Movies – Solo: A Star Wars Story (or “Enjoyable, But The Genre Might Be Getting Stale”)

May 26, 2018

If you are familiar with the franchise the you’re not going to be too surprised by the plot of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Being that this is about the early days of the eponymous star of the movie, it obviously features key moments from his backstory, including…

  • How he met Chewbacca
  • How he won the Millenium Falcon in a game of cards from Lando Calrissian
  • How he made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs

And just like Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One, finding out how things we already knew about actually happened is part of the fun.

I certainly enjoyed it, although at the same time I thought it wasn’t without its faults.

On the plus side, it filled in the blanks, it had a mostly very good cast – with special mention to Alden Ehrenreich who I thought played Han Solo without me thinking it was just some guy doing an impression – and it had a that familiar Star Wars vibe to it.

On the negative side, I thought the direction was a little bit hit and miss (it was so darkly shot for the first half hour that it was difficult to make out anyone’s face), Donald Glover’s take on Lando was the exact opposite of Ehrenreich’s of Solo (it just felt like Troy from Community – as Troy from Community – doing a Lando impression) and the movie had that familiar Star Wars vibe to it.

And yes, you’ve probably read that last line and thought “Wait…what?”.

So hear me out…

I understand why Star Wars movies are the way they are; people like them…I like them. I can also see why other franchises try to leach off them, like Guardians of the Galaxy.

But with the increased regularity of these movies, how long before we get fatigued by them?

How many times can we see the same type of ragtag group of rebels with the same type of wise-cracking sidekicks, talking robots and corny romance without thinking “Let’s have something new”?

Like I say, I enjoyed it but I was becoming conscious of the fact that we’ve now seen this same thing so many times that I’m not too keen on seeing a replica of it again in the near future.

With any luck they’ll know that for the next Star Wars spin-off, there needs to be a change in vibe.

Otherwise it’ll get stale, and fast.

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Movies: The Cloverfield Paradox Review (or “Pish”)

February 6, 2018

This should have been a review of I, Tonya, but I’ve come to accept that I just can’t go to the cinema after 8pm anymore without falling asleep.

So instead, we decided to stay in and watch The Cloverfield Paradox; that way if I fell asleep on the couch at least I could rewind bits.

And that’s exactly what happened because despite taking a couple of caffeine pills to keep me going, I did fall asleep. The pills did nothing…nothing!!

The thing is though, part of the reason I fell asleep was because this movie was pish. If it had been exciting, it would have kept my attention, but alas it didn’t.

So what was wrong with it?

Well, think of it like this…

Imagine a really good episode of Doctor Who. No matter what way you swing it, part of what makes it a good episode is because of The Doctor. There are other things going on, but the writing and performance of the lead character will add something to it. Without him, it wouldn’t be as entertaining.

Now imagine a poor episode of Doctor Who. Even in this example at least you’d have the acting and performance of someone like David Tennant or Peter Capaldi to provide a little chink of light,

Finally, imagine a poor episode of Doctor Who without The Doctor, and then imagine that episode running for three times the length.

It gives you a cold shudder doesn’t it?

Well that’s what The Cloverfield Paradox was like. A poorly thought out, lazily written yawn fest on a space station that tried to be clever but failed to capture my imagination, and based on other reviews I just skimmed, everyone else’s too.

It took me about half an hour to even realise what was going on, and then once I did get up to speed, I just wasn’t impressed. It was dull ‘And Then There Were None’ stuff that seemed to exist solely to build to a ‘shocking’ twist that unnecessarily tied it in to the other Cloverfield films.

And that’s in spite of it having a stellar cast and what looked like a decent budget.

That all counts for nothing if the story doesn’t cut the mustard.

And this story did not.

You should avoid it, because like I say, it’s pish.


Doctor Who – Twice Upon A Time Review (“I Shall Miss Him; Yes I Shall Miss Him”)

December 25, 2017

There’s been a little tradition on the Stuart Reviews Stuff blog since 2013, and it’s that I never write a Doctor Who Christmas Special review on Christmas Day.

And maybe it’s that I’ve wanted time to digest it or maybe it’s because it’s Christmas Day and I just haven’t been bothered, but I feel that it’s time to change that.

Because this Christmas Special is that little bit more special. It’s an episode that I have been waiting on with both a sense of feverish anticipation and a large dollop of dread.

Anticipation not only because it is a regeneration episode, but also it’s one that follows on from the great cliffhanger from The Doctor Falls and has the First Doctor in it.

