Category Archives: Entertainment

Review of Doctor Who The Day of The Doctor

The Day of the Doctor, the BBC’s episode celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who was a huge success across the world.

Review of Doctor Who The Day of The Doctor
Movie Style Poster

They broadcast it simultaneously in 94 countries. Some of those broadcast took place in cinemas around the world. In the UK the box office takings put the epsiode in the top three Cinema showings for the week.  In the United States it took  $4.8 million at the US box office making it second only to The Hunger Games sequel.

And of course in the UK with 12.8 million viewers The Day of the Doctor was the most watched TV programme of the week.

But was it any good?

Let’s face it must have been almost an impossible task for producer Steven Moffat to get it right and keep everybody, fans and non-fans happy. He could’ve littered with in jokes and nods to the past and alienated the casual viewer. Or he risked annoying the fans by going light on past references.  As it turns out his nods the past were very subtly woven into the story, such as sign saying that the Chairman of the School Governors was Ian Chesterton – one of the Doctor’s original companions back in 1963.

The comic timing tension and camaraderie between David Tennant and Matt Smith I thought was marvellous. Tennant was not as over the top as he was towards the end of his tenure as the Doctor.

John Hurt as the previously forgotten incarnation Doctor was simply superb. His character was known as the “War Doctor” and his appearance completed a story arc that we’ve enjoyed since the programme came back in 2005. He was the Doctor who fought in the Time War. Rugged, battle weary, I loved his exasperation at the younger Doctors’ mannerisms .

The interplay between three doctors was very funny. I’m not sure about the Tom Baker cameo as the museum curator. He obviously wasn’t the Doctor himself but it was all obviously nice to see him and I have to admit I cried out at the glimpse of Peter Capaldi.

Moffat provided us with a roller coaster ride, resurrecting 1970s villains the Zygons in their phlegm spitting, shape-shifting magnificence. We saw  tantalising big budget Star Wars style glimpse of the Daleks versus Timelord battles. And he managed to bring Billy Piper back in a completely different role to that of Rose Tyler. In fact Billy Piper’s performance as the conscience of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction was sublime to say the least.

Thoroughly entertaining “The Day of The Doctor” succeeded in celebrating the past whilst setting up another 50 years of Doctor Who.

Review of Doctor Who The Day of the Doctor
Paul McGann, “I’m a Doctor. Though not the one you we’re expecting.

But for me the best thing about the 50th anniversary celebrations wasn’t this 75 minute special.

It was the 8 minute mini-sode that the BBC put on the internet a few days earlier.

When I watched that and heard the voice say, “I’m a Doctor. Though NOT the one you were expecting,” I gasped as Paul McGann appeared on-screen for the first time since 1996. He utterly nailed his performance. And now we know who he came to regenerate into the War Doctor by sipping a potion created by the Sisterhood of Karn. “Will it hurt?” he asked almost knowingly.

For me this was the best 8 minutes of Doctor Who made by the BBC since they resurrected the show in 2005.

Now it’s your turn: Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who The Day of the Doctor? What did you think of it? Was it a success? Did it do justice to the anniversary? Please let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or post a link to your own review.

A Candy-floss Killer – Review of Stephen King Joyland

Do you like a good whodunit?

Stephen King’s latest novel about a serial killer and a traditional fairground is a departure from his usual dark horror territory, but it’s a swift enjoyable and cracking read.

review of stephen king joyland
Book cover

I’ve struggled with some of Stephen King’s recent novels which are over one thousand pages long. Joyland is short by his standards, at just under 300 pages, more like the short novels that appear in his story collections. As such it is an ideal summer read for the garden or on holiday by the pool with an ice cold beer in your hand.

For someone who grew up near Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach with its smells of candy-floss and popcorn; the rickety racket of old wooden roller coasters; the eery sounds of the Ghost Train and the screams of thrill riders, King’s book describes perfectly an imaginary seaside fairground in the USA. Thanks to his excellent prose it’s easy to see the Carolina Spin Big Wheel and the Horror House Dark Ride and the Thunderball coaster as the backdrop to a murder mystery.

Devin Jones is a student running away from a doomed romance who seeks solace for the summer at Joyland Park. He learns to run the rides, banter with the eccentric employees, entertain children by “wearing the fur” – a very hot and sweaty Howie the Happy Hound costume, and masters the “carny” – the secret language of the fairground industry.

Joyland employees tell the story of Linda Gray, a pretty girl whose killer cut her throat on the Horror House – a dark ride like Blackpool’s Ghost Train. Some of them claim to have seen her ghost and Devin becomes intrigued by the story. A little investigation reveals that there are more victims of the same killer. Who is he and most importantly does he work at Joyland? Is he one of its eccentric showmen?

Away from the park, Devin strikes up a friendship with Annie Ross and her terminally ill son Mike who he teaches to fly a kite. Stephen King creates a very convincing relationship for these three and within a few pages he coaxes us to believe in and indeed to love them. Mike might be able to see ghosts. Could he be the key to setting the troubled spirit of a murdered girl free so she can rest in peace at last?

