Posts Tagged ‘doctor who’

603 – The Curse of the Black Spot

Last year’s third episode was the abomination known as ‘Victory of the Daleks’, so it is with some trepidation that we approach this series’ instalment. Fortunately, it’s a damn sight better than it has any right to be, given the subject material.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory respond to a distress signal broadcast from a ship. However, they soon discover that the vessel in peril is an old pirate ship that’s been stranded in calm waters, the crew stalked one by one by the Siren. A single cut, a solitary drop of blood is all that takes to curse the sailor and draw the Siren out of the water, where she kills them.

As a concept, it’s a bit ropey, but in execution it work very well. This is largely down to how the story gets to the point very quickly, eschewing the usual fifteen minutes of wandering around and talking in favour of having the Siren show up and start killing very, very quickly. It’s a refreshing change of pace, one that gets things straight to the point. Smart ideas and creepy set pieces are allowed to take over with very little interruption – how many ways are there to get a cut on an old, wooden pirate ship?

All in all, it’s a decent enough episode with plenty of humour and some great moments. The final fifteen minutes might push the initial concept to breaking point and the final twists are real clunkers, but for the most part, the episode is far better than it really should have been.

602 – Day of the Moon

This review is going to be a short one. Like all good second part episodes, ‘Day of the Moon’ is rammed with classic moments and some incredible twists and revealing even a single one of them would be a crime.

That aside, it wouldn’t be spoiling it to say that the episode is fast, furious, funny, with a couple of shocks lined up for its climax that will see many a jaw unhinge itself and plummet to the floor. There are some moments here that may well become total classics among Doctor Who fans, from the mind-bending opening to the unsettling terror of the orphanage, right up to the moment when River Song’s heart visibly breaks. The expert hand of Steven Moffat leads the audience on a gripping tale, filled to the brim with the sort of great moments that define Doctor Who when the show is at its prime.

Without wanting to spoil any of the episode, this is definitely one of the greats. Fantastic aliens, a cracking sense of humour, stunning revelations and a puzzling climax work together to create the biggest, darkest and most twisted ongoing Doctor Who storyline to date. A must-see.

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

With an uncharacteristically quiet opening, the Doctor returns to our screens. A series of letters invite Amy, Rory and River Song to a lakeside in America, where they’re reunited with an old friend. But that’s only the beginning, as horrific events swiftly unfold, plunging the adventurers into a complex new mystery.

As a series opener, ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ is perhaps the slowest one to date, beginning as it does with a variety of comedic moments featuring the Doctor messing about in time and setting up an intriguing mystery. Once things get going (and quite swiftly, after about ten or so minutes), the episode rattles along at a fair old pace, introducing an unsettling new enemy, a freelance detective and Richard bloody Nixon himself.

Because this is merely part one of two, there’s very little time for exposition or any of Doctor Who’s usual trappings. Instead, we’re treated to several surprisingly intense (especially for 6pm) scenes involving the skin-crawling alien enemy and even a shot of a woman exploding. It’s a bit of a shame, then, that so much time is given is given to setting up the plot as it leaves very few memorable moments. The corkers that are on offer are excellent – aliens looming out of the shadows, Nixon being bossed around by the Doctor and that bit just ten minutes in all serve to remind why this show is doing so well under the guiding hand of Steven Moffat.

Without knowing what lies in store for the series, it’s hard to judge this opening as a set-up. If there are any hints for the plot, they’re very well hidden and will no doubt provide hours of fun for those who want to find them. On its own merits, it’s a quiet, slow-burning start, but one with a compelling mystery and a fantastic central premise. The eleventh Doctor’s newest series is off to a promising start.

Told you so.

Alan Wake
Death At A Funeral
Doctor Who: The Big Bang
The Cleveland Show: Episode Twenty-One
Top Ten Best Doctor Who Episodes (Part 1)
Top Ten Best Doctor Who Episodes (Part 2)
Toy Story 3
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
The Expendables

There’s some more stuff on the way. Some pretty exciting stuff (for me, anyway.) More work. More websites. More writing. More money? Um… I do this out of love.

Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor
Doctor Who: The Lodger
Clash of the Titans: The Videogame
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Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

509: Cold Blood

An opinion-diving episode, this one. Some like it, some hate it. Whatever your view, you can’t ignore its dramatic content.

The Doctor and Nasreen have arrived at the Silurian’s colony deep beneath the Welsh countryside, where only vengeful Restac and a few soldiers are awake. There, the Doctor hopes to trade their capture Silurian, Alaya, in exchange for Mo, Amy and Elliot and form peaceful relations between the two species.

Unfortunately, it all goes pear-shaped when Alaya tempts Ambrose into killing her, leaving it up to Rory to figure out a new plan.

It’s a strange two-parter because there’s not really any reason for it to be stretched as much as it is. This could easily be squeezed into one, tightly focused, fast-paced story, but here instead we have two episodes of filler.

Still, there’s some good stuff here. The Doctor’s obvious excitement and enthusiasm is, as always, a delight to watch and the idea that the humans and Silurians might just co-exist is an encouraging one.

Unfortunately, the characters are still weak and under-developed, worst of the lot being panicking mother Ambrose, who flip-flops between sympathetic and hard-ass with such speed she deserves a smack in the mouth. The romantic bit feel incredibly random (it was only mentioned once in the previous episode, too) and the solution to the crisis is disappointingly easy.

That said, the episode’s climax is jaw-droppingly good, offering thrills, gasps and even a tug on the heart strings, all topped off with an excellent shock ending. If it was just one episode instead of two, this would be far, far better. On its own, it’s quite average, saved by an excellent final ten minutes.

5/10

508: The Hungry Earth

Another episode that really could be far better than it is. Unfortunately, it’s held back by both budget and imagination.

Attempting to arrive in Rio, the Doctor has completely missed and instead winds up in the Welsh countryside in 2020. Happily for him, while he might have missed a festival, he’s arrived just in time to find the world’s most ambitious drilling project and it’s just passed twenty one kilometres. As you might have already guessed, success comes at a price – there’s something living beneath the earth and it’s really pissed off to be underneath the drill…

It starts off so promisingly with a really creepy idea – that the earth could open up and swallow you whole. Unfortunately, it goes downhill after that with a few clunky characters, some hokey horror elements and a really crap monster.

There are a few really good bits in here like the preparation for the attack, the way the monsters close off the village with a shield bubble, the villagers’ conversation with the captured monster-thing and the final, totally unexpected, cliffhanger.

It’s a shame that the rest of it is just so average. The characters don’t really have anything to do, Amy’s time on screen is spent channelling the spirit of Catherine Tate and Rory lacks any of the early charisma that made his interactions with the Doctor so enjoyable.

On the whole, while this isn’t a terrible episode, it’s definitely not a great one. It’s enjoyable, but you’ll have to completely switch off to make the most of it.

6/10

507: Amy’s Choice

This week sees the Doctor caught between a rock and a hard place – between Amy and Rory. Luckily, the three characters are on hand to deliver another good episode in a crafty and quirky story designed to mess with the viewers’ heads as much as the Doctor’s.

Five years have passed since the Doctor bid Amy farewell and she’s now married to – and pregnant with the child of – local doctor Rory. The two are living in a quiet, cosy village in the countryside where the only interesting thing going on are the couple’s walks. Suddenly the three fall asleep and find themselves on board the TARDIS with the power rapidly failing and are given a choice by a man calling himself the Dream Lord – they need to choose which reality is the real world and they need to find out by dying in the one they believe to be a dream. With the Doctor choosing his beloved TARDIS and Rory opting for the idyllic life he imagines his future to be, the final decision is Amy’s. Will she choose the right life and the right man with it?

Don’t be distracted by the show’s gentle spookiness or the creepy idea of a middle-aged man screwing with your head – the episode’s real purpose is to try and resolve the sexual tension between the three cast members and move on. Unlike the Mickey-Rose saga of previous series, the whole point of this one is to move past that sexual quandary before it becomes stale (again). Mercifully, this task is handled beautifully and the episode’s feel is one of satisfaction.

