TV: The Fall Review

August 31, 2017

Sometimes you’ll watch a show and persevere with it either out of loyalty or reputation.

Other times you think “That’s enough” and just stop.

And that’s what happened with me and The Fall.

Put simply, after an initially decent first season, things began to slow down so much in the second that whole hour-long episodes would go by without anything happening. After one episode of the third and final season, the entirety of which was spent with people hanging around the A&E department of the local hospital, I could face no more. Yes, there were only five instalments left, but that would be five hours I could be spending doing something else.

So I just read what happened in the last episode – my fears vindicated by reviews suggesting the final season as a whole was one gigantic waste of time – and moved on.

Maybe I’m spoiled by having already seen the superior-in-every-conceivable-way Line of Duty, meaning that the pace and acting would never stand up? After all, in place of the mighty Ted Hastings, we had that guy with the beard who looked like he was going to burst into tears every time he was on screen. Or it could be that I was put off by sub-plots that went nowhere and paper thin characters who would routinely acted in an unbelievable manner?

Whatever it was, I couldn’t face any more of it and I would implore you not to bother with it.

In a world with so much content available to the viewing public, this just isn’t worth your time.

 

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

July 2, 2017

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

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

But imagine if it wasn’t?

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

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

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

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

Anyway, on to the review…

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

Writing everyone out.

Thoughts – A Familiar Change of Pace

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

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

For example…

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

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

    for all I know)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Story Itself

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

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

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

Mon Then

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

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

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

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

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

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

But best of all was Peter Capaldi.

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

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

Random Observations

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review: Final Thoughts

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

The writing? Only so-so.

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

I’m looking forward to it already.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


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

June 25, 2017

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

But I felt I needed to.

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

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

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

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

Thoughts – The Spoiler Effect

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

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

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

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

To that I say yes…and no.

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

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

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

But…

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

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

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

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

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

And I still loved every minute of it.

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

It was just brilliant.

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

Spare Parts Retold

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

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

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

Which is better? I’ve seen a Facebook post this morning suggest the audio is his preferred choice, but I think they both have their strengths.

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

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

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

Doctor Who

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

In particular, the Doctor Who joke tickled me.

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

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

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

The Regeneration Scene

And what about the beginning of the episode?

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

Wow that was intense.

I’ve watched it a few times now because I’m a bit of a geek and it just gets better.

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

Random Observations

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

Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: Final Thoughts

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

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

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

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light Review (or “Light Filler”)

June 18, 2017

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

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

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

We can but hope…

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

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

Obviously there are monsters.

And music.

And love.

Or some such nonsense.

Thoughts – It’s All A Bit Kiddy

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

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

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

Personally, I don’t subscribe to that view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Characterisation of the Doctor

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

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

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

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

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

Yay, go kids.

I wouldn’t have been enthusiastic either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, I’m not.

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

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

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

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

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

So it’s worth bringing up.

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

Random Observations

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

Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light Review: Final Thoughts

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

He was right.

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

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

Though I hope Rona Munro isn’t asked back.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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


Doctor Who: The Empress of Mars Review (or “Generic But Better Than Expected”)

June 11, 2017

I consider myself a fair-minded person.

So despite Mark Gatiss routinely delivering episodes at the poorer end of the spectrum – which would make you wonder why he keeps getting asked back to write more until you remember that he’s Steven Moffat’s bezzie mate and nepotism is rife in the world of TV writing – I sat down to watch The Empress of Mars with an open mind.

It might be good.

Maybe…

Doctor Who: The Empress of Mars Review – What’s This One About?

Like a lot of Mark Gatiss’s episodes – seven out of his nine episodes actually, which makes you wonder how much imagination he has – it puts aliens in a period setting.

Well…if we’re being fair it puts period humans in an alien setting, so I guess he probably though he was being clever.

Thoughts – Better Than Expected But Very Generic

Right, I’ll get this out of the way now; I liked The Empress of Mars. I know, I’m as surprised as you.

Classic Series fans around the country lose their shit at Alpha Centauri showing up voiced by the same woman…

As a standalone episode watched in isolation on a Saturday night, this did the job fine.

It had a good setting, identifiable characters and a simple plot to follow.

