Doctor Who – The Return of Doctor Mysterio Review (or ‘Leave It Grant, She’s Not Worth It!’)

January 5, 2017

There’s no doubt that some fans of Doctor Who tuned in to The Return of Doctor Mysterio in the hope that it would be some kind of po-faced Resurrection of the Daleks style massacre story. But as I’ve said before, that’s never going to happen on Christmas Day…Eastenders has that covered after all.

That doesn’t stop them hoping though.

For me, I think it’s fair to expect something sentimental considering the day of broadcast. People like that. I like that.

But it doesn’t mean it can’t have substance, and that’s the main thing. To me, that’s what separates a story like ‘The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe’ from ‘A Christmas Carol’.

So with that in mind, it’s now January 2nd and I’ve had a chance to watch this episode twice.

And here are my thoughts.

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio Review – What’s This One About?

It’s a love story with a toothless alien invasion thrown in to make it ‘Doctor Who-ish’.

Thoughts – The Tale of the Unnecessary Alien Invasion

Now as you know, I’ve reviewed every Doctor Who adventure and that amounts to hundreds of them. And if you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know that I’ve made the point time and time again that

Aliens with heads that split opened. We haven't seen them since the last episode...

Aliens with heads that split opened. We haven’t seen them since the last episode…

Doctor Who doesn’t need to have aliens in every story. Aliens are not what Doctor Who is about; The Doctor travelling in the TARDIS is what it’s about.

And yet it’s clear that someone, somewhere believes that no matter what, there does has to be an alien influence to it.

What that means is you get a story like this, where the writer wants to present a send up of a Superman/Lois Lane style romance between two people who already live together. But he can’t just do that because there has to be a token alien invasion written in somewhere, even if it’s just to tick a box.

These ones were drab and unimaginative, even going as far as to lazily have the same pull-apart-skull gimmick as the aliens in the last story broadcast.

I thought the episode could have worked just as well without them, especially considering the set-up for the superhero was done perfectly well in the pre-credits section.

Leave It Grant, She’s Not Worth It

And it’s the romance where this episode shines.

I liked the idea of the nanny who is a superhero living with the woman he has a crush on. It’s mostly done well, and provided us with the sentiment and the substance. How Grant actually became a superhero was nicely explained too, and made perfect sense within the realms of the show.

But you’ll notice I said it was only ‘mostly’ well done, and that’s because there’s one major flaw in their relationship.

Lucy’s a bitch.

Based on the flashback, I think she’s always known that Grant has a thing for her, and yet when she met him and his best mate, she got off with the mate. Then once he’d left – and after Grant bizarrely decided to stick with her rather than him – she hires him to work in the home and then seems to insist upon him calling her Mrs Lombard.

Let’s bear in mind this is a woman in her early 30s demanding someone of the same age who she went to school with address her in the most formal manner possible. And she also talks down to him in a way that – were it a man talking to a woman – would be flagged up as misogynistic and condescending (“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it”).

She’s an arsehole, just like John Wayne.

But if he loves her knowing that then it’s his bed and he can lie in it…

Has Anyone Ever Properly Thought Out X-Ray Specs?

Ok, so I’m straying slightly off point here, but it’s referenced a few times in the episode and I want to bring this up.

Grant, she's just lied to your face about wearing that red dress; if the way she treats you day to day isn't a warning sign, this must be!

Grant, she’s just lied to your face about wearing that red dress; if the way she treats you day to day isn’t a warning sign, this must be!

Has nobody ever considered that X-Ray specs simply wouldn’t work in the way we’re supposed to think they would?

In fiction, we’re led to believe that these specs allow you to see people naked, rather as walking skeletons.

That’s fine, but surely if the specs only made clothing invisible, what you’d be left with would be people with weirdly packed-together organs held in place by invisible bras, underwear and other tight apparel. And how is that meant to be exciting?

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but someone has to!!

The Doctor and Nardol

Bearing in mind that this is actually a Doctor Who story, it’s important to take a moment to talk about the main cast, and as always Peter Capaldi is excellent. That there’s a rumour that he may be replaced in 2018 is a disgrace, because he’s clearly the best actor they’ve had in the part.

As for Matt Lucas, I thought he was good, and that doesn’t surprise me. Why? Because I wrongly assumed that as a comedienne, Catherine Tate would be rubbish and yet she’s the best companion the show has had since 1965. Nardol plays to Lucas’s strengths and he manages to work nicely in the background without stealing the spotlight away from anyone else.

Random Observations

  • The cockpit of the alien ship looked a lot like the one from the prison ship in the second episode of Blake’s Seven. And if you didn’t think I was a bit geeky before, I’m sure you do now.
  • It seemed a little bit odd that the Doctor and Lucy just watched Mr Brock being killed in that room and couldn’t be bothered intervening.
  • Also, the scene where Brock is told all about the brains and their plans seemed like bad exposition. Why not just kill him the moment he enters the room?
  • I’m hoping that brief mention at the end of the episode is now finally, finally an end to River Song.
  • Setting the episode in New York made it feel a little bit unusual, but in a good way.
  • The squeezy doll was sinister.
  • Was I the only one to groan when the Daleks appeared in the Coming Soon trailer?
  • And more to the point, was I the only one to laugh at the caption “See The Universe Anew” when there’s obviously yet another fucking Dalek story coming on in the near future?!?

