Sunday, August 31, 2014

Into the Dalek

The Doctor's deadliest foes (and my personal fave), the Daleks, make their return this week in Into the Dalek.

Finding himself on a spacecraft floating through the asteroid belt, the Doctor is enlisted to help save another passenger - a malfunctioning Dalek.

After a quick, thankfully under-explained miniaturisation process, the Doctor, Clara and three of the spacecraft's soldiers are go through the eyestalk, into the Dalek. We've seen what is inside a Dalek's shell before but never to this detail. And as it turns out, the inside of a Dalek is just as dangerous as its outside, with robotic antibodies just waiting to dissolve anything that doesn't belong into fuel.

For once, the focus wasn't some complicated Moffat exploit. It stuck to one question: Is the Doctor a good man? Its a question the Doctor needs to ask himself, and ask it often.  With a good Dalek and a morally ambiguous Doctor, the role reversal was a great way to explore this question. It's alway great to see the Doctor realise he is not perfect and it really opened up the episode for Capaldi to show off his acting chops. In the final, and most powerful scene, the Doctor practically begs the Dalek to see the good in him.

It's easy to see where the episode took its inspiration from. Season one's Dalek has Nine facing off against a lone, prisoner Dalek who also makes the Doctor realise that he is just as capable of blind hate. In that episode, the Dalek tells the Doctor "you would make a good Dalek" and the same idea rings through much of this episode.

Clara also finally has a useful role! All throughout New Who, the companion is supposed to act a somewhat of a moral compass to guide the Doctor. Clara hasn't ever fulfilled this position until now. The Doctor-companion (or carer, as Clara calls herself) dynamic finally comes into play again and it was so good to see. She is finally that human balance to the Doctor's sometimes alien ways.  I actually almost like her!

Religious references continued into this episode, from the Doctor commenting on the Dalek's soul to the Dalek itself seeing the divinity in the beauty of the universe. The religious undertone is likely to continue and probably has something to do with Missy but I'd actually like it to lead to a realisation that his previous incarnation all too often played god when it was not his place to do so (maybe?).

Into the Dalek also introduced a new series regular - teacher and ex-solider, Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson). A new love interest for Clara, Danny also has secrets of his own. It is implied that he has killed people and not only other soldiers. He was the perfect mix of mysterious and adorably awkward. And I'd be lying if I didn't say he is fine as hell.  I can't wait to see more of him.

Sadly, however, Missy was back in this episode, welcoming one of the soldiers to 'heaven'.  It's disappointing that Moffat keeps creating these godlike female characters because it didn't work with River and it probably won't work with Missy. Also, are we going to get the same scene every week? With only 12 episodes, we're not like to forget her. It's the crack in the wall business all over again.

That said and despite the fact it was basically a remake of Dalek, this week's episode was surprisingly good. It had a great mix of fun, adventure-y scenes and more serious, character development-y ones. Capaldi got to delve into the character of his Doctor and Clara was finally a useful character. 8/10!

Fave Quotes

- "Am I a good man?"

- "She cares, so I don't have to"

References to old episodes

- The whole episode was one giant Dalek remake.
- Did I see season five's crack in the wall make an appearance? The crack in the Dalek sure did look like it!

Anything else that I missed? I haven't seen Classic Who so I'm sure there's some!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I just got really passionate about RTD's era all of a sudden...

I just realised that when it comes to Moffat’s Doctor Who, there haven’t been very many stories that stay with me. From seasons 5-7, I can honestly say there have been two episodes that stuck: Vincent and the Doctor and The Lodger. I have not had any desire to go back and watch any of the other episodes. In fact, I can’t even remember most of them.

Compare that to the Davies’ era and sure they didn’t have half the cool effects or big explosions but man, they had heart. They had adventure and not just characters running around aimlessly followed by yet another big explosion. There were real, human moments with real human people, and it showed best when it was contrasted with this suddenly completely alien being.

Then lets compare Rose to Amy. Rose lost her father, Amy both her parents. Suddenly they have this opportunity to go back and see them again. Of course they would want to. Of course. Yet Amy never mentions her parents. Same with Clara. There was that one weird moment with the leaf but we were too busy having this “impossible girl” problem shoved down our throats for it to matter. Who cares that she is an actual person when she can just be another problem to solve.

