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17 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 806: The Big Bang

Dear diary,

I'd never noticed before just how small scale this episode is as a season finale. I mean, yeah, it's got the entire universe being destroyed at every moment in history and all that, but for the large majority of the running time, we're really only dealing with four characters, and they're all our regulars. Considering that the last season finale was The Stolen Earth, in which everybody under the sun came back to the programme, this feels oddly small. That doesn't mean that it's not very good though, and it's almost certainly the very best example of using time travel as a plot device that Steven Moffatt has ever given us. Forget how cleaver Blink is and all that, because this one is just brilliant.

The best part about it is watching how everything comes to pass. The Doctor arrives at Stonehenge with a fez and a mop. Then he's gone. Then he's back again, but without the mop. Then he's gone again. Things get posted through Amelia's door, and stuck to the Pandorica, and we get to see how all of that falls into place as the Doctor rushes around trying to piece it together himself. On top of all that, the reveal that it's Amy locked in the box instead of the Doctor is simply fantastic. Perhaps the best bit, though, has to be that after all of this madcap running around, the Doctor then zaps back in at the top of the stairs, burnt and dying. It's powerful stuff.

Over the years, I’ve often seen this two parter described as being one of - if not the best season finales that 21st century Doctor Who has produced, and it’s not hard to see why people love it so much. I’m not sure if, for me, it packs quite the same punch that we get with something like The Parting of the Ways or Journey’s End, but it certainly works as a very fitting cap to this run of adventures, and as with the little vignettes of characters in the opening to yesterday’s episode, I can’t help but love the Doctor moving backwards through his recent past to interact with adventures we’ve already seen. Chief among these moments has to be his arrival in the Weeping Angel forest, and the other half of the scene from Flesh and Stone, in which the Doctor comes back to speak to Amy. I mentioned at the time that it sparked some debate online, and this week I’ve been digging back through the forum to take a look at it. In retrospect, people very quickly hit on the idea that it could be a future version of the Doctor coming back through the time stream, but there’s lots of great discussion on the way to deciding that was the most likely scenario (and some great discussion afterwards, too, while people try to work out what the other options are.

In all, I’ve rather enjoyed Series Five this time around, and it’s great to see how nicely wrapped up the overall themes of this run are with this episode. We’ve been watching a fairy tale about the madman in a box, who comes to save a little girl from danger and simply never stops. Amy ‘remembering’ the Doctor back into the universe at the end is rather lovely, and very fitting for the style of Doctor Who that we’ve been presented with over the last thirteen episodes. I didn’t really care for this run at the time, but given five years’ distance, I can certainly see the appeal all the better… 

16 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 805: The Pandorica Opens

Dear diary,

Just before I get on to talking about the rest of the episode, I want to take a minute to point out how bloody cool the pre-tites sequence is for this one. I love the idea of all these people from across the last season interacting as they work to get the Doctor to the right place at the right time. It's also somewhat amazing that they feel like they're being drawn together from across a proper era rather than from just the one season of adventures. I think it's somewhat of a testament to how well the first of Steven Moffat's series really strikes out to be its own thing - still recognisably the same programme that we've been watching for five years previously, but also being its own unique branch of that universe.

Right. Now. Main thing: I'm confused. Largely, I'm confused about Rory. I think I know what's going on here, but I'd really like to sound out the way that I think things are happening in this episode and then either have you all comment to say 'you've completely understood it correctly, Will, you're such a clever and handsome diarist' or, failing that, 'nope, you fool, you've completely misunderstood it all. Go back and watch The Dominators on a loop for the rest of the marathon'…

So; Something (presumably the Nestenes, but either way the information worked its way back to the Nestenes) went to Amy's house in Leadworth and took a kind of psychic print of Amy's mind. Doing this meant that they had a link to her conscious mind (this bit isn't actually said, but it's the only way everything else makes sense, so…), so that they could create an accurate and up-to-date scenario at Stonehenge which would tempt the Doctor and her to the location. Because Rory was in her mind (as a suppressed memory, which is why she found herself crying for seemingly no reason in Vincent and the Doctor), he automatically becomes a part of this scenario, and is implanted with the memories taken from Amy's mind, and that brings us to what we see in this episode.

Is that right? Because I've spent most of today trying to wrap my head around it all. It seems fairly simple based on the information we're given on screen (it's presented as 'Something takes a 'snapshot' of Amy's memories from her bedroom, hence the romans and the box, and Rory is there as a Roman because of the picture tucked inside a book of him dressed as one'), but then that nice neat version hints snags when you have to account for the fact that Rory can remember 'dying' in the Silurian episode. That's why I assume they link to Amy's conscious mind, because they'd have the up-to-date information about… Oh to hell with it. It makes for a nice moment in the story where the Doctor notices that Rory is still a real living person (even if he's made of plastic), and I'm probably obsessing over it too much.