Dread because it’s the end of the Peter Capaldi era. And no, it’s not “Oh no, the Doctor is going to turn into a woman” dread, because I find that sort of mindset to be troubling, if not utterly pathetic; instead, it’s

I wanted to be part of that group hug

dread because it is the end of the Peter Capaldi era. I’m not suggesting for a moment his episodes have been the better than any other Doctor, and the updated episode rankings for the upcoming print versions of Stuart Reviews Doctor Who will reflect that,  but I will 100% nail my colours to the mast and say that he is my favourite and the absolute best actor to play the Doctor. He’s been superb and I will miss his Doctor greatly.

I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of it like this before, but while Doctor Who is one long and continuous series that has run since 1963, the style and tone that each actor brings means that to an extent, whenever they depart, it feels like it’s the end of the show as it is, rather than it simply being a case of a new person taking the role and keeping the plates spinning.

 

And that’s generally ok, because for as long as I’ve been watching, whenever an actor has left the part I’ve felt it was time for a change and have looked forward to it. But not this time. I really didn’t want the Capaldi era to end because of his quality, and so now that it is over, I feel quite sad.

But you’re reading this to find out my thoughts on his last episode – Twice Upon A Time – and as such, I’ll get to it.

Doctor Who – Twice Upon A Time Review: What’s This One About?

The Doctor(s) come to terms with regenerating.

Thoughts – First, The Story

In the run up to this episode, I’d read that because it was to be broadcast on Christmas Day, Steven Moffat wanted to keep it quite light and uplifting.

In fairness, he achieved that, but in all honesty up until the last 15 minutes it was so light that it was a bit of a nothing episode.

It seemed a little bit like Moffat felt having the First Doctor there was enough to carry things along, but if you were to take every other element of the episode to that point except for the First Doctor and all the little

Three cheers for sexism!!

nods to fans of the show who were familiar with him, then you’d be left with something that failed to deliver.

Put simply, the story was that glass people found a problem with time based around a WW1 soldier who should have died but didn’t, the Doctor goes to speak to a Dalek to find out what was going on and then when he realised it wasn’t a diabolical scheme, he went and sorted it so that the soldier didn’t die.

I mean…it’s not exactly The Girl in the Fireplace or Blink levels of sophistication is it?

There were lots of funny lines of dialogue which amused me, but as a story, it really wasn’t up to much.

The acting, however, was.

Of the four main actors, everyone – including the deserved Stuart Reviews Stuff whipping boy Mark Gatiss – was excellent. No, despite what Steven Moffat has said, David Bradley does not play the character of the First Doctor exactly as William Hartnell did, but he tried his best. If anything, the problem with him was that he was written as an old relic from a bygone age, and as a result of that, he couldn’t have played the part the same, but he was still very good. And Pearl Mackie too played the part to her high standard.

As for Capaldi, well I dare say every review I’ve written while he’s been in the part has been a love letter to his talents, and it won’t surprise you that I thought that again.

And that leads us to…

The Regeneration

So while the first 45 minute were pretty light, the last 15 minutes delivered in spades.

When it came to it, I think everyone knew that Peter Capaldi would deliver a strong farewell monologue and that it would supported by the sort of powerful incidental music to bring out the emotion of the occasion.

The Captain was revealed to be The Brigadier’s dad, and throughout the world you could hear the sound of not a single person being surprised

That’s exactly what happened.

Outside the ship (yes, I did love the reference to how the First Doctor called it a ship), there was the sadness of his final conversations with Clara, Bill and Nardole heightened by the music from the death scene of The Doctor Falls and then inside when he decided he would regenerate, it was a more stirring music.

And you know what? It didn’t actually matter what he said – because I’ve watched that bit twice now and the words themselves didn’t have that much to them – but it’s how he said it. It was sad and yet uplifting.

Then once the regeneration actually happened, we were – much like with the last two changes of lead – left with a new Doctor in a chaotic and dangerous ‘To Be Continued’ situation.

And though I’m sad that it won’t be Peter Capaldi in the role when the story does continue, it’s still a story I can’t wait to see.

The Ends of Other Eras

This episode of course didn’t just close the book on Peter Capaldi’s time with Doctor Who; it’s also the end for Murray Gold and Steven Moffat.

I’m sad to see Gold go, even though it probably is time to give someone else a shot. What’s noticeable about Twice Upon A Time is how much music is reused.

I could be wrong, but I’m sure I’d heard every bit of it before, but when you consider that the aforementioned track from The Doctor Falls was new only six months ago and is absolutely one of the top three pieces of incidental music in Doctor Who history, he obviously has a lot left in the tank.

Moffat though I am glad to see gone.

