REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World

Last week Doctor Who ‘Extremis’ burrowed away in my brain for days and gave me a breakdown of sorts. My initial positive reaction gradually dissipated as gaping holes in the setup opened wide before me. There were huge flaws but as a story to set up a trilogy I accepted it. But then comes ‘The Pyramid at the End of the World’…

Firstly the episode has to open with a recap of what happened last week. This means Bill relays the story that The Doctor has told her to her date, Penny. Knowledge of The Doctor is shared pretty freely it seems. Anyway, Bill and Penny return to the kitchen table. Now Steven Moffat clearly found his joke about the Pope interrupting a date so funny that he not only had to replay it for the audience but repeat it with someone else. It was misjudged in ‘Extremis’ and verging on offending the viewer by expecting another laugh seven days later. The pre-titles therefore serve no purpose whatsoever except to prepare you for what is to follow; scene after scene of plot exposition.

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Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World (C) BBC

The Plot

From the very outset viewers endure scene after scene of humans and alien creatures conversing. Humans talking to humans. Humans taking to aliens. Alien talking to aliens in the presence of humans. The only potential action sequence of multiple human forces attacking the pyramid is swiftly negated. Instead we get scene after scene of exposition. There is no action whatsoever. Dialogue heavy scenes sunk series 9 stories and we are back to that method of storytelling. No show, all tell.

All the way through the episode is desperately attempting to explain what the hell is going on. From why is the pyramid in Turmezistan to the Monks need for consent, all of this has to be spoon fed to the viewer. The three minutes to midnight doomsday clock had to be explained too but why these creatures choose a 5,000 year old pyramid to hide out in was not.

At least the Monks did something this week. They actually took a few lives. But overall they just stood around, walked, pointed, did their inconsistent speech (flapping the jaw up and down irrelevant of the dialogue) and droned on about consent. “Fear is not consent.” If BBC Shop was still open that could’ve been the next t-shirt slogan. Was it intended to be a weird allegory about rape? Anyway, the Monks require a disaster to befall the human race in order to be invited to take control of planet Earth. But they don’t want the humans to know about it, just take their word for it. The Monks don’t even cause it, they just watch it happen. If the humans don’t know about the disaster befalling them then they won’t consent effectively to saving.  But I imagine these creatures of seemingly limitless power and benevolence can rectify everything even after it is too late? It’s just nonsense.

Last week we learned that the creatures have run simulations to identify Earth’s weakest moment. This was a simulation so intricate that it could predict the presence of two non-humans and that one of them was blinded by events that occurred in the far future. Yet they still didn’t anticipate that The Doctor, like he always has done, would save the day, which he does. For the viewer there was absolutely no doubt as to where the disaster would occur because they’d been shown it.

Pyramid at the End of the World 3
Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World (C) BBC

The Conclusion

One scientist has her reading glasses broken and the world will end because a hungover colleague gets his sums wrong and loses the ability to close airlock doors properly. What the hell kind of story is that? Getting the quantities of chemicals wrong, fair enough. But an experienced scientist is expected to lose the ability to shut an airlock door behind him because of a hangover? Come on! When you are working in that environment you are meticulous about safety protocols. Equally you wouldn’t just remove your helmet because you felt nauseous. Those suits are worn for a reason. Similarly what kind of air filtration system removes bacteria only to pump it out into the atmosphere? Bit of a design flaw that. At this point I lost patience with the product.

Anyway, The Doctor solves it all because that’s what he does. Then for all the technology in the laboratory a door is fitted with a manual locking mechanism. Why? Because The Doctor, you might not have realised this, is blind. You wouldn’t have thought so the way he flew round the laboratory but honestly he’s blind.

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Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World (C) BBC

Blind or not blind?

When The Doctor first appears in the episode he opens his eyes and moves around the TARDIS console strumming his guitar. He then places the instrument down without any problems at all. No missing the rack, he just turns and places the guitar safely in its place. It certainly doesn’t imply that The Doctor is still blind. In the remaining scenes the sonic sunglasses provide some form of vision. Surely if you were actually blind you’d still move a little hesitantly even with these sonic shades?

To make things worse as The Doctor was locating the lab he removes his sonic shades, holding them in one hand. Despite being blind he still managed to move directly towards the TARDIS console and operate the correct lever to dematerialise. It was a smooth movement. He’d already walked around the console and yet showed no hesitancy whatsoever. And this was supposed to be a character who was blind? All of this inconsistency meant that I simply stopped believing that he was blind because he wasn’t moving like he was. The sonic shades were also so effective that he just moved around as normal. No tripping up the step in the TARDIS, or catching the corner of console. Nothing. So when I needed to believe that he was trapped because he couldn’t see I just didn’t.

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Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World (C) BBC

Earlier in the episode the sonic screwdriver was shown to have the ability to lift a MANUAL barrier. It was seen in the series trailer and in promo pictures, you can’t miss that it is manual barrier. A sound effect tried to hide this fact but even the most moderately attentive viewer would’ve noticed this. If this magic tool can lift a manual barrier then to see it stumped by a door was simply inconsistent. Similarly, the idea that Bill had not worked out that the Doctor was blind stretched credibility. Nardole stood metres away telling the Doctor what he should be seeing made it a bit obvious. So far the character has been presented as sharp and intelligent making this at odds with the rest of the series. In her defence I stopped believing he was blind too. To base the entire finale on resolving this inconsistency was utterly bewildering. So then suddenly The Doctor has his sight back again.

Next Time…

Ultimately we’ve spent two episodes, nearly an hour and a half, to get to the point where The Doctor has sight again and we can have an episode with the Monks in charge of Earth. As a result we have had to endure not one but TWO setup episodes to get to that point. Frankly, it hasn’t been worth the effort. Missy will also be in that episode next week too so the Monks will probably be made redundant so she can get in her sparky dialogue. Other than the line “To rule with fear is inefficient”, there is very little about the Monks that makes sense thus far. In fact there is very little about them which is even notable at all. They just feel very generic and bland.