Something else about this episode that I've obsessed about in the past is the nature of The Alliance. It seems clear to me that they were formed in the skies above Trenzalore, when all these same races would gather to answer the mysterious signal emanating from Christmas (and in retrospect, I'm guessing that's where they got the idea for the stones here sending out a signal on a loop, too)… but such a thing felt like a line missed out from The Time of the Doctor! I only mention it here because I'm still trying to piece together the overarching plot of the Matt Smith era, and I know I'm going to need this note when I come to the regeneration… 

15 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 804: The Lodger

Dear diary,

For a long, long, time now, in response to this episode, I’ve always said that I preferred the original Doctor Who Magazine comic that it was based upon. Something about forcing Mickey to put up the Tenth Doctor for a few days really clicked with me, and it quickly became one of my favourites. I never really felt that it worked as well in substituting a well-known character for a complete stranger, and trying to add in a more definite threat upstairs. Oh, I never thought this one was bad, just that I’d have rather it be kept as a comic.

But actually, watching it back today, there’s loads in here that I’m really rather fond of. And of course it doesn’t harm the story to swap Mickey for Craig, because we know more-or-less everything we need to about Craig by the time he rushes to answer the door to the Doctor with a great big ‘I love you’ (the first of several times I laughed loudly during today’s viewing). If anything, that’s the real success of this story - it takes Craig and Sophie, and in the space of these 45 minutes it completely brings us into their world. I feel like they’re characters we’ve known for a while now. There’s hints of their back stories, and their wider social circle, and it really does feel like it’s the Doctor crashing into their established world, as opposed to them simply popping up for a single week in the Doctor’s universe.

It certainly helps that James Corden is so perfectly cast as Craig. He bounces off Matt Smith so well (and in a way that I don’t think he would have done with any of the other Doctors. Even though Tennant’s incarnation was very human, he simply doesn’t fell as suited to this as Smith does), and watching them together is just a delight.

As for adding in the threat of the upstairs… Actually, it’s nicely done. Looking back on it, it’s easy to simply think of it as being a ‘Silent TARDIS’, and forget the mystery that we’re presented with in the build-up to that reveal (and even then, we only get the information that it’s an attempt to build a TARDIS, no more information than that). The slow build up of the mystery, and then the fantastic reveal of the ship, with the camera pulling back from the seemingly normal doorway is all brilliant. 

It also marks the starting point of the thing I’m perhaps most looking forward to throughout the Eleventh Doctor’s era - the on-going arc. In 2013, The Time of the Doctor wrapped up threads that had been dangling as far back as this season, but I’ve not been through all of these episodes since then to watch as things slowly draw together. We’ve already had the mystery of the cracks and the Pandora - one of which will be over and down with in the next couple of days while the other will go quiet for a bit before rearing its head again at the end of this run - but this is our first step towards the Silence, and the recurring elements of Series Six.

Which brings me to my next point. There’s a moment in this episode, with Amy in the TARDIS, where she seems to see something, get very scared, and then forget about it. It could be her reacting to the bad news she’s just received from the Doctor, but she very much seems to be looking at something just off camera… was this intended to be a ‘Silent’-esque plot thread which wasn’t later picked up, or am I simply reading too much into things?

14 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 803: Vincent and the Doctor

Dear diary,

Watching this series on original broadcast, my interest had dropped off a little bit by this point. It was nice weather out, I had a lot going on… making sure I was home on a Saturday night ready for Doctor Who felt like more of a chore than it ever had before. It didn’t help that when I was catching up with stories like The Vampires of Venice and Amy’s Choice, they simply weren’t grabbing me in the way I hoped they would. Eventually, I’d stopped even trying to be home on time, and I’d simply catch up with the new episodes a day or two later on the iPlayer. The night this one aired, I happened to catch the first ten minutes while I was getting ready to go out, and couldn’t help thinking that of everything for a good month or so, this was an episode I’d rather like to stay home and see as it went out.

Vincent and the Doctor is a very different kind of Doctor Who story, isn’t it? When the series manages to pull in a writer like Richard Curtis, you very much think you know what kind of story you’re going to be getting, but then this script goes out of its way to present you with something that completely goes against all your expectations, and really leaves you with a lot to think about, even when it’s finished. It’s a bold move, and one that I think is pulled off very well - managing to create something that’s both deep and thought-provoking, while also having enough action and drama to keep you riveted throughout.

In many ways, this story takes lots of things that I’d enjoyed with the Unicorn and the Wasp, and filters them differently. Whereas the likes of Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria, and Shakespeare were very sure of themselves during encounters with the Doctor (even if they tend to get that knocked during the course of the adventure, both Christie and Vincent are presented as being flawed. As being human, in fact. I also like that this tale doesn’t shy away from showing what that can mean. There’s no pussyfooting around the fact that Vincent’s troubles and depression led to his suicide, and the story makes sure to portray that in a sensitive, yet hard-hitting way. Any’s reaction upon reaching the gallery to find that Vincent still took his own life at a tragically young age is absolutely heart-breaking, and the Doctor’s response is one of my favourite lines from Doctor Who. I could quote it verbatim at the drop of a hat, because it’s so beautiful, and poignant, and very true; 

THE DOCTOR

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. Hey. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

I don’t want to dwell on the sombre tones of the story too much, though, because there’s an awful lot of humour and levity sprinkled throughout the script which is far more what I was expecting to find from Curtis, and really helps to make the whole thing. For starters, I love the adaptation of the Unicorn and the Wasp gag, in which the titles of Christie’s books being inserted into the script is substituted for visual gags based upon Vincent’s work. The interactions between Vincent and Amy are wonderful, too.