Yes, he occasionally can still write well, and this year brought us one of the better companions in Bill Potts, but I totally get why so many people are sick of him. The show needs a freshness in terms of how it’s

Meanwhile, this is the exact moment that lots of angry repressed middle aged men kicked their TVs in and stormed off, threatening never to watch the show again.

written; a new perspective and bit of rejuvenation.

There is – as much as it appeals to me – too much time given to referencing past stories and events.

The show essentially needs the sort of shake up that it was given in Series 7 back in 1970 if it wants to stay relevant and popular in the eyes of the general public rather than just Doctor Who fans, and I hope Chris Chibnall can provide that.

So thanks for a lot of good times Steven Moffat, but as the old saying goes, off you pop.

Random Observations

  • Endemic of the sort of problem I have with Moffat’s writing is the character of The Captain. The moment I saw that first trailer, I – and I’m sure most of you – said “I bet he’ll turn out to be Lethbridge Stewart’s dad”. Gosh, I was shocked to find out that’s exactly who he was.
  • The running joke about the brandy provided plenty of laughs.
  • As did the sexist lines by the First Doctor about how women should be cleaning and how he’d give Bill a jolly good smacked bottom.
  • The Doctor really must have scarpered away from Ben and Polly pretty bloody fast, eh?
  • Maybe that should be a random observation in my Tenth Planet review?
  • I personally would have liked The First Doctor to be portrayed slightly more heroically than he was.
  • And as you might have guessed, I let out a sigh of despair when I realised that the Daleks – or a Dalek – were in it. Let’s hope they get left behind for the next few seasons at least.
  • Had this been just another Christmas story, the bit about the 1914 truce would have been fitting. As it was, it felt like the potential emotional impact was smothered by the regeneration.
  • My family and girlfriend all took the piss out of me before it started, saying I’d probably cry. In fact, after our Christmas dinner and before she left the room to go watch a different TV show elsewhere (the philistine), my mum rather cuttingly said “Don’t cry too much now”. Well sod the lot of them, I’m happy to admit I shed a tear or two in the last few minutes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a testament to the quality of the presentation.

Doctor Who – Twice Upon A Time Review: Final Thoughts

Well, there it is, the end of the Peter Capaldi era.

I think I’ve made it clear already, but I’ll say it again…

He might not have always had the best material to work with, but he always made the best of the material he had to work with, and that is why he is so good.

And it’s why – to be like Steven Moffat and provide a reference that only the Doctor Who superfans among you will get – I shall miss him. Yes, I shall miss him.

But I won’t miss Moffat.

 


Movies: Star Wars – The Last Jedi Review

December 17, 2017

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I hold the rather unpopular viewpoint that Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars film.

I know, I know, some of you have probably already closed this review down in disgust, but the reason I like it the most is that it’s the one where most happens. Everything we’ve seen set up in Episodes One and Two has to be resolved to tie in with the start of A New Hope, and so what we get is death, character development, excitement and a plot that has a certain amount of pace to it. Yes, there’s some poor acting and yes, the decision to kill of Padmé with a broken heart was daft, but those negatives are far outweighed by the positives.

So if you take those reasons as an indicator of what I like in a movie – Star Wars or otherwise – then it won’t come as a huge shock that I was quite disappointed by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

It wasn’t that it was a bad movie, nor that it dragged – indeed for a not inconsiderable 152 minutes it went by quite quickly – but rather that I came away from it feeling like the story hadn’t moved on.

And it’s funny, because if you read other people’s opinions on it, some appear to be saying the exact opposite.

To me though it felt like a movie that safely knew its place in a series that will go on and on, and so didn’t want to make any drastic changes. It finished like it started, with the rebels on the run having managed to escape from their pursuers yet again. It’s almost like an episode of something like Blake’s Seven. By the end of an episode of that, the Federation are still chasing them, but Blake’s group have managed to survive another week. In The Last Jedi, the gang go off to find a lockpick, fail and it doesn’t matter. Meanwhile, some people get killed but no-one that would have a significant impact on the story.

And yes, you can say to me “But Stuart, they killed off Luke Skywalker and Snoke; surely those are significant developments?”, but I would disagree. There’s no way Luke Skywalker won’t appear in Episode IX, so whether he’s a ghost or alive it makes no difference. Snoke meanwhile was an empty character who – by design or not – was abandoned without the viewer understanding his back story, motivation or purpose, so he’s hardly a loss.

Beyond the lack of development, there were other aspects that I felt let it down.

The comedy for example…

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. In Thor Ragnarok it worked but in The Last Jedi it really didn’t.

