Is it just me, or does Steven Moffat have little consistency in the realm of quality? Last week’s ‘Heaven Sent’ was superlative and left scope for a great finale to a very good Series 9. The Doctor had found Gallifrey…what was going to happen next? What actually happened only concerned Gallifrey for the first quarter of the episode, and even then as something of an afterthought. It was secondary to the main thrust of the episode (SPOILER ALERT!): a farewell to Clara! Wait, haven’t we already said farewell to her? Yes, we have, and a fitting farewell at that. But her second farewell came at the expense of a finale. As the credits rolled, I shrugged my shoulders and thought the whole charade was pointless. Continue reading →
Mark Gatiss, as a writer in Doctor Who, has always come up with decent science fiction ideas. However, his execution has rarely (if ever) lived up to the potential of said ideas. This definitely applies to his offering for Series 9, ‘Sleep No More.’ A found footage episode of Doctor Who, it is replete with nifty science fiction ideas (regardless of their originality!), but stutters and falls over itself repeatedly. It’s not as awful as ‘The Girl Who Died,’ but it’s on that same level of quality. After the great ‘The Zygon Inversion’ of last week, ‘Sleep No More’ was a massive step down in entertainment. Continue reading →
‘The Zygon Inversion’ was the best episode of the current series of Doctor Who, and it was also one of the best episodes of Doctor Who. Period. It’s brave and stunning in equal’s measures. Compared to the globetrotting nature of ‘The Zygon Invasion,’ ‘The Zygon Inversion’ feels like a normal episode of nu-Who; almost wholly London based. However, the themes explored in the confines of London are universal and timeless. I watched it after the minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday, and it gave me more food for thought about war and peace than any minute of reflection could do. The script, plot, and pacing were immaculate. Peter Capaldi has never been better, especially in the last fifteen minutes of the episode. It’s rare that everything works in modern Doctor Who, but there was nothing less than brilliant in ‘The Zygon Inversion.’ Continue reading →
“I’m not actually the police. That’s just what it says on the box”
‘The Girl Who Died’ was the wrong kind of fluffy, historical jaunt that Doctor Who creates every so often. It was more ‘Robots Of Sherwood,’ than, say, ‘The Shakespeare Code.’ A poor enemy, a rushed resolution, mostly awful acting from the non-core cast, cringe worthy attempts at comedy…there’s not a lot that this episode did right. It wasn’t truly terrible, just a little offensive in its inanity. The last ten minutes or so of the episode are all it will be remembered for by the time this series is over; or indeed, by the time the story is concluded next week. Welcome to the most disappointing episode of Doctor Who so far in Series 9… Continue reading →
‘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 →
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 →
‘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?
“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)
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 →
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 →