Tardis-jockey Archives

March 26, 2005

The Doctor is back!

Just caught the new series of Dr. Who on the BBC. I've always loved the character of Dr. Who and his charming, but eccentric and weird ways. I mostly remember the series with Tom Barker and Peter Davison, so I guess that makes me biased. I either never really got into any of the others, or simply never got the chance to see them. I must say, I quite liked Christopher Eccleston: His manners seem to me a mix between Barker and Davison, with enough quirks of his own to make his mark.
I feared beforehand Dr. Who in this day and age would suffer from too good special effects, that the cardboard-y feel would be lost. The makers, willingly or not, did a splendid job, however, in creating that crappy '70's feel. And I do mean that in a positive way!
Some special effects were actually flashy high-tech, but those where generally filmed from such bad angles so it didn't disturb the feel too much. The acting by secondary characters was quite bad, and the dialogue in some scenes quite stupid. Also the way of story telling was as it should: the writers assume (correctly in my opinion) that todays audience knows how stories are told, and therefor can leave out all those nasty details that make a story plausible. Series like Dr. Who don't need that, they need interesting plot twists and witty dialogue, and I see enough of this in the new series that I'm looking forward to the next episode.
Link to the BBC Dr. Who site, where among other things, you can download the sound of the Tardis.

The Doctor is in.

Here be spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

Continue reading "The Doctor is in." »

March 27, 2005


Well, by rights I shouldn't have seen the new Doctor Who yet, coz it probably has to run in the UK before the ABC's allowed to get its mits on it..

But I have, because of Naughtiness. The Fuzzyball and I watched it the other night.

Continue reading "Whoo-oo-oo!" »

April 2, 2005

Should have used a Babel Fish

The second episode failed to deliver on the promise of the first. Not that it was bad — just that for someone who has already watched and read a lot of science fiction, it was a bit too simple and one-dimensional. From Rose's shock at seeing real aliens ("The aliens... they're so... alien") to her moral conversation with The Lady Cassandra, the surgically-altered Last Human Being from 5 billion years into the future, it all looked like it was the first time those kinds of scenes had ever been done. To someone who has already seen more sophisticated versions of the same, it just wasn't convincing.
Of course the point is that I'm part of only one of three audiences that Doctor Who has to cater to. I'm an adult with an interest in science fiction. The other two groups... well, I'll await the verdict of the Seasoned Doctor Who Fan. To members of the Third Group, Young Children, it was probably just right. For them, chances are that this series really is their first exposure science fiction, and so they'll need to have it presented in a direct, unsophisticated way. They'll seek out more complicated variants once they grow into members of my own demographic.

Continue reading "Should have used a Babel Fish" »

April 9, 2005


Not much to say about the 3rd Doctor Who episode. It was good, better than I expected of a time-travel-into-the-past episode. It stayed interesting and non-cheesy throughout, and the use of Charles Dickens was much more subtle than I had any right to expect, given what I wrote last week. If it had been Star Trek, Dickens would have been inspired to write A Christmas Carol by something Spock or Data said, but here, he has his meeting with the strange people from another time so late in life that he will die before accomplishing much on the basis of his new insight. I think this exemplifies a major difference between English and American Science Fiction, and is a big part of why I like English SF better. It's also telling that Dickens is presented as being a bit over the hill and not sparkling with wit and genius all the time like Mark Twain in that Trek:TNG episode. When the writer appears, he's touring the recital circuit, making a decent living, but drinking too much as a reaction to his disillusionment with the daily grind.

Rose was much better this time. I'm still disappointed that contrary to assertions by the BBC before the series started, her role in the plot consists mostly of getting into trouble and screaming helplessly, but characterisation is developing a bit more. She really likes this Doctor, she prefers the company of the serving folk over the nobby characters, she's not easily phazed until the real trouble begins, that sort of thing.
The Doctor was himself only more so.

There's an überstory emerging relating to the Time Wars. I don't know enough about the franchise to be able to tell if the Time Wars had a major place in the canon. I'll proceed very carefully in the future lest I spoil something at the series level for the die-hard fan.

8 out of 10. Best so far, without anything jumping out at me. However, I don't think this one would have grabbed me if it had been broadcast first. It was solid, but maybe a little too solid to get under my skin.

April 16, 2005

Arr, a two-parter!

Episode 4 was another solid one, written by Russel T. Davies again. It's the first of a series of at least two parts, so I won't comment too much on the plot. Instead I want to propose an alternative ratings system for the episodes. Instead of using points out of 10, I want to rate episodes on the basis of postulating a family with a mom, a dad and, let's say five kids ranging from 4 to 12 with two years between each of them. Out of these, the number of kids cowering behind the sofa will be the rating. I reckon at the end of this one, it got 4 out of 5.

It will be possible to get more than 5 out of 5, but this will not be a good thing. If Dad also cowers behind the sofa, the episode gets 6, meaning it really is unsuitable for family viewing as apparently some people have complained. Because Mom has given birth to five children, it will be assumed she fears nothing, so six out of five is the maximum any episode can get.

The look on Rose's face after she'd been ranting on how she was the only human ever to have seen alien civilisations and the spaceship showed up was priceless. So was the Doctor's expression resembling that of a baby who'd just been given candy.

April 23, 2005

Massive Weapons of Destruction

... bit of political commentary in the 5th episode of Doctor Who! The aliens who had infiltrated into the highest levels of government used that phrase and others based on the Blair governmnent's claim that mean ole Saddam could kill us all in 45 minutes. And when the Tardis-jockey asked if the public would fall for it, Rose, of all people, nineteen-year-old Rose answered that "they did last time".

There were some weak bits in the second half of this two-part storyline, though. The Doctor's various escapes from immediate destruction relied a bit too heavily on his enemies' willingness to listen to him talk and on them being slow and a bit thick. The Slitheen weren't thick, despite their baby faces in their undisguised form and the farting and stomach noises when they wore their human disguises.

Oh yes, the farting. I've read some criticism of the series "stooping to fart jokes". Bunkum and balderdash, I say. There were no fart jokes; the presence of farting does not imply humorous intent. Only an eight-year-old would assume that connection. Of course, plenty of eight-year-olds watch the show. The Slitheens fart because of the way their disguises affect their internal chemistry, and the internal chemistry played a legitimate role in the plot when Rose's mother Jackie and Rose's boyfiend, er, Ricky finally managed to kill one of them with a household substance. In, I might add, a satisfyingly revolting way.

But really. Comedy in the series comes from the interaction of the most important characters, and especially from the brilliant Christopher Eccleston who has a manic grin for every occasion.

After the early sequences where it wobbled a bit because of the dependence on idiocy on the part of the enemy, the plot chugged along nicely. Once the Doc, his old-in-cynicism companion and the hapless Member of Parliament they'd picked up were safely locked up in the Cabinet Room, things became pretty exciting indeed. There was some thoroughly unrealistic stuff about the Doctor guiding, er, Ricky into the MOD's missile control systems (there was even a slick red button in the MOD interface that the guy could press to launch a missile), and some more unrealistic stuff about the UN making the most important decision in its history within 24 hours, but those things just have to be assumed if you don't want an episode to last all day and be taken up with computer arcana.

In all, decent. And there was even a hint at the end that the writers were aware that there should really be consequences to all this alien stuff happening in London but had come up with an excuse for why there wouldn't. That's really more than I'd expect from a TV series although it would be nice if some day someone wrote a story where those things did have consequences.

Next week: Daleks. I won't see it when it's broadcast because I'll be on my way to Tilburg for Clickburg, but I'm sure someone will be kind enough to tape it for me.

Now, I think Jeroen had a pithy comment to make about the episode.

More Dr. Who

It seems to be final: David Tennant is to be the tenth Doctor. I can't remember having seen him perform, but he's got a good enough face for it. It's weird discussing the successor while enjoying new episodes still, of the current Doctor. And I am enjoying it. As for the number of people behind the couch count Reinder suggested, I would guess at least 2, with a third ready to dive behind it. The special effects where quite decent, the aliens a bit too funny and not scary enough maybe. But that's nitpicking. Scariest part of the episode by far: the chance that that, er, Ricky-bloke might join Rose and the Doctor. That got me on the edge of my seat, and I'm sure the neighbours are wondering where that "Noooooooo!" came from.

On the preview of the next episode: I'm sure every Dr.Who fan can't wait to see the Daleks return, even if it be just a cameo as a museum piece (which I fear it will be).

Wondering about past Doctors and villains? Here's a silly game to help you remember, or stir your curiousity.

... but do they have a sofa?

The BBC have clearly taken my advice: They've lined up a panel of children to test the new Doctor Who episodes for the fear quota. Their ages range neatly from 4 to 12, pretty close to what I suggested. No word on whether the kids have a sofa to hide behind.

This "Adam" is clearly a kindred spirit:

(Auntie Beeb): What do you like most about Doctor Who?

Adam: I like the way the Doctor has to hit the TARDIS with a hammer. And it was funny how the MP kept saying her name.

And from the second installment of "The Fear Forecast", for the latest episode:

(18) Adam writes down the UNIT password - that will obviously come in handy at some stage.

The BBC uses Fear Factor Ratings going from 1 to 5.

