Fear Her review

Series 2@14. Unusually low key episode works until the final lap.
`Fear Her` feels like it’s come from somewhere else, that it was written for another project or as a short story and somehow found its way into the 2006 version of Doctor Who for which it just seems a bit out of place. Only Matthew Graham knows if that is the case but unfortunately it has gone down in history as the dud of the season which makes it sound like it’s awful. Which it isn’t. Parts of it are quite intriguing and it has the rare distinction of being a genuine mystery that the Doctor and Rose have to solve by deduction; an aspect Graham’s script acknowledges with their jokey detective banter. There’s something of Sapphire and Steel about the premise, though in place of that show’s spooky old buildings we’re in the middle of a modern Close with yellow bricked houses and daylight. It’s difficult to escape the feeling that the episode would have been better set at night in a creepy old house.


Love and Monsters review

Series 2@14. Playing with the format of Doctor Who yields surprising results. 
There’s something quite prescient about `Love and Monsters` that has only become apparent since it was broadcast. YouTube had only been going for less than a year when the story was written and made yet the episode presents main character Elton’s story like a vlog even taking time to comment on the fact. Elton has to lean over to do a zoom in (but gets a remote control zoom at the end) and he offers his story with an awareness of the form in which he is doing so mixing it like a tv series. Like Doctor Who I suppose. The episode has become synonymous with being a comment on fandom and fans but it is actually not specifically about that at all. Russell T Davies writes here passionately (well he always writes with passion) on friendship through shared interests, on how such relationships develop and also how fame can affect things for the worse. LINDA’s happy gatherings, though initially intent on tracking down the mysterious Doctor, develop into more conventional activities like baking or making music. It’s only when the original aim is hijacked by Kennedy that everything is messed up.


The Satan Pit review

Series 2@14. A devilishly clever and exciting watch from start to finish.
“The devil is an idea,” says the Doctor at one point in this fascinating second part which mixes up traditional action, an astoundingly big monster and some philosophical debate in a glorious package. It’s an episode that brims with the confidence of success yet also continues to grow the series in interesting new directions. It’s easy to imagine a story like this in the old days only it would limit itself to the threat of the possessed Ood. `The Satan Pit`, rather like the Beast itself, is wilier than that and has the Doctor and Ida discuss the idea of the devil while trapped at the bottom of a 10 mile abyss. I remember watching this at the time and being constantly wrong footed as to where it was going especially when we get to see the Beast and it can’t speak at all. That his mind has been separated adds another jeopardy in an episode that first time round keeps you guessing. 


The Impossible Planet review

Series 2 @14. Superior episode that shows all that is great about this era of the show. 
A sure fire way of knowing just how much Doctor Who has permeated popular culture is when you see kids playing a scene from the series. Back in 2006 I was in a shop when I heard a familiar refrain - “We must feed”. Sure enough, two children were pretending to be Ood in public as if it was the greatest thing ever. They were re-playing what is both an excellent opening scene and also one of the best gags the show has done. And after that the episode never stops delivering on every level. Those kids obviously loved it because it’s big, colourful and packed with incident. It’s got the spine tingling voice of Gabriel Woolf who chilled another generation thirty years or so earlier. It’s got the Ood one of the few classic monsters the modern series has created. Yet it also has a mind bending concept and an undercurrent of devilish behaviour. It looks fantastic, it moves at just the right pace, it manages to show a convincing lived in and worked in base. It has a great roster of characters. In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it! 


The Idiot's Lantern review

The traditions of the 1950s and of Doctor Who itself meet in a well-played, visually impressive episode. 
Sitting between the least and most appreciated stories of the season, both of which are ambitious and much talked about two parters, `The Idiot’s Lantern` has tended to be overlooked which is a pity because there is much to love in Mark Gatiss’ compact homage to both the dawn of television and classic Doctor Who. He takes the traditional elements of a great Who story- a memorable monster, a gaggle of interesting characters, a crazy mad villain, a companion in danger and a pseudo historical setting and brings them to life in fresh ways. The episode shows too how in that old Doctor Who tradition minimal resources can be stretched. The story was probably cheaper to make than either of the two epics that surround it yet this never shows. Director Euros Lynn’s love of askew camera angles ensures 2000’s Cardiff easily becomes 1950s London. If the static sometimes looks a little like it’s been rushed this actually fits in with the tone of the story. All together it turns out this is one of the season’s best episodes.


