TV – Line of Duty Review (or ‘The Best TV Show You’ve Never Seen’)

April 29, 2016

For the last few weeks, I’ve been bugging anyone who’ll listen at work with one simple question…

“Do you watch Line of Duty?”

Tucked away on BBC2 on a Thursday night, I’d never heard of this drama about corruption in the police force until I began to notice sites like Digital Spy proclaim it the best thing currently on TV.Line-of-Duty

With the first two seasons on NetFlix and the current one just finished last night, I decided to give it a go.

It was a great decision, because Line of Duty is the best thing currently on TV.

It’s gritty, dramatic, shocking and utterly engrossing. What’s more, it’s both written and acted tremendously.

Though each season focuses on one specific corrupt member of the force – played by well-known British actors in the same way as Columbo would cast US Stars to play the bad guys – there’s a linking theme that carries on throughout all three seasons and will no doubt continue into the ones that will follow. And what a theme it is. I won’t spoil it for you, but needless to say, by the time last night’s finale aired emotions were running high and I was genuinely nervous/excited to see how things would pan out.

That’s how good Line of Duty is.

Like I say above, the acting in this is tremendous, and in particular I love the scenes where the bad guys are brought in for questioning by our heroes at AC-12 played by Adrian Dunbar, Martin Compston and Vicky McClure. In no way light, these are intense scenes that sometimes run up to almost 25 minutes long and must be difficult to act, both in terms of remembering lines and maintaining the right emotional notes. But everyone involved manage it with aplomb. In particular, I think Dunbar’s character – Superintendent Ted Hastings – with his Northern Irish accent and fire and brimstone mentality is just fantastic here. He’s like the moral guardian we all wish was running the police force in reality.

The one thing I don’t want to do in this review is to give away any spoilers whatsoever – to do so would be a disservice to what is one of the finest examples of drama I think I’ve ever seen – so I’ll simply finish this review by saying that if you’ve heard people at your work raving about this show, there’s a good reason for it. It is as good as they are making out and you will love it.

So close down this page, go onto NetFlix now and start watching.

You won’t regret it.

 


Movies – Deadpool Review (or ‘R-Rated To The Point Of Oversaturation’)

February 15, 2016

The success of Deadpool is an interesting one.

Here’s a film – one in which Marvel’s rebel ‘hero’ Deadpool explains his origin to the viewers while trying to get revenge on the man who scarred him for life – that has dared to be different and break free from the cookie cutter Marvel Superhero movie mould, and boy do they make that obvious.

From the off it’s swearing, nudity, meta dialogue and toilet humour, and based on its opening weekend box office success – it’s made a lot more money than almost every other Marvel franchise except the Avengers,

Oh look, he's pointing to his crotch; how naughty.

Oh look, he’s pointing to his crotch; how naughty.

and it’s done it at a fraction of the cost – it seems as though the public at large want to see it. Certainly the cinema was as busy as I’d seen it in years when I went yesterday.

That’s both good and bad.

Other than Ant-Man, Marvel’s cinematic output has been the same for years and I think people are getting a little tired of it. In Deadpool they offer up a non kid-friendly R-Rated feast that openly takes the piss out of everything that’s come before it, and it does it with some style.

So that’s good.

What’s not so good is that it might well spawn a series of imitation films.

For you see, to me, Deadpool was like coming off a sensible and strict low-calorie diet and eating nothing but chocolate, sweets and junk food for a week. It starts off great but eventually it all gets a bit much.

And though I found it funny in parts, there came a saturation point where it began to get a bit wearing.

If I was a 15-year-old boy, I’d probably consider it the best movie I’d ever seen, but I’m not; I’m a 33-year-old man and swearing for the sake of swearing doesn’t have quite the same appeal as it once did.

You might think I’m coming across as a stick-in-the-mud by saying that, but I think my point is valid.

I just felt that by having the freedom to do or say what they wanted, the writers ended up using the R-Rating as a crutch rather than a way to make the best story possible.

Really, this is just a basic vigilante storyline – think of a comedy Death Wish rather than a Superhero flick – that tries that little bit too hard to be smart, and ends up suffering as a result.

As a one-off it was good enough and enjoyable up to a point – and I must mention that I thought Ryan Reynolds was top-notch as the lead – but I don’t think we need to see it spawn a number of imitators.

