Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Set DVD available for pre-order

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Set is available for pre-order in both Blu-ray and DVD format. Both are very limited and expected to sell out in no time so get those pre-orders in. This is the set we have been waiting for including the Five(is)Doctors and all the specials. Just in time for the new eighth series, too!

(Click here for my review of the 50th anniversary special)

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Via

Worldwide delivery now available

Available to order now from www.BBCShop.com

Delivery within the UK is FREE
Europe £4.50
Rest of world Including the USA and Australia £7.50

Prices apply to on-line orders for one item.

Also available to order from www.base.com, www.amazon.co.uk, www.zavvi.com orwww.thehut.com

For the ultimate Doctor Who fan, BBC Worldwide UK are proud to present a special collection of highlights from the groundbreaking 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, including – for the first time – An Adventure in Space and Time on Blu Ray.
50th-dvdThe limited edition collector’s set (6,000 Blu Ray, 4,000 DVD) includes the 50th anniversary special; The Day of the Doctor, Matt Smith’s Farewell; The Time of the Doctor, the Series 7 finale; The Name of the Doctor, and the Eighth Doctor’s (Paul McGann) surprise regeneration into John Hurt’s War Doctor; The Night of the Doctor.

The collection also includes an exclusive cut of the read-through of The Day of the Doctor featuring Matt Smith and David Tennant, deleted scenes, new-to-DVD cinema trails and Mark Gatiss’ award winning drama about the genesis of Doctor Who; An Adventure in Space and Time. The hilarious Five-ish Doctors – starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and a host of special guests – will also be included on a DVD and Blu Ray box for the first time.
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Plus, we finally get a new disc with Paul McGann on the cover.

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The Time of the Doctor (belated review)

DrtWho_The_Time_of_the_Doctor_promoAn army of cold-blooded killer aliens who can’t manage to kill anyone meet a race of useless extras with the uncanny ability to survive hundreds of years of war while the Doctor cooks a turkey. 

–Spoilers and hand-wringing frustration to follow–

The Doctor Who holiday special has been a tradition since the program returned in 2005. Each year the Doctor engages in a whimsical adventure with some connection to Christmastime. This year’s special is the final installment of a three-part epic begun in The Name of the Doctor, a story in which the Doctor’s name was the key to opening his tomb on the planet Tranzelore, allowing the Great Intelligence access to the time line of the most important person who has ever lived, The Doctor. What followed was a montage of clips spanning the Doctor’s past. The Great Intelligence infiltrated the Doctor’s time line and killed him eleven times over. Clara Oswin, the ‘Impossible Girl,’ then launched herself into the selfsame tear in the time-space continuum left by the Doctor’s death and undid the deeds of the Great Intelligence, uncovering a previously hidden life that the Doctor had denied.

The second part explored this hidden ninth life and the Great Time War often noted throughout the 2005-2013 series. It broke one of the cardinal rules by which Time Lord civilization operated and the Doctor saved his home world of Gallifrey rather than watch it burn in a war against the Daleks. However, the Doctor still knew he must face his death on the fields of Tranzelore, despite his previous tenth incarnation flippantly declaring that he didn’t want to go there. The third and final part of this tour through plot holes and contrivances ends here on Christmas Day.

Steven Moffat is himself a fan who has steered the program through possibly its most popular era and for a new generation of followers. The writing has been so flimsy that it fails to stand up to even the most cursory of glances, to which the head writer has retaliated with phrases such as ‘the Doctor lies,’ or that it is not linear but instead ‘time wimey,’ illustrated in sequences when effects precede causes (most famously seen in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure many many years ago). He promised that this final adventure of the 11th Doctor would explain away all of the dangling plot threads such as the rip in time, the Silence, etc, and how the Doctor could survive past his allotted 13 lives.

The Time of the Doctor is a real puzzler in that it has some decent ideas such as the Doctor living hundreds of years defending a planet from his greatest enemies, but it makes no real sense and Moffat already used the exact same device when all of the Doctor’s foes hovered over the Earth but dared not strike in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang. Additionally, the entire planet is represented by a small group of extras milling around (just as Gallifrey was seen in The Day of the Doctor). The Doctor, along with a host of other alien spaceships, hovers over an unknown world. He attempts to contact the other ships using the head of a Cyberman (from where, I have no idea) to guide him (it is also unclear how that works). But- OH NO!- he also has to help out Clara who is trying to cook Christmas dinner for her folks… and she told them the Doctor a boyfriend! OH NO!

There’s an absurd sit-com element to the new Doctor Who that stops it cold over and over. Sometimes it can incorporated into the story, but more often than not, it’s a detriment to the story, as seen here. Even the sequences involving hornier-than-thou Mother Superior and the ‘naked in church’ routines were unnecessary.

The real meat of the story comes almost halfway through and only ‘ties up’ loose continuities such as the crack in time and the Silence with the use of several plot contrivances. When the Doctor realizes that the rip in time is actually caused by the Time Lords hidden in another reality, he sends Clara away and stays behind to fend off the invading forces. He Doctor becomes a ‘Father Christmas’-type who occasionally saves the people (who look like they walked off the set of any off-off-Broadway musical) from goofy alien attacks. Clara spends hundreds of years clinging to the TARDIS in deep space while the Doctor gets old… then the two of them are reunited and she somehow pleads with the Time Lords to help the Doctor if they ‘love him’ as they must… so they send magic energy to the Doctor that he uses to destroy spaceships and regenerate.