Next week ‘The Line in the Land’ could be a classic with some fabulously dystopian imagery. However the journey to get to that point, over the course of two episodes, has been prolonged, confused and tedious, full of inconsistent messages. After the first five episodes were so consistently strong, two thirds of the Monk trilogy have so far been nothing but filler material. I liked the simulation idea but gradually it fell apart. This week it didn’t take extended consideration to become irritated by the paper thin idea that a hungover scientist will bring about the death of civilisation.

When added together ‘Extremis’ and ‘TPATEOTW’ don’t stack up. Spectacular power and simulation technology is made completely futile when ultimately all they needed was a manual locking mechanism on a door to achieve their goal. Perhaps next time they attempt to take over a planet they could lead with that one and save us all the bother!

Doctor Who: Extremis: Why it’s bugging me

Extremis 1It has been a few days since I watched Doctor Who ‘Extremis’. On first viewing I was gripped and thoroughly engrossed with what was presented. However, the more I’ve thought about it, the more the episode falls apart…

The Simulation

Initially I was impressed with this revelation, largely because I didn’t see it coming. My initial thoughts were of the Matrix or Deep Thought from ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’. Unfortunately buying into the concept exposes the flaws of it.

Firstly, this simulation is so intricate that not only can it account for the rogue elements of a Time Lord and his assistant Nardole, but also details such as the inside of the TARDIS. Similarly, this simulation is so advanced that it can legislate for The Doctor going blind. What makes this even less likely is that these events occurred not only off-world but also in the far future. If an alien species can create technology that advanced why would they need to rehearse an invasion? In fact, what was it that was frightening about the Monks?

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Doctor Who: Extremis (c) BBC


The Monks

Visually the Monks were very striking. When the distorted facial features were revealed it was a strong moment. But other than emerging from the portals which they presumably opened, they did nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Consider when we were introduced to the Silence who, let’s be frank, are not a million miles removed from this new creation. In a scene in the Ladies toilet (The Impossible Astronaut, 2011) the quirk of forgetting the creatures when you were no longer looking at them was introduced. The alien then murdered an innocent woman in front of Amy Pond. In contrast the Monks ambled after a fleeing Doctor and did some pointing. There wasn’t actually anything which they did that was fear inducing. Even they way they spoke was clumsy. The mouth opened and a voice was emitted. Fine. Worked well for the Cybermen. But then there were moments when the jaw did move whilst the voice was projected. Pick one! Plus they fell into the classic Doctor Who monster flaw; utterly inept in a chase situation. Even a Doctor struggling to see managed to elude them.

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Doctor Who: Extremis (c) BBC


The Doctor

Again my initial reaction was how refreshing it was to see The Doctor being vulnerable. However the more I’ve considered it, the more illogical it became. In the past we have seen the Time Lord use some of his regeneration energy. Once it was used to recharge a fuel cell (Age of Steel, 2005) and on another occasion this energy was donated to Davros (The Witch’s Familiar, 2015). And yet this ability has been forgotten. Instead a new tool was introduced with some nonsense about borrowing from a future regeneration. The Doctor’s blindness could have been implied at the conclusion of ‘Oxygen’ then the simulation revelation could’ve been further reinforced by the bombshell that he was indeed still blind in our reality. Instead this simulation was, somehow, able to anticipate The Doctor going blind.

Nardole

Assisting The Doctor is of course Nardole and we had a hint that he’d been sent by River Song. He even claims and behaves like a bad ass, elevating his character above that of comic foil. Unfortunately seconds later he shrieks and undoes all of that positive work immediately. His character is just so inconsistent. Also we can assume that he isn’t human and is slightly robotic but yet the Monks were able to legislate for his presence and fit him within the software subroutines. Once again his place within the simulation program lacked credibility.

The Pope

The preview scene of the Pope interrupting Bill’s date typifies the episode. It is clumsy. Firstly, there’s a touching moment where Penny begins to reveal her nerves about her sexuality. Bill shapes up to help her through it in the caring manner that we’ve come to expect of her. To ruin this poignant moment is, of all people, the Pope. The way Penny reacted, not thinking it was a foolish student housemate but instead recognising the real Pontif was telling. This implied a history of Catholicism but that was not clear. Instead the scene degenerates into comedy but falls flat on it’s face.

Extremis 3Missy

Another guest appearance in the episode was a returning Missy. Her plot thread ran alongside the main story as The Doctor reminisced about the events leading to his guarding of the Vault which has been developing throughout the series. Whilst it came as no surprise who was in the Vault it could’ve been handled so much better. Firstly, whoever was in the Vault was clearly alive as we previously heard them banging on the door from the inside. Part of me was anticipating a Moffat-esque twist where it turned out not to be Missy inside. However with The Doctor venturing inside in an earlier episode and stating Missy directly by name that twist simply would not work. Again the more you think about it, the more you realise that it doesn’t quite work. Much like CERN.

CERN

The famous research centre’s inclusion was an intriguing prospect. Why a catholic priest felt the need to share a translation that the world we are in was in fact a simulation is beyond me. With that information why would they then feel the need to partake of a mass suicide, using stock from ACME it seems, again doesn’t make sense. Had those responsible at CERN believed that they had been the ones responsible for opening the portals into our world, unleashing the alien creatures, then that would’ve been more logical. It would also have generated a sense of guilt and despair. Instead they just couldn’t deal with the idea of being part of the simulation. Like most of the other pieces of this episode’s puzzle it simply could’ve been better.

‘Extremis’ is the first of a trilogy and perhaps some of these elements will be developed further. My initial reaction of the episode was a positive one but as the days passed it began to trouble me all the more. I hope this post has outlined why.

REVIEW: WWE Summerslam

imageSummerslam is WWE’s second biggest show of the year and the first proper Pay Per View (PPV) since the brand split. Both Raw and Smackdown were able to build and present their matches for the ‘biggest party of the summer’. The only exception to this was the main event which featured Brock Lesnar of Raw and Randy Orton of Smackdown.