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio Review

If we discount the alien invasion as irrelevant and the obvious character flaws that Lucy has, The Return of Doctor Mysterio ends up being a fun and humorous watch. I enjoyed it on Christmas Day and again when I watched it today.

It also moves at a brisk enough pace and never seems to drag.

No, it’s not going to go down in history as one of the all time greats, and isn’t even a contender for the best Christmas Day episode, but I liked it.

And I look forward to more new episodes soon, even if they do include the Daleks.

 


Doctor Who – The Power of the Daleks Animation Review

November 10, 2016

It was over five years ago that I sat down to review The Power of the Daleks.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but a lot of water has passed under the bridge in that time, with thirteen missing episodes finding their way back to the BBC and the never-ending saga of the Omnirumour rumbling on.

Now, in 2016, Patrick Troughton’s first story has made its way back to our screens in animated form.

You’d think this would be universally hailed as good news throughout the world of Doctor Who fandom, but then you’d be surprised.

I’ve read people say that they are ‘too old for cartoons’, others declare that ‘Doctor Who should never be animated because it was never intended to be’ and that they’d rather watch the telesnaps and most deluded

Though the BBC Store App wouldn't allow me to take the exact screen shot I wanted, this shows how animation can improve upon the limitations of the original

Though the BBC Store App wouldn’t allow me to take the exact screen shot I wanted, this shows how animation can improve upon the limitations of the original

of all, some suggest that they’d ‘rather wait for the episodes to be found’.

Jesus Christ…

I guess positivity – rather than the blind optimism/delusion shown by those who believe that the BBC would spend money on animating Power when they know or suspect that the original episodes are sitting somewhere ready to be discovered any day now – is a state of mind that some people refuse to embrace.

Animation is the best way to bring these episodes back to life. If they are rediscovered then great, but at this stage, the sensible planner will operate on the assumption that they are lost forever. I can’t get my head around people who would rather watch grainy telesnaps with the audio from the episode over animation that turns it into a proper viewing experience. Sure, people are entitled to their own opinions, but not watching them because you’ve decided you’re too old for a cartoon is just nuts. It’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And telesnap reconstructions are simply not commercially viable. Animations on the other hand have legs and with any luck, Power of the Daleks will sell well enough to justify more.

But does the quality of the animation justify the purchase from the BBC Store?

For me, it’s a yes.

While it’s not exactly a perfect recreation of the story – the animation of human movement isn’t the easiest thing to get right when you don’t have a Pixar-esque budget – it’s most certainly good enough to lose yourself in.

And though certain characters don’t look great – Ben doesn’t look much like Michael Craze here – others like Bragan, Hensell and of course the Doctor are pretty much bang on.

Meanwhile, in spite of the limitations, the animators do manage to achieve expressiveness in the faces of the characters, which helps the tone of the scenes.

As you would expect, the animation of the Daleks is the strongest part of it, as they glide effortlessly around the screen. The animators even manage to work in the issues with the real life props,

The Daleks are definitely the strongest part of the animation process

The Daleks are definitely the strongest part of the animation process

which I think is a very nice touch. For example, when the Daleks come out of the capsule, they thump up onto the ramp and then roll down it with all the control you’d expect from a prop on wheels. That wouldn’t happen in a story made today, and you might think that the animators would look to hide that limitation in this presentation, but they don’t. Good for them.

There’s no doubt that the animation will fail to capture little gestures and directorial set pieces that were in the original – lest we forget how the rediscovery of Enemy of the World brought back to life that wonderful forgotten moment where Salamander is smoking a cigar like a boss – but then it also improves on the limits of the era in which it was made. In particular, the scenes in the Dalek production line won’t have looked anywhere near as good on TV in 1966 as they did here, while one of the very few scenes that does exist – the cliffhanger to Episode Five – doesn’t have to have a fake backdrop with photos of Daleks on them.

So I would say it’s worth buying for the quality of animation, but the main thing – and what should be the foremost consideration for anyone thinking of buying this – is that Power of the Daleks is a really good story; in fact I rated it as 22nd best Doctor Who story of all time in Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two.

If you haven’t seen it then you need to.

And until such times as it might be returned – and like I say, we have to assume that it won’t be – then this is the only way to go.

So get buying, then maybe this time next year we’ll have an animated Dalek’s Master Plan to go with it.

You can read my original review of Power of the Daleks – part of my Doctor Who review project spanning every story ever broadcast – here.

 


Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review (or ‘Three Cheers For The Slow Build’)

November 29, 2015

After last week’s rant about spoilers, I’m pleased to report that I managed to sit down to watch this latest episode – Heaven Sent – without key plot points being ruined in advance.

Yay.

Of course, I had to be vigilant. Apart from the BBC’s own press releases, there are also these terrible attention seekers – and there are a good few of them – who have (or at least say they have) access to the BBC’s preview website and love to ‘drop hints’, like retweeting people who ask them questions like “Will this happen?” and answering “I couldn’t possibly comment”. And then on top of that there are the people who look to retweet those retweets as well.

They can do it if they want of course do that if they want, and I don’t have to follow them. So let’s just say that there were a few people muted on Twitter this week…

On that note, I was asked recently – as a Doctor Who blogger with a reasonable following – if I’d be interested in getting access to the BBC’s preview hub, but I wouldn’t. I like to watch the shows when they are broadcast, and I like to be able to review the episodes freely. Let’s be honest; the BBC won’t want someone to do a preview or review of an episode that says ‘That was shite’, will they?

But anyway, let’s move on from that and get on with the review.

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

The Doctor wanders around his own personal hell for a while.

