Tuesday Newsday 3/24/15

News

It’s another Tuesday, so you know what that means! I have gathered a handful of some of the most noteworthy stories of the week all in one easily digestible nugget of newsiness. Check back later in the week for my coverage of the recent comic / science fiction convention that I attended last week, and perhaps a podcast episode about it. So without further ado, here’s the news!

 

Robert-Llewellyn-AMA-0

Red Dwarf Star Goes Back to the Future With Bosch in Vegas

 

“Every year thousands of exhibitors, visitors, journalists and industry experts de-camp to the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas to see, experience and discuss the hottest new technologies set to make a big impact around the globe.
Luckily for us, Robert Llewelyn, star of cult classic TV show Red Dwarf, ignores the saying ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ by ‘spilling the beans’ in a series of short films on the next generation of Bosch consumer technology products and innovations on show at CES.”

READ MORE>

Mark Gatiss in Clone, a BBC3 comedy

Doctor Who series 9: “scary” Mark Gatiss episode confirmed

“We’re not bringing him back exactly the same as we left him, at all. I think that was already evident at Christmas,” he explained. “He’s left some of the burden of being the superhero of the universe behind.”

READ MORE>

doctor-who-2005-rose-tyler

10 years of new Doctor Who: what 2005 reviews made of Rose

“It was either a legend majestically born or an annoying Ritalin romp pitched at Doctor Who’s youngest ever audience; an inspired return to form, or anathema to Who fans of old with nothing in common with the previous incarnation.”

READ MORE>

john-nathan-turner

30 YEARS LATE: A BUS FOR JOHN NATHAN-TURNER!

“Authorities in Brighton are asking the public to choose local figures worthy of recognition by having their name on one of a new fleet of 24 Coaster buses. Brighton and Hove Buses have selected 15 names from over 100 nominations but for the remaining nine slots a public voting process will determine the names to be chosen.”

READ MORE>

doctor-who-POKEMON-meme

Must-read fan fiction from ‘Doctor Who,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Farscape’

 

“What do you think? Fan fiction, science-fiction and television? Do they share a special bond? In this month’s HEA post, I’m going with a big yes and a huge side of outer space, the final frontier …”

READ MORE>

Doctor Who (series 8) ep 7

RADIO TIMES: TOP TEN EPISODES IN TEN YEARS

“The poll by RadioTimes.com, which received 280,859 votes, asked fans for their favourite episode of Doctor Who since it was relaunched by Russell T Davies on 26 March 2005, 16 years since the last full series. Blink topped the poll beating 2010’s Vincent and The Doctor to second place and The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End (2008) in third position.”

READ MORE>

 

victorianwho

‘Doctor Who’s Day Roundup: Doctor When?

“Before we get started looking at the past week in Doctor Who, let’s go on a journey to the distant past. No, not prehistoric times, I’m talking about a time before there was an actual Doctor Who to watch. What did people do to entertain themselves without tales of Time Lords and TARDISes? And, actually, what would Doctor Who have been like if it was made in the earliest eras of filmed entertainment?”

READ MORE>

 

 

Advertisements

Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood (2014)

robot-of-sherwood-promo

“No castles, no damsels in distress, no such thing as Robin Hood!”
Here we are at that very moment in just about every season of Doctor Who, post-2005, where The Doctor asks his companion what they would like to see in order to “show off” his time traveling capabilities. Clara, knowing that The Doctor would write the whole thing off as nonsense, decides that she would love to meet the fabled outlaw hero, Robin Hood. Robin Hood is one of those “historical figures” that always makes things hard in shows dealing with time travel because nobody actually knows if he existed or not.

Much in the same way that folks have been searching for the “real King Arthur” for centuries, Robin Hood has been assumed to be probable, but most-likely a myth. This ordeal is played up as a main plot point for this episode from the get-go as The Doctor does not believe that they will actually meet anyone, and when faced with someone that meets the Robin Hood description, basically assumes he’s a charlatan, robot, hologram, shapeshifter etc.

robot-of-sherwood-doctor-arrow

Mark Gatiss decided to pen this script in a farcical way that I know most hard-line fans hate. Just go to any review site and look up episodes like Love and Monsters, The Crimson Horror, or even The Gunfighters – the episodes that are less than serious are very dividing, some will love them, and others will absolutely hate them. Take a character such as Strax, for instance, I love the guy, but the general “fandom” of Doctor Who, if podcasts can be believed, HATE him.

This silly tone of near-comedy in Robot of Sherwood is directly at odds with the previous two episodes and how dark they actually were. This may be my biggest complaint with this episode as it almost doesn’t feel like it “fits” with the previous two. It’s almost like a leftover Tennant or Smith script slightly changed for Capaldi. That isn’t to say it’s bad or anything, but I’ll explain what I liked and didn’t like.

robot-of-sherwood-merry-men

The highlight of this episode, for me at least, was the banter between Robin Hood (as played by Tom Riley) and The Doctor. Since he’s convinced that Robin is in some way false, The Doctor is not willing to give him any slack on anything he does. Every quip, bit of banter, or boisterous laugh that he exhales is met with derision and anger. Here is an example of one such exchange:

Robin Hood: Whatever it is, you bony rascal, I’m afraid I’m must relieve you of it.

The Doctor: It’s my property. That’s what it is.

Robin Hood: Don’t you know all property is theft to Robin Hood?

The Doctor: You can’t be serious.

Robin Hood: I am many things, sir, but I am never that. Robin Hood laughs in the face of all! Ah ha ha ha haaaa!

The Doctor: Do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?

Robin Hood: Not as yet!

The Doctor: Lucky I’m here then, isn’t it?”

robot-of-sherwood-robin-hood

This becomes the most humorous in the often re-created archery contest scene where Robin Hood sneaks in with a disguise calling himself “Tom the Tinker”. The worn out scene where Robin splits an arrow with another arrow plays out like it has in just about every adaptation of the story, then it gets sillier. The Doctor, irritated by the smug arrogance of Mr. Hood, uses his archery skills to split these two arrows a third time, Robin counters with another, and so on, until The Doctor just blows up the entire target with his Sonic Screwdriver.

