Review: Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 8: The Hungry Earth (Too Much To Digest?)

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(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

“We’re not going to have a look, are we?”

So, the head writer of Torchwood writing for Doctor Who? He did write the pretty good ‘42’, and to be fair, Torchwood was enjoyable trash. I expected a Torchwood-esque Doctor Who, especially as The Hungry Earth was set in Wales. Cue Welsh accents, dodgy acting/scripting, incomprehensible plots, yet still lots of fun and enjoyment. This episode followed a similar path, with all of the positives and negatives that such a path demands… Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 7: Amy’s Choice (I Dreamed a Dream…)

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(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

“You die in the dream, you wake up in reality. Ask me what happens if you die in reality”

‘Amy’s Choice’ was an odd episode. I liked it, but I’m not sure why! Now, that’s fairly important for a review. But maybe, like The Doctor, Amy and Rory, who couldn’t decide whether they were living in a dream or reality, I cannot decide whether I really liked Amy’s Choice or not. It left me not knowing whether I’d just experienced a sweet dream, or a beautiful nightmare…And I suppose that was the point, just over halfway through the series. Of course, the ‘is this a dream?’ scenario is conjured up a lot in science fiction, and even in horror (see A Nightmare on Elm Street, THE ORIGINAL!). So did ‘Amy’s Choice’ provide a decent spin on the old trope? Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 4: Before The Flood (A Damned Good Episode?)

doctor who 8

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

“Google it”

‘Under The Lake’ was a great little slice of old-school Doctor Who. It created a claustrophobic atmosphere that was imbued with implicit terror. It followed a simple plot, for the most part, and stayed away from the complications that undermined the first two episodes of Series 9. The biggest problem with it was the overstuffed cast; however, for ‘Before The Flood,’ the cast had thinned out due to being killed. Unfortunately, ‘Before The Flood’ could not keep up with the quality of its predecessor. For the most part, it was an engaging story that unravelled the mystery presented in ‘Under The Lake.’ But the tonal shift, along with a pre-credit teaser that broke the fourth wall, dissipated the terror that ‘Under The Lake’ expertly cultivated. It felt like a different story at times! Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 6: The Vampires Of Venice (Doctor Who Meets Twilight?)

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(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

“She was frightened, I was frightened… But we survived, and the relief of it and… so, she kissed me”

I expected ‘Vampires of Venice’ to be a filler episode. And it was a filler episode. I’m sick of Vampires. The ‘vampire’ phenomenon is resurrected every so often, and the latest resurrection probably began with the dreaded ‘Twilight’ novels. Since those terrible novels, we’ve had the film adaptions of said novels, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, Being Human, and more. The appeal of vampires lies in their subtext; the repression and expression of sexual urges. Sexual desire is symbolised by the taking of blood, and the victim is physically invaded and taken over by the vampire. And obviously, this appeals mostly to teenagers, especially American teenagers. Due to the hefty influence of Christianity in America, many teenagers are sexually repressed (no sex before marriage), and grasp at any opportunity to express this repression. Vampire stories are a great way to express this repression of sexual urges. Surely that’s the only reason why the terrible Twilight novels have been so successful?

And thus ‘The Vampires of Venice’ fluidly continues from ‘Flesh and Stone,’ where Amy’s sexual advances were rejected by The Doctor. What better way to express that than have a vampire story? The most pressing issue was whether Doctor Who could anything different with the vampire phenomenon. Of course, they turned out to be aliens, ‘Sisters of the Sea’ from the planet Saturnine. Once again, the aliens were fairly poor CGI creations, but used sparsely to disguise the garishness. The aliens used ‘perception filters’ to cover their true form. This is not the first use of perception filters in Series 5: Prisoner Zero used on, and the Weeping Angels used them. Is there supposed to be a theme here, or just lazy storytelling? Perception filters are another hangover from the Russell T. Davies era, as an easy explanation for something peculiar.

After the super-seriousness of ‘Flesh and Stone,’ the audience needed some relief. However, this relief came from a RTD-esque love triangle, best shown in Series 1 with Mickey, Rose, and The Ninth Doctor. In ‘The Vampires of Venice,’ the tension between Amy, her fiancé Rory and The Doctor was fairly funny, but grated at times. It served a purpose in the story; The Doctor had no idea what to do about Amy’s advances so brought her fiancé into the mix and took them to Venice!

One at a time, girls!
One at a time, girls!

