Doctor Who Series 8 Review – “The Caretaker” (Writers: Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat)

Last year saw the fiftieth anniversary story for “Doctor Who” start with Clara having a teaching job at the place where the “legend” began, Coal Hill School. Somewhat belatedly, the Doctor made his return to the school following his previous adventure at this school (more on this later) as he took on the role of John Smith, the new caretaker.

The Doctor pretending to be human is nothing new. After all, Gareth Roberts has done this take on the lead character twice before with “The Lodger” and “Closing Time”. However, despite the threats of a Silent time craft or the Cybermen, these two stories were, for want of a better phrase, cute and fluffy – and this is not a criticism of those stories. They suited the more comedically alien incarnation that Matt Smith portrayed. But with a new Doctor comes a fresh take on the “Doctor pretends to be human” story which whilst still maintaining the humorous tone of the previous two stories is as spiky as the lead.

The main story follows the Doctor as he goes undercover on a “thing” to track down and stop a one robot artillery called a Skovox Blitzer. Apparently, the Blitzer has been attracted to Artron energy, which the Doctor admits (in a roundabout way) could be down to the Doctor’s previous travels to this location (in “An Unearthly Child” (1963) and “Remembrance Of The Daleks” (1988)). Amongst this, the Doctor must impersonate a human, whilst preventing Clara and fellow teacher, and her boyfriend, Danny Pink from getting in the way of his plan. However, I have to admit that the Doctor chasing around an alien war machine wasn’t the most interesting aspect – firstly, because… well, I have to admit that the Blitzer looked a bit naff as an adversary. It looked like something from the classic series rather than what we’ve been used to since 2005. The second was that the sub-plots were more interesting as a storyline.

There are two sub-stories which bounce in and out of this plot. The first is Clara’s trouble with keeping her “Coal Hill Life” and “Doctor Life” separate due to her controlling behaviour, which is harder for her than the Ponds, for example, who unashamedly revelled in the “Doctor Life” whilst he popped in and out of their lives. The second is that a new person has pushed her way in to the Doctor’s life in Courtney Woods – the school’s disruptive, formerly very disruptive influence.

The humour from this script comes from the fact that the very fact that right from the outset, the Doctor can’t impersonate a human. Yes, he looks like one and sounds like one, but from the moment he greets himself as “John Smith”, you can see through Peter Capaldi’s performance that the Doctor can’t be a human for the same reason that he can’t be a caretaker (even though he has taken on this role in “The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe) – “Twelve” is a great big show off.

Why do I say a “show off“? Well, this comes through in both the humourous and serious sides of this script. An example of the humourous nature of his showing off is when he gatecrashes Clara’s lesson on “Pride and Prejudice” and tells her in front of the class that she’s wrong because he’s read the notes to the book. An example of the more serious showing off is in the scene when Danny uses the invisibility watch to hide on the TARDIS. The Doctor shows off that he can detect an invisibility field due to his nature as a Time Lord. However, this attempt at showing off backfires on the Doctor once Danny uses his past as a soldier to serve as an uncomfortable reminder of his actions as the “War Doctor”, in particular that Danny is the type of person to rescue people whilst the Doctor is the person who causes the problem in the first place – an uncomfortable to parallel to the War Doctor’s message that great men are forged in fire whilst lesser men serve to light the flame. How many “Danny’s” were there in the Time War to make the Doctor this uncomfortable?

In fact, whilst Clara is the hub of this particular sub-plot in the story, it’s the Doctor’s encounter with Danny that makes it interesting. Danny is, understandably, a little out of depth with the Doctor and Clara’s relationship. Of course, he’s going to be suspicious of the Doctor’s use of alien tech (the Chronodyne Generators) to defend the school and it’s natural that Danny would want to protect the school both from the Blitzer and from the Doctor, but whilst he’s out of his depth, you can see that Danny genuinely cares about Clara. Whilst the shock that Samuel Anderson portrays in the scene when he first meets the Doctor attract comparisons with Mickey’s behaviour at the end of “Rose”, Danny’s protective nature throughout is more in tune with Rory than Mickey along with his “Alpha Male” attitude as far as where Clara’s concerned.

The Doctor also displays an “Alpha Male” attitude where Clara is concerned and this brings out some qualities that, I have to admit, I’m uncomfortable with. Yes, he’s vain enough to think that Adrian is Clara’s boyfriend rather than Danny and there is a sweet smile of recollection as though he thinking to himself “That was was Clara and I at one time”, but it brings out an ugly side to his character. You get the high handed arrogance of the Time Lord within the Doctor, something that has been pretty well hidden in the modern era of Who, except for “The Time Lord Victorious”. He protests that he doesn’t want to be saluted or spoken of as “Sir” by Danny, but he treats Danny as somebody who requires his approval to be Clara’s boyfriend and as a bit stupid and, with that, he condemns humans as being stupid and boring with an element of contempt, which reminded me of Christopher Eccleston‘s interpretation of the Doctor.

