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

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 – Sleep No More Review (or “Find Out If I Liked It In Real Time”)

November 15, 2015

Sunday, Nov 15 2015 – 16:29

So it’s 16:29 on Sunday and I still haven’t seen the newest episode of Doctor Who, Sleep No More.

“How is that even possible?”, I hear you ask.

Well it was my brother’s birthday meal last night and so I had to miss it. It means this is the first episode of Doctor Who I’ve missed on transmission day since my dad forgot to record episode four of Paradise Towers while I was at Beavers (a sort of Scouts for younger kids) back in October 1987.

And the strange thing is, my brother is more intensely interested in Doctor Who than I am, so I had to ask him why he had arranged a meal for that time.

The conversation went like this…

“You realise if we go out for a meal at that time, we’ll miss Doctor Who?”
“Yeah, but it’s the Mark Gatiss episode that night”.
“Oh, well fair enough then”.

Yes, that’s right, because this episode is penned by Mark Gatiss, I really couldn’t have given less of a toss about missing it.

Because – as long time readers of this blog will know – I think Mark Gatiss is crap.

Generally, his episodes – with the notable exception of Night Terrors – are average to poor, and are often comfortably the worst episode of each season. In the case of The Crimson Horror meanwhile, he was

Hey, it's a random appearance by The Hand of Omega

Hey, it’s a random appearance by The Hand of Omega

responsible for the worst Doctor Who story since the show came back, and in my opinion the third worst of all time. It was horrendous.

So it annoys me that this man continues to get to write for the show when I’m sure there are so many more talented writers out there who aren’t mates with the Producer or in with the bricks at Television Centre. No other writer gets to have interviews with the press to promote his stuff before it’s broadcast, no other writer – as far as I can tell – gets to cast his unsuitable mates in lead roles within the episode and no other writer would get chance after chance to come back again in spite of producing sub-standard writing. So why does Mark Gatiss?

Incidentally, you might get a chuckle to know that I recently found out that the man himself has blocked me on Twitter. Why? Well I’ve never tweeted him, so he must have either searched for his own name and found a tweet from me saying he was crap, or he’s read one of my reviews where I’ve said he’s crap. Either way, he must not have liked being called crap.

It’s my opinion though, and I think I’m fair in my criticisms.

But look, I haven’t even watched the episode yet, so for all I know it could be great and I’m putting the cart before the horse.

Then again, I did see a few tweets today from people saying “Well that was the worst in the series so far” and my dad – under the assumption I’d already seen it – asked me if it was a two-parter because it didn’t seem very clear.

So the warning signs are there.

Like I say though, I think I’m a fair-minded bloke, so I’ll watch the episode without prejudice and report back in an hour or so with my findings…

Sunday Nov 15 2015 17:47

What The Hell Was That?

Ok, I’m back…

For the first ten minutes of Sleep No More, I was busy trying to recite the recipe of Humble Pie in my head, because it seemed like it might actually be a good episode.

What the hell was that?!

What the hell was that?!

The story was set up well enough, even if it was a bit too expository for my tastes, but it was at least on the right track.

Then it all just went to shit.

Maybe I’m tired, but I lost the thread of it completely. The crew were devoured by sleep dust monsters, the ‘found footage’ wasn’t really found footage, the guy played by Mark Gatiss’s mate was actually the villain who was narrating it while events were going on and there was some kind of evil plan involving a guy who hadn’t been to sleep in five years?

It was not easy to follow or enjoy and it was summed up by the resolution being The Doctor running away shouting “It doesn’t make sense; none of this makes any sense”.

I think I’ve said before that Gatiss comes across as an ideas man rather than someone with the ability to make those ideas come to life reasonably on the page. Victory of the Daleks was just “Let’s redo Power of the Daleks” while the episode with Robin Hood was reasonable in theory. Here, he had a selection of ideas that aren’t bad, but he didn’t have the ability to string them together and make them work. Ideas were built up and then thrown out (such as devoting time to the Grunt which went nowhere) and others failed to click at all.

Really, it was just rubbish.

But are you surprised?

