Friday 26 April 2013
Doctor Who: Cold War / Hide ( Reviews )
OK, two ridiculously late Doctor Who episode reviews are herein combined as one mini-review for your perusing pleasure. I've omitted the usual "reviews with spoilers" description since, surely, anyone who wanted to watch these stories has watched them by now.
This has to be the best Doctor Who script Mark Gatiss has written since The Unquiet Dead, way back in Series One. A tense, claustrophobic story with some great lines and a fascinating new slant on an old enemy. The Doctor and Clara are heading for Las Vegas but somehow end up on a sinking Russian nuclear sub at the height of the Cold War. Also on board is Grand Marshall Skaldak, an Ice Warrior recently thawed from a 5000-year sleep who is not happy to be there, seemingly abandoned by his people. Once Skaldak learns about the '80s concept of Mutually-Assured Destruction he's on a collision course with the Doctor to decide the fate of the Earth.
With many nods towards such films as The Thing and Alien, this is a beautifully-directed, atmospheric episode which pushes the boundaries of Saturday tea-time, family-friendly horror as far as they can go. The lumbering, hissing Ice Warrior is a perfectly-judged updating of a classic Who "monster" and there are some fine guest performances from submarine commander Liam Cunningham and scientist and Duran Duran fan David Warner. I was particularly glad to see Warner's character survive the story: it would be great to see that ever-wonderful actor in Doctor Who again. Another great showcase for Jenna-Louise in this episode - convincingly scared but brave in her confrontations with Skaldak and sharing a real warmth with David Warner's Grisenko.
Four Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or Model Subs )
After the relative misfire of Neil Cross' last episode, The Rings Of Akhaten, this story is a vast improvement and obviously a subject closer to the writer's heart. The Doctor and Clara arrive at Caliburn House in the beige days of 1974 where former war hero turned ghost hunter Major Alec Palmer ( Dougray Scott ) is searching for the ghost known as The Witch Of The Well, with the assistance of the empathic Emma Grayling ( Jessica Raine ). The Doctor blusters his way into the investigation, posing as "the man from the Ministry", but - of course - he has an ulterior motive for being there. And, this being Doctor Who, the "ghost" isn't quite what she seems...
Hide is a cracking good yarn ( as no-one says any more... ) again rich in atmosphere and detail. It's a case of "spot the references" here as time and again the story reminds the ghost story fans amongst us of classic tales such as The Haunting, The Innocents and, especially, Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape. There's some beautiful cinematography as the characters stalk the gloomy, Gothic corridors of Caliburn House and the even gloomier woods where something strange and twisted lurks. Director Jamie Payne conjures up some wonderful glimpses of the "ghost" and the "hider", often just outside of the characters' vision, illuminated by candle light or lightning flashes. The hesitant, touching relationship between Alec and Emma is skillfully communicated by stumbling conversations and brief glances - a masterclass from Scott and Raine in how to suggest so much with so little. This is probably my favourite episode of the series so far with many subtle and clever touches, from Clara's "conversation" with the Tardis to the final realisation that this was a love story ( or two ) and not a ghost story. And this story is one of those elite examples of Doctor Who where not one single character dies... which is nice because, again, the show has given us two memorable characters in Alec and Emma who I'd love to see return some day.
Four Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or Pale, Ghostly Faces... )