Tom Riley basically uses every contemporary Robin Hood trope used since Errol Flynn donned the green tights to create one of the most irritating heroes of all time. He’s so boisterous and arrogant that he’s essentially Lord Flashheart from the Blackadder series. He’s one of those characters that the hero of our story despises, but everyone else thinks he awesome at everything he does.

robot-of-sherwood-clara

It will come as no surprise that the villain in this episode is none other than the Sheriff of Nottingham himself, as played by Ben Miller channeling his best Roger Delgado impression. I actually liked him in the role, even though he really didn’t challenge anything at all. He’s just as much of a bastard as one would expect, and has an army of alien robots at his side to do his dirty work. Alien robots? Did I forget to mention that Sherwood Castle is discovered to be some sort of crashed spaceship, and in classic Doctor Who fashion, these aliens have tricked the Sheriff into helping them hoard gold to fix said spaceship? It’s pretty silly, but it works.

robot-of-sherwood-robot-guard

It’s in the actual plot of this episode that I have some problems. Much in the same way that Gatiss wrote a plotline into Victory of the Daleks wherein our heroes convinced a robot that he wasn’t a robot to stop a bomb from exploding, this episode involves the “bad-guy” space ship not having enough gold to escape The Earth’s atmosphere (it’s engine uses gold somehow), and Robin Hood shooting gold into the ship to make it fly away then explode. It’s cool when you see it, but as one thinks about what they just saw, it falls apart. If it wasn’t for the fact that this episode doesn’t take itself seriously I’d be concerned that Mark Gatiss rarely knows how to finish most of the scripts he has written. I really like Mark Gatiss episodes, but he needs to smooth some rough corners if he is ever going to take the reins from Steven Moffat like everyone assumes.

robot-of-sherwood-robin-and-clara

No Missy appearance this week, but the thread binding it all together was that the robots crashed on Earth while searching for “The Promised Land”, which viewers might remember was the reason the clockwork droids ended up on Earth in Deep Breath….curiouser and curiouser…

All in all, this was a fun episode. Most of it made no sense under scrutiny, but as a farce it did it’s job. It does a good job of poking fun at the Robin Hood mythos and showing that most of our myths we hold as a society are probably based in some truth from the past. The Doctor starts the episode out, set in his ways, very closed-minded, then realizes that he doesn’t always have all of the answers. Join me again next week as we take a look at an episode sure to make me scared of my bed in addition to the dark, angel statues, and kids wearing gas masks.

robot-of-sherwood-sheriff-of-notingham

Mark Gatiss Questions Moffat Gallifrey Return On Doctor Who | The Mary Sue

Image

 

“Every time you go back to Gallifrey, it starts to make the Time Lords a bit too domesticated,” said Gatiss. “I know that’s why Russell T. Davies came up with the whole idea of the Doctor being the last one because eventually if you see them so often they become a bit like a bunch of MPs, whereas if you talk about them as this amazing, powerful force, they’re much more exciting.”

via Mark Gatiss Questions Moffat Gallifrey Return On Doctor Who | The Mary Sue.

 

A Clip from”Full Force”, a Pilot that Eventually led to Hyperdrive

What you just saw was a pilot for a show called Full Force directed by Armando Iannucci, portions of the cast were scrapped and it was evolved into BBC’s Hyperdrive. While a few of the cast members are the same, such as Miranda Hart as Teal, One will immediately notice that It stars Sanjeev Bhaskar as Henderson and Mark Gatiss as York. I actually like this clip for some reason, it’s like the dialog is more “raw”, and more believable. Being a big fan of his work with Steve Coogan, I would have enjoyed Iannucci as the main director.

Stay tuned this week for a run-through of series two of Hyperdrive, and perhaps a bit of coverage of a comic convention I will be attending!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

An Adventure in Space and Time (2013)

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-verity-newman-william-russell

I was pretty happy when the BBC announced this “docudrama” of the creation of Doctor Who. I mean, I was blown away by all the 50th anniversary programs we got this year, but this was just the icing on the cake for me. Mark Gatiss had his work cut out for him in organizing a film that not only told this “origin story” of the long-lived television show, but did it in such a way that it wasn’t geared solely to the most hardcore of hardcore fans. As the opening card states “you can’t rewrite history, not one line…”, so things had to be altered somewhat for dramatic effect, but it seems like everything in this was within the realm of reality. It’s for this reason, the BBC couldn’t have got a better Doctor Who ambassador than Gatiss to make the program

Mark Gatiss first proposed something similar to An Adventure in Space and Time ten years ago, it was to commemorate the 40th anniversary, or so he thought. BBC higher ups flat out rejected the idea, implying that there was zero interest in reviving the show, and such a drama would be a niche program that the masses would not enjoy. This was still “the wilderness years”, a time when fans had basically settled in the fact that their beloved show would never be back. And so, time passed. In 2005 Doctor Who did come back, and ended up being one of the biggest things BBC could ever dream of. Personally, I’m glad this got made now, and not in 2002. Everything would have ended on the bitter notion that the show was over and we were looking back into one of TV’s most beloved ghosts of the past. By waiting, they were able to really treat everything like how it should be treated – a celebration.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-bradley-as-hartnell

The story of An Adventure in Space and Time is essentially split into two halves that blend together. The first is the story of Verity Lambert, a hard working woman in a “boys club” trying to progress her career in the 1960’s. Lambert was hired by the BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman, to create a show based around an idea for a time traveling history program. She was partnered with Waris Hussein, an Indian “art film” director, and thrown out to get things right. They were both inexperienced, and handicapped from the start in the eyes of many at the BBC due to race and gender, but they made it work. After a few false starts, they were able to persuade veteran character actor William Hartnell to take the title role. Then it happened, the show’s second serial, The Daleks, exploded and catapulted Doctor Who into popularity.

The other half is the story of William Hartnell’s role as The Doctor, how it changed his life, and how he didn’t want to give it up. Hartnell was type-cast as “crusty” soldiers in war movies almost exclusively, and this was making him feel unappreciated. He is portrayed as lacking self-esteem, and harboring anger issues due to his career taking a wrong turn. We see his home life being a tad “rough around the edges” as he treats his own family, wife and granddaughter, pretty poorly. Little by little, the role warms his heart, and changes his life. Then just as quickly as it happened, his poor health rips the job away from him.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-verity-hussein

David Bradley is one of those character actors that always stood in the background of many films that I enjoyed. I always noticed him, but he was never on my “top actor” list. He’s show up in something, like Hot Fuzz for instance, and I’d think “oh hey, that’s Argus Filch!”. Recently, I’ve been really noticing how great this guy is. I think it was when my wife and I started watching The World Without End, and his role of Brother Joseph stood out. He was a villain of sorts, actually quite a horrendous character, but he did such a good job at it. I was excited to see him get this gig playing William Hartnell, and was pretty confident that he’d do okay, but boy was I surprised when he did GREAT. Whenever an actor provides a performance that makes me have teary eyes, like Bradley does towards the end of the film, he’s doing something right. If he doesn’t at least get some sort of nomination at the BAFTA awards something is wrong.