But Danny is far from stupid or simply the former soldier that the Doctor despises. It’s Danny’s bravery that saves Clara and the Doctor when the plan to use her as bait to lure the Blitzer goes wrong, and it’s his emotional intelligence that works out that the Doctor is angry because he’s testing Danny to ensure that Clara is safe with him. Danny also parallels Rory significantly when he says that the Doctor behaves like an officer in the army by pushing his companion to please him, something that Rory accuses the Doctor of in “Vampires of Venice” when he states that the companions want to go through danger just to please the Doctor.

The only person, in this story, that the Doctor does seem impressed with is Courtney and that’s because she openly says that she’s a disruptive influence. Who better to impress the Doctor, the universe’s biggest disruptive influence? She has a curiosity that matches that of the Doctor, she challenges authority and she displays little fear when she realises the Doctor’s true nature as an alien being. Okay, she may end up with a little time sickness on her journey into space at the end of the episode, but even if it’s not Courtney who joins him at some point as a permanent fixture, you can see the start of the Doctor thinking of “life after Clara”.

At the end of the story, we have the coda to the Nethersphere/Promised Land as the PCSO who was killed by the Blitzer at the start of the story meets Missy’s assistant, with Missy herself in the background. I have heard one theory as to Missy’s true nature and it’ll be interesting to see if this pans out at the end of the story.
Casting wise, this, like most of the stories for Series 8, have been pretty intimate affairs with Ellis George being the guest star of note in the role of Courtney.

At the start of the story, Ellis gives Courtney a gobby and cheeky attitude with all her “Love to the Squaddie” references to Clara. As the story progresses, it’s her scenes with Peter Capaldi which really shine through with her verbal sparring making her worthy of the “Potential Companion” tag.
The regulars are also on form in this episode.

Peter Capaldi himself is definitely hitting his stride in the role of the Doctor. Granted, his Doctor is a bit of a shock to the system in comparison to the more “companion friendly” Doctors as of late. There is a sense in Capaldi’s portrayal that, on the one hand he’s steeling himself for letting go of Clara – something that’s been building as far back as “Deep Breath”, but on the other, he is reluctant to let her go and behaves in a possessive manner – such as in the scene when they first encounter the Blitzer when he says that Clara needs to explain her relationship with Danny to him. He also gives the Doctor an air of behaving in a morally superior way which borders on pompous, more alien and wanting a “hands off” relationship to people other than Clara. Bringing these things together and you end up with a character that is an uncomfortable and unsettling shift from the Doctor that people may be aware of since 2005. However, there are light touches in his portrayal which acts as a counterbalance including his bursting in on Clara’s English lesson, his bantering Courtney and I loved the reference to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall” when Clara told the boys off for playing football on the outdoor chess area.

Jenna Coleman turns in another great performance in the role of Clara. The character likes to be in control of the two worlds in which she exists, so it’s great to see how the Doctor’s world pushes into her day to day existence and how she, unsuccessfully, tries to minimise the damage of this intrusion which includes trying to the put the Doctor in his place when he interferes in her English lesson and coming up with an unconvincing cover story when Danny first meets the Doctor as he truly is.

Samuel Anderson is also excellent in this episode as Danny. He informs the audience more of who Danny truly is. Yes, on the surface the character, Danny could be your typical male companion-figure, given the chance, with Clara treating him as a bit of an idiot in the aforementioned scene when she tries to explain the Skovox Blitzer as a Summer Fair play. Underneath though, Danny is a man who believes in honesty – whether it’s him sticking it to the Doctor in the TARDIS when he challenges him on his attitude or making a request to Clara for a relationship built upon honesty. There are still layers in the character to be explored, specifically his reasons for leaving the Army, and I hope these layers pulled away by the time Series 8 ends.
Messrs. Roberts and Moffat have served up and episode which works on two levels. It serves as a part-comedic/part-serious examination of the leading man and how his actions impact upon his companion and the people who his adventures encounter (something that Steven Moffat promised prior to the series commencing). It also serves as an ominous portent that as the series continues, we may be seeing a change occurring in the Doctor/Clara friendship – whether it be a parting of the ways or a change of emphasis.

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Doctor Who Series 8 Review – “Time Heist” (Writers: Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat)

It’s strange experience when you have an expectation of an episode of a television programme only for it to be something totally different.  “Time Heist” is one of those episodes as the pre-publicity sold it as “Doctor Who meets Ocean’s 11″… or in this case “Doctor’s 4”.  What we got instead was a fascinating episode which uses the time travel premise of Doctor Who’s remit and a reminder of who the Doctor actually is, and I don’t just mean the grumpy old man of Time and Space.

 

The episode starts unusually with an apparent domestic beginning with the Doctor and Clara bantering about her latest date, only for it to cut to the story proper thanks with our heroes, along with two apparent criminals – Psi and Saibra, being informed that they have had their minds wiped (Psi – an augmented human who can download information directly into his brain wiping it – through the use of technology, whilst Saibra – a woman who has the ability to change her form to match other organic lifeforms, the Doctor and Clara uses Memory Worms (last seen in the 2012 Christmas Special “The Snowmen”) to wipe their respective memories.