Sadly, I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

 

 

 

 


TV – The Man in the High Castle Review (or ’10 Hours Was More Than Enough Time To Tell This Story In One Season’)

February 13, 2016

If I was to sum up The Man in the High Castle in one sentence, it would be that it’s a great idea for a TV show in principle, but the execution of that idea leaves a little to be desired.

I know that should really be the conclusion to my review rather than the introduction, but I felt the need to put my cards on the table early.

A TV show – and I know it’s based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, but I’m operating on the assumption that in 2016 most viewers won’t have read the book – set in the 1960s about a world where the Nazis and Japanese won the Second World War and share an uneasy divide of the former United States of America does sound interesting. Add to that the early twist where a character finds a film reel showing highcastlenews footage of the ‘our’ end to the war (where the Allies win) and you have the potential for a science fiction masterpiece.

But alas, the idea is not enough to make it so.

So what’s the problem?

Is the acting poor? No it’s not. Everyone involved, from the lead actors like Alexa Davalos and Rufus Sewell down to guest artists like Burn Gorman do a perfectly acceptable job and make the most of the material they have to work with.

Is it the design? Again, no. This looks brilliant and credit must be given for the way the world looks suitably different as a result of the Axis winning the war. The American architecture and even vehicle design has been changed to look like it’s influenced by their new overlords.

So what’s the problem?

The pacing.

It’s become the done thing for TV shows nowadays to be made with more than one season in mind. That’s fine most of the time, but when you’re basing a show on a 239 page book, there’s only so much story you can tell without adding unnecessary padding. Running at almost 10 hours in length, there was more than enough time to tell this story in a single season.

But because they’ve obviously decided that this will run and run, the more interesting aspects – such as what the hell is going on with those film reels – are almost totally ignored and instead we’ve got scene after scene of the Japanese Trade Minister looking longingly into the middle distance and Frank’s mate Ed telling him to be careful.

I did watch through it all, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it when Season Two comes out, but it was a struggle at times.

I suspect that when it finally ends, people will look back and talk about how it should have finished earlier and that the premise was extended for too long.

In that respect it will probably end up like Under the Dome; another TV show based on a book that would have worked a lot better if it was condensed into one action packed season, but alas outstayed its welcome.

So while it’s not unenjoyable, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend you avoid it, you’ll have to approach it knowing that it probably could have been done better.

 


Doctor Who – The Husbands of River Song Review (or ‘River Finally Has An Age Appropriate Doctor’)

December 30, 2015

Apologies to those of you who have been waiting patiently for my review of The Husbands of River Song to be posted, but this really is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and watch it again.

Because let’s face it; I wasn’t going to review it on Christmas Day while still suffering from a Food Coma.

Anyway it’s here now, so let’s get to it…

Doctor Who – The Husbands of River Song Review: What’s This One About?

Christmas Day hijinx and what – I assume – will be River Song’s final appearance in the show.

But then I’ve said that before.

Thoughts – Light Entertainment For All The Family

Before I get down to business with the main thrust of my review, I’ll just be brief with this, because I’ve said it a few times over the years and I don’t think it needs to be delved into too deeply again.

I wonder if anyone sat at home and wondered "Gosh, how did they do that special effect"?

I wonder if anyone sat at home and wondered “Gosh, how did they do that special effect”?

Put simply, this is a Christmas Day episode and seeing as it wasn’t one where the Doctor regenerates, it therefore makes sense for it to be quite light. After all, nobody really wants to spend Christmas Day working out overly complex plots or being depressed by the bleakness of our own mortality; the latter point is covered by Eastenders a couple of hours later.

No, this should be fun and maybe a little bit frivolous.

Some might not like that, but I’m happy enough with it.

So on that score, this episode did not disappoint.

This Must Be The End Of River Song Now?

For me, the main point of discussion is the stuff with River Song.

 

If you’ve read my reviews over the years you’ll know that I felt the River Song story arc just got away from Steven Moffat. What started as a good idea in Silence in the Library spiralled out of control to the point it seemed as though he was making it up as he went along.

Now she’s back again and considering this is meant to be her final meeting with the Doctor before she sees him for the last time in the aforementioned David Tennant story, I imagine that this is the end.