The matchup had been promoted for many weeks, built as a match 15 years in the making. Unlike the main event of UFC 202 the previous night, this contest failed to live up to the hype. With the exception of an RKO on the announce table, Lesnar physically dominated and abused a 12 time world champion. Now this is not unheard of, a similar fate was endured by 15 time world champion John Cena a few years ago. However with Cena seemingly taking time away from WWE, the destruction of Orton belittled Smackdown’s only other marquee star. With the Miz holding the Intercontinental title and Dolph Ziggler falling short once again, the blue brand surely needs to push AJ Styles to the top-level and challenging for the WWE title to give their top prize credibility.

imageAnyway, back to Lesnar v Orton. The conclusion of the match was shocking and unexpected, even to long-term fans. There was no escaping the obvious. Lesnar caught Orton with an elbow to the head which split him open hard. If that was indeed the intended finish then it was a bold move. Since the move to the TV-PG rating WWE’s output has been significantly watered down with blood loss an obvious absentee. So for the main event on the second biggest show of the year to be stopped in this manner was unexpected to say the least. It was quite grizzly too as Orton clutched his head and when eventually Lesnar was pulled off the third generation superstar he was prone in a pool of his own blood. To complete the finale a F5 was delivered to Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon, which will inevitably lead to a storyline suspension. Brock Lesnar’s limited dates contract means that he’ll have some time off, possibly get in another UFC bout and return around Royal Rumble for Wrestlemania season. As a result, this main event achieved nothing whatsoever other than a mildly entertaining watch. Like the majority of Summerslam it was therefore a disappointment.

imageWith the exception of the AJ Styles and John Cena match, which was spectacular, the rest of the card could be described as average at best. Sasha Banks failed to defend her women’s title as a back injury necessitated her dropping the strap back to Charlotte. During the match Banks took a nasty looking bump off the turnbuckle which could easily have broken her neck. It’s no wonder she’s injured her back based on that evidence. None of the other championship matches were much to write home about. One of them didn’t even happen as Rusev and Roman Reigns brawled without actually having a match, robbing those who had bought the event on PPV of seeing another title up for grabs. A new addition to the Championship scene also debuted at Summerslam as the Universal Championship belt was unveiled.

imageThis new title is not just ridiculous sounding, a champion of the entire universe, but now also looks terrible. It is so odd that the current Intercontinental title belt is an old version but at least it has a unique look to it. Now the WWE World, WWE Universal and WWE Women’s championships are almost identical with the only major differentiation being the colouring of the strap. I don’t have a problem with the consistent design but the red leather ruins it for me. What is more important however, and has rightly been pointed out by Mick Foley online, is that two competitors at the top of their game put on a good match for it.

imageAlthough good the match was a little disappointing, there’s no getting around that. The first time Finn Balor and Seth Rollins had met in the ring was hoped to have had instant chemistry but although exciting and entertaining it just lacked a little something. As it has turned out Finn Balor suffered a shoulder injury early on and incredibly popped the dislocated joint back in within seconds. However, this did not seem to hamper his performance. The capacity crowd also seemed more concerned with voicing their displeasure to the appearance of the new belt than following the action in the ring which killed the atmosphere. The moment that Balor won the title should’ve been met with a deafeningly positive reaction. Sadly that reaction was absent. I had concluded that the PPV debut of the Demon couldn’t possibly end in failure. Perhaps the crowd had also reached this verdict. It set things up nicely for a series of Rollins/Balor classics as Seth fails to overcome the Demon, elevating the myth of this dark side of Finn Balor. Depressingly we have now been denied this feud as news broke that Finn would be spending months on the sidelines following surgery.

imageOn Raw just 24 hours after winning the title, Finn Balor relinquished it, causing the intended plan for the next few weeks to be ripped up and a hastily arranged series of matches worked out to crown a new champion. I am a big fan of Seth Rollins. Like most of the WWE Universe I am keen to cheer him despite his persistent heel character. But his buckle/throw powerbomb has not only caused the neck injury that retired Sting but has also embarrassed the WWE by injuring one of the company’s most exciting new talents. The curb stomp was replaced by the Pedigree as that was deemed too violent a move and surely now the buckle bomb has to be culled too.

Following three nights in a row at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn there needs to be a time for reflection. Both rosters need to scramble together and analyse who is left without suspension. As discussed injuries have also struck with even Samoa Joe breaking his jaw at NXT Takeover Brooklyn II. The Dudley Boyz have retired too. But such is the fast paced turn around of the business the show must go on. Bayley made her debut on Raw. Nicki Bella is back and thought to be joining Smackdown. The blue brand will also now start building for their Backlash PPV which starts with Smackdown Live tonight…

Update: Smackdown Live

Opening the show it was announced that the blue brand would have new tag team and women’s titles to be crowned at the Backlash PPV. Continuing the pattern identified by WWE the new belts match the current ones on the Raw brand but with a change to the colours, incorporating the blue of Smackdown. Personally I prefer the blue, particularly on the silver penny tag title design.

 

The episode saw Nicki Bella get beaten up by Carmella, more Heath Slater related irritating comedy and set up an intriguing encounter between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. There was also the implication that a Shane McMahon v Brock Lesnar stunt match could be on the cards. I also noticed that David Otunga said during commentary, on two separate and unrelated occasions, that “desperate times call for desperate measures”. Otunga is like a confused and bewildered pensioner. Spouting total nonsense. Yet Jerry Lawler is reduced to pre-show duty.

As I hoped AJ Styles was rewarded for his Summerslam performance with a title match. He also proved his worth by defeating Dolph Ziggler in the show’s main event. Styles will now challenge Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship at Backlash. Perhaps by then that title belt might have got a blue updated strap.

