27/03/2020

2005- The Year of the Doctor!


To celebrate fifteen years since the series returned, here's a lengthy summary of the momentous events in the Doctor Who world in 2005, originally published in This Way Up fanzine in July of that year. 
Imagine you’re a Doctor Who fan. One day in the 1990s someone appears from the future (and, hey, he might be a bit Northern with prominent ears and a black coat, you never know) and tells you that your favourite telly show will be back on air in 2005 and not only will it be great, exciting, terrifying and epic but it will be a ratings trouncing success, the serious critics will rave and even people who previously thought it was all silly wobbly set laden kids stiff will swoon when they catch an eyeful. There will also, he adds with a twinkle in his eyes, be Daleks, millions of them. “Fantastic!”  It sounds like something that could never happen but here we are in 2005 and it has happened. It were never been like this in the old days when effects were rarely special and Daleks were mostly cardboard cut outs and fans existed in their own enclosed world. A short write up in the `Radio Times`, the odd snippet wedged in the midst of a big `Saturday night on BBC1` trailer and that was your lot in the halcyon days of the 70s. Doctor Who, however successful it was, never had the cachet it has right now.Throughout its run, this new series was constantly placed in the top 20 shows of each week, with audience shares that remained consistently high at around 35 -40% despite fluctuating ratings and was the most watched home grown drama series of the first half of the year. More than that it saw off direct opposition with such finality that ITV eventually gave up and started showing any old film instead. With average ratings of almost 8 million there is no doubting that the series is now more commercially successful than ever before. In these days of multi channels and declining overall audiences its roughly the same as if 70s Doctor Who had been watched by 15 million people each week, which it certainly wasn’t. Yet until February 2005 there was little sense of what was to come after an 18 month production schedule that had seemed to go on forever. Then, all of a sudden things began to lurch into gear with all the ruthlessness of an invasion.

15/03/2020

The Silurians Episode 7 review


Season 7@50. It may be seven episodes long but there is no fat on this story so much so that a lot if packed into this final one. The Doctor’s captivity in the Silurian base after he was taken from the lab is short lived, pretty soon he’s back with the reptilians though as they employ a fall back plan- destroying the Van Allen belt. I had to smile at how easily and simply this actual real life bit of science is explained knowing its equivalent in the modern series would be a good two minute lecture from the Doctor all about it. You do wonder though why the Silurians didn’t just go with this plan in the first place as they must have known what was inside the research centre. Perhaps there had been arguments for months between Old and Young Silurian on this particular topic.


11/03/2020

The Timeless Children review

Series 12 Episode 10 01/03/20 Reviewed by Matthew Kilburn


So it was about authorship after all. Ascension of the Cybermen turns out to have been undermined throughout by a streaming hacker who couldn’t resist introducing it himself at the end and boasting of his reinterpretation of the ensuing acts, of which the Doctor was both audience and unwitting star. The Timeless Children was visually engaging television and I was surprised by some of the resolution it presented, if only because I was expecting something more complicated. Performances were very strong, and as with Ascension of the Cybermen, I felt an energy in the production which I’ve rarely experienced in the Chibnall era. There were a few moments when it seemed The Timeless Children did not marry so well with Ascension of the Cybermen, however, and in hindsight the episode left lingering doubts about the wisdom of the decisions therein.

06/03/2020

The Silurians Episode 6 review


Season 7@50 Unexpectedly this episode seems gruesomely topical right now and judging from this week’s headlines very little has changed when it comes to dealing with a dangerous virus or infection. What was entertainment fifty years ago is now a reality though I doubt if a race of subterranean lizards are responsible. Given this accidental topicality it is even easier to admire the manner in which the production handles it. Plotting the outbreak from Masters to the ticket collector to other passengers and then a phone call that reveals the first foreign case you can see how easily something like this can take hold. Just like our current coronavirus the Silurian’s version doesn’t infect everyone but some die quickly. I think the way the production conveys all this is masterful and quite bold. After all imagine that back in 1970 over seven million viewers watched several minutes of two actors doing chemistry, putting blood samples on slides, making notes and looking at the sample under a microscope. Somehow in the current light it seems much more urgent and serious than it might back then.

02/03/2020

A response to some peoples' response to The Timeless Children


(John- This is not a review of the episode, that is coming later this week, but it does include spoilers about the episode.) The major problem facing anyone wanting to attack The Timeless Children for breaking Doctor Who continuity or ‘the canon’ is the fact that it sort-of fixes it. There are quite a few moments of Doctor Who continuity that make more sense after The Timeless Children than they did before...

