TV: Daredevil Review (‘A Slow Burning Triumph’) – Spoiler Free

April 16, 2015

I tend to start my reviews of Superhero movies with “I like Superhero movies”, but in spite of that, I’ve never been especially fond of Superhero TV shows.

The likes of Arrow, The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left me so underwhelmed that I never bothered to watch anything more than one or two episodes. They seem dodgily acted, not especially well written and often weighed down by existing lore that we should apparently know but might be unaware of.

So there was always a risk that Daredevil might not grab me, especially considering the bad reputation the movie had.

Thankfully that didn’t turn out to be the case

Daredevil Review – Spoiler Free Thoughts

As it turns out, I really enjoyed Daredevil.

The problems I outline above don’t apply to it much at all.

Yes, it helps to know that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, New York was badly damaged by the events of the first Avengers movie, and that the nature of the rebuilding works and organised crime in Hell’s Daredevil-Netflix-LogoKitchen are spawned from that, but that’s all.

Even if you hadn’t seen that film, it spells it out for you anyway.

Beyond that, Daredevil exists in its own world, and it rooted in a more realistic setting than some of Marvel’s other offerings. None of the characters possess cosmic powers or are mutations. Daredevil is just a blind guy who has built his other senses up to make his lack of sight a non-issue. Meanwhile, the Kingpin is just a powerful underworld crime figure who isn’t intent on destroying the universe and doesn’t wear any daft costumes.

So that’s all great.

Moreover, because it’s written like that, then the entire nature of the show becomes more adult than you usually get from Marvel.

As part of that, the fight scenes come across as grittier and more realistic. Instead of the explosive, cartoon-like ‘violence’ of the movies, the director seems to have made a conscious choice to approach Daredevil more like The Raid. For those who like that sort of thing, the fight scenes and the action sequences in general are well produced and meticulously executed.

But for me, the more – indeed the most – enjoyable aspect of Daredevil is the characterisation.

You come to expect drama like this to have characters with very clearly defined positions. One is all good, the other is deep-rooted in evil. Look at the Captain America movies as an example of what I mean. He is the good old All-American boy fighting off against the evil German with the red skull for a head. You know who is right and who is wrong.

Daredevil is different. The team behind it have made a conscious decision to make the character of Wilson Fisk – The Kingpin – someone who you could have sympathy for. His means might be questionable, but his motives appear to have some good in them, and his background is one you might feel empathy towards. On the other hand, the part Daredevil plays in proceedings is often questioned, not only by his friends but by the man himself.

By setting the story up to be less black & white than the norm, it made it a lot more interesting for me.

And I should also note that part of the credit for that must also go to the actors involved, and especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Fisk. He makes every scene he’s in a delight.

Finally, I would say that by releasing all episodes on NetFlix in one go helps the viewer enjoy the show more. Or at least it helped me.

Without question, Daredevil is a slow burner which builds a story over almost 13 hours of television. But that allows it to come to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion. If it was on for only one episode per week, you might think it moved too slowly, with some episodes not advancing the overall story-arc much, but by having episodes available in bulk, you can watch it over the course of a week and get a greater appreciation for what each one is trying to achieve.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to watch it all in one day, but I absolutely would suggest watching it.

Because it’s well worth your time.

It’s a slow burning triumph.

 

Remember to buy my books folks; they are available on Amazon. Read about them here


TV: The Bridge Review

February 27, 2015

There are people out there who won’t give subtitled television a chance.

The idea is that you’d be ‘reading’ rather than ‘watching’ the TV.

And while I can understand that, I’d suggest that you’re missing out on some cracking shows if that is how you think.bridge

Take The Bridge for example.

A joint Danish and Swedish effort, this is a crime drama that has so far run for two seasons since 2011.

And it’s brilliant.

Season One deals with a cross-border serial killer whose style is to bring some of society’s inequalities to the surface (i.e. he kills homeless people to emphasise how society doesn’t care about them etc).

