orient Express

Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express Review: What’s This One About?

Well…and I know this might come as a surprise to you…it’s about a Mummy on the Orient Express.

You’ve got to love an enigmatic episode title.

But then I would also say, is it really about that? Hmmm?

Thoughts – Is Doctor Who More About Relationships In This Season?

I do scoff a bit at the way some people are so negative about Doctor Who these days, as you can probably tell, but to be absolutely fair about it, in amongst the downbeat “I will always hate this no matter what” style doom mercantilism some people do have a point.

Not a screencap, but I felt the need to bring this wonderful retro poster to your attention. All credit must go to the artist, Stuart Manning for this. Just brilliant.

Not a screencap, but I felt the need to bring this wonderful retro poster to your attention. All credit must go to the artist, Stuart Manning for this. Just brilliant.

Mummy on the Orient Express is another example of a Doctor Who episode where the alien – in spite of it being the selling point of the story – plays second fiddle to a relationship drama.

As much as the side-attraction of the story was about a mysterious Egyptian Mummy who appeared only to the person it was going to kill, 66 seconds before it killed them, at the heart of it was Clara’s continuing relationship troubles with the Doctor.

From the get-go we learned that following their bust up last week, this was a supposed last-hurrah; a final adventure for her with the Doctor before they said their goodbyes and parted company forever. Then, throughout the episode, while the Mummy made its appearances and killed off characters we didn’t have any reason to care about, the characters we do care about continued to discuss and develop their own relationship.

And finally, once the Mummy had been killed off (and I must admit, the way it was so easily cast aside was the one thing I found disappointing about the episode, although I don’t suppose there’s anything else the writer could have done considering the build-up) we went back to Clara and the Doctor.

I get why people don’t like it, or at the very least struggle to accept it if their first love is the Classic Series where none of that happened.

But I do like it.

For me, it’s a more complicated and mature way of story-telling, and rather than be criticised, it should be praised.

I mean, as much as I love Doctor Who almost all the way through, character development wasn’t even a remote consideration at some points during the Classic Era. A companion would join the show and either stay exactly the same or slowly morph into a generic Doctor Who companion before suddenly having one episode’s worth of development to give them a reason to leave the show. Hell, in JNT’s time, the companions never even changed their clothes. So if you have a look at Earthshock as an example, where suddenly in Episode One, Adric wants to go home because he feels he’s overlooked by the Doctor and picked on by Tegan & Nyssa, you think “When did this happen?”.

I’m sorry, but that’s not quite as good as what we get now.

And sure, overdoing the relationship stuff, or writing it badly can be worse than having no development at all; I found Rose’s psychotic unrequited love for the Doctor in NuWho’s Second Season to be annoying and missing the spot. Instead of empathizing with Rose, I just thought “Bitches be crazy”.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that here we have a situation where the companion now really matters, and her relationship with the Doctor makes a difference to stories and to the Doctor’s character. Clara – as the audience identification figure – asks the

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

questions about the Doctor that we need to know, and he answers them. It works. It’s a more grown up and intricate style of writing and it’s one I welcome with open arms.

As a story arc, this is shaping up to be the best one Doctor Who has ever done, and I really mean that. There’s still time for it to be ruined of course, but I actually feel that the Clara/Doctor/Danny dynamic is the most important part of the show now. If next week there was just this generic “Alien invades planet before the Doctor stops them” style storyline without any mention of the existing character dilemma, I’d be disappointed.

Times change and shows move on. This is what Doctor Who is currently about, and I think that’s brilliant.

But Back To The Matter At Hand…

Anyway, to go back to this episode, I will happily say that once again, I really enjoyed it.

Not only was it a fun gimmick, even if – as I said above – the Mummy was defeated rather easily, but it was another example of a story flowing well and keeping me both guessing and interested.

