Sunday, 14 September 2014

Listen - Review

What a remarkable episode. A limited cast and only a handful of locations made for a claustrophobic, frightening tale about the nature of fear, dreams and nightmares.
The Doctor obviously has a bit too much time on his hands: with the TARDIS parked above the Earth he ruminates on evolution and survival. What if, when you talk to yourself, you are actually talking to something unseen? Something which has developed the ultimate in camouflage. The Doctor wants to meet it / them.
As it is he might have done, but we weren't privy.
Did he see whatever was coming in through the door of the time-ship at the end of the Universe? Or was it just the vessel's systems breaking down?
Who / what was under the bed spread? There was definitely something. Was it just one of young Rupert Pink's friends playing a trick? I don't think so somehow. (Can't wait to see Character Options' Bedspread Monster figure...).
Who moved the chalk? Probably the same person who moved the coffee cup. Clara did say it looked like the Doctor's writing. Did he forget he did it and just assumed some other force was at work?
At times, the unseen presence knocking and banging at the TARDIS made me think of the story Midnight - another character piece with small cast and claustrophobic feel.
The whole train of events is kicked off by the Doctor's memory of a nightmare - one shared by many of us - of something lurking under the bed - ready to grab you by the ankles and drag you into the darkness. Where did this memory come from? Turns out Clara was inadvertently responsible. Not only does she provide the young Doctor with the nightmare, when he is sleeping in that barn on Gallifrey, she also sets Danny Pink on the path to becoming a soldier.
I was worried last week that the inclusion of children might prove to be the kiss of death for this story. I needn't have worried. Young Remi Gooding was very good.
Apart from a brief appearance by a caretaker called Reg, and the sequence with Remi, this was all about Capaldi, Coleman and Samuel Anderson - as both Danny and his great grandson Orson.
Danny grows on me all the time, and I can't wait for the eventual meeting with the Doctor (due in The Caretaker, I believe). Orson suggests his ancestor had experience of time travel, so we must assume that Danny will take a trip in the TARDIS at some point. And is Clara also an ancestor?
The scene which will generate most debate is obviously the Gallifreyan barn sequence - our first sighting of the young Doctor. Nice to tie it in with the location chosen by the War Doctor to activate the Moment. (And so lovely to see John Hurt again). Was that his parents? Not necessarily. Who were the others referred to - that the Doctor could join inside? Possibly a Gallifreyan boarding school - and those were the caretakers.
Overall, one of the best Moffat scripts for a long time. He should stick to these character-driven pieces. Yes, it had an element of timey-wimey - with Clara being responsible for so much - but it wasn't laboured the way it usually is. Apparently this was the "cheap" episode. Let's have more of them.

Tony Wall

If you have read my review of the 1964 story The Reign of Terror, you will know that Tony Wall, the actor who played Napoleon Bonaparte in episode 6 (Prisoners of the Conciergerie) was a friend of my old boss. Sadly, she contacted me on Friday to say that Tony's memorial service was being held that day. He passed away the week before. Tony left acting in the early 1970's. His last few films were horror anthologies with strong DW connections - Asylum, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.
Fortunately, his sole Doctor Who episode is one that has survived.

Time Heist Cameos

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted some familiar faces fleetingly glimpsed on a screen in the trailer for Time Heist. Familiar - and not quite so familiar. The characters all have ID placards - as in police mug shots. (These screenshots courtesy of the Blogtorwho blog).
First up is a Terrileptil from The Visitation. We know that there is a criminal class with this species - the Terrileptils in the Peter Davison story were all escaped convicts after all.

Next up is a Slitheen. Again - a known criminal clan.

Then we get a Sensorite. In general a peace-loving species, the First Doctor and his companions did come across the corrupt City Administrator and his accomplice. Their xenophobia drove them to murder.

The next person is a bit of a surprise - Absalom Daak, Dalek Killer. A character who has only existed in print. It would appear the camera wasn't working the day he got nicked, so they had to make do with a police artist image - or does Absalom actually look like a drawing?

