Posts Tagged ‘steven moffat’

507 – A Good Man Goes To War

And so the first half of the series draws to a close, with a US TV-style break and an almighty cliffhanger. The events of the past six episodes have all been leading up to this one, and it’s a doozy.

After revealing Amy to be a Flesh construct to deceive himself and Rory, the Doctor prepares an army to wage war on the ones responsible: the mysterious Eyepatch Woman and the Headless Monks, who are holed up on the military asteroid of Demon’s Run. However, the only one who refuses to join is River Song, as she knows what’s about the happen: her secret will at long last be revealed, and the Doctor’s struggle will see him lose harder than ever before…

What’s not to like about this episode? Memorable moments abound – from Rory’s fireblazing opening to that ending – stuffed with cracking characters that actually manage to have a little depth to them. The winner here is the excellent Sontaran nurse, both grumpy and excited by the prospect of combat, although honourable mentions to the Silurian swordswoman and her maid, who appear to have a lesbian thing going on.

In fact, it’s a highly adult, pitch-black episode all round, really. There’s a lesbian couple, a gay couple, people having their heads cut off and shut in a box, severed necks twisted into stumps and more shocking sights, but that would be spoiling it.

All in all, this is probably the finest Doctor Who series that’s yet been made. Dark, twisted, clever, tricky and so bloody good, it makes everything Russell T Davies ever did look laughable (which is, you know, accurate). One tiny flaw – we have to wait until autumn for an episode titled ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’. Moffat, you tease.


506 – The Almost People

Come on, people, who wants another episode of more of the same thing? What’s that, ‘not really’? Well, tough, because that’s what you’re getting.

After spending all of last episode failing to convince the humans that the Gangers are real people and deserve to be treated as such, the Doctor now finds himself in the quandary of having his very own Flesh creation. However, they are both trapped in the middle of a crumbling castle, sitting on top of a very explosive series of acid mines and the Gangers want to go to war with the entire human race…

It’s a strange episode, this one. Roughly half of it is simply more of what was in last week’s instalment – ‘I’m a human!’/ “No you’re not!” – but the other half is the stuff you actually want to see – plastic flesh shapeshifting and going mental. There’s violence, carnage and death on offer, which is why it’s such a shame that the episode wasn’t halved and done as one story instead of two.

Slow burning, a little bumpy and quite cheesy with a far too simplistic climax, the entire two-parter is pretty much saved by excellent CGI, cracking monsters and cliffhangers that will be discussed continuously until the next episode.

505 – The Rebel Flesh

And now for the token, unnecessary, very cheesy two-parter that seems to be required in every Doctor Who series. At least this one is trying to be a bit different.

The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive on a small planet in the middle of a solar storm, where the only inhabitants are a small group of military contractors who are experimenting with extremely dangerous acids. In order to do their jobs, the group have to use ‘Gangers’, realistic flesh creations with their faces and personalities that remain under their control at all times. However, after a particularly violent solar storm, the compound is damaged and when everyone wakes up, nobody knows who’s real and who isn’t…

Honestly, this doesn’t matter because it’s easy enough to figure out and the idea of who’s a Ganger and who isn’t is discarded pretty early on, meaning that it’s purely a bit of filler designed to pad the episode out to double-length. Most of the episode sees the Doctor trying to convince everyone that the Gangers are real people, before it inevitably goes tits up.

The best part about this episode is that its cliffhanger is really quite good. It’s just a shame that you have to sit through forty five minutes of nonsensical blathering in order to get there.

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.

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!


504: The Time of Angels

‘Don’t blink!’ – The Doctor

Wow. Just when you start to despair and bang your head against a wall, Moffat returns in style and pulls one out of the bag.

The Doctor’s future wife, River Song, sends him a cunning message that draws the TARDIS to a crash site on a planet long abandoned. The ship they were chasing contains the last remaining Weeping Angel, a statue that has laid dormant for hundreds of year and is now being supercharged by enormous amounts of radiation…

The plot is fairly simple, like all ‘Part One’ episodes: bucket loads of setup, tension and loss as the Doctor suddenly finds himself miles out of his depth. What makes it so good this time around is simply that the Weeping Angel enemy is so, so brilliant.

Moffat has had the foresight to take what was scary – i.e. not blinking or you die – and up the ante significantly. The Angel now has far more power than any of the others previously encountered. This one can come get you through TVs, switch off lights and, most brilliantly of all, get inside Amy’s head.

The production values are consistently high, the acting top-notch throughout and the ideas flying off the screen. This is Moffat going for the jugular of the children watching and with any luck night lights will remain on across the nation.

There are a few problems, though. The amount of supporting characters means that there aren’t many real characters in the Church Squad. They turn up just moments before you know they’re going to get it in the neck, which is a disappointment. And another point – one that certainly seems to rear its ugly head time and again – what is with the BBC and their casting of ethnic actors? The first two characters that die are… wild guess… black! It’s a surprise that the Angel isn’t black, just to complete the image.

Still, that aside, this is a really thrilling return to form that will keep its viewers glued to their screens for the conclusion next week. Hopefully it won’t go the same way as all the other ‘Part Two’ episodes and be full of exposition.


502: The Beast Below

‘It’s a… tongue.’ – The Doctor

Last week’s opener was an absolute barnstormer, kicking the Doctor back up into high gear. This week sees the pace lagging once more.

The Doctor and Amy travel hundreds of years into the future and discover a massive spaceship that houses the entire country. Unfortunately, there are sinister forces at work on Starship UK, as the Doctor quickly finds himself up against a hideous, smiling enemy.

It’s an episode in two parts. The first part is roughly half an hour long, with expert precision in setting up the arena, the villains, the world and the characters. The second half is the final fifteen minutes, and it’s here that everything goes completely to hell.

The setup is great, fantastic even, with a genuinely creepy enemy in the form of the rotating head Smilers and the location is a hugely interesting one. Liz X is a wonderfully campy, gun-toting Marvel ass-kicking bitch that brings an enormous amount of fun to the episode.

Matt Smith is, again, brilliant in the Doctor’s fairly hefty shoes, bringing humour, charm, wit and genuine glee to the role, while Karen Gillan is still both smoulderingly sexy and so innocent she’ll make most of the male viewers feel very bad about themselves. There’s even, quite brilliantly, a link to next week’s show, which is something that really needs to be done all the time, because it creates a sense of continuity in the show.

The problem is that the final fifteen minutes, the dungeon scene, to be specific, utterly destroy all the prior goodwill. It’s so jarring and random that it really feels like the BBC filmed it at the last moment because it was too heavy on the political commentary that runs rampant throughout the rest of the episode. The Doctor’s character changes randomly, Amy’s character, Liz X, the children, even the revelation at the heart of it makes no goddamn bit of sense and it’s so infuriating.

Nothing is explained or resolved. Why are kids being dropped down lift shafts for bad scores? Why is everyone afraid of the Smilers? What are the Smilers? Why are the Smilers there? Has the power never cut out, not even once, in over two hundred years?

It’s a crushing shame because the Doctor was just getting back to his feet. If the final ten minutes had a better twist – actually, that’s the wrong word because even twist endings make sense – and there was some kind of explanation for any of the events, then this would be just as enjoyable as the first episode. As it is, this is simply disappointing.