Thoughts – The Slow Build

Ok, back to spoilers for a moment…

My brother – who can’t seem to help himself when it comes to accidentally spoiling TV stuff for me before getting all defensive and saying “That’s not really a spoiler” – did say to me a few weeks ago that one

The Doctor realises "Where did I get the soup?"

The Doctor realises “Where did I get the soup?”

episode of this season would be a single-hander, where Peter Capaldi would be the only one in it for the duration.

So after a few minutes watching Heaven Sent, I remembered that.

And I was concerned.

It would take some pretty impressive writing and acting to be able to pull something like that off successfully and though it’s been done before – most famously in a superlative episode of One Foot in the Grave – there was no guarantee it would work.

Furthermore, considering the time slot and the level of expectation that always seems to surround the show, it seemed like a big risk to take.

And for the first ten of fifteen minutes I wasn’t too impressed. The pace was slow and the scenes with the Doctor talking to himself in the TARDIS in his own mind seemed expository.

Slowly but surely though, it built up, with little hints being dropped early on leading to the fantastic reveal that the skulls were his own and he’d been dying and repeating the cycle over and over again for 7,000 years.

That’s a great twist. I mean…really great. The sort of twist that makes you think back to everything that’s happened so far that you didn’t register fully and think “Oh so that’s what that meant!”.

Had that been spoiled for me in advance I’d have been raging.

From there, the way it showed that he kept repeating the process over and over again over the course of a couple of billion years to break down that wall of Azbantium was full of drama and emotion and until eventually…eventually…he broke through.

And what was on the other side of the wall labelled ‘Home’? The TARDIS? No, it’s Gallifrey.

Superb.

I saw it coming, but unlike last week’s spoilers, I didn’t know it was coming (even though I heard afterwards that the BBC revealed it in a trailer, the daft bastards) and therefore it was far more rewarding for me as

Watching the opening scene again knowing what this red hand means is allows for a different viewing experience.

Watching the opening scene again knowing what this red hand means is allows for a different viewing experience.

a viewer.

So yes, there’s no doubt that this episode was pulled off spectacularly. It was a masterpiece of writing from the inconsistent Steven Moffat and indeed of performance from Peter Capaldi, who was able to carry 55 minutes of TV almost entirely on his own.

Random Observations

  • The only other Doctor I could imagine starring in this would be Sylvester McCoy. Couldn’t you? Certainly I don’t think it would suit the likes of David Tennant, although that’s not a criticism of him.
  • And speaking of Tennant – and indeed going off on a tangent – if you haven’t seen Marvel’s Jessica Jones then you should rectify that immediately. He’s exceptional in it.
  • The incidental music was a change from the norm; something different from the usual Murray Gold output, and I’m happy with that. It did sound like an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe though.
  • I knew we hadn’t seen the last of Clara, and I imagine there will inevitably be a scene with her next week too.
  • You could argue that by appearing, she takes away from the notion that this is a single hander. But at the same time, it advanced the plot. As far as I know this wasn’t an episode built around the gimmick that it only involved Peter Capaldi, so there was no reason for her not to be there.
  • While there’s a chance this episode might have less appeal on second or third viewing, I think it’ll just have a different style of viewing experience. For example, you’ll watch the first scene again and realise exactly what’s going on. I like that.
  • One question though; where did he get the food?

Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review: Final Thoughts

 

Heaven Sent was a change from the norm; a brave idea that could so easily have gone wrong.

But it didn’t.

It was – as I’ve already said, but I’m happy to repeat again – superb.

More of the same quality next week please.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 

 


Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar Review (or “So Davros Just Couldn’t Be Bothered Opening His Eyes Before Now?”)

September 26, 2015

Right then; so as I explained last week, I don’t see the point in doing reviews of single episodes when they are part of a larger story, and that’s why I’ve waited until now to fully review The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar.

I’m not exactly sure why these episodes are named as they are mind you, considering there’s no obvious link between them and what happens on-screen. It’s like calling The Power of Kroll ‘The Lugubrious Teapot’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not daft; I realise that they are paired episode titles where The Doctor is considered The Magician and Missy is The Witch, but still…any episodes involving them could be called that. Should this not have had a title more relevant to the matters at hand?

But anyway, on to the review.

Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar Review: What’s This One About?

Davros – who it turns out has just been keeping his eyes closed out of laziness all these years – says he’s dying and wants to see The Doctor one last time having just remembered that he left him to die as a child.

But what he really wants is to trick him into giving away some of his Time Lord energy so that the Daleks can be made more powerful.

But the Doctor actually knows this and it’s a double bluff.

Oh…em…gee!!!

Thoughts – Don’t Look Too Closely, It’ll Just Ruin The Moment

So I’m a bit torn over my review of this one.

I liked it and I thought it was great fun to watch, but that was while I was still in a position where I didn’t really know how it was going to end.

The Special Weapons Dalek's Appearance: Token Fanwankery

The Special Weapons Dalek’s Appearance: Token Fanwankery

I think if I watched it again with the benefit of knowing how the entire story pans out, it wouldn’t be quite so good.

And in 2015, I think that a story needs to be able to hold up to repeated viewings if it’s going to be considered a success in the long run.

But what’s the problem with it, I hear you ask?

Well there are a few things.