(Via Jeroen)

April 28, 2005

Because I can't get enough of the TARDIS-jockey

leya on IRC #crfh has been filling me in on bits of the Doctor Who mythos, and pointed me at the UNIT website. Unfortunately, even with the password you're not allowed to shoot conventional missiles at Downing Street 10. There are things that even the BBC won't do. (Oh, wait. It's case sensitive. Never mind.)
Via the Keenspace forums comes another link to UNIT, and one to Mickey the idiot's website.

I've met the Slitheen. They're not nice. And I know that the Doctor, this God of Outer Mystery, walked in, and saved the world. There was death. There always is around him. But this time, I'm starting to think that he really meant well.

I just wish I still didn't suspect he'd brought it all to earth. Somehow.

What I like most about this one is that it suggests some behind-the-scenes continuity: Mickey, or was it Ricky, has clearly joined forces with the family of the conspiracy nut from "Rose", episode 1, and is using his photographic materials.

Continue reading "Because I can't get enough of the TARDIS-jockey" »

Behind the Sofa again

As you can tell from many of my latest posts, I enjoy the new Doctor Who series tremendously. However, I feel obliged to point out that I don't watch TV as critically as I listen to music or read books. Between 1995 and 2003 I watched hardly any TV, and even now the set usually remains switched off between Doctor Who episodes unless I'm watching a concert on DVD. So if you want in-depth commentary on things like acting, effects, editing, direction and all those other things that go into making a TV series, go to Behind the Sofa Again, a collaborative blog from a bunch of very critical viewers. Their criticisms are often severe, but well-argued and fun to read even for viewers who don't share such a critical approach.

May 5, 2005


There. I've watched it (studio machine, in case you were wondering. But I still want to get my home media setup in order in case I miss an episode again). Meanwhile the entire Whovian blogosphere has already moved on from "Best \/\/40O 3\/Ah" to "Look! Shiny new Fear Forecast on the Beeb!" But it was good. It really was. Spoilers below the cut.

Continue reading "Dalek" »

May 7, 2005

The Long Game

Well, it had Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead fame), and it had zombies. Apart from that, this was a very average Doctor Who episode. There was tension, there was humor, there were bodily functions (yes, it does rather look like Russell T. Davies is obsessed with them. Check "vomiting" off the list) and there was a coded political message about media manipulation and deception. It was, on the whole, fun, and it looked like the lead characters were having fun. But compared to the previous ep it wasn't special. Not as ... taut. Decently written though, with all the different characters' actions well-managed, tracked and motivated. With the temporary companion added for just this episode, we're seeing Rose as the experienced one, and she has clearly grown a lot. I enjoyed the Doctor's impatience with the new kid, and with the less-than-curious Journalist. The giant alien failed to be scary though, for all its teeth and caged-animal movement.

Next week's episode will feature the Grandfather Paradox. In "The Long Game" it was narrowly averted, but we will see it, and it will cause the Doctor to refer to humans as apes.
Also, nearly credible rumour has it that we haven't actually seen the last of the homicidal dustbins yet. But that's for later in the season..

Dalekanium TARDIS?

I was going to keep this bit of speculation to myself for a while, but Behind the Sofa Again is dropping dark hints:

I notice on the BBC website they've updated the data we have for episode 12.

Now do I give a spoiler, or hint cryptically and infuriate everyone by not linking? Hmmmmmm... well, for readers of this blog it shouldn't be too difficult to work it out. The writing's on the wall for this one... or should that be the TARDIS? (Yeah, that's opaque enough to keep them going for a while, I fancy.)

I have no idea which BBC Doctor Who page Thomas is referring to, but there is something odd about the TARDIS. I'm not familiar with the older designs but I've seen pictures, and even compared to the "steampunk" design of the TV movie, it looks fundamentally different to me. And in the light of last week's episode where the point is made that the Doctor would "make a good Dalek"...

Well, doesn't the design look a bit Dalek-y? It's dome-shaped, with a rounded console with a stack of rounded-edged discs on top, and has a similar bronzy gleam. The roundels look a bit like the knobs on the Dalek carapace, and there's an organic being inside in the form of the Doctor himself.

Fascinating. Perhaps the TARDIS was rebuilt out of scavenged Dalek materials after the Time War in which the Daleks and the Timelords were both all but completely exterminated. And this could have its effects later in the series.

May 9, 2005

Coal Shovel of Omega

In the new Doctor Who series, it is revealed that the Doctor is the last of his race, and that his home planet Gallifrey has been destroyed. This would mean that the Eye of Harmony, the TARDIS's power source, has also been destroyed, leading to fan speculation about how the TARDIS is now powered.
In today's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan episode, I provide the fans with an answer. Good old-fashioned coal. It never lets you down does it?

A thought that occurred to me upon watching "Dalek" for the second time

If I had just downloaded the entire Internet, I'd want to exterminate the human race as well.

May 10, 2005

Hey, I got cited! But, er...

So I was reading Backword Dave's rather interesting piece Dalek, all too Dalek on the latest two episodes of Doctor Who, "Dalek" and "The Long Game" and suddenly I read this:

Continue reading "Hey, I got cited! But, er..." »

Oh, Doctor, what shall we do?

I have seen one episode of the new Who, and I liked it very much. It's coming on tv here very soon, so I can see the rest. :)

As previously mentioned, the new Who is great because the monsters are actually scary, the music is actually atmospheric and the women are like real people.

I find it hard to believe that women in the 60s or whenever the old Whos I've been seeing on the ABC were made.. (checks.. oh, good heavens, they're up to the 70s??) ..were really like that. But I also find it hard to believe that every single female who has been on the series to date is just a bad actor.

I even have trouble figuring out what it *is* about them that's so wrong. It's like they're sooky and wimpy, but that's not quite it, because then they'd be squealing for rescue at every frightening situation they got themselves in..

I saw a Tom Baker episode the other day with Romana, who's a female Time Lord, and she knows what she's about, she's no fool. But she seemed to have the "quality" too. The only moment I can maybe point to was when she got thrown into a dungeon, she was sort of marched along the corridor and told what they wanted her to do, and she said no, so they marched her in with the Prince and it turned out she was meant to be his nurse coz he was dying from being locked up. But the whole time, she just sort of let herself get choofed over here, and marched into there, and didn't put up any sort of struggle, or look viciously thwarted by the fact they were holding weapons (I think they were) or *anything*!

No fire, maybe that's it. No... *something*. Surely women weren't really like that?

May 17, 2005

From Genesis to Revelation, with Daleks

There's a small but vocal contingent of people who absolutely hate the new Doctor Who. I am not talking about those who write that "Aliens of Londen" was a bit naff or that last Saturday's "Father's Day" was a bit too close to soap opera for them. Those are legitimate complaints to have even if I don't agree with them. I am talking about a group of fans of the old series who condemn the new series as a whole for Russell T. David's writing, Christopher Eccleston's interpretation of the title character or for the show's efforts to appeal to eight-year-old children. If you're, say, a Doctor Who fan living in, say the US or some other benighted hellhole where nobody can be bothered to broadcast the series, and you want to know if it's worth the effort in getting to see it by legit or illicit means, do not listen to these people. They are comparing the new series with something that exists only in their minds, and as a result, nothing they say makes any sense.

Continue reading "From Genesis to Revelation, with Daleks" »

The repeated meme and the unrepeated one

Sam has a pretty good idea what the "Bad Wolf" references in the new Who refer to, but when I read this:

Continue reading "The repeated meme and the unrepeated one" »

May 21, 2005

The Empty Child

I'm a bit busy now, but Livejournaler Loneraven has a pretty good lowdown on "The Empty Child".

It wasn't as scary as I expected (the Fear Factor panel had rated it as terrifying with the youngest of the four disengaging from the episode), but I did find it gripping enough. I did find some of the dialogue hard to follow - I didn't catch on to the first few Spock references and it's only through the Livejournal reviews that I know what they said about the alert colours in the opening sequence. Might be my ears though.

Oh, and I hated Captain Bumbandit at first sight. Not the character, but the "actor" playing him. Wouldn't know timing if it smacked him in the face. Bleagh.

Oh, and this week's "Bad Wolf" reference? I thought that was easy.

-- Oh my, sir, what a big nose you've got!
-- The better to stick it where it doesn't belong smell you with, my dear.

Oh, I didn't say anything about "Father's Day", did I? Read this instead. I liked it a lot.

May 26, 2005

So when the Doc said he was looking for a specific blonde, and that he didn't have a craving...

was he lying?

May 28, 2005

"I am very, very, cross!"

... I was in stitches before the credits had even started! And yes, those would have been terrible last words. There are a lot of funny lines in this one, although I thought the writer was overdoing it a bit towards the end of "The Doctor Dances". Nice build-ups of suspense with the army of gas mask people.

I enjoyed John Barrowman as Jack more than I did last week. Fan leya pointed out to me that he was least convincing when undercover as Captain Jack, which sort of makes sense. He's more fun as the dashing rogue type, and the actor has a better handle on that side of him. Leya got pretty close with her earlier speculation on what the matter was with the child and Nancy. Not quite accurate but pretty good.

I liked the under-use of the morphing effect. Couldn't care much for how this writer handles Rose although the rhythm of the dialogue makes her and the Doctor work overall. She does save the Doctor's skin (and her own and Jack's) again, by the way, which is good.

In all, fun with a nice balance of humorous and thrilling moments. I wouldn't say it's the best, but I had a good 45 minutes.