If you’re going to do comedy then either play the whole thing in a light-hearted way, or employ an actor who is able to bring out the comedy in a serious situation.

Star Wars films are pretty serious in their design, but Harrison Ford was able to bring out some humour with a combination of his own ability as an actor and the way Han Solo was written. I don’t think there’s anyone in The Last Jedi who has that charm that Ford brought and I’m afraid the writing just wasn’t good enough to make the comedy seem anything other than forced. Put it this way; nobody laughed in the screening I was at.

Meanwhile, the acting wasn’t great. Yes fine, heap all the criticism in the world on Hayden Christiensen; he wasn’t the best actor and you presumably don’t have any kind of emotional attachment to him, but I’m sorry; whether you are fond of her or not, and whether you feel duty bound not to say anything harsh against her because she sadly passed away in real life, Carrie Fisher was awful. I’m not going to mock her for fear of fan boy retribution, but it is safe to say that had this been the first Star Wars movie she’d appeared in, she’d have been panned by all.

Mark Hammil wasn’t really much better either, if we’re honest.

And not to heap more criticism on the movie than I already have but there was a little bit too much in the way of convenience. What are the chances of Finn and Rose being locked in a cell with a guy with the very skills they were looking for? Or for only them and Captain Phasma to survive when the rebel ship ploughed into the destroyer? Or even for the escape vessel with all the main characters on it to be one of the tiny few not to have been shot down on the way to the rebel planet?

It’s stuff like that – as well as Kylo Ren’s weird about-turn after killing Snoke or the rather shameless addition of Porgs for the sole purpose of selling merchandise – that are worth questioning when you are reviewing a movie like this.

And lastly, I also felt like The Last Jedi failed to explore the usually vast and rich universe it’s set in – beyond the trip to the casino planet – and stayed with the rather dull space environment.

But it’s not like I hated it, it’s just that it disappointed me.

Hopefully the next movie will be slightly better, and that Nein Nunb will get some lines of dialogue.

And you can bet Luke Skywalker will be in it.

And much like this movie, so will Yoda (and by the way, his inclusion was pretty cool, as was the way he was brought back as a puppet rather than as CGI).

But the late Admiral Akbar won’t be, and that’s the most upsetting travesty of them all.


Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review (“A Masterclass of Acting, But Maybe Not of Writing”)

July 2, 2017

Only this morning I was speaking to a friend about the time back in 1987 when my dad didn’t record episode four of Paradise Towers and it took until December 1994 for it to be repeated on TV again.

That sort of thing must seem alien to the youth of today.

But imagine if it wasn’t?

Imagine if for some reason an episode shown today wouldn’t be able to be seen again – unless you happened to know someone who taped it – until 2024? If that was the case, the whole of Scotland would be absolutely raging right about now.

Because for some reason, right at the point when The Doctor Falls was reaching its climax – when Bill had left the TARDIS and the Doctor lay dead on the floor – BBC Scotland’s feed of the show lost its sound and the remainder of the episode played out to a load of buzzing noises. And then they didn’t even bother to apologise in the post-credits continuity announcement. Bastards.

Thankfully it’s 2017 and I was able to immediately go to the iPlayer and watch it properly there, but by that point arguably the most important scenes of the episode had lost their immediate impact.

Still…I suppose it’s better than waiting seven years to find out what was said.

Anyway, on to the review…

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

Writing everyone out.

Thoughts – A Familiar Change of Pace

Last week I was concerned that this episode would fail to capitalise on the strengths of World Enough and Time, and that it would end up completely over the top like Last of the Timelords.

Those concerns were unfounded to an extent, but as good as this was, my immediate thoughts were that it not only paid a little bit too much tribute to the show’s own lore, but also rehashed old ideas.

For example…

  • References to Telos, Marinus (that was put in there just to mess with people like me, presumably), Planet 14 and so on.
  • Repeating famous lines from classic stories. And Dragonfire.
  • A situation that resembled the events of The Time of the Doctor a little too much.
  • A companion going off to travel the universe after supposedly dying.
  • The Doctor having a Logopolis style flashback to all his companions (except, bizarrely Rory, but even then that could be a deliberate nod to Leela’s omission to the flashback from Resurrection of the Daleks

    The moment when the sound went out and viewers in Scotland went mental

    for all I know)

  • Finishing the story in what we must assume is the last few minutes of The Tenth Planet.

Is this a problem? Mostly no. The references will either go over people’s heads or be seen as quite cool; either way they aren’t essential to being able to follow the plot.

