TV Review: Doctor Who – Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone

Note: I try to keep these as spoiler free as possible to avoid ruining the episodes for folks.

River Song returns for all the fun.

Many people rank Steven Moffat’s Blink as one of the best standalone episodes of Doctor Who.  This is quite a bold statement considering the episode actually contains very little interaction with the Doctor and his companion at the time Martha Jones.  The main draw for many fans was the chilling introduction of a new race of villains called the Weeping Angels, so called because of their resemblance to the creepy cemetery statues of the same name.  Of all of the villains introduced in new Doctor Who, the Weeping Angels are pretty close to the only ones I would consider classic in a strict sense, as most of the others are definitely better for one-time appearances.  This two-parter also features the Weeping Angels, and as such has large shoes to fill.

These episodes also mark the second appearance of a character that many assume is the Doctor’s future wife – River Song.  In fact this episode is foreshadowed in Moffat’s last televised episodes Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead as River Song asks if they have “survived the crash of the Byzantium yet?”  In typical Moffat Style, The Doctor and River have once again met “out of order” of each other, and River is as sassy as ever if not a bit more.  A bit of light is shone on their relationship that almost leads me to believe that simply understanding the character as “the Doctor’s future wife” is far too easy, and is probably a red herring to their true relationship.

A group of military clerics is there to assist including the awesome Father Octavian pictured here.

The story follows the Doctor and Amy as they take a bit of a break from all the adventuring by visiting a museum.  Pretty soon the Doctor discovers an odd artifact amongst all of the other typical museum findings – a flight recorder box with ancient Galiifreyan text written on it.  This prompts the Doctor to do what anyone would do, steal the item from the museum.  The black box, as it turns out, is a set of directions for the Doctor to Find River Song as she is pursued on a large ship called the Byzantium.  The ship crashes and a very sensitive bit of “cargo” is let loose in a cave full of catacombs.

What follows is a two-parter, that I would say is one of the best, scariest episodes since the shows return in 2005.  As with many Moffat episodes, it was very well done.  The Angels are scarier than they were, as they have new abilities due to the unlimited power of the ship that crashed.  This helps take a creepy villain, which would probably only appear in a few episodes, and makes it a villain that will last.

Now you can’t blink, look the angels in the eye, act like you can’t see them, and a laundry list of other things that make them creepy.

There are a lot of things I love about this episode, but talking about them would give far more spoilers than I like to do on this blog, maybe I’ll touch on it in an editorial later on.  Even if the rest of the season sucks, and we look back at this episode, the season would be a classic.

My Rating 5 out of 5

 

Advertisements

TV Review – Hyperdrive Season 1 Episode 3

I guess my annoyances were heard, as we finally get to find out a little bit about the “window dressing” members of the HMS Camden Lock crew.  On one hand we see that this episode essentially revolves around Navigation Officer Vine who spends all of his life savings on a bit of real estate, and by real estate I mean a huge uninhabitable planet made of ice and poisonous gas.  He decides to take Jeffers with him, against Jeffers actual desires.  The rest of the episode is based around Diplomatic Officer Teal using all sorts of methods to “get rid of” the rest of the cast in various ways so that a candlelit supper with the officers turns into a dinner for two with Henderson.

Sandstrom finally gets some character time

“Vineworld” Vine’s ever so catchy name for his new home world is realized pretty well in the great 19470’s Doctor Who tradition of filming in a rock quarry with weird film filters over the lenses.  Much of the comedy comes from Jeffers and his annoyance with vine due to a lack of preparation for the trip.  He decided not to bring food or water, as it would have been too heavy, and forces them to look around for crashed ships to scavenge on.  On the ship we almost get to see the unrequited love of Henderson and Teal pay off….almost.

We also get to see the ship’s navigational “enhanced” a.k.a. android get a little bit of character, something that the character has been lacking from the beginning.  Apparently she was once a human, until she ran into serious money trouble.  She agreed to have her body and mind modified in exchange for the Space Force paying off her student loan, assuming the offer would not be made if the procedure was not safe. Her personality was then overwritten, but we see shards of her true mind begin to appear as she is given a piece of chocolate by Teal.  I still think that this character is a waste of space, and adds nothing to the show, but we’ll see if that changes.

Vine and Jeffers on “Vineworld”

All in all episode three was good, and shows that the sub-par first episode was hopefully a fluke as the writers and actors come into their own here.

My Rating 3.3 out of 5

 

TV Review – Hyperdrive: Season 1 Episode 2

I’ll rate this episode better than the last, but only so much.