Actually, now that I think about the ending a little more... the Doctor gets pretty excited in the final 10 minutes, and in the process lays bare a rather deep mental scar. Interesting... I should watch it again and see how the whole two-parter holds up to repeated viewing.

For you Bad Wolf spotters out there, I missed it, but, uhm, it must be there. Because this series is the bomb, and it wouldn't be the bomb if the makers forgot to put a reference in.

Continue reading ""I am very, very, cross!"" »

May 30, 2005

Damn those South Koreans!

Not only are they about to patent the cure for Alzheimer's Disease before Old America will, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Party of James Dobson, but they'll also get the Ninth Doctor Who on the telly before the Americans. Pagishikinda!

And then there'll be a wave of South Korean teenage girls bleaching their hair and having their teeth enlarged. (Via)

June 4, 2005

I could exterminate a whole box of those

One more in the build-your-own-Dalek series: living_yen at the Livejournal New Who community has spent her afternoon playing Davros, building Daleks out of goo, chocolate and English Licorice Allsorts. I could do without the latter, but two out of three still looks pretty tasty. I'm sure someone will come up with a recipe that doesn't include the yucky candy.

Continue reading "I could exterminate a whole box of those" »

The God in the Machine

... there is one.

A very uneven episode otherwise, but it's not often that Deus Ex Machina is more than just a way of resolving a plot withing 45 minutes.

I am no fan of the Slitheen, but in "Boom Town", the one remaining member of the family was a bit more effective than the ones that we say in "Aliens of London"/"World War 3".
Also, I don't think they're quite as naff as they've been made out to be in the fan community. Doctor Who caters to the general public, not just the rabid fans, and if, as I read somewhere, kids in British schoolyards are playing Slitheen by pretending to zip their heads open, then that's mission accomplished as far as the producers are concerned.

One Slitheen, like one Dalek, is more interesting, though, than a whole pack of them, and "Margaret Blaine" got some good psychology in. Like the Dalek, she got to argue her side of the story, painting the Doctor as no better than her. Unlike the Dalek, she remained a deceptive manipulator right until the end. Then again, as the trailer for next week indicates, maybe that was also true for the Dalek. I do fear that next week's episode will turn out to be a bit rubbish. It looks like all the speculation about "Anne Droid" and the Reality TV stuff was true, which could make for a very naff 45 minutes, Daleks or no Daleks. Or maybe not.

But oh, for that God in the Machine. Don't worship it, you'd never get a day off.

Continue reading "The God in the Machine" »

June 11, 2005

Bad Wolf

... now that was actually rather gripping. It could have been the one where we fans would all gather around in an angry mob, descending on Russel T. Davies' house to set his testicles on fire, and believe me, I was not the one who made that phrase up.

But it wasn't. For all the potential awfulness of having the episode set in a TV station broadcasting twisted caricatures of The Weakest Link, What Not To Wear and Big Brother, it worked. And the slow introduction of the Enemy Who Must Not Be Named worked as well and was a credit to Joe Ahearne's direction. Plus a few bona-fide scares including the moment when Rose gets a face full of disintegrator ray - all in all it had me on the edge of my seat even though I'd had much of it spoiled in the weeks before the episode went on air.

It's not quite the one where we gather in an ecstatic crowd to strew Russell T. Davies' path with rose petals and offer him sexual favours either, though. It's only the first half of a two-parter, the second part of which which still has the potential to be testicle-arson-inducingly awful. We'll see how the leader of the Enemy Who Must Not Be Named turns out to be interpreted this time around. One week 'till judgment day!

June 20, 2005

Godmoding against the end boss

Suddenly I hear the phrase "Deus ex Machina" everywhere. Even Sean Alexander at Behind the Sofa Again complains that "Parting of the Ways" contained not one, but two of them.
Overuse of Deus ex Machina resolutions (which is practically any use of them) has been a problem in the Doctor Who episodes that Russel T. Davies has written himself, but now people are seeing two where there were none, and this has to stop. Spoilers (and swearing) from here.

Continue reading "Godmoding against the end boss" »

July 6, 2005

Nostalgic for last March? Fret not

The BBC has updated the Doctor Who home page which now gives an overview of the last series, and counts down the days until Christmas. They've put up a gallery of all the weekly homepages from when the series was running, so you can play with those again. Also included are Survey results, lies and a soothing picture of kittens. It just doesn't get any better than this. (via)

July 26, 2005

This is gonna cost me...

Behind the Sofa Again has announced the line-up for this Autumn's Stripped Down event, a communal effort to watch and review a shortlist of old Doctor Who stories in anticipation of the Christmas special and the next series. I want to take part, but I'm gonna have my work cut out getting everything that's on the "short" list:

Mon Sept 19th - Sun Sept 25th: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Hartnell)
Mon Sept 26th - Sun Oct 2nd: The Peter Cushing Movies
Mon Oct 3rd - Sun Oct 9th: Tomb of the Cybermen (Troughton)
Mon Oct 10th - Sun Oct 16th: The Claws of Axos (Pertwee)
Mon Oct 17th - Sun Oct 23rd: The Talons of Weng-Chiang(Baker)
Mon Oct 24th - Sun  Oct 30th: The Leisure Hive(Baker)
Mon Oct 31st - Sun Nov 6th: K9 and Company (Sladen)
Mon Nov 7th - Sun Nov 13th: Earthshock (Davison)
Mon Nov 14th - Sun Nov 20th: The Five Doctors (Davison)
Mon Nov 21st - Sun Nov 27th: Revelation of the Daleks (Baker)
Mon Nov 28th - Sun Dec 4th: Ghost Light (McCoy)
Mon 5th Dec - Sun Dec 11th: The Chimes of Midnight (Big Finish Audio)

Of these, I have Revelation (which I think is shite even though many Who fans love it) in crappy digitized-from-VHS form, and that's it. I'll either have to fill up my hard drive with whatever I can find on Bittorrent, or pay through the nose to get the DVDs. Or, more likely, a combination of both.

I still have a few Who DVDs to review, by the way. I just haven't been able to motivate myself to do more reviews of anything. I'll get to it.

Update: I just looked on Amazon UK, and it turns out that most of the episodes are available on DVD. I've hyperlinked the ones I could find; all the DVDs linked here are Region 2 DVDs from Amazon UK, but a little searching from those results would reveal at least some Region 1 versions for Americans to watch. If you buy any of the DVDs mentioned above, I get a little kickback that could well contribute to me being able to afford the DVDs I just added to my own shopping bag (I didn't order all of them, yet, just the first few).

Doctor Who on Ice never made it to the production stages, but there's this....

Scans of the progam of Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure, a stage version of the Tardis-jockey's adventures from 1988, starring Jon Pertwee in the spring run, and Colin Baker in late summer. If you have friends in a theatre company, drop them a hint that this exists.

August 29, 2005

Access granted. Stand still while I shove the entire space-time vortex into your eyes.

You need to have seen the episodes parodied first, but if you have then The Five Minute Doctor Who is pretty damned hilarious.
From their version of the Bad Wolf episode:

Doctor: Well, that was pointless. Jack, what are you doing?
Jack: I just need to kill Lynda for a moment.
Doctor: Sure, might as well go two for two.
Jack: Stand right there, okay? (ZAP!)
Lynda: But -- GAK!

and from The Parting of the Ways:

Jack: All right, cannon fodder! Who's ready to die a gruesome death buying a few extra seconds for the Doctor to fiddle with gadgets upstairs while waffling through his ethical dilemmas?
(crickets chirp)
Programmer: You're new at this hero thing, aren't you?

September 5, 2005


Last night I watched the first Peter Cushing Dr. Who movie. It's not very good; the main selling point of the movie was clearly "see Daleks in widescreen technicolor". That said, it's nice to see 1960s Who done with some production value. Some of the matte paintings let it down a bit, but gleaming colour Daleks with believable gun effects make up for a lot. The design of the Dalek Control Center with its rotating consoles is an especially nice touch. Did the set designers really have to spoil it by giving the Daleks faddish home decoration items though?


October 17, 2005

Ey-Oh Captain Jack!

Woo hoo! BBC to screen 'Dr Who for adults' as new spin-off show

The BBC has commissioned the Doctor Who scriptwriter Russell T Davies to make an adult post-watershed spin-off of its most famous sci-fi show.

The new programme will be called Torchwood (an anagram of Doctor Who) and will follow a crack team investigating alien activities and crime in modern-day Britain.

It will feature in its starring role John Barrowman, who played Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and who will play the same character in Torchwood.

Like the latest version of Doctor Who, which the BBC successfully relaunched this year, Torchwood will be based in Cardiff. Davies, who has just begun writing Torchwood, said the new programme would be aimed at adult audiences and would "have its own, unique identity". He said: "Torchwood will be a dark, clever, wild, sexy, British crime/sci-fi paranoid thriller cop show with a sense of humour - the X Files meets This Life," the latter a reference to the groundbreaking Nineties BBC drama about a group of young lawyers in Bristol.