Season Two concerns eco-terrorism.

Both run for an engaging 10 episodes each and have plots that neither outstay their welcome nor leave anything out. Everything and everyone in the show is in it for a reason, and all story-arcs are fully explored.

What I would say is best out it though is the way the two lead characters – the socially unaware Aspergers-suffering Swedish detective, Saga Noren and the friendly and emotional Danish cop, Martin Rohde – are written and performed.

Both characters work so well together, and Noren especially (played superbly by Sofia Helin) is just a revelation. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone like her in TV before, at least not in a lead role. It’s her bluntness and inability to understand how some of the things she says and does aren’t ‘socially acceptable’ (such as openly discussing her sex life or misreading sarcasm) that make her such a joy to watch.

And that’s the key here. You soon forget that you are reading subtitles and just become engrossed in each episode.

Without question, this is a show you’ll want to watch, and you can find it on NetFlix if it does interest you.

I can’t wait until Season 3!

 

 

Did You Know I Have A Book Out?

I’ve just released my second book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two – The Modern Era.

You can find out more about that here.


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

February 26, 2015

Hi guys,SG_Cvr_04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The links to the books are…

Book One
Book Two

and for the US Store…

Book One
Book Two

Cheers,

Stuart Milne

 

 


The Stuart Reviews Stuff TV, Movies & Games Awards 2014

January 4, 2015

The beauty of modern-day media is that when you want to look back at the past year’s movies, games and TV shows, you can very easily find out what you watched/played and when that was.

Gaming platforms and Netflix will keep a record of what you’ve enjoyed (or maybe hated), while other TV shows you might…erm…somehow acquired on your PC will still be there with a time stamp for when they first appeared on your hard drive.

So with that in mind, here’s the Stuart Reviews Stuff 2014 TV, Movies & Games Awards.

Movies

A quick look back at my reviews shows that I’ve seen the following movies released in 2014…

12 Years a Slave, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Gone Girl, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Imitation Game, The Inbetweeners 2, Interstellar, Into the Storm, Last Vegas, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, Non Stop, The Raid 2, The Two Faces of January, Under the Skin, What We Did On Our Holiday, The Wolf of Wall Street and X Men: Days of Future Past.

You can read the reviews of each of these movies elsewhere on this blog.

Now, apart from the annoying fact that the amount of movies I’ve seen means that I’ve once again lost money on my Cineworld Unlimited Card, I would say that 2014 hasn’t actually been the best of years for Hollywood.

Sure, a lot of the movies you see listed above are enjoyable enough, but very few would warrant a second viewing. I was asked at my social circle’s annual Christmas meal what my favourite one out of that lot is, and to be honest, it was a bit of a struggle.

And the two that are in contention aren’t exactly the sort of effort that would go down as an all time classic.

As good as this movie was, it shows that 2014 wasn't the best year for the medium

As good as this movie was, it shows that 2014 wasn’t the best year for the medium

The worst one comes easier though; that’s for sure.

So….

Best Movie of 2014:  What We Did On Our Holiday

Largely flying under the radar, What We Did On Our Holiday wins because it was funny, charming and well worthy of my recommendation.

Worst Movie of 2014: 12 Years A Slave

There’s no doubt there will be worse movies released in 2014, but I chose not to see them.

12 Years A Slave is boring, goes on too long, is far too worthy and one of these movies that only gets praised by people who feel they have to because of the subject matter. At the time, people called it “White Guilt: The Movie” and they were probably on to something.

Interestingly, by the end of the year, I noticed people were looking back on it and saying “Well yeah…it was a bit pish”. 

But I said it at the time.

Pleasant Surprise of the Year: Under the Skin

Based on it being a suggestion from my brother – and he has crap taste in films, believe me – I thought Under the Skin would be a load of crap. Indeed, everything about it screamed that it was the sort of thing I wouldn’t enjoy.

But I did. I actually found it a fascinatingly different movie experience.

