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A Silent Passenger – Review of Doctor Who Listen

It’s one of the scariest Doctor Who stories ever, but in Listen there isn’t actually a monster.

Unless of course you count an unknown something hiding beneath a red blanket on top of a bed.

A Silent Passenger - Review of Doctor Who Listen

Showrunner Steven Moffat succeeds again in tapping into our basic childhood fears. In the past he’s done statues that only move when you’re not looking at them. He’s had aliens we forget about once we can’t see them. Here he investigates the scary unknown monster that lives under the bed of every child in the world.

Who hasn’t had that dream of sitting on the edge of the bed, feet dangling, when a hand shoots out from the inky blackness beneath to grab your foot?

“Proposition – What if no one is ever really alone? What if every single living being has a companion, a silent passenger? A shadow. What if the prickle on the back of your neck is the breath of something close behind you?”

The Doctor goes in search of a monster that’s so good at hiding that we can never know it’s there. And we never do see it. It might not even exist. Could this be the first time in Doctor Who history where the perceived threat is entirely imagined?

And yet it’s terrifying.

When Clara is hiding under the bed with young Danny Pink, and something sits on the mattress above them, our pulses race.

Is this the monster sitting on the bed above them?

All we see is a red blanket covering….something.

Is it another child trying to scare them? Is it a squat little demon? And if the creature is an expert at hiding, the blanket trick is such a poor attempt at hiding that it can’t be the hiding expert can it?

We never find out though and the imagined creature is all the more scary for the lack of reveal.

We discover that the silent passenger that has accompanied the Doctor since childhood is fear itself. And fear is the most frightening monster of all.

Once again Jenna Coleman provides the resolution to the episode. Long time fans might be upset by their return to Gallifrey, her hiding under the “child Doctor’s” bed (grabbing his foot to create the nightmare he remembers so vividly), and gently telling the crying child that everything will be alright.

Of course the words Clara used were those she heard the Doctor say to young Danny earlier – so the source of the words becomes a typical timey whimey paradox.

And Peter Capaldi delivers his best performance yet. Moffat provides some great material for him to work with. He’s nailed the Doctor now and I look forward to many years of his portrayal.

However there are a few plot holes. If the Doctor‘s dream memory was actually created by Clara, why does everyone have the same dream?

“I think everybody at some point in their lives has the exact, same nightmare. You wake up, or you think you do, and there’s someone in the dark, someone close, or you think there might be. So you sit up, turn on the light, and the room looks different at night. It ticks and creaks and breathes. And you tell yourself there’s nobody there, nobody watching, nobody listening. Nobody there at all … and you very nearly believe it. You really, really try. And then … <hands reach out and grab ankles>. There are accounts of that dream throughout human history, time and time again, the same dream.”

But let’s not quibble too much about a thoroughly entertaining, scary and watchable episode of Doctor Who.

Now it’s your turn:

Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who Listen? Are the monsters real and hiding or simply in the Doctor’s imagination? Please leave a comment or share a link to your own review.

Am I a Good Man? Review of Doctor Who Into The Dalek

Peter Capaldi hits his stride in this confident meeting with the Doctor’s arch-enemies the Daleks.

As iconic and as popular as they are, great Dalek stories have been thin on the ground since the BBC reinvented Doctor Who for the digital generation in 2005.

Review of Doctor Who Into The Dalek

Over fifty years what new ideas could they possibly think of to keep the pepper pots interesting?

Steal with glee is the answer.

Miniaturising the Doctor, Clara and his soldier escorts and injecting them “Into The Dalek” through its eye-stalk is a steal from a 1960s film called “Fantastic Voyage” and a more recent 1980s film, “Inner Space”.

Both feature shrunken Doctors attempting to cure their patients from within.

The visuals and direction in the episode also have a distinct “Star Wars” feel. The Dalek saucer pursuing a rebel ship through an asteroid field at the start of the episode relives similar scenes of the Imperial Star Destroyer chasing the Millennium Falcon though rocks in “The Empire Strikes Back”.

The Doctor and party slide down a tube into a pit full of putrescent gunk reminiscent of the garbage compactor in “Star Wars A New Hope”. And blast doors being blasted and space ships docking and enemies bursting through bulkheads to attack echo similar scenes from the Star Wars franchise.

Ironic then that for an episode that borrows so heavily from other science fiction films, Into The Dalek is a fresh new take on the Daleks.

Capaldi commands all of his scenes. He’s more alien than Matt Smith. Shows a disregard for his companions. Dismisses the deaths of those around him with mean one liners. But he’s captivating.