April 16, 2006

New Earth

A little later than most viewers, I got to watch New Earth. It was OK. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't anything special. Billie Piper shone in this one; she got to show her ability to act the villain for a change (I'm not telling how and why) and shake her booty, which I didn't mind looking at at all. I'm not sure I liked all the male characters going all camp when what happened to Rose also happened to them. Doctor Who is camp enough at the best of times, and in this context it was a bit too stereotypical.
I also didn't like the idea of an old minor villain returning, although the execution of the idea was very good. I can understand the need to bring back major enemies, but this class of villains should have stayed dead. Let's hope this one does, from now on.
"The idea wasn't great but the execution was very good" pretty much sums up most of the episodes Russel T. Davies wrote himself. Count me as one of those who would rather see him concentrate on his executive producer role rather than writing several individual episodes this series.

The torrent for the episode was up in about an hour and a half after broadcast. While downloading it, I took a look at its statistics. I think having 2000 peers so quickly is quite impressive (and it helps making the download really really fast as well). Right now, there are three other copies of the show up on the network, each of them with hundreds of seeds (the one I got now has over 2000 seeds, presumably roughly the same people who got it overnight). Of course, the number of people getting it that way is still dwarfed by the number who watched it at broadcast time, but it's still a nice enough measure of the show's popularity. I'll be keeping an eye on that throughout the series, just to see if people are staying interested.

April 23, 2006

Tooth and Claw

... was quite a bit better than "New Earth". It still has a way to go, but despite being a bit low on quotable lines, it was consistently gripping and not made of swiss cheese. Good CGI effects on the werewolf as well. I liked how the Queen was portrayed; while there were many familiar elements and Rose at least tried to extract that quotable line from her, the totality of it was unlike any Victoria I've seen.
This one was tight, dark, suspenseful and focused. It was in many ways the complete opposite of a normal Russell T.Davies episode. Such pop culture references as there were were woven into the background rather than telegraphed constantly, and extraneous stuff was kept to a minimum. The only downside to that is that there weren't too many good Rose moments, but then not everyone is as much of a fan of hers as I am, and besides when I watched it, I didn't miss them.
Pity it all came apart a bit in the end, with the "solution" again being rushed into place as what one is invited to think of as a Spiritus Ex Machina. Let's hope Episode 3 is finally the "Dalek"/"Empty Child"/"Doctor Dances"-level corker we've been hoping for.

April 30, 2006

I'm a sentimental fool...

...and I just loved School Reunion. Best Series 2 episode so far, by a large margin.
From the trailers, I'd expected a light-hearted monster-fighting romp with Sarah Jane and the disco Aibo. What I got was much, much better and in fact could be up there with the best episodes from Series 1. As tight, sinister and low on unnecessary jokes as Tooth and Claw, but with an ending that worked and was properly signposted this time. The Doctor was ... well... more like the Christopher Eccleston Doctor. More otherworldly and slightly disturbing even when friendly. The school setting worked really well. I was actually surprised that the Fear Factor kids only rated it a 3; if I'd been a kid the idea of teachers using school kids that way would have given me the screaming heebie-jeebies.
The inevitable cattyness between Sarah Jane and Rose was resolved quickly enough to prevent it turning into a distraction, but the longer-term issues surrounding the ultimate fate of the Doctor's companions remained in the air. I was a bit concerned before watching that Sarah Jane would be written all wrong, but she was convincing from the get-go.

Even K9 was not annoying. I'd been watching some Original Series Season 17 episodes the past week, and I ended up not being too keen on the metal dog towards the end of it, but fortunately in this one he was kept in the background of things.

The one thing that I think didn't work too well was the bat teachers. They were much scarier in their human form than as CGI monsters, however impressive their movements were. It's a minor gripe, especially in the light of how many previous Doctor Who monsters had been cheaply-made rubber suits. I still believe that because of the physical presence, a rubber monster can work better than a CGI one, but only if a lot of money and effort are actually spent on both the suits and the actors inside them. These CGI monsters came very close to being better than the very best suited-up actors, but the human forms were still scarier. Give us human baddies!

My eyes welled up at the end. There. I've said it.

May 7, 2006

The Girl in The Fireplace (with spoilers)

When the new season started, reviews on Behind the Sofa were mixed, skewing towards the negative. Now, after The Girl In The Fireplace, the Who-related Livejournals have got in on the backlash as well.

I for one thought Stephen Moffat and Euros Lyn delivered the goods. Yes, there were dodgy moments - it's Doctor Who! The aliens are going to have the weapons that are most likely to stop them right in the middle of their control center. No, it wasn't up there with the very best of the previous season. Most of the previous season wasn't up there with the very best of the previous season. But we got another tightly-directed, no-filler episode with suspense, humour and great visuals, most of which made narrative sense.

A lot of the criticism focused on the Doctor's apparent decision to leave the companions behind to save the Madame de Pompadour. I think it's been established by now, as part of the new character, that the 10th Doctor's ethical compass is broken*), but even if that weren't the case, it wouldn't be him abandoning his friends to save one person, it would be him sacrificing his own life and that of the companions, who know the risk involved, to maintain the integrity of all of Earth's timeline past the 1720s. It's at the very least defensible, and the Doctor would be in a position to weigh the consequences better than anyone else.
It's probably in the nature of fan communities to turn against that which they are fans of. But if it goes on I'll just leave those communities behind.

*) In The Christmas Invasion, the Prime Minister's decision to blow up the aliens is, given what we know about them, the best course of action for Earth and for any of the worlds these barbarians might visit next. It's a decision the PM doesn't take lightly and it's likely to be a blight on her soul for the rest of her life, but the Doctor's reaction doesn't make sense. Even Mahatma Gandhi would have pushed the red button on those guys. In New Earth the Doctor happens to be in the right, but only because the entire scenario is skewed in favour of him being right. Without the clones turning out to be sentient after all, the entire ethical basis for his position collapses under his feet. In both cases, the Doctor takes his visceral disgust with the actions of other people for sound moral judgment.

May 14, 2006

Rise of the Cybermen

In the year since I became a Doctor Who fan I've developed some strong preferences. I've come to regard Jon Pertwee's foppish Doctor as a low point in the series' history, and persuading me to watch another Colin Baker-era episode will take some work. I love Tom Baker's Doctor and the quality of the writing and direction that most of that period's work has. I never want to see Davros again and I don't see the big deal about the Master. Daleks can work if done well but when done badly, they're absolutely crap. Cybermen, on the other hand, have been consistently crap in every episode I've seen that they appeared in. Some of these have been fine despite the appearance of blokes in silver suits; Tomb of the Cybermen is very enjoyable for its playing-off of the characters and Earthshock is made worthwhile by the steadfast heroism of Peter Davison's Doctor, the least quirky incarnation but the most righteous one. But even in those episodes, believing that the wooden actors in silver suits were some sort of great menace to anyone took not just willing suspension of disbelief but an active effort of the imagination to pretend that what the acting, costumes and special effects technology couldn't deliver was in fact there on the screen.
So are the new Cybermen any better?
First off, and this is something that continuity enthusiasts and those who do like the original Cybermen will be relieved to hear, the paralell-Earth Cybermen are not the originals. "It's happening again" says the Doctor, as if Cybermen are an idea that turns up in every universe or on every world some time. A repeated meme. But for the purposes of writing and conceptualising them, a fresh start.
Ironically, "Rise of the Cybermen" has more of an old-Who feel to it than any episode of the new series so far. It's slower than the previous few episodes. It's tense, relying on horrors unseen for effect. It's directed by Who veteran Graeme Harper. There's a classic-style crippled, megalomaniac villain (but in keeping with the theme of the new series, he is a man who plays God with human life and intends to extend his own natural life-span by unethical means). And it's the first half of a two-parter. Only in the last five minutes are the tin blokes fully revealed. That means there were 40 minutes that were designed to be rubbish-free, and it shows. In those 40 minutes, we get a fair amount of exposition setting up a rather complex parallel-universe situation, and a good look at a large cast of characters including the members of an underground resistance cell, parellel versions of Rose's parents, a second Mickey and the President of Great Britain, who looked a bit like Colin Powell.
The greater length and slower pace help a lot. Recent episodes have been criticised for going too fast and lacking breathing room. Happily, this one did not have that problem. Nor was the breathing room filled with needless exposition. Everything we needed to know was presented in dramatically meaningful sequences. I am now sold on the idea that, as long as they're given good scripts, two-parters should occur more often.
I'm not yet sold on the tin dudes I've been avoiding talking about in the previous two paragraphs. They look sort of slick and there's a menace to their stomping, military gait, but they're, well, it always boils down to zombies in this series doesn't it? Zombies, zombies, zombies, is all I hear. These are even after brains. They're soulless drones that exist to turn others into drones just like themselves, with no initiative or will of their own. Not even a proper hive-mind like Star Trek's Borg (themselves very derivative of the original Cybermen, but, at least in their original form, better-executed. Why did everything in Trek have to get watered down and wimped out, by the way?). But after only five minutes of screen time, it's too early to tell.
Rise of the Cybermen has at least left me wanting to see more. But with a script, direction and special effects like this one, the Cybermen themselves could be made of Playmobil for all I care.

May 20, 2006

Stephen Moffat on Rise of the Cybermen

I haven't seen this forum exchange sourced properly, but the excerpt is too good not to quote in full:

Other poster: "he gave us a 1980's retread [referring to Tom MacRae's 'Rise of the Cybermen']."

Steven Moffat: "What are you TALKING ABOUT you mad, mewling fool??