It’s well worth your time.

Television

Unlike with movies, I’d say 2014 has been a good year for television.

We’ve had a most welcome increase in the quality of Doctor Who compared recent years (and seeing as I write enough about Doctor Who, that’s the last time I’ll mention it in this article), the World Cup actually lived up to the hype for once and the good shows mostly retained a level of consistency.

There were bad points as well though, and I’ll get to them too.

Most Unrealistic Moment In Television Award: Jack Bauer Beats The Traffic

As decent as 24: Live Another Day was, I can’t have been the only person who sat there thinking “There’s no way he’d be able to get from X to Y in that amount of time without running into traffic”? 

Ridiculous.

The Lost The Plot Award: Under the Dome

Let’s be honest, Season One of Under the Dome didn’t have much of a plot to it to begin with, but it was crap in a ludicrously charming way. Season Two though was just crap. All of a sudden new characters appeared despite the show being set in a town that’s trapped under a dome. And those characters were so one-dimensional and poorly acted that it just made me lose interest. I never bothered finishing it.

The ‘They Finished It Like THAT?!’ Award: How I Met Your Mother’s Finale

A kick in the balls to everyone who stuck with that stinking final season, the ending of How I Met Your Mother made me angrier than I thought a TV show could. Quite an achievement.

The Out of Touch Award: The Newsroom

I like The Newsroom and for the most part enjoyed its final season (other than the stuff with that self-righteous twat Neal Sampat), but what struck me about it was the smug, out of touch mentality in Aaron

Neal Sampat: Smug Prick

Neal Sampat: Smug Prick

Sorkin’s writing concerning the way news reporting is changing. Apparently, on-the-ground news reporting on social media is not as worthy as these old hacks delivering their days-later approach to TV and print media news journalism. That’s just not true. Both have their place, but if you disregard the power of Twitter and its influence on how news is reported, then you’re living in the past.

The “This Gets Praise Because It’s Worthy” Award: Rectify

I’d give it to True Detective, but I couldn’t even make it through a whole episode. Rectify is one of these shows that is critically acclaimed by almost everyone and yet it’s not particularly entertaining. Ok, it’s got an interesting subject matter, but it’s so slow-paced and lacking in anything resembling oomph. Having finished the first season I couldn’t be arsed going back to it.

The Best Online Show Award: Orange is the New Black

I didn’t bother with this in 2013 when the first season hit NetFlix but gave it a shot when Season Two was released in 2014.

If you haven’t given OitB a shot, you really should. The storylines are both dramatic and amusing, the characters are varied and the acting is mostly good. Very entertaining stuff.

Best Comedy: 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown

Easily the most consistently funny show on TV, Cats Does Countdown gets extra points because you actually get to engage your brain and think while you’re watching.

Most Annoying TV Show: Scandal

At first, Scandal seems like a pretty good show, but when you stop to think about it, it includes some of the worst people to have ever lived as characters. Olivia Pope is positioned as the protagonist but is really just an unpleasant, adulterous cow, while the US President is a weak slimeball of a man. And then there’s that music that gets played in every single fucking episode where Pope and the Prez share an intimate moment. Urgh. I gave up on it.

The “Well We’ve Killed Everyone Else So You’ll Have To Do” Award: Maggie Pierce in Grey’s Anatomy

So apart from Derek and the kids, Meredith’s family are dead, and with Yang gone, what else is there for Grey’s Anatomy’s lead character? How about bringing in the half-sister she never knew existed who is also the daughter of Webber? That’ll stand up to scrutiny and is in no way a shark jumping moment.

The Most Innovative Episode of TV Award: The GI. Joe Episode of Community

Apparently this didn’t do well in the ratings, but the premise, the animation style and the humour of the GI. Joe episode of Community is beyond amazing for a child of the 1980s like me.

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I've seen. Class.

The GI Joe Episode of Community was one of the most inventive episodes of a TV show I’ve seen. Class.