For one, despite some fantastic build-up in Episode One and for the majority of Episode Two, the ending was a bit flat. I could accept that Davros was tricking The Doctor into giving away his Time Lord energy; that was actually a good twist considering the emotion and tone of the scenes building up to it. However, The Doctor operating a double bluff whereby he knew exactly what was going to happen all along doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny. Quite honestly, it let down all that had come before it.

Then there’s last week’s cliffhanger. Now I appreciate that Doctor Who has struggled for years with cliffhanger resolutions because 90% of them involve The Doctor and/or his companion quickly getting out of a life threatening situation, but this one’s a bit different. This was a trick cliffhanger.

It was a misplaced scene deliberately presented out of context. Long term readers of this blog will remember I criticised Image of the Fendahl for doing the same thing.

The implication last week was that The Doctor was going to travel back to kill Davros as a boy to prevent Clara from being killed. That was exciting. But the actual reason – that he wanted to instil the concept of mercy into a character who famously tried to save his own life at the end of Genesis of the Daleks with the line “Have pity” – wasn’t exciting at all. Especially when you realise that Davros only actually remembers his meeting with the Doctor a long way into his own future.

Meanwhile, the rewriting of lore bugged me a little bit. The notion that the Dalek casing translates the words of the occupants into basic Dalek-isms is adding new detail that doesn’t hold up, while the idea of the sewers being alive with living Dalek remains was only there to explain away the ending.

You could argue that any Doctor Who writer is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t with the Daleks. If they try to add a new twist to Dalek lore, people like me will criticise it for not holding up to what was previously established. But if they don’t add anything new then it’s just another story based around a tired old monster that should have been put out to pasture years ago.

I guess once again I’m coming to the conclusion that this is another Dalek story that would have been better if the Daleks weren’t in it.

We Almost Got The Davros Story I’ve Been Asking For

And that’s a point. I’ve said a few times over the years that what Doctor Who really needs is a Davros story and not a Dalek story.

Mummy, mummy, what's the Doctor doing to the old blind man?

Mummy, mummy, what’s the Doctor doing to the old blind man?

These two episodes are evidence of that.

As much as I’ve criticised certain elements of this two-parter, I thought the exchanges between The Doctor and Davros were magnificent. Both Peter Capaldi and Julian Bleach were on top form and were ably assisted with – credit where it’s due – some superb dialogue written for them by Steven Moffat.

The scenes where they discuss how they’d love to have fought on the same side, and share their passion for their own planets was top-notch, and the one where they share a laugh was something I didn’t think I’d ever see.

And even though it doesn’t make even a lick of sense, the bit where Davros opens his eyes was touching. It actually had me sucked in thinking we were going to see a situation where Davros repents for the choices he’s made and asks the Doctor to go back in time to kill him as a boy.

That would have been a braver and better ending; an ending that people would either be furious about or remember with reverence for years to come.

Alas it was not to be.

I’ll repeat though; if this was just about Davros on his deathbed it would have been a vastly superior story.

Random Observations

  • My attitude to fanwankery sways with the wind. Sometimes I think it’s cool and other times I think it’s there to paper over the cracks. In this story, I thought some of it – like trying to recapture the design of the Dalek base from their 1963 debut – was great, and yet in others – namely having the Special Weapons Dalek hanging around the control room and never even shooting its gun – was daft.
  • Armed with the knowledge that Jenna Coleman is leaving the show, but ignorant to how and when that happens, I was quite excited by the thought that Missy might have tricked the Doctor into shooting her
    Wait...he's not blind, he's opened his eyes!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!

    Wait…he’s not blind, he’s opened his eyes!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!! Holy Shit!!

    in the case. Then when that didn’t happen I thought she might die when being disconnected from the plugs in her brain. After all, didn’t Missy allude to nobody knowing what would happen when they unplugged her? But they just dropped that bit.

  • Going back to my point about the Dalek case translating Clara’s words, I’m sure you all know that I’m just thinking “Ian Chesterton, The Escape, 1964”.
  • As much as I would have preferred it if Missy was a character in her own right rather than The Master turned female, I do think she’s a great addition to the show. Michelle Gomez is pretty fantastic.
  • The line about sourcing the only other chair on Skaro was good.
  • So was the one where Missy says she’s been wanting to meet Davros for years.
  • As I suspected last week, the stuff with UNIT at the beginning didn’t really have any purpose beyond shoe-horning them in. Not that I mind that, but still…
  • I won’t be fussed if they’ve decided to write out the Sonic Screwdriver in place of the super-shades. Change isn’t always a bad thing.

Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar Review: Final Thoughts

I think The Magician’s Apprentice & The Witch’s Familiar could be summed up as a story where the performances of the actors and strength of dialogue in certain scenes make up for a rather dodgy plot that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Knowing how everything pans out, I don’t think it will be as enjoyable on repeated viewings, but at least we’ll have the scenes with Capaldi and Bleach to make up for that.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

b) Read about my books – focussing on reviews of Doctor Who from the very beginning – here

c) If you appreciate my sense of humour, go ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

 


Doctor Who – The Magician’s Apprentice Review (or ‘By Avoiding Spoilers, You Get A Nice Surprise’)

September 19, 2015

Yay, Doctor Who is back!

And here’s the thing; since I have absolutely no interest in checking out spoilers – unlike a great percentage of the Who fans out there including my brother – I didn’t actually know that this episode had Davros or the Daleks in it. I didn’t even know Missy was in it.

So it was a nice surprise. If you knew all this stuff in advance, the chances are that you’ve ruined what would have been a cool moment for yourself.