I miss the good guys sometimes dying because that’s just what happens. Very few of the good guys ever die in Moffat’s series. Magically the Doctor can just fix everything. But real life doesn’t have a reset button.

And funnily enough it’s Moffat’s episodes in Davies’ time as showrunner that stand out the most. Even just thinking about Nine saying “just this once, everybody lives” is making me happy.

I’m not saying that Davies’ era was perfect. (I mean, the Slitheen? bad) but there was something to them that made me want to keep watching. And not to relish in finding the plot holes or criticising Moffat’s lack of subtlety but because i thoroughly enjoyed them. Even the less than fantastic ones.

Side note: review of Deep Breath to come tomorrow!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nightmare in Silver

Neil Gaiman last wrote for show back in season 6 with The Doctor's Wife, a clever and interesting story where the Doctor finally gets to talk to his beloved TARDIS. However, his return to Doctor Who was rather underwhelming.

Nightmare in Silver sees the Doctor, Clara and the children she babysits (Angie and Artie) on what should have been a crazy fun adventure for the kids. However, disappointment and annoying children soon ensue when the promise of the biggest theme park in the universe basically turns out to be a pile of scrap metal - rides abandoned and in a complete state of disrepair.

They first meet Mr Webley who used to run the World of Wonders. Among his wax figures and statues is a 'magical' chess-playing Cyberman - who turns out to be controlled by Porridge (Warwick Davis). After the slow start, things start to get interesting when we first glimpse the little cybermites, the upgraded version of the cybermat. Cyber technology upgrades are the basis of this episode. When some 3 million Cybermen attack the poorly defended planet, even their most advanced weapons (which totalled an entire six) quickly became obsolete. Apparently their technology has advanced so much since we last saw them that they can be upgraded instantly. Their intelligence seems to have been upgraded too. Once they were the ultimate soldier, advancing on their enemy with no fear of death. Now they're laying traps and looking for more creative, intelligent people to further their advancement.

This doesn't go down too well for the Doctor. His Timelord intelligence was of course an attraction for the Cybermen, who began the upgrading process on the Doctor. He wasn't going to give up that easily, however, and the long, internal battle for the control of the Doctor's mind begins. Matt Smith really seems to get better and better each week. He switched between the two character's with such perfection and ease, making it by far the best and most captivating part of the episode.

Clara also had quite a good role this week, though I still don't find her all that amazing. She took control of the punishment platoon quite well and I think we finally got to see what she can do. To be honest, though, I think she is still quite one-dimensional. And seriously, can we not start a whole other love story for the Doctor PLEASE? With Rose, it was great. Even Martha's unrequited love was interesting and I think she was all the more strong for it. River has annoyed the crap out of me since forever and there was always some flirting with the Doctor and Amy. So can the Doctor and Clara just be friends, is it really that hard? /endrant

Oh wait, I forgot to mention how annoying and pointless Angie and Artie were. Thank god they were kinda just left to the side for most of the episode. /actualendrant

The episode also raised some good future plots, most notably the Doctor-sized hole in history. Not such a subtle way of erasing yourself was it, Doctor? I hope that is actually explored though. Not just casually mentioned later on as being 'fixed' or just completely solved with a push of a button, which seems to be the trend lately. Even Nightmare in Silver was solved with a quick teleportation away from the exploding planet. Oh how I want a suspenseful two-part episode with a complex/exciting ending. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments :D

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Crimson Horror

Mark Gatiss latest contribution to the season, The Crimson Horror, is one of those fantastic action adventures. Jenny, Madame Vastra and Strax are back this week, continuing their escapades in Victorian England. (These three really need their own show) Terrifying people by preaching about the apocalypse, the episode's villain Mrs Gillyflower invites those who want to survive to live in 'Sweetville', a new town which looked remarkably similar to Willy Wonka's factory. Those who Mrs Gillyflower deems acceptable are paralysed and set up as a display in one of the town's houses. Everyone else is subjected to the crimson horror, a red poison which paralyses, colours them bright red and then ultimately kills them.