And I guess for the untrained eye, the similarities with Time of the Doctor will go unseen, and there won’t be anyone out there who doesn’t like the set-up to the Christmas episode.

But Bill’s departure – if that’s what it is – was too similar to Clara’s, even to the casual viewer. Objectively, that’s lacking in originality.

Having said that though, where else could it go? Steven Moffat was faced with a choice – just as he did with Clara – of killing the character off or finding a way to give her a happy ending.

Had he not given her that happy ending, it would have been one of the most astonishingly bleak but also brilliant ends to a companion in the show’s history.

I have to say though, the sentimentalist in me is happy that she was spared that end. I like Bill and if it’s the last time we see her then it’s a pity.

The Story Itself

Beyond the similarities it has to old episodes, how good is The Doctor Falls?

Well it’s not without its flaws, but it is very good.

If I was to be critical, I’d say that the Cybermen were all too readily relegated to bit-part players. I’ve said before that they work best as incidental figures because of how devoid of character they are, but then this is

Mon Then

the Tenth Planet Cybermen we’re talking about, and as characterisation goes, they are the best ones. They could have been used better.

I’d also say that much of what went on in this episode amounted to window dressing. Ultimately it didn’t really matter where the characters were, because nothing was resolved. Though Nardole led the villagers to safety, it was left unclear what their long-term fate was, both in terms of Cyberman attack and the ship falling in to the black hole.

And while earlier in the episode it was suggested that they couldn’t get back to the TARDIS because of how time was passing (even though that doesn’t hold up considering the pre-Cybermen came for Bill last week) a magic wand was waved to get the Doctor back there in the end.

In spite of those issues though, what made it enjoyable was the strength of acting from the main players.

Matt Lucas seemed to have more about him as Nardole this week, while Michelle Gomez and John Simm – though both toned down a little bit over the last seven days – worked as a wonderful double act.

Pearl Mackie was excellent as Bill, she really was, and the strength of her acting sold the heartbreaking predicament Bill found herself in.

But best of all was Peter Capaldi.

Even though I don’t think he was always given the best material to work with – why he doesn’t want to regenerate is yet to be explained – he was utterly superb; perhaps the best he’s ever been. Not a single line of dialogue is delivered with anything less than brilliance.

While this looks to be the end of the road for most of the characters, we’ve still got Christmas with Capaldi – the finest actor to play the part in my opinion – and if this is anything to go by, he’ll be tremendous one last time.

Random Observations

  • I feel I might have brushed over how good Missy and The Master were. Some of the lines – including “The Doctor’s dead. He told me he’d always hated you. Let’s go.” and “Urgh, well doesn’t that take all the

    Rory was sad to find out he wasn’t worthy of being in the flashback while that Silurian and her lover were.

    fun out of cruelty” – were sublime, and the way they both stabbed each other in the back was as apt a way for them to go as any.

  • The explanation for how the Master got there and why he was in disguise was also well done.
  • But I’d liked to have seen him regenerate, and felt the suggestion that he had an erection to be a little bit crude for Doctor Who.
  • Hey look, it’s that woman who has made a career out of playing Barbara Windsor.
  • The incidental music was top-notch, as was the direction.
  • On that note, I loved how we saw the Doctor ‘die’ through the shutting of his own eyes.
  • Although if I’m going to be a bit churlish, I found the perspective of the Doctor looking down at ‘Bill’ when he should have been looking up at a Cyberman was a bit off.
  • Anyone else notice that the Cybermen guns used what seemed to be the same sound effect as the Autons from Spearhead from Space?
  • Pearl Mackie’s delivery of the line “Why can’t I be angry” is a highlight of her performance.
  • Maybe I’m being a bit daft but why did they film the pre-credits scene from World Enough and Time a few weeks ago when – based on Capaldi’s hair length – the end of this week’s episode was filmed at the same time as the rest of it?
  • My guess is that the Christmas episode might be all about the two Doctors learning to accept regeneration. I could be off though.
  • The scarecrows were pointless.
  • It’s been pointed out that John Simm’s Master seems to have an obsession with putting the Doctor in a wheelchair. It’s true; it’s happened in every story he’s been in.
  • I was wrong about Nardole’s fate; he wasn’t killed off, and in fact the way he departed – while understated – was nicely handled.

Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review: Final Thoughts

Overwhelmingly, the strengths of The Doctor Falls lie in the performances of the actors. They – led by Peter Capaldi – were on top form.

The writing? Only so-so.

Now we’ve just got to wait six months to see how this era of Doctor Who is going to end.

I’m looking forward to it already.