Under threat of having their mind wiped by the mysterious Teller, a being who can sense guilt, the foursome break into the Bank of Karabraxos on the instructions of the mysterious “Architect” for items that the Architect knows that they all want.

Whilst the “Heist” itself is a clever plot as we, along with the Doctor and his team, are guided along by the Architect’s plan using their abilities such as Saibra’s genetic morphing condition, Psi’s ability to download information and personalities into his brain, Clara’s humanity and the Doctor’s ability to use information and build plans “on the hoof”, until we find out why they all volunteered to rob the bank, who the mysterious Director Karabraxos is and whether they will all survive unscathed, this is a deceptively cleverer story than the “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” premise than even the Doctor realises as he breaks into the vault.

As we see the Architect’s plan play out – and through the episode as a whole, we are treated to a character study of who the Doctor is – both on the surface and underneath.  Some of it is very much the Doctor that we know – the man who champions the underdog (when he realises why he has been given this bank job, thanks to his memory being restored by the Teller), the man who wants days where “everybody lives” (through his use of the “Shredders” that are actually teleporters) and, despite apparent evidence to the contrary (namely Psi’s reaction), that the Doctor gives a damn about people – especially his reaction to Saibra’s apparent death by “Shredder” once the Teller locks on to her guilt.  He also carries some of the Doctor’s flirty nature where Clara is concerned at the end of the episode when he challenges Clara to top robbing a bank for a date.

He also shows the darker aspects of his character – not only as the Doctor, but when it is finally revealed that he is the “Architect”.  He is a clever tactician, very much in the mould of the Seventh Doctor portrayed by Sylvester McCoy, maneuvering himself and his team (unwittingly due to his mindwipe) to succeed in the mission by laying breadcrumbs along the way.  “Twelve” definitely has a Game Face which makes him unreadable and cold not only to the opposition but to his friends as well.  This comes to the fore when Psi confronts the Doctor on the selection of his title.  Rather than the man who makes people better, this is a man who has his armour on show.  None of the touchy-feely stuff for this Doctor.  Doctors Nine, Ten and Eleven have all been accused of being the man who can’t look back because of the damage he does.  Messrs. Thompson, Moffat and Capaldi bring together a Doctor where you can genuinely believe that he has to keep his emotions buttoned up and bulletproof.

But the most telling aspect of this Doctor is that even though he has to be this darker, more confrontational and more strategic persona, he hates it.  Why?  It comes in two passages – the first when Saibra tells the Doctor about the fact that she can tell that the Doctor is lying because she can see it in the way he behaves due to her knowledge of people and the second when he states that he hates the game playing, controlling, callous and ego-maniacal behaviour displayed  the Architect.  He’s guessed that it’s he who has set all this up the plan, but he waits for the evidence of the Teller’s mind scan to confirm it – but even so, he knows that he hates the Architect who came up with this plan and it’ll be interesting to see how this progresses as the series moves on.

 

The direction by Douglas Mackinnon is, yet again, top notch with jump cuts and scene changes moving at a rapid pace appropriate to the script.

 

For such a grandiose plot, the main cast is very small and intimate, making for a great character study.

Keeley Hawes creates a clever “villain” in the twin roles of Ms. Delphox and Director Karabraxos.  Delphox/Karabraxos counterpoints the Doctor’s deceptive nature with a character who has to be totally truthful because Delphox can’t lie to Karabraxos – the very reason that she uses clones.  But, it’s wrong to call Delphox and Karabraxos as true villain.  They both simply wish to maintain the security of the bank, whilst Karabraxos has some level of decency within her by, in effect, arranging for the Doctor to plan a robbery so that he can release the Teller’s mate along with the Neophyte Circuit to restore Psi’s memory and the Gene Suppressant for Saibra.  It’s to Ms. Hawes’ credit that, despite these revelations, she can still make the characters cold hearted enough to make them both unlikeable.

Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner are great in the roles of Psi and Saibra respectively.  It’s a mark of their acting ability, along with the script, that they make these two thieves sympathetic to the audience.  Both characters carry some level of damage in their wake with Psi losing the memories of his loved ones whilst Saibra cannot make physical contact.  It’s little wonder that the Doctor wants to include them in his band of robbers as they are reflections of him.  On the inside, he is Psi, a man who has to make the choice to forget loved ones whilst, on the outside, he is Saibra in that he knows that he can’t allow emotional contact because of the damage that follows in his wake.  I really enjoyed Psi and Saibra with both becoming potential companion material if the time was right.

Jenna Coleman continues to challenge in the role of Clara as she continues to be the Doctor’s “carer”, not only being the Doctor’s emotional buffer to people for his actions but his fiercest advocate, even though he appears callous to the point of being ruthless.  Clara believes that she knows the Doctor’s methods, after all, she’s seen multiple aspects of him, but he really throws a curve ball by openly displaying a disregard to Saibra’s apparent death by Shredder even though we as the viewer see him agonise with this decision.  Jenna really sells the emotion that although the Doctor is apparently cold and detached, she knows what he’s really like and defends him to the hilt.

