Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Doctor Who Review: Timeheist

Time Heist is fast and furious and fun, but there is still a strange sense that this should have been a Matt Smith episode rather than a Peter Capaldi one. This has running through corridors in spades (some very good running through corridors) and  plenty of manically paced escapes and sudden revelations – all more Matt Smith style escapades rather than the slower pace of Capaldi.

However, Capaldi slots in just fine – in particular his abrasive relationship with his two new partners in crime (Pippa Bennett-Warner as Saibra the shape-shifting mutant, and Jonathan Bailey as Psi, the electronically implanted hacker) – dragging them along (because the eyebrows put him in charge) at first, but winning their respect and friendship as they go along. Like in “Into the Dalek”, the Doctor is accused of callous disregard when he helps Saibra apparently kill herself rather than be captured by the Teller; but these are really acts of mercy and compassion from someone who is still trying to understand the concepts.

The Doctor, Clara and his new friends have been brought together to break into the impenetrable Bank of Karabraxos, for reasons that are not immediately clear because they’ve all voluntarily wiped their memories. They’ve been brought together by a shadowy figure who calls himself The Architect and from the moment they meet, they are up against time, constantly having to figure out and escape from their situation.

The villain of the piece is the nasty Ms Delphox, Head of Security, played with style, wit and supremely snooty sauciness by Keeley Hawes (who might just tip Lena Heady out of the way as my choice for a female Doctor Who). She takes charge of “the Teller”, being the monster that can sense the guilt of any potential bank robbers and then suck their minds out.

Eventually, the gang (after supposed deaths and resurrections) make it to the private vault of Madame Karabraxos herself, who turns out to be the original that Ms Delphox (and all previous Heads of Security) had been cloned from.

It all turns out to be a bit timey-wimey paradox-y stuff as the Architect is actually the Doctor in the future, getting his past self to break into the bank in order to give Madame Karabraxos a piece of paper that will provoke her, in her old age, to call on the Doctor to get his past self to break into the bank…  which was all about realising that the Teller was not a monster, but a prisoner, pining for his locked-up mate. Teller and Mate are released and all is sorted – just like last season’s “Hide”.
It’s all fine enough, but I can’t help but feel the concept of the heist and Madame Karabraxos is not allowed to take flight. Keeley Hawes is superb but she really just gets to chew the scenery here – how about making her a serious villain? What if the Doctor and co were having to steal something with much greater consequences, beyond this episode? What if Madame Karabraxos had to go after them? What if the future Doctor carried on manipulating events – no wonder this Doctor seems a bit paranoid and with a sense of self-loathing? But no, it’s just about freeing some poor love-struck beastie – noble enough in itself, but I just think things could have been a little more epic.

And on with episode 5 of the flash-fic-fan fic (remember, each episode is exactly 100 words, and made up as we go along – no planning allowed..)

HungerTime – Part Five

The Dalek Scientist scanned for life forms and found none. It spotted the Tardis; , scanned as a source of time energy. The Dalek reached further, through the disruption caused by the Tardis’s vortex energy.

Behind a wall there were one life form, two beings shrouded in temporal charge and one being that defied all analysis.

One of the temporally charged beings jumped up with a weapon. The sonic screwdriver buzzed, reality shimmered around the Dalek and it found itself firing at a white-haired, older man accompanied by a human male with dark hair. The old man crumpled and fell.

If you want more Doctor Who reviews, go to http://reviewthewho.wordpress.com/ - my reviews of the Matt Smith/ 11th Doctor stories are under Series 5,6 and 7 - and a whole load of reviews covering all 50 years of the show are elsewhere. Go on, you know you want to.

Now go and buy my ebook The Royal Wedding from Hell

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Doctor Who Review: Listen

“Listen” is one of the best Nu-Who episodes of all – up there with Blink, Girl in the Fireplace, Vincent and the Doctor and A Christmas Carol. It’s really the first proper Capaldi Doctor story – there’s a nagging feeling that the previous 3 were written without being sure about what the 12th Doctor would be like – so his character was worked into the story. With “Listen”, the story is all about his character. The whole premise, about whether there could be a silent, untraceable being shadowing your every move and being the basis of a recurring mass nightmare, comes from the idle and slightly tortured mind of the 12th Doctor. Leave the 11th Doctor on his own and he’ll invent a new recipe for fish fingers and custard, or go off and get engaged to Marilyn Monroe – leave the 12th Doctor alone and he’ll delve all the way into the long, dark teatime of the soul.