The second episode of Hyperdrive shows great improvement over the first, as we see a better presented storyline, some better jokes, and better use of special effects.  The show as a whole seems to be a typical BBC low budget sitcom affair, but as we see our first alien world in this episode it all seems to come together.  The story follows a trip to the planet Queppu for an attempt at diplomatic relations, but as Mike Henderson always seems to guarantee, the trip goes awry.  Against the better judgment of Mike, Jeffers is placed in charge of the ship while the top brass is gone, which spells disaster.

The costumes are very creative, but not as good as some I’ve seen in shows like Farscape or Doctor Who.

I was impressed by the costume designs of the Queppu, as they did not suffer from the typical Star Trek “different foreheads” syndrome.  This race  actually looked like a bizarre pre-industrialized race that happens to wear gaudy latex hats, and pretentious jewelry.  Most of the other costumes in this show are pretty bland, so anything like this stands out a lot.  Mike falls in love with the daughter of the crazed ruler of the planet, much to the chagrin of Teal, who harbors feelings for Mike.  We get to see York at his sleazy finest in this episode, as he attempts to nuke the planet before they even visit, and nearly ends up killing the crew in a knife fight.

Jeffers uses his new found power to get the ship into a drag race, almost destroying the ship in the process.

With all the good of the episode, there is still some bad things going on here that leave it average at best.  The jokes are usually good, but not always consistent, making certain scenes seem dragged out.  There are also a few characters like Vine and the ship’s android computer that really seem to serve no purpose to the story other than exist to be an analogue of a Star trek character.  I’ll rate this episode better than the last, but only so much.

May Rating 3.1 out of 5

 

TV Review: Hyperdrive Season 1 Episode 1

One episode in, and I enjoy Hyperdrive, but hope that the story takes off in future episodes, stay tuned for my opinion on the rest of the show!

I actually downloaded Hyperdrive around the time it originally aired due to a piqued interest in movies and television shows by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright.  For some reason that I honestly can’t recall, I never watched it, and it sat on my hard drive collecting digital dust.  Going through my files this week, I stumbled upon it, and decided to finally check it out.

The HMS Camden Lock is basically a ship shaped like London’s BT Tower

Hyperdrive is a science fiction based sitcom, a genre hybrid that I can only think of a handful of instances of.  The story follows a crew of inept space voyagers trying to expand the British Empire in the year 2151.  I was drawn to the show due to Nick Frost’s starring role to be quite honest, but was pleasantly surprised to see a few actors I really like such as Patterson Joseph (Survivors, Mitchell and Webb Look) and Kevin Eldon (Big Train, Hot Fuzz) and even guest appearances by notable actors and acresses including Montserrat Lombard of Ashes to Ashes fame.

Frost plays pace Commander Michael Henderson, a misguided man who admires the idealism of space travel ala cheesy science fiction shows, but has no real credentials to back it up.  Imagine every bad thing that Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk ever did and add a bit of sincere stupidity, and you basically have Henderson in a nutshell.  His first officer (Eldon) Eduardo York, is a nice contrast to Henderson in that he seems to secretly want to be an evil galactic overlord like Ming the Merciless, but is held down by federation guidelines and other forms of “red tape”.  Add in a slacker technical officer named Jeffers, a quiet navigations officer named Vine, and the straight man, or lady for that matter, in the whole ordeal Diplomatic Officer Chloe Teal, and you have the principal cast in a nutshell.


(L to R) Teal, Henderson, York

Hyperdrive has its pros and cons that I can even see based solely on this first episode.  The show is a total farce in the style of Star Trek, but that almost leads it to try too hard to be like its “big brother” rather than stand on its own.  While this works most of the time, some of the goofy gags fall flat, and this isn’t helped by a lack of a laugh track.  The jokes are generally pretty funny when they are original, and rely more on gross out humor and dry wit than anything else.  One running gag that I really liked is when Henderson tries to relay his “knowledge” of historical facts to his crewmates, which always come out as a mishandled jumble of nonsense.

One episode in, and I enjoy Hyperdrive, but hope that the story takes off in future episodes, stay tuned for my opinion on the rest of the show!

May rating: 3 out of 5

 

TV Review: Doctor Who – Victory of the Daleks

I’ll admit that being a huge fan of the Daleks, I was pretty hyped up for this episode, especially after seeing the bits and bobs in the trailer. With a fairly good writer on board, and a novel idea in the can, I was pretty hyped up for “Victory of the Daleks”, sadly due to this over-anticipation I may have caused myself to be a bit underwhelmed by the end of the whole thing.