I think The Crimson Horror may actually be the best episode of the second half of this season. Like Hide, Gatiss' episode mixes sci-fi and 'horror' quite well. With the Doctor and Clara mysteriously absent for a relatively large portion of the episode, Vastra, Jenny and Strax are left to find out what has caused the deaths of so many. When the Doctor finally appears, it is not in a way you would expect. As the only one to survive (just barely) the crimson horror, Mrs Gillyflower's daughter, Ada decides to rescue him, keeping him chained up as her 'monster'. Jenny, sent undercover into Sweetville, finds the Doctor bright red and half-paralysed in a cell. Armed with the sonic screwdriver and what I'm assuming is the antidote to the poison, the Doctor is quickly back to normal and desperate to find Clara.

Of course, this is an issue for Jenny. Clara is dead, isn't she? The Ice-Lady pushed her off a cloud! Poor Jenny, despite vigorous questioning at every chance, never finds out how she is still alive. And here we go into the season's story arc - the mystery that is Clara Oswald. At the end of the episode, the kids she nannies have uncovered pictures of her from all across time. One of which is the Victorian-era Clara from The Snowmen. Though Clara knows that it is not her, it may have sparked something of the information the Doctor told her in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS before he erased that timeline.

I really liked Ada, the blind and mutilated daughter of Mrs Gillyflower. As the imperfection in her mother's perfect world, Ada cannot help but save the Doctor, who at that point was an equally disfigured "monster". Caught crying when she finds him missing, her mother tells her she has no place in her "Eden" and asks her to stop "clawing and slobbering" at her feet. However, Ada still remains loyal to her. But, some encouragement from the Doctor, her monster who returned to her, she leads them to her mother. When she finds out Mrs Gillyflower had experimented with the crimson horror on her, she quickly turns against her. 

It is here we find out about the crimson horror. In an odd reveal of Mrs Gillyflower's partner in crime 'Mr Sweet', she  rips off part of her dress to show a red leech attached to her chest. Apparently, in return for a home(?), the leech, aka Mr Sweet, excreted the 'crimson horror' which Mrs Gillyflower planned to use to basically destroy humanity. 

Strax was definitely a highlight. The out-of-place soldier has not lost his comedic value, always muttering about far simpler but much more violent ways to solve any problem. Strax seemed to be the centre of the jokes in this episode. The best one by far being Thomas Thomas. Strax, lost on his way to Sweetville and about to shoot his (fourth) horse for not knowing the way, was interrupted by a young Thomas, who did knew exactly where to go. The hilarious instructions were as follows:

Thomas: "Sweetville, sir?"
Strax: "Do you know it?"
Thomas: "Turn around when possible. Then, at the end of the road, turn right."
Strax: "What.."
Thomas: "Bear left for a quarter of a mile and you have reached your destination."
*Thomas sits on the cart next to Strax.*
Strax: "Thank you. What is your name?"
Thomas: "Thomas, sir. Thomas Thomas."
I think I'm going to be laughing at that for days.

One of the best parts of the episode was the retelling of how the Doctor and Clara ended up in Sweetville. It was done so brilliantly. A flashback, in the form of an old film - sepia, grainy and a bit bumpy, broke up the episode in such an awesome way. It looked fantastic, adding to the feel of Victorian England and quickly let us know what had gone on beforehand.

Overall, I really liked this episode. Though I don't know how much it adds to the overall story arc, it was still a great mix of action and comedy. 

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, April 21, 2013


If, like me, you were one of the seemingly few people who actually enjoyed Neil Cross' last episode, The Rings of Akhaten, then you were probably looking forward to his latest adventure, Hide. That said, if you had seen the trailers for the episode you probably were just as cool did it look?!