But – and I expect you knew there’d be a but – it still had its issues.

If I was to be overly critical I’d say that this was an episode written in the most generic of terms.

While Knock, Knock felt like it was written for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and while many of the earlier episodes of this season were penned with Bill in mind, The Empress of Mars appears to fit any Doctor and any female companion.

Hell, it could even have worked with any group of humans and any alien.

And that’s not good.

It sums up the Gatiss style. He’s good at coming up with the setting, but his characterisation is lacking.

That being said, I will repeat that I did enjoy it overall.

The Vault

I’m at the point now where I take issue with The Vault.

In the early episodes of this season when we didn’t know who or what was inside it, the writing was that Nardole did not like the idea of the Doctor leaving Earth in the TARDIS because if he went away for a while

Meanwhile the younger viewers share Bill’s expression of “It’s just an eye”.

then the planet would be in danger from its contents.

That’s fallen by the wayside.

Now that we as viewers know what’s in it, that’s been forgotten about.

Now not only do they all go off on their travels together without fear of Missy doing anything, but Nardole is happy to take her off on a jaunt in time and space.

That’s poor. It’s like when a good-natured character has shockingly been revealed to the viewer – and only the viewer – as being evil, then they start acting evil all the time. It annoys me.

But then that’s probably Moffat’s fault rather than Gatiss’s.

Random Observations

  • I imagine classic series Doctor Who fans around the world lost their shit when Alpha Centauri showed up, voice-acted by the same woman as in the Peladon stories from the Pertwee era. I thought that was kinda cool too.
  • Do you get the feeling that – much like some early episodes in this season – it was written without Nardole in mind?
  • Going back to what I was saying about it being generic, I don’t think the way Bill reacted to being in a war zone – seeing men being killed in front of her and not even raising an eyebrow – was in keeping with her established character.
  • I’m not doubting that this wasn’t researched and therefore wasn’t possible, but how could a guy who was hung for desertion be reinstated as the leader of a platoon of men? At the very most, surely if it didn’t work they’d have just sent him home?
  • Catchlove was probably the most one-note boo-hiss panto villain seen in the show for a while.
  • Certain parts of this episode felt very convenient. For example, beyond giving them a reason to go to Mars and to marry up the beginning and end of the episode, why were the Doctor and his chums in that NASA control room at the start? And why – beyond engineering a situation where Nardole wasn’t in it and Missy got out of the vault – did the TARDIS suddenly leave?
  • The timeline of the Ice Warriors really doesn’t make sense to me, but I think that’s another article for another day.
  • Also, why is there never any continuity with the Ice Warriors’ guns? Either from the 1960s would do me fine. But now they seem to have ones that disintegrate humans and tie up their clothes in a neat bundle for washing.
  • The Ice Warriors weren’t voiced by Nicholas Briggs again. I bet he’s fuming.

Doctor Who: The Empress of Mars Review – Final Thoughts

When you sit down to watch a Mark Gatiss-penned episode of Doctor Who, you expect a few things.

  1. A period piece
  2. A decent idea in principle
  3. A story written for almost any Doctor or companion
  4. Paper thin characterisation
  5. For it to be shite

We hit four of the five today, but thankfully the one we didn’t was number five.

This was actually decent enough.

So I’m as happy as I think I have any right to be.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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

 


Doctor Who – The Lie of the Land Review (or “Earth Has Been Taken Over By Aliens Influenced By John Terry”)

June 4, 2017

And so we come to the end of this three-part Monk trilogy in The Lie of the Land.

If you’ve read my reviews from the last two episodes, you’ll know I wasn’t keen on Extremis at all, but enjoyed The Pyramid at the End of the World, so this episode is to an extent the decider on whether the story as a whole has been good enough.

My initial thought on seeing that it was written by Toby Whithouse was that it probably wouldn’t be great, but then I remembered that I liked his last effort from the previous season.

So there was always hope…

Doctor Who – The Lie of the Land Review: What’s This One About?

Earth has been taken over by Aliens influenced by John Terry’s antics at the Champions League Final.

Thoughts – Limping Over The Finish Line

Alas my hopes were dashed.

