Category Archives: Doctor Who

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Doctor Who Review: S08E03 – Robots Of Sherwood

Galimaufry indeed. 

The word was uttered by Ben Miller rather excellently playing the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham (who I found constantly reminded me of Anthony Ainley’s version of The Master) . I had to look it up:

A hotchpotch, jumble or confused medley.

11 Doctor Who Review: S08E03   Robots Of SherwoodWell that’s certainly a very apt description for Robots of Sherwood. You could also just sum it up by calling it a Mark Gatiss Doctor Who script.

Gatiss has a long but very mixed history with the show. He generally has clever ideas, but too often in his episodes he lets his instincts for comedy dominate. And while Doctor Who should have humor, it’s not a comedy.

And so while sometimes we get Cold War other times we get The Crimson Horror or Robots of Sherwood.

There are some really clever ideas going on in this episode. The notion of the Doctor finding himself face to face with a fictional hero as culturally significant as himself is interestingly meta. And the friction between these two egotistical characters proves to be very entertaining. It was also quite clever to have the Doctor so suspicious of Robin Hood and yet in the end have him be one of the few genuine things in the story.

Jenna Coleman gets a good amount to work with too as Clara is alternately captivated and frustrated by both Robin and the Doctor and then finds herself separated and needing to handle things on her own.

The titular robots aren’t much more than automatons without any clear motive for their actions, but I do like their design.

So there are a bunch of good acting performances and some clever ideas in this story. But it’s surrounded by… cheap and easy jokes.

The multiple arrow splitting. The sword fight with a spoon. And worst of all the golden arrow hitting a spaceship and miraculously giving it the power to achieve orbit.

That stuff is silly and lazy. Humor in a drama has to be grounded in the reality of the story or the laugh you just got actually undermines the story you are telling. Thats the case here unfortunately 

It’s not that the individual moments aren’t rather funny. Watching a man duel with a spoon is inherently ridiculous and thus amusing. But it’s not credible even in the swashbuckling world that this story is set in. And when that same silliness is directly contrasted with the Sheriff brutally killing someone there’s a massive inconsistency in the tone of the episode.

So yeah… good in parts, clever ideas. Wildly inconsistent and ultimately flawed.

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Doctor Who Review: S08E02 Into The Dalek

I was really looking forward to this episode. We’re now free of the encumbrance of regeneration and able to see the 12th Doctor in his own environment. Plus a return of the Daleks. Granted Dalek stories have always been hit and miss affairs, but when they work they can be really good.
The episode opened strong with CGI that seemed noticeably better than the giant dinosaur from last week and I loved Peter Capaldi’s delivery of the Doctor’s lines as he insisted on a “please” from the person he rescued. Its that sort of detail that makes this Doctor feel different to what we’ve seen for years now.

Screen shot 2014 08 25 at 7.21.21 AM 1024x576 Doctor Who Review: S08E02 Into The DalekAnd that was just the beginning of the snark and cynicism with the high (low) point being his casual use of someone he knew was about to die in order to gain information to save the rest of his party.

Phil Ford, who previously wrote The Waters of Mars (a favorite of mine) delivered an episode that emphasised this Doctor’s moral ambiguity while at the same time highlighted the lack of ambiguity in Dalek morals. They believe one thing and they believe it absolutely and openly.

The idea of a good Dalek is an interesting one and something that the script explored well particularly in contrasting the Doctor and his nemesis. It also touched on a theme that has been recurring in recent Dalek episodes. That the Doctor himself hates. That he would make a good Dalek. A statement that clearly shook him.

It would be interesting to watch S01E06 – Dalek back to back with Into The Dalek because they share a lot of thematic elements while approaching the situation very differently and also ending up in a very different place.

I really liked the use of Clara in this episode too. Not only is she central to resolving the crisis with the damaged Dalek, but she also firmly (and physically) puts the Doctor back in his place when he becomes too alien and removed from the situation around him. It is a great moment and not something I can see happening with previous companions or Doctors.

Director Ben Wheatley takes advantage of the miniaturization conceit to come up with some unusual and imaginative shots and angles to tell the story as well as trying to minimize the obvious budget limitations of shooting a full scale Dalek attack on the spaceship.

Hello Danny Pink

Unusually for Doctor Who there’s actually a B-story in this episode. The episode is credited to both Steven Moffat and Phil Ford and it felt like Moffat was basically writing the B-story here which was the introduction of Danny Pink.