I’ve very little else to say about this story, really, and there’s so much to like that I don’t really want to dwell on the few let downs (once again, the CGI seems to falter a bit in this one), so I’m going to leave it there for now. Not the kind of story that Doctor Who could tell very often, but one which works perfectly as a nice one-off.

13 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 802: Cold Blood

Dear diary,

I’ve never quite known what to make of the ‘new series’ Silurian design. On the one hand, there’s that image of a concept sculpt for this story in which the creatures look like an updated version of the ones we had back in Doctor Who and the Silurians, and I half think that I’d love to have seen that design on screen, but on the other hand, I do like the way these ones look - especially when the soldiers have their masks on, which is a lovely bit of design. I suppose my issue is that these are such a departure from what went before - a more drastic change stylistically than we’ve had for any other monster making the transition from the ‘classic’ era to the new stuff. I think I know what the answer will be, but what does everyone else think? Do you like the modern Silurians, or would you prefer something more ‘traditional’?

If nothing else, I can’t imagine Madame Vastra with the face of a ‘classic’ Silurian…

If there’s one thing I really like about this story, it’s that you’re left not really liking lots of different characters. Right the way through, and especially in today’s episode, I’ve found myself really irritated by the way that Ambrose has behaved. And yet, I think part of the brilliance in that is that she’s behaved the way that most of us would do - out of fear, and selfishness, and sheer ignorance. There’s something really nice about the idea of her failing to be ‘the best Humanity can be’, because I think many of us would fall into similar traps. And yet, on the other side of the fence, we’ve got Silurians that aren’t the best that they can be, either. That said, I have to take issue with the Doctor pointing out that when he met Silurians before, the humans attacked and killed them… while conveniently neglecting to mention that said Silurians had just tried to wipe out Humanity with a big old plague…

Something else that I just wanted to touch on - how much I’d like some kind of follow-on to this one. The Doctor rigs the Silurian alarms to wake them again in a millennium, and we’ve even got a couple of guest characters readily built in for the revival. I’d be keen to see the two sides trying again in a futuristic setting, and perhaps seeing what kinds of struggles might crop up that time. In this story the talk is largely about making room on an already crowded planet, but in a thousand year’s time, with humanity moving out among the stars… well, I reckon there’s a story in there somewhere, and I’d be keen so see it.

13 March 2015

Manufacturer: LEGO

RRP: £39.99

Release Date: November 2014

Reviewed by: Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 13th March 2015

Having run the largest Doctor Who server on Minecraft for over 3 years now, we have received constant requests from our visitors to start doing reviews for the LEGO Minecraft sets. Not being ones to disappoint, and grabbing the nearest possible excuse to play with some cool toys, we are thrilled to kick off our very first review for set ‘#21115 - The First Night’.

Before you get too stuck in, exploring caves and mining for diamonds, you’re going to need to build a little piece of home to base all your endeavours from, right? Well, what better way than building your very own Minecraft LEGO house!

The First Night is a lovingly thought-out set, incorporating many elements from the in-game world in LEGO brick form. Details such as pixelated swords, axes and pickaxes also throw a knowing nod to the Minecraft world, whilst adding the practicality and functionality of a playable LEGO set.

Speaking of functionality, there are some great features here; from an opening and closing front door and pig pen, to the hinged access to the house interior. The inside of Steve’s house is a thing of beauty with lots of details that further work as a touchstone to Minecraft. There’s a crafting table, an item frame (with removable pickaxe), tables, flower pots and a treasure chest! 

You can easily combine the set with others in the LEGO Minecraft range, and with the included ‘inspiration’ manual, there are a couple of other alternative tweaks you can make to the way it looks.

The Build:

With a total of 408 pieces, this is a set that you can easily build within an hour. It’s a genuinely fun and rewarding set to put together - from the foundations right up to the tree-laden roof terrace, there is immense satisfaction in building the house, brick by brick.

It’s also neat near the end of the build where the three separate elements cleanly slot together, and with set '#21114 The Farm’ (sold separately), you can add to this further as it slots in to the rear-right of the house.

+  Click Here to buy 'The First Night' from LEGO for £39.99!
+  SUBSCRIBE to MinecraftTV on YouTube!
+  Follow MinecraftTV on Google+

[With thanks to LEGO]

12 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 801: The Hungry Earth

Dear diary,

Ooh, I love the title of this episode. It’s that great line from Frontios, isn’t it, about the Earth being hungry? I bet anything that somewhere along the line either Steven Moffatt or Chris Chibnall had that in mind when it came to putting this one together. Like Day of the Moon, its one of those titles that really just chimes with me as being perfect. Speaking of which, this is the episode when I first decided that Matt Smith was a perfect casting choice for the Doctor. It wasn’t actually the episode which convinced me, but rather the production of it. I’ve mentioned before that I tried very hard to avoid spoilers for this particular series, but the one bit that I did end up seeing was a short clip (no more than a minute or two) of Matt Smith pacing up and down outside the church used in this episode, obviously trying to learn his lines. It was being shared all over Facebook, and I ended up watching it. Instantly, there’s something just so right about the way he moves. Little movements he makes with his hand, the look he gives when he’s trying to concentrate… oh, all of it. From that moment on, we were in safe hands.

