Monday, 26 September 2011

'Closing Time' Review

'Doctor Who' Series 6 Episode 12 - 'Closing Time'
Written by Gareth Roberts - Directed by Steve Hughes

In Series 5, we were all treated to a wonderfully funny and refreshing episode from Gareth Roberts called 'The Lodger' which starred James Corden alongside our favourite Time Lord. Now we are lucky enough to see the twosome join up again in Series 6's penultimate episode, 'Closing Time', but after such a strong streak of great episodes in the second half of this series, will this episode join the list of hits, or fizzle out rather than bang?

Plot Outline:
It's 200 years later and tomorrow The Doctor will face his inevitable fate so he decides to visit his old friend Craig. After noticing strange disappearance stories in the local paper, the pair investigate along with Craig's young son Alfie. Soon it's revealed the Cybermen are back, and they won't leave quietly.

 After some strong emotional heft from the last two episodes, 'Closing Time' offered some of that great 'Who' wit we all cherish. Roberts' script is pin-pointed and smothered in brilliant humour making Smith and Corden a timeless double-act; a time-travelling Morecambe and Wise if you will. At points, one's sides were splitting at the great comedy that ensued throughout the episode and it was a great feeling with knowing what is round the corner for the Gallifreyan. Co-workers thinking the pair were a couple and The Doctor speaking 'baby' to Alfie (or has he wonderfully calls 'Stormaggedon') were amongst the comedic highlights.

 Much like in 'The Lodger', Roberts' story side-swipes Amy and Rory leaving The Doctor and Craig as the single driving forces. In the duo's previous outing, Amy was stuck in the TARDIS in a different time stream whilst here she happens to be famous and has her own fragrance on sale at the shop The Doctor decides to get a job in. There is a beautiful moment where The Doctor sees Amy's face on an advertisement billboard and Hughes camera angle makes it look like she's still watching over her Raggedy man. The product's strap-line is also "For girls who are tired of waiting" which is rather cool in my books.

 But aside from all the laughs and the usual companion alienation, 'Closing Time' offered the Eleventh Doctor his first proper Cyberman story. Although the robots have appeared in episodes with him ('The Pandorica Opens', 'A Good Man Goes to War' ect.), there hasn't been a good old fashioned tale with my favourite villains as the 'monster of the week' since Tennant's Tenth Doc. 

 Here the Cybermen are 'building' underneath a large department store and taking employees and stripping them of the emotions as they put them in that infamous armour; all in a normal day's work for the cyborgs. However, in this episode audiences are presented by Cybermats - small rodent-like robots which can bite and can lead victims to the Cybermen. The Doctor has faced these pests in the past, in fact they first appeared alongside the Second Doctor in 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' but these up-to-date Cybermats look sleek and creepy. It was great to see Roberts bring back a past, and perhaps forgotten element of the 'Who' world.

 The performances were equally brilliant - as previously mentioned, Smith and Corden have such electric chemistry together; they feel like they have been partners and best of friends for years even though they have only met twice. The thing that made 'The Lodger' so special was trying to see The Doctor adapt to 'normal' human life - seeing a man so intelligent having trouble brushing his teeth and showering was timeless, and a similar format applies here. The Doctor's job in a toy department was quite frankly amazing and both leads were tremendous here.

So in answer to my earlier question, 'Closing Time' snuggles in nicely to the winning streak of Series 6 and what really bumped up tonight's episode was that ending. River, The Silence, The Diary, The Impossible Astronaut, THAT CREEPY SONG. If those two minutes have not wetted your appetite dramatically for 'The Wedding of River Song' then nothing will, and I for one cannot wait to RSVP my invitation...

Monday, 19 September 2011

'The God Complex' Review

'Doctor Who' Series 6 Episode 11 - 'The God Complex'
Written by Toby Whithouse - Directed by Nick Hurran

It's unquestionably true that Series 6 has been on a bit of a winning streak since it's return with last week's 'The Girl Who Waited' being sumptuous, masterful television and the best episode of the series so far. Many including myself have anticipated this week's episode since preview clips arrived from Comic Con in July but will Whithouse's hotel of horrors cope under the immense weight of last week?