Let’s Give Credit To The Guys Who Make Peep Show

The main take home from Sleep No More though, as far as I’m concerned, is that I have a new-found appreciation for the actors in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show.

I felt Peter Capaldi struggled with the Peep Show style First Person Perspective acting

I felt Peter Capaldi struggled with the Peep Show style First Person Perspective acting

The style of Peep Show – in case you didn’t know – is that everything is filmed from a first person perspective, and the actors never look anything less than natural.

I don’t think you could say the same of the cast of Sleep No More.

You know I think Peter Capaldi is brilliant, but I thought he really struggled  to find his acting form when he was addressing the camera directly, and the rest of the cast were no better.

I would say it looked awkward, but I think the most appropriate thing to say about it is that it looked like the sort of thing you’d expect to see on the monitors in the queue for a theme park ride. It felt very ‘Hey kids, I’m The Doctor, and with your help, I can defeat these nasty sand monsters’.

Poor stuff.

Random Observations

  • I’m not just saying this because he’s Gatiss’s mate, but Reece Shearsmith was honking. Just an awful performance.
  • To go back to the problems with the writing, I thought that The Doctor managed to work a lot of things out without any explanation. Every time the plot needed advancing, he suddenly had all the solutions. It was like being at school and cheating on your maths homework by giving the answer but not showing your working.
  • This week’s fanwankery comes in the form of a ‘The Silurians Were Named Wrong’ reference. Yay.
  • How did Clara end up in that pod so quickly?
  • I wonder how much they had to pay for the use of the Mr. Sandman theme?
  • To go back to the direction, it was all over the place. For me, you either go all in or you don’t bother. There weren’t scenes in Cloverfield filmed ‘normally’; it was all about the lost footage. By switching back and forth in styles, it felt awkward.
  • At the end of the episode, I just sat there, opened mouthed, in awe of just how bad it was. The last scene in particular felt like he was trying to channel the last scene from Blink, and failing miserably.
  • The only thing I can say in a positive light is that I welcomed the return of the single part story.
  • My brother just told me that Dr Who fandom just let out a collective groan at the news that – against all sensible odds – Mark Gatiss will return to write another episode in Season 10. For fuck’s sake!!!!

Doctor Who – Sleep No More Review: Final Thoughts

I wanted to be proved wrong, but I wasn’t.

Once again Mark Gatiss has written the worst episode of the season.

Is anyone shocked?

Calls to Action

Remember to…

a) Like Stuart Reviews Stuff on Facebook or Twitter

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

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


Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived Review (or “Keep Your Main Course Separate From Your Dessert”)

October 25, 2015

As you know, my policy is to only review two-part stories at the end of the second episode.

But I’ve made a bit of an error there because despite thinking that The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived was indeed a two-parter, it actually wasn’t. Instead it was just two linked but separate stories written by different people.

I wish I’d known that last week.

But hey, it is what it is, and so I’ll just review them both now.

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived Reviews: What Were They About?

A Viking Dad’s Army and a Dick Turpin-esque affair that managed to show that sometimes comedy, serious human drama and alien invasions work and sometimes they don’t.

But it mainly shows that they should be kept apart.

Thoughts – Keep Your Main Course Separate From Your Dessert

Here we have two episodes that could and should have had markedly different tones, but unfortunately everything was mixed in together and it didn’t work.

The Woman Who Lived would have been infinitely better if this guy was played by Ken Dodd

The Woman Who Lived would have been infinitely better if this guy was played by Ken Dodd

Think of it like going for a meal; you have your savoury main course and your sweet dessert. Individually they work, but if you put them on the same plate, it’s far from ideal.

That’s what’s happened in these two episodes.

To begin with we have the comedy romp that is The Girl Who Died. The Doctor is faced with training up a bunch of rag-tag Vikings, without a warrior among them, to face off against one of the most fearsome alien races in the galaxy. It’s light, it’s amusing and it never takes itself too seriously.

And that’s great; that worked. I thought the stuff with the nicknames, the guy who had a phobia of seeing blood (which upgraded to passing out at the mention of blood) and the way the Mire were vanquished was all entertaining enough. I found it amusing and it all seemed to wrap up well.