This episode is so many things – it is a dark character study of the 12th Doctor, it is a straight horror story, it is a romantic comedy and a romantic drama, it’s a far future time travel piece of sci-fi. Most of all, it’s simply a great piece of TV drama, written with all of the skills that we know the Moff possesses, directed to full on spooky effect and with three principal performances that hit all the right buttons.

Jenna Coleman continues to impress in Series 9, now that she has real material to work with and a better defined relationship with the Doctor. Clara hung out with the 11th Doc because she fancied him and was swept up in the excitement of it all. Clara allows herself to accompany the 12th Doctor because she feels a duty to him. She knows he’s a good man, she knows he is a remarkable man, but the Doctor is still struggling to realise it himself. Bringing a romantic element to her life is a masterstroke. How much longer will she tolerate the fantasy life over real life? Samuel Anderson as, first of all, Danny and then later Orson Pink is very good, stepping easily into the main supporting character . As Danny, his sensitive portrayal of a man haunted by his past and trying to make a normal life for himself is a contrast to the Doctor’s own struggle, and maybe Clara’s dilemas too. This slowing of the pace, that we saw so effectively in the restaurant conversation in Deep Breath, is carried on here. Clara and Danny’s date cuts between cute comedy and abrasive conflict, but both actors keep their mutual attraction bubbling along. It’s an adult relationship – two people working through the surface stuff because they know there’s a deeper connection; it’s no rush of flowery romance and it’s better because of it.

Pushing the storyline along, and dragging Clara along with it, is Capaldi’s 12th Doctor. Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor was the young man, with an almost childlike demeanour, who bore the weight of ages. Capaldi is the opposite – physically and in much of his temperament, he’s an old man – wrinkled, grey, thin and cantankerous. But his personality is so much less mature. He’s a boy, trying to find his place in the Universe, although aware that his place is so much more than most people’s places. “Listen” takes us back to the physical boy, with a neat link to the Day of the Doctor, and reveals a wee slice of what made the Doctor what he became. According to the “Time of the Doctor”, Capaldi is sort of a brand new Doctor – the beginning of a whole new cycle of regenerations. This story backs that up – he’s still new, still coming to terms with himself. Peter Capaldi, with those eyes, that furrowed brow, those spindly limbs and hissing teeth, is unlikely to become a cuddly Doctor. Caring squeezes out when it absolutely has to, when he meets and empathises with the young Danny – the 12th Doctor is on your side, but it’s not always easy to see it. It will take growth and emotional maturity to really empathise with real people and situations. He knows he has to be outraged by injustice and evil, but he doesn’t necessarily feel it.

The 12th Doctor and Clara have one of the most intriguing relationships that the show has ever produced – unlike last series, Clara is not a mystery to solve – she’s the Doctor’s friend, here to help him. He needs her. His abrasive, blunt and merciless character is covering up his fears. And Clara knows it; she can see the child within and it’s her responsibility to help him find the man, the Timelord, that she knows that the Doctor can be. In “Listen” she actually meets that child, but she’s also starting a relationship where she, once again, will be the one helping someone find their way out of the dark.

And amid all this deep character stuff is a monster to be avoided, people to be rescued, mysteries to solve, paradoxes to be confused by – this is Who at its best; pulp horrors and romance and action, all mixed in with something far weightier about who we are and where we come from and how we come together; we have nightmares, but we ALL have nightmares – and we can all help each other face the fears and come out of the dark.

And now, Flash-fic-Fan-fic:

HungerTime – Part Four

The Tardis landed. The Doctor leapt out brandishing his spoon. “Where is she?” he bellowed at the empty, snow-filled street.
There was a thumping of feet from behind him. He turned in time to be floored by three Claras.
 “Doctor!” said Clara.
“You’re not the Doctor,” said Oswin.
“I need a Doctor,” said Victorian Clara.
“This can’t happen,” said the Doctor, “Three of you. All at once.”
“Rich coming from you,” said Clara.
Snow swirled, sparks flew. The Doctor raised the sonic. It screamed and exploded. A terribly familiar pepperpot shaped formed in the snow.
“Running time,” said the Doctor.

If you want more Doctor Who reviews, go to http://reviewthewho.wordpress.com/ - my reviews of the Matt Smith/ 11th Doctor stories are under Series 5,6 and 7 - and a whole load of reviews covering all 50 years of the show are elsewhere. Go on, you know you want to.

Now go and buy my ebook The Royal Wedding from Hell