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.
Series 12 Episode 7 09/02/20. Episode reviewed by Sean Alexander.
“The cruelty of their own minds directed toward themselves.”
This second series of Chris Chibnall’s ‘reimagining’ of modern-day Doctor Who could be mistaken for Doctor Woke. Now, this isn’t going to be another tedious rant about how the show has become all PC and demographic-ticking in its current incarnation (various websites, blogs and social media platforms are available for that, if one desires) but it would be remiss of me to mention that Chibnall’s Doctor Who has become issue-led rather than plot-driven. ‘Can You Hear Me?’ isn’t even the show’s first occasion at looking at mental illness and offering a helpline ‘for those affected’ after the end credits (2010’s ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ got there first, albeit with a somewhat less preachy mandate) and as a first-time writer to the show (the latest in countless new scribes commissioned by the current showrunner) Charlene James does at least find a fresh angle to using sci-fi mental health in a tangible, albeit fantastical, way. And that is where the episode’s problems largely begin and end.
Season 7@ 50. The speed at which episode 1 played out hardly slows for the second part. This episode is a particular example of clear scripting that avoids too many scenes of people talking about what they will do instead cutting straight to us seeing them doing it. Any potential gaps are covered by lines of dialogue after the fact. For example there is no scene where people find out the Doctor has gone down to the caves, instead we cut straight to the plans to find him. I also like the fact that, as everyone is panicking and arranging rescues, the missing Doctor strolls in and asks if he can come too! Having recently watched `Spearhead from Space` episodically week by week it strikes me that so far the pace of `The Silurians` is much quicker, the script far tighter.
Season 7@50. Familiarity can dull the impact of creative material yet there are some things which remain absorbing even though we know their every secret for example a favourite film or album or place. Or a Doctor Who story like `The Silurians`. The behind the scenes situation suggests this 1970 classic could easily have been a bit of a mess. With Derrick Sherwin and Peter Bryant having left, Barry Letts unavailable for the location filming, a 7 episode storyline and a new Doctor still finding his way it was hardly a settled production though nothing of this makes the finished version. Instead a confident, bold narrative offers a fresh take on the traditional `aliens on earth` story and a compelling representation of the Doctor as a high profile agitator rather than the low key subversive the previous incarnation had tended to be. The first episode is masterfully assembled and played and a sign that during this era of the programme episode ones would almost always be top class.
Series 12 Episode 6 02/02/20
After a week in which Doctor Who seemed to excite social and journalistic media more than it has for many years it is likely that this episode - which doesn’t deal at all with the momentous developments last time - will disappoint. It will probably go on record as a filler episode between the bigger ones. It is disappointing as Pete McTighe’s `Kerblam` was one of the highlights of last series. In this co-write with showrunner Chris Chibnall he takes a similar tack with a more ambitious globe spanning tale using a contemporary concern as ballast for a story. However the scenario never clicks into place anywhere near as effectively as `Kerblam` though the episode does have an unintended similarity to current news headlines.
Spoilers past this point
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...
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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..
Spoilers aplenty past here..