And I love the way that the Doctor is written in this episode. This is perhaps the first time all series that he’s really been presented as being a madman, and that’s largely because he’s been thrown into a situation where his regular companion is taken away from him very early into the narrative, and he’s left to try and prove himself to her boyfriend and a group of strangers who quite rightly think he’s mad. The only thing which does feel like a missed opportunity is making not of just how young he is in this incarnation - it would have been interesting to see that as yet another obstacle that he has to overcome.

As for the episode itself, well this morning I couldn’t have told you a thing about it. Nothing. Nada. I knew it was ‘that Silurian two-parter’ from Series Five, but I couldn't have told you anything of the story. As the episode went on, though, I found more and more of it coming back to me, and I found myself rather liking it, on the whole. Oh, it’s not close to being a stone-cold ‘classic’ (and I’m not sure it has the atmosphere yet that prevailed the original Silurian origin story), but there’s enough in here to enjoy. The introduction of the threat is nicely dealt with, and there really is a feeling of tension as they rush to set everything up in the short amount of time they’ve got (although we’ve got the same problem here - though not on the same scale - as with Victory of the Daleks: we’re told there’s only x number of minutes remaining, 12 in this case, and they get a lot done in that time. I get that making it such a short time frame is what helps to ‘up’ the tension, but I can’t help think that it would have felt a little more believable had they had a half an hour or so…?)

11 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 800: Amy’s Choice

Dear diary,

Some days, writing this blog is easy. Within a few minutes of the episode starting, I know exactly what I want to say, and as the episode goes on I simply find more and more that chimes with what I want to say. I enjoy days like that, because it makes going from the episode to the writing all the more fun for me.

I thought today was going to be one of those days, because almost immediately, I knew what I wanted to say: this isn’t an episode that works in Series Five - it’s one that would sit better in Series Seven. Lovely, simple. I could write about that without problem… but then as the episode played out, it became more and more apparent that I was wrong, and that point was almost totally shattered. So, instead, I’m going to tell you firstly why I thought this story would work better later on, and then tell you why it also wouldn’t. If that makes any sense at all.

Largely, I didn’t feel that this story sat right here because the whole premise of trying to decide which world was real simply rings hollow for me. Obviously, as a viewer, I know that Amy and Rory are going to be travelling with the Doctor for a while yet, so it was always going to seem obvious that the TARDIS-world was the real one, but… I think that’s the problem. Had this been set during that first part of Series Seven, where there’s a running theme of the Doctor coming back to visit the Ponds while leaving longer and longer gaps between his visits… oh, this would have worked wonderfully as a concept there! Has it really been five years since his last visit, and he’s now checking in on a couple of Ponds who’ve settled down and are about to have a child, or has it only been a few months since their last adventure, and they’ve been caught in the TARDIS. Do you see what I’m trying to say? That feels so much better for me than what we’re given here, because the last scene of the previous episode was about ‘let’s go and have some adventures’, which makes suddenly coming to a situation where the Ponds have settled down feel wrong to me.

I was fairly set on this view for much of the first half of this episode (and, actually, I’ve not abandoned it completely. Despite what I’m about to go on and say, it would work better as a concept in that first half of Series Seven, where it really could be either of the two dreams, as opposed to so clearly being the one). As the episode went on, though, I finally picked up on that emotional core. The choice between the Doctor or Rory. Of course it’s an episode that needs to sit here in series five, because it’s the key moment for Amy’s character, and she even makes a point of saying that she’d never been entirely sure that she was doing the right thing until this very moment. It’s massively important that we get this character beat here so that she can go on to marry Rory at the end of the season. You can see the spanner in the works - on the one hand I really want to argue that this story is in the wrong place… but on the other hand it’s in exactly the right place!

That’s not enough to really save it for me, though. Despite the fact that there’s a nice emotional heart in here, and it serves as such an important beat in Amy’s story, I simply could not connect with things, and it does all come back to the fact that I never really believe in the threat. I’m sorry to say that I just don’t get the love for this one…

10 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 799: The Vampires of Venice

Dear diary,

I don’t know if it’s still a lingering hang-over from just how good The Shakespeare Code looked back in Series Three, but the location work for this story never really felt… right to me. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s some lovely footage in here, and some great locations used to represent Venice, but something feels… I don’t know. Off about it all. Maybe it’s because everywhere is quite washed out whereas The Shakespeare Code and The Fires of Pompeii really used colour to make a point in their locations? The Vampires of Venice always seemed to be a little beige by comparison. It also flags up a problem I had with Series Five at the time that I have to admit I’ve been somewhat struggling to find this time around - the feeling of things looking a bit cheap or empty on screen. I think I was probably recalling the Dalek spaceship in some ways, but the scene when the Doctor confronts Rosanna looks really bare. They’ve simply placed a throne prop into an otherwise empty room, and it just doesn’t have the impact that the designs for those other historical I’ve mentioned did.