If that episode had shown up in the 80s (or the 70s, or the 60s) we'd all have fainted of joy on the spot! Whump! All of us! Every fan in the country - gurgle, whump, living room floor. Medical experts would've been flown in from all around the world! "My God," they'd have cried, "every geek in Britain is unconscious!! Quick, let's pull their pants over their heads and draw moustaches on them!"

The Elder Statesmen of Fandom, in their vast and mighty Council Chamber (in Mum's bedroom), would
actually have EXPLODED!! Into CLOUDS OF VAPOUR!!! Every breath taken in the whole wide world wide would have contained a measurable quantity of IAN LEVINE!!

And here you are, you lot, and you don't even know you're born. Some of us had to go to school the Monday after the Giant Rat!! No, REALLY! Think about that! Added ten years to my virginity, that did, Giant Rat Monday! Oh, I haven't forgotten!

Kids today!


I'm actually hearing Moffat's opening salvo in the voice of Tom Baker. Probably posted somewhere on Outpost Gallifrey.

May 21, 2006

The Age of Steel (spoilers)

Another episode, another long series of whinges from the fandom. Mind you, without having read anything hidden behind livejournal cuts so far, I can see why people might feel this episode didn't work for them. "They got their emotions back and then everything exploded" is a cheesy, hackneyed, overused way to end an episode. And the cyber-ized John Lumic in his cyber-ized wheelchair was the biggest, most dreadful ham in the series so far. The saving grace of the actor's performance so far was that it was free of "Muahaha" moments, so it was a bit of a disappointment to watch him in his metal suit going "NOOOOOOOO!" and getting out of his cyber-chair to give chase, culminating with him climbing up a rope ladder after our heroes. In short, the big finale, the sequence that this episode and the previous one had been building up to, sucked. Hoo boy, did it ever. Almost as much as the get-out-of-the-cliffhanger cop-out at the start, but let's just chalked that up to being a tribute old Who.
That was the bad news. Now for the good. The epilogue was moving enough to wash down the suck with, and before the bit that sucked, we got 30-odd minutes of tense build-up, a nightmarish sequence in which the Cybermen rounded up the citizenry and took them to the even more nightmarish cyber-factory to be "upgraded". Wonderful stuff, neatly backed up by the unescapable stomping sound of the Cybermen's robotic, martial gait. The horror of alternate-Jackie Tyler's conversion into a Cyberman was well-done, and even the bit with the emotion inhibitor being broken in one individual Cyberman worked well, transparent Deus Ex Machina that it was. It was only when they all started running around like headless chickens and holding their heads in Am-dram despair that the whole thing went from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The trailer for the next episode suggests that we're getting more suck next week. I hope I'm wrong.

May 28, 2006

The Idiot's Lantern

"The Idiot's Lantern" didn't suck as much as I expected it would. In fact I found it rather entertaining. The idea of an alien intelligence taking over the world through a familiar object in every home, while not original, works. But... we've seen it before in the past two series, and this particular instance of it wasn't the best. I don't quite know why, to be honest. The script was mostly clever, allowing space for a subplot but keeping that secondary, just for once, to following our heroes as they got on with the job of saving the world. The subplot itself, with its social realism, was a bit pat, but not distractingly so, although the teenaged boy character's long monologue made me cringe a little. The 1950s setting looked good, the direction was strong and we finally got to see Rose acting like something other than a complete idiot again. Good to have you back, Rose, now let's not let that annoying emo pod-person take over your brain again. But something about it left me a bit meh.

Verdict: Good, but I get the feeling the creators are running out of new ideas.

Next week: Attack of the Chthulhus, God help me. I just might find something else to do next Saturday.

June 11, 2006

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

...turned out all right. I'm in no mood to write a full review, but for the record, I liked it. Next week's trailer looks interesting as well. Won't see that one until the Monday after, at the earliest, though.

June 13, 2006

Yay Sofa!

My reviews of the new Doctor Who episodes have been pretty brief lately. My problem with the series isn't that it's suddenly become bad - it's worse than that. Season 2 of the new series has shaped up to be a very ordinary sort of series. Every week, we get a perfectly entertaining, competently-made action adventure that could just as easily have been any other series.

But not everyone feels that way, and it's nice to know that some traditions are being maintained:

(37) "Oh. Dear. God." says Adam slowly and distinctly. "Exactly. The. Opposite," says Dad. Harry abandons his cushion and races behind the sofa, closely followed by Amy. For the next few minutes, they're like meercats, popping up and down depending on whether the Beast is on screen or not.

(From The Fear Forecast which is always fun to read. The kids rated "The Satan Pit" 5 out of 5, or "terrifying", by the way.)

June 19, 2006

Love and Monsters

Well, I'm all out of love. So much potential in the idea of a group of Doctor obsessives. So badly squandered on hackneyed story ideas.
We've known since series 1 episode 1, "Rose" that there were people who have noticed the reoccurrence of the Doctor throughout history and gone a bit nutty over it. In "Love and Monsters", we get five of them. Five people with their own backgrounds and their own reasons,major trauma and loss for some of them, mere curiosity for others, to lose themselves in the quest for the Doctor. They meet, exchange theories, ideas, even fan art, and out of their meetings grows something else, a stronger bond, a purpose in life. I was actually touched by that. I instantly sympathised with the characters, sketchy as they were, and found myself rooting for them. It's a lovely mirror to fandom, or fandoms, the social networks and subcultures they form, and the way fan groups move on beyond what brought them together into real friendships that otherwise would have been prevented by barriers of age, class and location.

Then the monster*) shows up and the whole thing goes to shit. I don't mean for the characters although they do get picked off one at a time**) (and I don't feel bad about spoiling this at all. When this episode comes on in your area, whether you see it on Scifi Channel or Nederland 3 in a year's time, don't waste your time on it - go do something else instead). I mean disastrously bad writing. After the monster appears, the story unfolds in an utterly predictable manner: the monster, in disguise, asks to speak one member of the group after another to speak with him in private, then eats, sorry, absorbs that member while the others walk away from the meeting place, oblivious to the screams (honestly, I'm doing you a favour by spoiling this). The one thing that isn't predictable is the very end when the writer makes the Doctor do something that completely contradicts everything he stood for in the past two series (not to mention what I've seen of the twenty-odd seasons before that): he partly resurrects the love interest and last victim of the episode's hero, trapping her mind and face in a piece of pavement so the hero can go on loving her forever and ever and she can go on giving him blowjobs for all of eternity. Errr... what? Whatever happens to the idea that everything ends?
Don't get me started on the Scooby Doo chase in the beginning of the episode, by the. Just don't. The only things that redeemed the episode somewhat, except for the setup, were the scenes with Jackie Tyler. The writing in those was cheesy too, but at least it succeeded in being funny, and Camille Coduri has grown into the character so much she can make any old rubbish work.
And any old rubbish is exactly what this script was. I'll need to make a note of who the writer was so I can avoid his work in the future. Update: It was Russell T. Davies himself, which means that avoiding his work will be very difficult. On the other hand, he is capable of turning in good stuff. Sometimes.

*) I mean the real monster, not the thing with the teeth that went "RAWR!" at the beginning. The thing with the teeth that went "RAWR!" at the beginning served its purpose well enough.

**) Sort of like Series 2 has been doing until now.

June 25, 2006

Fear her (spoilers)

So there is hope.

"Fear Her" was actually quite silly and too much like "The Idiot's Lantern" in basic plot, but at least the ingredients were all there: the episode got a few good frights in, had some funny moments that actually worked, and was at least directed and performed in a way that allowed me to lose myself in the story, rather than what happened last week, when small mistakes of timing and cutting (not to mention some really obvious clichés) broke the illusion for me.
I could have done without the animated child's drawings, and I could have done without the black road construction worker as comic relief - I don't think the team intended to single out a black character for that, after all the central character and her mum were also dark-skinned, but something about him left a bad taste in my mouth. I also could have done with tighter plotting, with less of the coincidence and the convenient plot resolution. So the alien of the week just happened to land in a pot hole that the road worker was pouring hot tarmac over, that just happened to be in the vicinity of a house where a child was feeling lonely, and happened to do that in the year of the London Olympics, and it just happened to need the Olympic Flame and its symbolism to reboot its spacecraft? Give me a break, and in any case that last aspect of it was bloody silly even without the coincidence. I also could have done without Rose's daddy issues, although I now realise that's all been part of the setup.

Nevertheless, for all that didn't work about this episode, it ended up clearing the bar, if only just. By the end, I was happy for the little girl and her mum as well as sympathetic to the Doctor and Rose as they separated themselves from the festivities at the end. I could even put up with them musing portentously in the final 30 seconds.

Next week: Surprise, surprise, the parallel-earth Cybermen will be back!But you know, it could just turn out all right. Though the narrative format may be a bit of a hindrance here, as that sort of stuff makes things heavy-handed.

Some people have been giving out marks out of 10 for these episodes. I haven't, but if I did this one would be 6/10. Delivers the goods, could have been really good if the scriptwriter had tried harder.

Random thought: This episode could be characterised as a bit of a filler, a cheaply-made item to fit between the last epic two-parter and the two-part finale. So could "Love and Monsters" which was set up so it could be filmed simultaneously with another ep. Two fillers in a row can't be good for a series' momentum - but why have fillers at all? There are only 13 episodes in each series! "The Girl in the Fireplace" basically screamed to be expanded into a two-parter, and there were one or two more that would have benefited from a slower pace. No wonder people are getting fed up.

