Saturday, 18 May 2013

Doctor Who: Series 7 Catch-up

If anyone out there is still reading the ludicrously infrequent postings on this 'ere blog, they'll have noticed that I'm waaaay behind with my Doctor Who reviews.
( As well as everything else, to be fair. ) It's not that I'm losing interest in the show or, indeed, the reviewing process but I've been very short on energy recently, due to my recent return to work. I'm only working half-days at the moment but even that is sapping all my strength  -  so much so that I tend to come home in the afternoons and go straight to bed. Not much time for blogging, then! Hopefully this will improve as I make a fuller return to what we laughingly call "real life"...but it may take some time. I also have some film and gig reviews to post on here too when I can get sorted. But, for now, just a few thoughts on some recent Doctor Who episodes, ahead of tonight's series finale, and presented ( in my usual, annoying manner ) in reverse order...

Nightmare In Silver:
Neil Gaiman's much-anticipated follow-up to the multi-award-winning The Doctor's Wife turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. It was certainly good to see the Cybermen return as a far more credible threat than they've been in recent years  -  their pathetic appearance in Closing Time probably being their all-time low point. The sleek, new design was a definite success, harking back to some classic 1960s Cyber-looks while boasting some cool new elements  -  the built-in gun, the exposed steel spine. However, they weren't on screen enough for my liking, being reduced to tin soldiers while the Doctor played mind-games with the Cyber-Planner infesting his consciousness. And... weren't they supposed to be silent killers in this story? After all the pre-show talking-up of that point it was disappointing to hear the old pneumatic hiss and stomping of the Cybus model return.
There were some genuinely successful elements to this story: the Cybermen emerging from their tomb, Matt Smith's turning-on-a-sixpence acting as he flipped between dual roles, the well-realised dilapidated theme park setting. But that was almost balanced out by the virtually-pointless inclusion of Clara's two young charges, the lack of suspense and the criminal misuse of the guest cast... except for Warwick Davis who was quietly affecting as Porridge. I'll give this...

Three 1/2 Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or discarded Cybermites )

The Crimson Horror:
Mark Gatiss' second script this series and the one presumably closest to his heart as it features some very League Of Gentlemen-style black humour as well as Victorian grotesqueries reminiscent of his Lucifer Box novels. This episode was just pure fun, from the incongruities of Strax and co, to the Carry On Screaming vibe of the Crimson Horror itself, from Matt Smith's Frankenstein Monster impression, to the icky revelation of Mr. Sweet's true nature. The cast gave it their all with Smith's "Northern" accent being a delight and the overly-cheerful mortuary attendant standing out amongst the guest actors. The episode belonged, of course, to mother and daughter duo Diana Rigg and Rachel Stirling as insane factory-owner Mrs. Gillyflower and her blind, unloved daughter. They were clearly having a ball playing these characters and that was communicated to the audience.
( On a purely personal note I was interested to see one of the characters was called Mr. Thursday. Possibly a reference to this blog's "patron saint" GK Chesterton and his Victorian fantasy/horror novel The Man Who Was Thursday? I'm sure Mr. Gatiss would be aware of Mr. Thursday... )

Four Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or prehistoric blood-slugs )

Journey To The Centre Of The Tardis:
TBH I was concerned when I realised this episode was written by Stephen Thompson, the man behind Series 6's damp pirate story The Curse Of The Black Spot. He has also worked with The Moff on Sherlock, writing last season's The Reichenbach Fall, which was, by contrast, an intricately-plotted, shocking cliffhanger. Could he replicate that success for Nu Who? Unfortunately, no...

This tale of the Doctor and an unscrupulous gang of outer-space salvage merchants hunting through the disabled Tardis for a missing Clara should have been so much better. As it was, we endured interminable wanderings through corridors ( which didn't really have any Time Lord uniqueness about them ) with only the occasional view at anything more interesting within the Tardis' depths. A quick view of a swimming-pool here... a few seconds in a library there. The chance to finally see more of the modern day Tardis than just the console room should really have been a magical trip into the underworld. Instead it was more like a trudge through a muddy underpass. The revelation of the Eye Of Harmony and the exploding Tardis engines were fine moments, but they weren't enough. If only we could have seen something like the MC Esher inspired poster above...
There were some lovely moments between Matt and Jenna Louise which certainly helped ease the pain, and the "time zombies" lurking in the Tardis were very creepy, if poorly-rationalised. Just don't start me on the intergalactic rag 'n' bone men... old man Steptoe must be turning in his grave...

Two 1/2  Out Of Five Bow Ties ( or Plot Reset Buttons )

So, that's almost it for an alarmingly patchy second half of the series. Here's hoping tonight's finale The Name Of The Doctor can live up to its hype...

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