Not only can Moffat not build up a credible threat in Doctor Who (an armada of every alien race ever in the series who can’t fire a single shot) but he also fails to resolve it (magic fire balls?). This kind of nonsense has been running through the new series for years, and I hardly expected Time of the Doctor to deliver the goods, but what worries me is that Moffat could think that he has accomplished anything other than pulling another long string of tricks out of his tired and limited top hat.

I will say that, once again, Matt Smith was excellent as the Doctor and delivered a magnificent exit speech. I understand that his contract was for another year and am curious why he cut it short, but his time as the Doctor will be fondly remembered, even by this crusty and grumpy reviewer.

Coming soon… The Time of the Doctor

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The final outing of current Doctor Matt Smith (with the inclusion of John Hurts’s incarnation, I will not attempt to number him), Time of the Doctor will see the Time Lord face his ultimate challenge on Trenzalore. Cybermen, the Silence, Daleks, and Weeping Angels have been confirmed to appear as enemies and the story will close with the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor.

Moffat has stated that The Time of the Doctor will wrap up several plot threads that have been left dangling over the past few years… which I will believe when I see. It will be interesting for the program to resolve the Doctor’s ‘final battle’ which he has already seen the outcome of in Name of the Doctor, especially considering that David Tennant’s Doctor simply said he didn’t want to go there. With the shattering of the time lines around the Time War on Gallifrey, anything seems to be possible.

Moffat has reportedly hinted that Smith’s incarnation is actually the 13th and final life that the Doctor can have under the current constraints of the program. If so, Capaldi’s 13th Doctor introduced in Day of the Doctor would grant the Time Lord a new lease on life. This has been the source of controversy online among fans who are trying to figure out what counts as a rule in a program like Doctor Who. If Smith is the final incarnation of the Doctor’s life span, this story will be rewriting the book on what the Doctor can and cannot do (again). That would also make The Time of the Doctor the third ‘groundbreaking’ story in a row from Moffat.

Remember when he wrote stories rather than spectacles?

Teaser trailer below…

(There is currently not much information on this special so I am mainly putting this up because I saw people were coming to my blog looking for information on this upcoming episode)

Doctor Who -Day of the Doctor

Day of the Doctor

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A story that has been waiting to be told since Doctor Who returned to TV screens in 2005 is the story of the Time War. It was slowly revealed that Gallifrey, the home to the Time Lords who had exiled the Doctor those many years back were no more, having perished in a massive battle with the Daleks. The ripples of the Time War could be seen in the first four series of the new program, with lots of hints but no real closure. After taking over as show-runner, Steven Moffat scoffed at the notion of exploring the Time War as unnecessary and seemed annoyed that anyone would want to see that story expanded upon.

Fast-forward to the 50th anniversary and the Time War became the perfect material for the celebratory adventure, and it would also explain why the Doctor was so different, why he was so childish and what he sacrificed during his darkest hour. It also gave fandom a new Doctor, bumping up the existing incarnations and making Smith the 12th, not the 11th Doctor (much to the surprise of many).

But was it any good?

Even though it is the longest lasting program of its kind on television, to date there have been very few anniversary stories for Doctor Who. There was the 10th anniversary Three Doctors, the 20th anniversary The Five Doctors and the 25th anniversary Silver Nemesis (yes, there was a 30th special, but it was so bad most fans ignore it). These stories have been celebrations of the longevity of the program but in the case of the Three and Five Doctors, they have also been jolly good times for the actors to team up and share the screen. The stories brought back old monsters and new ones, but were thin on plot on places. They are stories to watch with a glass of sherry. In the case of Silver Nemesis… it’s anyone’s guess what that was all about (though Ace does wear a fez and the mystery of the Doctor’s name comes up a lot).

In this case, the celebration is mainly one of the BBC Wales iteration of the program, reaching back to 2005. Since Chris Eccleston was not returning, this meant that the only real camaraderie for previous Doctors would be enjoyed by David Tennant and Matt Smith. Seeing as how these two actors are arguably the most popular Doctors among current fans there is no real loss here. Yes, I had dreams of seeing Baker-McGann on screen (somehow) all teaming up but that was unreasonable of me (though we actually did get this).

Opening with the 1963 version of the credits is a nice touch, the slow pan by Coal Hill School is even nicer and then the story takes a deviation into something about paintings, Zygons and Queen Elizabeth. Never mind, see what I wrote about the other specials? The running around and monster fighting is just an excuse to get multiple incarnations together. Smith and Tennant are magnificent on screen and really spark off each other very well. As many readers of this blog may recall, I am not a fan of Tennant, so the fact that I was not urged to kick in the screen when he came on is a plus.

The other angle of this story is the War Doctor, a character who was introduced in last series’ Name of the Doctor to the confusion of many. Played by John Hurt, this incarnation was said by some to not count in the program and perhaps he was the Valeyard or something. He raised more questions than anything else. Battle weary and ragged, this incarnation was shown to be born out of necessity on Karn when the Eighth Doctor realized he could not fight a war. It was the War Doctor who destroyed Gallifrey, an act that plagued the Doctor through his next three incarnations and affected his character and demeanor. This act, in short, made the modern version of the Doctor.