Plot Outline:
The TARDIS arrives in a seemingly normal hotel, but it soon becomes aware there is no exit in their current location and that every visitor to the hotel has their own personal room waiting for them. Behind each door lies one's greatest fear and the worst nightmare they have ever endured causing frenzy and soon death. Will The Doctor be able to stop the hysteria and horror before it's too late?

 Right from the opening scene, 'The God Complex' sets it's tone, atmosphere and mood - from crane shots of endless staircases, to slowly trickling through vacant and eerie hallways, viewers are aware instantly that this hotel is bad news. If any viewers are horror movies fans, they will recognise the hotel in a previous work too because this spooky stop-off is certainly modelled on the insanely scary hotel featured in Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' (1980), in fact it looks SO similar, it would not be a surprise if the 'Doctor Who' team got the original set designers of the film to lend them a hand. With this being said, it could be easy to take it as a criticism when in fact it's praise; who wouldn't want to take a second trip to that terrifying cavern of ghouls and ghosts?

 Thankfully, the nasty occupants in 'The God Complex' are a refreshing mix of new and old villains which will thrill and chill audiences as well as the TARDIS team. Clowns, puppets, Weeping Angels, attractive girls having a chat? Yes, everything one fears is here. But perhaps the scariest of all is the parading Minotaur who comes for victims after they have experienced their room and have begun to exclaim the phrase "PRAISE HIM!".

 In many ways, Whithouse's tale is not like a conventional 'Who' and more like a Psychological Horror condensed into 45 action-packed and incredible minutes. One minute, audiences can be entranced by the fear of the current moment and then, as quick as a flash be presented by a character dementedly cackling whilst the words "PRAISE HIM" flash on the screen in all epileptic glory - It was refreshingly frightening and gloriously executed.  As well as having a superior narrative and production format, it was also beautifully directed by Hurran who is able to make the hotel feel so claustrophobic even though it's endless. Tricky camera angles and spiralling shots were a-plenty and the episode greatly benefited from this.

 The episode was also full of little perks that put a big geeky smile across my face like The Doctor's room being number '11' and amongst the photos of lost souls in the hotel featured a very happy Marcus Wilson (the show's producer) and various villains in shirt and ties - a personal favourite was a Silurian. 

 But as well as being spooky and edgy, 'The God Complex' was littered with humour with the majority of it in the form of Gibbis played by the wonderful David Walliams; lines such as "Resistance is exhausting" were simply side-splitting. Our good old Time Lord had some laughs in him too, particularly where he "fires" Amy and calls Rory "Beaky".

 As usual, the performances were brilliant with Smith being the star. He is eccentrically bizarre throughout before crashing back to reality and creating sheer emotion and tear-jerking moments as he and Amy exchange kind words whilst leaning on an E-Type Jaguar. Gillan and Davrill were also fantastic and the episode ends with Amy being called 'Williams' rather than 'Pond' - it was a frankly touching moment and a satisfying conclusion. As previously mentioned, Walliams was hilarious and made Gibbis an extremely likeable if a little selfish tag-along.

 After last week's powerhouse of tears, raw emotion and questions of reality and human rights, 'The God Complex' softened the tone but increased the frights and it was a simply magnificent experience. Whithouse's hotel of horrors is something of a treasure and is amongst the series' highlights alongside 'Day of the Moon', 'The Doctor's Wife' and of course 'The Girl Who Waited'. Next week's 'Closing Time' sees the brilliant Craig (James Corden) return, Cybermen and The Doctor working in a toy store. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

'Who' Wins at TV Awards!

Big Smiles as 'Who' Wins Awards!

Last night's TV Choice Awards saw Karen Gillan grab the Best Actress award for her performance as Amy Pond and 'Doctor Who' win the Best Family Drama prize.

Former Doctor David Tennant also obtained the Best Actor achievement for his performance in the BBC One drama 'Single Father'. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss' other amazing show 'Sherlock' took home a trophy too for Best New Show.

