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

May 15, 2017

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

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

What would be the chances of that?

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

An attack on capitalism.

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

Thoughts – A Classic Episode, But Not Flawless

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn’t perfect.

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

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

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

Like The Best of Tom Baker

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

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

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

This Is For Children?

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

He looks like he’s drawing a thingy. Lolz

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

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

Mind you, I’m all for it.

Random Observations

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

That’s pretty good going.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


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

May 7, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts – Like A Russell T. Davies Story

There’s a lot to enjoy about Knock Knock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn’t without its faults.

The Problems

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

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

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

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

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

I felt it let the character down.

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

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

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

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

Random Observations

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

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


Doctor Who – Thin Ice Review (or ‘No, Doctor Who Didn’t Just Confirm the Existence of Jesus’)

April 30, 2017

I’ll be honest; it took me a while to get my head around how to approach the Smile review.

For as decent as story as it was, it felt that talking points were few and far between, and when that happens, the most difficult thing to come up with is an introduction. I even contemplated changing the structure of my reviews to allow me to launch straight into it.

At this point though – hundreds of Doctor Who reviews and two books in – that would be madness.

The advantage though is that because of all of that, I knew that this week – in my review of Thin Ice – I’d have a stick-on easy introduction simply by repeating that anecdote.

And that’s exactly how it’s turned out.

See what I did there?

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

You’d be forgiven for thinking “I bet it’s about the Ice Warriors”, but no it’s not. It’s about death, pre-Victorian London, a frozen River Thames and a big fish that excretes human remains as powerful fuel.

Thoughts – They Killed A Child. Oh Em Gee.

So there are a few things worthy of discussion here but first of all I have to bring up the fact that a child was killed off.

Child or not, if you commit the crime, you pay the price

Brave.

Now before you think I’m some kind of sociopath, hear me out.

In just about every medium of entertainment you can find, children are presented as these resourceful, independent, almost magical beings who are capable of solving all the world’s problems themselves without those pesky, incompetent adults getting in the way.

If aliens were scouting Earth and using TV as the guide, then they’d believe that humans peak in terms of intellectual and problem solving abilities between the ages of maybe 10-14.

That’s nonsense of course. Children are by-and-large rubbish, resource-draining hangers-on who are almost entirely reliant on adults to exist. We’ve all been kids and we all know that’s true.

So in a show like Doctor Who, when alien threat lurks around every corner, it might just be the case that once or twice, a kid might fall foul to such a menace rather than – oh I don’t know – a trained security guard with years of experience in the special forces.

I understand why kids are presented like that; it’s because shows written for kids will present kids as the heroes. You won’t see a child save the day in tonight’s Line of Duty finale, but at the same time, I would ask why – even in a show where kids are being written for – can a child not be sacrificed to make a point?

In Thin Ice, that finally happened. And against any sensible prediction I might have had, that child wasn’t brought back to life by the end of the episode.

Like I said above, I found it refreshingly brave, and it made the underlying theme of the tale – that if Bill wants to lead the type of life the Doctor has, she will face death even in its most harrowing of ways – stand out.

So well done to the writer for doing that.

An Episode That Could Have Been Made In The 1960s

I watched this episode with my dad last night. That usually throws up some general irritations like “Pause it, I need to go to the kitchen” every five minutes, but for once he made an interesting point.

The Doctor here looking very much like the vulture from Splash Mountain

He suggested that this episode might have been one made on the cheap.

On the face of it that seems daft, as Thin Ice certainly appeared to be a rich and resplendent costume drama that any production company would be proud of.

But I think he could be on to something.

Period costume dramas are the BBC’s bread and butter. They’re up to their ears in the outfits from that era and have locations they can film at on their doorstep.

This episode had a small amount of CGI, a large amount of costumes and surprisingly limited scope. If you notice, a lot of the scenes take place in confined settings, with mist and fog reducing the scope of what you can actually see.

So it probably didn’t cost all that much to make in comparison to other episodes.