REVIEW: Game of Thrones : Season 6 Finale

imageIn a season which had a pedestrian build-up, to say the least, slowly putting in place the pieces it needed to deliver an impressive finale and it didn’t disappoint. After setting it all up, the final two episodes roared to life with explosive scenes that redefined the phrase “must see television”. All the plot threads have had significant screen time dedicated to establishing events but the payoffs were more than worth the wait. If you’ve not caught up then do not hamper your enjoyment by reading further, there will be spoilers!

imageLast week saw the epic ‘Battle of the Bastards’ for Winterfell and certainly lived up to expectations. Fortunately good triumphed over evil as the Starks recaptured their home and Ramsey Bolton finally got his just desserts. More than that the episode saw a truly spectacular battle. It’s epic scale alone set new standards for what can be achieved with a supposed TV budget. There was a gritty, and at times suffocating, realism which heightened the brutality and the chaos of such a battle. From the very start there were moments where the viewer is left concerned that things were not going to go the way of the Starks, beginning with Rickon’s death. This was at the hands of an arrow from Ramsey Bolton, at his most manipulative and despicable that continued as he instructed his archers to shower down arrows on his own men, building a grotesque wall of corpses with soldiers from both sides. With the Wildling Warriors and Jon Snow surrounded all seems lost. imageBut then as the audience’s collective heart sinks, Sansa and Littlefinger come to the rescue with the Knights of the Vale. The overhead shot of the cavalry sweeping away the Bolton army was beautifully created, sending Ramsey into retreat behind the walls of Winterfell to little avail. Jon Snow gets his shots in as he pummels at Lord Bolton’s sickening face but it would be for Sansa to have the final triumph and the last shot of the show. Ramsey’s cruelty ultimately proves his undoing and Sansa walks away with a subtle smile knowing she has got her revenge.

‘The Winds of Winter’ picked up the mantle from ‘Battle of the Bastards’, an episode many have considered to have been one of the best the show has produced, and somehow delivered even more punch. From the very outset there is a beautiful melancholy tone, beginning before a musical note is even heard as a lone bell, watch out for it later, chimes impending doom. The incidental music then assists the drama so skilfully and has to be acknowledged.

imageAll the scenes in King’s Landing for effectively the last two seasons have been building to this moment, the Trial of Cersei Lannister before the Seven Gods. The rise of the Faith Militant had of course proved to be a catastrophic miscalculation by Cersei, having to endure the humiliating walk of shame at the end of Season 5. But you always knew she was going to have her revenge and boy did she, also wiping out the Tyrell’s at the same time. Loras admits his guilt and dedicates his life to the Seven Gods, meaning the graphic mutilation of his pretty forehead. His life didn’t have long left however as, in a plot stolen from Guy Fawkes, wildfire tore through the Great Sept of Baelor in another spectacularly delivered effect. Yet in a typically unexpected twist Cersei’s greatest victory resulted in her cruelest loss as King Tommen drops to his death in a shot similar to the humourous demise of Denholm Reynholm in ‘The IT Crowd’. You feel that with all her children gone, like Lady Olenna Tyrell, there will be no limits to her madness.

imageThe extended running time of ‘The Winds of Winter’ was fully utilised as a number of threads were tied together, such as Sam and Gilly arriving at Oldtown and Shireen’s brutal demise last year finally catching up with Melisandre. Arya Stark’s personal journey finally begins to be accelerating as she ticked another individual off her kill list in this episode. The time spent learning the ways of the House of Black and White finally come to fruition as she wreaks her revenge on Walder Frey on behalf of her mother, brother and all the viewers shaken by the events of the Red Wedding.

For the really hardcore followers Bran’s journey into the past would reveal the true identity of Jon Snow’s parents, Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. The gut wrenching realisation that after all this time Ned Stark was not in fact his father but had kept up a lie to protect his sister’s son was another example of how incredible Game of Thrones is as a television series. As well as delivering the explosive sequences and epic battles already discussed it also provides deeply intelligent plotting which elevates it to the ranks of a television masterpiece.

imageJon Snow’s own journey during this season, which of course started with him being dead and in need of resurrection, also ends in triumph as he is declared ‘The King in the North’. Once again however it is young Bella Ramsey who steals the scene as Lyanna Mormont, shaming the other Lords of the North, turning the tide and triggering the acknowledgment of his place as ‘King in the North’. A particular thread still left outstanding is that of Sansa Stark and Littlefinger, the lecherous and goateed individual revealing his intentions for the Iron Throne in this episode. However you feel that Sansa will not ever forgive him for handing her over to the Boltons and his comeuppance may come in Season 7, when he will surely pay a heavy price.

imageAnother exciting prospect for Season 7 is of course the fact that finally, FINALLY, Daenerys is making her move for the Iron Throne and heading for Westeros. The building of her army has taken an eternity but now she stands with Dothraki and Unsullied warriors, the ships of Yara and Theon Greyjoy, an alliance with the Martels and Tyrells, the council of Tyrion and Varys plus three freaking dragons! As will probably be the case there might be an extended period of build up before a battle between the Lannister and Targaryen armies that will surely raise even higher standards for epic television storytelling than we have already enjoyed in Season 6. Beyond that I predict we will also be treated to a thrilling climax between fire and ice because lest we forget in all this excitement, “Winter is Here”.

REVIEW: New Top Gear

imageIn perhaps the most anticipated relaunch of a television programme since Doctor Who returned in 2005 another global BBC brand returned to our screens last night. The strategy was clear from the outset, replicate the format of the previous show but with new presenters. Unfortunately the team of seven was largely absent with Sabine Schmitz only making a cameo and the limelight being taken by Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc. Evans is clearly excited to be given the opportunity to present the show but burdened with the pressure and responsibility of the relaunch couldn’t find the balance between addressing the studio audience and the viewers at home, resulting in some very shouty delivery. Matt Le Blanc is the star although he should clearly have opened with a “how you doing?” The American was far more natural and even though known as an actor he appeared more than comfortable in the role of presenter. During his films, which as usual were gloriously shot, for this first episode Le Blanc is knowledgeable and engaging, managing to grasp the dry sense of humour familiar to a British audience.

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All the boxes were ticked to try and present the show as the same which had been so successful before. “All we know is he’s called the Stig”, a Top Gear road trip with unreliable vehicles and a series of challenges for the presenters. The only real change, besides the audience on the balcony, was to the ‘star in the reasonably priced car’ which now featured a rally cross section to the lap. The Ramsey and Eissenberg segment also suffered from pandering to the studio audience, alienating the viewers at home.

Whilst many I’m sure have been composing their derogatory reviews since Clarkson, Hammond and May departed, this new Top Gear has tried to stay faithful to the previous regime. Unsurprisingly it is not the same because the pieces of the jigsaw are now different and for people to criticise it because of that is unfair. Amazon will be providing the familiar format and the big test for the Top Gear brand will be it’s ability to attract and retain an audience. If the first episode is anything to go by Matt Le Blanc is certainly worth watching.