More spin-off characters. First is Androvax, who appeared in two Sarah Jane Adventures stories. Again, a known criminal. When first seen he was the titular Prisoner of the Judoon.

Then we get the Trickster (also from The Sarah Jane Adventures, but mentioned several times in the parent programme). Quite how this particular being could get arrested, I am not sure.

Last one up is Captain John from Torchwood series 2. Captain Jack's ex-lover / best friend / worst enemy, depending on what day of the week it is.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Figurine Collection - September 2014

Received this month's figurines today - and the latest special figure was included. The two main figures are the Morbius Monster, and Brannigan from Gridlock. The special is the Cyber King from The Next Doctor. I am always happy to see figures from the Classic Series, so welcome Morbius. With the other two figures, the question must be: why? Both figures are actually well made, and if you really, really wanted a Cyber King then this will keep you happy. But did you want one in the first place? Do we really need a Brannigan figure? So much choice available (50 years worth), yet Eaglemoss seem determined to keep churning out characters from Nu Who - no matter how insignificant.
Fortunately, the next confirmed release will take us back to the 1970's - a Pertwee Sea Devil.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Robot of Sherwood - Review

Did you spot Patrick Troughton - television's first Robin Hood? When the Doctor showed Robin the robots' database on him, we also saw the Errol Flynn version - and according to Mark Gatiss in the DWM preview piece last month, it was this latter incarnation from which he took his inspiration. He stated he couldn't really be bothered with other versions - a great shame as that suggests he doesn't think much of the wonderful HTV Robin of Sherwood, starring first Michael Praed (series 1 & 2) then Jason Connery (series 3). (The third series is not so good).
So, with Robot of Sherwood we get the "men in tights" Robin - laughing heartily at everything he sees - something which really got on the nerves of the grumpy new Doctor. These Merry Men were annoyingly so.
The men were all rather underused - about two lines each. A bit of a waste. Tuck was Trevor Cooper, who had played Takis in Revelation of the Daleks. Alan-A-Dale was played by Ian Hallard - who had played director Richard Martin in Gatiss' An Adventure in Space and Time, and who just happens to be the writer's partner.
Key elements of the Robin Hood myth were on view. There was the archery contest which features in most versions of the tale - including the winning arrow splitting the one already in the bull's eye. Robot adds other arrows splitting the first arrow etc - though the Doctor later admits that he fitted his with a homing device.
A lot of the story revolves around the rivalry between the Doctor and Tom Riley's Robin - both determined to out-hero the other. With them chained up together for a lengthy chunk of the episode, Clara gets to meet and seduce / be seduced by Ben Miller's Sheriff of Nottingham. Didn't he remind you a little of the Anthony Ainley Master?
The robots themselves were visually impressive. I would have preferred their method of dispatch to have reflected the fact they were disguised as knights - rather than laser beams. A great pity that we never got to know anything about who they were. We learned only that they were destined for "The Promised Land" - this week's reference to the series' story arc. No Missy seen this time. That's two robotic races determined to reach this destination so far.
Previous celebrity historicals have been littered with references to the featured character's life / works - most notably in the Gareth Roberts stories. Robin Hood doesn't really have anything to latch onto in this respect, though it was odd hearing Shakespeare and Karl Marx being quoted - as well as a play on something Henry II (allegedly) once said. A couple of words sounded anachronistic - "balderdash" and "gallimaufry". The former might well be an adaptation of a medieval word - "balductum" - but the word only really enters common usage from the late 16th Century. "Gallimaufry" is also 16th Century - but may derive from an older French word. Let's give Mr Gatiss the benefit of the doubt.
One classic series story I was very much reminded of was The Time Warrior - particularly in the second half, with the spaceship about to blow up the castle. The basic premise of the local baron being aided in his villainy by robot knights is lifted directly from the Bob Holmes story.
Overall, a much lighter episode than the first two. I understand a brief edit was made to omit a decapitation - the BBC being sensitive to current events in Iraq. The demise of the Sheriff - falling into a cauldron of boiling gold - was quite shocking. The tone of the piece should have seen him doing a Count Grendel of Gracht and vowing to get his revenge as his plans came to nought. (The Sheriff is always defeated in Robin Hood stories - but rarely killed off. There is usually a sub-villain like Sir Guy of Gisbourne to be bumped off).
Great to see Capaldi given some more humorous material to work with.
Next week's story looks intriguing - though I am concerned that it features children quite prominently. Stories with kids in them have generally been poorly received - from Fear Her to Nightmare in Silver, via Night Terrors (all languishing in the bottom quarter of the recent DWM anniversary poll). Danny Pink's son will be introduced, and we saw him as an older man, dressed in the Doctor's Sanctuary Base spacesuit...