In a sense this is one episode that could have been made as far back as the 1960s, as long as the final shots of the fish were done using models.

And that’s to Thin Ice’s credit.

Sometimes you might wonder where modern Doctor Who would be without certain special effects to bring the visuals to life.

Thin Ice stands on its plot, its dialogue and its character development rather than its CGI or the visual appeal of a monster.

Random Observations

  • I had a look at fan opinion before writing this review, as I always tend to do, and one thread from a forum summed up Doctor Who fandom in a nutshell. The first three posts were “Meh, it was ok”, “I thought it was really good” and “Absolute horse-shit. I put it off after 15 minutes. Disgusting”. You’ve got to love opinions.
  • One opinion I did see was that some didn’t approve of the suggested swearing from Bill. Lighten up folks.
  • I’ve noticed that the writers are trying their best to find new questions for Bill to ask the Doctor; questions that no other companion has asked before. Some of the lines are just for comic effect of course, such as the ones she asked when she first entered the TARDIS, but the aforementioned questions about death and the Doctor’s exposure to it have some merit and depth to them.
  • One thing that has been asked before though is about black people in pre-20th century England. But then it’s normal for her to want to ask that, so it needed to be in.
  • I’ve not touched too much upon the ‘threat’ of the episode – namely Sutcliffe – but really, was he anything more than window dressing for the real underlying theme of the relationship between Bill and the Doctor?
  • Having said that, the only part of this episode I would mark down would be the bit where the Doctor punches Sutcliffe in the face after his long speech to Bill about diplomacy. It was a bit too ‘on the nose’ for my liking, pardoning the pun.
  • Speaking of the Doctor, once again – and I know, I know, I say this all the time – Peter Capaldi was terrific. No matter who takes over from him, they won’t be as good.
  • Cleverest scene of the week was the one where the Doctor convinces the Workhouse supervisor to tell him everything he needed to know.
  • The guy doing the coin trick should have been played by Aziz Ansari.
  • In last week’s review I voiced concerns about the way this would be another ‘Aliens in recent Earth history’ story and questioned why people within the show wouldn’t be more aware of things from the past like that. I think the relatively small scope and subsequent ‘Back At The Ranch House’ dialogue did a good job of allaying those concerns.
  • In my journey round the internet to see what other people thought about the episode, two more things stood out. The first is that a lot of reviews now have a Random Observations section (hmm…) and the other is that one article asks “Did Doctor Who just confirm the existence of Jesus?”. I mean…come on.

Doctor Who – Thin Ice Review: Final Thoughts

Overall, I would consider Thin Ice to be the best episode of the season so far. It explores serious issues alongside some lighter comedic moments, it makes brave choices, it looks good and it flows well.

As with all episodes so far, it also continues to develop the likeable relationship between the Doctor and Bill.

I enjoyed it, and while you’ll never be able to please Doctor Who fandom in general, it seems to me that most others enjoyed it too.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


Doctor Who – Smile Review (or “Not Exactly Original, But Then What Is These Days?”)

April 24, 2017

The problem with writing a review long after most people have already had their say is finding a fresh take on it. You don’t want to look like you’re just repeating what someone else has said.

As an example, many of the reviews for Smile have drawn comparisons with Black Mirror. I had thought that myself, so I was disappointed – if a little unsurprised – that it appears to be the consensus.

Perhaps I can expand on that though and offer some kind of unique perspective…

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

The Doctor and Bill (I wrote Pearl the first time around because I still can’t identify the character as Bill yet) land on a recently set up Earth colony to find that the robot builders have killed everyone because of their lack of understanding of negative emotions.

Thoughts – The Black Mirror Comparison

So yes, this is like the sort of thing you’d see in an episode of Black Mirror, but then you could review an episode of Black Mirror and say it’s a bit like something you’d see on the Twilight Zone or Out of the

Mon Then

Unknown. The nature of the beast is that for as long as television has been a thing, there have been science fiction shows on air, and so there’s likely to be that element of repetition.

At its heart this is a tale of colonists under threat/robots vs humans and that’s hardly new.

