TV: The Bridge Review

February 27, 2015

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

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

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

Take The Bridge for example.

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

And it’s brilliant.

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

Season Two concerns eco-terrorism.

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t wait until Season 3!

 

 

Did You Know I Have A Book Out?

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

You can find out more about that here.


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

February 26, 2015

Hi guys,SG_Cvr_04

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The links to the books are…

Book One
Book Two

and for the US Store…

Book One
Book Two

Cheers,

Stuart Milne

 

 


The Stuart Reviews Stuff TV, Movies & Games Awards 2014

January 4, 2015

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

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

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

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So….

Best Movie of 2014:  What We Did On Our Holiday

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

Worst Movie of 2014: 12 Years A Slave

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

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

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

But I said it at the time.

Pleasant Surprise of the Year: Under the Skin

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

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

It’s well worth your time.

Television

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

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

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

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

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

Ridiculous.

The Lost The Plot Award: Under the Dome

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

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

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

The Out of Touch Award: The Newsroom

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

Neal Sampat: Smug Prick

Neal Sampat: Smug Prick

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

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

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

The Best Online Show Award: Orange is the New Black

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

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

Best Comedy: 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown

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

Most Annoying TV Show: Scandal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grow it back Penny, grow it back!

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

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

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

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

Mind you, I stopped watching Neighbours…

The Hidden Gem Award: Continuum

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

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

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

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

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

Games

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

That list reads as…

PC

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

PS4

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

Wii U

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

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

Most Disappointing Game Awards: Worms Battleground

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

How could they get it so wrong?

How could they get it so wrong?

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

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

I won’t finish it.

Best Looking Game: Anything By Nintendo

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

Most Innovative Game Mode: Mario Chase on Nintendo Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Favourite Game of 2014

My Favourite Game of 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire Yukes!

The Most Enjoyable Game of the Year Award: Mercenary Kings

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

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

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

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

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


Only An Excuse Needs To End. Please.

January 1, 2015

On the BBC website’s iPlayer, the synopsis for Only An Excuse reads…

“Scotland’s premier comedy team takes a look back at the highs and the lows of the year”

If they are the ‘premier’ team then we may as well shut down Scottish comedy production, pack up and go home.

Every Hogmanay for what seems like an eternity, the BBC commissions another episode of this utter garbage, and every year people write about just how unfunny it is.

There's Ronnie Deila. We know it's him because of the 'RD' on his jumper and the way Watson had to say "I'm Ronnie Deila".

There’s Ronnie Deila. We know it’s him because of the ‘RD’ on his jumper and the way Watson had to say “I’m Ronnie Deila”.

Only an Excuse is supposed to be a comedy show about Scottish football, or football in the wider sense, and when it first started, it seemed culturally relevant. And to be fair, it was also funny once upon a time. Check out the 1998 show on YouTube for example.

But if you do check it out, you’ll notice that two of the recurring jokes are about Frank McAvennie – an ex footballer who retired in 1995 and stopped being culturally relevant or in the public eye on a national level in the 20th century – being a pervert and Charlie Nicholas mispronouncing words.

Every year since, that has remained the cornerstone of the show. The jokes haven’t changed, the delivery hasn’t changed and the recurring nature of them hasn’t changed. This year there was even a sketch with the two of them together on Countdown, and wouldn’t you know it, McAvennie was acting like a pervert and Nicholas was mispronouncing words. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Other than them, some of the other cutting edge football sketches included the likes of the retired Sir Alex Ferguson, Martin “I haven’t managed in Scottish football since 2005″ O’Neill, Graeme Sounness, who left his job as Rangers manager in 1991 and a joke about Robbie Fowler’s cocaine sniffing goal celebration from April 3rd 1999.

The only two ‘new’ personalities on show were Celtic manager Ronnie Deila and current BBC Sportsound pundit, Pat Bonnar (who apparently speaks in a rhythmical, poetic structure if this sketch is to be believed. I’d never picked up on that before, had you?)

And the thing about it is that in both cases – and in the cases of pretty much every single ‘famous’ personality Watson does – they neither looked nor sounded like the person they were supposed to, and as a crutch, in his impression he had to name-drop who he was so that viewers had the slightest inkling. That’s not exactly the sign of a quality impressionist.