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Into The Dalek - Review

I must admit that I was not particularly looking forward to this story. I am really rather bored with the Daleks, and recent outings have been a bit disappointing.
Was this story here because the Daleks needed a further adventure, or was this just the safety measure of having a new Doctor meet them early on to help reinforce his credentials as the New One? I suspect more of the latter.
I did come away from watching this pleasantly surprised, however. It wasn't that bad. Indeed, it might be a decent story for the Daleks to be rested on for a couple of years. Leave it to Big Finish to continue to churn out Dalek stories for while. (It's every other one, isn't it? That's what it feels like...).
It is always nice to see the Daleks simply set up as a powerful destructive force - going about their daily business of Extermination. Director Ben Wheatley offered up some great action sequences - including a very impressive exploding Dalek (the one hit by Major Blue's forces - rather than the ones slaughtered by "Rusty" later on).
Visual effects were impressive - from the spaceships in the asteroid field to the "subaquatic" transition from the nano-pod into the Dalek eye.
Lots of influences on show - the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage in particular. This reference was quite blatant - the Doctor actually suggesting shrinking medics to treat someone from within might be a "fantastic idea for a movie". Of course, that movie had also been an influence on The Invisible Enemy back in 1977.
You will also have noted similarities to 2005's Dalek, last year's Journey To The Centre of the Tardis, and the antibodies and miniature people inside a machine-being from Let's Kill Hitler.
One thing that didn't work quite so well was the whole bit about being inside the Dalek. Daleks are only worth bothering about when we are on the outside - watching them in action. Inside, the Doctor and company could just as easily have been in a spaceship or a factory or something. Only when the Doctor came face to eyeball with the mutant did we really get the impression we were seeing the inside of this thing.
Daleks aside, the story helped to move on Clara's story. It has been some time since the Doctor went to fetch coffee in Glasgow. Danny Pink, fellow teacher, is introduced. He seems to be harbouring a secret - that he killed someone out-with his duties as a soldier, or at least feels responsible for a death. Will he be a straightforward recurring character, or is there going to be something special about him that ties in with this series' story arc? (Talking of arcs, Missy from the Nethersphere was back again - still hoovering up people whose encounter with the Doctor has left them just a little bit dead). The fourth episode - Listen - promises to see Danny and the Doctor meet - and we all know what the Doctor thinks about soldiers...
Once again, a great performance from Capaldi. I am loving this spikier incarnation. Back in 2005, a Dalek thought that the Doctor had the potential to be a good Dalek. In 2014, it seems he may have realised that potential. First sickness made the Dalek want to destroy its own kind. But, after the Doctor intervened, it was the Doctor's own hatred that inspired it.
Next week we have the Robin Hood story to look forward to. Hopefully a chance to see a much lighter side of this darker new Doctor.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bill Kerr

Just learned that the Australian actor Bill Kerr has passed way at the ripe old age of 92. From a Doctor Who point of view, he was Giles Kent in the recently found and re-evaluated The Enemy of the World. Personally, he will always be remembered by me for his radio work with Tony Hancock. It is a crying shame that his radio persona was never translated to the TV version of events surrounding Railway Cuttings, East Cheam...