Note: I try to keep these as spoiler free as possible to avoid ruining the episodes for folks.

At the end of The Beast Below we were treated to a plot device that has not been seen for a while in Doctor Who: a scene that leads directly into the next episode.  The scene in question showed a certain Winston Churchill calling the Doctor begging for help, as we see the evil shadow of an old foe about to exterminate Churchill.  As we begin Victory of the Daleks something has changed, Churchill is smug, and seems to think he has the war “in the bag”, all due to a “secret weapon”.

Victory of the Daleks has some bright spots and some rough edges sadly.  First things first, the acting is superb especially with Ian McNeice as Winston Churchill.  Rather than try to emulate Churchill 100%, McNeice grabbed the raw essence of what Churchill was about and ran with it.  In the accompanying episode of Doctor Who Confidential, he basically said he wanted to emulate the tone and demeanor of his speeches, which I think worked well.  Matt Smith and Karen Gillan were also very good, but Smith really shined in this episode.  His wild “these are the Daleks, and they are evil” rants were spot on, and made the Doctor look about as crazy and hateful, as those he was condemning.

Great acting as usual from the cast

The rough edges I spoke of seem to be either due to the editing process or unfinished thoughts in the writing itself.  There are more than a few extraneous subplots going on like a girl that works for Churchill who is worried about her boyfriend, a pilot for the Royal Air Force.  We occasionally see her lamenting on his possible death, and other things that add absolutely nothing to the plot whatsoever.  It almost seems as if this was originally going to be a “two-parter”, and all the padding got removed.  Sometimes Doctor Who adds back stories for side characters and such, but as this character doesn’t really actually speak to the main cast, or reveal her name as far as I can rmemeber, she was pretty much wasted space.

The re-design of the leadership Daleks was cool, and brings a bit of scariness back to the characters.  The old Daleks were modeled after actress Billie Piper’s eyeline, and these are in line with Matt Smith, who is about 70 feet tall.  Because of this added height and deeper voice, these Daleks look to be quite menacing in the future.  Sadly they don’t do too much in this episode aside from taunt the Doctor, which is a shame.  The Daleks do end up with a VERY bright new paint scheme that reminds me of the colors for Star Trek rankings.  Then again I was also wondering if the Daleks were going to form Voltron at some point, so I can see why folks might not like the new direction.

Let’s form Voltron!

I’ll admit that being a huge fan of the Daleks, I was pretty hyped up for this episode, especially after seeing the bits and bobs in the trailer.  With a fairly good writer on board, and a novel idea in the can, I was pretty hyped up for “Victory of the Daleks”, sadly due to this over-anticipation I may have caused myself to be a bit underwhelmed by the end of the whole thing.   Not to say that this was a bad episode, but it was just average in my book, although it served a great purpose in rectifying all the shenanigans from the last few seasons, and will hopefully keep the Daleks alive for a while still.

My rating 3 out of 5

 

Doctor Who Theme by Some Dude With Tesla Coils

TV Review – Day of the Triffids (1981) Episode 1

I was perusing Netflix’s streaming tab one day, and noticed a few new shows added to my “you might like this” tab.  One show in question was one that I had heard of, but had never seen called “The Day of the Triffids”.  Since then I have researched it a bit more, and discovered that a 2009 remake was made, and a few theatrical movies exist of the story, all of which was originally a book by John Wyndham.  I hope Netflix keeps this up, as I’d love to see some more stuff that I can review for this site.

The opening credits are creepy

As the episode opens, we see a man named Bill Mason, who is laying in a hospital bed with bandages covering the majority of his face.  We learn, through various flashbacks, that Triffids were some sort of plant, whose oil could be used as a new source of energy.  It appears that some sort of energy crisis is afoot, and the new Triffid oil is the best around.  The problem is that apparently Triffids seem to be either sentient, or at least move around to feed, as Bill knows the best of all.  He was the first to officially be “attacked” by a Triffid as a child, as one was able to sting him pretty badly.  He gained expertise in the subject, and later went to work on a Triffid farm of all places.  His injury, that as of yet was a mystery, seems to come from another Triffid sting, that left him temporarily blind.  As Bill lay in bed, the world bears witness to a beautiful meteor shower, one that will change mankind forever.