Anyway, I’m led to believe that for the most part, this season of the show will have a number of two-part stories, and much like last year with Dark Water, I’m not keen on the idea of ‘reviewing’ half a story every

It's a bit like visiting your gran in a nursing home.

It’s a bit like visiting your gran in a nursing home.

second week.

Therefore, my plan is to do the full write-ups when each story concludes, but to keep my finger on the pulse, I’ll do these little placeholder articles at the end of the ‘Episode Ones’ if that makes sense.

So how am I feeling about The Magician’s Apprentice so far?

Here’s a brief Random Observations section to tide you over until next week.

  • The buzz on social media is that this felt like a Season Finale in terms of scale, budget and gravitas, and I’d agree. Usually the opening episodes have a tendency to be a bit flat, but this was straight in at the deep end level stuff today. I thought it was great.
  • Like I said above, Davros returning was a nice surprise, as I was hugely praising of Julian Bleach in his last appearance in The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End. He was just as good here. His line delivery is just fantastic.
  • Of course, with Davros must come the Daleks too unfortunately, and a bit like Asylum of the Daleks, I think that having lots of different Dalek designs was there purely to try to disguise the fact that they are such a busted flush these days. The Daleks have been done to death and have no appeal to me anymore.
  • But hey, when writing is as good as it was here you can’t fault it, and in spite of the Daleks, this was a great episode.
  • And maybe if we all cross our fingers, next week will result in them being written out for ever. That’s certainly what the exciting cliffhanger suggested. I doubt it’ll happen though.
  • There was a definite element of Star War-ishness to this. The scale, the ‘Cantina’ scene, the light speed stuff. But it worked.
  • If I was to be critical, I’d suggest that maybe though there was too much knowledge expected of the viewer for everyone to enjoy it as much as die-hard fans.
  • Although I suspect that line about the Doctor being a little girl was put in to enrage those very viewers.
  • When I come to review the entire story next week, I imagine I’ll dismiss the opening scenes with the planes as being unnecessary.
  • Capaldi is beginning to look a bit like Pertwee isn’t he?
  • The opening scene with the hand mines was about as ‘Moffat’ as it gets.
  • How did Davros get a copy of the Doctor doing his speech about killing the boy in Genesis of the Daleks. Was he under observation all the way through that story?
  • In a world of predictability, I’m not actually sure how the cliffhanger is going to be resolved. So that’s something to look forward to.

And on that note, I’ll leave you until next week.

Remember that although some of my Doctor Who reviews from An Unearthly Child onwards are hosted on this site, you can read them all by purchasing the eBooks over on Amazon. For more information, read this.

 


Doctor Who – Into The Dalek Review (or “Oh Doctor, Not The Daleks Again”)

August 30, 2014

“Oh Doctor, Not the Daleks Again!”

I believe that was the headline of an article in The Sun newspaper back in 1988 before Remembrance of the Daleks was transmitted for the first time.

The notion behind it was of course that the Daleks had been done to death and really didn’t need brought back again.

You could certainly imagine that headline would be used in 2014. After all, in the nine years since Doctor Who came back to our screens, the Daleks have featured in ten stories before their latest appearance in “Inside The Dalek“. And now that makes three appearances in the last year.

It’s too much, isn’t it? It gets boring and repetitive.

But I suppose part of that comes down to this supposedly scientific formula for introducing a new Doctor. People look back at Tom Baker’s first season and think that the successful way to introduce a new Doctor is to settle him in with some established monsters early on. Personally, I think good stories will do, but what do I know, eh?

And maybe I’m being too judgemental. Maybe in spite of everything, the Daleks will seem fresh and interesting and this will be an exciting story.

Or failing that, maybe Peter Capaldi will continue to impress in spite of the mundane over-reliance on a monster that desperately needs to disappear for a while.

Doctor Who – Into the Dalek Review: What’s This One About?

As someone who seeks to avoid spoilers, I didn’t realise how literal the name of this episode would be until I watched it. But yes, this is a story of the Doctor going into the Dalek.

We’re inching closer to Pudding of the Daleks with each story…

Thoughts – Nothing Groundbreaking

I don’t want to seem like I’m being negative about Inside the Dalek because on the whole it was a decent 45 minutes of Doctor Who.

"See you in a few weeks mate"

“See you in a few weeks mate”

But the reasons for my enjoyment were not really because it was an awesome idea.

Indeed, I thought it came across like the sort of thing you’d listen to in a Big Finish Audio. And not the pre-2005 glory years but rather the post Nu-Who “All Our Best Ideas Will Be Used On TV” style Big Finish.

Decent story though it is, you could certainly imagine it being done with Colin Baker and Nick Briggs shouting at each over the medium of audio.

And maybe that’s me being harsh; after all, it did at least try to do something different with the Daleks, and offer an alternative to the usual format. That at least is worth commending.

But ultimately, the Daleks are not exciting or interesting anymore. All they do is shout, occasionally try to sound profound and sympathetic and exterminate some no-mark extras who you have no emotional attachment to and therefore don’t care if they get shot.

They just have no appeal to me anymore and I believe they need to disappear for a few years. Unfortunately, commercial considerations will outweigh creative ones and they’ll probably be back again before the season is done.

The New Doctor Again

So if the plot didn’t light up my life this evening, what did?

Mostly, I’d say it was Peter Capaldi.

I could be getting ahead of myself, and I probably am, but because he just seems so well suited to the part, I think he has the potential to be my favourite ever Doctor. I want to watch the show for him as much as I want to watch it for the show.