As a viewer, I could take two approaches.

I could just block out everything else and take this final appearance on its own merits. If I go with this option, The Husbands of River Song works. It’s touching, quite sad and well acted.

I can't look at Peter Capaldi in that suit without thinking of...

I can’t look at Peter Capaldi in that suit without thinking of…

So it would get thumbs up.

But as a long-term viewer, I should be taking a different approach.

I should be able to watch this and know without having to look stuff up how River and the Doctor got to this point. I should know the background of the diary (and I thought I did, but apparently not), I should know without being told that this restaurant is the last place they meet before the library and I should be swept up in the emotion of a story arc that has lasted for almost 10 years.

I can’t do that though.

The story arc is too complex and out of control. I don’t want to read up on stuff to refresh my memory, even though it seems like my memory is cheating me.

For some reason, I thought it was on record that River only ever met two incarnations of the Doctor, and I also thought that rather than a diary, it was stated that she had in her possession his biography.

I’m probably wrong here and I imagine a certain section of fandom (you know, the ones who call themselves ‘Whovians’, idolise Osgood and have diagrams of the River Song story arc on their bedroom walls) are probably tutting away at me for not knowing this stuff off by heart, but the way I see it, if I’m confused then 99% of the viewers probably feel a bit lost by it as well.

So although it was a good end to the character, I think I’m really just glad that it’s an end of any sort.

Random Observations

  • One thing that is disappointing about seeing River go though is that for the first time, Alex Kingston is acting alongside someone she has chemistry with. Had this been the case all the way though, I maybe
    ...the Vultures from Splash Mountain

    …the Vultures from Splash Mountain

    wouldn’t be so sick of her.

  • I’ve said before that I think Peter Capaldi is a better actor and Doctor than Matt Smith was, but if anything emphasises the point, it’s this episode.
  • And isn’t it good that River finally has an age appropriate version of the Doctor to hang around with.
  • I couldn’t help but think Peter Capaldi looked like one of the Vultures from Splash Mountain in that last scene.
  • Is it not a little strange that of all the days to finally have availability for a booking, they have Christmas Day? Not April 7th? Or October 10th?
  • And are they counting a year on that planet in Earth time or by their own planet’s time? If it’s the latter then that’s a very long wait, and the hostess has aged remarkably well.
  • I’m not a fan of Matt Lucas’s acting ability and by association his character in this story.
  • Greg Davies was good though, but there’s an argument to suggest that he’s not actually a very good actor.
  • I enjoyed the stuff with River not knowing who the Doctor was, which made sense with the idea I had in my head that she only ever knowingly met Tennant and Smith.
  • That alien dude who opened up his head must struggle to play football. Imagine trying to go for a header under those circumstances?
  • And why not just keep the item in his pocket?
  • Finally, the scene where The Doctor got to ‘do entering the TARDIS for the first time the right way’ was superb.

Doctor Who – The Husbands of River Song Review: Final Thoughts

The Husbands of River Song was a good Christmas Day story. It was light, it was fun and in the end it was quite emotional.

Some people won’t like that, but I did.

And if this is the final appearance of River Song – and I really hope it is – then it was a good way for her to bow out.

 


Doctor Who – Hell Bent Review (or ‘Companions Are Probably Not Worth The Hassle, Doctor’)

December 5, 2015

When I reviewed Peter Capaldi’s first season of Doctor Who last year, many of the articles referenced the way fandom reacts to the show.

There will be people who tune in every week with what seems to be a desire to hate it and there will be others who love it regardless of quality.

By and large I’ve avoided that this year, but having just watched Hell Bent, I knew this one would be divisive.

Some people would think it was amazing while others would consider it an affront to their sensibilities.

So I had a look on social media to witness the fallout.

And right enough, opinion is split.

“Amazing! I was in absolute bits by the end” said one person.

“I didn’t think it would be possible for a season finale to be worse than last year” said another.

“Bloody marvellous! Loved every minute” proclaimed one enthusiastic viewer.

“Absolute rubbish, just like the rest of the season” declared another bloke.

But why are viewers divided? And what side of the fence do I land on?

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

The Doctor tries to save Clara’s life, but realises he’s gone too far.