It was absolutely hilarious to see Hurt’s Doctor interacting with his other selves, at first mistaking them for companions. His banter made my curmudgeony heart warm as he barked at the two young Doctors, asking why they acted like children and why they kept pointing their sonic screwdrivers at people like squirt guns. The triple dose of the Doctor was nothing short of magical. Which is great because the story was rather thin.

I know that Moffat had no interest in showing the Time War and if I knew he was going to present it as a low budget version of Starship Troopers I would have agreed. Watching twenty extras chase their kids around a very small warzone while Daleks failed to shoot anyone was not what I was expecting when I imagined the Time War. In any case, the angry and desperate War Doctor made these sequences sing for me. Crashing the TARDIS through a squad of Daleks was brilliant.

I have no love for Billie Piper. Rose overstayed her welcome and seeing her back for this story did not fill me with happiness. The revelation that she was not playing Rose but instead the interactive AI of the incredibly complicated super weapon called The Moment made things easier… but she is still rubbish. Ah well. She wasn’t in it much.

In sharp contrast Jenna Coleman shined as Clara. Her chemistry with Smith gets better all the time and I will be sad to see that go. Using her character as not only as a clever and resourceful companion but also a sympathetic reminder of the Doctor’s ingenuity was a very inspired decision and made up for her lack of activity in this story.

The conclusion, in which the Doctor rewrote his own history, saved Gallifrey and gave him a new path in life that doesn’t have to lead to his tomb on Tranzalore was a very very impressive trick made all the better with the inclusion of the 13th (yes, 13th) Doctor, Peter Capaldi … or just his eyes anyway. A massive explosive resolution in which every incarnation wrenched the time stream into a new order was a very fine treat… one that has been a long time coming from Moffat who has been slipping in the past few years.

I have been watching Doctor Who for a very very long time. How long? It was on something called a UHF channel and recorded on these things called video cassettes. If I wanted to know about a story not shown by my local PBS station I bought a novelization and read it. None of this streaming TV nonsense. It was hard work being a Whovian. Even our toys were rubbish with Daleks that couldn’t move and a Davro with two arms. Even when it is good, I have to admit that I begrudgingly watch the new series. It’s just not the same (and I know it shouldn’t be the same). That said, this was a sterling way to honor the legacy of Doctor Who and pave the way forward for a new direction (right, Moffat???).

Day of the Doctor was by no means perfect (much of it was just a silly run around and the Zygons were very un-Zygon-like for my taste) but neither was the Three Doctors or the Five Doctors. But it was a fun adventure that I am sure made fans old and new happy.

Seeing Tom Baker make that surprise appearance at the end was the icing for me. For all of my love for the past Doctors, he is the ambassador of Doctor Who for me as he was the first one I saw. His scene, albeit a brief one, was poignant and lovely. I had very low expectations, but this pleasantly surprised me.

Great work.

I was lucky enough to find a cinema playing the Day of the Doctor (for free!) and afterwards I interviewed some of my fellow attendees to see what they thought and got some interesting reactions…

Please excuse my goofy laugh.

Doctor Who – Day of the Doctor full trailer

DoctorWho_DayofTheDoctorAfter much anticipation, the trailer for the 50th anniversary Doctor Who adventure due for transmission on November 23rd has arrived. Citing all 11 incarnations of the Doctor and stating that the time travelling hero has been running his entire life from one day when he will face the consequences of the life he has led, the ‘Day of the Doctor.’

GROUCH ALERT for the Editorial below

Once more the premise of the series is reduced to one of destiny, something that the program has never been about. The classic series Doctor fought injustice where he fond it, sure, but he was hardly a ‘lonely God’ or cosmic being who answered every call for help and was the one thing the monsters feared. By placing the tone of the program on such a grand scale Moffat has avoided something he has little interest in, actually writing the Doctor in an interesting story (see Terror of the Zygons or Kinda, two stories that excel yet have nothing to do with the Doctor being the ultimate cosmic force of judgement).

Additionally, the previous incarnations are reduced to broad strokes (the Second Doctor is a playful tramp with a recorder, the Fourth is swallowed up by his scarf, the Fifth is throwing a cricket ball, etc). While the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh are cardboard standees straight from a shopping mall. If you look at previous celebratory adventures (Three Doctors, Five Doctors and even Silver Nemesis), the character of the Doctor was built up from his actions and demeanor rather than the author reminding us that he IS such an important figure in all things.

And the sonic screwdriver is now inches away from being the Doctor’s lightsaber.

Ugh.

I am operating under the assumption that this trailer is the total extent to which the previous Doctors will appear in the special. As they have not been involved (though I recall hearing that McGann recorded something), this flipbook of Doctors past may be all we see of the classic series (and Eccleston). If so that is just sad and let me also point out that Doctor’s 5-8 got hosed here, They are all bit invisible in the trailer and the Sixth Doctor looks like a walking fairground!

I want to be excited about the Day of the Doctor but unless there is a massive secret I am unaware of, it will not feature the previous Doctor Who actors (aside from David Tennant) and it also comes with some convoluted baggage in the shape of John Hurt, a Doctor who should not exist. I am still disgruntled that a story that should be all about the program’s past cannot incorporate that into the story (aside from some very dubious CGi work in this trailer) and will instead focus on the return of David Tennant. I’m sure that will boost  the already high ratings for the screening and admittedly Moffat wrote exceptionally well for the Tenth Doctor, but I’m still disappointed.