"Oh for fuck's sake. He's probably right"

“Oh for fuck’s sake. He’s probably right”

That never happened with Eccleston, Tennant or especially Smith. Hell, I just found Matt Smith to be annoying after a while.

But Peter Capaldi? He’s fantastic. He is what the Doctor should be. In actual fact, it’s like he’s the Doctor made to appeal to the kids who started watching in 2005 and have now grown up. It’s a bit like the way the Harry Potter movies began to take on a more adult form by the end, or how the WWF Attitude Era grabbed back the fanbase who watched it as kids in the late 1980s/early 90s by presenting a more gritty, adult style.

I don’t know if he’ll appeal much to young kids, but he appeals to me and presumably anyone who has ever seen The Thick of It. Indeed, his style of Doctor is almost Malcolm Tucker without the swearing, and that’s exactly what everyone wanted when it was announced that he was cast in the role.

Is he too harsh? He could be – and his absolute lack of empathy towards the death of Ross would suggest that he might be – but he’s ably assisted by Clara because she works as a yang to his ying. Like last week, Jenna Coleman has shown how much better she is as a companion when she works alongside someone she actually has chemistry with.

In particular, the continual criticism of her appearance by the Doctor works to great comic effect, and brings out the best in both of them. Lines like “Ach your hips are fine; you’re built like a man” and  – in response to her asking him how she looks – “Sort of short and roundish, but with a good personality, and that’s the main thing” are genuinely funny and really add to events.

When it comes to the main cast, Doctor Who is currently in top form.

Random Observations

  • Now I know that there are only 45 minutes for the writers to work with, and that any ending would have to be a little bit contrived, but I still thought that Clara’s ability to work out exactly how to bring back the Dalek’s memory seemed too
    I was going to make this a caption about the obvious blue-screen, but instead I just want to say Capaldi looks like a mouldy potato here.

    I was going to make this a caption about the obvious blue-screen, but instead I just want to say Capaldi looks like a mouldy potato here. Or Frank Skinner.

    convenient and rushed. She might have travelled with the Doctor for a while, but that doesn’t make her a genius.

  • I did like the way that they’ve finally begun to give her a character and a proper life outside of her time with the Doctor
  • And speaking of that, the story did a good job of introducing her new – I would assume – love interest,
  • I don’t know what’s going on with Missy, beyond a hope that it’s not a female Master. Oh please don’t be.
  • While the direction of the story was of a more than acceptable standard, this is the second week in a row where I’ve felt it’s been too obvious that Capaldi is standing in front of blue-screen.
  • It would be really churlish of me to say “It’s a bit too much like the Invisible Enemy for my liking”, as I really doubt that similarities to that story are uppermost in the minds of the people making the show in 2014.
  • What isn’t churlish though, is to say that the line about the Doctor being a “Good Dalek” is too similar to the exchange between Eccleston and the Dalek in Dalek.
  • I don’t think I commented on the new theme tune last week. Do I like it? Not that much, but then nothing other than bringing back the Peter Howell version would please me.
  • Another gripe: How come the Dalek was able to shoot the other Daleks without taking a hit itself?
  • Oh yeah, and one more thing…how come they were all dry again when they moved into the next room after being soaked in that pool of animal remains?
  • At least the writers are being honest about the Daleks reappearing again, with the Doctor saying “Until next time” to it. That makes a change from “OMG, the entire Dalek race has been destroyed forever again”.
  • Next week’s episode looks like it might be good, but seeing as it’s a Mark Gatiss story, I’d say the prognosis isn’t all that great. I’m a glass half full kinda guy though so I’ll approach it with a positive outlook.

Doctor Who – Into the Dalek Review: Final Thoughts

So it has its good and bad sides to it.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve come away from watching it tonight believing the Daleks need to go away and stay away, and that Peter Capaldi is an amazing Doctor.

Those were my expectations, so they’ve been fulfilled.

And I enjoyed it on a general level, so on the whole I can’t complain.

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

 


Doctor Who – The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End Review (or “A Fitting End To An Era, Even Though It Isn’t”)

August 14, 2013

The Russell T. Davies Era isn’t quite over yet; after this story there are still four specials to go.

But in almost every sense, The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End is its pinnacle.

Here we have a story where pretty much every strand of his writing for the past four years of Doctor Who, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures comes to an end.

For most characters, this is their last hurrah, their final tangible contribution to the show.

Can RTD do his own writing  justice here?

Doctor Who – The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End Review: What’s This One About

Along with 26 other planets, Earth has vanished from the universe thanks to Davros and the Daleks.

The only hope for salvation is if the Doctor and his “Secret Army” (i.e. all his mates) can stop them

Meanwhile, poor old Donna has no choice but to leave the TARDIS forever.

Thoughts – Let’s Start With The Bad

To get the negative stuff out of the way first, let’s talk about – yes, you guessed it – Rose.

"Fuck...fuck, this is it. This is my chance. There's The Doctor and I can shoot him. Now relax; breath. What do I do? Shout exterminate? There's no time. He's on the move. But Dalek procedure states I have to shout Exterminate. Oh man...I'm going for it" This Dalek was the envy of his peers for the 2 seconds he subsequently lived

“Fuck…fuck, this is it. This is my chance. There’s The Doctor and I can shoot him. Now relax; breath. What do I do? Shout exterminate? There’s no time. He’s on the move. But Dalek procedure states I have to shout Exterminate. Oh man…I’m going for it”
This Dalek was the envy of his peers for the 2 seconds he subsequently lived

While there are some parts of her story I enjoyed, like her jealousy of Martha, much of her character and reason for being there was stupid.