Apart from that, Watson had digs at other Scottish teams (a terrible Dundee derby sketch ended with him saying “Bring back the Old Firm” which I believe he meant with all his heart even though it was coming out

Martin O'Neill hasn't managed in Scottish football since 2005, but fuck it, he's in the show anyway

Martin O’Neill hasn’t managed in Scottish football since 2005, but fuck it, he’s in the show anyway

of Jim White’s mouth), did one about how Scottish football is skint (despite 2014 being a year in which most of the teams in Scotland finally dragged themselves out of the financial mire and into the black again) and didn’t touch his beloved Rangers with a barge-pole.

That’s right, despite Rangers in 2014 being the laughing-stock of world football and having hours worth of potential material from Ally McCoist’s tactical inability to the boardroom chaos to work with – the ultimate low hanging fruit – all we had of them was one sketch about the different Rangers fans groups. Unbelievable.

Apparently feeling that Scottish football didn’t have enough material to fill up an entire show with, Watson and his team of seventeen (yes, seventeen) writers decided that 21 of the 37 sketches should be about other stuff, including the Ice Bucket challenge, bowls, the Glasgow Lord Provost’s speech at the Commonwealth Games that most of us had forgotten, a series of Better Together influenced political digs, Ed Sheeran and for some reason, two sketches insinuating that Dundee is like a city from the 19th century.

And none of it was funny.

They had an entire year to come up with 30 minutes of humorous material and they couldn’t do it.

So who’s to blame?

Watson and his writers for churning out this crap, or BBC Scotland for commissioning it?

Ultimately it’s a bit of both.

Watson and his team write this shit, but where’s the motivation to actually try when it seems that no matter how bad it get, it’s given the green light year after year?

Because of when it’s on, Only an Excuse will always do well in the ratings and so someone at the BBC will probably think it’s popular. But they could exhume the corpse of Rikki Fulton and prop him up in a chair and it’d be both funnier and get more viewers.

There’s just no chance that this sort of thing would be deemed acceptable in England or on our screens at any other time of the year.

It’s garbage and it needs to end.

Please.

Surely Scotland can come up with something funnier than this?

Mind you…have you seen Limmy?


Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review (or “Long Live Peter Capaldi”)

November 8, 2014

And so the latest season of Doctor Who draws to a close.

Compared against any season in the show’s history, this has more than held its own in terms of quality, but especially after how poor Matt Smith’s final season – excluding the late 2013 specials – was, it just seems all the better.

Still, if you’ll recall, the last review I did wasn’t exactly favourable.

Following a run of six quality stories in a row, they hit a brick wall with In the Forest of the Night.

So my hope was that the season would reclaim its consistency in the two-part finale, Dark Water & Death In Heaven.

Did it?

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: What’s This One About?

The Master is back…and she’s a woman now!

And the Cybermen are back, and they don’t say much!!

And Danny Pink dies!!!

And Clara Leaves!!!!

Or Does She??????

And The Brigadier makes a comeback from beyond the grave!!!!!

Oh Em Gee!!!!!!!!

Thoughts – Storylines Wrapped Up, Even When They Didn’t Make Sense

It’s always a good thing to wrap up a story-arc, and to Steven Moffat’s credit, he did that on every count with this story.

Whether it was the mystery of Missy, the bits about dead people, the “Who left the ad in the paper/Who gave Clara the number” stuff, the “Am I A Good Man” question, the Danny Pink/Clara story or even giving a fitting send-off to a character whose actor died a few

To be fair, this Cyberman is more convincing as Nicholas Courtney than Sylvester McCoy in a wig was as Colin Baker

To be fair, this Cyberman is more convincing as Nicholas Courtney than Sylvester McCoy in a wig was as Colin Baker

years ago, this two-parter managed it.

And I liked that.

I especially liked the end to Danny Pink’s story. It was quite a shock at the beginning of Dark Water when he was killed off, but everything that followed it made sense to me, and the way he managed to save the day not only suited the writing of his character, but it also settled his issues with the Doctor and Clara. Powerful stuff.

No, Danny’s character and the romance storyline is not to everyone’s liking, but hey, that’s just tough. It appeals to me as much as the other elements of the show, but it’ll also appeal to people who are less interested in elements like the Cybermen.

Meanwhile, though it may be a bit cheesy, and though it may also not make a huge amount of sense that one Cyberman evaded Danny Pink’s orders, it was still a powerful moment to see the Doctor – and the viewer – get a chance to salute and say goodbye to the Brigadier. That was more emotional than it had every right to be.