It’s also a little bit of a shame that having gone all the way to Croatia to get some nice locations for bits of this story, it gets let down by some of the weakest CGI the programme has seen for quite some time. There are a few shots where water has been added in to represent the canals which really doesn’t work (I still don’t know if - five years on - we’re at a point where realistic CGI water can be done on a TV budget), and the clouds during that final sequence are so laughably bad that I’m almost astounded they were actually signed off for broadcast. It’s a good job that Doctor Who has a bit of a history of dodgy effects, because this episode certainly places on the scale somewhere quite high! That said, there’s some nice moments where the human characters are morphed into their CGI counterparts rather convincingly, so perhaps it’s just a case of the money being spent in different places?

All of this somewhat marry the story for me, because I’m too busy looking at elements of bad effects, or musing on how empty some of the shots look, to really get caught up in the events of the narrative. Oh, there’s some very nice moments in here, and it feels as though the writing team have finally landed on the way to write the Eleventh Doctor (this is perhaps the first time that there have been sequences that feel tailor-made for Smith), but I’m just not able to get sucked into the tale the way I have the past week or so. It’s not bad, but it’s not good either - it’s, again, just a bit beige.

If I had to pick a highlight from this story, then it would have to be Rory. First time around, I never really got the love for Rory as a character. H was alright, I supposed, but he wasn’t anything especially special. This time, though, I can see that that’s exactly his charm - he’s the character that we’d all be if we were suddenly thrust into the Doctor’s lifestyle. The Eleventh Hour, The Best Below, and Victory of the Daleks all went out of their way to make Amy look like perfect companion material, but this story does completely the opposite for Rory - making him a bit weak, and a bit silly, and a bit bumbling. His trying to fight off a ‘vampire’ with a broom, and making a mess of trying to get Amy into the school are exactly what makes him work - and I’m looking forward to seeing if I connect better with him on this watch through.

9 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 798: Flesh and Stone

Dear diary,

Yesterday, I mentioned that the Weeping Angels were progressed quite nicely in this story from what we were given in Blink, and watching it again now makes that even more obvious. Have to admit that when this first episode went out I wasn’t overall keen about the various additions made to the ‘lore’ of the creatures, but the more I’ve thought about it over the years (and especially in re-watching this story in the last couple of days), the more I can’t help but notice how clever it all is especially when the Doctor realises what’s happening to Amy;

THE DOCTOR

A living mental image in a living human mind. But we stare at them to stop them getting closer. We don't even blink, and that is exactly what they want. Because as long as our eyes are open, they can climb inside. There's an Angel in her mind. 

I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated before just how much scarier that makes the Angels. We’ve spent three years by this point thinking of them as being so easily defeated by simply being watched, and then this story comes along and makes even that part of their danger! Brilliant! It’s no wonder they’ve caught on as being the monsters of 21st century Doctor Who with gimmicks like these.

Something else which didn’t particularly work for me first time around which I’ve loved today is the sequence in the forest where we start to see the Angels move. I’m not entirely sure why, but when this was first broadcast, something about that moment felt really off to me. I sort of felt that seeing the statues move somehow lessened the fact that they can move so rapidly when we’re not looking. Actually, though, it’s really creepy, as they all start to realise that Amy can’t really see them. The fact that they start to move so slowly really helps to enhance the terror of the moment for me. It also sort of brings back to something I read recently which I’m starting to think may have been a real missed opportunity - in the original script for The Time of the Doctor, when we get that great shot of all the spaceships gathering over Trenzalore, there was supposed to be a brief shot with the shadows of the Weeping Angels flying past one of the ships. That, for some reason, has always struck me as very scary, and this sequence certainly plays into that same area.

There’s something in this story that surprised me first time around, and it’s done it all over again here - the Doctor starting to work out the mystery of the crack so early on into the season. When I got to see the scripts in the build-up to broadcast, I was only able to read as far as this one (and just outlines of everything to follow), and it struck me as being strange then. Throughout the Russell T Davies years, I’d become so used to the underlying mystery being teased across the series and picked up again when the finale rolls around. Now, suddenly, we’ve had a few weeks of the crack being very heavily used in the final shots of stories, and suddenly the characters are given the chance to use it! The crack - the running theme for the series - is integral to the whole plot of the episode! The Doctor even gets to work out what it is and start describing it.