Thoughts – A Far Better End For Clara

Well here’s where I think the major bone of contention lies…

For some people, Clara’s exit two weeks ago should have been the end of it. She should have stayed dead.

Break it down for the classic TARDIS set

Break it down for the classic TARDIS set

For others, this gave her character a more fitting end.

I agree with the latter viewpoint.

When I wrote my review of Face the Raven, my overriding emotion was anger, because the BBC had spoiled what would have been a great plot development in a bid to attract viewers. I stand by that, but having had two weeks to think about it, I also didn’t think her death was particularly fitting.

Yes, it would have been a shock, and no, in reality (as if Doctor Who has to abide by such constraints) death can happen at any point so why should it not see off Clara in a low-key episode?

But it was also devoid of emotion. Without any sort of proper goodbye between the two characters, had that really been it, it would have been a lacklustre way for her to go.

As a means of finishing the story of the Doctor and Clara, this worked far better, and I thought it was played very well.

Indeed, the twist that it was the Doctor who forgot her and not the other way around was a nice change from the normal way companions leave, and even though it was potentially telegraphed by the scenes in the diner cut inserted into the story, I didn’t see that ending coming from the start.

That said, it was absolutely time for Clara to go. As I’ve said before, her character peaked in Last Christmas and she’s really spent this season treading water.

Overall she was a good companion, but one that has run her course.

Should The Doctor Just Not Bother With Companions

If I was to have a problem though, it would be that it ended up that this was yet another companion who the Doctor – in a sense – fell in love with and couldn’t bear to see leave.

I'm not sure I understand the significance of the diner. It's not relevant to these two characters at all.

I’m not sure I understand the significance of the diner. It’s not relevant to these two characters at all.

So we’ve now seen that variation on a theme with Rose, Donna, Amy and now Clara. Not Martha though; he didn’t give a shit about her.

Whoever is next, the relationship has to be written in such a way where whenever that person leaves, it doesn’t have this great emotional wrench upon the man.

Otherwise, you’d have to question whether he would actually want a companion. It seems that compared to the old days, it has become more trouble than it’s worth for him.

The Case Of The Two MacGuffins

Another reason why some people might not be happy with this season finale is that it ultimately made MacGuffins out of both Gallifrey and Ashildr.

Again, I can understand why this could be an issue, but I’m not fussed.

I’ve never liked the Gallifrey stuff, and that goes all the way back to The Deadly Assassin; a story which gave birth to Fanwankery.

There really is no interesting plot to come out of Gallifrey. No matter what happens, the Doctor will end up running away from it again, and that’s what happened tonight.

More than that though, every time Doctor Who revisits it, more arms and legs have been added to it.

Who were those people outside the barn? Why do we care about those guards? Beyond a name check, what’s the point of Rassilon?

Quick!! Let's all waste our lives trying to make up a back story for who this woman is. I'll say it's the Doctor's Aunt's cousin Beryl.

Quick!! Let’s all waste our lives trying to make up a back story for who this woman is. I’ll say it’s the Doctor’s Aunt’s cousin Beryl.

Gallifrey’s peak was in The War Games. It’ll never get better than that.

So yeah, the fact that Gallifrey wasn’t the real point of Hell Bent did not bother me.

Neither did it bother me that ultimately the Ashildr storyline went nowhere.

We were – I think – supposed to conclude that she was the Hybrid but she wasn’t. Really, she was just someone who happened to be immortal.

A problem?

Not for me.

The hybrid being the combination of the Doctor and Clara made more sense, even though it was a bit far fetched that this idea had been retconned throughout Time Lord history.

Like I say, I’m happy the finale was used to provide finality to the relationship between The Doctor and Clara. With that sorted, the show can move on next year.