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 – World Enough and Time Review (or “Spoilers Don’t Always Ruin A Good Thing”)

June 25, 2017

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review of World Enough and Time; after all, it’s the first episode of a two-part story written by the same guy and therefore by the precedent I’ve set it should be reviewed together with next week’s The Doctor Falls..

But I felt I needed to.

Why? For one thing, because the trailer for next week looks like an episode so utterly different in theme that it could completely change the tone of a joint review.

And for another, because – and pardon my language – this was just too fucking good not to.

Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: What’s This One About?

The Big Finish audio Spare Parts done better than RTD managed in 2006.

Thoughts – The Spoiler Effect

If you’re a long-term reader, you’ll remember I went off on a rant about the BBC’s use of spoilers to attract viewers in the 2015 season of the show, and specifically how they ruined Clara’s ‘death’ in Face the Raven.

People have always mocked the Tenth Planet Cybermen costumes. Not me though; this is how they should look.

There was no need for it, especially considering she was in the subsequent three episodes, and it totally ruined what would have been a massive shock to the viewer.

I bring this up because a recurring theme I’ve noticed from viewers and reviewers last night is “Wouldn’t it have been so much better if we didn’t know John Simm or the Tenth Planet Cybermen were going to be in it, especially since the last 20 minutes of the episode were devoted entirely to building up that surprise”.

To that I say yes…and no.

Surprises are great and living in a spoiler free world is usually far better when it comes to watching TV shows. For the life of me, I do not understand why my brother – who considers himself a huge fan of the show – seems to want to seek out plot details in advance of every episode from people who get review copies of the show. I think his dream is that I get access to the BBC’s advance review site so he can see things as early as possible. As a reviewer of the show I could easily do that; everyone else does. But I don’t want to. I want to watch it for the first time on a Saturday night or on Christmas Day in its complete form – and bear in mind that review copies of this episode left out the pre-credits sequence – and enjoy it for what it is.

As much as possible I don’t want to know anything about what I’m going to watch and even avoid the name of the episodes I haven’t seen. It was only for the purposes of the introduction to this review that I looked up what next week’s episode is called.

So yes, if I didn’t know that the Master or the Tenth Planet Cybermen were going to be in it then it would have been a massive and welcome surprise.

But…

The fact it was made common knowledge in advance of the season starting meant months of anticipation and excitement for when they did show up.

I looked forward to last night’s episode more than any since The Day of the Doctor, and unlike that episode – where the build and excitement was let down by the lack of appearances from most of the past Doctors – this one delivered on it.

I watched the initial hints of the Cybermen knowing full well what they were and it cranked up the tension.

I watched the first shot of Mr Razor and said “That’s John Simm”, then enjoyed every subsequent scene knowing that it was going to end with his reveal, and it did.

A man, covered head to toe in cloth, attached to a drip asking repeatedly for Bill to kill him. Yup, this is definitely a kids show….

And I still loved every minute of it.

For me, this episode wasn’t about shock factor, it was about loving the tension of seeing the characters on screen realising what was happening when I already knew.

It was just brilliant.

And whether it had been spoiled already for some or not, I also didn’t know that Bill would be shot and turned into a Cyberman, so that was shocking enough. Whether that sticks or not though, I don’t know. I suspect that somehow or other she’ll get out of it next week.

Spare Parts Retold

Moving away from the surprises, this was also a top episode in general. It was creepy, atmospheric and mostly paced well. I do think it lagged just a little bit in the middle when Bill was downstairs with the Master, but that’s only a minor issue.

While I can’t vouch for the science of it, the idea that time is moving at dramatically different speeds at opposite ends of the ship makes sense and works well within the structure of Dr Who. Well…it makes sense except for why they don’t just go back up to the top floor in the lift, but I’m assuming – unless I’ve missed something – that it’s simply a case of the Master being the only one who knows what’s going on and he just doesn’t want to tell anyone.

It also pays homage to the classic Big Finish audio Spare Parts better than the two-part story from 2006. In some ways – specifically in atmosphere and setting – this is Spare Parts retold, and that’s cool.

Which is better? Well they both have their strengths.

Spare Parts is told at the pace of the classic series and assumes knowledge, but then why would anyone without knowledge of Dr Who buy a Big Finish…

World Enough and Time meanwhile is maybe less about the Cybermen and more about the other characters and that’s good too.

So it’s a difficult call, but then I think the acting was better in this one.

Doctor Who

Possibly the best part about the story – beyond the coolness of having Tenth Planet cybermen of course – was the stuff with Missy at the start. Without question this is the best Michelle Gomez has been as Missy and the way  she was able to take the piss about the whole concept of the show was great.