A Triffid on the attack

The story in itself is a breath of fresh air for a person like me, who has seen just about any science fiction plotline used umpteen times.  To be honest, I really can’t say that I’ve seen a show about walking killer plants.  The budget for The Day of the Triffids is obviously pretty small, but doesn’t seem to suffer from the budget shortcomings of shows like Doctor Who and Blakes 7, probably having to do with the short duration of the miniseries.  The special effects are pretty good, but sparse, and the only real heavy amount of them you see are the Triffids themselves, which look like a huge Amazonian carnivorous pitcher plant, mixed with some kind of houseplant.

I will definitely keep watching this show, and now plan to check out the other versions of this story, as I love post-apocalyptic stories, which I assume is where this goes, and weird stuff in general.

The intro

My rating: 4 out of 5

 

Review – Doctor Who: Whispers of Terror

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

With the medium of audio plays, it was a matter of time before Big Finish explored some kind of sound based monster for their Doctor Who audio dramas; I’m just surprised that they did it so soon.  Whispers of Terror marks the third monthly Big Finish Audio, and the first to star Colin Baker (by himself) as the Doctor and Peri as his companion.

The story follows the Doctor and Peri as they end up snooping around a museum called the Museum of Aural Antiquities, where every sound is tucked away in large storage devices.  Almost immediately we find out that a murderer is afoot, and someone is changing old political speeches for someone’s gain.  If all that sounded bad, there also seems to be some kind of monster made of pure sound running around.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant almost immediately recapture their on-screen chemistry, and work well to make this seem like a “missing” Doctor Who episode.  Peri has always been a double edged sword for me, as Nicola Bryant was always nice to look at, but lacked a convincing American accent.  I know this may not be a real problem for those in the UK, that don’t have the ear for American speech patterns, but Peri was usually very far off.  In Whispers of Terror, Peri is in top form, as Nicola has obviously matured as an actress, and the role is acted shockingly well for me.  I feel that this revelation has really helped me gain a new found appreciation for this Doctor/companion pairing, that I really didn’t have before.

All in all, Whispers of Terror is a solid Doctor Who audio, if not a little on the average side.  So far I have noticed these dramas getting progressively better, and this is not exception.

My Rating 3.5 out of 5

 

DVD Review – Red Dwarf: Back to Earth

“Red Dwarf is one of those shows that you are either going to love or hate. If you like your sci-fi bleak and dark like the fad seems to be these days, you may not like Red Dwarf as it pokes fun at itself at every turn. “

The Boys are back…

Red Dwarf is one of those shows that you are either going to love or hate.  If you like your sci-fi bleak and dark like the fad seems to be these days, you may not like Red Dwarf as it pokes fun at itself at every turn.  Much Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide series, Red Dwarf likes to be as self-referential as possible and generally mock other sci-fi tropes.  Things like unnecessarily complex time travel situations, parallel universes, and genetically engineered monsters are all par for the course.  When I had heard that we would see more Red Dwarf after such a long hiatus, I was ecstatic as I have been a huge fan of the show for quite a while.  But was ten years too long to wait?

When we last left the crew of the mighty mining vessel Red Dwarf, things weren’t going so well.  Rimmer was about to die, and the rest of the crew was stuck in a parallel universe as the titular ship smoldered to a crisp.  With an unresolved cliffhanger like that, pretty much anything would be hard to follow up, especially after such a large break.  The producers and Writers of Red Dwarf came up with something ingenious and in tone with the show, by having a “missing season” thus, not actually resolving anything at all.  Many questions persist at the beginning of Back to Earth like: Why did Ace Rimmer go back to the Dwarf, and re-join the crew as Arnold Rimmer?  What Happened to Kochanski?  I guess we’ll never know, and that makes me chuckle.  With a show that had a main character turn out to be his own father and other such shenanigans, what more would I expect.

New Tension emerges between Sophie Winkleman‘s new science officer character and Rimmer

The story of Back to Earth takes place some nine years after we last left the crew.  Everyone is back aside from two notable exceptions.  Holly, the deranged ship computer (played by Norman Lovett or Hattie Hayridge respectively) has gone out of commission after Dave Lister, the show’s main character, left a bath running for nine years which fried Holly’s electronics.   Kristine Kochanski, the shows on-again and off-again love interest for Dave is dead, and Dave has matured from the experience.