On that basis, this could have been an episode from any David Tennant or Matt Smith season and would be one that people would think was decent enough and be mostly happy with. Nothing spectacular, but nothing bad.

But then all of a sudden with 10 minutes to go it got all serious with Ashildr dying, the Doctor flashing back to his past (which I’ll get to) and then turning her into an immortal. It was a mix that led people last week to consider that it was a single episode in two parts of its own.

Fast forward a week and we have The Woman Who Lived start off as – and should have stayed as – an episode about the fallout from the Doctor’s decision to save her. Now, hundreds of years and several lifetimes later, Ashildr is an embittered, isolated woman who has forgotten most of her past and lives alone.

But then all of a sudden there’s an alien involved and it turns into an absurd comedy with played-for-laughs policeman and Rufus Hound as a Carry-On style highwayman.

It didn’t work at all.

What should have happened here was that one episode stuck to comedy and the other one was entirely serious.

By blending it all together, neither episode was as good as it should have been, especially The Women Who Lived, which was just a mess.

The slow pondering nature of the Doctor’s examination into Ashildr was totally juxtaposed against the silly comedy, and there was no reason for the alien lion thing other than this belief that Dr Who needs one to fill some kind of quota. It added nothing to the story and only served to annoy me.

Is Doctor Who Becoming Too Insular?

The great success of Doctor Who’s return in 2005 was that it was written to appeal to everyone, and that’s exactly what it did.

"Mummy, Mummy, who's that? " "I'm not sure; I've tried this show for the first time and am utterly lost"

“Mummy, Mummy, who’s that? ” “I’m not sure; I’ve tried this show for the first time and am utterly lost”

Now though, I wonder.

If I had never seen Doctor Who before this season, I imagine I’d struggle to understand what’s going on. I think I’d feel like I was missing something and that too much foreknowledge was expected of me.

While it can be cheap, there’s nothing much wrong with the occasional nod to the past, such as last night’s mention of the Terileptils in relation to The Great Fire of London. But when foreknowledge is almost essential to understanding the point of an episode (like the first two episodes of the season where knowledge of Davros, the Daleks, UNIT and even the Master was important to the flow of the narrative) then it becomes a problem.

In The Girl Who Died, I don’t think it was necessary to flash back to The Fires of Pompeii. The Doctor could quite easily have decided on a course of action to save Ashildr that didn’t involve remembering that his 10th incarnation saved the life of a guy who looked like he does now. Why could they not just ignore the fact that they cast Peter Capaldi twice? I’ve said it before, but if that’s important why did the Doctor not wonder why he kept seeing Michael Sheard or Philip Madoc throughout history considering the amount of times they were recast?

No, that was just pointless. It probably appealed to 0.2% of the viewers, with everyone else either thinking it wasn’t needed or not having a clue what was going on.

Meanwhile, next week’s episode appears to require knowledge of The Day of the Doctor.

There’s no doubt that the Doctor Who production team should be mindful of the show’s past when writing new episodes, but history shows that living in the past can have a detrimental effect on the quality of episodes. You’ve only got to look at the JNT era to see that.

Clara – Marking Time Until She Leaves

I’ve mentioned it already this season but Clara seems to have lost her identity and her purpose. Now it’s like they know she’s leaving so why bother developing her character any further?

"Hiya, I'm just popping in for a minute to fulfil some contractual obligations before I leave"

“Hiya, I’m just popping in for a minute to fulfil some contractual obligations before I leave”

The strides she made last season are gone, and have been replaced by a rather smug shallow companion who was has become so incidental that she was only in The Women Who Lived for a couple of minutes at the end, presumably to fulfil contractual obligations.

Remember how she was originally expected to be written out in Last Christmas? That would have been better.