July 2, 2006

I ain't squeein' (spoilers for Army of Ghosts)

"Army of Ghosts" was, on the whole, pretty good. I liked the fact that it wasn't rushed, and I loved the fact that David Tennant finally got it right again. For the first time in weeks I felt that these 45 minutes were well-spent, that the script mostly worked and that there were no major clangers dropped anywhere in the story. I didn't even mind the Ghost Busters moment too much.

Nevertheless, there were still some problems. The biggest one is that there were Cybermen in it. I like the Cybus Cybermen better than some other variants, but they are still big clunky metal things that plod around the place in artificial formations. And it did look awful when they turned up in artificial formations in front of publicity stills of the Taj Mahal and the bleedin' Eiffel Tower. And the one moment when I was nearly taken out of the story occurred when one showed up in some random family's hallway, scaring the mommy, daddy and two kids for no good reason at all. It could have worked with other creatures, but with a Cyberman? No way. The reinvention of the Cybermen, the clean break with their established continuity, was a great idea and necessary to give them any chance at all at not sucking. In this episode, it became clear that the break wasn't clean enough; several scenes of them marching in formation resembled their earlier, crap, appearances in stories like "Earthshock" (Note: I think "Earthshock" is a great story; I just wish it had been done without the metallic clowns in it). What a waste of an opportunity to bring out those old Leni Riefenstahl storyboards and make them march in a way that's actually menacing.
That would have fit the fascism theme running throughout the episode. It would, in fact, have been a lot less ham-handed than what we got in the portrayal of the Torchwood director. Yvonne Hartman, who basically looked like Ann Coulter, only female, prettier, and not quite as fascistic, because even Russell T. Davies knows where to stop, talked about the British Empire and National Greatness and, oh, independence from Middle Eastern oil. Can you see the problem here? If you're going to write a character like that, why not make her seductive? No one in their right mind wants to bring back the British Empire, but a lot of us in our right minds can get behind the idea of energy independence, so that is the kind of argument a real person would use in conversation, even if what she really wanted is Empire. In a good morality play, the villain has to have the potential to hook the audience, to evoke their sympathy, to make them think about what she's saying and what their own responses to that would be. This "Ooh, I'm a megalomaniac, watch me rant" schtick is just tiresome.
Luckily the actress playing Hartman, Tracy-Ann Oberman, played her well enough to compensate for the faults in her writing, imbuing her with a bit of warmth and a sense of mischief that made her a good sparring partner for the Doctor.
Director Graeme Harper gave the story a steady, unhurried pace and a cinematographic feel. I'm at a bit of a disadvantage writing about this, because I see the episodes 12 hours after the Brits do, but those who wrote it looked like a movie were right. And Rose worked, and Jackie worked even better, and the finally Doctorish Doctor was a delight to watch.
So it was good, in places even great. But there's still a lot that needs fixing in Series 3. So excuse me for not squeeing just yet. Let's just hope that with the arrival of the Daleks on the scene, things will get a bit more exciting.

July 9, 2006

Doomsday (spoilers)

Sass is very difficult to pull off in genre fiction. Not that there aren't tonnes of writers out there trying to write convincing scenes in which their plucky hero or heroine utters witty comebacks to the threats from the baddies who have just captured them and wouldn't think twice about killing them; the problem is rather that few of them succeed. Most of the time, one is left with the feeling that a real person, in that situation, would not be able to do anything other than wet their pants in fear.
But last night, when Rose Tyler totally sassed that Dalek, I believed it. I believed that she would do that, I believed that Rose had enough presence of mind to come up with retorts that sounded good, and I believed that Rose knew what she was doing, that she had learned how to keep a Dalek wound up tightly enough to start making mistakes, but not so tightly that it would lose its patience. Thanks to Billie Piper's acting ability, even the annoying, poorly-written Rose we saw too much of during Series 2 is always believable; but this wasn't poorly-written Rose, this was Piper's acting coupled with writing that actually worked. I was cheering her on.

Daleks vs. Cybermen! And they exchange taunts! That bit, of course, was 4 the kidz, but I'm clearly well in touch with my inner child. I loved it! And the Dalek who said they could take on 5 million Cybermen with just one Dalek was just soo right. Of course, there are people with more credentials than sense who disagree with me, but come on. Daleks are better because they're such clumsy designs. A Dalek is a creature you have to learn to fear. Its appearance is stubby and bigheaded, like a mis-shapen robot baby. One appendage is a plunger, the other an egg-whisk. It looks comically helpless until you learn what it can do - until you learn that the egg-whisk is a deadly laser weapon, the plunger can suck your head dry, and God only knows what hidden uses that eyestalk has. And it hates everything on general principles. Giant line-dancing robots just can't compare.
If it was me producing the episode, I'd have had them actually stick with just the four Daleks instead of the massive army that emerged from the Phallus of Rassilion or whatever that thing was called. But that's just me, and even then I have to admit it made for great visuals.

Some people didn't like the long, drawn-out ending with the crying, the final goodbye and then more crying. I think the emotional release was vital to the sort of ending that this episode had, and its length was proportional to the viewers' emotional investment in the characters and their relationship. By all means let them both have a good, long blub. They'll feel better for it in the end.

Nearly everyone hated the appearance of Catherine Tate in a bridal gown at the end. It seems to me that the reason was mostly that nearly every Doctor Who fan can't stand the sight of Catherine Tate. I had never heard of her before, and so I found that this sudden post-ending surprise was utterly, almost hallucinatorily jarring - but in a good way. Poor Doctor, he doesn't get a moment's respite. The moment he finally gets the waterworks running, he gets to deal with a psycho bride right there in his home.

David Tennant? Aaawyeeeeeeah, hewasalright.

I loved "Doomsday" It wasn't perfect (hey, it had Cybermen in it), but it worked. Possibly better than last year's season finale, although I'd have to re-watch that to make sure.

October 25, 2006

Torchwood episode 1 and 2

I've seen a lot of negative response over the past few days to the start of the BBC's most overhyped new series, Torchwood. I blame the hype, because I just saw the first episode and found it perfectly engaging. It looked good, the script worked, and I easily found myself rooting for Gwen Cooper to get to the bottom of this Torchwood mystery, to remember what she found out and to get that job that she was inevitably going to get.

That last bit was the one thing that didn't quite gel - Gwen got over the nasty tricks that Jack Harkness pulled on her, and the trauma of what she saw in the climax, a little too easily. But it's easy to forgive that - she was going to get that job otherwise there wouldn't be a series.

What I especially liked was how the breakdown of Torchwood's internal discipline was constantly woven into the story, a breakdown that turned out to be essential to solving the framing plot. Nice work. If Russell T. Davies wrote this, I'd like to see more of that in that other over-hyped series next season.

Now, on to episode 2...

Update (several hours later): Episode 2, on the other hand, started out being bollocks and got ... bollockser. Shag gas over Cardiff? The "You've lost what it means to be human" speech already? And gah! Fertility clinic! You can't get away with that sort of thing even if you have written 40 minutes worth of decent plot before it. I disengaged within 10 minutes, so at that point, it had little more than train wreck appeal going for it, but that final coincidence made it a particularly ugly train wreck. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if the girl had been saved by twue wuv, which I'm now being told was the case in the episode of The Outer Limits the writer of this tripe stole his plot from. So he gets points for improving on his source material, but his final score still ends up at minus several million.

April 1, 2007

Smith & Jones (mild Doctor Who Season 3 spoilers)

I'd actually had a Doctor Who-related dream the other night, involving Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones, and several incarnations of the Doctor. I don't remember everything from it, but I do remember that Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, looked uncannily young and svelte in it. Even when he wasn't standing next to Mel Smith, I mean.

The real first episode was pretty good. Though I was disappointed by much of Series 2, I'd missed the guy and was looking forward to seeing him again with a new companion. "Smith and Jones" wasn't perfect - the plot was stretched a bit thin for 45 minutes - but it had a sense of fun that was missing in much of Torchwood, built up the tension well, had a few laughs, a lot of running-in-corridors and some neat visuals. It was formulaic, but the formula was executed well. I like new companion Martha Jones - she's smarter and less "primal" so to speak, than Rose Tyler was, and hopefully won't be as clingy towards him. She's pretty pleasing to the eye as well, and there was definitely a sexual dynamic between the two, so fanficcers can start sharpening their pencils right now.

The best direct comparison between the two companions is of course the bit where they see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time, a gag that the Doctor can't get enough of and neither can I. Where Rose just ran around it and went "ook?", Martha Jones stayed calm, talked, analysed, tried to figure it out, and of course failed, because there isn't really anything to comprehend. It's bigger on the inside, is all there is to it. Throughout the episode it was clear that the Doctor wanted to work with someone who used her brain, and Martha passed that test.

A good start to the season, I think. I'll definitely go on watching this.

April 22, 2007

First, they exterminate Manhattan, then they exterminate Berlin.