In particular, the Doctor Who joke tickled me.

In a way, despite the way it was a pisstake, it actually made a lot of sense.

If I was a bit…you know…I’d also say “Oh my god, that makes sense of why WOTAN called him Doctor Who” but then I’m not a bit…you know.

It’s a shame next week is apparently her last stand, but arguably she works best with Peter Capaldi anyway.

The Regeneration Scene

And what about the beginning of the episode?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow that was intense.

I’ve watched it a few times now – because despite not being that much of a nerd, I am still a bit geeky – and it just gets better.

I’d be very surprised if Peter Capaldi doesn’t go out in the most blazing of glories.

Random Observations

  • While I loved the costume and the voices, I didn’t like that the full Mondas Cyberman still made that clunking noise when walking. It really shouldn’t, based on what it was wearing.
  • Similarly, my heart did sink a bit on seeing the ‘regular’ Cybermen in the next time trailer. They suck.
  • It’s cool that they brought the Master back to his roots of being a man who loves a disguise.
  • I also thought that John Simm put in a much better performance than in the past because he toned it down.
  • People often remark that Doctor Who is a kids show, and like I said, the previous episode felt like it. This didn’t. At all. This was grim as grim could be, with men in hospital wards begging for death. Don’t have nightmares, children.
  • The explanation for the head apparatus – that they’ll still feel pain but won’t care – was especially grim.
  • I loved the costumes. They are far better than pretty much any Cyberman costume since the 1960s. It’s what they should be.
  • The Missy stuff is interesting. Is she really a reformed character or will she go back to her evil ways next week? If I was a betting man I’d predict that she will sacrifice herself to try to save the Doctor, much like Roger Delgado was originally supposed to.
  • I also don’t think Nardole is getting out of this alive.
  • Peter Capaldi is looking especially bouffant in the opening scene.
  • The middle section where they go back to explain how they got there – with Bill asking the Doctor to promise not to get her killed – was very well done.
  • The name of the episode is apparently a reference to a book. I didn’t get that reference but I don’t really care.

Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: Final Thoughts

Next week’s episode looks like it might go the way of episodes like The Last of the Timelords and go for a bells and whistles big budget war. I hope it doesn’t because it would fail to properly capitalise on what we’ve seen here.

But even if it does, it won’t spoil the best episode of the show in a long time.

This was fantastic and if Steven Moffat can maintain this level for the remaining two episodes of his tenure, then I won’t be disappointed.

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 Eaters of Light Review (or “Light Filler”)

June 18, 2017

A few months ago there was a bit of excitement among fans of the show that there would be a classic series writer returning to pen an episode in the latest season.

Though I can’t say I was excited, it certainly piqued my interest…until I found out it was by Rona Munro, who wrote the frankly awful Survival.

Hey, maybe in the intervening 28 years she’s got better?

We can but hope…

Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light Review: What’s This One About?

The TARDIS crew go to second century Scotland so that the Doctor and Bill can settle a bet on who knows more about what happened to the Ninth Roman Legion, who famously went missing without trace.

Obviously there are monsters.

And music.

And love.

Or some such nonsense.

Thoughts – It’s All A Bit Kiddy

Seeing as I write my reviews on the Sunday after transmission, I always have a quick look at what other reviewers think first, just out of curiosity.

In one review, the angle they took was that the casting of so many young actors was a clever slap in the face to people who assume that Doctor Who is a kids show.

This is how I felt watching this episode. I think Capaldi felt the same filming it.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to that view.

I felt this episode felt like a kids show rather than something aimed at a broader audience, and not just because of the casting (although it didn’t help).

To me, The Eaters of Light felt…well…a bit light.

There was so little to it that it felt like there was only around 15 minutes of plot accounted for, with the rest made up of unnecessary dialogue and stalling.

The monster of the week had no character to it, it barely appeared and though it was sold to us as one of the greatest threats the universe has ever seen, it was defeated by the equivalent of letting it run outside before closing the door behind it.

The only saving grace was that the last scenes with Missy in the TARDIS at least felt like they were going somewhere, and would lead into next week’s two-part finale.

And hey, maybe that’s it; maybe like Fear Her or Boom Town, this was an episode to kill a bit of time before the proper drama kicks off next week.

Regardless of that though, this wasn’t up to much.

The Characterisation of the Doctor

I’ve always said that Peter Capaldi is fantastic. He’s a superb actor who – by and large – has always been at the top of his game even if the quality of the script isn’t great.

But here I didn’t think he was at his best.

He looked bored and lacking in enthusiasm for the episode and I don’t blame him.