The TV Show That Shouldn’t Work But Does: 2 Broke Girls

It’s got some of the worst acting you’ll ever see and the jokes are as subtle as sledgehammer to the balls, but there’s something I just find incredibly entertaining about 2 Broke Girls.

The Style Error of the Year Award: Kaley Cuoco’s Haircut

She looks at least five years older and like the sort of person you’d find serving in a particularly rough pub now.

Grow it back Penny, grow it back!

The Most Annoying Aspect of TV You Don’t Really Mind Award: Castle

I love Castle, but have you ever noticed that every single episode has at least three bits where Castle and Beckett are talking about a case and just at the point where they question something, Ryan comes in with “Actually, that might not be true. Have a look at this”. It should be more annoying than it is, but because it’s Castle, I’ll let them away with it.

The “My Interest Is Holding By A Thread” Award: WWE

Never has WWE been less interesting than it currently is. A tiny roster that never seems to change, far too many hours of TV to fill each week and the same matches and storylines being repeated over and over. I only watch now because I’ve been a viewer since 1991 and to stop now would seem wrong.

Mind you, I stopped watching Neighbours…

The Hidden Gem Award: Continuum

If it wasn’t for the fact it’s on NetFlix, I doubt I’d have ever heard of Continuum, and yet it’s easily been my best new discovery of 2014.

Sadly, just as I’ve become a fan, the word is that the next season will be the last.

If you don’t know much about it, check it out.

The “Let It Die” Award: Only An Excuse?

Seeing as my article on it had over 2,500 views the day it was published, I think a lot of people agree. Utter drivel which needs taken off TV.

Games

Like I say in my intro, I have a complete list of new games that I’ve played in 2014 thanks to Steam, PSN and the Wii U.

That list reads as…

PC

Always Sometimes Monsters
Broken Age
Dark Souls
Football Manager 2015
Guacamelee
One Finger Death Punch
Pac-Man Museum

PS4

Worms Battleground
COD: Ghosts
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare
COD: Advanced Warfare
FIFA 15
Steamworld Dig
Mercenary Kings
Far Cry 4
Lego Marvel
Alien: Isolation
Binding of Isaac

Wii U

Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Pikmin 3
Mario Kart 8
Nintendo Land
NES Remix
Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

And obviously some of them didn’t even come out in 2014, but then I don’t think that should mean they can’t be involved in the awards.

Most Disappointing Game Awards: Worms Battleground

You wouldn’t think it’d be hard to make a new Worms game, but Team 17 made a right old mess of Battleground. It looks drab, has limited maps and complicated, awkward game modes with no explanation anywhere in any manuals or on the internet to explain what they are. They even got rid of Crazy Crates. We gave it our best shot, but ultimately me and my Worms playing pals moved back to the Xbox 360 version.

How could they get it so wrong?

How could they get it so wrong?

It’s Great If You Don’t Like Moving Award: Alien Isolation

Here’s a game that gets a massive amount of praise from all corners of the internet. Against my better judgement, I gave it a go and it wasn’t the most exciting game in the world. Yes, it looked great, it was atmospheric and when the Alien finally showed up it was surprisingly tense trying to avoid it, but I got the feeling that once you’d seen the Alien once, it was going to be downhill from there. Quite a clumsy game with a daft checkpoint system that meant you’d replay large sections of the game over and over again if you died.

I won’t finish it.

Best Looking Game: Anything By Nintendo

Whether it’s Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8 or Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Nintendo just make beautiful games. They are great to look at and are all fantastic to play.

Most Innovative Game Mode: Mario Chase on Nintendo Land

It’s a simple setup. The player with the Wii U pad looks at the screen on the pad while 2-4 players with Wiimotes watch the TV screen. The first player must hide from the rest and they must chase him. Great fun with plenty of replay value.

The “I Don’t Get The Hype” Award: Dark Souls

The polar opposite of those Nintendo games, Dark Souls is as grim as it gets, looks very unappealing and plays in a laboured manner. It’s just not for me.

