Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood Review

Clara wants to meet Robin Hood and the Doctor, grudgingly obliges, although he insists that no such person existed. However, on arrival in Sherwood Forest an arrow twangs into the Tardis, and the Doctor takes on Hood’s blade with his spoon. This very much sets the tone for the whole episode.

It’s all a bit daft but still jolly good fun – we get a far more settled Doctor from Capaldi – he is arrogant and ratty and vain, and some of the best moments deal with his rivalry with Hood, both men of giant egos unable to let the other take the lead. There’s snappy dialogue between the pair and Clara gets a few good lines too.

When it comes to the sci-fi, it’s pretty weak. We’re stuck with a bunch of generic robot types who are in cahoots with the Sheriff of Nottingham so that they can gather up enough gold to launch their crashed spaceship again. The Doctor, who has continually insisted that Hood, the Merry men and the Sheriff are all robots created by the spaceship to fool and enslave the local population, turns out to have been wrong. Which scuppers a neat idea that could have provided a bit of emotional resonance – what if Robin Hood the robot believed he was real? But no, Mark Gatiss decides that the legend of Robin Hood is faithfully true and that there really was a man capable of splitting an arrow.

The ship finally takes off but hasn’t got enough gold to make it to orbit so will explode and take most of England with it…EXCEPT, our heroes are able to ping a gold arrow at it, which tips it over the critical level and off the robots go – and then blow up in orbit. This is just kind of stupid, but I suppose, if you’ve been enjoying the ho ho ho’s of Robin Hood and chums for the last 40 minute then you can let this go.

This is not actually bad, just somewhat ridiculous. Capaldi and Hood trade funnies, the Sheriff chews up the scenery, Clara is wonderful and there’s a sort of bit of subtext about how we all want a hero to be real. It strays into the same territory as the Time Warrior and The Curse of the Black Spot – it’s panto Who as opposed to true pseudo-historical. Matt Smith may have twirled his merry way through this but I’m not sure if this is a 12th Doctor Adventure at all.

And now, Flash-fic-Fan-fic:

HungerTime – Part Three

Alarms screamed throughout the Dalek saucer. The rebel ship had been destroyed but the time anomaly remained.

“What is happening?” demanded the Supreme Dalek.

The Orange Scientist acted fast. The saucer could not be saved. The time rupture was reverberating back through Dalek history.

“Answer, answer,” shrieked the Supreme.

The Scientist blasted the Supreme. Now it was the commanding Dalek and could command the saucer’s full systems.

It reversed the polarity of the quantum drives, sending the saucer into a fatal plunge.

The saucer dissolved into space-time. The Scientist channelled quantum energy to itself, dematerialised and went after the anomaly.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Doctor Who: Into the Dalek review

Doctor: “This is Clara. Not my assistant, she’s ah, some other word.”
Clara: “I’m his carer.”
Doctor: “Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.”

 And there we have it – three simple lines of dialogue which sum up the relationship between the 12th Doctor and Clara. My English teacher taught me that the essence of great art is much in little and this is a great example. It’s funny, sharp and brutal all at the same time.

 When I say it sums up their relationship, it sums it up as it is at this moment – 2 episodes into Series 8. Since the 12th Doctor is a work in progress right now, so is their relationship. How much you like his series (so far) is going to depend on how much uncertainty you can put up with. Or maybe we’ll be on edge with the 12th Doctor all the time – when he asks Clara if he’s a good person, we may never get a straight answer.

This has some similarities to Season 5’s “The Beast Below” – which had Amy stepping up to take the role as the Doctor’s Assistant – helping him to see more than just what’s in front of him. Except “The Beast Below” was somewhat heavy-handed in the way it shoved the Doctor/ Assistant relationship in our faces at the expense of the story. “Into the Dalek” is better made.

First and foremost it’s a rip-roaring adventure. The Daleks are presented in grand style – a Dalek Saucer chasing a spaceship through an asteroid field, the Doctor saving one of its occupants and landing on a ship hiding behind one of the asteroids. The Daleks are closing in but the soldiers on the ship have a captive, “good” Dalek aboard. Can the Doc lead a shrunken team inside the Dalek to fix it and turn it against his own kind? Excellent pulp stuff with lots of thrills and spills and action. Inside the Dalek, the team are chased by anti-bodies, fall into slime, race around its insides, turn it bad again and then try to make literal contact with its mind. Outside the Dalek, the ship is breached and a Dalek assault team charges in with the soldiers fighting a desperate rear-guard action.

Yet with all this ferocious charging about, there is time for some well-worked character scenes – when the Doctor is first aboard the ship and his abrasive reaction to anyone with guns, Clara’s sweet burgeoning romance with Danny Pink, the Doctor’s struggle with his morality towards the Daleks.