The Doctor was written as a miserable bastard whose only purpose was to deliver expository sciencey dialogue that explained what was going on with the monster of the week up until the last minute where he decided that he must sacrifice himself to save the universe.

And then as it turned out, he wasn’t even allowed to be the hero, as the kids all grouped together to vanquish this apparently unstoppable monster.

Yay, go kids.

I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic either.

Let’s Write An Episode All About The TARDIS’s Auto-Translate Feature Despite Forgetting To Use It A Few Episodes Ago. Yay.

A few weeks ago in my review of Extremis, I asked why the TARDIS didn’t translate the Pope. I wasn’t getting upset about it; I merely asked the question in my Random Observations section.

In one of the replies to my review on the blog – and by the way, I do enjoy hearing what you all think about my opinions even if I don’t agree with them – someone said “As far as Pope not being translated is

“You’re really brave”.
“Are you not coming too?”
“Erm….we’ll remember you”.

concerned I find it curious that you’ve failed to realise how the Tardis translation works. The Tardis translates everything, unless it is funny for her not to.”

Now I’m sorry, but that’s the type of reply that gets my goat a little bit.

It’s as if this reader owns a leaflet containing The Official Rules of Doctor Who that I have perhaps missed and is saying to me that I am unequivocally and factually incorrect to make that observation.

And of course, I’m not.

It’s just an inconsistent approach to writing and it’s a bit lazy, regardless of whether or not people want to excuse it for the sake of sticking up for something that they like.

And it’s that inconsistency that has led me to bring the subject back up today.

In The Eaters of Light, the TARDIS’s auto-translate appears to be a corner-stone in the dialogue, with Bill being surprised she can understand the Romans, the Romans being surprised that they can understand the native Scots and The Doctor making a poor gag about how everyone sounds like children.

Not only is it a bit of an odd thing to bring up so late into Bill’s time in the TARDIS, but it’s clearly just time filling dialogue to mask that there’s very little substance to the episode.

And like I say, it’s brought up mere weeks on from the Pope speaking to Bill in Italian.

So it’s worth bringing up.

Though I did like the gag about how the TARDIS must also have lip-sync.

Random Observations

  • There’s inconsistency in other areas of the episode too. Unlike last week where Nardole was happy to go to Mars and release Missy from the vault, he’s back to asking why they left her unattended. To be fair, the Doctor addresses the inconsistency in the dialogue, but doesn’t explain or excuse it.
  • The stuff with the crows is probably the sort of thing the writer and/or Steven Moffat found dead clever. Again, I just thought it was stalling.
  • I’m from Scotland but I absolutely hate that Celtic music played throughout.
  • And the twee over-amplified accents annoyed me too.
  • I didn’t really understand the ending. The Doctor said he needed to keep watch over the gate because he was the only person with the life span to do it for all eternity. Yet this was resolved by maybe eight humans going in at the same time? How does that work?
  • Also notice that while the young Scots girl was well up for it, her brave mates basically said “We’ll remember you but we’re fucked if we’re coming too”. Nice.
  • The premise to the episode is a good one though. There’s a reason for them being there.
  • I noticed over the past week that there was a bit of controversy over the casting of a black actor in Queen Victoria’s army. If you missed it, Mark Gatiss wasn’t too keen on the casting – done not for realism but because the BBC want casting to be a bit less ‘homogeneously white’ – until he was placated by the evidence that there was one single black soldier in her army. I see both points. The BBC are right to encourage multicultural casting – and if we’re being honest, there should be a lot more of it in shows like Eastenders – but you’ve surely got to cast accurately for the role. I can’t see many people complaining that Doctor Who is homogeneously white when Pearl Mackie plays the second lead and so I doubt anyone would have been upset about it if that soldier had been played by a white guy. Anyway, I bring this all up because again, an ancient army has been cast in a multicultural way. But before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the Roman Army that came to Britain was filled with men from North Africa.
  • Looking ahead to next week, I felt it was a bit ‘name-checky’ to call them ‘Mondasian Cybermen’.
  • And I’m annoyed that that same awful Cybermen incidental music is back.
  • I was hoping for the 1960s Cybermen incidental music to go with them. Let’s hope it happens.

Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light Review: Final Thoughts

My brother said to me yesterday morning “I’m looking forward to next week’s episode; I can’t help but think this one will just be filler”.

He was right.

The Eaters of Light was a strangely empty episode with a childrens TV feel and a poorly written Doctor.

It’s not terrible, but it’s far from being good.

Though I hope Rona Munro isn’t asked back.

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