Random Observations

  • Originally Brian Blessed was lined up to play the leader of The Mire. That would have been so much better.
  • I suppose if Ken Dodd played Lady Me’s butler that would have been amazing too, but sadly it was not to be.
  • I’m not entirely sure how or why Ashildr died. I even watched The Girl Who Died a second time and it’s not mentioned. Have I missed something?
  • For all the talk of the second dose of that immortality stuff, for it to be wasted on Sam Swift was a very poor way to go. Personally I’d have either given Ashildr a happier ending or saved it for a subsequent story, because let’s face it, she’s coming back at some point.
  • Another aspect of The Woman Who Lived that I didn’t get was the way Ashildr knew so much about The Doctor. Before you say that it was explained by her saying that she’d spoken to people the Doctor had met in the past,  I don’t think it was. Sure, people may have known the Doctor but it’s not as if he tells everyone his life story, and it doesn’t explain why she’s so keen to travel away from Earth or into future times. Ultimately, in spite of the wisdom she’s accrued over her 800 years or whatever it was, she’s still someone who has lived her entire life in primitive times. I think that’s sloppy, but you might think I’m being picky.
  • Also, while I get the whole 10,000 hours to master a skill stuff, I really don’t understand how she was able to put on a completely different man’s voice.
  • Other than to give Clara the line about how she’s wearing a spacesuit, what exactly was the point of the beginning of The Girl Who Died?
  • To give the story a little bit of credit, the Doctor at least trying to explain the ripples/tidal waves rules was interesting.
  • I feel I need to reiterate just how pointless that alien lion/tiger thing was in The Women Who Lived. It’ll go down as one of the most nondescript aliens in the show’s history.
  • Done well, these two episodes could have worked like The Ark, with the Doctor and Clara immediately landing in the same place hundreds of years later to find Ashildr has turned into a properly evil despot who needed to be stopped. Alas, it was not to be.
  • It also would have worked better if both episodes were written by the same person.

Doctor Who – The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived: Final Thoughts

Ok, so it was an interesting idea for a two-part story, but that’s not how it turned out.

Had The Girl Who Died stuck to light comedy and The Woman Who Lived remained exclusively serious, then it would have worked so much better.

Unfortunately by trying to accommodate comedy and drama in both episodes, and also giving the second episode an unnecessary token alien invasion, neither episode was as good as it could have been.

And that’s a shame because in theory it could have been top notch.

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 – Under the Lake & Before the Flood Review (or “That’s Why You Don’t Review A Story At The Half Way Point”)

October 10, 2015

So like I was saying a couple of weeks ago, there’s no point in writing a review of a Doctor Who episode when it’s the first of two-part story.

I don’t think there’s any story that proved that point more than Under the Lake & Before the Flood!

Doctor Who – Under the Lake & Before the Flood Review: What’s This One About?

The Doctor travel back to the past to change the future…or is it that he creates the future?

Thoughts – A Proper Two Part Story

99 times out of 100, in any TV show, the reason for a story to run over two or more episodes is simply because there’s too much plot to fit into a single one. Essentially, it’s just a longer episode spread over a number

And With That, The Fourth Wall Was Broken

And With That, The Fourth Wall Was Broken

of weeks with placeholder cliffhangers inserted to act as a checkpoint.

This is the 1 time out of 100 when it’s not.

Rather than being one long story, this is an example of a two-parter that utilises the break to tell a tale that could not be effectively told in one sitting. Under the Lake is the set-up episode, introducing characters and environments and acting as its own little Base Under Siege drama. Without Under the Lake, the overall story wouldn’t work. But the Base Under Siege stuff isn’t the overall point and most likely is not what the central concept of the story either.

Because this is one of those rare – and yet very welcome – examples of Doctor Who, the TV show about a man who travels in time, presenting a story based around the concepts and paradoxes associated with Time Travel.

In particular, it’s about The Bootstrap Paradox (like the Doctor says, google it).

And I’ve got to say, I loved it.

This was clever, it kept me guessing and unlike the first story of the season, it didn’t have a conclusion that left me feeling let down. Instead, when The Fisher King was caught in the flood and the Doctor emerged from the stasis chamber, I felt a sense of deep satisfaction that I’d watched a story expertly written.

And I’m hugely surprised to say that considering the writer – Toby Whithouse – has been slated on the pages of Stuart Reviews Stuff in the past for writing some utter drivel.

Credit where it’s due though; this was excellent.

Is Doctor Who A Kid’s Show?

The answer to the above question is obviously ‘No’, it’s a TV show aimed at the whole family and always has been, but I bring this up because I was debating this very issue on Twitter earlier on today with people

'Mon Then!!!!!!