There’s also that wonderful moment of the Doctor coming back to speak to Amy (who can’t open her eyes) and having his jacket on. The script specified that this was the Doctor from the finale (and the other scripts all featured bonus scenes with various characters who’d be integral for the opening sequence to The Pandora Opens), but I have to say I did enjoy the sheer fury that this moment caused on the forums at the time! People were so convinced that it was a massive production error, and a sign that the new team weren’t paying enough attention… oh, the fun when all was revealed a few weeks later and the humble cake had to be passed around at quite some speed…

8 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 797: The Time of Angels

Dear diary,

When it was first announced (In Doctor Who Magazine, possibly?) that the Weeping Angels were to be making a return for Series Five, I can distinctly recall in-depth discussions with a friend about the ways they could be reintroduced. In the end, we decided that the story ‘had’ to revolve around Wester Drumlins - from Blink - being renovated. The new owners, or possibly the workmen on site, would move one of the four statues in the basement out of position and the Angels would be free to roam once more. If I’m honest, I think this discussion mainly stemmed from the fact that we genuinely wondered what the Doctor’s back-up-plan would be if such an event happened. I don’t think either of us expected what we actually got from this story - an adventure which takes what we know about the Angels from their first outing, and goes on to develop that, and add new facets to them. I’m sure I’ll come back to this more in-depth with tomorrow’s episode.

I can also distinctly recall being a bit non-plussed that River Song would be making a comeback. As I said a few weeks ago, I’d simply not taken to her during Silence in the Library, and the prospect of having her come back to the programme didn’t particularly excite me. Somehow, though, I completely bought into her from the second she appears in the story - which is right at the start, before the opening titles have even kicked in. Watching it again today, I can’t help but think that it’s because she’s just so much fun in that scene. Flirty, dangerous, packing weapons, and using that very Steven Moffat trope of playing with the format of a Time Travel programme to summon the Doctor. The way she catches his attention here is so much better than simply sending a message over the psychic paper, and I love watching both halves of this little narrative play out in tandem. Hello, sweetie!

It also doesn’t hurt that Alex Kingston and Matt Smith have such a great chemistry together from the off. Oh, sure, David Tennant played opposite Kingston very well, and when I watched their two episodes recently I was completely won over in a way that I simply wasn’t in 2008, but there’s something about the way that matt behaves when they share the screen together. I’m wondering if it’s simply because I know that it’s these two who’ll go on to play out the rest of the Doctor/River relationship, or because something just works between them, but it’s already a great dynamic that I can’t wait to watch evolve over the next month.

On the subject of which… we’re four episodes in, now, and i’ve not really mentioned Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor. I’d love to say that I’ve been waiting for today as this episode contains the first scenes he filmed and thus made a fitting point to bring it up, but if I’m honest it’s simply because he’s so recent in my mind as the Doctor that I sort of forget that I’ve not mentioned it! Frankly, he hits the ground running, doesn’t he? He’s fabulous in this episode, and by the time he gets around to stories like Victory of the Daleks he’d really nailed down the way he wanted to play the part. There’s something about his energy that really resonates with me, and simply makes him feel like ‘the Doctor’. As his era originally played out, I couldn’t help thinking that his performance lost something from Series Six onwards, when writers stop writing simply ‘the Doctor’ - which Matt then filters in his own unique way - and start writing ‘the Doctor as played by Matt Smith’.

Everything started to feel a little bit more forced as his tenure went on, whereas here he’s fresh, playing it the way he thinks is best, and perhaps mores than any Doctor since Tom Baker, you get the impression that he’s simply opening his mouth and surprising even himself with the way he’s choosing to do certain scenes. I can’t say that I was against casting someone so young as the Doctor (but, equally, I can’t say I was overjoyed by the choice - I just sort of felt nothing), but when you watch him even in his earliest episodes, you completely understand how he changed Steven Moffat’s stance on wanting to cast an older Doctor - Smith is just so right for this part. I’m actively anticipating the chance to watch him develop the character now, and see if I was wrong first time around about it feeling more forced as time went by. I really hope I was wrong, because he’s won me round all over again, now…

7 March 2015

Publisher: Lulu.com

Written By: Darren M. Bane

RRP: £7.99

Release Date: 23rd January 2015

Reviewed by: Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 7th March 2015

Every week we get a good number of Doctor Who related goodies dropping through the letterbox here at DWO Towers, but one particular goody piqued our interest this week, and it came in the form of Darren M. Bane’s new parody book ‘Dr U Who’.

Join Darren as he attempts to bring an answer to a very important question; “What really happened to prompt the mighty BBC to finally return our hero to prime-time television”?

In doing so, a whole barrage of amusing issues are tackled including the ‘truth’ behind the Missing Episodes and why aliens speak perfect English - to name just a couple!

You’re taken on an accidental journey backwards and forwards in time, with many side trips along the way that will have you sniggering uncontrollably and tittering left, right and centre! 

Through the parody, you will be surprised at how many childhood memories of the show you’ll have jogged, in what can only be described as a lovingly crafted, gentle prodding at the show and the powers that control it.

Clearly, the title isn’t aimed at the younger fan, but anyone who has followed both the classic and new series of Doctor Who will appreciate everything that has gone into Dr U Who.

Highly recommended!

 

+  Dr U Who is Out Now, priced £7.99.
+  Buy this book on Amazon.co.uk

+  Follow DazzaBane on Twitter.
+  Follow DrWhoOnline on Twitter.

