Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Doctor Who: Kill The Moon / Mummy On The Orient Express ( mini reviews )

With these two episodes Series 8 seems to be taking the darker turn we've been promised since the beginning. Kill The Moon is one of my favourite stories this year: a seriously creepy ( lack of ) atmosphere, coupled with some impressive visuals and a tough moral choice for the characters, all justifying the later time-slot. The production team have taken quite a risk with making Capaldi's Doctor so alien and this episode really pushes that theme into new territory. Is he a good man? Can he be trusted? For Clara, as the Time Lord seemingly abandons her to make an impossible decision on her own, the answer appears to be "no"...
Of course, it's no real surprise that the Doctor does the right thing at the last moment but his arrogance and aloofness are put under the microscope in Peter Harness' script and Clara's hurt, betrayed reaction is understandable. ( Jenna Coleman yet again knocks it out of the park in this episode. ) As well as all this angst, this episode also gives us a brilliantly-conceived moonscape
( filmed in Lanzarote ), some extremely nasty space spiders and a fine performance from young Ellis George as Clara's pupil, Courtney. ( There's also some very dodgy science on display here, but we'll ignore that for now. )
I'm giving this one Four Out Of Five Sonic Screwdrivers ( or alien eggs )
Mummy On The Orient Express sounds like it's going to be more of a romp, but still goes to some fairly dark places as the grisly Foretold stalks the titular space-going train, leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. And after their falling out in the previous episode, this is going to be the Doctor and Clara's final trip together, their "last hurrah..." Yeah, right...
This is a story that could only appear on Doctor Who  -  a mix of Hammer horror and Agatha Christie in outer space, with an appearance by pop star Foxes singing a jazz version of an old Queen song. As I said, only on Doctor Who...
The Foretold is a pleasingly old school menace, with the added, Moffatt-era high concept of the 66-second time limit between first sighting the creature and dying at its bandaged hands. "Start the clock..." A visually sumptuous episode  -  the train interiors are suitably glamorous, Capaldi looks great with a touch of the Southern riverboat gambler about him, and Jenna Coleman is absolutely stunning in her Art Deco dress.
By the end of the episode it looks like Clara is finally beginning to get under the new Doctor's harsh exterior and may be just about thawing those two cold hearts. Nice to see things progressing and it's always a treat to see this dour Doctor smiling once in a while. We could do with some more of that...
I make that another Four Out Of Five Sonic Screwdrivers ( or bandaged toes )

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Calvin's crazy cat captions

This morning I posted a photo on Facebook of Sophie's bedroom being invaded by cats... well, Hero and Jasper anyway. While she's away, studying in Bristol for a year, it looks like they've moved in. My ol' blog buddy and now Facebook friend Calvin ( of Cave Of Cool fame ) added one of his inimitable captions to the photo. Yet another slice of fried gold from the bard with the beard...
Check out Calvin's blog for more excellence...

Soundtrack: Fireworks ( Singles 1997-2002 ) by Embrace

Monday, 29 September 2014

Doctor Who: The Caretaker ( review )