‘Mon Then!!!!!!

who were adament that who is naught but a kids show.

There’s no way an episode of Doctor Who like Before The Flood is aimed at kids; no way at all.

Apart from the plot being probably too complex for a lot of adults let alone kiddywinkles, I just can’t imagine any movie aimed at children including a scene like the one where a scary looking ghost with an axe stalks an unwitting deaf woman in a dark dingy corridor.

Or maybe I’m being too naive as to what passes for kids TV these days.

No matter how you slice it, that was aimed at adults first, and long may that continue.

Breaking The Fourth Wall: What Did You Think?

I can imagine that when the dust settles on this one, a lot of Doctor Who fans – because we aren’t in any way the sort of people to over-analyse stuff and get upset over anything different are we – will be ill at ease with the breaking of the fourth wall that happens a couple of times in Before the Flood.

My thoughts? Well I don’t want Doctor Who to become Lovejoy with all that sort of ‘speaking to the audience’ stuff, but I thought it worked here and it aided the telling of the story.

So while it shouldn’t be made the norm, it worked fine here.

Random Observations

  • I loved the different theme music at the start of Before the Flood. Not as much as I’d have loved it if it was the 5th Doctor’s theme, but you can’t have everything.
  • Though I’ve focussed more on Before the Flood in this review for obvious reasons, I thought that the cliffhanger to Under the Lake was a good one.
  • As usual there were some amusing and snappy lines of dialogue – usually from Peter Capaldi – but I think my favourite one was where Clara hands him the cue cards explaining how to react to the situation
    It's The Asian Alistair McGowan!

    It’s The Asian Alistair McGowan!

    they were in.

  • The War Minister, eh?
  • I think it sets a good example to showcase actors with disabilities. I read a comment from a deaf person that said that young deaf kids who watch the show will have felt amazing to see someone with the same issues as them being called the most important person in the room by the Doctor.
  • Having said that though, just because you’re deaf, it doesn’t make you Daredevil, so that bit where she dodges out of the way of the axe using her extra sense was a bit much.
  • How come the base was completely abandoned?
  • If I was to criticise the story for anything it would be that Clara appears to be morphing back into a generic companion. So far this season there’s been nothing much to her character beyond being a mild sociopath who is thrilled to be placed in dangerous scenarios.
  • The point raised by the character who I shall dub ‘The Asian Alistair McGowan’ is an important one. Why is it that – when it comes to the crunch – the Doctor doesn’t really give much of a toss about the lives of the people he meets who aren’t his travelling companions. It’s fair to say that he did let O’Donnell die to test a theory, and that’s a bit of a dick move on his part.
  • To go back to something I said earlier about the writing keeping me guessing; I don’t want you to think it confused me, because it didn’t. Obviously I predicted that the Doctor would be responsible for the dam bursting from the moment The Bootstrap Paradox was raised, but throughout the episode, the way he would get to that point remained a mystery. It was only about 10 seconds before he emerged from suspended animation that I guessed he was in there, and that’s ideal. No writer wants to craft an episode that makes viewers think “What was that about?” or “How did that happen?”. Instead, I think they should aim to give the viewer the sense of satisfaction of being able to work out what’s happening at the last possible moment. For me, that’s the best way.
  • The Fisher King was a pretty daunting character, with an impressive look and a commanding voice. I liked how the director avoided showing him until the last possible moment. That worked well for me.

Doctor Who – Under the Lake & Before the Flood Review: Final Thoughts

This story shows why I was wise to keep my counsel last week and leave it all to this review here.

Last Saturday I wouldn’t have known that this was a story about time travel and the Bootstrap Paradox, and so my review would have taken an entirely different direction.

It would have been like reviewing a meal while it’s still being cooked.

Now that I’ve had a chance to see the whole thing, I can confidently state that this was a fantastic example of Doctor Who done right.

Toby Whithouse is a writer who I have rightly panned in the past, with The Vampires of Venice actually finishing in the top ten worst Doctor Who stories of all time in my second book (see below).

He’s excelled himself here though and I’m happy to give him a bundle of praise.

This was brilliant.