Aside from David Bradley, the casting in An Adventure in Space and Time is amazing. Brian Cox (The actor, not the scientist) does a fine job with his interpretation of Sydney Newman. The loud, boisterous, and almost eccentric Newman is complete with goofy catchphrases and a dark side that show this man saw himself as “the life of the party” and cool, just as long as you didn’t make him mad. Jessica Raine, who fans might remember in the Doctor Who episode Hide, was another outstanding choice, this time for Verity Lambert. While she understates the “piss and vinegar” that Lambert was known for, I feel Raine did an amazing performance. Sacha Dhawan portrays Waris Hussein, and did such a fine job being subtle with much of the man’s life. Hussein was Indian and homosexual in a land where neither was tolerated. Some actors may have played up either trait into the land of stereotypes, but Dhawan did not.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-cyberman

Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that there were quite a few nods the the past within the show. Classic Doctor Who actors like William Russell, Carole Ann Ford, Jean Marsh, and Anneke Wills all appeared in short cameos throughout the film. Other people like Toby Hadoke and Nick Briggs also appear, and will be recognizable by longtime fans. These “Easter eggs” are combined with shot for shot remakes of a handful of scenes from various 60’s episodes, and I loved playing “spot the episode”. My favorites were the recreation of the ill-fated “pilot episode”, The Dalek Invasion of Earth scenes and the Cybermen, shown eating and smoking cigarettes in a menacing way.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-bradley-crying

I was only disappointed with one thing in An Adventure in Space and Time, and sadly it was one thing I was pretty excited about. Reece Shearsmith was cast as Patrick Troughton (The second Doctor), and although he only appears for a few moments, his portrayal as Troughton was disappointing to me. Being an impressionist, Shearsmith mimicked Troughton’s voice and mannerisms pretty well, but it fell flat. I’d rather he played his own version of Troughton, like Bradley with Hartnell, because his impression seemed hollow for some reason.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-reece-shearsmith

Earlier I talked about a moment that made my emotions get away with me, well more like two moments. One was a scene involving William Hartnell at home after he was “fired” from the show due to his ailing health. Bradley pumped so much emotion into a relatively simple scene involving Hartnell “breaking down” in front of his bathroom mirror that it was almost hard to watch. With Bradley bawling and saying “I don’t want to go!” one could easily get lost in his performance. The other moment, one that fans were are on, involves Hartnell filming his final scene. At one point he looks up to the empty TARDIS and sees a “future vision” of Matt Smith in the role leaning on the TARDIS console. With a knowing smile, the audience gets the symbolism that this “regeneration” has created a way for the show to go on, and it will live on without Hartnell. I think some people took the scene too literally, and a glance at the internet showed more than a few people asking “Did the Doctor visit William Hartnell?” and other indications of a point well missed.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-matt-smith

An Adventure in Space and Time was amazing, and I may have even liked it more than The Day of the Doctor. I’m one of the weird cases in that I grew up a fan of Tom Baker Doctor Who from PBS, but grew attached to William Hartnell episodes in particular. I wasn’t even alive in the sixties, so it’s not like I have nostalgia for the time period, so I can’t put my finger on why I loved this so much. I think I just feel like many overlook the First Doctor, and William Hartnell in particular. He may have had his personal demons, but this respect he has been getting lately is amazing. In closing, I will state it once again, this needs BAFTA nominations – Gattis for screenplay, and Bradley for Acting.

an-adventure-in-space-and-time-dalek-invasion-of-earth

Doctor Who Season 7 Postmortem

Note: Much like my review of the season 7b finale, this contains spoilers, but why would you be reading this anyway if you haven’t seen it!

So there we have it folks, another season of Doctor Who has finally reached its resting place in The Fields of Trenzalore, and all we have left is the horrible fact that we have to wait months for the 50th anniversary special. This season has had its ups and downs, but it all came together in the end to pave the way for the biggest celebration for science fiction fans all year. I have decided to count both halves of season seven as one for the purposes of this write up as I generally dislike the whole “7a and 7b” stuff. Not being a fan of split seasons is rough when every show seems to be either doing it these days. I will touch on this sort of thing later, for now let’s get on with my analysis of the season. Was it successful? Was it good? What can we look forward to in the 50th anniversary? All of these questions should be answered.

Before we talk about season seven, let’s peer back into the long off time of 2011 and what happened in season six. When we left The Doctor in season six, he had just foiled the plans of a religious order hell-bent on his own destruction. It seems that “The Silence”, the name given to this group, are some of the most comically inept villains in the history of Doctor Who. I say this because they not only botched their own plan no less than three times, but have unintentionally caused the demise of existence a few times as well; all in the name of saving everything from The Doctor! When we first saw them, they had orchestrated a convoluted plot to destroy the Tardis and kill The Doctor resulting in the fragmentation of time itself and the collapse of the universe.

Plan B seemed to involve the creation of River Song, a being designed to kill The Doctor; shame that The Doctor faked his own death. So why were they after him? It seems that they wanted him to never venture to a time traveler graveyard called the Fields of Trenzalore, as his name could destroy the Universe –  the very plot of the finale for series seven. If we have really grasped the intentions of “The Silence”, it seems that they were not the villains at all, but went about saving the universe in utterly horrible ways. That is assuming we won’t have a big change-up next year, something Moffat could easily do to mess with us. My hope is that this will be addressed to show their fear of the “John Hurt Doctor” a mysterious possible incarnation of The Doctor, we briefly saw at the end of The Name of The Doctor. Perhaps, he is why all the aliens tried to trap The Doctor in the Pandorica? Maybe he is the nemesis of the Silence? I hope this isn’t left hanging in the end.

28r2j5j

From my thrown together synopsis up there, one can gather that series six was very complex and existed as one long storyline from episode to episode. I liked season six, but was not a fan of the slow burn, almost Lost-like nature of the season. I still think it created far more questions than it answered and left the fans with a truckload of presumed plot holes that have been speculated on for years now. I was excited to see the focus shift to a more “one-shot” styled season, a decision that was really hyped up prior to the transmission of Asylum of the Daleks. In a long interview for BBC America, Karen Gillan laid out the nature of the series pretty well:

“This season has been done in a really interesting way with five standalone epic episodes, like a movie a week, all building to the departure of the Ponds! We actually kick-off the season with Amy and Rory’s relationship in a sticky situation; it is less than marital bliss. Those scenes were really interesting to do, she explains, because they created such a different on-screen atmosphere between Amy and Rory, something that the viewers wouldn’t have seen before. That is the good thing about Doctor Who, it gives you the chance to shift the character, and you never know what is going to happen from episode to episode.”