Congrats from Mad Man, Blue Box to all the winners and nominees.

'The God Complex' Preview Videos!

If You Can't Wait for The God Complex...

'The God Complex' Episode Clips!

If you weren't excited enough already for Saturday night's episode, these three clips are certain to get you bouncing off the walls! 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

'The God Complex' Content!


'The God Complex' Arrives Next Week!

David Walliams. A Minotaur. Clowns. Weeping Angels. A setting that mimics 'The Shining' - This episode should be incredible! Here's the trailer and a message from Arthur Darvill to get you all pumped for next week! Enjoy!

'The Girl Who Waited' Review

'Doctor Who' Series 6 Episode 10 - 'The Girl Who Waited'
Written by Tom MacRae - Directed by Nick Hurran

I've made no secret about my hopes for this episode, in fact it's been my most anticipated of the sixth series. My favourite episode of last year's series was the fabulous 'Amy's Choice' so the thought of another Pond-centred tale excited me beyond belief, but were my expectations met?

Plot Outline:
The TARDIS arrives on the planet Appalachia; a place The Doctor has told Amy and Rory is wonderful. However, on arrival the trio are welcomed to sheer white emptiness. It's soon revealed that Appalachia is a therapy facility in which the ill come to stay and eventually die. Amy unfortunately manages to lock herself into a different time stream to The Doctor and Rory which begins an eventful and emotional ride which is a struggle to overcome.

 'Doctor Who' is that rare television show that still after all these years, is able to shift and side-swipe it's audience. You could be thinking one thing but actually it's something entirely different. This is one of the areas where the show strives and 'The Girl Who Waited' re-enforces this idea completely. 

 What starts out as a intriguing Sci-Fi plot soon turns into a gripping, taut and harrowing exhibition of love, human rights and equality. Nothing is as it seems and consequently the plot reflects this to the viewer. One moment you could be laughing at another classic line from Rory before being shot back down to reality by an emotional bullet to the heart making this 45 minute tale is an extraordinary example of scripting, performing and above all else, television.

 Some of the show's best episodes have been 'Doctor-light' such as 'Blink' and 'The Girl Who Waited' rightfully joins that list. That's not to say The Doctor being absent is better, far from it and he is certainly more frequent here than in 'Blink', but it's nice to see that previous Cyberman writer Tom MacRae focused his story on Amy and Rory. It's rare to have two companions who are so intrinsically detailed and designed so it makes sense to give them an episode to express that, and what a better way of digging deep into a character's psyche than to have the particular character in question meet an older version of themselves?

 Old Amy had been through so much in her 36 years alone and isolated in her long-lost time stream - she has spent her days hiding and fighting off the 'friendly' Handbots and hoping that Rory and The Doctor would save her. Once Rory finds her, she is devoid of emotion and pity, and unsurprisingly has a sheer hatred of our Gallifreyan hero. The contrast between the Amy Pond we know and love, and the fearless and tormented elderly version forces an incredible weight onto Rory and indeed the viewers. Old Amy has basically lived her life for death, and for young Amy to be saved would shift her timeline once again causing the older version to have never existed. 36 years of solitude just to be wiped out for 'another' version of yourself is a heavy and monumentally unfair burden to face. 

 The gravity of Amy and Rory's situation is enormous and tests their relationship greatly, and it's here where 'The Girl Who Waited' shines brighter than the piercing white light from The Interface. Karen Gillan's performance is simply spellbinding - it's easily her best to date, and considering she's always great, this episode is proof of just how talented she is. Playing both young and old Amy, she snatches every scene and performs with heartfelt emotion, edge and grit, and believability. It was stunning to watch her act so fabulously. Arthur Darvill was exceptional too and nailed the tough decisions he must make for his 'wives'. The sequence at the TARDIS door was the most honestly affecting and powerful scene of 2011 without a doubt and that's not just in 'Doctor Who' - that's the most powerful moment in the year's general TV viewing. Darvill's stress and pity struck such a chord with the viewer - easily enough to make a grown man cry. Smith was very good as ever but as I previously mentioned, this was the Pond's hour and what a magnificently fine hour it was.