7 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 796: Victory of the Daleks

Dear diary,

I think it’s generally accepted, now, that the Paradigm Daleks were a mistake, isn’t it? I’m speaking specifically the design of them, not necessarily the idea of introducing a new type of Dalek. When I went off to see the scripts for this series early in 2010, someone showed me a photo on their phone of one of these new Daleks, and I honestly thought they were joking. Surely not? By the time they made it onto screen a few months later… nope. Just didn’t quite sit right with me. The 2005 design of Dalek manages to take the initial shape of the original, and update it convincingly to look like a little tank. It somehow manages to look exactly the way you always thought the Daleks looked, while also presenting a perfect step forward in the design. The Paradigm models feel like someone has set out to keep something that’s vaguely shaped like a Dalek, but at the same time is altered just that bit too far. Over the years, I’ve seen people claim that this or that is what makes them simply fail to work, and I’ve seen plenty of slight tweaks to this design which do, somehow, make a world of difference. Perhaps the most telling thing of all, though, is that this model goes on to make a cameo briefly in the next season, and play a small part in Asylum of the Daleks (alongside many of their predecessors), and then that’s it - over and done with. In years to come, I suspect this will be looked back on in commentaries with the same kind of bile as Colin Baker’s costume is these days…

But are they the sole reason that this episode generally doesn’t fare too well with fans? It placed at number 193 out of 241 stories last year when Doctor Who Magazine did their poll of people’s favourites (though, in fairness, five other Matt Smith-era stories rated below it). Well, I’ll be honest. I was expecting to write this entry very much from the stance of 'the new Dalek design is a big factor, but the episode is just generally rubbish, too'. Actually, though, it's a bit more complex than that.

The first fifteen minutes or so of this episode are brilliant. They’re dripping with just the right kind of suspense - we know that Bracewell’s Ironsides are Daleks, and therefore that they’re evil and probably up to no good, and the Doctor knows that, too… but everyone else simply can’t see it. The stakes are raised by the fact that we also know that Churchill is right; if these Ironsides are willing to serve the Allied forced, then the war could be over in a heartbeat. When we get as far as the Doctor asking for Amy to tell the Prime Minister about the events of The Stolen Earth and she doesn’t have a clue what he’s on about, the mystery is only heightened. The stakes feel high because it’s the world vs the Doctor, and the Daleks are there for good measure. That sense of unease and intrigue runs right through the first third of the tale, up to about the point that Bracewell is revealed to be a robot (Oh, and actually, isn’t that a brilliant moment? No, we created you! Wonderful!). All of this is heightened with some really brilliant direction by Andrew Gunn which means we often got shots of the Daleks gliding past in the background, and there’s simply no other word for it - they’re skulking. Little glimpses of the eyestalks twitching, and tiny movements that make it absolutely clear that they’re watching the Doctor, and biding their time.

After that, though, my interest more-or-less completely dropped off, and that seems to coincide with the arrival of the new Daleks. Now, it’s not entirely down to the appearance of the new guys (I’ll get onto them in a moment). After that Daleks have teleported up to their ship, all the tension and dread simply evaporates. Suddenly, where everything felt like the stakes were high and there was a lot going on, I find my ability to believe in the story wavering. The absolute pit of the problem has to be the moment we’re told there’s only ten minutes until German bombers reach London. Fine. We’re then remind (a few minutes into this) that Bracewell had plans for ‘Gravity Bubbles’, which would put a plane in space, though he reminds us that it’s only a theory. Fine. It’s all science-fiction nonsense, obviously, but I’ll buy it. But then, as the planes reach the East End of London (presumably around about that previously mentioned ten-minute-mark), Bracewell arrives to announce that they’ve put the Gravity Bubbles into action, and the planes are ready to launch.

I’m sorry, what? I get that Bracewell is Dalek technology, and therefore the Gravity Bubbles are probably Dalek in design, too, and thus he’s able to cobble it together quicker than usual, but the implication is that he’s managed to take it from a theory of something that could work and put it into practice across three planes in under ten minutes. I probably sound ridiculous complaining about something so trivial, but it lets down the entire episode massively for me, because it feels completely false.

The same is true, then, of the later revelation that Bracewell is a bomb. It feels as though the script was finished before someone pointed out that they were running five minutes short, and thus needed to stretch it out a little bit longer. Nothing feels real (or, at least, as ‘real’ as can be expected in a story about robots from oder-space hiding in the Cabinet War Rooms can), in the way that those first fifteen minutes did, and that’s a real pity.

As for the new Daleks themselves… well, I don’t think it helps that they arrive on screen at the same point the episode starts taking a nosedive. They suffer simply by association, because it feels like they show up and a promising episode goes to the dogs. But, equally, the design really is rubbish. I’ve already praised the direction in this episode, and I think it’s fair to say that it does a wonderful job of making the old Daleks here look like metal. The single bronze one on the ship looks lovely, and the two Ironside models are great. They’ve possibly never looked more like metalling beings. But then the New Paradigm turns up, and the daleks have certainly never looked more like they were made of plastic! It just helps to show up the flaws.