First impression of Daleks in Manhattan: not very good. There were some good ideas in there, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The biggest problem was the acting: the BBC obviously has a huge, huge talent pool, but some things are simply too much to ask, and asking an ensemble cast of British actors to perform well while faking American accents is clearly one of them. The problem wasn't so much that the accents were bad, as such, though some were. Compared to Nicola Bryant's attempts 25 years ago, the bar has clearly been raised; the accents were consistent and there were even some attempts at diversification, with the black New Yorkers sounding like (generic) black Americans, the kid from Tennessee having a bit of a southern drawl going, and the showgirl type being from Queens or Brooklyn or wherever those showgirl types always come from. I can't pinpoint her accent with that much accuracy, but I'm sure some people would be able to. However, the effort involved in maintaining these accents hamstrung the performances and many of the characters came across as stiff and unconvincing as a result. This put a big damper on my engagement with the story.
The other problem was the reveal at the end, which managed to look even cheesier than the portrait of Dalek Sek's new form on this week's Radio Times.

A bit of a pity, really, because there was a lot to enjoy. There were lots of little filmic references (the corridor in the theatre looked like a shot out of The Blue Angel with the sad clown in it, the scenes on the scaffolding of the Empire State Building looked like classic photographs of working men from the era), there were Daleks using the brains they were cultivated with for a change, and the honest poor folks in Hooverville were painted as people you'd want to know more about. The script had some nice paralellism between what Solomon, the Hooverville community leader person, and Diagoras, the foreman-who'd-become-a-Dalek-stooge each brought back from the Great War, with one of them being ennobled by it and the other hardened and corrupted. This will probably be a setup for the next episode, as we're constantly reminded that the Doctor himself fought in a Great War.

Their names, incidentaly, are possibly significant. Solomon is wise and even hands out a Solomon's judgement (splitting the bread); Diagoras is apparently named after a Greek atheistic philosopher. I got that last tidbit from the Doctor Who communities, by the way.

I do hope next week's episode is a bit better. It's going to be difficult, because being the second part of a two-part story it will likely have the same problems as Daleks in Manhattan, but at least it will have all the mysterious business out of the way and all the players in position for a confrontation. AND there'll be some exterminatin'. That's what we want from our sink-plungered-pals, right?

April 30, 2007

A pig in a poke (spoilers for Evolution of the Daleks)

No, no, no, no, no!

Last week, some Doctor Who fans on Livejournal responded to criticism of Daleks in Manhattan by saying this was the best Dalek story since Genesis of the Daleks, Evil of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks, you name it. THEY-ARE-INCORRECT!
Taken as a whole, the two-parter of Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks wasn't even the best Dalek story since Doomsday. it wasn't a Dalek story at all. It was a Cybermen story with the word "Cybermen" struck out and "Daleks" scribbled above it. Some other superficial changes were made: instead of a Cyber Controller in his station, we got a battle station that a Dalek fits into; instead of a cybernetic laboratory where the victims were hacked and slashed to bits, we got a genetics laboratory in which dead people's brains are filled with Dalek DNA —

And that brings me right to the second thing I hated about this episode. Just for once, could we have an episode where the science isn't 100% bullshit? 90% bullshit, I'm with you; 80% bullshit and I'll take time out to specifically praise the science in this here blog, 70% bullshit and I'll be as happy as a pig in shit. But for God's sake, try. Five minutes with the Great Gizzoogle and Wikipedia will take you to the level where 10% or more isn't baloney, bunkum or balderdash. And we'll have none of that "using gamma radiation from a solar flare, looking exactly like lightning, powering up the DNA-splicing machine that turns quasi-dead empty shells of human beings into Daleks with human bodies, only not really, because the Doctor is on top of the lightning rod when the flare strikes so that his DNA gets mixed up with that of the quasi-dead empty shells of human beings hundreds of meters below instead". Those aren't ideas you engage with or even suspend disbelief for. Those are ideas you point and laugh at before launching into a reactionary tirade about how science education in Britain has clearly gone to shit. Besides, everyone knows that gamma radiation will make you green and musclebound.

Rrright. I think that gets the criticism of the script out of the way. Sorry about the vulgarity – I mean sorry about it being insufficient. I should have been much ruder but I'm not feeling inspired today.

Thing I Hated Number 3. The acting. And I mean "acting" in the loosest sense of the word. What I said last week about the accents not being Nicola Bryant-level bad? I take it back. Tallulah even took over some Peri-like mannerisms. Solomon's accent slipped (though considering what he had to work with in this part, I can forgive him), as did Frank's. And I liked his character. Decent, average young man caught in a terrible situation and holding his own. Very American Dream, even if the girl decided to stick with the piggy in the end. He just about scraped through, believability-wise, but he didn't sound like he was from Tennessee at all.

Were there any good bits? Well, yeah. Despite it not being a Dalek story, I enjoyed the scenes in the basement, with the Daleks' interaction with Ex-Dalek Sec, the Doctor and especially one another. There was a wonderful moment where one Dalek spoke eyestalk-to-eyestalk with another, discussing what they thought about Sec's behaviour, and the second Dalek turned his head to look if no one was watching. The director and the Dalek operators at the BBC were clearly having a lot of fun making those things act. Nicolas Brigg's timing in that sequence was impeccable as well.

Solomon's extermination was a nice surprise; I expected hick-boy to be the one to buy it. I liked the switch from the Doctor seemingly launching into a Star Trek style appeal to Sec's humanity, using the radio and its music as a prop, to turning his sonic screwdriver on it and making it produce a ghastly noise that Daleks couldn't handle. Though now that I think about it, it's a bit strange that Daleks would be so vulnerable.

Finally, once you accept that Manhattan/Evolution really a Cybermen story, it's not so bad. At least these Cybermen didn't plod and plonk about looking bloody stupid; they had lovely 1940s costumes on and ... oh, who am I kidding. They did look pretty stupid. But better than the silver stompers.

Tennant and Agyema were good as always though. Sorry, force of habit here. I thought Agyema was a bit crap in this, too, to be honest. Miranda Raison's horrible acting must have been contagious. Tennant was good, but not as good as he's been earlier in the series. I think both can do a lot better.

First update: Gamma Radiation bursts from earth triggered by lightning, a scientific explanation of a phenomenon that is almost entirely, but not completely, unlike what Helen Raynor put in the script. Even so, we're at 99% bullshit and falling. (Hat tip: John Nor commenting on Behind the Sofa.)

May 6, 2007

The Lazarus experiment (spoilers)

....much better. The story of The Lazarus Experiment was a bit unambitious and consisted largely of chase scenes, but this time the people involved managed to hang some good direction and dialogue on that storyline, and while the resolution was a bit daft, it looked and sounded good enough to work. I liked the nod to the Third Doctor, and the first real appearance of Mr. Saxon's aide.

I am, however, getting a bit fed up with the design of the monsters - and by the way, having the lead bad guy turn into a monster? Yawn. The problem with many of the current crop of monsters is that they're all mandibles and spider legs and glistening skin and exposed internal organs and stingers and pinchers - all the outward signifiers of predatory dangerousness, but somehow they fail to impress. A Dalek, in comparison, really is a superior design. A Dalek doesn't look dangerous. It looks a bit preposterous right until it egg-whisks you to death. Much more effective. These monsters just look like they're overcompensating. And I will probably go to my grave believing that CGI monsters lack the necessary physical presence to be truly menacing.

But apart from that, here was one episode that I could enjoy again. Love Martha's mother. She's much more formidable than Jackie Tyler, just like her daughters are much more formidable than Rose.

Oooh, that trailer looked wonderful. Nice to see a familiar face again. One would almost forget it's going to be scripted by Chris bloody Cribnall....

I can't quite recall in which episode the Master did what Saxon's aide did in this one, poisoning people's minds against the Doctor. I think it was a Sixth Doctor episode, which would explain why I can't quite recall it. I recently watched a whole batch of Sixth and Seventh Doctor episodes and found the overwhelming majority of the Sixth Doctor's body of work to be intolerably bad. So I've in all likelihood repressed the memory. Was it Mark of the Rani?

Finally, I note with a weary heart that the science was bollocks again, though at least this script wasn't as brazen about it as that of Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks. It's a better quality of bollocks, if you will. I've noticed in the fan reviews on Livejournal that people have started spelling it "teh skience", which I take as a sign that they've given up on getting any science within the series that they can take seriously. Something for the producers to pay more attention to in Series 4, I guess.

No Doctor Who next week, but I'll probably find something to review. I'll either watch and review one of the DVDs that I haven't discussed yet, or download something especially to watch and review. Maybe a Dalek episode, or one featuring the Master.

May 20, 2007


"42" was easily the best looking Doctor Who episode ever, with beatifully designed glowy sets, lots of fire and blinking lights and eldritch glowing eyes, more great-looking, sweating, intense actors, all wonderfully shot by Doctor Who veteran Graeme Harper.

Plotwise, though, it was a bit routine. Just another "base under siege with a time bomb" story, and the fact that the time bomb was a sun doesn't work to disguise that at all. Then again, this was a Chris Chibnall script, so expectations were low, and in fact expectations were exceeded. The story did not embarrass like Chibnall's ham-handed writing on Torchwood. Thankfully, little attempt at characterisation was made and the emphasis was all on keeping up the suspense and on the business of running around, issuing commands, opening doors and trying not to get burned into vapour. On that basis it worked well, even though very little happened that was at all remarkable.

On the whole, better than it could have been, and mostly made memorable by its looks.