Capaldi’s Doctor continues to evolve – he’s blunt but not uncaring, but a lot of that attitude is fear about himself – he still can’t work out who he is. Jenna Coleman continues to impress – Clara as the Doctor’s Carer is far better than Clara as lovestruck fangirl of DESTINY.

All in all a stronger episode than the debut; I suspect there is still more settling down to come, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

AND – on to our Flash-fic-fan-fic

HungerTime – part two

 “Run, you clever boy. And remember,” said Oswin. She could feel the Dalek consciousness closing in, just as weaponry rained down upon the Asylum.

The barriers she’d erected in her escape pod burst open. The planet roared as it exploded around her.

“Come on then,” shouted a familiar voice, “run.”

Oswin jumped up. Smoke billowed through the door. A short, dark-haired girl stepped through, coughing. “We need to get out of here,” said Clara.

They ran, stumbling from the capsule and into a snow-filled street, bumping into another short, young lady with dark hair.

“This is strange,” said all three.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Doctor Who - Deep Breath Review

Okay – 12 episodes of Doctor Who Series 8, 12 quick and dirty reviews and 12 episodes of flash-fic fan-fic featuring the all-new 12th Doctor. Away we go…

 Deep Breath

We start with a giant T-Rex stomping up Victorian London. It’s a great special effect shot, looks superb in the trailers and is frankly just gratuitous in the episode. Either way, the T-Rex spews up the Tardis and its occupants, the lovely Clara and the newly regenerated Doctor. The Paternoster Gang (Lady Vastra, Jenny and Strax the Comedy Sontaran) are on hand to ease the regeneration along, but I really hope this is the last we see of this lot. There’s a good fifteen minutes or more of the Doctor struggling with who he is; fifteen minutes too much in my opinion – it’s a cliché that was done to death back in Classic Who, and when you consider how the 11th Doctor was thrown into action almost fully formed, it just grates a bit now. On the plus side, Jenna Coleman is given some decent material – Clara’s struggles with the new Doctor make far more sense and, for a large part of the feature-length episode, it’s Clara that carries the story.

A story turns up soon enough though; there’s a nasty cyborg thing going round snatching bits of people. There’s an excellent scene when the Doctor and Clara are lured to a restaurant (by whom? That’s another issue..) – where the new Doctor starts to settle down and take charge and Clara starts coming to terms with him. There’s a tricky moment when the Doctor leaves Clara to the mercy of that very nasty cyborg with half a face – is the Doctor a coward, is he just being pragmatic or is he so cunning that he knows Clara will be OK (if somewhat shaken) and his “escape” provides him with the cover to come back and sort it all out? Sorting it out comes down to the Paternoster gang whirling into action against the patch-work cyborgs and the Doctor having an angry face-off (ahem) with the half-faced cyborg in a big balloon. But did the cyborg jump, or was he pushed?

Overall, it’s solid enough stuff – but it certainly doesn’t match the Eleventh Hour as a new Doctor’s debut. Capaldi is good but, since his character is kept deliberately on edge, he isn’t able to own the role and the show like his predecessor did. Hopefully things will settle down as we go along. As mentioned before, Coleman gets to bring some real character to Clara – being made to question her attitude to the Doctor and some form of development from pretty sidekick to someone who really is going to help. The pace of the episode seemed uneven; this comes across as a transition piece, moving away from the fast, furious and fun running around of the 11th Doctor to something slower and more considered. The episode definitely strays into Hinchcliffe horror territory.

It’s not great, but it is very good, at least until Matt Smith’s cameo. This is just awful – surely a huge insult to Peter Capaldi? Does Capaldi not become the Doctor until Smith formally hands the role over via the call to Clara? Is Clara so weak and superficial (and we’ve just spent half the episode proving she isn’t) that she needs the previous Doctor, HER Doctor to persuade her to stick with the new Doctor? It’s an insulting and totally unnecessary scene that, for me, sours a perfectly acceptable start for the 12th Doctor.

AND NOW, the flash fic. The rules are – each episode is exactly 100 words, I don’t do any real planning – we’re making it up as we go along -  a bit like Capaldi’s new Doctor…

HungerTime – part one

The latest version of the console room was still not right. It had far more round things but still missed something. He found the intercom switch.

“Clara,” shouted the Doctor, “can you come to the test console room. I need your input.”

No answer. He checked the Tardis interior display. Rooms, corridors, whole sectors shifted in and out of being but there was no way a part could vanish if Clara was in it.

She wasn’t anywhere.

They’d been drifting through the vortex – it was impossible for Clara to leave the Tardis.

But, he thought, Clara is the impossible girl.