Steven Moffat quits : a reaction

It has been a few days now since the dramatic news was announced that Steven Moffat would be standing down as Head Writer and Executive Producer of the BBC Wales produced Doctor Who. Firstly, a tribute.

doctor-who-steven-moffat-season-10-showrunnerSteven Moffat : The Legend

Many writers have contributed to the history of the programme. All have been entertaining and many have come up with some unique and original creations. However, there are a select few who have achieved that consistently. Robert Holmes and Terrance Dicks were joined by the man who successfully brought the show back after over 15 years, Russell T Davies. Now it is certain that Steven Moffat has earned his place on that list. His accomplishments are numerous. He created the Weeping Angels, the Silence and River Song, introduced the world to two different incarnations of the Doctor and managed to deliver a critically acclaimed 50th Anniversary special. Under his stewardship he has been responsible for the past five series of the show but his sixth will be his last.

Moffat’s skill at building a complex tale has come in for criticism a lot recently, particularly after the recent time-hopping special from another of his shows ‘Sherlock’. My own humble opinion concerning the conclusion of the latest series was one of disappointment due to the focus on a departing Clara Oswald. On that basis perhaps it is indeed time for some new ideas and Chris Chibnall was certainly the leading candidate.

chibnall1986Chris Chibnall

Sadly for Chibnall he will frequently be reminded about his appearance on ‘Open Air’ discussing ‘The Trial of the Timelord’ season, see the image above. This does prove his long term consideration of what makes for good Doctor Who. He has contributed episodes to Doctor Who, Torchwood, Life on Mars and Law and Order: UK. Crucially his popular and BAFTA award winning creation ‘Broadchurch’ starring Tenth Doctor David Tennant, has demonstrated his skill being at the helm of a show. Doctor Who is certainly in safe hands.

Doctor-Who-S9-E1-The-Doctor-IconicThe Future

What is far more troubling however is the news that there will only be one Christmas special in 2016 and series 10 will be broadcast in spring 2017. It feels like 1985 all over again. Doctor Who has been back on the air for over 10 years now and the apathy has set in. Now I am one such viewer who a few years ago would plan the weekend around the broadcast of new Doctor Who. Last year however the Rugby World Cup was on and catch up TV was required. But it is my belief that the BBC have themselves cultivated this viewer apathy. This is because Doctor Who is no longer at one consistent broadcast time but moved around the schedule because the priority is Strictly Come Dancing. If BBC One are not going to give it the respect and promotion with something as basic as allowing the public to know when it is going to be on each and every week then viewers might get excited about it once again. Frankly, Peter Capaldi deserves better.

All the more insulting is the ludicrous quote from BBC One Controller Charlotte Moore, claiming that “national moments” need to be rationed and so Doctor Who series 10 will be held back to 2017. Once again that elevates the European football championships and the Olympic Games above Doctor Who but both are summer events. Historically, new seasons of Doctor Who have debuted in January and frankly that is a far more sensible time of year than the spring which would see viewing figures drop as the weather improves and fewer people at home watching television. Similarly, the cluttered schedules of the autumn are equally unsuitable as has been proved over the last two years. Perhaps therefore Chris Chibnall’s first task is to get a stronger slot and consistent time for the programme to be broadcast.

REVIEW: Clara Oswald

imageThe series finale of Doctor Who is one of the highlights of the year but so often fails to match the hype, could ‘Hell Bent’ buck the trend? Sadly not. After the superb effort of last week’s episode the viewer is brought down with a crushing bump. In ‘Heaven Sent’ the Doctor struggles to deal with the loss of Clara, angry, alone and afraid. But it’s okay because this week he has found her again, almost immediately, in an American diner of all places. So what was the point I hear you cry? Who knows! imageThe companion is a crucial part of Doctor Who and why it is successful. They are the human, more often than not, that the viewer can connect with and journey with vicariously. By contrast the Doctor is an alien and so difficult for us to relate with. This has been the case since the beginning when the old man in a junkyard was a complete mystery and two school teachers provided audience connection. However, when the show becomes all about the companion it sidelines the Doctor, your leading man, belittling the programme to the level of generic serial drama (soap opera).

imageClara Oswald is the absolute worst culprit for this. She became the impossible girl, splintered along the Doctor’s timeline to save him over and over again. She triggered the Doctors’ change of plan and the ultimate rescue of Gallifrey. In ‘Listen’ (2014) she cements herself as the reason why a young Timelord had a fear of the dark. A year ago the series finale became the story of heartbreaking loss of boyfriend Danny, suffocating an exciting Master/Cyberman storyline into an irrelevant sideshow. History has repeated itself with that one. She has been the villain through Zygon doppelganger Bonnie and has become the Doctor, Jenna Coleman’s face even appeared in the title sequence for Death in Heaven, as sacrilegious as you can get. Now the character even has herself a TARDIS! The lunacy of a woman who apparently couldn’t work iplayer or wifi now being able to pilot a time machine is unfathomable. Friends are those who leave footprints on our lives, Clara Oswald has left a steaming turd.

Doctor Who Series 8

At times she is not even a likeable character, an egotistical control freak who dies because of her reckless stupidity. Fortunately this is Doctor Who where death is meaningless. And you thought Rory Williams was bad? He doesn’t hold a candle to Clara. I was one who didn’t get emotional about ‘Face the Raven’ because I anticipated a Clara return and sure enough the whole of ‘Hell Bent’ became about her.

hell_bent_gallifreyAs has been the trend with the whole series there was no big action set pieces just dialogue heavy acting lessons. Last we knew of Gallifrey it had been placed in a parallel pocket universe, however at the end of all things it magically reappears in it’s original universe so the Sisterhood of Karn can pop by. Explaining that away is conveniently passed over. However, Gallifrey looked incredible and there was even a new old TARDIS to get gooey eyed about. Rassilon was overthrown. There were nice cameos from a Dalek, Cyberman and Weeping Angel, just because. We even had a returning Maisie Williams, again just because. Who even knows what the hybrid was, apart from a plot point, so sadly no new fantastically brought to life creature. Just a prophecy that delivers only more words. The elements were all there including Peter Capaldi at the absolute height of his acting skills but sadly nothing but a flat aftertaste is delivered. At least he finally has his own sonic screwdriver, only taken 2 years!