Granted, that synopsis is for the first half of season seven, but the general tone was kept the entire time. Some of the stories would have benefited from either a longer timeslot or a second part, but I don’t think any of them were truly harmed by not being like that.

snowmen-lady-vastra-strax-jenny

I mentioned earlier that I hate the new television fad of splitting seasons in half in order to create a ratings boost in the middle of a show’s run. Fans hate it, but networks have to do it nowadays to cling to their old ratings models and get advertising revenue. I could rant about how times are changing, but that’s a topic for another day. There are many good reasons to split seasons. Not only can companies sell half DVD sets and make a tiny bit more money (ex: two 50 dollar sets as opposed to one 75 dollar one), but they can also save money on production, and I feel this is what hurt Doctor Who this year. With huge BBC budget cuts hacking apart their usual expenditures, big shows like Doctor Who had to find some way to avoid a long hiatus or lackluster special effects due to a low budget, and it seemed a split was the best idea. Granted, everyone involved is highly in demand and wanted to work on other projects, so the split season idea seemed to benefit everyone. I’d rather deal with it than to loose Matt Smith of Steven Moffat to other commitments.

That wasn’t the only problem that occurred during season seven behind the scenes. There for a while it seemed like a revolving door of new executive producers was constantly spinning. There has been no reason to believe that anything bad is going on in the shadows, but having people like Piers Wenger and Beth Willis leave after such a short time had to be hard to deal with. Next Caroline skinner left amidst rumors of some sort of backstage fallout between herself and Moffat. She had this to say upon departure:

“I will miss them all enormously, but I’m leaving Doctor Who in fine form, with the new series starting at Easter and the fantastic plans for the 50th Anniversary already underway. I am delighted to be now returning to BBC Drama Production in London as an executive producer, and the new opportunities and projects that will bring.”

Russell T. Davies and his crew of executive producers seemed in there for the long haul, so one has to wonder what the problem is backstage. On a good note, season seven saw some great change-ups and new blood on the writing and directorial front. On the writer’s side, Luther’s Neil Cross was brought in to pen two episodes. I actually enjoyed both immensely,but some fans disliked Rings of Akhaten for it’s different tone. The most notable new director is probably Saul Metzstein,who seemingly directed more than half the new episodes. The new guys aren’t getting all the fun, as I honestly see this season as a real return to form for some long-time contributors. Chris Chibnall has been really hit or miss for me, but he was the star of the first half of the season for me. It seems that he is perfect in doing these short self-contained episodes. Both Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, and The Power of Three reveled in the new format and excelled more than anything else he has done for other seasons. Mark Gatiss was another person that really brought out his big guns, somewhat redeeming himself for the Victory of The Daleks. I didn’t hate that episode by any means,but felt Cold War and The Crimson Horror were leagues better and easily his best since season one!

The first half of the season concentrated on the impending departure of Amy Pond and Rory Williams, and consisted of five episodes as well as the 2011 Christmas special. The following is a list of these episodes as well as links to reviews I did during the run. Note: I did not get around to doing three of the episodes at their time of broadcast due to personal time issues, so those will be added later on.

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011)

Holly-Earl-Claire-Skinner-Matt-Smith-and-Maurice-Cole-in-DOCTOR-WHO-The-Doctor-the-Widow-and-the-Wardrobe-Christmas-Special-600x425

It’s Christmas Eve, 1938, when Madge Arwell comes to the aid of an injured Spaceman Angel as she cycles home.

Asylum of the Daleks (2012)

asylum-of-the-daleks-promo-pic

Kidnapped by his oldest foe, the Doctor is forced on an impossible mission – to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter… the Asylum.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012)

doctor_who_dinosaurs_spaceship_poster

An unmanned spaceship hurtles towards certain destruction – unless the Doctor can save it, and its impossible cargo… of dinosaurs!

A Town Called Mercy (2012)

doctor_who_town_called_mercy_poster

The Doctor gets a Stetson (and a gun!), and finds himself the reluctant Sheriff of a Western town under siege by a relentless cyborg.

The Power of Three (2012)

doctor-who-power-of-three

The Doctor and the Ponds puzzle an unlikely invasion of Earth, as millions of sinister black cubes arrive overnight, almost like presents falling from the sky.

The Angels Take Manhattan (2012)

DOCTOR-WHO-THE-ANGELS-TAKE-MANHATTAN

The Doctor’s heartbreaking farewell to Amy and Rory – a race against time through the streets of Manhattan, as New York’s statues come to life around them.

Next up we have season “7B” concentrating on the adventures of “the impossible girl” Clara Oswin Oswald. This half consists of a further eight episodes as well as the 2012 Christmas special

The Snowmen (2012)

doctor-who-snowmen-preview_Jenna_louise-Coleman

London, 1892. Snow is trying to evolve, feeding off of the nightmares of a little girl. But the Doctor has given up on saving the world. It is up to a young governess named Clara to convince him, with just one word, to save the day.

The Bells of Saint John (2013)

doctor-who-bells-of-st-john-poster

The search for Clara brings the Doctor to London, 2013, where something deadly is waiting in the wifi.

The Rings of Akhaten (2013)

doctor-who-rings-of-akhaten-poster

The Doctor takes Clara to the Festival of Offerings, but the Old God is waking and demands sacrifice!

Cold War (2013)

doctor-who-cold-war-promo-pics-1

On a Russian submarine in 1983, a frozen alien warrior is waking up, just as the TARDIS materialises.

Hide (2013)

doctor-who-hide-poster

Something terrifying is hiding in Caliburn House, and the Doctor finds himself part of the ghost hunt.

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (2013)

journey-to-the-centre-of-the-tardis-doctor-who

The TARDIS has crashed, Clara is lost inside, and the Doctor has 30 minutes before his ship explodes!

The Crimson Horror (2013)

doctor-who-crimson-horror

Something ghastly is afoot in Victorian Yorkshire, as bodies are found with their skin a waxy, glowing red…

Nightmare in Silver (2013)

doctor-who-nightmare-in-silver-promo-new-cyberman-2

Hedgewick’s World of Wonders: The perfect theme park day out. And ground zero for a deadly silver resurrection…

The Name of the Doctor (2013)

doctor-who-the-name-of-the-doctor-poster

The Doctor has a secret he will take to his grave. And it is discovered…

After the mystery of Amy Pond got wrapped up at the end of season six, it was simply a matter of time before she and her husband Rory were on their ways out of the show. Fans were teased that they were most likely going to die in the episode, however that was usual Steven Moffat teasing. Everyone knows that he speaks in riddles and lies to make the fans believe the total opposite of what is really happening. By the end of The Angels Take Manhattan, we saw the bittersweet ending of the pair. Yes they did die, but they lived a long happy life before that, only without The Doctor. I’m glad the episode was bittersweet as I do not want an honest to God death to occur (like Adric), but an ending that permanently separates the companion from The Doctor is usually the best idea. Returning companions could get old pretty fast if they still make cameos constantly (I’m looking at you Rose Tyler) so having an ending like this complicates things for the better.

