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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.

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.

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
Movie of the week poster

 

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.

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.