But it’s Peter Capaldi who has the best character progression in this story.  He has to sell multiple and conflicting attitudes within the Doctor’s portrayal in this story.  On the one hand, the Doctor is ice cold – callous, gameplaying and detached to the point of being unlikeable and I’m talking pre “The Edge of Destruction” First Doctor nasty.  On the other, this cold and callous nature is done for a purpose – to protect his friends in the process of a robbery that isn’t for gold or money, but for the altruistic reasons of returning a person’s treasured memories, or allowing contact for the first time or saving the last two members of a race – something that surely serves as a parallel to his own predicament as the Not Quite Last of the Timelords.

In the hands of a less skilled actor, this portrayal of the Doctor could come across as unlikeable, but Capaldi manages to balance the light and dark of this incarnation so that he manages to shock and surprise without coming across as a Doctor who you wouldn’t want to travel with, but the synopses from the rest of the series makes that as something to be seen.

 

“Time Heist” is a story that works on multiple levels.  On the face of it, it’s a crime caper that moves at a rate of knots.  Underneath, you get a great character study of the leading man in this series.  It’ll be interesting to see how “Twelve” progresses going forward given the apparently darker path he is looking to tread later in the series.

A Whovian must have promo blog: Tardis Blind by Direct Blinds!

Hi my hot cute girly geeks and boy geeks of course. Something a bit different today, but very, very awesome. As you know, all of us geeks at Hot Cute Girly Geek are massive Whovians and I know a lot of you followers as well. And today I have something special for you guys.

I know it’s not your standard Doctor Who memorabilia, but this makes it all the more special. Direct Blinds has created a Tardis Blind! Have you seen it! It’s awesome! I want one! No wait, not just one, I want my whole house decorated with these blinds! Can you image, being surrounded by Tardisses (is Tardisses the plural for one Tardis?) Anyway, check the info below.

Oh and to make it extra special… They are now having a 33% discount offer!!!

Tardis In Situ

A RETRO MUST FOR EVERY DOCTOR WHO FAN

Whovians now have another excuse to add to their Doctor Who memorabilia with a custom made blind inspired by the Tardis.

Online blinds retailer, Directblinds.co.uk has added a made-to-measure blind featuring the Doctor’s very own Tardis to its hugely popular sci-fi collection –‘Spaceships’. It’s a must for any true Whovian young or old!

Just like the TARDIS, the traditional roller blind has come a long way over the years. Each blind within the collection can be custom made to unique specifications, including stay-fresh coating, blackout fabric for a better night’s sleep and eco-friendly fabrics. All boast an easy-to-clean surface for those annoying stains and spills.

To view the full Spaceship range, visit http://www.directblinds.co.uk/spaceship-blinds/ where you can purchase the TARDIS blind (from £99) directly and also customise to suit your specific requirements. Or if you would like to talk to someone about a special custom blind please call 0845 421 3561. (UK)

Tardis

Does that look awesome or not!

But what if you’re not a whovian? Don’t worry, check the website. How about the Enterprise, or a Klingon Bird of Prey! And what about the epic Millennium Falcon! Or one of the other amazing space ships for your geeky heart and interior design!

Check out Direct Blinds on their website! And the information about the promo code for a 33% discount: http://www.directblinds.co.uk/dr-who/ I’d say it would make a really epic Valentine gift for any geek! (As in I wouldn’t mind getting one.)

And don’t forget you can also follow the geeky people of Direct Blinds on twitter: @DirectBlinds

And please do like them on facebook as well: https://www.facebook.com/directblinds?fref=ts

About DirectBlinds.co.uk

  • DirectBlinds.co.uk supplies quality made-to-measure window blinds direct on the internet to consumers nationwide
  • Based in West Yorkshire it has over 40 years’ experience in manufacturing and supplying all types of window blind products. Its vast range of fabrics and materials are drawn from all leading UK suppliers to the blind industry
  • Unlike most blind companies online, all DirectBlinds.co.uk products are made in the UK at its factories by its own skilled workforce – employed directly from the local area.
  • The firm uses both traditional and modern manufacturing techniques with next day delivery also available on all orders.

Love, your own hot cute girly geek, Mendy.

Music Review: “Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Album” (Various Artists)

If proof was ever needed that the soundtracks have one of the key ingredients to “Doctor Who”‘s success, it could be seen through the array of albums released throughout 2013 by Silva Screen records.  There were the Classic series releases for “The Caves of Androzani”, “The Krotons” and “Ghost Light” plus two releases for the post-2005 incarnation for Series Seven and the 2011 and 2012 Christmas specials, “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe” and “The Snowmen”.

To round of 2013, Silva Screen have decided to pop open a bottle of Radiophonic bubbly with the release of “Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Album”, a four CD celebration of the musical output ranging from Delia Derbyshire’s iconic arrangement of Ron Grainer’s theme through to Murray Gold’s scores from the latest series.