Even if you plan on narrowing the comparisons down to Doctor Who, there have been many stories about Earth colonies and expeditions, and even the apparent uniqueness of this episode – the emoji based robots – is something that’s kinda been done in The Beast Below.

Ultimately when it comes to plot, almost everything has been done before to some extent and this episode is no exception.

The big question is whether or not it’s any good.

The Quality of the Episode

The answer to that question is that it’s good in some ways, but not so good in others.

I liked the visuals. Smile looks different and so is a feast on the eyes. Not only is the setting interesting but the emoji-bots have a certain charm to them that will make this story memorable for years to come. They are a bit like the Quarks in that regard.

I also enjoyed the interaction between the Doctor and Bill. Their relationship was expanded upon and Bill’s character came across once again as likeable and an improvement over most of what we saw of Clara.

Admit it; at this point you thought to yourself “That’s her off the Thin Blue Line”, didn’t you?

What I didn’t like was the resolution to the plot.

It’s all well and good having the general idea for a story, but you’ve got to see that through to the end.

After a good buildup in the first half of the episode, things just fell flat towards the end.

The explanation of what caused the advance settler team to be killed was repeated and then the whole thing was solved with the most thoughtless of plot devices – the reset switch.

That in particular let Smile down because although I largely enjoyed it up to that point, I think my lasting memory of it will be the rather dodgy ending.

Random Observations

  • Top marks for ending the episode by segueing into next week’s. For the Doctor Who fans out there who seem to be eternally concerned with the show’s ratings, this will probably work to get people tuning in again on Saturday.
  • I notice that Nardol didn’t play much of a part in Smile and will likely barely appear next week either. That’s a pity.
  • The line relating to Scottish Independence will be grabbed by both sides of the debate. Some will say that it’s taking a shot at the SNP, while others will contend that it supports their stance. Either way it’ll be tiresome.
  • Admit it, one of the very first things you did when watching Smile was turn to the person beside you – or failing that think to yourself – “That’s her off The Thin Blue Line isn’t it?”
  • So, the actors inside the emoji-bot costumes? Children or dwarves?
  • Surely rather than reset everything, the Doctor could have just urged the colonists not to bother accepting the emoji buttons from the bots? Then they wouldn’t know if they were unhappy.
  • The explanation of why the emoji-bots couldn’t handle negative emotion was pretty ropey. Surely they must have encountered some unhappiness or anger before the first settler died?
  • The trailer for next week got me thinking about how it seems that there have been a lot of obvious alien invasions/encounters in pre-20th century London, and that in turn got me thinking about another issue. When the Mondas Cybermen turn up, will Bill know about them considering the events of The Tenth Planet happened in 1986? If not, why not?
  • And am I looking too deeply into this?

Doctor Who – Smile Review: Final Thoughts

Smile is largely unoriginal, but then what isn’t these days?

It should be commended for at least presenting something that looks fresh and for continuing to expand the Doctor/Bill relationship.

However there’s no excusing the cop-out reset switch ending.

Final result then: Hit and Miss.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


Doctor Who – The Pilot Review (or ‘The New Companion, The Token Monster and The Box Ticking Dalek’)

April 16, 2017

After almost a year and a half without regular episodes, Doctor Who is back.

And it’s a season I have mixed feelings over.

On the one hand, while I appreciate that he’s still capable of writing the occasional top episode, I’m glad that Steven Moffat is leaving, but on the other, I’m gutted that Peter Capaldi – for me the best actor to take the part – is also departing.

Some might say he hasn’t been given the best material to work with, which is arguably true, but I think a lot of very good episodes have been glossed over for people to make a generalised view that the show is not as good as it once was.

Less welcoming to new and casual viewers? Fair enough, but then that is apparently what the first episode of this new season aims to correct.

It’s a bit of a ‘soft reboot’.

It’s ‘The Pilot’

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

The Doctor is working as a tenured lecturer at a university and has taken a shine to a girl who works in the canteen and attends his lectures.

Meanwhile the most powerful puddle in the universe lurks nearby.