The “It’s Still Got It” Award: Pac Land on Pac-Man Museum

A game I first played on the arcades in the 1980s, Pac Land  remains an excellent game.

The Most Annoying Aspect of Any Game Award: Handicapping On FIFA 15 Ultimate Team

My Favourite Game of 2014

My Favourite Game of 2014

My amazing run of form on FIFA 15’s Ultimate Team Mode came to a crashing halt when I bought a few players to increase my team rating to 83. The moment that happened everything fell apart. Passes went astray, easy goalscoring chances were missed and penalty after penalty was given away. I never thought handicapping was an issue, but the moment I put some crappy players on my bench to bring my team’s overall score down to 81, things went back to normal.

It’s apparently a situation designed to prevent coin buyers from succeeding, but ultimately it ridiculously handicaps people who have put in the hours to build a team the right way.

After that I didn’t touch FIFA for more than a month

The “People Are Finally Opening Their Eyes”Award: Critics Pan WWE 2K15

Wrestling games have been shit for years; I’ve discussed it at length here.

Finally this year the review sites picked up on it and WWE 2K15 got the hammering it probably deserves.

Fire Yukes!

The Most Enjoyable Game of the Year Award: Mercenary Kings

By no means is Mercenary Kings the best looking, most polished or smoothest to play game, but I’ve played it week after week for an hour or so at a time with a friend online and have enjoyed every moment of it.

I consider gaming a social thing for the most part, so being able to play this for so long (and I’m still barely half way through) whilst chatting with friends is ideal. And unlike FIFA or Call of Duty, there’s no stress associated with it.

Top stuff. There hasn’t been a game I’ve enjoyed more in 2014.

Like This Article? Agree or Disagree With Anything In It?

Let me know on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @sgmilne


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

October 18, 2014

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

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

Examples of  lines used in those articles include…

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

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

Yet there it was; episode after episode of dreariness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It would get people considering it a Golden Age.

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

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

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

Thoughts – To Start With A Criticism

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

Put simply, the monsters were too easily defeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Now To The Praise

Yup, Flatline is another quality story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random Observations

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: Final Thoughts

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

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

But it did.

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

We’re in a Golden Age folks.

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

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

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


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

October 11, 2014

I can’t help it.

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

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

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

What?

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

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

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

You’ve got to love an enigmatic episode title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I do like it.

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

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

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

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

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

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

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

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

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

But Back To The Matter At Hand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brilliant stuff.

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

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

Random Observations

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

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

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

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

Now I’ve gone and jinxed it!

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


Doctor Who – Kill The Moon Review (or “So We Have To Call The Patrick Troughton Story ‘The Eggbase’ Now Do We? Hmmph”)

October 9, 2014

A couple of notes before I launch into this review.

1) This is late because I’ve been away on holiday, although I did get to see the episode as it was transmitted.

2) I’ve just gone through the comments section of my blog and realised there were about 30 Dr Who comments that I hadn’t actually approved. So if you’ve been making comments and wondering why they haven’t appeared, I apologise.

But anyway, back to the review and it’s Kill The Moon.

Like I say, I watched this on holiday with friends and I had to impress upon them with great sternness that they must not talk at any point during it. And they managed to achieve that, but by keeping quiet, they also fell asleep after about 5 minutes.

I certainly wasn’t complaining…

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

The Doctor makes a schoolgirl feel special (and isn’t it sad that people will read into that the wrong way in this Yewtree era) and falls out with Clara after pissing her off once too often. Also, some fans who look for reasons to dislike have also now got the trump card of “I can’t watch The Moonbase anymore without thinking it should be called The Eggbase”)

Thoughts – Fallout Watch

Every time I write a new Doctor Who review, I promise myself I’m not going to spend too much time analysing what other people think. As you’ll remember, a few reviews back I was pretty critical of fandom to the point where it upset some people, and what I

That kid is looking over his shoulder thinking "Why is that substitute Caretaker still hanging around? And why is he so well dressed?"