Devin’s life in and out of Joyland come together in a satisfying reveal off the killer’s identity at the end, and an emotional conclusion to his friendship with Mike and his mother. It takes a skilful author to bring tears to my eyes but Kings last pages had me sobbing into a hanky.

Joyland is a joy. Part murder mystery, part romance, part carny history with a little touch of the supernatural to remind you that the master of horror wrote it.

Your turn: Do you agree with my review of Stephen King Joyland? What other books have you read this summer? Please leave a comment or a link to your own views.

Who is John Hurt? Review of Doctor Who The Name of The Doctor

In this cracking season finale we don’t actually learn The Doctor’s name but we do discover a secret he’s been hiding. And we finally understand the mystery behind Clara, the impossible girl.

As a result of the BBC splitting this season into two halves, it seems like ages since Clara’s mystery began back in September 2012 in the opener “Asylum of the Daleks”. She died saving the Doctor in that story. We met her again at Christmas in “The Snowmen” and again she died saving the Timelord’s life. How could the same girl exist in different time periods?

We found out in Stephen Moffat’s excellent “The Name of the Doctor”.

Review of Doctor Who The Name of The Doctor
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The action takes place on Trenzalore, the location of the Doctor’s grave from the future. The moment when the Doctor discovers this is his destination is very emotional and Matt Smith portrays his dismay with genuine tears. This is amazing acting.

Aided by his friends from Victorian England, Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax and his “wife” River Song, the Doctor and Clara face The Great Intelligence on Trenzalore. The only way to save the Doctor is for Clara to jump into the time vortex thus splitting herself into a million versions of herself. And each one goes back to some point in the Doctor’s past lives to save him over and over.

This scenario allowed for a clever series of flash backs involving all 11 of the actors who have played the Doctor in the last 50 years. It was a fan’s dream come true but might have been a little confusing for those less up to speed with Who lore.

I presume this now means that Clara can continue as a regular companion. I hope so because Jenna-Louise Coleman has really livened up this series with her fresh performance.

And having caught a glimpse of all eleven Doctors, in the closing minutes of the show, we see a twelfth. And just to underline what is going on a caption comes up on the screen, “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor.”

This is the stunning reveal, the cliffhanger that leads us into the 50th anniversary show to be broadcast in November. Is John Hurt playing a future version of the Doctor or a past, so far unheard of, incarnation? If it is the latter then that means Matt Smith is really the twelfth Doctor, not the eleventh, and that truly is the game changer Stephen Moffat promised us.

The Name of The Doctor was an excellent season finale. Well acted with great visuals and that homage to the series’s fifty year heritage was lovely. It’s going to be a very long wait until November.

Your Turn: Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor? What are your theories about John Hurt’s Doctor? Please leave a comment or share a link to your own review.

 

Are the Cybermen scary again? Review of Doctor Who Nightmare in Silver

Back in the 1960s the Cybermen were quite scary (I’ve seen  the DVDs – I’m not that old!). They met Patrick Troughton’s Doctor Who many times, towered over their victims and spoke in an unsettling electronic monotone.

When the BBC brought the Cybermen back in the 1980s they were less formidable, less scary and almost became figures of fun. They were susceptible to gold and at a real low point in their history, the Doctor’s companion, Ace, dispatched them with a pocket full of gold coins and a catapult.

Even the Cybermen in the rebooted post 2005 Doctor Who have suffered from poor stories and have been too easy to defeat.

Show runner Stephen Moffat promised us that Neil Gaiman’s script Nightmare in Silver would make the Cybermen scary again.

Review of Doctor Who Nightmare in Silver
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So did it succeed in its mission?

The new Cyberman design actually looks very like the 1960s creepier versions so I approve of that. And that they can detach their hands and their heads to attack their enemies is innovative but hardly the stuff that nightmares are made of. I liked their new ability to speed up and their time flow to dash in and kidnap the children, but then found it confusing later when they did not use this technique to attack the castle. Cybermites – tiny little robotic bugs, are an excellent evolution of the Cybermats. The Cybermen’s other new ability to “upgrade” to counteract new threats reminded me of The Borg in Star Trek The Next Generation.

So I think Neil Gaiman has made the Cybermen interesting again but I wouldn’t go as far as scary.

The cast is very strong with Matt Smith showing absolute relish playing an evil “cyber-planner” version of himself. His interactions with himself were very well-played. Jenna-Louise Coleman continues to shine as Clara proving that she is one of the strongest companions the Doctor has had since the show returned in 2005.

I didn’t particularly like the soldiers who just came across as buffoons and ultimately served no purpose other than as Cyberman cannon fodder.

Warwick Davis, I felt, excelled as Porridge, the little chap who the Galactic Emperor. But as has happened to much this season the ending was too easy. Porridge arranges for everyone to be teleported off the planet so that they can use a huge bomb to destroy the Cybermen. Another Deus Ex Machina which left me feeling a little disappointed at the end of what was undoubtedly a very entertaining episode.

Your turn: Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who Nightmare in Silver? Did Neil Gaiman succeed in making the Cybermen scary again? Please leave a comment or post a link to your own review.