This is truly an eclectic mix with stock music and tracks from the “Musique Concrete” style which dominated the 1960’s sitting alongside a selection of styles from the 1970’s, including a varied range (both electronic and chamber orchestral) from the man who is still “Doctor Who”‘s most prolific composer, Dudley Simpson, the synthesiser driven music of the 1980’s from composers such as Peter Howell, Paddy Kingsland, Dominic Glynn, Jeff McCulloch and Mark Ayres and the big sweeping orchestral scores from John Denney (for the 1996 television movie) and, most recently, Murray Gold.

Given the limited space size, it’s nothing short of a miracle that there is such a variation in music, with the selectors giving a fair balance to every era of the show.  (The first, second and third Doctors are represented on Disc 1, four and five on Disc 2, six, seven and eight on Disc 3 and nine, ten and eleven on Disc 4).

There are iconic musical motifs interspersed amongst the four discs including the memorable themes for the Daleks and Cybermen from stories such as “The Daleks”, “The Tenth Planet” and the James Bond-ian music from “The Invasion”, the electronic themes which greeted Roger Delgado’s incarnation of the Master, the fourth Doctor’s last moments in “Logopolis”, the music that signified the end of the Seventh Doctor’s adventures with Ace in “Survival” and the music which accompanied the Doctor’s story in “The Rings of Akhaten”.

From a personal point of view, there are some fantastic themes which should have been included in this collection such as the beautiful military riff from the 1970 story “The Ambassadors of Death”, the cosmopolitan themes for 1979’s “City of Death”, whilst Rose, Donna, Martha and Amy’s themes appear in this collection, which makes the exclusion of Clara’s “Impossible Girl” theme inexcusable.

There is a special limited release due which includes eleven discs, one for each Doctor, but with a price tag of £100+ I’m afraid that I won’t be buying.

If you’re a fan of the music from “Doctor Who”, this collection will certainly entertain you, but for me it could have been so much more and I hope that there will be more episodic releases during 2014.

Review: “Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor” (Writer: Steven Moffat)

“And now it’s time for one last bow,
Like all your other selves.
Eleven’s hour is over now,
The clock is striking Twelve’s.”

It hardly seems a heartbeat ago since we were celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of “Doctor Who” and slightly longer than that since the newly baked eleventh Doctor was holding on to TARDIS for grim life following his regeneration at the beginning of “The Eleventh Hour”.  But on Christmas Day, it was time for “Eleven” to bow out in what was, in essence, a celebration of “The Matt Smith Era”.

There have been a lot of synopses and opinions flying around since the transmission of this story and, to be honest, it’s a case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. What I will say is from the outset is that what I write are MY feelings after a second viewing nearly one week after the event, once the initial emotions have died down.

Firstly, I’ll go into the story itself.  Writing a regeneration story must be difficult, I mean, if you think about it, there have been only seven episodes out of 800 episodes where an actor has REALLY had to say “Goodbye” as the Doctor before handing over to his successor.  (I don’t count 6 to 7, 7 to 8, 8 to “War Doctor”, “War Doctor” to 9, or the 10 to 10 regeneration).  For Steven Moffat, it must have been more so as not only does he have to carry the emotive weight of the regeneration, but he also has to tie off numerous continuity strands which have been a part and parcel of Matt’s tenure as the Doctor – namely the cracks in time, the Church of the Silence, River’s creation as the Doctor’s assassin, Gallifrey Falls No More and, most specifically to this story, the battle of Trenzalore and “The First Question”.

With the weight of continuity to support this episode, I have to admit that I sympathise that this story was seen unfavourably in some quarters. I have to admit, that whilst the story has its faults – and this is from a personal perspective – it does the job that it needs to in honouring The Eleventh Doctor (or Thirteenth if you wish to be pedantic about the actual number of regenerations) and tying up the majority of the continuity references before handing over to the next fella.

The story opens in usual Christmas special fashion with balancing the adventurous, in this case the Doctor being threatened with extermination or upgrading, and the homely with Clara cooking the turkey for her Dad, her Nan and her Dad’s girlfriend.

However, once the warm silliness – including an insight into religious nudity – is over, we are thrown headlong into the main story with Dorium’s warning message from the conclusion of “The Wedding Of River Song” coming into fruition. The Doctor has arrived at Trenzalore, nobody can speak falsely and the first question of “Doctor Who?” has been asked by the Time Lords with the sole aim of returning to the Whoniverse. To add complications into the mix, the Doctor’s most deadliest adversaries have massed around Trenzalore and the Church of the Papal Mainframe, who become the Church of the Silence, are keen to ensure the Doctor remains silent.

The plot then moves on into various unsuccessful attempts at invasions of Tenzalore which are repelled by the Doctor.  Whilst it could be seen as this is a reason for more silliness, what with Sontarans being “offed” by the Papal Mainframe with a great deal of politeness and wooden Cybermen invading like the Christmas Nutcracker, it also serves to highlight the Doctor’s resolution that he will act as the town of Christmas’s sheriff, as he was deputised to be in “A Town Called Mercy”, and acts as a taster to the episode’s third act when the Daleks come into play.