“She’s my carer. She cares so I don’t have to.”

His encounter with the Dalek (from the inside) and his desire to see a “good” Dalek makes for tense scenes. Whilst outside the miniaturised environment the main attacking force of Daleks arrive to a cinematic battle with explosions and exterminations galore.

Of course it isn’t a good Dalek. It’s simply a broken Dalek. And the Doctor repairs it. But what he doesn’t get. And what it takes Clara to make him realise (with a good hard slap), is that a good Dalek is possible. From that realisation onwards Capaldi has a mission.

Once again the pace is different to Matt Smith’s era. Longer scenes. More talking.

I liked Danny Pink’s introduction and the developing love interest for Clara and the fact he is a soldier and that our new Doctor so obviously has a problem with soldiers.

I predict interesting times as this story arc develops.

Another strong episode therefore, cementing Capaldi confidently into the role, and perhaps the best Dalek story for many years.

Will this quality continue as we head into Sherwood Forest next time to meet The Robot of Sherwood?

Now it’s your turn:

Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who Into The Dalek? Please leave a comment or leave a link to your own review. Share this review with your friends. You can use the share buttons just below.

It’s Furious – Review of Doctor Who Deep Breath

A young feisty, energetic, wisecracking Doctor (Matt Smith) replaced by a the older, slower, grumpier and sterner Peter Capaldi.

Will the world-wide audience accept this latest regeneration?

Review of Doctor Who Deep Breath

After almost 10 years of “New Who” aimed squarely at modern young audiences, how would they cope with an older doctor? Remember Peter Capaldi is as old as William Hartnell was on his debut back in 1963.

Obviously concerned about the transition, Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat held our hand throughout the season premiere, Deep Breath. At 75 minutes this feature length opener gave us plenty of time to explore the Doctor’s new persona.

And not only did he need to introduce number 12, Moffat wanted to change the pace and feel of the program. Gone are the short scenes, snappy dialogue, quick-fire humour and express storylines. Replaced by longer exposition, more talking, more characterisation and deeper introspection.

I used my son as a barometer for how people would accept the new doctor. He was very sceptical.

“I don’t want to watch this, ” he said. “I preferred Matt Smith. This guy is too old. He’s Scottish and I don’t understand what he says.”

In fact we almost had to chain our son to the sofa (not behind it.) to make sure he  watched the first episode.

By the end however he was converted. He liked Peter Capaldi. He enjoyed the story. And he thought Peter Capaldi was a great replacement for Matt Smith.

Despite the age gap.

Steven Moffat pulled it off. How did he do it?

Firstly by surrounding the Doctor with familiar characters from previous years, most notably the Paternoster gang;  Madam Vastra, wife and maid Jenny, and Sontaran Strax.

But main companion Clara was the key. She was the viewer. She was us. She was the one who reflected our thoughts.

Uncomfortable with the older Doctor. Pining for the “almost boyfriend”  who regenerated last Christmas. The lines she spoke reflected the thoughts we were thinking.

“I don’t know who the Doctor is any more.”

By the end of the show, aided by a surprise cameo by Matt Smith phoning Clara from the past, she knew that Peter Capaldi was the Doctor. We’re now set up for a cracking series 8. If doubters across the world converted as quickly as my son, then Capaldi will be a successful doctor.

So what was he like?

Definitely older. Definitely more alien. Intolerant of humans. However he’s still funny and eccentric and, well,  Doctory.

“Who invented this room?”

“Don’t look in the mirror. It’s furious.”

“The planet of the pudding brains.”

Here is anger and confusion. But most importantly Peter Capaldi stands out. He’s the focal point for every scene he’s in. He commands the screen. Almost to the extent that he overshadows all the rest of the cast including strong actors like Jenna Coleman and Neve McIntosh.

The scene in the alley-way with the tramp is impressive as the Doctor struggles to find his real identity. Once he’s settled into the role and we move to the plot including the clockwork androids led by the “Half-Face” man the show becomes tense and scary. In the restaurant where they realise the other diners aren’t in fact eating and are in fact robots is particularly frightening and well-directed.

Capaldi plays the Doctor as a cross between Colin Baker and Christopher Eccleston. He is definitely has a harder edge. Dismissive of human beings. Not as compassionate as Tenant or Smith.

Any niggles. Some of the scenes with the Paternoster Gang were superfluous. And why was Clara struggling so much with a new older Doctor when she immediately empathised with the War Doctor in the 50th anniversary show?

