Tag Archives: clara oswald

Alien trouble up north – Review of Doctor Who The Crimson Horror

For the first fifteen minutes of Doctor Who The Crimson Horror I thought I was watching the pilot episode for a spin-off series featuring Victorian London detectives Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny, and their Sontaran side kick Strax. And very entertaining it was as well indeed I do hope they make such a spin-off series.

Strax gets all the funniest lines as he constantly suggests grenades and other war hardware as solutions to every problem. Madame Vastra remains an intriguing character, noble, and despite her lizard-like features, quite sexy. Jenny gets much more to do in this episode and I liked the moment when she steps out of her Victorian garb to show her Avengers style leather cat suit underneath. Perhaps this was a cute nod towards guest star Diana Rigg who, of course, was an Avengers girl back in the 1960s.

Review of Doctor Who The Crimson Horror
Movie of the week poster.

The BBC really do period drama well and the costumes, props and locations in The Crimson Horror are of a particularly high standard.

“To find him she needs only ignore all keep out signs, go through every locked door, and run towards any form of danger that presents itself.”

The Vastra Crew are investigating the disappearance of people who go to Sweetville a seemingly idillic town up north away from corrupt London. Eventually Jenny finds The Doctor (Matt Smith) locked in a room doing his best Hell Boy impression with bright red skin and agonised moaning. This leads to an impressive flash back sequence told in a sepia tone like an old news reel. Once cured, the Doctor can also rescue Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) and finally face the spooky harridan Miss Gillyflower.

“Yes, I’m the Doctor, you’re nuts, and I’m gonna stop you.”

Diana Rigg, who is also delighting audiences in the third series of Game of Thrones, stops just short of hamming up her part. Her interactions with her real life daughter, Rachel Stirling are a delight, and Stirling’s character, Ada,  is both sad and brave, especially when she realises her mother’s betrayal and becomes stronger as a result.

The Crimson Horror is a great episode of Doctor Who, funny and entertaining but I thought it was quite light weight. The reveal of the scarlet monster, Mr Sweet, attached and suckling on Rigg’s chest could have been a genuine horror moment but it was too cute. When Strax takes directions from a boy who reveals his name is Thomas Thomas I wanted to phone Stephen Moffat straight away and complain at the awfulness of this joke.

Overall it did feel as this was genuinely a children’s episode. If this was indeed a blue print for a spin of series about the Vastra Crew then I think we can expect a drama along the lines of The Sarah Jane Adventures rather then the more adult oriented Torchwood.

Your turn: Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who The Crimson Horror? Would you like to see a spin-off series featuring Vastra, Jenny and Strax? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think or post a link to your own review.

Ice Warrior loose on a submarine – Review of Doctor Who Cold War

If you want to guarantee a successful drama thriller, set it on a submarine.

Films like “Hunt for Red October”, “Crimson Tide” and “Das Boot” build tension from the claustrophobic, semi-dark red-lit sets, all male crews and the constant threat of water breaching the hull.

Set the drama on a nuclear submarine in a Cold War situation where the captain can launch missiles that could destroy the world and directors can make the tension unbearable.

So in this latest “movie of the week” adventure The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) arrive on a Russian nuclear sub in 1983. Emotions are fraught. And down in the hold encased in a block of ice is a creature, an old enemy of the Doctor, that we have not seen in the programme since “The Monster of Peladon” 39 years ago in 1974. An Ice Warrior from the planet Mars.

 Review of Doctor Who Cold War
Movie of the Week Poster

Since Doctor Who returned to our TV screens in 2005 the producers have updated many of the old classic series monsters. They modernised the Daleks and gave them the ability to fly thus relegating stair cases from being a means of salvation to simply a method of travelling from one floor to another.

The Cyberman upgrade was less successful in my opinion. All that marching around with synchronised heavy metal boot stepping was perhaps too absurd to be frightening.

With the Ice Warrior we have a modern costume which remains almost completely faithful to the original 1960s design. But instead of the slow lumbering tanks of the black and white era, here we see a fast, sleek, suit of armour for a creature hidden within. Initially all we can see is its reptilian mouth beneath the orange visor of its helmet.

 Review of Doctor Who Cold War
The Ice Warrior

But later the Martian escapes from the suit and the crew begin a desperate game of hide and seek in the dingy corridors of the submarine. These scenes are well filmed and directed and the constantly dripping water from overhead adds to the realism.