Age of Steel review

Series 2@14. Second part of alternative Cyber origins story has surprising heart. 
After the awkward `Rise of the Cybermen`, part 2 of the story proves to be better if only for the fact that a lot happens. Coming across at times like a pocket 45 minute movie, `Age of Steel` is an old fashioned adventure in which our heroes storm the headquarters of the villain three ways and each has a tale to tell. Furthermore it belatedly does introduce something of the people who become Cybermen. These are fleeting (because the pace of the episode is speedy) but important moments where the original person behind the metal mask is revealed in tragic metallic tones. In both cases the person was female which somehow makes it more poignant. With John Lumic largely out of the way for the greater part of the episode things become rather more serious though he does return in an unintentionally amusing giant armchair as the Cybercontroller. Its then you realise, this is really a comic book story. Everything is broadly sketched with just enough emotion to pull you in. And that’s what makes if fun.


Rise of the Cybermen review

Series 2@14. An alternative Cyberman origin story with some parts that don’t work. 
Ever since `Genesis of the Daleks` fans dreamt of a similar tale to show the origins of the Cybermen. Set on Mondas in the midst of some kind of plague, we would see the controversial initiation of the process by which body parts would be replaced by machine elements and the traumatic effect it has on the population. Which is sort of the approach Steven Moffatt took latterly. Here, if Lumic’s wheelchair bound manic behaviour appears to consciously echo Davros the story takes another path. His genius being shunned by governments has more contemporary currency though it might have been interesting had writer Tom MacRae added an actual financial angle given that in reality there are medicines available to treat serious illness but the NHS deems them too expensive. Otherwise it’s hard to see Lumic’s actions as being anything other than self serving which presumably was not what started his work. 


The Girl in the Fireplace review

Series 2@14. A primer for the Doctor Who that was to com. 
Watching this episode after we’ve seen Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner is interesting because many of his signature ideas are contained within it. We’ve got what came to be known as `timey wimey` stuff in the windows that open into different periods in the life of Madame de Pompadour, `monsters` that turn out to be an advanced technology gone wrong. There’s a girl meeting the Doctor when she’s young and then again as an adult, the Doctor having a somewhat romantic interlude and the notion of something underneath the bed. In a sequence where the Doctor reads Reinette’s mind there is even talk of the Time Lord as `a lonely boy`. These concepts and ideas became some of the cornerstones of Moffat’s version of Doctor Who. What is also here, surprisingly, is the brutal slaughter of the crew of the spaceship from which the Clockwork robots come. We don’t see it on screen of course but it is there and, no, they don’t get somehow saved at the end. Perhaps they did in the original script but RTD vetoed such a cop out. I single this out because it’s the uncomfortable scenario that gives what would otherwise be a fanciful episode some edge.


School Reunion review

Series 2@14. A lesson in how to combine new and old Doctor Who in one irresistible package.
`School Reunion` sounds like an overdose of nostalgia as not only Sarah Jane Smith but K9 as well re-appear in an old fashioned sort of plot involving creatures taking over a school. You can sort of imagine it being done back in Sarah’s day. Yet by combining this with the ongoing Doctor story- his survivor’s guilt mingled with the acts he undertook in the Time War- and also his history of leaving people behind - you end up with something that seems as modern as anything else did in the season at the time. Toby Whithouse with, you suspect, more than a little assist from Russell T Davies uses the theme of replacement and moving on across all aspects of the episode. The reunion with Sarah triggers Rose’s insecurity that she, too, will one day be similarly abandoned while Sarah’s own description of life after the Doctor is a rarely explored angle. Cleverly the Krillitanes are a race who replace their body parts and end up looking completely different after each conquest thus mirroring the emotional plot line.


Tooth and Claw review

Series 2@14. Kick Ass monks, Queen Victoria and television’s best ever werewolf!
As an opening gambit, the first few minutes of `Tooth and Claw` take some beating as a gang of shaven headed monks show off their moves- often in slow motion- in a martial arts masterclass quite unlike the opening of a Doctor Who episode. Helmed by Euros Lynn, one of the best directors to have worked on the modern show, this is an episode where everything comes right. Arguably it might have made a better opener for this series. It’s an odd mix when you think about it- monks, Queen Victoria, a werewolf and a giant telescope but it all fits together so well. It’s an editing success too- some of the cuts are so fast but you still get the essence of what is happening. Though there is no blood to be seen (apparently banned at such an early hour) we are left in no doubt as to the viciousness of the werewolf. 


New Earth review

Series 2@14. Frantic presentation can seem jokey but shows off a potentially great new Doctor. 
I remember watching `New Earth` at a friend’s flat and hating it (the episode not the flat) because it seemed too frivolous by half. It was easy to blame David Tennant back then as this was his first full episode and I had this idea- briefly as it turned out- that he might be terrible as the Doctor. Luckily the season quickly delivered `Tooth and Claw` and all was forgiven while `New Earth` was largely forgotten. In fact I think it’s the episode from the whole of Tennant’s tenure I’ve watched the least so I was oddly looking forward to seeing it again. Is it really as bad as I thought it was all that time ago? This is very much the approach of re-reviewing the 2006 episodes by the way, to pick up on particular aspects rather than review them as if new so this is an interesting place to start.