After a run-in with a sea monster that had stowed away in the ship’s water supply, a hologram other than Rimmer appears claiming that Rimmer has put the crew’s lives in danger for the last time, and his holographic life is to be decommissioned.  She also decides that Lister needs to find a mate, and orchestrates a dimensional jump to take Lister Back to Earth.  Earth is not all it is bargained for, as the crew finds out that they are from a parallel dimension and are in fact, characters in a TV show called Red Dwarf.

On a storyline basis, Back to earth is a really good aside from a large stylistic change.  Rather than the joke a minute tone of older seasons, there are a few somber moments where Lister is on the brink of sadness due to his diminished status as a fictional character.  Aside from the drama, we also see home old-school sci-fi action, in the guise of homage to the film Blade Runner.  A few scenes were either directly or indirectly based on scenes from the popular Harrison Ford film, all the way down to costuming.  While these stylistic changes seem a bit in contrast to the show’s normal format, but work in the context of this special.

Carbug is definitely a silly addition, here’s hoping it stays on, if more episodes are made.

On the technical side, Red dwarf has never looked so good.  While shot on a shoe-string budget, the show has never had such well utilized computer generated effects, and other touches, and a lot of that has to do with the new HD camera that the crew used during the filming.  During the making of segment at the end of the disk, we were shown how a few shots were done using this new camera system, and it was truly awesome.

All In all, Back to earth was a good episode, but I would recommend it as a feature length viewing session.  Split up into three parts, the story structure seems to front loaded with jokes and padded in the middle with drama.  As a movie, which is what I believe the original intention to be, this series really shines, and may usher in a complete re-birth of the show if rumors hold any water.

Here is a trailer, that shows a bit of the Blade Runner parody:

My Score: 4.5/5

 

BBC Commissions New Scifi Drama

This sounds like it may be good.  Great to see the hole left by the end of Ashes to Ashes being filled.  From a Press release:

————————————————————-

Following on from the innovative and era-defining hits Spooks, Hustle and Life On Mars, Kudos Film & TV is moving into another new world. BBC One has commissioned a new eight-part drama series, Outcasts.

Created by Ben Richards (Spooks, The Fixer, Party Animals), Outcasts is set on a recently-discovered planet and tells of the dilemmas, loves and lives of a group of people setting up a new world.

This life-sustaining planet is now home to the surviving population from Earth. Here there is a chance to start again, to bring the lessons learnt from Earth and to put them into action on a new planet.

Set in 2040, Outcasts begins on the day the last known transporter from Earth arrives, prompting great excitement on the new planet: Who is on board? Friends and loved ones? Important supplies and news from Earth? But also many questions: Will the new people bring the problems of Earth with them? Will the mistakes that destroyed Earth be repeated? Will the arrival of a new, would-be leader, rock the fragile and precarious equilibrium of our fresh, unified and courageous new world?

————————————————————-

Sounds a bit like Survivors, but I’ll definitely try to check it out.

 

Jo grant to Team up With Sarah Jane Smith

Jo grant to Team up With Sarah Jane Smith

From a press Release:

Sarah Jane Smith is reunited with another of The Doctors former companions, Jo Grant (Katy Manning), plus the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), in the new series of The Sarah Jane Adventures this autumn.

Katy Manning, who recently returned to live in the UK, says Playing Jo Grant again is something I never really considered. I was gob-smacked when they told me and I am over the moon. What an incredible little treat. I come home and this is one of the first things that happens.

The team will be taken inside a secret base beneath Snowdon and meet a brand-new vulture aliens, the mysterious Shansheeths, plus a trip to an alien planet – a first for The Sarah Jane Adventures!

Review – Doctor Who: Phantasmagoria

All in all Phantasmagoria is better than the Sirens of Time simply by having a better less convoluted narrative, but still suffers by being early in the run.

Big Finish Audio “Quick Review”

Let me get one thing straight before going into this audio drama review: on a whole I am not a huge fan of most 1980’s Doctor Who stories when stacked up to anything else.  I buy the DVDs, watch all of the stories, and read the comics, but I prefer the modern way the show is told, or just about anything before John Nathan Turner took the show over.  Not that I don’t like the actors that played the Doctor during this time, I just find the show a tad “hit or miss” in the decade of excess.  The audio plays, as a whole, have helped me really appreciate those actors that I may have never given much of a chance to.  This can be attributed to both maturity of the actors, and let’s face it, solid production quality.  I went into Phantasmagoria assuming that I would not like it due to it starring Peter Davison, and was greatly surprised to find a well acted, well written, if somewhat goofy episode.