And this episode definitely lived up to the promise of the trailer - though maybe not in the way you  would expect. The Doctor and Clara travel to the 1970s to a investigate the long-time residence of a ghost in an old-manor, Caliburn House. The Witch in the Well, as she had become known, had appeared in the exact same position since the 17th Century, always crying out for help. The Doctor is assisted by ex-spy, Alec and an empathic psychic Emma, who have been trying to help the "lost soul". Things take an unexpected turn when the Doctor discovers that the Witch in the Well is not actually a ghost but a woman, Hila, from the future, trapped in a pocket universe and trying to escape before it collapses on itself.

Caliburn House was a perfect setting for the spooky story. Lots of shadows and creepy things in the dark created a very eerie atmosphere for the story. The horror aspects of the episode were definitely helped by the interesting camera work, like the jump cuts and unevenly paced shots. It gave the feeling that there was something out there. 

Which, of course, there was. 'The Crooked Man' as the credits named him, chased Hila through the pocket-universe and another alien who was stuck in our universe, lurking in the old manor. However, these 'monsters', though rather scary looking, were not as malevolent as they appeared because at the heart of this 'horror' episode was an old fashioned love story. 

There was Alec and Emma, the awkward pair who had feelings for each other but refused to let the other know. There was the weird, gnarled creatures who only wanted to find their partner. And of course, the Doctor and Clara, though maybe not lovers, but definitely connected in some way. 

The parallels between the pairs (though maybe not the aliens) offered an insight into the Doctor and Clara's burgeoning relationship. The Doctor and Alec shared a scene where Alec talks about his time in the war, the people he watched die and the effect it has had on him. It poses the question of what this has done to the Doctor as well. Simultaneously, Clara who is later described by Emma as a "normal" girl, is warned by the psychic that the Doctor has a "sliver of ice" in his heart so she should be wary. 

As always, the chemistry between Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman works well in this episode. Their light-hearted portrayal of the friendship between the Doctor and Clara, however, was thrown into question when Clara realises just how frightening all of time and space can be. Why hasn't the Doctor realised by now that the end of Earth, billions of years into the future, isn't exactly what every human wants to see? Just like Rose in The End of the World, Clara is shaken to the core by the sight of the destroyed and devoid-of-life, Earth. However, as would be expected, the Doctor isn't bothered by it and this frightens Clara even further. As usual, the Doctor asserts his fascination with the human race and their significance by saying "you are the only mystery worth solving." This facet of the Doctor is certainly one of my favourites. I love his reactions to the peculiarity that is the human race. 

Overall this episode was a good mix of horror and sci-fi, with a little bit of romance thrown in too. I really enjoyed it and I think it may be the best on of the season. 

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cold War

This week's episode brought back the Classic Who monster - the Ice Warriors. The last time the Doctor encountered these Martians was in The Monster of Peladon, with the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith.

Cold War, written by Mark Gatiss, sees the Doctor and Clara accidentally travel to a sinking Russian submarine in the 80s. And on that ship is a newly discovered Ice Warrior - which the crew believe to be a mammoth frozen in a block of ice. Once it had escaped, nothing could stop its wrath. As usual, silly humans provoking the creature only makes it worse (when will we learn?!)

To be honest, I'm getting a little bored with the whole 'blockbuster' feel to these recent episodes. While I'm not denying that they are quite the cinematic piece, Doctor Who doesn't always have to be so big

That said, Cold War was a quiet a good episode, a bit of a step up from last week (though I still enjoyed it - Matt Smith does the best monologues!) A psychotic monster on the loose in a submarine with access to enough nukes to destroy not only Earth but a good portion of the universe, made for a suspenseful, exciting story.

The Grand Marshall Skaldac's (Skaldak?) escape from his armour and took to scampering around the ceiling, gave the episode a distinctively Alien feel. Seriously, the pale green fingers killing people from above was very much reminiscent of the Ridley Scott classic. 

Those fake rubbery fingers were rather odd though. The big reveal of the Ice Warrior's face at the end of the episode left me slightly confused.  I had expected something that looked a lot more like the Slitheen or even the Abzorbaloff. The two just didn't seem to match.

I think the Martian's madness was very much warranted. You would have lost it a bit too, if you had just discovered that you'd been frozen for 5,000 years. All your family are dead: "Now my daughter will be dussssssst" and you can't even be certain that you'll be rescued from this strange, foreign landscape by your people who may also all be dead.