Moffat may pull some tricks out of his sleeves and make this what it should be, a celebration of the longest running sci-fi program in TV history.

But experience has taught me to lower my expectations.

Thoughts?

Opinions?

The return of the Eighth Doctor Who?

Back in 1989, Doctor Who died an awkward silent death on TV. A new series was planned with returning monsters and a new companion, but the program just dispeared. In 1996, a TV Movie closed the era of the Seventh Doctor Who played by Sylvester McCoy and introduced an Eighth Doctor who would echo some of the program’s past while paving the way for a big bright future. Unfortunately, that did not happen as the project was less successful than was hoped for.

DrWho_McGann_BW

The elusive and obscure Eighth Doctor Who, Paul McGann in the 1996 TV Movie

Since then, there have been comic strips, original novels and Paul McGann has played the Doctor in over 60 audio adventures released by Big Finish, earning him the rank of one of the most popular of the ‘classic’ Doctors. When the program returned in 2005 it was still a bit unclear if it was connected to the previous 1963-1989, 1996 one. As the years progressed the connection between the two was cemented several times over. Yet… the Eighth Doctor remains the only incarnation to not have a regeneration story.

That’s right, due to the fact that the Ninth Doctor’s beginnings are off-screen previous to 2005’s Rose, fans have never gotten a final adventure for the Eighth Doctor. Now, there are some rumblings that situation may change.

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The Eighth Doctor Who as he appears ‘now,’ with new sonic screwdriver and costume

Via BleedingCool

I’ve got it on very good authority that eighth Doctor Paul McGann has filmed something for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary, but haven’t been able to verify exactly what.

Indeed, there are two particularly exciting possibilities, and it could actually be both. Or neither.

So, for one thing, I’ve heard repeated, low-level talk that all of the Doctors* will make some kind of appearance in the main 50th episode. I’m not taking it for granted, but if it did happen, this may have required some new filming from McGann.

Or maybe it didn’t, because… well, I was first told months and months and months ago of one way that old Doctors would appear in the episode that wouldn’t require any new filming on their part or the use of any old footage. More on that later at a later time, I think…

Concerning another McGann prospect – and this is the more interesting possibility, I think – I did, some time ago, get a tip-off that the actor will appear in a minisode prologue to the 50th special, and that this little film would feature his regeneration into John Hurt’s form. The idea, I heard, was for this to drop sometime in early November, either on TV, in cinemas or on the BBC website. Or all of the above.

At the time, I was sceptical, but more information has come to light recently which firms up McGann’s involvement in… something. And that something could very well be the minisode.

I’ll keep digging.

Alongside Colin Baker, Paul McGann is one of the Doctors most deserving more attention and respect. Sadly, since the TV Movie he has had no communication from the BBC, Russell T Davies or Steven Moffat. It would be so rewarding to see McGann finally get some recognition.

Retrospective on the 1996 TV Movie

It would also be interesting to see the connection between the Eighth and Unknown Doctor played by John Hurt.

Daleks and more return for Doctor Who’s 50th

The 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who is coming in November and fans could bot be more excited. Of course details are scarce, but we do know that three Doctors will be starring (David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt) and that the Zygons will be featured in their first appearance on screen since 1976!

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Via BBC:

We’ve released the first official photos of the Daleks back in action and we only have to wait until November for their return!

That’s because the BBC has announced that the Doctor’s most famous foes, the Daleks, will return to Doctor Who in the show’s fiftieth anniversary special. We’ll bring you more news about the adventure as it emerges, but for now, here’s the latest press release in full:

MATT SMITH, DAVID TENNANT AND JOHN HURT TO FACE OFF AGAINST DALEKS IN 50th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL

The Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt will battle the deadly Daleks, the BBC announces today, in the show’s 50th anniversary special.

Returning to BBC One on 23 November the highly anticipated adventure will star: Matt Smith; Jenna Coleman; David Tennant; Billie Piper; John Hurt and Joanna Page. In a surprise twist in the recent series finale it was revealed John Hurt would be playing a Doctor, alongside Smith and Tennant.

The Daleks are the second monster to be announced for the 50th and will join the shape shifting Zygons, which have only appeared in the show once before in 1975. The Daleks were one of the first monsters to terrify audiences in 1963, 50 years ago, cementing their place in British popular culture.

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, said:

“The Doctor once said that you can judge a man by the quality of his enemies, so it’s fitting that for this very special episode, he should be facing the greatest enemies of all.”

The 50th anniversary episode was shot earlier this year at BBC Cymru Wales’ Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff and across South Wales. Filming also took place in iconic London locations the Tower of London and Trafalgar Square for a huge stunt, which saw Matt Smith dangling from a TARDIS alongside Nelson’s Column.

However, the big news is that another monster has been announced, referred to specifically as ‘The Time War Daleks.’ It’s great that the Daleks will be involved at all, but the notation of the Time War is sure to get many a devoted Whovian all a-quiver. The Time War was a storytelling device used in the revived 2005 series that added a layer of tragedy and grief to the Ninth Doctor as played by Christopher Eccleston. Details slowly trickled out, but over the years it became evident that it involved the Daleks and the Time Lords of Gallifrey and that the fall out of the conflict was felt on numerous species that the Doctor later encountered, fracturing cultures, destroying planets, and in short resetting the universe the Doctor Who was set in.

