27/01/2020

Fugitive of the Judoon review


Series 12 Episode 5 26/01/20 Review by Tim Worthington
Other than the baffling and bafflingly enduring Cilla Black vehicle Surprise Surprise – in which ‘the unexpected hit you between the eyes’ courtesy of live link-ups between servicemen and their families and Bob Carolgees getting old women in the street to ‘bring back’ The Twist or something – Sunday Night television never really was anything that anyone would have associated with surprises. Harry Secombe sang about how God made the trees from that grassy bit in the middle of a dual carriageway, Compo, Clegg and Seymour built yet another hang-glider, Esther Rantzen pondered how many more children would have to be injured by sub-contracted plastic bollards before someone took action and then handed over to Doc Cox with a bundle of suspiciously convenient newspaper misprints, and Clive James guffawed at Hale and/or Pace microwaving the Spitting Image puppet of David Steel. There were all things bright and beautiful – and indeed All Creatures Great And Small – but you always knew what to expect and when. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
Spoilers past here...



24/01/2020

Spearhead from Space Episode 4


Season 7 @50. Watching an episode a week you can see this is a slim storyline which has an unfinished or rushed sense to it. The way the Doctor and Liz knock up a machine overnight seems too perfunctory with the resulting device not being convincingly strong enough to defeat such a powerful creature as the Nestenes. What actually even happens there? How do those globes help `create` the Nestene? The concept of the globes suddenly seems out of kilter with what we’re seeing- we’ve been told this final one is the Swarm Leader but its just a globe like the others and the Doctor has worked out that it contains nothing sentient. Channing places it on a receptacle and some noises happen. We see something moving in the front of the glass tank yet the tentacles that later emerge are surely the wrong scale for the whole creature? The thing is there’s been plenty of time and opportunity to smooth out these edges.

20/01/2020

Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror review


Series 12 Episode 4 19/01/20. Doctor Who stories set in the past tend to work better when they focus on a lesser known individual rather than renowned figures like Dickens or Queen Elisabeth as they can avoid the caricature and instead provide an insight into the person. Thus it proves in the tongue twistingly titled `Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror`. It is surprising he’s never been the subject of an episode before as his work is very much the kind of thing the Doctor would- and does- admire while Victorian machinery always looks great on tv.  The pioneer of many of the innovations we take for granted today comes under the spotlight in a fast moving adventure that includes the educational content that has made a return under Chris Chibnall’’s stewardship.  Unlike some of this Doctors’ previous lectures though this is an interesting topic.

Spoilers past this point

17/01/2020

Spearhead from Space Episode 3


Season 7 @50. Meg Seeley is not be trifled with. While earlier in this episode Ransome runs in total terror from an Auton, Meg’s reaction to our plastic pal’s incursion is to reach for her shotgun and let loose both barrels. Never mind UNIT, they should send her down to Auto Plastics to sort the situation out. Even the Auton, which happily fired at Ransome, doesn’t kill Meg on the spot as it could easily do but seems to just knock her over. On the upside, her husband’s light fingered tendencies mean their cottage will soon have a full stock of replacement items for all the damaged furniture. A curious collection of scenes, episode 3 confirms the story’s slender narrative has room to spare as you realise that most of the well remembered moments are actually in the other episodes.

13/01/2020

Orphan 55 review


Series 12 Episode 3 12/01/20
Ed Hime’s debut story `It Takes You Away` was a curveball in an otherwise straightforward series so its surprising to find his sophomore offering sticking to a more familiar set up. `Orphan 55` is fast, sometimes too fast, with excellent visuals and becomes more interesting as it goes along though the guest characters don’t get enough of an opportunity to shine. Neither classic nor clunker it is a good, solid Doctor Who story that leaves the viewer with something to think about at the end. It feels both very Now yet also quite traditionally Doctor Who. The fact that it seems to have generated more chatter and differing opinions than `Spyfall` suggests it may be a story that grows in reputation over the years.
Spoilers after this point 

  

10/01/2020

Spearhead from Space Episode 2


Season 7 @50.  This episode is home to some of the most filmic direction original Doctor Who ever staged. Derek Martinus never misses an opportunity to exert maximum big screen camerawork when he can utilising the generous locations and accentuating the creepiness of the Autons. Shots zoom in and out at the Auton scout as it seeks the signal. There is an almost cartoon style impact to these flourishes most noticeably in the final shot of a terrified Ransome. It is rare to end an episode with someone other than either the Doctor or companion in danger and odd too that we’ve already seen an Auton in action so we know what he doesn’t. 


06/01/2020

Spyfall Part 2


Series 12 Episode 2 05/01/20
After such an action packed romp as the first episode there was inevitably going to be a change of pace this time and it is to introduce surprising new elements to an already packed narrative. Yet with another hour’s running time this plays out very well and incorporates some unexpected developments and a powerful climax that has implications for the rest of this series and beyond. More than anything Chris Chibnall has now provided a story that can match the best of both his predecessors.
Spoilers beyond this point


04/01/2020

Spearhead from Space Episode 1


Season 7@50. 
Remarkably it is fifty years – half a century! -since Jon Pertwee debuted on screen as the Doctor. A new Doctor is a tricky proposition for which there are two ways to go. One is to make them totally eccentric and over the top, the other is to have them largely sleeping establishing the other characters before the Doctor wakes largely fully formed. Given that the season 7 team had to establish a new format they wisely plumped for the latter. It does mean that Jon Pertwee has little screen time save for scrambling about trying to find his shoes though when he does get the key hidden in them there’s definitely a Troughtonesque look on his face. Other than that we don’t really get much chance to say whether we like the new Doctor or not. 

03/01/2020

Spyfall Part 1


Season 12 Episode 1 01/01/20. "Everything you think you know is a lie.” This teasing line from an energetically propelled episode just about sums up the world today and if real life is crazy then surely fiction has to be crazier? This is a pitch- and a strong one too- to be a classic Doctor Who story and while we’ll have to see part 2 before we know the signs are good. It almost feels like the Chris Chibnall era starts here! It is far and away the best episode of his stewardship and also his best script for the series. After a tentative yet not always thrilling debut season (which nonetheless had its moments) last year’s special `Resolution` seemed to finally get the engine running albeit cautiously. In the twelve months since something strong must have been in the tea because `Spyfall` Part 1 is an outrageously bold attempt to re-connect those adventure synapses lying dormant since, yes, `The End of Time`. Modern Doctor Who really does work when you loosen the atmosphere a bit, go with a big concept that can be summed up in one sentence and then shove in a surprise for longer term fans. The results are an exhilarating opening episode.
Spoilers aplenty past here..



04/11/2019

The Deadly Assassin@43


One of the most iconic, divisive stories in the Doctor Who canon, `The Deadly Assassin` comes loaded with baggage. With no companion and set entirely on Gallifrey it broke the narrative mould, especially the surreal episode 3, while certain scenes caused such strong controversy that the future direction of the series was affected. Fans at the time pilloried it for supposedly ruining the Time Lord mystique if not the wider mystery of the central character. Yet this is not the whole picture. The story most resembles one of the BBC’s classic period dramas housing a gaggle of verbose eccentrics dressed in colourful finery, steeped in procedure and tradition. They shuffle through the rituals as they always have and the Panopticon even has a church organ plus a wonderfully applied echo to emphasise its cathedral like status. If Spandrell had to catch a coach and horses to go see Engin it wouldn’t look out of place! Doctor Who of this era was always theatrical and populated by larger than life characters but `The Deadly Assassin` is the chance to do this on the Doctor’s home world. It may present a futuristic exterior but this is Victorian political melodrama of the most enjoyable kind.