However, his hesitation in killing the scientist fellow (I think it was Grisenko) and ultimately his hesitation in firing the missiles showed that he was not, in fact, a monster. Though he was definitely a threat, it's always nice to see aliens leaving almost peacefully.

The episode was also witty and funny - something I think the last two episodes were kind of lacking. Grisenko and Clara were hilarious:

Grisenko: “Tell me what happens.”
Clara: “I can’t.”
Grisenko: “Well I need to know!”
Clara: “I’m not allowed!”
Grisenko: “No, please!”
Clara: “I can’t!”
Grisenko: “Ultravox – do they split up?”

We also saw Clara learning more about the TARDIS, its translation matrix and its newly-fixed escape mechanism. However, I did see someone question how the translation matrix still magically worked with the TARDIS being somewhere at the South Pole...

Still immensely enjoying Clara as the companion. It was great seeing her question this crazy travelling with the Doctor but hopefully she'll be getting her own key soon because she can't be a full-time companion without one!


Monday, April 8, 2013

The Rings of Akhaten

I usually find Doctor Who to be of a hit or miss show. There have been some amazing episodes and some that are less than great. (I'm the biggest Doctor Who fan though, so I'll try and find a redeeming quality for every episode)

This week's episode, The Rings of Akhaten, fell somewhere in between.

The Doctor and his new companion Clara embark on the traditional second trip to somewhere vastly different to modern day London.

He takes her "somewhere awesome", that is, to see the Rings of Akhaten, which some believe to be the beginning of all life in the universe.

The planet had a Star Wars-esque vibe and we finally got to see new alien creatures (including one whose behaviour could only be described as dog-like)

The Rings of Akhaten was based around the importance of memories. Basically, the population of Akhaten has (as they have throughout their entire history) appointed a child who has to appease their "God" by singing or risk having their souls taken - souls, which the Doctor says, are made up of stories.

When Merry, the young child, errs in her singing and awakes the God, the Doctor steps in to save her because she is the only Merry and is just as important as everyone else. This is one of my favourite things about the Doctor and something that has always been consistent through the show. Modern Doctor Who anyway.

By far the best bit of the episode was the Doctor's monologue to the god. Damn, Matt Smith, that was some quality acting. Some people think that the whole "travelling alone for a thousand years" spiel has been overdone lately but I love it. I love knowing that beneath the childish exterior, the Doctor is a weary old man who has seen so much and is so alone. He has the world on his shoulders and so many people don't even realise.

Even with all this travelling, the Doctor's memories weren't enough to feed and ultimately kill their nebulous sun-god creature (I'm still not entirely sure what it was) It was the infinite possibilities that Clara's leaf represented that ultimately destroyed it.

And yay for character development! Clara isn't just some plot-driver, "the impossible girl" that the Doctor is obsessed with finding out about any more. We get to see her past in a somewhat cheesy (and a little bit creepy - thanks Doctor) opening scene. Her parents meet on a windy autumn day and if it weren't for that exact leaf existing, they wouldn't have met. Then we are told (because the Doctor has been basically stalking her) that her mum died when she was young - in March of 2005 as well, right around the time Nine was meeting Rose - and she has since postponed her dream of travelling to look after the Maitland children.

In The Rings of Akhaten, Clara proves herself to be companion worthy: adventurous, willing to be challenge and ready to leave her old life (at least for a while)

When she and the Doctor need a means of transport across the planet, she offers her mother's ring in exchange. She then sacrifices the "most important leaf in the world" to save Merry and the rest of the planet. Her willingness to do so shows how she wants to move and also how selfless she is (which I think was pretty obvious when she did not travel and instead babysat children who also lost their mother)

Again on the theme of the importance of memories, I found the 'currency' of Akhaten to be very interesting. The more sentimental value a person gives an object, the more it is worth in the market. It just emphasises how significant it is that Clara gave up her mother's ring for their ride.

Overall, I think the episode was better than The Bells of St John but maybe that's just because of the Doctor and Clara's monologues but that it could have been better throughout 7.5/10