The Ice Warrior creature strikes quickly from the shadows, from above and below. The drama benefits from the fact that there is only one of the aliens confronting the humans in the confined space of their nuclear sub. It’s a classic base under siege scenario.

Clara once again gets chance to shine when she enters the room where they have chained Ice Warrior up and tries to reason with the monster. The creature’s reference to its own daughter lend the character a depth we tend not to see with more traditional monsters like the Daleks. Clara also teams up with Professor Grisenko played by the excellent David Warner, an older Russian with a liking for 80s bands Ultravox and Duran Duran. This brings a little welcome humour to the tense plot.

Eventually the Ice Warrior re-enters its armour suit and we see for the first time the ugly face of the creature behind the mask. I thought it reminded me of the Predator creatures from the movies.

The ending was a little disappointing given the tense build up. The Doctor once again talks the enemy down and appeals to its compassion. I can forgive this because the Ice Warriors of the classic series were an honourable race and in one story they were even allies of the Doctor. But such endings seem to be common at the moment. A bit dull and a bit predictable.

20130416-103814 PM.jpg
Liam Cunningham

One of the best episodes of series 7, Cold War very successfully reintroduces another Doctor Who icon. It also reinforces the view that any drama set on a submarine just seems to work.

I did keep expecting Liam Cunningham, who played the Russian submarine captain, to either break out into his best Sean Connery impersonation or to start talking about the colour of Lipizzaner Stallions.

Your turn: Do you agree with my review of Doctor Who Cold War? Please share your thoughts and your own reviews. Click on “leave a reply” and post a comment or a link.

 

 

Review of Doctor Who The Rings of Akhaten

This is the most visually stunning episode of Doctor Who I have ever seen. It easily surpasses anything from the cardboard sets and slate quarry landscapes of the original classic series, and is still ahead of anything we have seen since the reboot in 2005.

Stylistically, it reminded me of the first Star Wars, particularly the famous Cantina scene where Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi venture into a bar full of weird and wonderful aliens. I lost count of the number of costumes on display as the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) wander the crowded streets the Akhaten market. Hats off to the BBC costume designers for the superb quality and detail that they put into this spectacular visual feast.

Review of Doctor Who The Rings of Akhaten

But I found the story a strange one. Entertaining certainly, but weird at the same time. Doctor Who rarely examines religious themes. But here we have a narrative questioning the beliefs and motivations of people worshipping, through ritual, a God like being in a golden pyramid. The Doctor refers to the ancient creature as “a mummy” though the locals know it as “grandfather”.

And the little girl, Merry, played with wonderful apprehension by the talented Emilia Jones, is at once part of the ritual and a potential sacrifice to the grandfather god when the ceremony goes wrong. Her dialogue duet scene with Clara, beautifully played by both actresses, is moving and allows Jenna-Louise Coleman to further grow into the role of new companion.

I also found the scene where the two of them hide from the sinister Vigil creatures and their whispering voices, most chilling. A shame then that the story did not make more of these monsters which looked like a cross between the Cenobites from Hellraiser and demons from the video game Doom.

Song plays a strong part in the rituals. Hymn like, melodic but alien they are among Murray Gold’s best work for the series so far and subtlety emphasise the religious references.

It turns out that Grandfather is a decoy. The real god is a parasite the size of a planet, now awake and keen to devour Merry and the inhabitants of Akhaten.

The Doctor offers it his 1000 years of memories in what is one of Matt Smith’s best monologues. Those are real tears in his eyes. But all this experience is not enough for the parasite. It takes Clara to challenge it to devour “what could have been” to cause the demon to gorge itself out of existence.

“There’s quite a difference, isn’t there, between what was and what should have been. There’s an awful lot of one but there’s an infinity of the other.” – The Doctor
Strange, sometimes disturbing, but always entertaining, The Rings of Akhaten is another successful “movie of the week”. And the poster above reflects but cannot do justice to the cinematic visuals on offer here.

Such were the strange themes being examined here, I watched the episode again a few hours later. It was even better the second time.

Your turn: Do you agree with my Review of Doctor Who The Rings of Akhaten? Did you think it was a weird episode? Share your thoughts or your own review. Please leave a comment or post a link to other reviews.