Thoughts – Let’s Talk About Bill

The main thing to focus on in this story is the debut of the new companion, Bill Potts.

Unlike some, I won’t focus on her sexual orientation as it doesn’t matter either way to me. Much like the heavily debated gay kiss in Beauty and the Beast, I totally appreciate the significance of it, but I’m personally

Anyone concerned about a puddle being on the ground even though it hasn’t rained for a week has obviously never been to the Gallagher Retail Car Park in Dundee….

not bothered. If it makes a positive difference to some viewers, I’m all for it. If it makes a negative difference to others, then those people need to get a grip.

But regardless, her sexual orientation shouldn’t define her character, and I don’t think it does.

Personally, I thought the immediate establishment of her tutor/student relationship was well done as it set the tone quickly and efficiently.

On first impressions, Bill seems like a fun and quirky companion who is probably easier to relate to that the increasingly smug Clara. That’s a tick in the box for making things more welcoming.

So on the companion front, we’re off to an encouraging start.

The Story Itself

But what of the story beyond Bill?

It was fine…for what little else there was.

The ‘monster’ – because lets not forget that Doctor Who apparently has to have one of those – was good in theory, but was spectacularly underplayed.

Here’s an organism that can travel millions of years in an instant and is impervious to anything you could throw at it, and yet it offered no real threat and barely had any tension surrounding it.

That seemed like a missed opportunity.

But then I don’t think it was supposed to be anything more than a token alien to operate as a backdrop against the introduction of Bill.

Long term readers of the blog probably looked at this image and thought the tagline should be ‘Mon Then’, but it’s a picture of a Dalek and the Daleks can just fuck off.

Beyond that it served to set up the rest of the season rather than focus on being in the moment, and I guess that’s just the nature of the beast.

I enjoyed it, but it’s one of these stories where people will look back and say “Yeah, it was good for what it was”.

 

Random Observations

  • I thought about writing a dedicated section of this review to my dismay at the Daleks showing up for the sake of the BBC’s ongoing contract with the Terry Nation estate, but really, it doesn’t merit it. They obviously have to appear at some stage, and I’m glad that we’ve got over that hump already.
  • But if they appear again I won’t be happy.
  • There were other elements of ‘fanwankery’ such as the Movellans appearing with them, and the pictures of River Song and Susan, but I think we can forgive that.
  • I would be interested though if Susan manages to turn up at some stage. My only potential concern there is that Carole Ann Ford’s last proper acting role appears to be The Five Doctors. There’s just a chance she might be out of practice…
  • The overall highlight of the episode has to be Bill’s dialogue upon entering the TARDIS. That scene in general was well done, and it’s fun that they keep managing to find new and interesting reactions for people entering the TARDIS for the first time.
  • We’re not at ‘Strike Me Pink’ levels from Black Orchid yet then.
  • I also got a laugh from the line where she asks the Doctor if he knows much about science fiction.
  • While the water monster appears to be a slight ‘Best Of’ homage to Midnight and The Waters of Mars – and that’s great – I do feel that its realisation on-screen was a bit of a let down. I know the show doesn’t have the world’s largest effects budget, but that for me goes down as ‘Ropey CGI’.
  • I haven’t yet mentioned Peter Capaldi or Matt Lucas, but I don’t really feel I need to. Both were effortlessly top-notch, as usual.
  • I’m encouraged by the mystery of what’s in the vault, and though I don’t think we have to know what’s in there by next week, it would be nice of this didn’t remain a mystery until the cliffhanger of the penultimate episode.
  • Another element that was underplayed but that I thought was a nice touch was the pictures of Bill’s mum that the Doctor had taken for her.
  • The scene in the bathroom was mildly creepy. Perhaps it was Steven Moffat’s way of making children scared of having a shower.
  • Anyone overly concerned about a puddle on the ground even though it hasn’t rained for a week obviously hasn’t been to the Gallagher Retail Car Park in Dundee…
  • The one dialogue letdown was the “I’d leave it ten minutes if I were you” toilet humour. The show is better than that.
  • Perhaps its worth noting – as this might have been a problem with the episode rather than my lack of attention – that I actually couldn’t remember the name of the new companion at the start of this review. I’m not sure if it’s not mentioned enough or that the character’s name is far less memorable than the name of the actress playing her, but either way, I had to look it up.