 My original hopes for this episode were certainly met and quickly surpassed making 'The Girl Who Waited' the best episode of Series 6 by a country mile. Television rarely meets these heights and manages to blow one away so dramatically. It was visually beautiful in it's set design, detail and production, narratively beautiful with it's perfect scripting, formatting and developing and painstakingly beautiful from the incredibly moving and satisfying performances. If anybody thought this would just be a 'filler episode', I bet they are eating their hats right now. The Handbots frequently exclaimed "This is a kindness!" and they were right; it was incredibly kind of MacRae and the 'Doctor Who' team to give the world this masterpiece.

Friday, 9 September 2011

'The Girl Who Waited' Clips!

If like me you CANNOT wait for tomorrow night's episode, check out three exclusive clips from 'The Girl Who Waited' here right now! I have my suspicions that this could be amongst the best episodes of series 6 so let's keep them crossed! Enjoy Whovians!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Moffat's Web Wars...

Doctor Who

Since becoming the 'Doctor Who' showrunner, Steven Moffat has had to deal with a fairly large amount of angry customers. Firstly 'fans' moaned about Smith, then at the newly designed Daleks, followed by the decision to split Series 6 into two parts, followed again by the 'forcing' of River Song and now because of the 'over-complexities' of the current series. 

 Through the magic of the internet, it's incredibly simple to voice your opinion about something and it's just as easy to gain a response. Thanks to Moffat's frequently active Twitter page, he has been subjected to a tyrant of rather cruel and undeserving comments and suggestions from supposed 'fans' of the show. The website Digital Spy released an article about this over the weekend (which Moffat himself has said to ignore as it is just "spin"), but it does highlight his emotions to those causing him this extra grief. 

 It was claimed that one Twitter follower threatened to "beat him up" which again is not the full truth, in fact the follower in question, Faz (@TheFarran) posted this:

Since he made this comment, he has made a lengthy apology to Moffat and can understand why his remark was misconstrued. Ultimately though the underlying point is why bother making such ridiculous comments in the first place? Moffat is a screenwriter for a television show; that is his job, so why should users or 'fans' question that? If you are unhappy with the current direction of show, simply do not watch it, or alternatively, watch and then constructively criticize - write academically or at least sensibly with no foul language and make you opinion heard as well as being equally valid. 

 Moffat has complained at the language he has been subjected too which is also inexcusable. Calling somebody the 'C' word is never nice regardless of whether it is in person or not. It's quite simple that those who are making these remarks are not fans of the show; sure there are episodes which I think are weaker than others and indeed some that are just plain bad, but I certainly wouldn't then jump online and start shouting and swearing about it like some squared-eyed Neanderthal. 

 What Moffat has done with the last two series' of 'Doctor Who' is simply magnificent - to create Saturday teatime television that doesn't spoon-feed the viewer and actually requires some audience involvement and brain activity is revolutionary, and even better, the original core heart of the show is as present as it was through the RTD era and so on. Moffat's passion for the show gleams through his own works and reflects greatly upon the fellow contributing writers, and this passion is actively and beautifully portrayed through the electric cast.    

 We love 'Doctor Who' because of it's endless imagination, it's consistent intrigue, it's impossible beauty and it's craftsmanship. We love it because it's Sci-Fi with a heart, with emotion and with humour. It's the ultimate package - what other show can take viewers each week to a different point in all of space and time? The answer is simply none, so why do a few individuals feel they have the right to bash the man who is keeping this show for what it is and in all it's irrevocable glory? 

 I adore Moffat's writing and I believe his talents are reflected in all of his projects, and it angers me to think that people have the right to be so nasty about somebody purely based on their work. They need to grow up and learn that it is unacceptable to treat people in this manor.

Mad Man, Blue Box backs Steven Moffat all the way.

By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Whilst we Wait...

For 'The Girl Who Waited'...

Here's the trailer and a sneak-peak information video about next week's episode which looks frankly stunning. According to Gillan, it was her toughest episode yet so we are bound for great results. Enjoy the videos below...