But if I was to criticise anything about the wrapping up of story-arcs, it would be the one about how Missy had engineered it so that Clara and the Doctor would come together. Maybe I’m just missing something obvious, but I don’t think it was explained all that well. Yes, she did it, but why? Who knows.

And speaking of Missy…

A Female Master: Does It Set A Precedent?

First off, in spite of her suddenly becoming Scottish in the second episode when she wasn’t in the first, I thought that Michelle Gomez was excellent.

Unlike the terrible John Simms, she managed to combine being amusing with a large dollop of menace, and unlike any actor to play the part since Roger Delgado, she actually made the Master seem multi-layered and likeable.

But should she be a woman?

Well on the one hand, why not? It’s never been explicitly stated on TV that a Time Lord can’t change gender through regeneration. Indeed it’s been quite the reverse.

From an equal opportunities sense, why shouldn’t a woman be able to take on a role and make it her own, if she’s good enough?

But on the other hand, what it does is set a precedent. If the Master can become female then why not the Doctor? That’s what the tabloids have been after since the 1980s.

Well call me sexist if you like – even though I don’t think I am being – but I’d rather the Doctor didn’t become a woman.

I mean, I don’t think he ever will, because ultimately any casting of a female in the title role would be seen as gimmicky hot-shotting, but even beyond that, it just wouldn’t feel right.

It’s not wrong to say that the character of the Doctor is male, and that the dynamic of male Doctor, female companion works. Why change it?

The Cybermen: Best Seen But Not Heard

Meanwhile, the Cybermen are back.

When I heard that the finale would be a two-part story involving them I groaned with anguish. Why?!

The Pink Slip: In there just in case idiots hadn't worked it out yet

The Pink Slip: In there just in case idiots hadn’t worked it out yet

But to be fair, they were well handled here.

First of all, despite I think everyone watching knowing fine it was them in the dark water, it was written and handled with the right amount of pacing so that it still had the entertainment factor.

In the second episode, they were used the only way I think they can be these days – as silent back-up to a more charismatic villain.

In the 70s and 80s, the Cybermen only worked when they went against type. You all know I love the Christopher Robbie Cyber Leader, and have a soft spot for David Banks’ efforts too, but with the way the Cybermen are presented these days, that sort of character could never make a comeback.

So instead, Moffat went with Tobias Vaughn/Invasion Cybermen dynamic and presented them as mostly non-speaking background foot soldiers.

That worked better.

And let’s hope that’s an end to them for a long time, with the only exception being if they come back as Tenth Planet ones.

That would be awesome.

The Supposedly Offensive Subject Matter

I couldn’t believe it when I read that people had complained to the BBC about the subject matter of Dark Water.

Apparently, some viewers found the notion of the afterlife being presented as a con, while people from beyond the grave praying that they aren’t going to be cremated was deemed upsetting and offensive.

Give me a break.

The sort of people who do that just make me shake my head.

It’s a TV show. It’s fiction. Please take that piece of information in.

I’ve never understood how people can be so moved by a TV show that they feel they have to complain.

What is it I’m missing? Is it that some people are so entrenched in their beliefs of the uncertain (for that is what an afterlife is) that they can’t accept anyone having a differing opinion, or is it that by questioning it, it makes them question themselves and they don’t like it.

Either way it’s just bloody stupid. It’s like people who get scared by horror movies. The bad man with the knife is not coming out of the TV to get you, you fools.