Russell T. Davies is usually quite good at character development, and did an accomplished job with the likes of Martha, Donna, Wilf, Sylvia, Mickey and Captain Jack, but he’s dropped the ball with Rose.

So this average girl is now a gun-toting, dimension jumping freedom fighter, all because she’s trying to get back to the same universe as a bloke who has given her no actual sign that he wants to be romantically involved with her?

Over in her universe, they created a “Dimension Cannon” that could measure timelines, all to get her back there. And that’s not even taking into account that once she’s back there, the odds of them meeting again are miniscule.

Would she not be told by her family to give up with her obsession by this point?

It’s just silly, and it’s actually quite annoying.

And to go to the trouble of creating a second, human Doctor to live out her days with seemed far too much.

Oh, and by the way, that second Doctor must be utterly depressed. He’s got the same mind and memories as the real Doctor, and yet is forced to accept saying goodbye to “his” TARDIS, living his life with this super stalker in an alternate dimension and – most of all – being confronted with the reality that he’s only got about 40 years left to live. That’s the human equivalent of being told you’ve got a matter of days or weeks.

You’ll notice, by the way, that the real Doctor didn’t seem all that fussed about leaving her behind, and his reason for dropping them off there – “Sorry mate, you’ve committed genocide” – doesn’t really matter when you consider that there are no Time Lords left to enforce any punishments and the Doctor has already committed genocide before, probably more than once.

But going back to Rose; I know they had to bring her back for this, and I know that RTD made a rod for his own back by writing her out the way he did back in Doomsday, but it’s still ridiculous and still annoying.

Not Enough For Everyone To Do

The other problem I have with The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End is that there’s not quite enough for everyone to do.

Aga Freeman has just ruined Doctor Who forever by breaking the Fourth Wall. I honestly thought it was all real before she did that.

Aga Freeman has just ruined Doctor Who forever by breaking the Fourth Wall. I honestly thought it was all real before she did that.

So take Jackie for example; she doesn’t contribute to the story one bit, but for a couple of jokes at her expense. Perhaps it would have been better for her to appear in a small cameo at the end when the Doctor delivered Rose back to the alternate universe?

And of the main characters, Martha Jones just ends up in a 2 episode wild-goose chase.

Nothing she does has any bearing on the overall development of the plot, and since her interactions with the rest of the cast are limited, it means she ends up a little bit wasted.

And Now To The Positive Stuff

Those are the only serious issues I have with this story, and beyond that, I think it’s top notch.

To fit so much into 2 episodes – even if a couple of characters are left with nothing much to do – and to make it all work and link is solid writing.

RTD has clearly been thinking about this one long in advance, with plotlines and places – not just from Doctor Who but Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures – all coming together so neatly in the end.

So apart from the Doctor meeting Rose again, we also have the conclusion of the Donna Noble storyline, Dalek Caan, The Hand in the Jar, Sarah Jane’s warpstar, Harriet Jones, the Parallel Universe, The Bees disappearing, The Medusa Cascade and The Shadow Proclamation.

All of that gets put to bed once and for all, and yet it’s done in a way that flows and doesn’t seem like it’s been thrown in for the sake of it.

Oh smile for fuck's sake. The whole world has just been saved. Again.

Oh smile for fuck’s sake. The whole world has just been saved. Again.

As much as I love The Five Doctors, it was a bit of a case of “Let’s just have lots of people appear” whereas this actually constructed a solid foundation for why they appear.

Very impressive stuff.

It’s just a pity this couldn’t be the end of the Daleks. They must be running out of lives by now, considering this is the 3rd time since the show came back where they’ve seemingly been destroyed for good.

Davros

An addition to this story that I particularly enjoy is Davros.

Now sure, having him lurk in the shadows for almost the entire first episode is a waste, considering everyone will have known it was him when he first spoke, but that’s just a minor niggle.

Apart from Davros looking great, the man in the costume – Julian Bleach – is tremendous. He delivers his lines with such power and gravitas that it blows all the other Davros actors out of the water. And I say that having enjoyed the work of Terry Molloy and Michael Wisher (but not David Gooderson).

The speech that finishes with “The Destruction of Reality Itself” is a masterclass in how to slowly build a monologue from quietly talking to screaming at the top of one’s lungs, without seeming like it’s “acting”.

And what about that little moment written in where he recognises Sarah? That’s one for the long-term fans, and it’s a bloody good one at that.

My only disappointment was that Davros rejected the Doctor’s offer to come with him. Imagine Davros as a companion? That’d be epic.

Inevitably they’ll find a way to bring him back one day, and when they do, I hope that it’s in a story without the Daleks.

The Final Scenes

As good as this story is all the way through, the best bit of the lot – by far – is the last few minutes, after all the Doctor’s friends and stalkers have left the TARDIS and he’s left with Donna.

"Don't leave me with her!!!"

“Don’t leave me with her!!!”

Throughout Season 4, Catherine Tate has been a companion performing at a standard probably never seen before in Doctor Who. Even though I prefer Ian & Barbara because of the way they were written, they weren’t given the same level of drama to work with as Tate. You’ve only got to compare the way her departure is written to theirs to know that it’s a different style of writing in 2008.