'Night Terrors' Review

'Doctor Who' Series 6 Episode 9 - 'Night Terrors'
Written by Mark Gatiss - Directed by Richard Clark

After a triumphant return to Series 6 last week with Moffat's 'Let's Kill Hitler', Mark Gatiss has occupied the writer's chair and in rather usual fashion he has supplied fans with another warped and chilling tale - something which he does best. Like many 'Who' episodes, 'Night Terrors' has been labelled "The scariest of all time", but is this true?

Plot Outline:
The TARDIS trio arrive at a block of flats after The Doctor receives a stress call from a terrified little boy. George is scared of everything, especially the 'monsters' in his bedroom cupboard. His father Alex is at his wits-end with his son's irrational behaviour but The Doctor knows George's fears are justified as he knows that "Monsters are real..."  

 Last week's episode was weighted in core character drama and bridging the essential on-going story arc - thankfully Gatiss' eerie tale has left that alone for 45 minutes and given us a traditional "hide behind the sofa" 'Who'. This episode dangles fear by a string and patiently waits to drop it upon the viewer, taunting them with chills and suspense - there are no "BOO!" moments or obvious jumps, instead we see shadows linger across walls, dark figures lurking in the backgrounds and the demonic sounds of little girl's laughter that echoes through the vast and desolate location the gang find themselves in. For any child who finds house-hold creaks, the dark and light piercing through the edge of the door scary, they will have difficulty sleeping after this one...

 Admittedly, 'Night Terrors' is not the scariest episode of all-time, but it is certainly tense and presents it's horror effectively and sparingly - viewers are not presented by the freaky, oversized Peg Dolls until at least 25 minutes into this tale. We see shadows and scuttling movements, but never facial features and body movements until the final act. It's also fantastic to see an episode set in present day; just because The Doctor is located in a crummy block of flats does not mean horror is lurking around the corner - one doesn't have to go 123,000 years into the future for a fright.

 As well as the fear, Gatiss' script brings subtle and rather brilliant humour to his macabre adventure; during the episode's opening, The Doctor, Amy and Rory are subjected to making various house calls to locate poor little George. Having an elderly lady grill our Time Lord about transporting bin bags down numerous flights of stairs was side-splitting. For a man with such knowledge and life experience, it's great to see him have such difficultly with general tasks and situations. However, he is right about Rubik's Cubes; those things are broken.

 Like a lot of current adventures, we see The Doctor have his own duties to fulfil whilst Amy and Rory are located somewhere else getting into all kinds of trouble. When the couple board a lift that plummets them into the mystery 'doll's house', they seem ever so far away from The Doctor and security, even though they are actually just inside the cupboard he's leaning against; it's a beautiful and well-dramatised juxtaposition and one this episode continually recycles.

 The performances were all wonderful, with Jamie Oram as George and Danny Mays as Alex being the stand-outs. For such a young child having to carry the constant burden of being terrified, Oram gives a remarkably believable and touching portrayal; I expect to see him again on TV soon because the kid certainly has talent. Mays is one of my favourite British actors working today - he has such a presence and is able to pull off being a tough guy who's sensitive as easy as breathing. His chemistry with Oram here made a harmonious father-son relationship that wasn't tacky or cheap, it was heart-warming and honest. Mays was the perfect casting choice. 

 Smith was brilliant as usual and spent more time cracking jokes here than dying a lot like last week. His scenes with Alex in the kitchen were like a proper double-act; a British and more sensible Laurel & Hardy perhaps? Gillan and Darvill were fantastic too and revealed in the terror of there situation in the creepy 'doll's house', yet there was still time for Rory to come out with yet more classic lines - "Oh we're dead aren't we? The lift fell and we're dead. We're dead, again!"

 'Night Terrors' was a fine example of perfect scripting, performing and above all else, timing. The frights, the laughs, the suspense - it was all timed with precision and structure. A chilling, moving and exciting tale that lit up Saturday night. "Tick Tock, Goes the Clock, Even for The Doctor"...