The actual characters of Amy and Rory were moved pretty decently as characters. At the beginning of Asylum of the Daleks, we see their relationship has crumbled over the years. Seeing that they have been together for something close to a decade by the time this episode airs, I’d say they had a good run, but were on the verge of divorce. It seems that Amy felt bad due to her experimentation by the Silence to create River Song. Having been made sterile and never able to care for their child, Amy wanted Rory to move on and have a “real family” with someone else.

doctor-who-the-curse-of-the-black-spot-amy

Fans noticed early on that Amy seemed to love Rory less than he loved her at times, most noticeably when she was throwing herself at The Doctor in season five. This led to a lot of fans disliking her character from the very get-go. I never liked the criticisms that some gave the character as being very selfish, but I have to agree here that she was in season seven. Their reconciliation (and her redemption) comes at their very last episode as Rory is captured by a Weeping Angel and flung into the past. If you recall, the way the Angels feed is to ruin the potential lives of someone by taking them into the past and feeding on what could have been. Amy could have stayed there with The Doctor, but ultimately chose to stay with Rory by sacrificing herself to the Angels.

So how were Amy and Rory as companions? I felt that they were too tied into the plotlines to really breathe as companions at times. In season seven we really got to see them at their best, especially Amy in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Perhaps the multiple season mystery of the couple was a great idea on a drama standpoint, but it was dragged out far too long to have a real spark of chemistry ignite between themselves and The Doctor. They were more successful than Martha, perhaps one of the most tragic companions ever, but pale in comparison to Donna Noble.

doctor-who-the-name-of-the-doctor-colin-baker

Things are looking up with the newest companion Clara. It seems that The Doctor and she already have a spark, and she can stand toe-to-toe with him when it comes to witticisms and one-liners. For reasons of plot, she is a stronger character in Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen, but seems to regain what we saw before in The Name of the Doctor. This can be directly attributed to the interactions between The Doctor and Clara being hampered due to her status as “The Impossible Girl”. When one has witnessed someone dying and yet coming back, it’s really hard to trust them; and with The Doctor’s ability to attract trouble, I can understand his reluctance to trusting her. Once that barrier is lifted later on in the season it was smooth sailing, and season eight should be amazing if they can keep it up.

Aside from Amy, Rory, and Clara there were a handful of secondary companions that hung around this season. First off, we had Rory’s dad Brian Williams as played by Arthur Weasley himself-Mark Williams. I loved Brian because he was initially the most cynical, lazy person ever. He was content just staying around inside and paying attention to things that don’t matter. Thinking in terms of season four, he was the anti-Wilf! Due to his exposure to the Doctor and traveling around he does change his ways a bit, as Brian began traveling around the world and sending homemade postcards back to Amy and Rory. Most notably, he went to the planet Siluria with the Doctor and the dinosaurs aboard the Silurian Ark. Part of me wishes that Brian stayed around for more than the couple of episodes he was in, but I enjoy older companions for some reason. Season seven also contained a few appearances by The Paternoster Gang, the Victorian sleuth team that I love. I’d never go as far to say that they need a spinoff, but Jenny, Vastra and Strax always entertain me when they grace my TV with their hijinks. I’m especially a big fan of Strax for reasons that I brought up in reviews above.

The theme of the second-half of season seven seemed to be kicking off the run-up to the 50th anniversary. First and foremost, we saw the return of a lot of old foes. The Great Intelligence from the Troughton era was brought back in a very big way; he was the main villain essentially. Granted, he was in a different form than the old classic fans might be used to, but casting both Ian Mckellen and Richard E. Grant for different aspects of the role was a great feat. Grant, as longtime fans will remember, was originally going to be the ninth incarnation of The Doctor via a series of animated “webisodes”. Other retuning foes included The Ice Warriors, last seen in the Pertwee era. This nostalgia and homage was set to a fever pace in the finale, and episode that essentially featured small cameos by ALL of the previous Doctors, something that made me very excited. then we have the reveal of John Hurt as some sort of unseen Doctor, in the most WTF-worthy moment the show has ever seen.

moffat-khan-star-trek-doctor-who

I kid, I kid, I loved the reveal of a possible “missing Doctor” and who can go wrong with such an amazing actor as John Hurt. Ever since I was able to see him in George Orwell’s 1984, I’ve known that he was a great actor. Even in smaller roles like the president in V for Vendetta, he was amazing and chewed the scenery like a master.

I was immensely satisfied with season seven, but I know a lot of fans were not. While long-time fans were mostly thrilled with the majority of the episodes,I noticed a lot of casual fans complaining about various things. These fans should be satisfied with the brief return of Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor this autumn- a pairing that I know most of them enjoyed. If anything, this season was very atypical for Doctor Who, episodes like Akhaten took big chances with the writing and direction, and that put off some people. I know that some UK based newspapers were all “doom and gloom” about ratings, but they seem to not realize that time-shifted ratings, those including non-live viewing via DVR boxes and BBC iPlayer, have been as good as previous seasons. Fans using this as fodder for obnoxious “flame wars” need to get with the times, people don’t watch TV in the same way that they did even a decade ago. In the US rating were up from series six and usually got somewhere around two million viewers – an amazing number considering the small number of folks that have BBC America!

I hope the rotating producers, odd timeslots, and other issues lead to an end to split seasons, or we at least get a FULL 13-14 episode season next year followed by another one after. for a drama to hold it’s audience, ratings, and get new viewers every year is no small feat, it’s time for the BBC to notice this. If that means the end to the Moffat Era, and an exit by Matt Smith in season nine so be it, change is always fresh in a show such as this. We all know that Jenna-Louise Coleman is returning for a newly commissioned eighth season, and that Matt Smith will probably be in it, but that’s just about all we know. I think we have the potential for a real amazing season next year, especially if those Peter Jackson & Doctor Who rumors are true, so here’s to the future,and more importantly the two specials yet to air this year!

doctor-who-john-hurt-as-the-doctor

Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (2013)

I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I LOVE the Paternoster Gang. You may be wondering why I feel the need to qualify that statement; well, it seems that being a fan of them can be a misstep in the serious high-octane world that is Doctor Who fandom. Every once in a while I mistakenly try to venture into Doctor Who-related message boards, but am utterly underwhelmed by the negativity and cynicism within. I won’t name any forums that I used to frequent, but you can probably figure out which fun vacuum I am speaking of. One of my biggest pet peeves on these sites, are the folks that seem to think (and want to change everyone else’s opinions to agree with the notion) that Steven Moffat has ruined both the Sontarans and the Silurians by having Strax and Lady Vastra be good guys and have a sense of humor; for me, he has helped make the two somewhat stale races more enjoyable.