It’s obviously intended to be a gradual introduction of the character since he has yet to meet the Doctor. But what that does is give him far more character build up than companions normally get. We’ve seen him flirt (awkwardly) with Clara. We know he was a soldier. And we know he had to kill people. I think he’s going to add an interesting dimension as things go forward.

The New Era Begins

While Deep Breath had a lot of elements in it that were common in the Matt Smith era, Into The Dalek felt new. There were no slapstick moments here. Peter Capaldi wasn’t goofy or silly. His humor was sharp and biting. Clearly the first episode of this season was intended as a transition from what has come before. Now the new era has begun and I’m loving it.

I spent so much time just loving Peter Capaldi’s performance. Clara felt like a more rounded character. The tonal change has really freshened things up. Oh… and this is probably the best Dalek story since… Dalek.

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Doctor Who Review:  Season 8 Episode 1 – Deep Breath

DW 12 Ep1 00557 BBCAbugged 1024x681 Doctor Who Review:  Season 8 Episode 1   Deep BreathThe episodes that introduce a new Doctor to Doctor Who carry some additional weight and challenges with them. While there have been a few classics (The Power of the Daleks, Spearhead from Space and The 11th Hour spring to mind) there have also been well… less memorable ones (I’m looking at you Robot, The Twin Dillema and Time and the Rani).
In the modern era with a more knowing audience the challenges have possibly multiplied. Certainly Deep Breath is the most self-aware introduction to the Doctor that we’ve ever been given. In some ways that is good, in others not so much.

Ground It In The Familiar

One of the tricks Moffat pull out of his bag here is to surround Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor with lots of familiar faces and places. So we get the Paternoster Gang, Jenna Coleman’s Clara and another visit to Victorian London. I’ve lost count of the number of times the Doctor has landed there now. Even the villains are familiar with the clockwork robots from a previous Moffat episode (The excellent The Girl In The Fireplace) showing up.

That’s a smart play. It reassures the more conservative portion of the audience who don’t handle a change in the actor well. I’m not sure what percentage that is (not the kids I’m certain) but they are quite vocal so it’s a measurable number of the adult viewers.

Post Regeneration Trauma

It’s also become a tradition in Doctor Who for the Doctor to undergo some level of confusion after regeneration. Over the years this seems to have become a bigger part of the plot for the opening stories. If you’ve been watching for a long time that’s an element that does get a bit repetitive.

Here Capaldi initially plays it for laughs but then morphs it almost seamlessly into pathos. This is why Peter Capaldi is going to be awesome in this role. Certainly Steven Moffat’s script gave him the beats and the lines, but it’s Capaldi who can sell it. And that switch from funny to serious and then to dangerous (more on that later) is not an easy one to pull off.

Green Screen

One of the negatives that cannot be avoided is that Doctor Who is a science fiction show produced on a BBC budget. While some stories work around that limitation Moffat has a tendency to just go for broke with grandiose scenarios. The advances in modern CGI help a lot here. But the opening sequence with the dinosaur in London just screamed green screen to me.

For my tastes this is not a deal breaker, but it may stop some people from fully getting into the story.

The Darker Doctor

Much has been made in the press and online of the idea that Peter Capaldi would play a darker version of the Doctor. And oh boy does he.

Our first sign of this change is his casual dismissal of everyone else as idiots. Planet of the Pudding Brains as he puts it. His sense of superiority and his lack of concern for the feelings of others is not something we would have seen in recent incarnations of the character.

But then it gets really interesting. This isn’t just an arrogant Doctor, this is a dangerous Doctor. He leaves Clara. Sure, he has a plan and he’s not just completely abandoning her. But he walks away.

And just what did happen in his final confrontation with the clockwork android? That there would even be a doubt in our minds shows how effectively Capaldi has cemented the notion that this Doctor is dangerous.

I hope that’s something we see throughout the season because it adds a great bit of tension back into the show. The verbal sparring between Clara and the Doctor is one of the highlights of the episode

Knowing… Oh So Knowing

Much is made about the way that social media allows fans to connect with their shows more closely. But that’s not entirely a good thing. It could certainly be argued that the Doctor Who audience is too aware of the behind the scenes elements by this point.

Whether it’s overly personalizing their relationship with show runner or worrying far too much about when certain actors are going to leave the show, fans are focussing more attention on the making of the show rather than what’s actually on screen. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the level of access and speed of information is exacerbating the problem. And now it seems to be happening from the other side of the camera too.

When I watched this episode the things that stuck out and annoyed me were not spoilers, but rather stuff that screamed to me of being put there in response to fan commentary. Whether it was the multiple references to Capaldi being Scottish, endless talk of flirting, this is stuff that did not feel organic to me. It felt like the writer talking to the fans through the characters.