I had heard of Phantasmagoria long before I actually listened to the production, as it was written by mark Gatiss, and was supposedly the template for his 2005 televised episode The Unquiet Dead.  I’m not sure where folks keep dragging that up, as the two stories have nothing in common save the period setting.  The play stars the Fifth Doctor and Turlough as played by Peter Davison and Mark Strickson respectively.  Aside from the usual cast of Big Finish Players, I did notice cameos from Mark Gatiss and David Williams, who later went on the create the super popular show Little Britain is side roles, so that was fun playing “spot the person whose voice I know”.

The Story involves The Doctor’s arrival in London of 1702, a time of highwaymen and strange disappearances.  When folks start to turn up dead clutching playing cards, a local occultist seems to think that spirits are on the loose, but the doctor thinks differently.

Being early in the Big Finish run, I would like to cut this play some slack due to its early release (being the second one made), but I can honestly say that for all the good in this episode, there was unfortunately some bad as well.  The one thing I really picked up on was that a few of the actors took to their roles a bit too much, if you get my drift and came across a bit too campy for my taste.  This would be commonplace for the TV show at the time, but audio dramas are a bit different.

All in all Phantasmagoria is better than the Sirens of Time simply by having a better, less convoluted narrative, but still suffers by being early in the run.  The acting, sound effects, and story are pretty solid, but the play suffers from a few over-actors, and a bit of storyline padding.  Big Finish is just hitting their stride, can’t wait to listen to the next one.

My Rating 3.25 out of 5

 

Ashes to Ashes Season 2 to appear on BBCA

A2A season 2 coming stateside!

From a press release:

Ashes to Ashes, the critically acclaimed sequel to UK hit Life on Mars, continues by fast forwarding a year to 1982, where leg warmers are cool and fluorescent is the color of choice. While Thatcher is in her element at No. 10 Downing St, bullish Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister, Cranford, Life on Mars) is back, policing the streets in his politically incorrect and loud mouthed style. Ashes to Ashes Season Two premieres Tuesday, May 11, 10:00p.m. ET/PT

After the bait and switch that occurred last year, where season 2 was announced to show up at the same time as the UK then canceled with no word from the company, this is welcome news to me.

TV Review – Review – Doctor Who: The Beast Below

The Beast Below welcomes The Doctor, Amy, and the audience to Starship UK, a huge chunk of flying rock that may or may not be the literal landmass of Britain, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Amy_Space.png picture by spdk1

Showoff!

The Beast Below welcomes The Doctor, Amy, and the audience to Starship UK, a huge chunk of flying rock that may or may not be the literal landmass of Britain, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  Scotland of course wanted its own spaceship, and did not join the others on their trip.  We find out that Earth was under attack by solar flares, so everyone took to the skies.

Right from the get-go we find out that nothing is as it seems: there seems to be no power running Starship UK, and there are ominous fortune telling statues called “Smilers” watching over the population like some sort of steampunk “big brother”.

800px-S5e02promo.jpg picture by spdk1

All is not right on Starship UK

As a second episode, The Beast Below does everything it should do by playing up the relationship between the Doctor and Amy.  We see playfulness as the Doctor “shows off” a bit by dangling Amy outside of the Tardis, and anger as the Doctor nearly decides that Amy’s trip is over towards the end of the episode.  Because of these extremes, this episode is quite emotional, but it seems realistic.  Sometimes older episodes had an “emo” or over the top feeling to them, which rubbed me the wrong way.

The cornerstone of this emotion is Matt Smith who shows he is a great actor and amazing choice for the role.  When confronted with a horrible choice, we see the Doctor lashing out at those around him, which is terrifying and jarring, but not in a bad way.  The Doctor is given a moral dilemma where he basically has to choose between killing and killing, and this does not make him happy.

Liz_Mask.png picture by spdk1

Liz Ten is an odd character

On the technical side of things, this episode seems a bit less polished than the last.  I wasn’t sure if it was the direction being a bit less well realized as The Eleventh Hour, but I feel that it was a major part of it.  This is by no means a bad thing, as I still loved the way it was done.  There was a bit of explanation missing however that made me feel as if a missed opportunity had occurred.

The episode has two sets of related villains called Smilers and Winders.  Smilers are the clockwork fortune telling machine dummies that watch over school children to show whether they are doing good or bad, and Winders are a group of robed men that seem to be sent out by the Smilers when someone is naughty.  I am making assumptions here as it is never truly explained what the Smilers were originally used for, only that they are creepy and show a person if they are doing the right thing.

Donteverdecide-11.png picture by spdk1

“You don’t ever decide what I need to know.”