Inferno review

Season 7@50. Over the past decade or so `Inferno` has gained in reputation amongst fans of the original series to the point where the story is now often cited as the finest Third Doctor adventure usurping the traditional poll topper `The Daemons`. I’m not sure I agree with this consensus to the point where I would pin it in fourth place in an admittedly very strong season. While there is a huge amount to enjoy about it and some great performances there is also a nagging sense of repetition about a lot of the dialogue. And this is before we get to the parallel world. As the third story in a row to be set around a scientific establishment there are similar scenes to its two predecessors in which authority figures clash with experts while the Doctor tries to get his view across. There is also carefully calibrated scientific or engineering work going on again for the third story in a row and, whisper it, this can be a little tedious. However these are often compensated for by the vigour of the production into which a cast hurl themselves with enthusiasm. By the time the story is running in two dimensions it has built up as much steam as the drilling process it is depicting and there is a genuinely thrilling denouement in the parallel world. 


The Blackpool Weekends #2

To provide a true flavour of what the Blackpool gathering was like, there's a short video on YouTube made by Kevin Davies of the 1981 gathering and if you look very, very carefully you’ll see me crossing the road around 3 and a half minutes in with someone wearing a big scarf though that is not really the most exciting moment- unless there was a dinosaur heading for us! You can also see a Sea Devil pootling about. Link to Blackpool 1981 video

It is with a little trepidation also that I present some (slightly edited) reviews I wrote at the time for the fanzine `Shada`. You may not know the names mentioned but these give a further illustration of what the weekends were like, there’s also some photos from various events. If you were there see if you can spot yourself. 


The Blackpool Weekends #1

Doctor Who fan events in the `old time` were not always just about large scale conventions - in the pre-internet, pre-video days people had to get out a bit if they wanted to get to know other fans from different areas and if they needed to see those episodes they had hazy memories of. So there were lots of extra things in between conventions and one of them was the annual gathering at Blackpool, the North's premier seaside town and the location for the Doctor Who Exhibition. Each year, in early May from around about 1977 until 1989, fans would converge on the town for a weekend of relaxed fun and fan networking. And in a town as crazy as Blackpool did anyone even notice the occasional Sea Devil or long scarf? 


The Ambassadors of Death review

Season 7@50 Often viewed as the least successful of this atypical season, the fact that  `The Ambassadors of Death` was ever made at all is remarkable given the behind the scenes politics. That it turns out to be as coherent as it is when it was written by four people is equally surprising. Trevor Ray is a bit of a mystery character but David Whitaker, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks are such different types of script writers, it is tempting to speculate which aspects of the story they each penned. You can possibly best see Hulke’s work in the themes. There is a moral clash, a cultural misunderstanding at the heart of what is happening and we are given both sides of the argument so we can see what drives the antagonist. Whitaker is supposed to have supplied the overall concept and it may be his intricately detailed technical script that dominates the first third. As for Dicks it is likely he introduced more peril- I may be wrong but surely the whole Liz escaping and nearly falling into the water is his? I bet he spiced up the drier aspects of the story with some runarounds. We’ll probably never know but the end result is that the script appears to be the work of one writer. It may lack some pace at times, though some events are unbelievably truncated (how long does it take to prepare a rocket?) but it is never found to be wanting in interest. 


Farewell Sarah Jane review

Sarah Jane Smith, first time round, was my favourite companion. Not only was Doctor Who the greatest tv programme ever, not only did both lead actors come from my home town but Lis Sladen had lived in a road five minutes’ walk from where I lived. My Dad had played piano for some of her dance classes.  Many years later at a convention I found myself sharing a lift with her and even though I am perfectly capable to separating reality from fiction I was half expecting the lift to suddenly halt- there’d be a shower of sparks of course- and the lights would start flickering. As I wasn’t a Time Lord it would be up to her to rescue me with her sonic lipstick. Of course it was just a normal lift. Second time round when she appeared first in Doctor Who and then her own series I was so pleased that this character from my childhood had come back. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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...



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? 


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.


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! 


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


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.


Can You Hear Me? review

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.


The Silurians Episode 2 review

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.


The Silurians Episode 1 review

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.


Praxeus review

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


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...


Spearhead from Space Episode 4 review

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.


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


Spearhead from Space Episode 3 review

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.


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 



Spearhead from Space Episode 2 review

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. 


Spyfall Part 2 review

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


Spearhead from Space Episode 1 review

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. 


Spyfall Part 1 review

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..