Since it was first mentioned, fans have wanted to see events from the Time War on screen, but head writer Steven Moffat has discounted such desires as unnecessary.

2008 Round Table with Steven Moffat (check at the 8:04 mark)

Well…. maybe he has changed his mind on that subject and is delving into the most iconic and mysterious moment of the modern revived Doctor Who series. The introduction of the ‘nameless’ Doctor played by John Hurt hints at this and the announcement that the Daleks are from the Time War could very well cement the fact that this story will finally be resolved.

Could the ‘John Hurt Doctor’ be a war criminal responsible for atrocities of the Time War? Will that be addressed?

How will these Daleks be different from the ones we have seen more recently? Despite my issues with it, I did thoroughly enjoy the insidious and cunning Daleks of Doomsday. It would be nice to see that kind of Dalek return.

In any case, we have lots to look forward to in November.

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Teaser

Doctor Who – The Cold War

The Cold War

dr_who_7_09_lowStory 7.08
Written by Mark Gatiss
Transmitted 13 April 2013

Intending to show Clara Las Vegas (apparently), the Doctor instead lands the TARDIS aboard a Russian submarine just as it is about to sink to the bottom of the ocean. Aboard is a strange find, a creature preserved in ice which Professor Grisenko is intent on investigating. However, the nuclear submarine is also in the midst of standard war-time drills. Adding to the tension, the creature in the ice breaks loose from a 5,000 year nap and is revealed to be an Ice Warrior from the planet Mars. Stuck aboard the craft as the crew struggles to retain control of their vessel, the Doctor must diffuse a hostile situation on several fronts.

Set in 1983, when the United States and Soviet Union were on the edge of mutual nuclear annihilation, The Cold War is . A lifelong Whovian, Mark Gatiss includes a healthy dose nostalgia into his scripts from his childhood as well as Doctor Who’s history. As such, The Cold War hearkens back to the Patrick Troughton era with a claustrophobic base-under-siege setting as well as a classic monster. The Ice Warriors are obscure today, but back in 1968, they were hot stuff. Massive, deadly and imposing, the Ice Warriors make a welcome return in this story which provides a much-needed lift in the season after the previous two duds. The added color of David Warner who hilariously is obsessed with 80’s era Britpop, makes this the most enjoyable story in a long time.

I am a big fan of his, but even I must admit that Gatiss has a spotty record of success with new Who. The Unquiet Dead was great fun, while Idiot’s Lantern, Victory of the Daleks and Night Terrors were letdowns for numerous reasons, mostly due to missed opportunities and ham-fisted tugs at the heart strings. The faceless victims of the Wire were superb, but the face off between father and son too forced, likewise the Daleks were defeated by an android remembering falling in love… and Night Terrors should have been a knock out horror-fest but in the end was an awkward tale about adoption. I’m not sure how or why the other scripts fell through, but I’m glad that in this case he found his footing at last. But I have yet to watch his second Series 7 episode, the Crimson Horror, so hold that thought.

The Cold War has superb lighting, impressive direction and the unique use of models for the first time in ages (making the submarine sequences much more impressive). When I have written about the Ice Warriors in the past I have pointed out that their return would be interesting given that they have been presented in various ways; as straight forward monsters, as cunning soldiers and as noble warriors. This story ingeniously combines all of these approaches, giving Whovians the most fleshed out version of the creatures to date.

Matt Smith is a real gem, isn’t he? Despite the material he is given, he seems to fire on all cylinders each week. Displaying gravity, humor and empathy in 45 minutes can easily make the Doctor appear manic (just look at David Tennant), but Smith pulls this off with ease. It may be that he is a genuine eccentric who is just as easily warm and entertaining as he is strange and other-worldly. It is nice to see new Doctors pitted against old menaces as it places the production crew in the position to pay homage to the past while building toward something new. Smith seems to be channeling the late great Patrick Troughton in appearing to be both wise beyond time and very human in his eccentricities and sympathy.

The Cold War is a nail-biter, a story that is steeped in drama and atmosphere, with just the right amount of surprises and comedic flair to make things interesting. I will admit that I was disappointed to see the Ice Warrior climb out of its armor, but applaud the director for only hinting at what it could look like rather than giving a full on CGi mess (though the floppy head reveal at the end killed the mood).

Clara continues to run on impish charm and cuteness but she is also very brave and determined to stare danger in the face with a similar attitude to the Doctor’s. As thsi review is very late in the season, it has been said that Clara is the ‘perfect’ companion, one that compliments the Doctor in many ways. This is a good approach, but hinges on the revelation of just who she is. She seems to take almost anything the Doctor shows her in stride without much fuss. So… why?

The Cold War gave Doctor Who an opportunity to do something it has not done in quite some time, tell a compelling story with an interesting monster, a great supporting cast and some damned sharp writing. The moment when David Warner starts to connect with Clara and pleads with her for information about the future is superb, made all the better when he asks if Ultravox stayed together.

With the insistence of modern Doctor Who to tell interconnected stories with breadcrumbs leading from week to week last year, it was as wise decision to move in another direction. Sadly, most of this season has relied on the mystery of Clara rather than telling an interesting adventure. This week broke that pattern and for the first time in ages I was reminded that this really is Doctor Who, a program that I enjoy watching.

Cold War had an Appreciation Index, or AI score, of 84.