May 27, 2007

Human Nature - slight spoilers

Whew! Edge of my seat. Great stuff, nearly perfect with only a few moments of stupid to mar it - all of them to do with Martha Jones, unfortunately. Well, one of them was to do with the writers hitting us over the head with her infatuation for the Doctor, and the other was with her acting out of character. Martha Jones is supposed to be this ultra-competent companion, and in this episode, she's shown to be obsessed with the Doctor's pre-recorded instructions to her. Even after the loss of the watch, I found it difficult to believe she'd panic like she did. Now that I mention it, even that doesn't seem all that bad.

So just for once, my gripes are very minor. Doctor Who can still be good! Wonderful acting from David Tennant as "John Smith" as well. I can't wait for next week's conclusion of this two-parter.

June 3, 2007

The family of blood (Doctor Who spoilers) was good. I don't think it quite lived up to the promise of the first half, though. While there was plenty of great characterisation and acting, and superb dialogue, the resolution and all that followed it didn't work for me. The resolution was rushed and seemed like an anticlimax. The dénouement showing the Doctor as avenger was ... defensible in terms of his established character, but when the rest of the characterisation is so spot on, merely defensible just seems weak. And the patriotic button-pushery in the epilogue definitely really did seem out of place and out of character for the Doctor, who doesn't really make a habit of going back to check what becomes of the characters after an adventure. What's next, the Doctor going to Jo Grant's place for a cuppa tea? It sort of worked, as button-pushery always does, but I resented that it did. It added the syrupy aftertaste of altogether too much American TV drama to a series that, usually, is better than that precisely because it doesn't do that sort of thing. Might as well have had the Doctor transformed and redeemed by LUUUURVE, which I'm glad to report he wasn't.

Still, those bad moments were very few - probably adding up to less than the time it took me to type them up. In all, Human Nature and The Family of Blood gave us 85 minutes of outstanding, award-worthy TV drama and five minutes of slightly dodgy stuff at the end. Not bad at all. Best of Series Three so far.

Afterthought: I'd like to read the novel some time. But even apart from the novel, the idea of the Doctor living a human life has been done before, e.g. in the "Winter" section of the Big Finish audio Circular Time, which is the best bit of that collection of short stories.

June 10, 2007



June 17, 2007

Utopia (spoiler-ish)

If you're reading this on Livejournal, stop now! I'll try to add spoiler cuts, but I can't guarantee that they'll work

I wouldn't have minded if Derek Jacobi had stayed on. He's an outstanding actor who can do much with very little.

Beyond that, I don't know. The direction in Utopia was strong but the script was very uneven. It started out pretty poor, with the threat of the Futurekind being particularly feeble. The actions of the one Futurekind character who'd managed to get into the Base That Was Under Siege were so obviously there as scaffolding for the plot that I couldn't believe in them at all. But all those things were just background for the goings-on with the Doctor, Martha, Jack and Professor Yana (groan) ... and his fob watch.

The idea of a bad guy living out a whole life as a man dedicated to public service was a good one - a nice parallel with Human Nature/Family of Blood from which it was obviously a continuation. But I think that would have worked better as a Doctor-lite story focusing on that one man. Generally, I don't think the theme wasn't handled nearly as well as it was in Paul Cornell's story.

For an episode with so much other stuff going on, though, the character development and plot arc of Professor Yana worked very well. We got the reminder that Timelords can regenerate early on, and then we got the slow feeding of hints about Yana's nature: that his academic title is an honorific because he has no formal qualifications (what with Universities being long gone, after all); that he craves admiration; that he has been plagued by something that he considers a brain malfunction all his life, causing him to hear the sound of drums in his head; that he lies about his progress to the people he works for, "to give them hope". Yana is trying very hard to be a good man, and mostly succeeding, but all this time his dark side is there.

It was surprising to see the "to be continued" caption at the end. From the timing of the episode, it would seem to be the start of a three-parter, making it the longest single plot in the new series yet. Audacious. But pointless if it isn't the absolute best that the creative team can give, and while Utopia delivered the goods in the end, it wasn't the absolute best.

The structure of the third season as a whole is shaping up well, with the whole thing being a carefully constructed time loop, or big ball of timey-wimey stuff. I like that. I've always been fond of time loop stories. I also liked that story elements from the previous episodes recur - not just the fob watch disguise but also the loss of the TARDIS.

So he is back. I still can't help thinking that Derek Jacobi would have filled the adversary role much better. Though on second thought, John Simms's energetic performance works quite well.

It's fun to note that a number of contradictory rumours all turned out to be true: that Jacobi would play a good guy who is trying to help the last survivors of the human race; that he would play the Master; that John Simms would play the Master. All true, and as we've seen before in Series 1, all working better than the rumours themselves would suggest.

In all, a shaky start to the episode, and too much extraneous business, but ending quite well.

June 24, 2007

The Sound of Drums

This was good. No it wasn't. Yes it was. No, it was a bit crap.

The above exchange is not what is currently going on on the Outpost: Gallifrey forums or on Behind the Sofa. Any resemblence is a coincidence, honestly. What the above exchange is is what was going through my head while I was watching it, and afterwards.

The reason is, of course, that Russel T. Davies scripts are not exactly linear or ordered; they are, rather, a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, samey-wamey... stuff. Instead of the thousands of Daleks of the Season One ender, we get billyuns of stabby-slicy, zappy-wappy ...ball things. There's the Aliens-in-the-British-Government concept, with the surprise eradication of a group of people who might otherwise have been able to stop the alien. There's gratuitous cameo-age (nothing wrong with that, per sé, but the repetition is getting on my nerve). There's the convenient plot devices - the invisibility device that works until plot demands that it doesn't. Even the blatant channeling of Douglas Adams's spirit is getting old, and I'm the kind of person for whom that stuff just doesn't get old. I am referring of course to the entirety of Gridlock, the BBWWTWS theory which is a clear restatement of Adams's Whole Sort of General Mish-mash theory, and now the use of what clearly amounts to a Somebody Else's Problem field.

What The Sound of Drums left me with was the impression that it was all, well, a big mish-mash. Ideas and characterisation and explosions and music and cameos and sound and fury, signifying nothing. What a mess. And unlike last episode, this one wasn't directed by Graeme Harper, and it showed.

I like John Simm as the Master, but I appear to be the only person in the world who does. I enjoy his manic unpredictability. But even with that in mind, I can't quite get why he wants the destruction of the Earth. I can sort of guess at the ends he's planning to achieve (and indeed Doctor Who Confidential contained a whopper of a spoiler for the final episode), but not how this end requires him to wipe out the world. It could still be explained in the next episode......

... but there's too much exposition in this storyline already! Even the accompanying shots of some Timelords in their preposterous headgear couldn't make all the narrated backstory interesting or compelling. For the first time since Series 2, an episode of Doctor Who seemed to just drag on and on. Even the cliffhanger was dull.

All right, so I clearly think it was a bit crap. No it wasn't! John Simm was great, Tennant was great, apart from the final minutes when he was in his prosthetic makeup, and Agyeman and Barrowman played well against one another, as Tennant did against Simm. There was some effective music in there, and while there was plenty to gripe about, there was little that stuck out in a negative sense while I was actually watching it - apart maybe from the cookie-cutter US President with an unconvincing accent.

It's just that... add everything together and it just doesn't work. It's dull, stale stuff. Unlike Blink and Human Nature/Family of Blood which had me on the edge of my seat and occasionally jumping out, this just washed over me.

I don't have high expectations of the series finale now. Let's just get it over with and then I can bury myself in Big Finish audio dramas again.

July 1, 2007

Last of the Time Lords

See The Sound of Drums.

Edit: No, on second thought, don't. I'm watching Confidential now, because I'm such a nerd, and seeing those scenes again, even as the actors and crew are working on them, puts a knot in my stomach from the sheer stupidity of it all. It's an embarrassment. The fact that I was watching the episode on Sunday morning with, if not an actual hangover, enough alcohol residues in my system to take the edge off me a bit, allowed me to let it wash over me just the one time, but the moment the brain gets engaged at all, it rejects what I've just been watching as utter shite. I'd just as soon have another shot at watching the Sixth Doctor storyline Mark of the Rani as look at this again.

Confidential made me realise another thing. People made this. Actual actors and directors and camera crew and set designers and whatever else spent weeks of their lives making this. The actors and director in particular spent a lot of time in tone meetings and read-throughs and rehearsals with the producer and script editor and other powerful people in a position to stop this, and none of them said "Russell, love, this is shit." David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, John Simm, Adjoa Andoh, no matter how good your acting performances were, you are as much to blame for this as Russel T. Davies is. The other day I watched a documentary about Tom Baker's final season, because I'm such a nerd. And I'll tell you this: Tom Baker wouldn't have stood for this. He'd have gone on strike, gone to the pub one lunchtime and not come back until he'd had a completely revised script that didn't suck. And then he'd have done the next filming session completely hammered, just to discourage the writers from ever pulling that shit again. There's something to be said for difficult actors.

But apart from that, surely there was someone on set, maybe a humble key grip or best boy or whatever those people down the credits list do, who could have thought, hey, I get minimum wage for this and there are plenty of other jobs to go around, and gone and dropped the higher-ups a memo to say that, you know, this script is really, really rubbish?

November 6, 2007

Steampunk Dalek

Steampunk Dalek
Concept sketch on DeviantArt by creatoooorrrr Promus-kaa, who has lots of lovely other designs as well, like the Steampunk Cyberman, the somewhat superfluous WW II nazi Dalek and the Art Deco Dalek.

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