Amongst these invasions, however, we are treated to two occasions where the Doctor sends Clara back to Earth.  ‘Hang on minute,” you may have said, “didn’t he do this in “The Parting Of The Ways” when he returned Rose to Earth… during a Dalek invasion?”  On the surface, these two stories do bear that similarity, but it also acts as the enabler for the emotional strand with Clara seeing the Doctor age over the centuries with him becoming increasingly vulnerable due to time and conflict and his “Impossible Girl” being the person to help him out one more time.  (That said, I did have a personal niggle with this that I will touch on later).

The final act sees the Doctor backed into a corner, the regenerations all used up and facing his mortal enemy one more time.  However, whereas this incarnation of the  Doctor, up to the closing scenes of “The Day Of The Doctor”, would have taken a more martial solution to this invasion, the newly reformed (from our perspective) Doctor tries to take on what his assumed name entails – by taking the Daleks on in one last war of words whilst protecting the people he cares for, rather than wiping them out.  As his promise states, neither “cruel or cowardly” and never giving up or giving in.

His reward for this act of bravery, a new regeneration cycle, which eliminates the vision of Trenzalore that we witnessed in “The Name Of The Doctor”.  Whilst the act of regeneration has been approached with a degree of sadness throughout the Doctor’s lives, the preliminary stage of this regeneration is seen almost as an occasion for defiance, even glee, by the Doctor as he rubs the Daleks’ collective blobs into the fact that he is regenerating for the thirteenth time whilst windmilling his arms in the style of Elvis Presley or Pete Townsend from “The Who” before using his regenerative energy to repel this final Dalek taskforce.  It’s only in the regeneration’s second stage where we feel the emotional punch.

For me, this double climax is a double edged sword.  On the one hand, it could have been seen as smarter that Steven Moffat wrote Eleven’s goodbye to Clara prior to the first regeneration cycle and then introduced Twelve on board the TARDIS.  However, this would have robbed Matt Smith of his chance to break the “fourth wall” and speak to the fans.  It’s not Clara who says “You… you are the Doctor.”  It’s the fans.  It’s not Eleven who states he’ll always remember when he was the Doctor… It’s Matt Smith, much in the same manner when David Tennant said that he didn’t want to go.

In the midst of this regeneration, there is consistency with previous regenerations, specifically those of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, as he hallucinates the first person who he saw in that incarnation, Amy Pond.  Again, this is a personal double edged sword as on the one hand as this scene rounds off the Eleventh Doctor’s era nicely by adding a sense of “Alpha” and “Omega” with the first face he saw wishing him goodnight in that body, however, it also relegates Clara to the role of a bystander rather than the current travelling companion.

Once the regeneration happens, we expect the whole blazing light routine that we have seen previously.  But again, Steven Moffat wrong foots us by transforming the Doctor in the blink of an eye, ensuring that we don’t mourn for too long and providing us with the sensation of shock that Clara undergoes, with no small thanks to Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman’s pacey delivery.

On to the acting front, for such an epic story, the “lead” guest cast is small in size. Orla Brady delivers an effectively slippery performance in the role of Tasha Lem. You have to believe that you don’t know which side she’ll fall down on – the Doctor’s, her own and that of the Papal Mainframe/the Silence or the Daleks, whilst carrying an element of seductive flirtiness for the Doctor. Good as Ms Brady’s performance is, you have to wonder whether this character is a recycle of River Song and whether Alex Kingston was due to be in this finale to round off River’s relationship with Eleven.

Kayvan Novak gives a nicely underplayed voiceover performance in the role of the Doctor’s temporary companion, “Handles”.  One the one hand, you get a relationship between “Handles” and the Doctor which could be compared with the fourth Doctor and K-9 with “Handles” annoying Eleven when asking him when he should give a reminder to move the TARDIS’s phone function back into Console Room, but he also acts as the McGuffin when he not only identifies that the original signal comes from Gallifrey but also translates it, thanks to the High Council seal that the Doctor took from the Master in “The Five Doctors” (who said the anniversary celebrations were over).  Finally, “Handles” acts as the foreshadowing for the Doctor’s  imminent demise once he shuts down due to a lack of parts.

Additional notable support is provided by James Buller, Sheila Reid and Elizabeth Rider in the roles of Clara’s Dad, Clara’s grandmother and her father’s new partner Julie respectively and Jack Hollington in the role of the Doctor’s young friend Barnable.

Nicholas Briggs reprises his role as the Dalek and Cyberman voices whilst Dan Starkey goes on to show that it isn’t just Strax who is short of brains in his particular clone batch.  Meanwhile, Peter Capaldi grabs the audience by the lapels with a dynamic performance as Twelve, whilst Karen Gillan underplays at pulling the heartstrings in her surprise return as Amy Pond. (“Moffaaaaaaaaaaaaattttt!!!”)