The Appreciation Index or AI is a measure of how much the audience enjoyed the programme. The score, out of a hundred, is compiled by a specially selected panel of around 5,000 people who go online and rate and comment on programmes.

The score is identical to last week’s Doctor Who and scored higher than most of Saturday’s output. The highest scoring programmes of the day were Casulty with 88, Walking Through History with 85 and Dad’s Army with 89.. (via Doctor Who News)

Overnight ratings from Doctor WhoTV:

Cold War – 5.7 million (overnight) 7.37 million (final figure)
The Rings of Akhaten – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.45 million (final figure)
The Bells of Saint John – 6.18 million (overnight) 8.44 million (final figure)
The Snowmen – 7.6 million (overnight) 9.87 million (final figure)
The Angels Take Manhattan – 5.9 million (overnight) 7.82 million (final figure)
The Power of Three – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.67 million (final figure)
A Town Called Mercy – 6.6 million (overnight) 8.42 million (final figure)
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.57 million (final figure)
Asylum of the Daleks – 6.4 million (overnight) 8.3 million (final figure)

Next time: Hide

Doctor Who and The Rings of Akhaten

The Rings of Akhaten

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Image by Francesco Francavilla

“We never run.”

Story 7.07
Written byNeil Cross
Transmitted 6 April 2013

The Doctor is increasingly curious about Clara Oswin and creepily travels through her timeline watching how her parents met and raised young Clara into the precocious gal she is today. Not only was the opening sequence incredibly self indulgent (honestly, does anyone think that the story of their parents meeting is written in the stars??) but it was also so poorly told. Clara’s father-to-be stumbles through the streets of a British suburb while the Doctor peers over the top of an issue of Beano (apparently listening to the Specials on an iPod) while said father is assailed by a massive leaf and is almost hit by a car if not for the timely intervention of Clara’s mother-to-be. A man who is nearly killed by a seemingly deadly leaf deserves to die in my book.

(Special noteyes, I am behind on my reviews. This was not on purpose. As I no longer have cable, I have to rely on other methods to find the episodes and the BBC has apparently been cracking down on this. I appreciate the patience of readers who may have been waiting on my two cents’ worth)

The Doctor takes Clara to some cosmic event that is totally awesome at first and becomes very very dire in no time flat. The initial reveal of the TARDIS on an asteroid is impressive, if not for the fact that the Doctor is still a chap who likes to impress ladies with his neat tricks. Honestly, where has the gentleman traveler of space and time gone? Despite his lack of romantic interest, it seems like he’s just trying to wow her enough to get lucky.

Getting closer to the event, we are assailed with goofy aliens milling about on a set. It looked bad the last few times they did it, it looks worse now. Clara soon becomes wrapped up in some local intrigue over a missing girl Merry, gives her some pat advice involving her dead mother even though it is apparent that this girl is in some serious trouble and sets her on her way. It soon transpires that Merry is the latest in a long line of singers to lull a god called ‘Grandfather’ into perpetual sleep. But something goes horribly wrong and the Doctor tries to save the situation. But in the end it is the simple leaf kept in Clara’s book that saves the entire population, with its promises of what could have been.

Some time ago, Charlotte Church had a variety show and performed a brilliantly spot-on lampoon of Doctor Who. In it, even the Doctor was confused that they were just sitting on a bench watching Charlotte cry rather than fighting Daleks but she insisted that it was important. Likewise, we get Clara’s book of 100 places and her leaf connecting back to her parents which is somehow on the same level of a galactic mummy guarding a planet-sized monster kept complacent by lullabies. It just doesn’t work and is very lazy.

The Doctor’s use of the sonic screwdriver is downright comical as it somehow holds a ‘very heavy’ door up in the air, but relies on his ability to hold it up with his own strength. If it’s a sonic resonance, I can understand that.  The entire culture of Akhaten revolves around resonances (albeit through painful singing) but it should not also involve effort. Also, how can the sonic screwdriver stop the Vigil who I admit look very cool but are in the end useless? It’s almost as silly as the Doctor offering up ‘all his stories’ to the giant sun monster-thing which looks like it is killing him and pulling that magic fairy dust from his body but…. what? Did they take a break?

Why is the Doctor not dead? Is he only kinda dead? Did the monster give the energy/stories back when Clara walked on with her magic leaf? It makes no sense.

The concept of this story is so backwards and weird that it reminds me of Fear Her by Matthew Graham, the brilliant creator of Life on Mars. Fear Her was written (quickly) from the point of view of a child, something that Graham thought was relevant since Who is a children’s program. In this case, Neil Cross, the likewise celebrated screenwriter of Luther has some very wring ideas of how Doctor Who works. The set piece is contrived, the logic juvenile and the resolution ham-fisted. Adding a child guest star to singing and throwing in over the top acting is the surefire way to produce one of the worst stories since the program returned in 2005.

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… aren’t you glad I got to see this one?

I am almost halfway through Cold War and it is much better, by the way.

The Rings of Akhaten had an overnight audience of 5.5 million viewers, a share of 28.8% of the total TV audience.

Doctor Who was once more third for the day, although the gap between the series and the programmes at the top of the chart was slightly larger, perhaps reflecting the lighter evenings.