Doctor Who – The Pilot Review: Final Thoughts

As stated above, this will come to be regarded as an inoffensive, perhaps even by-the-numbers companion introduction story.

It was fun and it did its job, but it was essentially a story about a new companion with a token monster and an even tokener (and I know that’s not a word) appearance by the Daleks thrown in for the sake of it.

Hopefully anyone who thought the show was too geeky and unwelcoming can come in and join the party now.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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

 

 

 

 


Doctor Who – 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.

 


Movies: Rogue One Review (or ‘A Proper Prequel To A New Hope’)

December 16, 2016

From the off I feel I should warn you; this Rogue One review contains spoilers. It has to. So if you haven’t seen it yet, close down this page and come back again when you have.

Ok?

Has everyone who needs to go gone?

Good, I’ll begin.

I knew very little of Rogue One going into it. While I knew it was about members of the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star, for some reason I had it in my head that it would take place a few years star-wars-rogue-one-posterbefore the events of A New Hope.

But I was wrong.

And that’s the masterstroke of Rogue One.

It takes place right before it, finally culminating in a scene that actually leads in to the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie.

And in doing so, it has repercussions.

The first is that every heroic character created for this movie dies. They had to, otherwise you could ask why they weren’t in any of the original movies, and I thought it made for a refreshing change to what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood.

We now live in a world where the sequel is king. Nothing of any real consequences happens to the heroes in movies now because they are obviously being protected for a raft of inevitable follow-ups. But here, every character was expendable. They were one-and-done creations that had no use beyond this movie.

So they are all killed off and as a result, Rogue One became more believable and dramatic.

I should point out as well that I was pretty saddened by that despite loving that they ended up dead, because there were some great characters in there, from the Sheldon Cooper-esque K-2SO droid to the fantastic Oriental double act. These were some of the best and most well-rounded characters we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, but like I say, they had to die.

Anyway, the other main repercussion that stemmed from setting Rogue One right before A New Hope is that certain characters needed to be a part of it.

Obviously Darth Vader was easy enough to bring back, even though he sounded very old thanks to James Earl Jones’s declining voice, but you’d assume that Grand Moff Tarkin might be a little tougher to replace seeing as Peter Cushing is long since dead.

And yet you’d be wrong. I was genuinely shocked to see that for all intents and purposes, Peter Cushing is in this movie. Technical wizardry – a use of CGI that is actually head turning in these days of over-reliance on computer imagery – means that they were able to have another actor play the part and then super-impose Cushing’s head onto him.

It was a bit freaky, but it added so much authenticity to the movie.

You can keep your constant ‘New York gets destroyed’ use of CGI, Hollywood, this is the proper way to use it!

Speaking of CGI, while I’m sure that it was employed all the way through Rogue One, what I liked about this movie was that it seemed like it didn’t rely too heavily on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but a lot of the sets, scenery and worlds it visited looked like they were brought to life with old-fashioned costume and set design. To me that makes a difference; it makes the Star Wars universe seem more complete than the cold and clinical CGI wankfests you see in the likes of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and the Marvel movies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Rogue One had an interesting and engrossing plot and a sharp and at times funny script. That’s the most important thing isn’t it?

Even though it lasts for 2hrs14m, it didn’t feel like it dragged at any point.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the inevitable battle scene towards the end went on for a bit, but as I say above, the fact that it had repercussions softened that blow a little bit for me.

So, to sum up, maybe I’m biased because I love Star Wars, and maybe it’s that I’m still on an initial high from seeing it at the cinema, but for me, Rogue One is the best movie of the year.

I won’t bother saying that you should see it, because if you’ve read this far then you must have already.

So do you agree or have I been too generous?