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’ 




TV – The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review

June 30, 2015

Sometimes people will exaggerate for effect when they review comedies and say that they didn’t laugh once.

So I won’t do that in this review of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I did laugh once.


I’ll even tell you the joke; it was in the second episode and it was a visual gag of a very crap Miss Piggy

But apart from that, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – a Netflix exclusive comedy starring Ellie Kemper from the US version of The Office and created by Tina Fey of Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame – didn’t even raise a smile.

Though it seems to get critical acclaim and generally favourable reviews, I just didn’t personally understand the appeal.

Based around the premise of a girl who has been freed from 15 years trapped as a prisoner in a Josef Fritzel style bunker and has moved to New York to experience life for the first time – an interesting and original idea for a show to be fair – the humour seemed very childish, the acting over the top and the characters ludicrous.

I get that sometimes comedy has to involve exaggerated characters, but there are limits to what I will personally find credible or even funny, and the sheer stupidity of almost every character – probably designed to make the quirky Kimmy seem normal – just took it beyond those limits.

The last two episodes for example, where Kimmy goes back to Indiana as a witness in the trial against her former captor is just stupid. Not ‘stupid haha’ which I’m sure was the intention, but rather just stupid. And the dialogue – like “What the ham sandwich is going on” and “Oh Em Jeepers” – I think is supposed to be charming but is just cringe-inducing.

For me, this show is just too over the top.

To give it some credit, Ellie Kemper is good and plays her character with charm and likeability, but it’s just not enough to convince me that it’s worthy of the praise it gets.

I did manage to sit through all 13 episodes though, and that might count for something in that at least it had a narrative worth following, but on the heels of having just caught up with the brilliant seasons 8-10 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, this just didn’t cut the mustard.

So I recommend you avoid The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

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’ 


Movies: Entourage Review (or “Lighten Up Film Critics; What Else Did You Expect This Movie To Be?”)

June 19, 2015

When I sit down to write my reviews, I tend to do a bit of homework and check out how well received the subject matter has been by the masses, to see if the generally held opinion differs from my own.

Most of the time what I find doesn’t surprise me, but on occasion it does.

I’ve just come home from watching the Entourage movie, which I’ve enjoyed, but it appears to have been slated by almost all critics.

If you do a quick google search you’ll note that it gets 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, 38% on Metacritic and a host of one/two star reviews with taglines such as “Smug, Unfunny LA Bromance”, “Awash With Delusional Confidence” and “Entourage is so bad it puts us in a terrible mood”.

The thrust of the criticism is that it’s a poor plot, that it’s overloaded with pointless cameos, that the characters aren’t likeable, that it’s Hollywood at its most self-indulgent at a time when it should be focussing on Entouragemovies with worldwide appeal and that it feels like an extended version of a TV episode.

Now fair enough, some of those criticisms have merit – particularly the last couple – but surely any review of Entourage should ask one single and simple question to anyone who is thinking about going to see it…

Did you like the TV show?

If you did, then go and you’ll like it. It’s a worthy follow-up to the HBO comedy.

If you didn’t, don’t bother because it’s more of the same, and you still won’t like it.

If you’ve never seen it, you’ll struggle to appreciate it one way or the other, even if it does try to fill new viewers in with some expository scenes offering a potted history of the show at the start.

But that’s the problem with movies that continuations of TV shows; when the papers and entertainment websites send someone along to review them, these people might be turning up with a negative mindset. I mean, I don’t like Mrs Browns Boys, so I was never going to see the movie. If I did, I’d go along to it knowing that I wouldn’t enjoy it, and so my review would be a foregone conclusion.

So anyone who didn’t like Entourage the TV show – and based on the content of some of these reviews, I’m guessing plenty of these writers didn’t – will not like this.

The same criticisms of the TV show will apply here. I mean, there are parts of it I don’t like. I’ve always found Vince to be a dreary, one-dimensional character played by an actor more wooden than Pinocchio, while Eric always seemed miscast and mildly unlikable. If you ask people what they like about Entourage the TV show, the chances are they’ll say Ari Gold and Johnny Drama. That’s where the humour was then and that’s where it is now.