Top of the list was Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway with 7.3 million watching, while The Voice was second with 6.4 million viewers. (via Doctor Who News)

Overnight ratings from Doctor WhoTV:

The Bells of Saint John – 6.18 million (overnight) 8.44 million (final figure)
The Snowmen – 7.6 million (overnight) 9.87 million (final figure)
The Angels Take Manhattan – 5.9 million (overnight) 7.82 million (final figure)
The Power of Three – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.67 million (final figure)
A Town Called Mercy – 6.6 million (overnight) 8.42 million (final figure)
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.57 million (final figure)
Asylum of the Daleks – 6.4 million (overnight) 8.3 million (final figure)

Next time: Cold War

Doctor Who and The Bells of Saint John

The Bells of Saint John

Image by Francesco Francavilla

Image by Francesco Francavilla

“This whole world is swimming in Wi-Fi. We are living in a Wi-Fi soup. Suppose something got into it. Suppose there was something living in the Wi-Fi, harvesting human minds… human souls trapped like flies in the world wide web.”
Written by Steven Moffat
Story 7.07
Transmitted 30 March, 2013

Doctor Who is an incredibly popular TV series with a fan following that grows bigger every year. A series that was once the punchline to any put down joke, it now graces the covers of pop culture magazines not just in the UK but in the US as well. BBC America has taken a very active role this year in promoting Doctor Who, just in time for its fiftieth anniversary by showing weekly installments of past episodes from the early days and offering up the opinions of the cast and crew of the current iteration. The seventh season is the most anticipated in a long time as it strays from the path of the Amy Pond story and into uncharted territory with a grand cinematic celebration at the end.

I have been watching Doctor Who for far too many years to remember and I have been running this blog since 2007. There are some regular readers who are here reading the latest in a long line of reviews. There are also some of you who have stumbled upon my blog because you are a Doctor Who fan, full of excitement and joy for your favorite series. You will likely not be pleased with much of what I have to say.

I am not a fun squasher, so if you don’t want to read about your favorite program getting dissected and criticized, I highly recommend going to one of many other review sites. I love Doctor Who and continue to watch every episode I can because of I love it… but when I find fault with the series I can get a bit salty.

So… consider this a friendly warning.

And if you are still reading and disagree, feel free to voice your opinion but don’t expect a heated argument because I’m just not interested.

All good? Lovely.

Ever since it returned in 2005, the BBC Wales version of Doctor Who has been obsessed with a very specific period of the program, specifically the first story of the eighth series. When the Doctor became stranded on Earth, the focus changed drastically from fantastical to the factual. The sci-fi elements were grounded in the every day things around us and made horrific. The best example of this is in Terror of the Autons in which the Master teamed up with the Nestene Consciousness to take over the planet through the animation of anything made from plastic. This was mainly a rehash of the previous year’s opener ‘Spearhead From Space’ but much goofier. In Spearhead, animated mannikins stalked the streets and entered houses, destroying anything in their path. In Terror, one executive was eating alive by a bean bag chair, another throttled by a doll while the Doctor was nearly garroted by a telephone line. Likewise, the new series has attempted to take everyday things and make them into terrifying fantastic horrors, be it shadows, statues, cellular phones, GPS or even Wi-Fi.

I wager at least half of all new Doctor Who stories have something in common with Terror of the Autons except for one thing; Terror of the Autons was actually a clever story that, while being on the absurd side was still clever and innovative. It softened the Quatermass-influence of series seven and replaced with a more comic strip-style version of Doctor Who but it still worked. The BBC Wales version, in comparison, is much more topical and disposable. It is so antiquated that almost half of the run time featured characters staring at monitors, back at the viewer or closeups of fingers in keyboards. The pre-credit teaser was an explanation of the premise rather than just showing us in the actual story. These are lazy techniques that went out of style twenty years ago.

Even the War Machines, a story from 1966 that was about a computer intelligence taking over the world was more plausible than The Bells of Saint John, and it had access to a small portion of the information available to the current series regarding technology. But the War Machines was written with the input of Kit Pedler, the brilliant scientist whose interest in real world cybernetics led to the creation of the Cybermen (fictionally… he didn’t make actual Cybermen).

The Bells of Saint John is written with all the intelligence gleaned by a cursory glance through wikipedia. It has hardly any idea what the internet is or how it works, let alone the common sense regarding Wi-Fi connections and security. Proof behind this is that only after Clara references Twitter does the Doctor acknowledge she has some kind of enhanced technical intelligence.

Award-winning author Steven Moffat has this amazingly flawed view of Doctor Who in that it is all about the companion and not the Doctor. He also views Doctor Who as a fairy tale. Neither of these things is problematic in itself. I quite like series five which was Moffat’s first year as producer and head writer and was almost entirely as companion-centric and fantasy-based. However, this story has lots of problems, especially given that Amy Pond was arguably the hub of the past three years and once she is gone she is replaced by Clara, the mystery girl who the Doctor is chasing through space and time.

Last year, the Doctor met a strange girl named Oswin who was trapped inside of a Dalek. In that adventure she died. The Christmas Special saw her return as a governess in Victorian London, where she also died. In the series seven point two mini-episode, we saw the Doctor meet with young Clara Oswald at a playground. At the opening of The Bells of Saint John, the Doctor is camped out in a monastery waiting for ‘The Bells of Saint John’ to ring. The bells are actually attached to the phone in the outer shell of the TARDIS, and the ringing is caused by Clara calling for tech support in the 21st Century where she is wondering ‘where the internet has gone.’ The fact that Clara is unable to connect to the net is seen as the entire web disappearing is rather suspect. Even my mom would not jump to that conclusion. I venture to say that each of us has had this kind of problem at some point and did not think that somehow the web had gone away. In any case, this is all connected to a weird alien Wi-Fi signal being used to suck people into the web and drain their minds.