Random Observations

  • I think Steven Moffat was trying to troll people with the male to female regeneration and the half-human stuff. No doubt people probably did get upset about that, even though both have been said or done before. These people need to give themselves a shake.
  • In truth, the only thing that wound me up about that whole story was The Doctor playing ‘Clara’s Theme’ on his guitar. Within the confines of the show, she doesn’t have a theme so that doesn’t make sense.
  • People will probably be sitting at home making up fan fiction about who that woman in the barn was. Who cares?
  • As someone who often moans about fanwankery and pointless nods to the show’s past, you might think I would have groaned at the sight of the Gallifrey style TARDIS capsules and old school interiors. On the contrary; that’s the sort of thing I love. Bring back the old console room permanently, says I.
  • But I will moan about the pointless inclusion of that Dalek, Cyberman and Weeping Angel.
  • If there’s one thing about Gallifrey that puzzled me, it was the way it was just accepted that it was hiding at the end of the universe. Could the Doctor not have worked that out years ago?
  • And how long has the Sisterhood of Karn been there for?
  • Why wasn’t Ashildr sitting next to Captain Jack, and even though she’s immortal, how exactly did she manager to get there?
  • Oh, and if she had managed to forget everything about her upbringing – including her real name – in the space of a few hundred years, how was she able to remember anything relating to the Doctor or Clara after trillions of them?
  • The way Hell Bent was written, it was as if The Doctor had spent billions of years in that prison from Heaven Sent. But that’s not true, is it? As far as he was concerned, he only lasted there for a few days before he either died and was reanimated, or he escaped. He wouldn’t have had any perception of the true amount of time he spent there.
  • I’m not exactly sure what significance the diner had, or why they used it. Considering it was from a different Doctor and used different companions, they may has well have set that scene on the lighthouse from The Horror of Fang Rock.
  • Bring back the Rutans!!
  • As a plot device, the Doctor’s return to Gallifrey really has come 5 or 6 years too late to be effective.
  • Unlike some people, I really couldn’t care less about a new Sonic Screwdriver.

Doctor Who – Hell Bent Review: Final Thoughts

So while some people are upset and unhappy, you can brand me a happy clapper, because I enjoyed it.

For me, Hell Bent focussed on the right parts of the story and paid less attention to the aspects that didn’t matter.

It gave Clara a fitting farewell – more so than Face The Raven – and it was enjoyable and well acted by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman.

Great stuff.

Overall Season Analysis

As a whole, I think this season of the show will be remembered as mostly unremarkable.

I don’t think there were many bad stories (except the Gatiss episode obviously, but that’s because he’s awful) but the reliance upon two-parters made it a slower and less varied one.

The highlights for me have been Under the Lake & Before the Flood and of course Heaven Sent & Hell Bent.

The rest…not so much.

Have You Bought The Books Yet?

If not why not? Have a look here for more info.


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

November 29, 2015

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

Yay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts – The Slow Build

Ok, back to spoilers for a moment…

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

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

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

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

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

And I was concerned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Superb.

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

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

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

a viewer.

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

Random Observations

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

Doctor Who – Heaven Sent Review: Final Thoughts

 

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

But it didn’t.

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

More of the same quality next week please.

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

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

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

 

 

 


Doctor Who – Face The Raven Review (or “Who Cares About Spoilers When There Are A Few Extra Viewers To Round Up”)

November 21, 2015

Dateline: November 21st 18.02

I hate spoilers.

I don’t see the point in spoilers.

I don’t understand the mindset of people who want to read spoilers.

And for a TV station that is noncommercial and therefore doesn’t need to worry that much about viewing figures, I really don’t understand why the BBC would want to give away spoilers.

So I’m actually a bit pissed off at the moment.

Why? Because I was browsing the web earlier on and noticed that the main headline on Digital Spy this morning read ‘BBC Announce How Tonight’s Shocking Doctor Who Will End’.

I’m not daft.

I have a basic ability to work stuff out and I know what that headline means…

They’re going to kill off Clara.

But why would I want to know that before I see it? Why am I  – a regular viewer – having my enjoyment and sense of surprise ruined just so the BBC can attract some extra viewers who otherwise might not have bothered to watch.

Why are they more important than me?

To quote Bret Hart, “Frustrating isn’t the Goddamned word for it; this is bullshit!!!”

Of course, for all I know they might not be killing off Clara in Face The Raven, but I bet they will.

I’ll report back after the episode to let you know.

Dateline: November 21st 21:12

Doctor Who – Face The Raven Review

Nope, I was right; they’ve killed off Clara.

For fuck’s sake!!!

So as you’ll have gathered, I’m annoyed about this.