Frank Skinner appears to have wandered onto the set in fancy dress, and Bald Bruiser Brody in the back there doesn't look happy about it

Frank Skinner appears to have wandered onto the set in fancy dress, and Bald Bruiser Brody in the back there doesn’t look happy about it

In particular, what sold this story for me was the entire creative process around it.

It looked fantastic, with great sets both before and after the change to Gus’s space craft and a nice claustrophobic atmosphere, but perhaps more importantly it sounded great too.

Tonight, I thought the incidental music was a stand-out; it brought the very ethos of the episode alive and – not to sound poncy – made me feel like I was watching something made from the period the Orient Express decor was suggesting.

Brilliant stuff.

To criticise it though, I did feel that Frank Skinner was a bit…well…not the best. If this was the John Nathan Turner era, people would probably be complaining about hotshot casting, considering it just felt like in the middle of this interesting story, Frank Skinner was just wandered onto the set in fancy dress. While he was no means bad, he’s never going to win any acting awards, is he?

That’s a minor issue though, and certainly from an overall first impression, this was another hit in a long line of top episodes.

Random Observations

  • In my review of Kill the Moon, I said this; “Put it this way; if Clara goes back to being a happy-go-lucky companion without a clear reason for why she has forgiven the Doctor, then I’ll be disappointed.” When she walked out of the TARDIS at the start with a smile on her face, I did feel disappointed, but as it turns out, I actually think the way it was dealt with was fine. I’d much rather it was woven throughout the entire episode rather than addressed in a pre-credits sequence with her forgiving him and then dropping the matter entirely.
  • I’d be interested to know whether the Mummy on the Orient Express idea was always planned to work as an episode – considering it’s mentioned at the end of Season 5’s “The Big Bang” – or whether the writer, Jamie Mathieson, was inspired by that episode to write it.
  • And speaking of Mathieson, it’s pleasing to see yet another new writer be given the chance, and grab the opportunity with both hands. He did a top job.
  • Looking at his Wikipedia bio, it also turns out he wrote a movie I love and would heartily recommend to anyone who watches Doctor Who, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. My watching of it pre-dates Stuart Reviews Stuff, hence the lack of a review, but I’d urge you all to seek it out.
  • I could spend more time enthusing about just how good Peter Capaldi is, but is there a need? Faultless again. He’s just superb; it’s like Doctor Who was made with him in mind.
  • Here’s a comment to enrage the feminists who are happy to pass judgement on men’s looks but go mental if a man does the same to a woman…Didn’t Clara’s legs look chubby in those pyjamas?
  • Perhaps I’ve not given enough credit to the Mummy and the 66 second gimmick? It deserves it because it was tense and also very well directed.
  • Hey look, it’s the woman off The Curse of Fenric.
  • The line about the Doctor lying about visiting that planet didn’t really go anywhere, did it?
  • Another episode without Missy? Fine by me.
  • The Mystery Shopper line stands out as a highlight.
  • It’s now 22:37 and I’ve had a look at general views of this episode and for once it’s mostly positive. Indeed, I can’t see any 1/5 or 1/10 marks for it anywhere, with even the most savage of critics begrudgingly stating that it was “ok”.
  • But there’s always one. Over on the aforementioned NuWho bashing club, someone said they didn’t like it and remarked that “Clara served no purpose”. Presumably anyone who thinks that would watch Twelve Angry Men and say there was no need for Henry Fonda’s character.
  • Finally, I have to give credit to Stuart Manning, who has been making retro posters for every episode made during this season. His latest one, as you can see, is just superb. If these are available to buy, I want one.

Doctor Who – Mummy on the Orient Express Review: Final Thoughts

So while I thought the storyline involving the Mummy played second fiddle to what this story was really about – the Doctor’s relationship with Clara – I thought as an overall package, this was yet another magnificent episode of Doctor Who.

Golden Age? It’s looking like it to me.

Now I’ve gone and jinxed it!

Enjoyed this review? Buy the ebook of my Classic Series reviews over at Amazon


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,555 other followers