Jenna Coleman uses her screen time well continuing the change in the dynamic between Clara and Eleven from the two enigmas prior to “The Day Of The Doctor” into two firm friends.  If I had the chance to be selfish, it would have been nice to see one more series featuring her and Matt Smith together to see this change in dynamic flourish.  Unfortunately, I have to admit that this story doesn’t really use the character of Clara effectively as it could have done, relegating her to the sidelines when the Doctor sends her back to Earth whilst pushing her to the sidelines again in favour of the Amy hallucination.  The character of Clara deserved better than this due to the fact that she made the sacrifice to be scattered along the Doctor’s timeline to act as his constant protector and used her humanity to avert the bloody conclusion of the Time War at the Doctors’ collective hands.

But, appropriately, it’s Matt Smith who was the star of the show.  Unlike previous regeneration stories which have had an element of the doom laden about it (Yes, I’m looking at you “Logopolis” and “The End of Time”), this story is a vehicle to act as a celebration of Matt’s time as the Doctor.  Granted, the conclusion was always going to be sad, but Matt prevented it from being stuck in a weight of misery by adding a life and zest to the role right up to the actual regeneration.  He had to convince that this was the longest time that the Doctor was stuck in one place – forget “The Year Of Hell”, we don’t know how many centuries he was stuck in Christmas, and he did it admirably by making the Doctor more curmudgeonly and older and yet retain the Doctor’s magic and determination without parodying an old man, which would have weakened the eleventh Doctor’s departure.  In addition to this, when the regeneration comes, he manages to “speak” to the fans whilst not being mawkish or too funereal.

All in all, it wasn’t the most perfect story in the “Doctor Who” canon, but it did the job of casting off the majority of the plot strands given to the Eleventh Doctor, celebrating the legacy of Eleven and the work that Matt Smith has given to the role, and giving the Twelfth Doctor a clear mission statement for his return in 2014.

The bell has tolled and Trenzalore has been and gone.  Gallifrey awaits and a new Team TARDIS are crashing headlong into new adventures.

Review: “Doctor Who: The Enemy Of The World” (Writer: David Whitaker)

Unless you’ve been either on a desert island or are a member of “Hermit’s Anonymous”, you’ll know that things have been a little busy in the world of “Doctor Who”.  Most recently, we have had hours of programming devoted to the fiftieth anniversary.

However, Whovians were treated last month to an announcement that we didn’t think would at all be possible.  Nine episodes, previously thought lost forever, had been found by Phil Morris – a man who has been hailed as a bit of an Indiana Jones for the television age.  Now, forty-five years after its original transmission, the BBC have released the six part story “The Enemy Of The World” on DVD.

 

The main plot of this story sees the TARDIS crew of the second Doctor, Jamie and Victoria landing in 2018 in Earth’s Australasian Zone.  Following an encounter with some armed men, the Doctor and his companions are drawn into a plot to overthrow a man by the name of Ramon Salamander, the so called “Shopkeeper Of The World” due to his work on feeding an ever expanding human population.  A man who has a darker side to his persona and who also happens to look like the Doctor.

 

The only experience that I have had of this story prior to its DVD release earlier this week was through the only episode that was held in the BBC archive, Part Three, when it was released on “The Troughton Years” and “Lost In Time” compilations.  Unfortunately, in its own right, this episode isn’t the most dynamic as it was one which delivered a lot of plot and little action.  However, to judge this whole story on its weakest episode doesn’t do this story justice as this six-parter is a pacy story with plenty of action and sophisticated writing by David Whitaker, especially given that “Doctor Who” was primarily a children’s programme at the time of transmission.

David Whitaker’s script for the story has been described as being in the James Bond mould and it’s easy to understand why.  You have a villain who, on the one hand  has the public face of a benevolent hero, whilst on the other hand has plans to take over the world through using technologically created earthquakes, plots and counterplots,  nasty underlings and weak men who are manipulated, and a plot that keeps moving throughout six episodes.  Plus, he delivers a story which could be relevant as a “Who” story today as the focus is upon a man who creates food for an overpopulated world, but seeks to keep the world under his thrall using natural disasters as his weapon.

Given that this was Barry Letts’s directorial debut, it’s easy to see with the benefit of hindsight why he was given the role of producer during Jon Pertwee’s time on “Who”.  He keeps the action moving along at a breakneck speed.  Granted, as I state above, Part Three is a bit on the slow side, but this doesn’t hinder the overall pace of the story which manages to tease information to the audience throughout the six episodes yet maintains the viewers’ interest.

As for the casting, well it’s note perfect. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling give solid performances in their respective roles as companions Jamie and Victoria.  Hines gets the chance to portray Jamie more of a thinker in this episode, rather than as the impetuous hero than Jamie is traditionally known for, whilst Watling manages to take Victoria away from her “screamer” tag into a character who is as much involved in the action as Jamie.