With Clara gone, hopefully, please Rassilon let her be gone, how can you possibly follow her? River Song is perfect because of her back story and should be great during the Christmas special. But long term what can be done with a new companion? Perhaps now is the time that some fresh ideas are brought in with Moffat stepping down from Executive Producer but still writing brilliant material like ‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ and ‘Heaven Sent’. Saying that if anyone can think up a brilliant new companion Steven Moffat is the man!

REVIEW: Doctor Who 2015 season

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The following are reviews I have written for Gallifrey Times and I thought I would put them all together in one place on this blog, enjoy!


10. Face the Raven 7/10

Face the Raven can be described as a game of two halves, not in terms of duration but there is a clear divide between the story and then Clara’s death. Firstly the story. Returning character Rigsy provides a useful conduit to draw the TARDIS to modern day London, it’s always London. There is plenty of intrigue with the Torchwood ‘aliens amongst us’ mantra, set in a Harry Potter/Diagon Alley environment. The countdown tattoo is also an element borrowed from Justin Timberlake/Anna Seyfried movie ‘In Time’ but it does grip the viewer as does the intriguing murder mystery which sadly turns out to simply be the ruse for a trap. So we must now address the second half, the demise of Clara Oswald. For an actress who has been in the show since 2012, she possibly deserved a more publicised send off, occurring largely under the radar.

I was not very emotional about it all but I’m sure plenty of others were. Unfortunately a precedent has been set that a character’s death rarely prevents that character from reappearing, Clara in particular. Perhaps having the latest issue of DWM on the coffee table didn’t help with the sense that it is not the last we see of Clara. It seemed a very innocuous way to go too and boy did they milk it for all it was worth. I’d be interested to see the script, Jenna must’ve had 3 pages of lines to learn. After so many years on the show she probably deserved more publicity that this was her last but it almost certainly is not.

Recently so much has been made of the time shift viewing figures so it is a brave call to drop a huge sea changer which lots of viewers will inevitably have spoiled before they have a chance to watch it.
The real test of this episode will be how it is followed up. The Doctor’s behaviour, attitude and emotion can elevate this episode, like Utopia in 2007 which although thin on content had enormous repercussions for the remainder of the series and as a result it is more highly thought of. However the last word must go to Jenna Coleman who has hopefully enjoyed her time on the show as much as viewers have enjoyed watching her adventures.


9. Sleep No More 5/10

This week Doctor Who ventured into the ‘found footage’ genre popularised by movies such as The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and Cloverfield, the latter being one of my all time favourite films. The episode titled Sleep No More is a definite departure from the norm, there’s no title sequence or theme tune for a start, and should rightly be praised for doing something different with the Doctor Who format. With an intriguing plot centred around sleep deprivation technology, an eery atmosphere and a frightening monster it has all the ingredients to deliver an instant classic. However, the result falls flat and leaves the viewer scratching their head with no resolution to the peril whatsoever.

Firstly, a programme which begins with someone telling the audience not to watch is immediately asking for trouble and ridicule, even if it is later explained in the dramatic but far from satisfying conclusion. Similarly, despite an attempt to deliver a ‘found footage’ episode it stops short of embracing the genre. It is less ‘found footage’ and more of a holiday video edited together with a tedious commentary which slows the action. If done properly the story would begin with a UNIT (or other military) date stamp or record entry and present footage taken from security camera recordings. Like a black box recorder on a plane, there is no editing just the presentation of evidence. Instead we get ‘found footage lite’ with POV shots akin to Channel 4’s Peep Show, merged together with CCTV material. Ultimately this is explained away at the end and is probably an attempt not to alienate the regular audience.

A lot of debate will now centre on the conclusion with it probably being very decisive. In my mind it seemed muddled, left open for a second part or sequel which doesn’t appear to be forthcoming from the Next Time trailer. I like that occasionally the Doctor might not win, using the TARDIS to escape a situation he cannot change, it adds unpredictability. But this didn’t feel like that, the Doctor and Clara were off to Neptune and the sandmen were coming so why won’t we see what happens next?

Other irritants included Elaine Tan’s overuse of the word ‘pet’, the repeated feel of theCold Blood (2012) homage to Alien and the way Bethany Black was utilised. After the positive use of deaf actress Sophie Stone in Under the Lake where she was the commanding officer, Black as the first transgender person to appear in the show is sadly reduced to a drone of low intelligence.

The sandmen themselves were classic Doctor Who monsters but don’t be mistaken this is not a complement. They are humanoid creatures, easier to realise in production but are strikingly similar to other efforts such as Ballal the Exxilon (Death to the Daleks, 1974) in the classic series and the zombie creatures from Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS(2013) in the modern era. Their creation is simple to comprehend and interesting to consider. However, things get very sketchy when the dust in your eye has the ability to observe through a hosts eye, an attempt to explain away the POV camerawork.

In conclusion, Sleep No More provides engaging viewing with scares and atmosphere aplenty. It does however fail to fully embrace the genre it is attempting to replicate, with a baffling finale that left this viewer ruing a missed opportunity.


8. The Zygon Inversion 7/10

The uncomfortable feeling last week was even nearer the knuckle right from the start with a plane being blown out of the sky, just like a shocking news story which has dominated the media recently.

I liked the concept of a conscious person inside a Zygon pod, akin to a form of ‘locked in syndrome’. However it allowed for the episode to become very Jenna Coleman centred. Coleman is a great actress and it’s nice to see her given an opportunity to do something different. But it felt completely wrong for the Doctor to be squaring up against Clara, even a Zygon version. The Zygons themselves were under-utilised, with the exception of one tremendous scene in a mini mart and the distressing suicide of a peaceful Zygon.  The ultimate conclusion boiled down to an intense game of Deal or No Deal with no payoff. The status quo was restored, there were two Osgoods, Zygons and humans still on Earth. So what did the story accomplish? Not a lot really.