"The walls need sponging and there's a sinister puddle..."
This week, the Doctor follows in the footsteps of Freddy Krueger, Hong Kong Phooey and Willie from the Simpsons as he adopts the identity of a ( not so ) mild-mannered janitor to investigate sinister goings-on at Coal Hill School. The Time Lord and Clara have to face the rampaging Skovox Blitzer and also a certain ex-soldier-turned-maths-teacher...
Even though this could be seen as writer Gareth Roberts getting yet more mileage out of the "Doctor passing himself off as human" theme ( see The Lodger, Closing Time ) it feels fresh this time with Capaldi's short-tempered, impatient Doctor failing to blend in with his surroundings, but in a different way to his predecessor. The Doctor just wants to be left alone to save the world but the complications of Clara's love life and the interruptions of a curious teenager conspire to irritate him. The humour in this episode works much better than in the recent Robin Hood story  -  the Doctor is just as snappy and unreasonable as before ( especially when berating Samuel Anderson's Danny Pink ) but there's more of a twinkle here, more warmth showing through. As ever with Roberts' scripts there are some hugely funny lines, with Jenna Coleman really rising to the occasion here  -  her exasperated exclamation of "Human beings are not otters!" has to be one of the highlights of the series so far. Seriously.
The story's nominal antagonist, the Skovox Blitzer, is relatively underused, being purely functional in terms of plot mechanics, but is still a bizarrely interesting visual. It has no personality to speak of, being just a robotic soldier, but its half-glimpsed, part-tank, part-spider look is quintessential, oddball Doctor Who.
The Doctor / Clara / Danny triangle is coming to the fore now that Mr. Pink ( not Steve Buscemi ) has discovered the truth about his girlfriend. It's good to see Clara's character becoming more three-dimensional now that the "Impossible Girl" storyline has been tied up. And I quite like the fact that former squaddie Danny instantly recognises the Doctor as part of the officer class  -  it seems you can take the Time Lord out of Gallifrey but not Gallifrey out of the Time Lord...
The last scene reminds us of the arc-plot with another deceased character finding himself in the so-called "Promised Land", complete with cameos from Michelle Gomez and Chris Addison. It will be interesting to see how this plot resolves in the finale and how it ties up with the Cybermen. Anyway, I'll give this episode:
Four Out Of Five Sonic Screwdrivers ( or janitor's brushes )

Soundtrack: Clouds Taste Metallic by the Flaming Lips

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Happy Boss Day!

Happy Birthday to New Jersey's favourite son, Bruce Springsteen, who is  -  unbelievably  -  65 today.
"Sparks fly on E Street..."

Doctor Who: Listen / Time Heist ( mini reviews )

"Fear makes companions of us all..."

Listen is a strange episode of Doctor Who  -  for the most part low-key and creepy in a classic ghost story style, yet also encompassing the end of the universe and some Coupling-esque sitcom moments. Revolving around the all-too-familiar childhood fears of something unseen close behind or something lurking under the bed, this story is an effective attempt by Steven Moffatt to put the chills back into Doctor Who. Peter Capaldi is excellent as an obsessed, driven Doctor having some kind of minor mental breakdown, while Jenna Coleman also shines, whether suffering through an awkward first date or confronting an eerie apparition in a child's bedroom.Some people aren't happy about the story's final revelation but I think it's a bold move of Moffatt's to add to the show's mythology. Even after five decades we can learn new things about our favourite Time Lord.
4 Out Of 5 Sonic Screwdrivers ( or pieces of chalk )

Time Heist, by contrast is a Doctor Who take on ( strangely enough ) heist movies. The Doctor and Clara find themselves part of a small team assembled to rob the most impregnable bank in the universe. They have all had their memories wiped and must find out who hired them and why... and also avoid a terrible fate at the, er, eyeballs of the gruesome Teller, an alien who can sense guilt.
Considering this episode was written by the usually-lacklustre Steve Thompson it's got a lot to recommend it: Capaldi channelling Malcolm Tucker, Jenna Coleman looking very cool in a suit, some chilling moments with the brain-blasting Teller and a well structured plot that rewards repeat viewings. Its biggest failings are no real sense that breaking into this bank is all that difficult, and a waste of the wonderful Keeley Hawes who surely should have had more scenes of verbal sparring with the Doctor.
3 1/2 Out Of 5 Sonic Screwdrivers ( or Memory Worms )

Soundtrack: Talking Heads '77 by Talking Heads

Friday, 19 September 2014

Great Scots!

So, Scotland voted "No" today and will remain a part of the United Kingdom. I don't really want to get too deep into the politics of the argument but I can certainly see the attraction of independence. I only live about 100 miles away from the seat of the British Parliament but I don't feel the government understand the problems and issues of this relatively close area of the country, let alone those of people three times that distance away. But it seems to me that, in these troubled times, you need all the support you can get and breaking away may have caused more problems for the Scots than it solved. However, the point's rather academic now, but I'm sure it will be debated for years to come. Anyway, in the usual superficial style of this 'ere blog let's just celebrate some of the seriously cool people that great country have produced...

Update: I almost forgot this mighty Scot:


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