The death of a companion doesn’t come along often, so had the BBC not revealed it this morning, I would not have been expecting it (even though I knew Jenna Coleman was leaving at the end of the season). But

"Frustrated isn't the Goddamn word for it. This is Bullshit" said Bret Hart. I echo these sentiments

“Frustrated isn’t the Goddamn word for it. This is Bullshit” said Bret Hart. I echo these sentiments

since they did, and therefore I was, I think they ruined it.

To go all the way back to the 1980s and Earthshock, the big thing was that the BBC kept everything relating to it a secret. Nobody knew the Cybermen were going to be in it, and nobody knew Adric was going to die.

So both came as a huge shock.

There was that point where the first time viewer saw Adric left aboard the freighter and surmised that he would inevitably be saved. Then, slowly, they probably thought “Hmmm, maybe he won’t”, and when he died, it would have knocked viewers for six.

But the moment Clara suggested that she take over the death sentence, I knew that was it. So I felt robbed of that creeping realisation that she was going to die, and I feel cheated as a result.

And of course what happened was that a scene that probably should have been emotional ultimately wasn’t.

Now I would also argue that the overall presentation left something to be desired. I don’t think the music ramped up the drama, and I felt that the interaction between Clara and the Doctor – both in terms of dialogue and delivery – failed to capture the gravity of the situation. She was about to die and neither she nor the Doctor seemed particularly concerned about it.

It was just a bit weird.

My dad – who last week didn’t realise that the dreadful Gatiss episode was a single part story – didn’t pick up on the fact that she’s actually dead. Because it was played so loosely, he assumed that she’d be back in next week’s episode after the Doctor saves her.

And hey, maybe she will be. Maybe this isn’t the end for Clara and we’ll get something more dramatic in the two-part finale to send her off permanently.

But we probably won’t.

So to me, it felt like a damp squib.

I’d have expected better from all concerned.

So What About The Rest Of The Episode?

Well apart from that, this felt like the standard light episode you’d get before the finale in a Doctor Who season. The sort of Boom Town/Fear Her/In The Forest of the Night style affair that we’ve come to expect

Break Down The Walls of Jericho

Break Down The Walls of Jericho

over the years.

It brought back some characters we’ve already seen and it had the sort of frivolous plot you’d consider to be reasonable before the season builds to its dramatic conclusion. Basically it was fine; nothing amazing but nothing worth panning.

Exactly the sort of episode that would have been perfect to kill of a companion when the viewer least suspected it. So why ruin it!!!!!

Random Observations

  • I don’t really get how Ashildr has gone from being an average – yet immortal – girl to someone with the knowledge and expertise to organise a refugee centre for aliens.
  • Nor do I get how certain species – such as an Ood – would end up being on Earth in the 21st century.
  • Or why – beyond a direct comparison to Harry Potter – it’s designed like a Victorian street.
  • Or even why they had to disguise themselves as human if they were hidden away anyway.
  • And do we really need another plot like this when we’ve just had a Zygon story?
  • The bloke who is killed by the raven first was in the episode of Jonathan Creek with Maureen O’Brien and Bernard Kay. I hope at least one person reading this thinks “Oh yeah, that’s where I recognise him from.”
  • Clara’s actual death wasn’t plotted particularly well. There wasn’t a satisfactory reason for why Rigsy could be saved but she couldn’t. Note that I say ‘satisfactory’ reason; I know there was a reason given.
  • And as for Clara, I think from every angle you could approach it, she would have been better off leaving in Last Christmas. A story originally designed to write her out, it would have given her character a proper sendoff. Instead, we got a companion without direction for 10 more episodes before her disappointing demise in a nothing episode. She held on just a little bit too long.

Doctor Who – Face The Raven Review: Final Thoughts

Like I say, you’ll be able to tell that I’m not too impressed by the BBC’s actions here.

You might think “But I didn’t get it spoiled for me because I didn’t look at Digital Spy this morning so you have no grounds for complaint”. But I would counter that by saying pointed out that I should not have to avoid general entertainment websites before an episode has been transmitted to make sure major plot-points are not spoiled.

I would have liked to have watched this without the ending being telegraphed, and even though I felt it lacked the level of drama and gravitas that it should have done (and I think everyone involved can take some of the blame for that) it still would have been better if it had come as a shock.

So I’m disappointed.

I hope the BBC got their extra viewers to justify it.

Calls to Action

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