The secondary cast was pretty good, although a bit one-dimensional in parts which made me think of old sci-fi characters from shows like Buck Rogers.  Liz Ten is a prime example of this as she is not too far removed from a silly Flash Gordon style Space Heroine.  Much like my small criticism of the direction in the episode, this is not by any means a deal breaker, and the supporting cast is still leagues better than most characters I’ve seen in many shows.  I think my main problem lies in that Moffat generally writes fairly memorable side-characters in his scripts, these did not match up.

Amys_message.png picture by spdk1

The “voting booths” are quite topical considering the UK is about to finish up an election.

All in all, I loved The Beast Below and found it to be a nice space opera style romp, with a lot of hard-lined emotion.  We get a chance to see the doctor at his wacky best, but find out that this Doctor is not all fun and games at all times.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

 

Review: Doctor Who – The Sirens of Time

While the acting and sound effects are really good, the plot in The Sirens of Time is unnecessarily complex at times and seems to be full of stuff that does not move the storyline along very well.

220px-Sirens_of_Time.jpg picture by spdk1

Big Finish Audio drama

Earlier this year, I decided to take the plunge and start listening to a line of audio dramas from a UK based company called Big Finish.  Living in the U.S., we really don’t have audio dramas at all whatsoever, so I was not too sure if I would like them at all.  Gladly this was put to rest, as my experience with these is largely positive.  The first one I listened to was also the first Big Finish audio drama made that was officially licensed by the BBC.  Starring Colin Baker, Peter Davison, and Sylvester McCoy all at once The Sirens of Time promised to be a crazy ride.

Multi Doctor stories are generally not nearly as good as one would think they would be, as they generally come across as ‘fanwanky” and nonsensical.  Take for instance the 80’s TV episode The Five Doctors in which everyone looks to the Doctor’s first incarnation for some sort of wizened advice from time to time, despite the fact that the Doctor was younger and less experienced than the others.  Luckily The Sirens of Time escapes this fate a bit, but still comes across as a little thin storyline-wise nonetheless.

The story involves an invasion of Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet,by a warmongering race called The Knights of Velyshaa.  The Timelords release that someone or something is meddling with time and forcing three different incarnations of the Doctor to mess time up in some way in order to create this militant army.  Terrified by this prospect, the Timelords try to take measures to kill the Doctor so he can’t do the deed he is being tricked into doing.

The fifth Doctor is revealed to be stuck on a German U-boat in WWI, unable to re-enter his Tardis to go home.  The Sixth Doctor is on some kind of conference ship where a group of dignitaries and scientists are investigating a spatial anomaly known as the Kurgon Wonder. And the Seventh Doctor is in a jungle of some sort, where he saves a young girl from dying only to end up meeting a reformed war criminal on the run from android assassins.

While the acting and sound effects are really good, the plot in The Sirens of Time is unnecessarily complex at times and seems to be full of stuff that does not move the storyline along very well.  As a one shot story I feel that the episode is very “middle of the road”, but as a “sampler” of sorts for the next few dramas that were planned, I can see why this was made in this way.  All in all I liked The Sirens of Time, but better audios were to come.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

 

TV Review – Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour wasn’t just a good episode; it was a great episode, and possibly one of the best first episodes for a doctor ever.

In the year leading up to this “re-launch” of Doctor Who, many fans were acting in polar opposites.  On one hand, we had a cult beginning to form around Steven Moffat, the new show runner and head honcho of production.  Fans of his previous work in the series including The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and many other episodes began to see him as some sort of savior- a man who could do no wrong.  Others were being alarmist calling for Moffat’s head after initial casting announcements and the departure of David Tennant.  Now that The Eleventh Hour has aired, is the show in good hands?  In short, the answer is a resounding yes!

A new Doctor, a new Tardis.

Immediately, one can tell that this is not the same vision that former Executive Producer Russell T Davies had for the show.  Much like his previous episodes, Moffat takes care in making his characters and locations seem straight out of some sort of dark fairytale.  In short, the story of this episode is nothing spectacular, but does a wonderful job of establishing a new Doctor, a new companion, and a new style to the show.