 

29/02/2020

Ascension of the Cybermen review


Series 12 Episode 9 23/02/20 Reviewed by Matthew Kilburn
Ascension of the Cybermen is ‘about’ narratives and their ownership. It teases with an opening narration through which Ashad, the Lone Cyberman, frames the story which follows as his. The discovery of the title sequence within the eyehole of a detached Cyberman head might suggest the Doctor’s victory over the dead Cyberman, or alternatively that only the Cybermen, in their undeath, survive to tell this tale. As the episode unfolds, this question of ownership of the narrative is raised again and again. Whose story are we watching? Whose story is Brendan’s, from its mythically golden morning to its dully nightmarish twilight? It’s left uncertain where his reality lies. The Doctor and friends arrive specifically as visitors to the end of the Cyber Wars, there to make sure the last humans survive and frustrate the recreation of the Cyber Empire, but are swept forward in a small, final refugee wave as their scheme is frustrated, struggling to retain possession of their destinies. 

Characters assert agency and make decisions for their own survival, only to find more terror and ever more limited options; unless, of course, they are a Cyberman. For a Doctor characterized in her first season as a Doctor of Hope, this is a bleak tale of foreboding. The author is Chris Chibnall, and in depriving his characters of much of the illusion of autonomy, he is letting his audience know of his presence; or is he represented by the Master, lord of substituted orders? 

28/02/2020

The Silurians Episode 5 review


Season 7@50 Something I’d never really thought of before is how versatile the Silurians’ third eye is. In this episode, a large chunk of which we spend in their subterranean company, it is used to open and close doors, create a forcefield, operate a console and finally to kill another Silurian. Presumably it is controlled by the power of thought but even so it must have to be concentrated thought of some strength. Perhaps that’s why they are so jumpy. Each of the three main Silurians we see seems to have been given a different movement in order for us to differentiate between them and it gives them an eerie quality. They are jerky movements whereas we might expect reptiles to be slinkier. The most remarkable aspect to them is that Peter Halliday does all the voices arguing with himself over Silurian politics. It’s a cruel game with someone able to seize power simply by turning that third eye on their rival. I’m not sure why Old Silurian as he is known in the tv version (see below about the novel) doesn’t fight back, maybe its because he’s old? As for Silurian scientist (aka K’To if you’re reading the book) he’s clearly not a fighter and will acquiesce to whoever’s third eye looks the most threatening.

21/02/2020

The Silurians Episode 4 review


Season 7@50. Mid- way through this episode (and hence mid- way through the story) there’s one of those conferences that Seventies Doctor Who excelled in. It serves several purposes; firstly to get across some story points in as interesting a way as possible, secondly to state everyone’s position and thirdly to give the actors some juicy officialdom to get their teeth round. In the room each person represents their profession whether a soldier, a bureaucrat, a boss or a scientist. If I were awarding points I’d say Peter Miles comes out on top here; his slowly seething Doctor Lawrence is a study in repressed anger. You can just tell he wants to literally lamp the Brigadier! 



17/02/2020

The Haunting of Villa Diodati review


Series 12 Episode 8 16/02/20. Whether Doctor Who is something of a horror series despite most people describing it as `fantasy` or `sci-fi` has always been up for debate. There are definitely moments when it strays over that divide and these are often followed by viewer complaints about an episode being too shocking for the children. Yet for a programme whose history is littered with such things as giant spiders, killer robots, animated plastic dummies and people mutating into plants that divide is often hazy. `The Haunting of Villa Diodati` definitely counts as horror at first but as it evolves takes in a few more genres as well resulting in a busy, rewarding fifty minutes packed with questions and surprise left turns. 

Spooky Spoilers after this point

14/02/2020

The Silurians Episode 3 review


Season 7@50. An episode mostly devoted to searching for the wounded reptile, part 3 consolidates the story without adding a lot to it. This works well due to the sweep of the search that we’re shown. These were the days when Doctor Who appeared to look expensive and expansive hence a helicopter is deployed to fly around moorland and there are even shots from it looking down over a substantial number of searchers.  The production marshals this so confidently with director Timothy Combe determined to show us the widest views and there is even a confident parping theme accompanying the search. Doctor Who has rarely seemed so solid and real as it does in these scenes.