“Listen” Review

Screen Shot 2014-09-14 at 11.52.57.pngIt’s a rare pleasure when you really have no idea where an episode will take you next. In a restaurant for an excruciating first date? Under the bed in a children’s home near Oxford? The end of the Universe?

I thought I knew what was coming when I saw a couple of tweets likening Listen to Blink, as if we’d get a weeping angel for the ears. Blink was Moffat’s third Doctor Who story. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances won me over to the new series in 2005. The Girl in the Fireplace was sublime. Moffat’s scripts were the highlight of each series. Since he took over as the big chief writer, doing a lot more, his stuff has seemed less of a rare treat. It becomes easier to spot ideas being reused – there’s less that seems really new (although The Beast Below is seriously underrated – perhaps the subject for another post). Essentially I thought Listen would recycle Blink.

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“Robot of Sherwood” Review and Podcast

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 7.18.44.png I suppose I should have realised that there was a danger that having two iconic heroes in one story would result in a pissing contest. I had hoped that among the things this more mature Doctor would have left behind would have included his ego; alas we get a rather petulant Twelve who at first I took to be channelling Malcolm Tucker in his aggressive put-downs to Locksley. On reflection, though, I can imagine any of the recent Doctors – Ten, Eleven… Even Nine (remember his switching a banana for Captain Jack’s sonic blaster?) in that scene, and unlike the last two episodes that feel like they’ve been ever-so-carefully crafted for Capaldi’s Doctor this feels like it could have slotted in with any 20th Century Who. Despite that small quibble, magnified because just 3 episodes into his run, Capaldi’s performance is still what we’re all scrutinising, I do think Mark Gatiss crafted a superbly balanced piece that acknowledged and respected Robin Hood whilst keeping the Doctor at the centre of the action. Bravo.

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“Into The Dalek” Review and Podcast

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 12.09.03.pngDespite an elevator-pitch style premise, and a plot that borrows elements from many previous episodes, I’d rate this as  the best dalek story1 since Genesis. Unlike many Dalek stories, the Daleks were properly scary, thanks to a carefully crafted set-up and a well-calibrated threat-level. Well paced, well-plotted, with an interesting structure representing the multi-layered question at is core: fascinating storytelling. This was the first episode in which we get to see the non-traumatised 12th Doctor and – wow. We really are getting something quite new: has the Doctor ever been as dark as in that sequence from asking Ross to swallow the power cell to “he’s the top layer, if you want to say a few words”. Unlike the 6th, he’s not doing this for effect; it’s delivered with a chilling detachment. Read the rest of this entry »


  1. which I think is probably best defined as any story with ‘dalek(s)’ in the title 

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“Deep Breath” Review

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.45.07.pngWell, it’s better than The Twin Dilemma, but it’s not as straight-forwardly enjoyable as The Christmas Invasion. In fact, I think it’s going to take quite a few viewings to decide what I think about Deep Breath. There’s a lot to this episode, and I know I will only scratch the surface in this post. But it’s the unsettling experience of regeneration that raises all sorts of questions and uncertainties, rather than providing a triumphant moment of arrival for the new Doctor. The comparison with the the regeneration into the Sixth Doctor was inevitable since it was revealed the Twelfth Doctor would be “perhaps a little more fierce and a little less immediately knowable” (with more and more parallels emerging).

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“Day of the Doctor” Review & Podcast

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“It’s not a chair, it’s the most dangerous weapon in the Universe.”
“Why can’t it be both?”

In Day of the Doctor  Steven Moffat has chosen to do two things: celebrate 50 years of one of the most affectionately regarded shows on British television, and go back and examine the moment the hero committed an act of genocide wiping out two and half billion innocent children. That’s not a difficult balancing act it’s an impossible one. How can the Doctor find redemption and honour the shows continuity? Yet how can this be a celebration if he can’t? Read the rest of this entry »

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“The Name of the Doctor” Review

2621994791_93b8216bda_o.jpgOops. I should have posted this one a while ago…

There are two ways Doctor Who appears to be in danger of disappearing up its own fundament in this story. One is that trope where the villain, rather than seeking money, power or universal domination, decides instead that the prime objective is to destroy the hero. The show becomes to conceited it elevates its hero’s importance above any other bounty imaginable (in this case above any world, or even any time period). It’s something you can perhaps get away with when it’s The Master, given his history. The inconvenience The Great Intelligence has suffered at the Doctor’s hands is trivial by comparison. The other danger, is, of course, too much continuity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Regenderation

nicolawalkerdoctor.jpgThe debate had broken out again before the  news of Matt Smith’s departure had hit the first editions. Will the next Doctor be a woman? Why does this ‘debate’ continue? PLEASE STOP. It’s over. The arguments have been exhausted. The barrel is being scraped. I had planned not to write this post; it’s redundant and writing it is somewhat hypocritical given my opening plea. But it’s the question I keep getting asked, especially IRL, especially by the ‘not-we’. Read the rest of this entry »

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The obligatory “12th Doctor List” post

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I’ve tried to avoid any of the names that are already doing the rounds (not that I’ve any objection to Ben Wishaw, Idris Elba, Ben Daniels et. al.) because there are plenty of discussions about them already. Probably everyone on my list has already been suggested, but I haven’t seen them mentioned, at least since Matt Smith’s announcement. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Nightmare in Silver” Review

Castle CochAnother Neil Gaimen episode was something to look forward to. The bad memory of the last time the cybermen appeared in the penultimate episode of a series was just a silly niggle, surely? Unfortunately, this one did turn out to be more Closing Time than The Doctor’s Wife.

Was it necessary to “make the cybermen scary again”? Did they stop being scary, or just get dealt a few duff stories? The problem with a cyberman that can move at something close to light speed is it’s not just scary – it is to all intents and purposes invincible. (And how come Angie didn’t suffer whiplash being carried away so fast no one could see her go?) The only way you can tell a story in which such a monster is defeated is to escalate the heroes’ power/weaponry to equally magical heights (a big magic gun that fires red lasers, for example) or just forget the cybermen can move fast and have them go back to lumbering again when they enter your castle. Read the rest of this entry »

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“The Crimson Horror” Review

Muslim_Community-_Everyday_Life_in_Butetown,_Cardiff,_Wales,_UK,_1943_D15279.jpgBy rights, putting that much slapstick in an episode of Doctor Who should have irritated the socks off me. Yet, even now, I’m chuckling at the puerile Thomas Thomas gag. How did The Crimson Horror get away with it? I’m not sure, but I think it has something do with its richness; in its inventive and elaborate structure, its unwatchably horrific goriness, its daring backstory and clever plotting, its drama and its fabulous characters. The slapstick is a part of that: more everything means more comedy. It just works. Read the rest of this entry »

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