The humor from Strax alone (big props to Dan Starkey) can easily make an episode for me, but that’s no surprise because I’m a sucker for stories involving a guy from an extreme military background being forced to deal with normal human life. Characters such as Worf from Star Trek the Next Generation easily fit this bill as does Sousuke from Full Metal Panic, but my favorite of all is easily Strax.  Case and point, would be his ordeals with the Doctor’s memory worm in The Snowmen, a scene that nearly made me visit the bathroom upon watching. Because of this love of all things Paternoster, I was really excited for this episode, and I wasn’t let down.

The-Crimson-Horror-poster

Mark Gatiss was quite at home here with his exaggerated pastiche of Victorian London. I have longed to see him write a script that came close to the warped world that was The League of Gentlemen, but got left with a few “hit or miss” episodes instead. The Crimson Horror may not be the same sort of black comedy as League, but it’s every bit as off-kilter and has as many laughs as scares. At this point and time, I think Gatiss has produced the two strongest scripts this season, with Cold War being his other one. This vast improvement shows that he could be a clear contender to take the mantle of Doctor Who show-runner should Steven Moffat decide to step down in the near future – an opinion I did not have during his episode last year.

The story of The Crimson Horror takes a very unorthodox approach by not actually showing The Doctor and Clara until a long time into the episode. In fact, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are the focal point this time around. This isn’t the same idea as when we used to have “Doctor-lite” episodes such as Love and Monsters, but a cool way to tell a story from the middle rather than the beginning. The Parternoster Gang has received an inquiry to investigate a strange illness called the “Crimson Horror”, a terrible ailment that leaves its victims rigid and with bright red skin. The trail leads them to an apocalyptic community in Yorkshire called Sweetville. This town is led by a woman named Mrs. Gillyflower and her “silent” and unseen partner Mr. Sweet. Mrs. Gillyflower preaches that the end times are near and that our moral decay is destroying the world, a fact made more evident by appearance of her daughter Ada, a younger woman disfigured by a beating from her late father.

doctor-who-the-crimson-horror-strax

I mentioned that viewers are left in the dark as to the whereabouts of The Doctor and Clara for quite a while. This is because The Doctor is locked in a dungeon for the beginning of the episode; we hear him mumble and groan unseen while Ada calls him “her monster”. It is not revealed until Jenny discovers him rigid and with sanguine skin that he’s this “monster”. The main reason the Paternoster Gang is trying to figure out the “Crimson Horror” is because of an old urban legend that supposedly reveals a way to see the last thing a dead person sees. We learn that when someone dies, the final image they see is imprinted on their eye, and in the case of one of the victims, the last thing he saw was The Doctor! In hilarious antiquated sepia-toned flashbacks we find out the real story –

The Doctor isn’t the killer, but a victim himself. Clara and The Doctor found out about the problems in Sweetville long before the Paternoster Gang, and infiltrated the same way Jenny has, posing as interested parties. It seems that Mrs. Gillyflower has a preservation process that she is using to “save” folks from the upcoming apocalypse. It seems that she is using the venom from an ancient parasite – this, my friends, is Mr. Sweet, an ugly worm creature. The Doctor isn’t human, so he did not react well to the “treatment” and suffered the same fate as other “rejects”. In fact, had he not been saves by Ada he would have been dumped in the river like other discarded victims.

doctor-who-CRIMSON-HORROR-JENNY

This episode is both VERY dark, almost grotesque at times, and hilarious. There are tons of little one-liners and quips that make the dialog for me. One of the funniest is when The Doctor brings up his issues with Tegan, a past companion: “Ooh, I once spent helluva long time trying to get a gobby Australian to Heathrow Airport!” Like I said above, my favorite scenes were with Strax. One of the best is his interaction with His new flesh and blood GPS sidekick Thomas Thomas (get it! LOL). The way “Tom Tom” saves Strax’s poor horse from execution because of its inability to navigate the streets of Yorkshire was hilarious. We also see Strax getting to FINALLY shoot his gun, an act that he obviously gets a bit too excited for leading to a scolding by Madame Vastra: “Strax, you’re over excited.  Have you been eating those jelly sherbet fancies again?” I’m not in it for only the jokes, but if there are jokes in Doctor Who, stuff like this is great.

Ada and Mrs. Gillyflower are played by real life mother and daughter Dame Diana Rigg (of Avengers fame) and Rachael Stirling. Rigg is awesome in her role, and one can see that she simply had fun “chewing the scenery”. Their relationship in the episode is pretty dark and goes against the grain of the ongoing trope of “love saves the day” that we have seen constantly through the last few seasons. Once Ada realizes that her mother lied about her blindness and basically lets it slip that she used her as a test subject for the antidote for the preservation process, Ada is a bit less than happy. Let’s just say that Mrs. Gillyflower and Mr. Sweet are a bit worse for wear at the end.

doctor-who-the-crimson-horror-ada

So there we have it, one of my favorite episodes this year, and my favorite Gatiss script altogether! He seems to have the Paternoster Gang down, and hope that he uses them more often. The episode has a few small plot holes, and a bad guy plot just as silly as The Invasion of the Dinosaurs, but that doesn’t matter – it was pure fun! Next week we have Clara and the Kids she babysits facing the Cybermen, in a script by Neil Gaiman! Saturday can’t come soon enough!

Want a way to watch this episode, but don’t have cable? Maybe Amazon is a good choice, that’s how I watch them at least!

The Crimson Horror

The Crimson Horror [HD]

Doctor Who: Cold War (2013)

After The Rings of Akhaten puzzled fans with what is quite possibly the most unconventional (and divisive) episode of modern Doctor Who, this time we have something so conventional it feels almost retro! This is definitely helped by the fact that a returning villain, The Ice Warriors, make their modern era debut in Cold War, and with a make-over to boot. The recipe for tonight’s episode is easy: just take one part classic “base under siege” template, add it to one part Ridley Scott’s Alien then mix it all in a bowl of Hunt for Red October.

The story follows The Doctor and Clara stumbling in on a Cold War era Soviet submarine at the height of tensions with the U.S. The crew is taking part in a routine test to see if they have the testicular fortitude available to nuke everything if the call was ever made to start a nuclear war. It seems that the crew has taken a bit of “extra cargo” in the form of a huge ice block with a presumed mammoth inside. Of course, this isn’t the case, and we have a loose Ice Warrior running around. His name is Grand Marshall Skaldak, and the poor guy thinks that he is the last of his people. In fact, he is utterly devastated that his family, including his daughter, aged to dust by the passage of almost five thousand years in his icy tomb. When faced with losses of that sort combined with his militaristic nature means that he may just cause a nuclear incident because he has nothing to lose.