The saving grace however is Peter Capaldi who was simply mesmeric. I’m starting to run out of superlatives for his consistently supreme performances. That speech immediately goes down as one of the greatest delivered by a Doctor. At a time when Doctor Who’s position in the schedules is being debated I’m getting concerned that the show is going away from it’s traditional family viewership. This season more so than others has delivered episodes which are very dialogue heavy and with less action, alienating the younger members of the audience. As an adult I’m all for this to continue and an 8pm broadcast time would also be appropriate. In the meantime, this story was gripping, intellectually stimulating and deeply political. I just wish we had more Zygons!


7. The Zygon Invasion 8/10

The Zygons are back, hurrah! Of course they had appeared in the 50th anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ and we are treated to a couple of clips from that story as an introduction. But this marks the first proper Zygon story in 40 years. I had issues early on with the plot. Where did the figure of 20 million Zygons come from? Also, only those in the Black Archive would’ve forgotten if they were human or Zygon. Have the Zygons been given new identities or duplicating? When did Zygons get the ability to expel electric charges? We see Osgood in New Mexico so how does she end up in Turmezistan, Zygon EasyJet? (Other airlines are available.) Some of these queries are cleared up, Zygon hatchlings giving the 20 million number but it was still a confusing start.Anyway, I digress. I can see the Doctor just jamming away in the TARDIS with tedious adventures interrupting. However, this interruption is more serious with Zygons gone rogue on Earth. Then we come to the uncomfortable bit.

Words such as ‘radicalisation’, training camps and the monochrome Zygon logo all ring as references to ISIS, making it feel very political and potentially very distressing, perhaps not something Doctor Who should be replicating. Shapeshifting aliens are not a new concept but this episode for the first time accentuates the fear, paranoia and unpredictability of what that can fully entail. The UNIT soldier falling for a Zygon impersonating his mother was an idiot but who could possibly pull the trigger in his position? The rules have now been changed so Zygons can take the form of someone in a memory, conveniently to add more unpredictability. How do you fight an enemy when you don’t know who it is? That concept is the real success of this episode, intriguing and complicated but a riveting watch. The scenes are also brilliantly filmed, giving it a global reach akin to a James Bond film. The revelation of (SPOILER) Clara being a Zygon is quite dramatic and gives Jenna Coleman an opportunity to do something different with her acting. Confident about the cliffhanger resolution but still impatiently awaiting the second half of the story to see what direction it takes next!


6. The Woman Who Lived 5/10

The Woman Who Lived is a direct sequel to last weeks The Girl Who Died and deals with the Doctor’s action of giving Ashildr eternal life. It is sometimes argued that the Doctor swans in and turns around a situation but disappears again failing to see the fallout. The consequences of the Doctor’s actions were explored well with The Ark in 1966 and The Long Game/Bad Wolf in 2005 but was sorely lacking following the dramatic conclusion to The Waters of Mars in 2009. On this occasion it is perhaps something we could do without. The story centres on Ashildr’s struggles with her immortality and it is her scenes with the Doctor that fill the programme. Outside of that the plot is fairly thin, an amulet which opens a universal portal and Tharil lookalike Leandro being under-utilised. As is always the case with these plot lines the obvious exit is for the alien to hitch a lift in the TARDIS but of course it is a part of a dastardly plot for invasion or human destruction. Rufus Hound appears as Sam Swift, adding comedic relief to the tedium of the rest of the episode and there is a popular name check of fan favourite Capt Jack Harkness.

However, the episode is a masterpiece from the two lead actors Maisie Williams, who is far more experienced an actress than her youthful looks suggest, and Peter Capaldi. Both are at the top of their game, Williams having honed her acting skills on Game of Thrones and Capaldi flourishing deep into his second year in the role of the Doctor. So much is the need to let these two run riot with the script that third wheel Clara is removed from the action altogether. The Doctor and Ashildr dynamic might still have another story yet to tell which would be a treat as It is these two alone who engage the audience, not the action or special effects, and credit to them.


1. The Magician’s Apprentice 10/10

Doctor Who is back! This is cause to celebrate on its own. However, the first episode of the new series is possibly one of the best episodes ever made and deserves limitless praise. To call The Magician’s Apprentice a tick box exercise would be unfair. There are however a lot of elements, Davros, UNIT, Missy, Daleks, all vying for space within the script. Steven Moffat balances it all perfectly. Although I’m still not comfortable with Missy being the Master, Michelle Gomez is brilliant in everything she does! Without giving too much away the two episodes are a love song written for the 1975 story Genesis of the Daleks. A quote from that story, used in the episode, became the starting point. A young Davros. Could you kill that child? Given the cliffhanger it appears the Doctor has made his choice!

REVIEW: WWE Sumerslam 2015

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WWE’s second biggest PPV offering, ‘the biggest party of the summer’ and now extended to a 4 hour show. The intention is clear, this is an event to match Wrestlemania. In the very near future I can see Summerslam being held in a stadium, which actually makes more sense, the summer weather and an outdoor venue. Anyway, onto the event, skipping the pre-show for the sake of time and the maintenance of sanity.

Sheamus def. Randy Orton

Two solid performers deliver a solid match. Both are in a difficult point of their careers, having achieved the big prize and not looking likely to challenge for it again any time soon.

New Day regain the Tag titles

First and foremost I cannot stand New Day. 3 guys with nothing in common, besides skin colour, are thrown together and credit to them they have made the most of it. Unfortunately, the tag team division has been dead in the water for a long time but perhaps the return of a classic favourite will reignite it once again so PPV matches are no longer time filler.

Dolph Ziggler Vs Rusez (Double count out)

Huge disappointment this one, purely because there is no resolution to the feud. A double count out is the classic way of prolonging a rivalry but this one didn’t need it. Lana is with Dolph, Russev has Summer Rae, let’s move on. But no. However, it’s not likely we will see a rematch at Night of Champions due to the self-imposed restraint of having to have every championship defended. Therefore it makes little sense to extend it further but sadly the double count out did just that and even worse it wouldn’t be the last occasion at this event where the outcome of a match is completely unsatisfying.