“You have no idea how dangerous you make people to themselves when you’re around”

So how were the ‘vampires’ utilised here? They were obviously an important part in repairing the fractured relationship between Amy and Rory. Even in ‘The Eleventh Hour,’ Amy seemed ambiguous to her “sort of boyfriend.” In the last episode, Amy metaphorically rejected Rory by telling The Doctor she was thinking about who she wants. Then she jumped on The Doctor. So, the storyline of this episode should be viewed as a parallel to this setting. Amy chooses to go undercover and join the House of Calvierri, for the thrill of adventure, much like she chose to join The Doctor for the same sense of adventure. And of course, there is always the element of danger in adventure. She’s ‘seduced’ by the Queen of the aliens, Rosanna Calvierri. And this seduction is completed by the usual vampire act of drinking blood from the neck; shorthand for sexual intercourse. And, if you think about it, ‘Flesh and Stone,’ this episode, and the next episode, ‘Amy’s Choice,’ make a story arc of their own. We have the real seduction in ‘Flesh and Stone,’ the metaphorical act of sex in this episode, and Amy’s pregnancy in ‘Amy’s Choice.’

As a filler episode, it stormed over tripe like ‘Boom Town,’ ‘Fear Her,’ and ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp.’ All of those must be included in a ‘Worst of Doctor Who’ list. VV, however, was entertaining. A logical plot, not an awful enemy, and quite a few laughs. Again, the direction and camerawork is brilliant. Venice looked stunning. Matt Smith improves in each episode, which seems like a hard feat itself, as he is simply superb alreadyAnd again, The Doctor had a choice; either let the aliens take over Venice, or extinguish their entire race. The former meant saving the species; the other meant consigning 200,000 humans to their death.

For a filler episode, it was more than adequate. Compared to the previous two episodes, it was a little light and fluffy, but it entertained. Not to a great extent, but it rarely gave me time for my mind to wander or my eyes to find the time. It continued the themes and subtext of ‘Flesh and Stone,’ whilst doing something a little bit different with the vampire sub-genre we are all too familiar with. 

VERDICT: 7/10. An episode to pass the time, but one that I wouldn’t skip when rewatching Series 5!

Leave your thoughts/comments below!

(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 5: Flesh And Stone)

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Review: Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 3: Under The Lake (Swimmingly Good!)

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(SPOILERS AHEAD)

“He’s a ghost!”

An underwater base? Mysterious goings on? The crew in mortal danger? You couldn’t get more old-school Doctor Who than ‘Under The Lake!’ After the uneven first two episodes of Doctor Who, this was a straight-forward lark. No complications, no flitting between planets for the sake of padding out the story, no nonsense. The Doctor and Clara land in an underwater base. Of course, there’s something not quite right. The crew are being haunted by ghosts after finding a “craft of unknown origin” with strange marking on the inside. The Doctor and Clara investigate after witnessing the ‘ghosts’ shortly after arriving. There’s mystery, danger and intrigue…all in a rather good episode! It suffered from an over-stuffed cast, but only a little. Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 5: Flesh and Stone (Of Heavenly Quality?)

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(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

“You trust this man?”

‘The Time of Angels’ was rather impressive, as with every two-parter, you can only judge it as a whole. We were left with The Doctor, Amy, River and the Army/Religious fellows surrounded by the Weeping Angels. There was no apparent way out. What had River Song done in her past, and how could Amy get rid of the Weeping Angel inside her head?  Could they give us a sensible escape clause and wrap up the story neatly and effectively? Yes, is the short answer! Plus a lot, lot more…

Thanks to the magic of gravity, they escaped. It was a sensible ‘get-out clause,’ jumping and being lifted by the gravity of the fallen ship. Inside the ship, The Doctor and co are presented with a claustrophobic, Alien-esque set of corridors. It added to the terror of the Weeping Angels. After the homage to Alien, there was a nice homage to ‘Silent Running,’ with a forest kept inside the ship. Also, it was a throwback to Moffat’s own ‘Forest of the Dead’ and his themes of nature and technology surviving as one. This ‘cyborg’ forest, nature and technology as one, keeps the ship and its inhabitants alive. Nature and technology aren’t competing, they are symbiotic, united by the human need for oxygen and life. It’s the perfect evocation of the title: ‘Flesh and Stone.’ The Weeping Angels are living creatures, yet constructed entirely of stone. Flesh and synthetic materials are a necessary unity; one cannot exist without the other.

“We’ve got comfy chairs”

I can’t believe how much happened in the first ten minutes. It wasn’t insensible or contrived, just well-paced and intriguing. And just after the ten minute mark, we have the supposed ‘story arc’ of this series addressed and questioned, the ‘cracks in time. It wasn’t the usual Russell T. Davies scattering of hints throughout the series. This developed the story arc neatly. The Weeping Angels were seen to have some sort of attraction to these cracks in time, and Amy recognises it as the crack in her wall, seen in the first episode.