Random Observations

  • Killing off Osgood was a bit of a shocker, but I liked it. What it did was give Missy some level of credibility, and it added some uncertainty as to the outcomes of the other incidental characters.
  • And I was more surprised that they killed off Kate, until I realised they hadn’t.
  • The Doctor’s freefall into the TARDIS was more than a little bit ridiculous, but it was still also fun.
  • And his line on the plane to Missy about how she’s always wanted to rule the world, and he managed it without even trying was fantastic.
  • I hope the long running references to the Doctor being the General of his own army now get rested for a few years.
  • Not only was it poor form for the Next Time trailer after In the Forest of the Night to include a scene from an episode two weeks later, but the “I’ve never been Clara Oswald” stuff was a total bait and switch.
  • Chris Addison is a bit of an over-actor, let’s be honest.
  • Clara, meanwhile comes across as a certifiable nutter at the start. I accept she was grief-stricken but what she planned on doing to the Doctor at the volcano was poor form.
  • And wouldn’t they be sweating a bit more if they were at a volcano? Ok, I know that they weren’t, but at one point we were supposed to believe they were.
  • Danny being a Cyberman was something I didn’t expect to see, but I liked it.
  • When Clara told him – without realising who he was – that the Doctor was the one she trusted more than anyone, it was a sad moment.
  • And by the way, having the camera zoom in on the name in his hand was unnecessary for anyone with a brain and reasoning skills.
  • Probably the funniest moment over the course of both episodes was the bit where you hear the scream of someone who has left their body to science.
  • I think we know that this is not the end for Clara, but even so, if it was, that would have been a nice way for her to go. Ultimately, she’s not going to be in the show for too much longer you wouldn’t have thought, so that would have been a nice point for her to bow out.
  • Does the Doctor still keep a spare key in David Tennant’s coat?
  • I don’t get why Dr Chang said something nice to Missy when she said “I’ll only kill you when you say something nice”. Why not tell her to piss off and then leave? Surely the worst that could happen was already going to happen?
  • Why didn’t Clara hear a crash or any sort of noise when Danny got hit by the car?
  • The notion that the Cybermen could turn the dead into more Cybermen is hokey, but I can live with it. It certainly made for some good visuals.
  • If the Cyberman had said “Nice to see you again” before shooting Missy, I’d have loved it.
  • I would have preferred it if Missy had turned out to be either Susan or Romana. They could have made that make sense easily.
  • Yay, it’s Santa Claus
  • Noooooooo, he’s played by Nick Frost.

Doctor Who – Dark Water & Death In Heaven Review: Final Thoughts

You could argue that the resolution of this episode is slightly anticlimactic, but when you build up a threat as big as the one in this story, I suppose it was always going to be.

So I don’t consider that a problem.

Indeed, I thought this was a fine story, and one of the best finales to a Doctor Who season in a long time.

The absolute best? No, probably not. Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways and The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End probably pip this, mainly because the emotional impact centred around characters bigger and better than Danny Pink, but it was still very good.

Even the Cybermen were used well, and that’s saying something.

Roll on Christmas, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Peter Capaldi’s First Season: Final Thoughts

So there you go, a season with 11 stories and only two of them were what I would consider to be poor.

The Best Doctor. No Question

The Best Doctor. No Question

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Steven Moffat has turned things around and has done a great job this year.

But what of the star of the show?

I think I speak for almost everyone – because there are bound to be some people out there who disagree – when I say that Peter Capaldi has been nothing short of excellent.

Playing a different kind of Doctor than we’ve ever seen, he’s been a breath of fresh air for the show.

I’ll lay my cards on the table now and say it; based upon these performances, Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor.

And as I write this and prepare to release my second Stuart Reviews Doctor Who book, I think it’s superb that we’re in a situation now where 51 years into the show’s existence, it’s got its best ever leading man in the title role.

Will his stories make him the highest rated in terms of that? You’ll have to read my rankings to find that out. But even if they don’t; even if there are Doctors out there whose stories are more consistently high on my list, that doesn’t change the notion in my eyes that he’s the best one we’ve ever had.

Long may he reign.

Keep Following the Blog

So for a lot of you, this’ll probably be the last time you visit the blog before Christmas, but I’d urge you to stick around and either like this on Facebook (on the tab on the right) or follow me on Twitter @sgmilne.

Like & Retweet The Article

If you enjoyed this article, please like and share it on social media

Buy The Book

Remember that my complete reviews of the classic series can be found  on Amazon. But it today.

Look Out For the New Book

Finally, with this season coming to an end, I’ll shortly be releasing my second book, which will contain all the reviews from Rose to Death In Heaven. It’ll also include my rankings of every Dr Who story from the start.


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

October 18, 2014

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

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

Examples of  lines used in those articles include…

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

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

Yet there it was; episode after episode of dreariness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It would get people considering it a Golden Age.

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

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

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

Thoughts – To Start With A Criticism

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

Put simply, the monsters were too easily defeated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Now To The Praise

Yup, Flatline is another quality story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random Observations

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who – Flatline Review: Final Thoughts

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

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

But it did.

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

We’re in a Golden Age folks.

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

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

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


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

October 11, 2014

I can’t help it.

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

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

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

What?

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

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

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

You’ve got to love an enigmatic episode title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I do like it.

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

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

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

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

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

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

Chunky legs, eh? #AwaitsBeingCalledAChauvinist

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

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

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

But Back To The Matter At Hand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brilliant stuff.

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

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

Random Observations

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

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

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

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

Now I’ve gone and jinxed it!

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


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