Some guy from a show I don’t watch in a match, yawn, I don’t care, skipped it.

Ryback retains the IC title

As pointed out by the commentary team this was classic triple threat material. I don’t really have much to add other than that. Pleased that Ryback retained the belt, it took him long enough to win his first championship so a decent run is just what he needs.

Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose def. Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper

Almost a throw back match to a time now passed. Makes sense as the upper echelons know not what to do with any of the four so why not go back and revisit their former glory. It is ammusing however to see how the fans boo Roman Reigns, resenting his elevation at the start of the year but now he is in limbo, not popular enough to finish his push, not unliked enough to remove him from TV. As with all those who have gone before the mid-card beckons for Reigns.

Seth Rollins retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and wins the US title

What had been a really good match was completely ruined by the moronic conclusion. First and foremost this was a stupid match to book. Cena winning the US title was a great call, elevating the belt once again but really he should’ve dropped it to Kevin Owens in one of their tremendous PPV contests. As a result losing it to Rollins effectively negates the US title all together. Also, the fact that Cena was competing to equal the legendary Ric Flair’s record of (supposed) 16 world titles is insane. Cena has been the face of WWE and their biggest merchandise peddler for over 10 years now and the fact he is on 15 titles is an indicator of how frequent the title changes have been during that time. 15 wins means he has also lost them 15 times. Perhaps it is the age we live in but title changes are often an easy book.

Back to the match itself there were plenty of near falls for one of them to be the proper finale. Instead guest host Jon Stewart, who I know of but have no interest in seeing, having an influence on the outcome of such an important match. The commentators also pointed out on multiple occasions how big a match it was and yet the finish was urinated upon by a rubbish chair shot to the gut by some guy from American television in order to generate press coverage.

Seth Rollins could really have done with a clean win over Cena but he still remains a fluke champion. Despite this he put in another good performance proving that he certainly deserves his position, delivering at the top-level.

Team PCB def. Team Bella and Team Bad, which is a ridiculous sentence.

The Diva revolution has been a tremendous boost for a much derided female division. All the best women’s matches have all been on NXT and it made perfect sense to bring top performers like Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks over to the main shows. The main problem with the division is the dominance of the Bella Twins, they are not the best technical wrestlers, to put it mildly, but to associate their success to be based on their respective high-profile partners is unfair but probably still accurate. However, on the two biggest shows the Bella’s have lost to a team featuring Paige. Surely therefore Paige is the future and matches with other NXT graduates will reignite the division so they are no longer Divas but women once again. The Bellas can then go back to the egofest that is Total Divas.

Kevin Owens def. Cesaro

Two individuals deserving of proper title runs put on a tremendous match. In hindsight Owens had to win the match given he had lost his two previous PPV outings plus at ‘Beast in the East’ and NXT Takeover the previous night.

The Undertaker def. Brock Lesnar

A huge rematch 16 months in the making and it more than lived up to the physicality expected but once again was spoilt by the finish which I don’t imagine was very clear to those in attendance at the arena. When the bell rang first thoughts sprang of Montreal revisited but instead the reality was much more confusing. So instead of getting a clean win and revenge it appears the Undertaker had lost once again, submitting to the kimura lock. However, the beast didn’t submit but passed out, retaining his aura. Basically there is going to be a third match, probably at Wrestlemania 32. It would make sense for Taker to bow out having overcome Lesnar at Wrestlemania but I could also see match 3 at Survivor Series.

RAW highlights

Sting is back! Hurray! Hopefully he will go up against Rollins now for the WWE World Heavyweight Title but will he hold the strap? Probably not but it would final cement him as a legend to WWE fans who didn’t see him at his peak in the 90’s.

Also the Dudley Boys are back and that should be exactly the boost the Tag Team division needs.

REVIEW: Doctor Who : The Feast of Steven (1965)

Feast of Steven 2I’ve decided to revisit some of the lost episodes from Doctor Who’s history which no longer exist in the archives by using the original audio recordings which have been remastered and released onto CD. It is also possible to find some very good reconstructions on the internet using images taken from the broadcast.

This is effectively the first Doctor Who Christmas Special, broadcast on Christmas Day 1965. It is a total departure from the epic ‘Dalek Master Plan’ story, in fact the Daleks are barely mentioned at all. In fact it is like no other episode of Doctor Who ever produced, a peculiar comedy during which William Hartnell wishes the viewers a happy Christmas.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor is concerned by the pollution outside, telling Steven and Sara to remain inside. As it turns out they have landed outside a police station in the North of England, on Christmas Day. Following the Doctor being arrested Steven poses as another policeman, which is to facilitate a visual joke later. In the mean time Sara manages to fix the TARDIS scanner and the three escape and dematerialise in another location. The travellers immediately jump to the aid of a woman being tied to a circular saw only to discover that they have stumbled onto a film set and have ruined that take, much to the dismay of the actress. It is not the only film being made however as the TARDIS trio have landed at a Hollywood studio in the 1920’s. Sara encounters a Lawrence of Arabia style movie and Steven is confused for a cast member of a Keystone Cops picture, explaining the borrowed police uniform which triggers a comedic runaround chase. Two of my particular favourite quotes to sum up the ludicrous nature of the episode come from Sara who complains that, “a strange man kept telling me to take my clothes off” and the Doctor who describes the location as “a madhouse, it’s all full of Arabs”. Not sure modern Doctor Who could get away with that, although ‘Love and Monsters’ did manage to get an oral sex reference accepted. During the visit to the Hollywood film studio Steven and the Doctor bump into Charlie Chaplin and the Timelord also meets Bing Crosby.

Feast of StevenAfter the travellers return to the TARDIS and leave they take a pause to celebrate, despite being in the midst of an epic battle with the Daleks, toasting a happy Christmas with some champagne. The Doctor turns to the camera and wishes “a happy Christmas to all of you at home”, breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, the only time in the programme’s history that this has been done.

As mentioned previously this is effectively a stand alone episode within the Daleks’ Master Plan story, and perhaps does provide some comic relief in what is admittedly a dark story where the whole solar system is in jeopardy, but fortunately we will return to that with the next episode, ‘Volcano’.