And The Doctor rages and almost breaks down at least twice in the episode. The first instance when he realises that the Weeping Angels have control of Amy, and are killing her slowly. In a nice reversal of the whole ‘don’t blink’ scenario, Amy now has to keep her eyes closed, lest she dies. The Doctor now has to figure out what the crack in time is, how to save Amy and how to stop the Weeping Angels. You never feel like too much is going on, however, as everything is so neatly put together. The Weeping Angels disappear for a while, attracted by the crack in time, and we have a further exploration of the crack in time. According to The Doctor, ‘time can be rewritten,’ and it can also be ‘unwritten.’ He remembers that Amy didn’t remember the Daleks stealing the earth, and also that no history book talks about the giant CyberKing causing havoc in Victorian England. Of course, most of the audience do not want to remember those terrible days either, the days when Doctor Who seemed to be on its last legs. Was this a subtle dig at RTD, and Moffat’s attempt to ‘reboot’ Doctor Who by erasing the past four series?

A game of blindman's bluff, anyone?
A game of blindman’s bluff, anyone?

“You, me, handcuffs… Must it always end this way?”

Amy undergoes her literal ‘walk of faith’ in this episode, walking blind towards The Doctor. She has to place all her faith in him, walking through Weeping Angels. Of course, the symbolism is thick here; she walks through angels to reach the safety of The Doctor. It was a nod to the ‘Lonely God’ theme of Russell T. Davies (but was ‘God’ at the end of this walk of faith, in the form of The Doctor, or did ‘God’ lie behind her as the great light from the crack in time?).

Once again, the script is witty, snappy, and sharp. Not a minute is wasted, everything is vital to the plot, and the ‘meta-plot.’ So many competing themes and stories lie comfortably together, finding a voice of unity throughout. There is humour laced throughout the story, yet it doesn’t threaten to overcome any threat or plot development. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are still brilliant, and adding River to the mix necessarily develops their relationship. After her brush with death during her walk of faith, and the inevitability of River taking The Doctor away, Amy is desperate; she will do anything to keep The Doctor and his time machine to herself. There is definitely something strange about her, something mad and impossible. A great episode, and one of the better two-parters off all Nu-Who.

VERDICT: 9/10. ‘Flesh And Stone’ effectively finished the story of ‘The Time of Angels’ with few flaws in sight. Overall, brilliant!

Leave your thoughts/comments below!

(Click here for my review of Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 4: The Time of Angels)

Review: Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 2: The Witch’s Familiar (In Need Of A Helping Hand?)

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(SPOILERS AHEAD)

“Shouldn’t we be…I don’t wanna say it…dead?”

Last week’s opener to Series 9 was a hearty mixture of the good and the bad of the Moffat era: a story of good ideas muddled by shoddy execution and too much excess! The cliffhanger included Missy and Clara being exterminated, and the TARDIS being blown up…all three of which were obviously going to be undone in ‘The Witch’s Familiar.’ Was there any doubt that Missy and Clara would turn up alive, or the TARDIS would appear undamaged? The true quality of ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ lay in how ‘The Witch’s Familiar’ wrapped things up. But, like the first part, the second part was a mixed bag! Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 4: The Time of Angels (Of Heavenly Quality?)

doctor who 5

(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

“It’s a long story and I don’t know most of it””

After the awful ‘Victory of the Daleks,’ I was apprehensive about ‘The Time of Angels.’ Sure, the Weeping Angels were Moffat’s own creation, so he couldn’t mercilessly murder them. Or could he? My fears were soon abated, even in the first five minutes of the episode. Moffat has given us another great episode with the first half of the two parter involving the Weeping Angels and the return of River Song…

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Review: Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks (Defeat of Decent TV!)

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(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

“Please desist from striking me. I am your soldier”

My initial reaction was ‘OH DEAR.’ The fifth series of Doctor Who reached rock bottom with ‘Victory of the Daleks’, falling from the heights of ‘The Beast Below.’ I did not have high hopes for this episode, due to the Dalek over-saturation by Russel T. Davis, and Mark Gatiss, the script writer. He wrote such ‘classics’ as ‘The Unquiet Dead’ and ‘The Idiot’s Lantern.’ The Dickens one was the first poor episode of the first series, and the ‘MAGPIE’ one plunged the poor half of the second series further into oblivion. Even my low hopes for this episode were not met. Continue reading

Review: Doctor Who, Series 9, Episode 1: The Magician’s Apprentice (The Same Old Tricks?)

doctor who 8

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

“Someone please help me”

So, Doctor Who returned to our screens last night with ‘The Magician’s Apprentice.’ Saturday nights just aren’t the same without The Doctor, are they? It’s not about the uniform quality of the show; it’s up and down like a yo-yo, if we are being honest (for example, in Series 8 there was the domineering brilliance of ‘Flatline’ to the downright awfulness of ‘Robot of Sherwood’). It’s just about having some quintessentially British science fiction on our screens! It’s about having a great British science fiction character on our screens! The episode passed with some great highlights, but they were marred by the numerous excesses of Steven Moffat’s writing style… Continue reading