Tuesday 30 September 2014
The BBC have released a small number of non-spoilery images from the forthcoming episode Kill The Moon. After all that discussion and debate about a return to the planet of Sarn etc, we can now see why they chose to film on Lanzarote. The volcanic landscape is perfect for representing the Moon's surface. Quite a few years ago now, I visited Indonesia. Myself and some friends went to the volcano Mount Bromo. We did a walk around the volcano at midnight, under perfect moonlight, and I can honestly say that it really felt like you were walking around on the lunar surface. One of those experiences you never forget. We were actually going to do the famous "Mount Bromo at sunrise" trip - check out Google Images. I am very glad that we did the unofficial moonlight walk, because when it came to the official trek in the morning, there was very thick mist and drizzle - and we never saw a thing!
Monday 29 September 2014
On first watching, very late on Saturday night, I wasn't too sure about this story. Did we really need a whole 45 minutes just to engineer the meeting between the Doctor and Mr Pink - and see how they did or did not get on? The Skovox Blitzer was a wonderful design and it was nice to see Jimmy Vee back again - but in the end it was merely a MacGuffin. Obligatory monster / threat of the week but ultimately the thing to bring about the said meeting of the two men in Clara's life.
The Caretaker, for me, required a second viewing. I came away far happier with this story. For a start there is just so much humour in it - especially from Capaldi and Coleman. Some cracking one-liners, again often at Clara's expense. Loved, for instance, his indignation at being thought Clara's "Space Dad". The way that he automatically assumed that Clara's boyfriend was the one who bore a passing resemblance to his previous incarnation was a nice touch.
Initially, the fact that the Doctor cannot comprehend how an ex-soldier could be anything other than a PE teacher was funny - but the more he banged on about it the more I got annoyed. Was he really being pig-headed and ignorant - prejudiced even - or was this all very deliberate and calculated - to provoke a reaction? By the end we did see that the Doctor expects Danny to prove himself worthy of Clara. Nice that Danny himself spotted this.
(What is it with the Doctor's poor memory recently? Back in The Snowmen he seemed to have forgotten all about the Yeti / Great Intelligence, then in Deep Breath he couldn't remember the SS Madame de Pompadour robots. Now he's forgotten that his very good friend the Brigadier became a maths teacher on leaving UNIT).
Talking of Danny, I continue to be impressed with Samuel Anderson. Apart from his brief appearance as a future descendant of Danny's, his character is still tied to the sub-plot of Clara's non-TARDIS life, and so could be a bit of a thankless role. As an ex-soldier he has the potential for the action man role. He now knows all about the Doctor and Clara's other life, has encountered an alien death machine, and been inside the TARDIS. Hopefully he'll make a journey in it soon. Or is he destined to always be the Earthbound anchor?
Someone who did make a journey in the TARDIS was Courtney. It was a bit of a surprise to see how the Doctor took to her so readily, and it was she who accompanied him on the mission to dump the Blitzer in space. We know that next week she gets to play a fuller role - travelling to the Moon.
The story arc was back in evidence again - with closing scenes set in the mysterious afterlife / Promised Land / Nethersphere. Capaldi's colleague from The Thick of It - Chris Addison - made an unscheduled appearance. Like Michelle Gomez, it was originally thought he would only be appearing in the finale. It was implied that Missy is God. Or god. Or a god... I will be very surprised if the season arc denouement is anything but scientific in nature, rather than religious / spiritual.
Next week we have Kill The Moon - and the teaser certainly promises a good old-fashioned scary story. We've also been promised something quite shocking from the Doctor...
Monday 22 September 2014
I was a big fan of Hustle. It did rather overstay its welcome and maybe should have ended sooner than it did, but I enjoyed it. One thing you could always bet on was that there would be the big rewind near the end to show you what you had missed and so explain what you had just witnessed - usually a "how on earth did they manage that?" bit. Time Heist used just such a device.
One minute Clara is about to go on a date with Danny, next we're suddenly half way through the goings-on at the Bank of Karabraxos. 10 minutes to go, rewind, and we get the missing piece of the jigsaw.
Thing about Hustle, though, was that despite being a post watershed series revolving around criminals (good Robin Hood type ones and thoroughly bad ones) it rarely had any strong violence, and the death toll over 9 years would have kept even Mary Whitehouse happy.
Thing about Time Heist, on the other hand, was the tone. That's why I came away from watching it not sure if I'd actually enjoyed it. I think I would have preferred it as a lighter-hearted romp.
As it was, there were some quite nasty moments - not least the "death" of the unfortunate bank customer at the eye-stalks of the Teller. Personally I thought it went too far for what is supposed to be a programme for a wide family audience - including youngsters. It was enough for me to see the victim's obvious agony and hear the Doctor's description, but the image of the collapsed cranium was really disturbing. I am far from being a prude. I enjoy a good 18 rated film or TV show - but I'm an adult capable of making choices. One of the things that has sustained the new Who over the last 9 years is the family following, and the fresh infusion of new, younger fans, and I do worry at times that the series is moving too far into purely adult territory.