That kid is looking over his shoulder thinking “Why is that substitute Caretaker still hanging around? And why is he so well dressed?”

don’t want is for people to think that I’m scoffing at their opinions.

And everyone is entitled to an opinion, although I’ll take it more seriously if it’s well thought out (and I’m sorry, but hating on this story because it “Ruins the Moonbase” is not something I’ll take seriously)

My opinion will come soon, but writing this on the Thursday following its broadcast, the dust has well and truly had time to settle and the reviews are in.

And there’s no doubt that Kill The Moon has been divisive.

Forums are split between people giving it 5 stars and 1 star, Twitter was ablaze with negativity and positivity and reviews have fallen on two sides of a very large fence.

But what I’ve noticed is that the ones who are being more full of praise are people looking to be entertained for 45 minutes on a Saturday night, while the ones who are being negative are ones who perhaps are holding Dr Who to a certain standard, not necessarily of script quality but rather or maintaining a certain ethos.

Or to put it another way, if you go to a general entertainment site like Den Of Geek, IGN, Digital Spy or the majority of the newspaper websites, you’ll read glowing reviews of this episode, but if you visit Dr Who forums, there will be large sections of the membership base who’ll dislike it because it doesn’t follow what they believe Doctor Who should be about (an example of which was that Clara threatening to slap the Doctor was wrong because you never saw a Classic Era companion do that)

And that’s an opinion people are entitled to have, although I’d question why they continue to watch the show.

Having checked out the fan polls of each of the season’s stories so far on a few sites, I see some people have given every story either 1/5 or 1/10. To those people, may I suggest that you save yourself pain and just stop watching?

Anyway, that’s enough of me discussing other people’s opinions, here are mine.

A Top Story With Issues On Second Viewing

Now I know there are going to be some people who sit back and scoff the moment they read this, but I really enjoyed it on my initial viewing.

Not a happy camper

Not a happy camper

It worked for me because it told a story that developed from beginning to end, it kept me engrossed, it had me guessing and it provided me with that brilliant “Ah, now it all makes sense” conclusion. The whole point – on first viewing – was that the Doctor had brought them to a key and decisive moment in the Earth’s history so that Courtney could feel special and so Clara could blossom. That’s fantastic and ticks all the boxes for a good story.

On second viewing though, I think there are some issues.

The first thing is that the prolepsis pre-credits sequence is utterly pointless. But I’ll let them off with that because I think sometimes the need to have a pre-credits sequence works as a bit of crutch anyway. The idea is that it has to be dramatic and hook you in before the opening credits, even though it makes not the slightest bit of difference in the UK – where we don’t have a commercial break between these scenes – whether or not you start with one of not.

And because Kill the Moon is a slow burner, there’s no obvious point where you could insert a pre-credits cliffhanger moment anyway.

The main issue I have with it on second viewing though is the Doctor’s involvement.

On first viewing, I didn’t really spare a huge amount of thought to how he acted for the first 35 minutes of the episode when it was revealed – or at least heavily hinted at – that he knew what was happening there the whole time. On second time, you can’t help but focus on it and question why he acts like he doesn’t have a clue what’s going on before the reveal.

That they outright did not say that he knew what was going on pardons that to some extent, but it still gets marked down a touch in my eyes for it.

These are not game changers for me though; I hugely enjoyed watching Kill the Moon on both occasions.

The Way The Doctor & Clara Are Written

Central to my enjoyment was the way the Doctor & Clara were written and performed.

I’ve given a lot of credit to Peter Capaldi on this blog, and he deserves it. Once again, he delivered some fantastic lines – best of which was his superb delivery of “Oh don’t be so stupid” when Courtney asks if the TARDIS has any games – but it’s easy for me to only

Someone just told these Cybermen that they are standing on an egg. In particular, the one on the left feels like a right cunt

Someone just told these Cybermen that they are standing on an egg. In particular, the one on the left feels like a right cunt

give him the credit and not the writer for coming up with these lines in the first place.