I will even go as far to say that this version of Doctor Who seems more in line with the classic show, or at least an evolution thereof.  This especially rings true when thinking of the lighthearted playfulness of some of the classic Tom Baker episodes from the 70’s (especially under the helm of Douglas Adams), a sign that the show didn’t take itself too seriously to not let the fans have a bit of fun every once in a while.  We see nods to this playfulness right from the beginning as we hear a small girl praying by her bedside:

“Dear Santa, thank you for the dolls and pencils and the fish. It’s Easter now, so I hope I didn’t wake you but… honest, it is an emergency. There’s a crack in my wall. Aunt Shy says it’s just an ordinary crack, but I know its not cause at night there’s voices so… please please can you send someone to fix it? Or a policeman, or…”

Amelia trying to satisfy the Doctor’s food cravings.

This crack, as a plot device, furthers Moffat’s plan to make any insignificant inanimate object in my house scary to me.  It seems to pay off as I could feel creeped out by it from the get-go.  Let’s face it, Amelia is having to deal with a crazed lunatic that fell from the sky, crushed her Aunt’s shed, and is demanding food from her, and she is totally unfazed.  As the Doctor says “Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.”

The Doctor messes up and disappears for 12 years after promising to be right back, only to meet his young friend again as an adult.  Amy now questions whether the Doctor even existed, and was sent to therapy because of her encounter with him.  The theme of this episode seems to be trust, as Amy isn’t sure if she can trust the Doctor.  What follows is a wild romp to stop Earth’s destruction at the hands of the Atraxi, a race of giant eyeball creatures who are looking for an escaped monster called Prisoner Zero.

Doctor-Who-The-Eleventh-Hour-19.jpg picture by spdk1

A simple thing like a voice mismatched to a person

is made horrifying with Prisoner Zero.

Matt smith breathes new life into the Doctor’s character that I feel was much needed.  Not to knock David Tennant, as he still is one of my favorite incarnations of the Doctor, but I felt that his portrayal started to feel tired towards the end of the 2009 TV specials.  Many have pointed out that Matt Smith has supposedly based his take on everyone’s favorite Timelord on that of the late Patrick Troughton who played the Doctor in his second incarnation.

I can see this to a degree, but can see many mannerisms from a multitude of actors that have played the role.  That’s not to say that Smith’s portrayal is simply a pastiche of previous actors roles, but he obviously wants to pay homage to those who came before.  Smith also brings a lot to the character with the way he talks, his odd appearance, his almost arrogant demenor, and his eccentricities (i.e. licking a shed to date the wood).  Some were worried having an actor so young playing the Doctor, but all of that was put to rest for me as we see him step out from a projection of David Tennant’s face late in the episode; we see that he simply IS the Doctor.

Next up is the sultry adult Amelia Pond, or Amy as she is calling herself these days, as played by Karen Gillan.  Karen portrays Amy as a confident strong female character.  Gone are the days of the female companion that only yells “oh Doctor”, twists her ankle, and gets captured in every episode of the classic series, but Amy even seems different from the modern “unrequited love for the Doctor” companions.

When we first see Amy, she even knocks the Doctor silly with a cricket bat, thus proving that she may be the toughest or at least the strongest willed companion in a while.  Even though Amy is seen to fancy the Doctor a bit, she is by no means smitten with him.  I think this comes into play for two reasons: she’s engaged, and she sees the Doctor as her “imaginary friend” as she saw him as a child.

500x_eleventh_hour5.jpg picture by spdk1

The supporting cast, such as Rory here, were great as well.

I feel that Moffat wrote her introduction perfectly, as we don’t have to deal with another “prospective companion has to prove themselves” storyline, as Amelia already did that as a child.  I always dislike when the Doctor is made to not trust his companion, and a situation like Martha Jones was not what I wanted to see.  For those who do not remember, Martha was basically only taken onboard the Tardis so that the Doctor could try to forget about Rose, but was left in the cold about 99% of the time.  The Doctor treated her sort of badly, and didn’t even make her a true companion until half-way through the show.  No wonder the character decided not to stick around.

The only real bad thing I can say about the episode is that the Atraxi and Prisoner Zero were not that compelling as villains, but that seems to be the point.  By concentrating on the building relationship between Amy and the Doctor the episode prepares us for the whole season and the new production style 100% as the story ends.

The Eleventh Hour wasn’t just a good episode; it was a great episode, and possibly one of the best first episodes for a Doctor ever.  Rather than have the Doctor lay around sick all episode or try to kill his companions, we are given a Doctor forced to take on an alien takeover with only his mind, a biff difference from what usually happens.  Through the strong performances by Smith, Gillan, and the supporting cast, I can see that this season will be truly great.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I now leave you with a clip of the new theme as well as a trailer for the season, and yes I loved the new theme!