Yes… the evil weird threat is Wi-Fi.

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Users are somehow downloaded into a server (with a cute progress bar showing the process) where they become vloggers warning people to stay offline and scream to be let go. How a webcam can be used to not only scan but download your consciousness is beyond me, but why would the result be a tiny TV screen of the poor victim screaming to be let go? Who wants that? The evil corporation who is behind all this mutely works away in a room dominated by a wall of screaming faces… every day. From the revelation at the end of the episode, this has somehow been going on for decades.

Just imagine what that job is like?

It must be Hell finding people to work at EvilCo (or Shard, but I think EvilCo is better), since the average employee is an imbecile and HR doesn’t monitor their web usage. The absolute raving idiocy that members of a super secret organization would not only use social networking sites but also note said employer and are online while working on their is almost laughable.

The intelligence of all these people is being siphoned by some unknown source… much like another classic story The Krotons in which the aliens sapped the minds of the brightest and converted it into raw energy. In this case, Shard has been at this for quite some time (begging the question why did the Doctor take so long to stop them) and yet it is unclear what the aim is. The plot is incomplete, much like The Idiot’s Lantern in which the Wire is sucking people through televisions but never explains why.

The Doctor and Clara team up using a laptop to take down the evil organization while the Doctor muses over who and what Clara is and why he keeps bumping into her. Wi-Fi is depicted as being so powerful that it can shut down whole city blocks and almost crash a jet into the suburbs… or take control of a cafe to show the Doctor how powerful they *really* are. That is impressive.

All of this is somehow tied into ‘The Great Intelligence’ from The Snowmen Christmas Special which is interesting, but shouldn’t we be seeing Sir Ian McKellen and not Richard E. Grant as REG was the human host and Sir Ian is the real baddie? And is this the same  ‘The Great Intelligence’ from Classic Doctor Who? I’m starting to wonder.

The Doctor not only hacks the Shard’s technology but also uses an anti-gravity motorcycle to drive up the side of the corporate office to confront them.
drwho_StJohn_91
There is a saying in TV, ‘jump the shark’ to mark when a program has achieved such a status of badness that it is beyond any other words. The Doctor jumped a building. If one can say that he jumped the shark as well, I don’t know… but this was pretty embarrassing both conceptually and visually. The effect was so poor, I can only imagine what it looked like on hi def.

The Doctor does his usual grand-standing to the baddie, but seems to have no real interest in the safety of anyone but his companion. This is very similar to The Idiot’s Lantern when the Doctor confronted the Wire for Rose’s freedom. When the Great Intelligence finally releases its hold and retreats, it is implied that the bodies of those previously trapped in the system may well be dead. When the Great Intelligence’s latest mouthpiece, Miss Kislet, is released, she tragically becomes an innocent little lost girl trapped in the body of a sixty year old woman… isn’t that nice?

The Doctor could care less about any of the damages, though, and is eager to fly off with his latest in a line of feisty females in what Clara calls his ‘snog box.’ Possibly the dumbest story to date, this is the ‘Idiot’s Lantern for Idiots.’

I will once again point out that Matt Smith is in fine fighting form and managed to take some of the worst dialog ever written and make it sound at least palatable. I’m still on the fence regarding the new companion played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. She seems to get by on being cute as a button… but that will get very old very quickly. The camera work was unusually superb with some lovely cinematography with the motorcycle ride into London a stand out moment.

But, largely this story was far too concerned with the companion and presented a juvenile and silly view of reality that could only be called ‘fantasy’ to save it from being called out as laughably poor. This is the same program that produced stories as otherworldly as Kinda and as dramatically impressive as Talons of Weng Chiang with ludicrously limited resources.  Even so, this was once a TV show screened late at night on PBS stations, a show whose name prompted laughter and ridicule.

To return to where I started, this is an incredibly successful program at arguably the peak of its popularity. It should be better than this.

Wi-Fi? Seriously?

The Bells of Saint John had an Appreciation Index, or AI score, of 87

The Appreciation Index or AI is a measure of how much the audience enjoyed the programme. The score, out of a hundred, is compiled by a specially selected panel of around 5,000 people who go online and rate and comment on programmes.

Doctor Who scored higher than most of Saturday’s output. Other high scoring programmes were Casulty with 87, Richard Briers: A Tribute with 88 and Easter From Kings with 89.

Overnight ratings from Doctor WhoTV:

  • The Bells of Saint John – 6.18 million (overnight) TBC (final figure)
  • The Snowmen – 7.6 million (overnight) 9.87 million (final figure)
  • The Angels Take Manhattan – 5.9 million (overnight) 7.82 million (final figure)
  • The Power of Three – 5.5 million (overnight) 7.67 million (final figure)
  • A Town Called Mercy – 6.6 million (overnight) 8.42 million (final figure)
  • Dinosaurs on a Spaceship –  5.5 million (overnight) 7.57 million (final figure)
  • Asylum of the Daleks – 6.4 million (overnight) 8.3 million (final figure)

Next time: The Rings of Akhaten