Oh, I could go on all day with a back-and-forth on ‘things Victory of the Daleks gets so right’ vs ‘things Victory of the Daleks gets so wrong’. Seriously, I think I’ve made more notes about this episode than any other in ages. I’ve not even begun to mention how great it is when the New Daleks destroy their predecessors because they’re inferior (and the fact that it’s a great little nod to the Daleks destroying Davros back in the day - the new breed will always destroy their creator, because they’ve been designed to think they’re superior), or how rubbish bits of the Dalek ship look - even if I completely get why it would be so empty. In the end, I think Victory of the Daleks needs another couple of drafts. Also, an extra fifteen minutes or so. Give it room to breathe a little, so that we don’t have to have ridiculously complex inventions made reality in a handful of minutes (seriously, even an earlier line in which Bracewell said ‘we’ve got these in development right now’ would have made it better! It would have made the drama more real, too, in the sense of ‘In theory these work, but we’re still only half way through!’), and then try something a little more traditional with the Dalek revamp… This really could have been a classic. Possibly the biggest missed opportunity that the 21st century Doctor Who has ever had.

(Oh, it was heading for at least an ‘8’ with that first third! I’ll stop banging on about it now, though…)

6 March 2015

Last week, DWO brought you a story about the current status of The Underwater Menace DVD (originally due for release in 2014, and rescheduled for 2015), and the fact that it has been removed from the 2015 schedules for the time being.

We were awaiting an official statement from BBC Consumer Products on their intentions with the title and the future of the Classic Series Doctor Who DVD range, and are pleased to report we now have that statement:

“We appreciate that some Doctor Who fans are disappointed that we have not yet been able to release The Underwater Menace on DVD. We would like to reassure everyone that we are currently reviewing the best way to bring fans more Classic Doctor Who titles. Please bear with us - we’ll let you know more as soon as we can.”

A recent petition from fans showing their support for The Underwater Menace DVD to be released, has now acquired over 1000 signatures.

+  Discuss all the Doctor Who DVD releases in the DWO Forums.

[Source: BBC Consumer Products]

6 March 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 795: The Beast Below

Dear diary,

Every so often in this marathon I find myself approaching a story that I just know I’m not going to like. Usually it’s because I’ve seen it before and it’s left a less than favourable taste in my mouth. When these episodes come along (thankfully, it’s a rare occurrence), I find that one of two things happens. Either the episode ends up being even worse than I remembered (as was the case last week with Planet of the Dead, which went from being one I didn’t remember fondly to being one that I really didn’t enjoy), or it swings the other way and ends up being rated probably a little above what it deserves because I’m so taken aback by the fact that I’ve enjoyed it. I’m pleased to say that today’s episode has fallen into the latter of those two categories.

I wasn’t at all expecting to like this one. First time around it felt like crashing back down to Earth after the highs of the previous week’s massively confident start to the new regime. Since then it’s simply occupied a place in my mind filed away with other stories that I never really intended to watch again in a hurry. But actually, there’s quite a decent little story tucked away in here! Oh, sure, it’s not ever going to win prizes as being the greatest episode of Doctor Who ever made, but it’s a perfectly serviceable one to pass 45 minutes, and if we take Series Five as being intended as a new start for an audience unfamiliar with Doctor Who (which is certainly what the production team seem to have been thinking in places), then it provides a crucial tent-pole in that regard.

We’re introduced to the idea that the Doctor is a Time Lord and the last of his kind. There’s none of the mystery built up around it that we had in The End of the World, because it’s not needed - from the point of view of an established audience, we already know what happened (roughly). From a new perspective the description of the Time War as ‘a bad day’ simply fills in enough to keep the conversation moving. The story gets a little less subtle towards the end when trying to about the point about the Doctor and the Star Whale being very similar (they make the point twice in the Tower of London, and then just in case you don’t get it, Amy comes to find the Doctor again and spell it out as plainly as she can), but on the whole it works.

There’s also some rather nice design work in this episode to help set it apart from the tone of Doctor Who from the last few years. One of the things that felt a shame first time around was that this story didn’t feel like it was following the same fresh new look established with The Eleventh Hour, and while it’s certainly true that this is perhaps less honed in places, it certainly does have its own unique style, and it’s really rather lovely. I’d never noticed, for example, the way that the elevators are designed to resemble the London Underground - right down to the tiling on the walls outside them. That’s a nice touch.

And while I’m on the subject of design, I’m going to mention it, because I know I’ll never get around it it otherwise: the new TARDIS. I remember not being all that fussed on the white window frames and shade of blue on the exterior when it was first revealed. I didn’t dis*like it, I just didn’t particularly love it, either. Now, though, I have to confess that I really *do like it. The interior… maybe it’ll grow on me this time around, but I was never that fond of this console room. Something about it just felt that bit too much like a set, in the way that the previous version of the room didn’t. It just doesn’t quite gel with me in the way that the coral did immediately. Not to worry, though, because the greedy Eleventh Doctor gets two console rooms, and his next one is much more up my street…

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