Lose the younger half of your audience and you lose your future.
Not the most original of stories. Was reminded straight away of The God Complex - the Minotaur-like being feeding on faith in that, guilt in this. A bit of Hide in the resolution - with the creature's mate. I guessed almost immediately on seeing that the Teller was a captive that its release would form part of the conclusion.
Clara was in much more of a straightforward companion role this week. The Doctor's (un)intended criticisms of her I am enjoying each week. Even more than the Seventh, and to an extent the Second, this Doctor is an arch manipulator.
I liked Keeley Hawes as Karabraxos, but found the Miss Delphox version a bit OTT.
It looked as if Jonathan Bailey's Psi and Pippa Bennett-Warner's Saibra were going to be quite wasted characters - getting bumped off so early on - but this proved to be one of the story's twists. Maybe one day the Doctor will employ them again - though, of course, they have both opted for the "cures" which mean they will never be like this again.
The trouble with Moffat attaching his name to every story this series means that you don't always know where to attach the blame - or give the praise. I suspect Steve Thompson's was the whole bank job / Hustle element - and Moffat the more disturbing aspects and the timey-wimey resolution.
Role on next week and more of Danny Pink, Coal Hill School, and the return of that pupil from Hell, Courtney...
Sunday 14 September 2014
What a remarkable episode. A limited cast and only a handful of locations made for a claustrophobic, frightening tale about the nature of fear, dreams and nightmares.
The Doctor obviously has a bit too much time on his hands: with the TARDIS parked above the Earth he ruminates on evolution and survival. What if, when you talk to yourself, you are actually talking to something unseen? Something which has developed the ultimate in camouflage. The Doctor wants to meet it / them.
As it is he might have done, but we weren't privy.
Did he see whatever was coming in through the door of the time-ship at the end of the Universe? Or was it just the vessel's systems breaking down?
Who / what was under the bed spread? There was definitely something. Was it just one of young Rupert Pink's friends playing a trick? I don't think so somehow. (Can't wait to see Character Options' Bedspread Monster figure...).
Who moved the chalk? Probably the same person who moved the coffee cup. Clara did say it looked like the Doctor's writing. Did he forget he did it and just assumed some other force was at work?
At times, the unseen presence knocking and banging at the TARDIS made me think of the story Midnight - another character piece with small cast and claustrophobic feel.
The whole train of events is kicked off by the Doctor's memory of a nightmare - one shared by many of us - of something lurking under the bed - ready to grab you by the ankles and drag you into the darkness. Where did this memory come from? Turns out Clara was inadvertently responsible. Not only does she provide the young Doctor with the nightmare, when he is sleeping in that barn on Gallifrey, she also sets Danny Pink on the path to becoming a soldier.
I was worried last week that the inclusion of children might prove to be the kiss of death for this story. I needn't have worried. Young Remi Gooding was very good.
Apart from a brief appearance by a caretaker called Reg, and the sequence with Remi, this was all about Capaldi, Coleman and Samuel Anderson - as both Danny and his great grandson Orson.
Danny grows on me all the time, and I can't wait for the eventual meeting with the Doctor (due in The Caretaker, I believe). Orson suggests his ancestor had experience of time travel, so we must assume that Danny will take a trip in the TARDIS at some point. And is Clara also an ancestor?
The scene which will generate most debate is obviously the Gallifreyan barn sequence - our first sighting of the young Doctor. Nice to tie it in with the location chosen by the War Doctor to activate the Moment. (And so lovely to see John Hurt again). Was that his parents? Not necessarily. Who were the others referred to - that the Doctor could join inside? Possibly a Gallifreyan boarding school - and those were the caretakers.
Overall, one of the best Moffat scripts for a long time. He should stick to these character-driven pieces. Yes, it had an element of timey-wimey - with Clara being responsible for so much - but it wasn't laboured the way it usually is. Apparently this was the "cheap" episode. Let's have more of them.
If you have read my review of the 1964 story The Reign of Terror, you will know that Tony Wall, the actor who played Napoleon Bonaparte in episode 6 (Prisoners of the Conciergerie) was a friend of my old boss. Sadly, she contacted me on Friday to say that Tony's memorial service was being held that day. He passed away the week before. Tony left acting in the early 1970's. His last few films were horror anthologies with strong DW connections - Asylum, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.
Fortunately, his sole Doctor Who episode is one that has survived.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted some familiar faces fleetingly glimpsed on a screen in the trailer for Time Heist. Familiar - and not quite so familiar. The characters all have ID placards - as in police mug shots. (These screenshots courtesy of the Blogtorwho blog).