Ice-Warrior-2013-cold-war

First things first, I’d like to discuss the changes made to the ice warrior costume itself. The new costume, as we see with Grand Marshall Skaldak, is a vast improvement on the older suits, without losing the iconic look of the classic series version. Really the only BIG change was the hands, and let’s be honest, most people are happy that they lost their robot claws/Lego guy hands in favor of three-fingered Ninja Turtle-like ones. The problem I always had with the 1960’s iterations are that they looked so much like a guy in an overdone fiberglass and fur suit that I was expecting Godzilla to fight them off. You could tell the actor’s visibility was bad, and the mobility was clunky and slow. The new suits look somehow more maneuverable and more armor-like at the same time despite being obviously made from a less rigid material.

As for one controversial aspect of the episode, I quite enjoyed seeing Skaldak outside of his armor. It seems like I am the only one out there, but the effect wasn’t so bad. Yeah I know his face was computer generated, and that folks are averse to any CGI creatures, but the unusual take on them was interesting. I think many people figured that there would be a random make-up faced dude under there, but what we got was more alien. Let’s be honest if it was just somebody with lizard make-up they would have been too similar to the Silurians.

doctor-who-cold-war-promo-pics-1

Another big plus for me was the guest cast. It was almost refreshing to see a bit of media based on Russian soldiers to escape the almost propaganda-esque portrayal found in most shows. Instead of a crew of militant Stalinists hell-bent on the decimation of the United States, we have a level-headed crew of guys that look like they’d be fun to hang out with. The inclusion of veteran actor (and former audio-only Doctor Who actor) David Warner as professor Grisenko especially stood out. I’m not sure if it was the adorable grandfatherly wacko-vibe (the one that made me love Wilf so much in season 4) or his love for new wave music that I enjoyed so much, but Warner delivered the goods. I’m one of probably four people who have yet to watch the blockbuster show Game of Thrones, but I hear Liam Cunningham is quite good in it. I’m not familiar with him much aside from smaller roles, but if his stint as Captain Zhukov is any indication, he is pretty good.

On a side note while we are discussing the ship’s crew: That the guy that originally released the Ice Warrior from the block of ice was comically inept to such a hilarious degree, I’m amazed that he didn’t inadvertently kill the entire crew long before the Doctor even showed up. He causes the whole catastrophe simply because he couldn’t wait to see the mammoth they found, and took a blowtorch to it like a naughty child on Christmas Eve peeking at their presents.

Ice-Warrior-ship

The way the whole episode was put together was very good. I really enjoyed the script, which is amazing since it was penned by Mark Gatiss. I’m no Gatiss hater by any stretch of the imagination, but he has had troubles for some reason or another doing solid scripts for the new series. I loved The Unquiet Dead, but was let down in most of his other episodes. Cold War contained his old-school sensibility and his attention to historical detail very well, and unlike Victory of the Daleks, it didn’t fall apart in the end. The direction was very well done as well and retained the cinematic feel that Douglas McKinnon got so right in The Power of Three. The claustrophobic feel of all the steamy, drippy submarine corridors and the attention to shadows and darkness gave this episode a nice nod to the Ridley Scott Film Alien.

Cold War is quite possibly the best episode this half of the season so far. Keeping the tense mood and claustrophobic vibe ramped up to eleven was great, as it really helped the “mini-film” nature pop out. Skaldak is a great adversary for the Doctor, and I really hope we see him again at some point. His honor code mixed with his refreshingly real emotions and motives are a nice change for a show usually populated with villains that are evil for the sake of being evil. You really feel for the guy, even though he decides to handle his predicament pretty poorly, but honor wins out in the end. He honestly reminds me of Klingon characters throughout the many Star Trek shows. While they are usually the antagonists of any given story, rarely are they doing any action solely based on bad intentions alone. That’s what makes them so iconic in that universe, and I hope this carries over to Doctor Who. Move over Sontarans, I think the show has rediscovered its resident “Klingons”.

doctor-who-cold-war

In closing, I really hope that professor Grisenko is still alive in the modern Doctor Who world and is enjoying the recently re-united Ultravox; hopefully he never gave up hope after they broke up around the same time as the fall of the Soviet Union!

 

Clone (2008)

We have had a large number of “snow days” here in my neck of the woods lately. A typical winter storm here is usually no more than three inches at max; so having the sky rip open and dump two servings of nearly two feet each is unheard of. Needless to say, my state was declared a federal “disaster area”, and my work has been closed. What a better time to get some new material up for this very blog! Since I can’t leave the house at all, I was browsing Hulu’s “BBC” section and noticed something I had not heard of tucked away that could be useful for this blog. The show in question is a 2008 BBC3 production starring Jonathan Pryce, Mark Gatiss, Fiona Glascott, Oliver Maltman and Stuart Mcloughlin as the titular character – Clone.

Clone is the story of a secretive Army program to create a bloodthirsty killing machine for use in war. Since this is a comedy show with a science fiction lean and not a Universal Soldier film, one can immediately guess that this test went horribly wrong rendering the clone about as menacing as a kitten playing with a ball of yarn. Mark Gatiss (of Sherlock and League of Gentlemen fame) plays Colonel Black, a seemingly crazy and borderline psychopathic man put in charge of MI7, and ultimately the clone program as a whole. When the clone, Albert, is “born” his scientist “father” Dr. Victor Blenkinsop (as played by Brazil and Pirates of the Caribbean’s Jonathan Pryce) has his reputation shattered, and takes Albert away to a small village to protect him and hopefully “fix” his warrior programming. It seems Col. Black wants Albert dead and any involved in the failed experiment reprimanded. The duo spend their time hiding in a tiny pub and attempting to convince a math genius (Rose, as played by Fiona Glascott) to help them out.

BBC3 Clone 2008

With the all-star cast involved, one would imagine that Clone would have been a runaway smash hit of epic proportions. Sadly, while not terrible, the show does have some noticeable problems and only ran a paltry six episodes. The show itself was created in the midst of a rebranding of sorts within BBC3, a venture where big-wigs there decided to start targeting a younger demographic than it normally does. All of the actors involved are pretty good, and aside from some superior league scenery chewing by Mark Gatiss, most play things pretty well. I’m not digging on Gatiss, but the way he portrays Colonel Black is reminiscent of Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers films. A character as such would be brilliant in a skit comedy, but here it’s a bit silly. Equally over-the-top is Albert the clone. Just about everything he does is a situation of not understanding human conventions and culture, but not in a subtle way like other “fish out of water” comedies. One notable early scene shows Albert urinating all over a desert table full of éclairs and danishes, you know classy highbrow humor.