I didn’t think too much of The Lie of the Land.

The Monks took over the planet to claim they’d helped Chelsea win the Champions League.

It wasn’t that it was a bad episode, but rather that it failed to capitalise on the cliffhanger from last week and so it lacked any real punch.

Let’s take The Monks as an example. When last we saw them, they had just done a deal to ‘save’ Earth and menaced the Doctor with the line “Enjoy your sight Doctor; now you’ll see our world”. That’s a big cliffhanger and one that could have gone in any number of directions. But all they did was change people’s memories so that they’d think The Monks had shared in Earth’s achievements over the centuries.

In effect, their threat amounted to becoming a race of John Terrys, claiming credit for things they hadn’t done themselves.

Hardly menacing, just mildly annoying.

And they barely appeared.

Instead, they were relegated to the background in an episode about fake news, Missy and the possibility that Bill might have to sacrifice herself to save the world (even though we all knew that wasn’t going to happen) before being vanquished by her love of a fictionalised version of her mother or some other sentimental nonsense.

Maybe this is down to having a different writer. Maybe it should be that if you’re doing a multi-episode story, if you want consistency then you must have the same writer penning the lot, for better or worse. This has been a problem going all the way back to The Daleks’ Master Plan after all.

But on the whole, at this point I don’t think the trilogy worked. It was too disjointed, each writer wanted to achieve something different and the results were a story that lacked an overall sense of direction.

This one limped over the finish line.

Missy

Like I say though, it wasn’t a bad episode.

Bill really didn’t enjoy washing the old man’s hair at the nursing home

Its strengths lay in the interactions between the Doctor, Bill and Missy (alas Nardole was just an annoying background noise for the most part).

Though I’m keen to see where this is all going, I do like that Missy is – on the face of it at least – attempting to reform as a character and offering advice and support in her own way.

It’s not saying much, but the interaction and chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez has resulted in the best Doctor/Master relationship since Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado.

Unlike any of the actors who have taken the role in between, I think Gomez gets that under the surface, there’s supposed to be a likeability about the Doctor’s arch nemesis.

Doctor Who Goes Global…Again

In my review last week, I raised concerns that this episode would end up being like Last of the Timelords. And I was right.

The opening section of the episode bore a striking resemblance to Martha’s journey, while the reset switch was also pressed at the end of it too.

And that’s something I don’t think works in Doctor Who.

To me, the show works best and has the most credibility when something happens on a smaller scale. The idea is that the Doctor should prevent an alien invasion before the public is aware of it rather than defeat it after they’ve already won.

When they’ve already won then the cat is out of the bag.

Too often now have aliens taken over contemporary Earth in Doctor Who, only for them to be defeated and for everyone to simply forget that it happened.

It just doesn’t sit well with me.

Random Observations

  • The Lie of the Land didn’t just copy The Last of the Timelords either. The bit where they all wore headphones to remind them of the truth about The Monks was a rehash of how they fought back against The

    Why can’t they accept that Magpie Electrical wouldn’t have survived as a business?!

    Silence in the Matt Smith episodes.

  • I wonder who the Monks got to build all those statues? If their source of power was originally Bill but that they needed the statues to amplify their control, how did they have control over enough people to build the statues in the first place? Answer me that!
  • I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again; Magpie Electrical was an independent retailer in 1950s London whose owner died under the cloud of having collaborated with a monster who sucked the faces off his customers.  Why would the shop now be a successful chain in modern times? At the very least, even if you take into consideration the possibility that someone decided to take over the business after he died, they’d probably have rebranded it.
  • So does everyone now have strong memories of Bill’s mum?
  • There was a comment on the blog from a reader the other week that has echoed some rumblings I’ve read elsewhere over the last three weeks. People think that The Monks are somehow the Mondas Cybermen. I guess this is because of the way they speak with voices coming out of open mouths. That is the only link anyone could make between the two and it’s the reachiest of reaches. If for whatever reason that prediction turns out to be true – taking into consideration that the Mondas Cybermen are humans with spare parts – then I’ll throw my hands up in disgust.
  • Next week it’s a Mark Gatiss episode. Oh joy. I feel I need to remind you all again that despite the fact I’ve never had any interaction with him on a one to one basis, I noticed Gatiss has blocked me on Twitter, which means he’s read my reviews of his mostly crap episodes and has taken the hump. So if you’re reading this Mark, hiya pal!