The guest cast perfectly compliment each other, as well as the lead cast, most notably Bill Kerr in the role of Giles Kent, Mary Peach going into “Emma Peel” mode in the role of Kent’s assistant Astrid, Colin Douglas delivering a gruff performance as security chief Donald Bruce and Milton Johns delivering a note perfect performance as the slimy assistant to Salamander, Benik.  (A type of role he would return to in the story “The Invasion of Time” as the equally slimy Castellan Kelner).

But, it’s Patrick Troughton who is the real star performer of this story, and not just because he is the Doctor.  Troughton uses his background as a character actor to convincingly portray two roles.  His performance as the Doctor is very much as you see throughout his time in the role.  That being said, given the story’s more edgier focus, the Doctor’s clown persona is stripped down and whilst you get a man who could still be underestimated by his opponents, you also see a more determined and even steelier Doctor than what we’re used to in this incarnation.

On the flip side, his portrayal as Salamander is one of being two sides of one coin.  Like the Doctor, he has two personas, but whereas the Doctor’s is born of a need to have opponents underestimate him so that he can triumph through cunning and letting his opponents make mistakes, Salamander’s is born from a need to show the outward trappings of a benevolent leader, whilst once you scratch the surface you get a dictator who is cruel, duplicitous and represents everything that the Doctor is not, as where the Doctor uses his intelligence and technological resources to help people, Salamander uses them to subjugate.

“The Enemy Of The World” is a cracking story which, as I said, will probably come to be very underrated in the annals of “Doctor Who”‘s history, especially as it is placed in a season which has two Cybermen stories, two Yeti adventures, the first appearance of the Ice Warriors and Victoria’s departure after an encounter with parasitic seaweed.

If I have to have one niggle with this release, it is the lack of extras (or “Value Added Material”).  Since the BBC became aware of the full potential of the DVD, we have had documentaries, commentaries, comedic short stories, CGI enhanced effects and other material to surround the story itself.  Despite the picture quality being enhanced and improved using the VIDFire process and a trailer for the forthcoming story “The Web Of Fear”, there are no additional extras on this release. This is disappointing, not only from the perspective that people who have purchased it would have had to pay roughly the same price as other releases in this range, but because I think that there will be a few tales to tell about this story, both about its production and its recovery.

A case of a welcome return for a classic story, but the rest of the package could have been so much better

Review: The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (Writer: Peter Davison)

Imagine the scene, it’s the biggest party of the year and you’re not invited. That’s the central story idea to this mockumentary written, directed and starring Peter Davison who, alongside Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, tries to gatecrash the filming of the fiftieth anniversary episode of “Doctor Who” with the help, or hindrance, of a collected cast of “Who” luminaries including Paul McGann, Steven Moffat, John Barrowman and David & Georgia Tennant.

On the lead up to the fiftieth anniversary celebrations, you may have become aware of a couple of Twitter hashtags floating around – #FDR and #FishDr. Well, the fruition of the project behind these hash tags came into fruition with “The Five(ish) Doctors” which was transmitted on the BBC’s Red Button.

Mr Davison has produced sketches of this nature for the Gallifrey convention where he paints himself as a combination of a pompous Thespian and a bit of a buffoon. “The Five(ish) Doctors” extends this with a comedy of errors as he, along with two of his successors, try to get in on the anniversary filming.

Each of the three leads paint themselves as three actors who are desperate for a role in the anniversary. Davison still plays the comedy buffoon leading his two “partners in crime” around, whilst trying to call in favours from Steven Moffat, who plays up his evil genius persona whilst playing with action figures, and more comedically, his daughter (and sketch producer) Georgia who plays up her pregnancy, along with a craving for chocolate ice cream and an exasperation with her Dad as he seeks a favour from Mr Tennant in getting a role in the special.

Colin Baker portrays himself as an actor desperately hanging on the end of the phone for work, whilst subjecting his family to repeat screenings of his time in the series.

Sylvester McCoy joins in the fun by playing up his involvement as an actor in a major film like “The Hobbit”, much to Colin’s annoyance.

This combination of the three leads makes for a relationship akin to the traditional relationship in the “Doctor Who” stories where Doctors meet – all of them sniping and disagreeing with each other, but whereas the Doctors usually have a plan of some sort, these three hapless heroes wing it with comedically embarrassing effect.

In addition to the guests above, you get additional prominent portrayals by Paul McGann who is as desperate as his predecessors to get in on the special… work permitting, of course, and John Barrowman playing up his musical performer persona whilst revealing a hidden side to his private life which is hilarious (This is a case where I have to say “spoilers”), plus members of the production team including Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Nicholas Briggs, various companions from different eras, family members, a hilarious cameo scene by Peter Jackson and Sir Ian McKellen, and one final cameo which definitely has a big spoiler attached to it.

Needless to say, if you haven’t seen “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot”, I highly recommend that you hunt it down.

As a humourous “piss-take” in the vein of the Ricky Gervais series, “Extras”, this little adventure lovingly has fun at the expense of the franchise without mocking it and it sits nicely alongside the other programmes that commemorate this landmark anniversary.