I think that is the real problem with this show is who it is targeting. On one hand it is written in such a way that it reminds me of another quirky BBC comedy called My Hero. That show was a story of an alien that came to Earth and became a superhero despite his complete inability to understand humans. Like Mork and Mindy, My Hero dealt with the adult relationships this alien obtained and how he became more human. Sadly Clone seems to not be written for adults at all, and had it not been for a bit of adult humor within, I would assume this was a kid’s show. It bounces from situation to situation where Albert does something shocking like staring into someone’s window while they are intimate with no clothes on, then him getting scolded about it. It’s like a raunchy version of Curious George. This identity crisis within the script keeps it hard to pin down and ultimately keeps it as nothing more than low budget filler television.

All in all, Clone is fine if you have some free time and want a humorous show to waste some time on. Stuart Mcloughlin is a good comedy clown, and would work really well in similar shows. Sadly the rest of the cast is severely underutilized and seemingly out of place to the point where you may wonder why an actor such as Pryce, or even Gatiss for that matter, bothered with such a show. I didn’t hate Clone, but I can see the spark it holds, the potential to be great show that was ultimately wasted for an audience that probably wouldn’t even like the show.

Mark Gatiss in Clone, a BBC3 comedy

Doctor Who: The Mutant Phase


After weeks, even months, of listening to the void of soundless boredom, I started taking my iPod to work this week in order to keep occupied for my long ten hour shifts. Since I do not want to listen to the same songs every day, I decided to load up on podcasts of varying topics, and a few Doctor Who audio dramas. As you may have noticed by a few earlier posts, I am attempting to listen to all of these Doctor Who Audio plays by Big Finish in order, and one would assume that I would review them as such.

I realized that I had gone far too long without keeping notes, writing things down, and generally getting ready to write any reviews. So guess what? I’m going to re-listen to a lot of these in order to keep these up rather than going off of memories of these plays that could date back to over one year ago. You never know, I may end up liking dramas I previously hated (there are actually two I never finished of the forty or so I have heard, I need to fix that). Luckily this drama did not make my “poop list” the first time I listened to it according to my iTunes star rating, and stayed just as enjoyable the second time around.

 

Synopsis

In the 22nd century, the Daleks have occupied planet Earth. By the 43rd century, only a handful of humans survive. Still further into the distant future, a Thal scientist must choose whether to betray his heritage, or see the universe destroyed.

When the Doctor and Nyssa find themselves trapped in this deadly chain of events, they must decide who their real enemies are. What is certain, however, is that no matter where the Doctor turns… his arch enemies, the Daleks, will be waiting for him.

What could possibly be worse than that? The Mutant Phase…
The Mutant Phase has an immediate bonus for me in that it is a re-visitation of my favorite Doctor Who serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. For those unfamiliar with that title, said episode was an important episode for many reasons: it was Susan’s last appearance as a regular companion, it was the first serial shot on location, it was the second Dalek appearance, and it was so popular that it was one of two stories to be remade into a feature film starring peter Cushing. Going back to such a classic episode is a cool idea, and thankfully we get the setting as more of a “bookend” to the meat of the story rather than a “fanwanky” total revisit.

In that episode, the Tardis crew including Susan, Ian, Barbara, and the first incarnation of the Doctor, arrive in a bleak post-apocalyptic and Dalek infested England in 2167. What really made The Dalek Invasion of Earth stand out for me was the chilling use of vacated landmarks during location shooting, and the utter bleakness of the overall story. For a “kid’s show”, this episode had a lot of dark things like signs saying not to dump dead bodies in the river and humans turned into a slave work force.  What we have here with The Mutant Phase can be seen as a “prequel” of sorts to this classic episode as we see The Doctor As played by Peter Davison and his companion Nyssa arrive a few years earlier, to a time where Daleks have never met the Doctor and don’t meddle in time travel.

My only real quibble with the episode rears its ugly head in this introductory portion of the episode. The Doctor realizes pretty quickly that they are somewhere in the state of Kansas, which for foreign readers, is located in the United States. While looking through a field of genetically altered crops infested with wasps, The Doctor and Nyssa stumble upon a “Roboman” guardsman, a zombie-like policeman for the Daleks. By zombies I don’t mean the Romero-esque eating brains and rotting away living dead variety, but the classical use of the term as in brainwashed servant. Not to be confused with Cybermen, Robomen are just regular people with some sort of mind control device implanted onto their heads.

So anyway, this roboman gets America back for the dreadful British accent Dick Van Dyke used in Mary Poppins, by delivering his dialog in the worst, most overdone, American accent out there. This can partly be chalked up to the dronish manner in which the robomen characters talk, but behind all the reverb and monotone was a glimmer of a vocal style not heard since The Apple Dumpling Gang. I seriously hope that many in the U.K. do not think all Americans talk like 1890’s old prospectors, but I get the inclination that it may be the case. I think Mark Gatiss was responsible for the voice, as he is credited as such! All joking aside, this small slip-up was very minor, can be overlooked easily, and does no harm to the play itself.

This play has quite a few interesting characters, and chiefly among those are two Thal scientists, Ptolem and Ganatus, both forced to work for the Daleks to stop the mutant phase. We hear a lot of mentions of these guys before we see them interact with the Doctor, so their motives stay hidden for the majority of the play. Another nice addition is Karl Hendrick, a man that lives in the dark and studies old relics from our current history. He gets quite a few great one-liners and funny moments making him one of the better side characters.

Aside from a couple of minor things like over-done foreshadowing that Nyssa’s wasp sting may be important in some way, the plot of the Mutant Phase was well done, and revolved around some good ol’ fashioned “timey-wimey” stuff involving a temporal paradox. With any paradox based episode the resolution didn’t exactly wrap the whole thing up in a bow – a fact that is actually made fun of in the dialog. When the Doctor explains what has happened to Nyssa at the end, she tells him that it simply made no sense, to which he replied “paradoxes don’t make sense” or something vaguely similar. Admitting this, the play somehow jumped over any plotholes it may have obtained whilst jumping between a multitude of timelines. For me this was nice, humorous touch.

While not the classic of its older brother, The Mutant Phase is a competent audio drama that keeps one entertained throughout. Keeping in mind that the Daleks are the only race that the doctor has ever really considered committing mass genocide on, listening to him being forced to work alongside the horrible creatures is compelling and makes this a must listen. I’ve been lukewarm on the Dalek Empire Releases so far, but this one has really redeemed the series, can’t wait to hear what’s next.

Review – Doctor Who: Phantasmagoria

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