Yes, this is basically an extended episode of the TV show with more cameos than ever, but why would anyone who actually spends their money to go to see a movie about Entourage want or expect anything different?

It’s bizarre to think otherwise.

So while the critics shit upon it from a great height, perhaps take some advice from the cast, who have said “Lighten up; it’s not Citizen Kane”.

You get what you pay for.

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’ 



Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review (or “What The Hell Was That?!”)

June 18, 2015

Ok, so I didn’t publish two reviews in one day.

Mainly because if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to write this as an introduction, and I was struggling otherwise.

So with that in mind, here’s The Midas Plague review.

Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review: What’s This One About?

It’s about a future society (that looks an awful lot like 1965) where free energy and robot labour result in an over abundance of goods that need consumed. The lower you are on the social ladder, the more pressure there is for you to consume these products by law.

But one man – who believes that giving robots emotional circuits would result in them wanting to consume and therefore take away some of the burden put on the ‘working class’ – rebels against the order of things.

My reaction to watching The Midas Plague

My reaction to watching The Midas Plague

Thoughts – What Am I Watching Here?

It seems that usually my summation of an episode of Out of the Unknown is “It’s a good idea, but it’s let down by execution or running time”.

I can’t say that about The Midas Plague.

Why? Because it isn’t even a good idea, it’s just daft.

If there’s an overabundance of supply, then stop supplying it. Episode finished.

Instead, we’ve got to put up with this ludicrous notion that is bizarrely presented as some kind of pantomime-like comedy.

Maybe that’s the point, and if it was actually funny I’d give it some credit, but it’s not; it’s horrendous.

It could be that this type of humour just that hasn’t aged well and was actually popular at the time, but it does absolutely nothing for me.

Moreover, the general presentation is shonky, from the over the top mannerisms and expressions of the actors to the played for laughs dialogue and whimsical, screwball-esque incidental music.

Overall, it was terrible.

And People Criticise Doctor Who’s Budget?

People say classic Doctor Who looks cheap. But what is cheap? If you’re comparing The Keys of Marinus to Star Wars, then yes, it does look cheap, but what’s the point of making such a comparison?

Doctor Who from the 60s should be judged against a show like Out of the Unknown. And while from time to time Out of the Unknown has looked ok, generally it looks pretty bad in comparison, with actors wearing

Even with low budgets, how can that sort of costume/set be acceptable?

Even with low budgets, how can that sort of costume/set be acceptable?

cheap rubber/tinfoil outfits, wandering around sets that look like they belong on the stage of an amateur theatre.

The Midas Plague takes things to a whole new level of cheap though.

If I was going to defend it, I’d say the robot costumes are deliberately made to look bad because of the ‘comedic’ nature of the episode, but even then they’d still be crap. It’s the sort of thing you don’t laugh with, but laugh at, and that’s never a good thing.

Then, despite being set in the ‘future’ there’s no effort whatsoever to make it look like it is, which is bizarre because the show usually goes out of its way to make things look ‘Space Age’.

I can honestly say this is the worst looking piece of television I’ve ever seen from the BBC. It’s horrific.

The Old British Actors Checklist

Apart from Richard Davies (Burton from Delta & The Bannermen), the main attraction here is the guy who played the Empire State Building Tour Guide in the Chase who was a lot like Columbo.


Out of the Unknown – The Midas Plague Review: Final Thoughts

Like my last review, I can’t really think of much to justify a Random Thoughts section.

In part this is because I watched these episodes a week or so ago, and my thoughts have faded.

But it’s also because there’s just not much to comment on beyond what’s already been said.

The Midas Plague is crap. It’s a bad idea for a story, it looks pitiful, it’s acted terribly and it goes on for too long.

Maybe I’m missing the point or maybe it’s just a form of entertainment that has been lost to time. As much as we talk about what TV was like by then, the TV we do talk about tends to be the stuff that is timeless. There’s plenty of crap that likely was forgotten about a week after transmission.

And this could be an example of that.

Hopefully things improve with the shorter episodes of Season 2, because really, if this first season is anything to go by, it’s a mystery to me why Out of the Unknown is remembered with as much fondness as it is.

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’ 




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