First up is a Terrileptil from The Visitation. We know that there is a criminal class with this species - the Terrileptils in the Peter Davison story were all escaped convicts after all.
Next up is a Slitheen. Again - a known criminal clan.
Then we get a Sensorite. In general a peace-loving species, the First Doctor and his companions did come across the corrupt City Administrator and his accomplice. Their xenophobia drove them to murder.
The next person is a bit of a surprise - Absalom Daak, Dalek Killer. A character who has only existed in print. It would appear the camera wasn't working the day he got nicked, so they had to make do with a police artist image - or does Absalom actually look like a drawing?
More spin-off characters. First is Androvax, who appeared in two Sarah Jane Adventures stories. Again, a known criminal. When first seen he was the titular Prisoner of the Judoon.
Then we get the Trickster (also from The Sarah Jane Adventures, but mentioned several times in the parent programme). Quite how this particular being could get arrested, I am not sure.
Last one up is Captain John from Torchwood series 2. Captain Jack's ex-lover / best friend / worst enemy, depending on what day of the week it is.
Monday 8 September 2014
Fortunately, the next confirmed release will take us back to the 1970's - a Pertwee Sea Devil.
Sunday 7 September 2014
Did you spot Patrick Troughton - television's first Robin Hood? When the Doctor showed Robin the robots' database on him, we also saw the Errol Flynn version - and according to Mark Gatiss in the DWM preview piece last month, it was this latter incarnation from which he took his inspiration. He stated he couldn't really be bothered with other versions - a great shame as that suggests he doesn't think much of the wonderful HTV Robin of Sherwood, starring first Michael Praed (series 1 & 2) then Jason Connery (series 3). (The third series is not so good).
So, with Robot of Sherwood we get the "men in tights" Robin - laughing heartily at everything he sees - something which really got on the nerves of the grumpy new Doctor. These Merry Men were annoyingly so.
The men were all rather underused - about two lines each. A bit of a waste. Tuck was Trevor Cooper, who had played Takis in Revelation of the Daleks. Alan-A-Dale was played by Ian Hallard - who had played director Richard Martin in Gatiss' An Adventure in Space and Time, and who just happens to be the writer's partner.
Key elements of the Robin Hood myth were on view. There was the archery contest which features in most versions of the tale - including the winning arrow splitting the one already in the bull's eye. Robot adds other arrows splitting the first arrow etc - though the Doctor later admits that he fitted his with a homing device.
A lot of the story revolves around the rivalry between the Doctor and Tom Riley's Robin - both determined to out-hero the other. With them chained up together for a lengthy chunk of the episode, Clara gets to meet and seduce / be seduced by Ben Miller's Sheriff of Nottingham. Didn't he remind you a little of the Anthony Ainley Master?
The robots themselves were visually impressive. I would have preferred their method of dispatch to have reflected the fact they were disguised as knights - rather than laser beams. A great pity that we never got to know anything about who they were. We learned only that they were destined for "The Promised Land" - this week's reference to the series' story arc. No Missy seen this time. That's two robotic races determined to reach this destination so far.
Previous celebrity historicals have been littered with references to the featured character's life / works - most notably in the Gareth Roberts stories. Robin Hood doesn't really have anything to latch onto in this respect, though it was odd hearing Shakespeare and Karl Marx being quoted - as well as a play on something Henry II (allegedly) once said. A couple of words sounded anachronistic - "balderdash" and "gallimaufry". The former might well be an adaptation of a medieval word - "balductum" - but the word only really enters common usage from the late 16th Century. "Gallimaufry" is also 16th Century - but may derive from an older French word. Let's give Mr Gatiss the benefit of the doubt.
One classic series story I was very much reminded of was The Time Warrior - particularly in the second half, with the spaceship about to blow up the castle. The basic premise of the local baron being aided in his villainy by robot knights is lifted directly from the Bob Holmes story.
Overall, a much lighter episode than the first two. I understand a brief edit was made to omit a decapitation - the BBC being sensitive to current events in Iraq. The demise of the Sheriff - falling into a cauldron of boiling gold - was quite shocking. The tone of the piece should have seen him doing a Count Grendel of Gracht and vowing to get his revenge as his plans came to nought. (The Sheriff is always defeated in Robin Hood stories - but rarely killed off. There is usually a sub-villain like Sir Guy of Gisbourne to be bumped off).
Great to see Capaldi given some more humorous material to work with.
Next week's story looks intriguing - though I am concerned that it features children quite prominently. Stories with kids in them have generally been poorly received - from Fear Her to Nightmare in Silver, via Night Terrors (all languishing in the bottom quarter of the recent DWM anniversary poll). Danny Pink's son will be introduced, and we saw him as an older man, dressed in the Doctor's Sanctuary Base spacesuit...