It’s unreasonable to expect a show to be made in a bubble in this day and age… but I sort of wish it was.

New Doctor, Same Show

People tuning in to this episode of Doctor Who hoping to see a radically different show are destined for disappointment. This is not Classic Doctor Who, it’s nuWho, and that isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. Partly because television has simply changed since Doctor Who’s original run and partly because… this format is highly successful.

What we did get is a clever tweaking of the existing formula. Something that I think and hope they will build on as the episodes progress in this season.  Peter Capaldi is as promised a different Doctor to any of the preceding ones and over time that difference should bleed into the stories and characters that surround him.

But this is still at its heart a fast paced romp where action is more important than sophisticated plotting and where the science takes third place at best.

Overall I’d say that Deep Breath is a workmanlike episode. It achieved its aim and it’s laid foundations that can be built on. But judged purely on its own, it’s okay but unexceptional episode.

Capaldi, on the other hand, is brilliant.

Will The New Doctor Who Title Sequence Look Something Like This?

Will The New Doctor Who Title Sequence Look Something Like This?

So here’s an interesting thing. I’ve mentioned before (and you’ve probably seen reported elsewhere) that several scripts for Doctor Who season 8 leaked onto the internet.

Well apparently in those scripts there is a reference to the title sequence being done by BBC Wales Graphics based on original idea by Billy Hanshaw.

So who is Billy Hanshaw and what is his idea? Well Hanshaw is apparently a media professional who is also a Doctor Who fan and just last year he posted this idea for a Doctor Who credits sequence on YouTube.

Of course it’s not clear to what extent this idea is being used or which elements are being incorporated. Still it is significantly different from what we’ve seen before. What do you think? Personally I like a lot of the elements but it feels a little heavy handed.

Doctor Who Season 8 Trailer

Doctor Who Season 8 Trailer

So the BBC have had to deal with not only leaked scripts for the first few episodes of Doctor Who Season 8, but also now a (very poor quality black and white, unfinished) video of the first episode leaking out. Seriously… don’t watch it. I have no problem with spoilers as they are commonly defined these days, but that will absolutely affect your enjoyment of the finished product.

But for those who have steered clear we’ve still seen very little of what Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is actually going to be like. Until now.

With the release of the first full trailer for Doctor Who Season (Series) 8 we get to see and hear the Twelfth Doctor. Not a lot (the trailer is only a minute or so long) but enough to make me feel that all of my hopes for this version are justified.

We get the TARDIS, the Doctor, Clara, Explosions, Daleks, Dinosaurs, Robots, Madam Vastra. A lot of it is stuff that’s already been teased, but the arrangement here certainly suggests a more sombre Doctor than we’ve seen since Christopher Eccleston. Of course trailers can be highly misleading.

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Doctor Who Season 8 First Official Photo From Episode 1

6565894 high res 1 Doctor Who Season 8 First Official Photo From Episode 1So we know that episode 1 of Doctor Who Season 8 (yes I know it’s series 8 if you’re British, but most of the people reading this work in seasons as do I these days… get over it) is called Deep Breath and that it will run for 75 minutes. We also know it will feature the Paternoster gang of Madam Vastra, Jenny Flint and Strax.

If you want to find out more apparently the scripts for the first 5 episodes have leaked onto the internet. But while what most people call spoilers don’t bother me at all, I can’t see any value to reading a script before seeing the show so I haven’t gone looking.

Now here is the first official photo from the episode. Somehow I can’t imagine an expression like that on the face of the previous “modern” Doctors. Patrick Troughton maybe? Feel free to speculate wildly.

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Cybermen Return For Doctor Who Season 8

BrXqy47IUAAS1cC 600x400 Cybermen Return For Doctor Who Season 8And since the Cybermen seem to once again be visiting present day Earth (if this photo is any indication) it perhaps won’t come as a huge surprise to you that we’ll be seeing UNIT again as well and that as a result Jemma Redgrave will be back playing Kate Stewart as will Ingrid Oliver (Osgood in Day of the Doctor).

The photo here shows the Cybermen in action along with guest actress Michelle Gomez who is playing the alarmingly titled Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere.

No doubt the announcement of the Cybermen will trigger the same round of complaints about “always using the same monsters” that it does every time the Cybermen or Daleks are announced. La la la I can’t hear you!

That’s not a huge amount of news I realize. Mainly I just wanted an excuse to post a Doctor Who photo.

What’s that? I don’t need an excuse? Cool!