The Doctor – now probably more than ever before – has a character that feels deep, interesting and believable and that is massively down to Moffat and his team.

The best comparison for that would be Matt Smith’s Doctor, who for me was unbelievable. He was quite clearly a guy trying his very hardest to act wacky and alien and he was written inconsistently by writers who didn’t seem to know what his character should be from one episode to the next. Capaldi on the other hand almost comes across like he’s making these lines up himself, such is his comfort in the role and credit must be shared all round for that. When you go back to watch this entire season in quick succession, you’ll watch one episode and see how even the best of actors can have a bad day when the lines they have had written for them don’t match the character. Most of the writers (*cough* except Gatiss *cough*) have done themselves proud.

The credit for them doesn’t stop there, as – like I’ve been saying all season – Clara is also written well and she too is comfortable and believable in her role.

I had read some criticism of her performance here in the aftermath of its transmission and I just don’t have a clue where that is coming from. She’s terrific throughout, and is on fire in her scene with the Doctor at the end.

And that scene, by the way, was probably the very best thing about the episode. It would have been the perfect way for a companion to leave if that was the aim, and it’ll be interesting to see how they follow up on this next week.

Put it this way; if Clara goes back to being a happy-go-lucky companion without a clear reason for why she has forgiven the Doctor, then I’ll be disappointed.

Random Observations

  • There’s no doubt that the science is crap here, but I really don’t care about that. This wasn’t the Wheel In Space where the plot was based around a ludicrous lack of logic, but instead it was based around the notion that we accept the Moon is an egg and that when it hatched, it laid another moon sized egg in its place. If you can’t do that for the sake of enjoyment, then how can you accept any of the monsters?
  • The other thing I’ve seen people criticise the story for is that it’s a tail about abortion beneath the surface. Even after two viewings, I didn’t pick up on that, although it’s an interesting theory. I’m not fussed by it though, because it would only make a difference to me if it was so obvious that it overshadowed the story, and it didn’t.
  • To go back to how the Doctor is written, I loved the “You can’t post pictures of me online” bit, as if that was the most important thing to talk about.
  • I also thought the “Somebody deserves a thank you” bit was great.
  • One criticism I would have though is that the other two astronauts were only there so they could be killed off.
  • Another one would be the way Courtney Woods suddenly ignored the life threatening situation she was in to have a crack at Clara for dating Danny. That seemed silly.
  • Will the kids of Coal Hill School not be thinking “The Caretaker dresses a bit fancy does he not?”
  • Or even “Why is the substitute Caretaker still hanging around?”
  • It’s good to see a new writer given a chance here. Peter Harness (which unfortunately for him sounds like a brand of underwear) knocked it out of the park with Kill the Moon.
  • I’ve noticed that society has a problem – especially when it comes to children – with not being considered “special”. This whole episode was based around trying to solve a “disruptive influence’s” behavioral problems. You see that these days in schools and kids sports clubs where certain age groups now never have winners or losers, and everyone gets a medal. Not that this is the sort of place for this debate, but I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. If kids are mollycoddled to that extent in school then they are in for a shock when they enter the real world.
  • So the point is, maybe this whole episode should have finished in less than five minutes with the Doctor suggesting that Courtney get a grip and see a behavioral psychologist?
  • If you’ve ever thought of watching the horror film Apollo 18, don’t. This is far better.

Doctor Who – Kill The Moon Review: Final Thoughts

While Kill the Moon has certain issues that make you criticise it more on second viewing, it is still – on the whole – a fantastic episode of Doctor Who.

For me, it felt fresh, it flowed well and it had a top ending with Clara reading the Doctor the riot act.

Once again, another episode in this season has been a success.

Surely the run has to stop soon?

As always, here’s my reminder to buy the book – Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: The Classic Era

 


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