Doctor Who – The Lie of the Land Review: Final Thoughts

Though the interaction between the Doctor, Missy and Bill was good, The Lie of the Land was an ultimately disappointing conclusion to a trilogy that – because it had different writers for each episode – has felt disjointed and lacking in direction.

I’m glad we’re moving on to something different even though it might turn out to be poor considering the writer.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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

 


Doctor Who – The Pyramid At The End Of The World Review (or “There’s No Room For A Tagline”)

May 28, 2017

So after the disappointment of last week – which I have to say a lot of people strongly disagreed with me on – I was skeptical of how good The Pyramid at the End of the World would be.

The only glimmer of hope was that this episode is written by some somebody different.

Could that make a difference?

Dr Who – The Pyramid At The End Of The World Review: What’s This One About?

A Pyramid at the end of the world, would you believe?

Well…that, monks and a midget. Whey-hey.

Thoughts – Much Better, But What Was The Point Of Last Week?

So this was vastly superior to Extremis in just about every conceivable way.

For one thing, it was a straightforward story that didn’t depend upon deliberately swervy detours just for the sake of trying to be clever,

Being blind is all fun and games….

nor did it jump about from one storyline to the next.

Put simply, there’s a threat to the world and the Doctor and his friends have to try to sort it.

It had purpose and wasn’t just reset at the end.

You’ll hear no complaints on that score from me.

And even though I still contend that the monks are a variation on all Steven Moffat’s recent monsters, in this episode at least they’ve got something to them. Their characterisation is interesting as it differs from the alien norm.

The one thing though that stood out about how this episode panned out was how pointless last week’s episode was.

Because nothing from Extremis really mattered here.

The Monks from last week were portrayed as aliens running simulations to plan the end of the world, but that’s not what their aim was this week. Even when it inevitably turns out next week that their motives were not entirely altruistic, that still doesn’t mean that this episode couldn’t have worked without Extremis.

The Cliffhanger

Last week I complained about how poorly The Doctor’s blindness was used.

This week is the polar opposite.

In Extremis there was no point to him being unable to see, especially as he very quickly got his sight back for the plot to be able to

…Until you have to open a combination lock on a LCD screen

progress.

In Pyramid, it was used as well as it could be.

The Doctor’s shortcoming played a part throughout the story, but it didn’t dent his confidence – in his words, his ability to save the world with his eyes shut – until the very last moment when the simplest of tasks resulted in his downfall.

That led to Bill offering her consent and will subsequently spill over into what happens next week.

In my opinion, this was such a good twist that it should have been saved for Peter Capaldi’s final episode. Yes, it’s similar to what happened to David Tennant in The End of Time, but I don’t think that matters.

The idea that the Doctor could end up dying as a result of something so simple is the basis of the best regenerations.

It would have been brilliant.

So there’d better be something amazing lined up for the end of this season/Christmas Day.

Random Observations

  • While not wanting to accuse a writer of having one idea and running with it again and again, the structure, characters and setting of this episode are very similar to The Zygon story from last season.
  • Oh Em Gee!!! The Monks aren’t voiced by Nicholas Briggs
  • My only real complaint about this episode is that they come to the conclusion that it must be some kind of bio hazard threat very quickly and without consideration of anything else. Even allowing for how brisk Doctor Who must progress in its 45 minute format, this was still a bit too convenient for me.
  • But once it was established that it was a bio hazard issue, the way the Doctor narrowed the location down was pretty smart.
  • I have a fear that next week will end up a bit of a damp squib in the same way as The Last of the Time Lords was a poor follow-up to The Sound of Drums
  • Once again I feel I have to praise Pearl Mackie. She’s just top notch as Bill. Hopefully she’ll still be in it next year.

Doctor Who: The Pyramid At The End Of The World – Final Thoughts

This was a great improvement on last week and an episode that built up to a superb cliffhanger.

Hopefully next week won’t disappoint.

More Doctor Who Reviews

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