That aside Moffat has successfully rebooted Doctor Who yet again.

They showed Deep Breath in cinemas across the world. Ben Wheatley’s direction fits the big screen. From the dinosaur at the start, to the Doctor racing across Victorian London on horseback, to the last did the “Half-Face” man jump or did the Doctor push him conundrum, Doctor Who is back refreshed, more adult, and feeling much more like “Classic Who” rather than “New Who”.

Now it’s your turn:

Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who Deep Breath? What did you think of Capaldi? Please leave a comment or post a link to your blog.

Is a British Airways Charter Flight better than Low Cost Airlines?

Every summer we usually take a week’s break in Europe. Perhaps the north of Mallorca, Portgual’s Algarve or France.

Although buckets of British Airways air miles means we could travel from Edinburgh via Heathrow or Gatwick and connect to a Club Europe flight, we’ve sacrificed the lounge access and slightly wider seats for more convennient direct flights with Jet2 or Easy Jet.

Until this year when I booked our villa in Mallorca’s Pollenca region through James Villas and they offered me a BA CityFlyer Charter.

British Airways Charter Flight
BA CityFlyer Embraer 190

I knew that CityFlyer use the spare capacity during London City Airport’s weekend downtime to offer charters, mainly through Barrhead Travel, and I immediately agreed to those flights and not Jet2.

The BA flights worked out at about £170 each which I thought was great value having paid nearly £1000 for three seats last year on Jet2.

Knowing that my BA silver card provided no advantage on a charter, I asked James Villas if I could pre-book seats.

They said, “No it’s not possible.”

Being a stubborn Edinburgh traveller, a quick Google search revealed a hidden BA CityFlyer Charter website where you can indeed book seats for £6 a pop.

BA CityFlyer Charter Website

I even had the courtesy to write back to James Villas and point out that you can, indeed, pre-book seats? They were kind enough to reply and tell me that I was wrong and it wasn’t possible to pre-book seats.

I enjoyed reading that email whilst clutching my seat confirmation with a wry smile.

British Airways Charter Flight
2×2 Seating with 34in pitch throughout

For the outbound at 7.30am on a Saturday, Edinburgh Airport bulged with people. We approached the usual BA check in desks. I asked the lady managing the queues if we could we check in here? She said that the charter check in was at the other end of the check in hall.

I mentioned we were travelling hand bags only and she very kindly used her work station to print our boarding cards. Great service.

British Airways Charter Flight
Menu Booklet

Without the benefit of lounge access we waited at the gate for BA to call the flight. Once onboard G-LCYS, one of the newest Embraer 190 aircraft in the BA fleet, we sank into our roomy 2×2 leather seats with their ample 34in pitch.

Once comfy, I heard the lady behind me moaning to the Purser that she and her husband and children had been split up at check in. The purser apologised and said that you can’t pre-book seats on BA charter services (strange that the cabin crew don’t know about the website where you can pre-book).

Anyway this lady whined to anyone who would listen about how upset she was. I was going to enlighten her about the website, but the child she was with was so badly behaved throughout the flight, kicking my seat back, that I decided they could carry on moaning.

Took off bang on time and the crew began the inflight buy on board service. You can see the menu in the photos.

British Airways Charter Flight
Menu Booklet

I drank a giant cup of tasty Saile and Sabga Gourmet Cafe Arabica coffee, and ate a hot bacon panini. The coffee could be the best I’ve ever had on an aircraft.

The crew came through the cabin on a second run towards the end of the three hour flight.

On the inbound, with only two BA flights, check in at Palma is civilised and not the multi-queue scrum you find for Jet2 or Thompson.

My only criticism of the operation at Palma is there was no facility for hand luggage only customers. We had to queue with those with luggage – actually we might have been the only passengers travelling without checked bags. Still we only waited about 15 minutes.

British Airways Charter Flight
Menu Booklet

Same aircraft and the same crew and the same service on the way home except I had a beer with my coffee and bacon buttie.

The moaning lady was also on the flight, and although sat with her husband and kids this time, all she did was moan about how they were split up on the flight out. Bet she’s a barrel of laughs in the pub.

Overall it was great flying on a BA CityFlyer Charter. You get the extra leg room and the professionalism of BA Mainline, with the extra quantities of food and drink from buy on board.

I’d do this over Jet2 any day.

Now it’s your turn:

Have you travelled on a British Airways Charter Flight? How do you think it compares to BA Mainline or other low-cost airlines like Jet2, Easy Jet and RyanAir? Please leave a comment or share a link to your own reviews.