There are a few bones to pick, though – it doesn’t really make the most of the idea, the situation is slightly too obvious in its ‘which man will Amy choose?’ setup, the scene where the postman rides in and gets killed is unintentionally hilarious, the explanation for what’s really going on is pure bollocks and why are all the enemies in this series so far really slow-moving?

Having said that, the episode is still pretty good, managing to move the story along, keep the characters consistent and provide a few good sci-fi scares along the way. And the bit where the Doctor shoves an old lady out of a window with a table lamp is brilliant.

7/10

506: The Vampires of Venice

If that incredibly cheesy title sets your teeth on edge and has your buttocks clenching in preparation for another duff episode, fear not – it’s actually quite good.

After Amy threw herself at the Doctor last week, he’s decided that spending some time with her fiancé Rory will do her good, taking the two of them to Venice in 1580. Unfortunately, there’s sinister vibes in the air as women are being sent to a very private, exclusive school run by a reclusive lady and are coming out with a peculiar aversion to sunlight…

The easiest and best way to summarise this episode is to say that the monsters are a bit crap but the chemistry between the cast is excellent.

Adding Rory into the mix is a genuine stroke of genius – he brings a refreshing viewpoint to cast, highlighting the Doctor’s many flaws and giving Amy something new to fret over. He’s actually a much more interesting cast member than, say, Mickey was in the second series because he does a lot more than just whine about the relationship he’s not part of, and it’s this wonderful tension that crackles and sparks throughout the episode. Alongside this is the lovely sense of playful humour that now gets to ride over the trio during their adventure.

The plot itself is actually lacking a lot – aliens want to sink Venice, Doctor intervenes, credits roll. What makes the episode at least fairly tolerable is that the aliens aren’t on screen for a huge chunk of it. It’s a merciful and crafty idea that keeps a silly sci-fi story grounded in reality and although it’s a massive shame that the ‘vampires’ are just crappy CGI monsters, it’s good step that they were used.

Another downside is the fact that the alien’s diabolical contraption – and they have around four, all of which suddenly appear in the final act, a confusing idea – has a bastarding ‘Plot Undo Button’ built right into it. It’s such an offensive and hateful idea that the episode looses an entire mark simply for including it.

Still, it’s not a terrible episode by any means. Lifted out of mediocrity by a clever sense of humour and some really very funny scenes, it’s a wobbly step, but not a crippling one.

6/10

505: Flesh and Stone

Take note, people: for the first time since Doctor Who came back, we have a ‘part two’ episode that isn’t totally underwhelming.

After finding themselves trapped in a cavern, surrounded by an army of incredibly powerful, reawakened Weeping Angels, the Doctor manages to save himself, Amy, River Song, Father Octavian and the team with a crafty gravity flip. Unfortunately, this puts them on board the crashed ship, which is still leaking its energy source – the one place the Angels are desperate to go…

This is one of those rare episodes that doesn’t have much of a plot. Instead, we’re treated to scene after scene of those menacing Angels closing in on the helpless soldiers as the Doctor panics, realising that there is no way to defeat them.

It’s a testament to Moffat’s writing prowess that he manages to get so much mileage out of an enemy that doesn’t actually do anything on screen. While part one took a single Angel and evolved it to terrifying new heights, this second half is all about the regular Angels and Moffat packs it full of skin-crawling moments.

The first half of the episode is British sci-fi horror at its finest – the Doctor backs further and further into a corner as the Angels grow ever nearer and it’s pulse-pounding stuff. Then, just as the episode wanders dangerously close to becoming repetitive, Moffat pulls a brand new idea out of the bag and flips the Angels on their heads completely.

The only real complaint is that Amy doesn’t get to do that much in the episode and when she is on screen she can act a little bit like Catherine Tate. Indeed, the final scene is so far removed from the Amy we knew and were growing to love that it’s horribly jarring, almost to the point of breaking her character.

All in all, it’s a well-structured, satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable episode that packs a hell of a lot of surprises into it, be it the Angels, some revelations about River Song or the discovery of the crack in time. It’s also good to see the episodes linking on to each other again – although, whether this is just a trick Moffat inserts into his own scripts or something that’s catching on is as yet unknown. For the time being, Doctor Who is back on track. Hooray!

8/10