But, yes, Catherine Tate is wonderful as Donna, and her final scenes here, where she realises that she’s taken on board more than the human brain can handle are so sad. You felt for both her character and the Doctor when you realise that she didn’t just have to stop travelling with him, despite it being her intention to doso forever, but it also meant she had to give up being the person she’d become.

Donna has grown as a person since she first met the Doctor; she’s become a better person and she – and her Grandfather – knew it. To give all that up? Well…it’s a lot worse than being separated from a man who you’ve got an obsessive crush on isn’t it.

And then, once she’s had all traces of those memories removed, she’s noticeably back to being a louder and sadly worse human being as a result.

The heartache doesn’t end there though, because The King of Sad Acting himself, Bernard Cribbins, takes on the mantle and brings even more emotion to the table.

His exasperation at his daughter when he insists to her that Donna was better with the Doctor is heartbreaking, as is his scene with him out in the rain.

But that’s nothing compared to what’s to come in his next appearance.

Cribbins though is quietly a contender for the MVP of this story on the whole. Apart from this emotional stuff, he also brings a sense of action – as he takes to the streets with a paintball gun – and humour, when he says he voted for Harriet Jones when he really didn’t.

Random Observations

  • You’ll notice in that last scene, that David Tennant can’t help but let his Scottish accent break through. Listen to his delivery of the words “Still, that’s fine”.

    And there's the happy couple. I bet it ends in divorce brought on by domestic abuse on her part. Psychopath.

    And there’s the happy couple. I bet it ends in divorce brought on by domestic abuse on her part. Psychopath.

  • While I enjoyed many of the little things dropped in for the long-term fan to enjoy (Calufrax Minor for example), that line about how the Dalek’s vision is not impaired was too unsubtle for me.
  • Another part that was unsubtle, but did work, was the continuation of the “Yes, I know who you are” joke to Harriet Jones.
  • How come Rose was able to see a scan of the universe on a TV in a shop?
  • It’s Gita off Eastenders!! Yay!! But she’s killed!! Noooo!!!
  • In my Planet of the Ood Review, I discussed how there were 5 occasions where Murray Gold got the Incidental Music bang on. His remix of Song of Freedom here is another one of those occasions. It’s a heartwarming tune played at exactly the right point in the episode. Very well done.
  • That scene in the TARDIS where they all manage to control it smoothly was a nice piece of writing again by RTD. It actually made sense, and was the perfect way to give the group as a whole a happy and triumphant moment, even if it was – to borrow a phrase – “Punchtheairtastic”
  • The one thing I don’t like about that scene is where Aga Freeman blatantly, blatantly, breaks the fourth wall and smiles to the camera.
  • Donna’s thing for Captain Jack is quite amusing.
  • If you didn’t watch Torchwood or the Sarah Jane Adventures (and I never watched the Sarah Jane Adventures), you’d probably be a bit lost as to who everyone was. They do a decent job of explaining it though. But what’s up with this Mr. Smith computer?
  • And why is K9 hidden away when all it takes to bring him back is to say “Out you come, boy”
  • It’s lucky that they killed off Burn Gorman in Torchwood before this was made. He’s not got a face fit for family viewing. He’d be scarier than Davros.
  • Martha’s Mum wins the award for “Character That The Least Amount of People Wanted To See Back Again”. But would you believe it, she actually manages to smile!
  • How come nobody presses Sarah on how she has a child all of a sudden?
  • And considering her first meeting with the Daleks was in Death to the Daleks, how come she’s so scared of them? They weren’t exactly fearsome, were they?
  • The montage of all the people who have died helping the Doctor is a nice addition to the story, and makes Davros’s point well,
  • One aspect of this story that annoys me is that Russell T. Davies made it very difficult for his successor to follow on from him. There have been far, far too many examples of Alien Invasion in contemporary Earth. It just does not wash with me that people will get back to their normal lives when this is the tenth story where aliens have invaded the earth in a public manner in the space of a few years. We’ve had the space ship destroying Big Ben, the Christmas Invasion, Ghosts from another dimension, Cyberman & Daleks invading, the Christmas Star in the Runaway Bride, the hospital disappearing, “First contact” with the Toclafane, a replica of the Titanic nearly crashing into Buckingham Palace, the Adipose, the ATMOS stuff and now the entire planet being transported across the universe. It’s too much; it ruins contemporary Earth in Doctor Who and means there has to be some silly fix brought in to sort it.
  • One aspect meanwhile that puzzles me, is how the other parallel universes manage to survive? Surely there are Daleks plotting the Reality Bomb in them too? Were the stars not meant to be out in Rose’s universe? And yet when the Doctor drops her off there, everything seems fine.
  • What a cliffhanger this story has. The Doctor regenerating? Superb.
  • And what about that Dalek actually managing to shoot the Doctor? He’ll be the envy of his peers.

    Awww, just looking at him breaks your heart

    Awww, just looking at him breaks your heart

  • Is it not just a little bit convenient that Mickey teleports to the exact location where Sarah is about to be exterminated?
  • And you’ll notice that when Mickey says he’s got an opportunity for a new start, he means he’s going to break up Martha’s relationship with her fiance. What a bastard.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #13

Doctor Who – The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End Review: Final Thoughts

This two part story is a fitting way to polish off the Russell T. Davies era.

Yes, there are a few stories left, but they are just marking time until it’s time for the Doctor to go.

Though it has its faults, this is probably the grandest Doctor Who story made to this point, and it deserves recognition for that.

A top quality effort in spite of the nonsense with Rose.