Sunday, 26 October 2014

In the Forest of the Night

Phil Sandifer's review of In the Forest of the Night, which delves into the Blakean aspects of the imagery, really made me want to like this. Unfortunately, the depth of Sandifer's review does not quite match the quality of the episode.

I do like the fantastical magical feel of this story. I really do like fantasy in Doctor Who. Unfortunately, this is a story with a solar flair in and so we can't just throw away the science. Doing a fantasy type Doctor Who set on Earth is tricky. Greatest Show in the Galaxy could afford to deal with magical themes because it was set on another planet; a different world with different rules. Even Survival, another magical story was partly set on another planet.

It's a little hard to fathom trees growing so quickly that nobody notices them until they have turned into a forest. Even more incredibly, London seems almost deserted. I know we get the government warning to stay inside, but what happened to the legions of homeless people? What about the people who were not at home when the trees started growing. Of course, what I would really have loved to have seen in this episode is the gigantic trees growing out of the oceans. Such a shame we didn't get to see those.

Once again we get a Problem with Sutekh moment. Clara points out that the world cannot end because she has seen the future. Dr. Who replies that the future has been erased by this event. That makes no sense. No time traveller has intervened to alter history. If history can alter at random like that, then the Doctor could never have any knowledge of past or future history. In fact, history would be meaningless. Would it even matter that humanity would die; their future history erased? Maybe another even would alter this course of history and humanity would survive.

I'm a little bothered by Clara's objection to Dr. Who saving the children. Yes, they would be upset by the deaths of their parents, but would Clara really be happier to see those kids scorched to death with the rest of the planet?

Some aspects of this story were confusing, particularly those related to Maebh. It was difficult to make sense of just how she fitted into the plot. I'm utterly baffled about how the return of Anabel fitted in. The theme of childhood mental illness is a very sensitive topic and I'm a little surprised it came up. I can't say I feel at all qualified to comment on how well this topic was handled.

On the whole it was probably not the best idea to write a story requiring a lot of child actors. And those CGI animals looked terrible.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


Most people seem to like this story, but I found myself getting really bored watching it. Flatline seemed to be full of lots of running around and pointless action.

The idea of non-3D aliens was an interesting one and had the potential to be genuinely creepy. Unfortunately this failed to terrify due to the comic tone taken by the script. Sometimes I just wish the writers could tone down the humour and try to give us a more serious story. We really don't need a laugh every minute. The story was also ruined by the awful music, the sort of score you get in those family movies they show on Christmas day.

In Flatline, Clara gets to take on the role of the Doctor. She turns out to be rather good at it. It was fun at times seeing her act Doctorish and her resourcefulness was appealing. However, I can't help thinking thst it would have been more interesting to see her do a bad job of being the Doctor. What is the point of watching Doctor Who if anyone can be the Doctor?

Once again, the Doctor suggests that a black man is unintelligent. This really reminds me of that Father Ted episode in which Father Ted accidentally acquires a reputation for being a racist.

I didn't feel at all engaged by this episode. Like so much of Moffat-era Doctor Who, this is just boring.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mummy on the Orient Express

This story is set on a recreation of the Orient Express in space. It seems a remarkably vivid recreation, because both the crew and passengers are dressed in period costume. Furthermore, they are all human and seemingly British. I think it would have been more interesting visually to do a less perfect re-creation of the period, by having some characters be aliens and some of the passengers wearing non-period costumes. Would that have confused the costume department too much? If they really wanted to do a period drama on the Orient Express, why not have it set on the real train on Earth, with the monster being an Egyptian mummy? This seems a bit like RTD's demand for werewolves, Kung-Fu monks and Queen Victoria in the same story.

I'm not sure why the carriages of the train are swaying, as if on a winding railtrack. If this is a spaceship travelling through space, it ought to be moving straightforward, having no physical obstacles to affect its movement.

I don't think this is how to do a monster story. We get a full reveal of the monster right at the beginning. We see so much of it that it does not stay scary for very long. What is more, the very title gives away the fact that it is a mummy. Could the nature of the monstrous entity not have been concealed for a while? An unknown terror is much more frightening.

The mummy turns out to be a form of alien technology, like several other entities we have encountered in this season. Are we not going to get any proper aliens in these stories? It seems a mundane and dull explanation for the monster. I would much have preferred it to have turned out to be the mummified remains of some ancient alien emperor. This story shares with Pyramids of Mars a misunderstanding about just why mummies are scary. Mummies are not scary because they are wrapped in bandages. They are scary because they are dead things. They are part of the 'uncanny.' A robotic mummy is a bit banal.

I think this story was reasonably well polished and did interesting things with the characters, but it had a lack of imagination and flair.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Gallifrey Exile: The Hypocrisy of The Doctor

'One of the places I go to for Doctor Who reviews that I genuinely trust and admire is Tea With Morbius, run by Matthew Celestis.  For his review of The Caretaker, he made some very pointed comments about the issue of how soldiers are presented on Doctor Who, as well as on the issues of race and class involving both the newest character, Danny Pink (played by Samuel Anderson) and other characters of color whom Celestis I think is saying are shown in a bad light.
I think this merits some examination.
I think the best thing to do is to look at Doctor Who pre-Moffat, and in particular pre-12th Doctor, to see that I agree with Celestis in how Doctor Who appears to have a bizarre pathological contempt for soldiers, and worse, which is completely contradictory to what Canon has established.
If we go back to the beginning, we see that the Doctor didn't have this lifetime hatred for soldiers.  In fact, while he was a pacifist he had a great deal of respect for the military.  We only need to go to the most obvious example: UNIT.'

I'm glad somebody likes my reviews.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Kill the Moon

You know what, yesterday I was outside an abortion clinic, taking part in a prayer vigil. You might expect me to like this episode on the basis of my strongly pro-life stance, but I didn't.

I actually don't think this story is deliberately meant to be about abortion. The abortion implications were on the same level as the unintentional but still quite shocking racism of the previous episode. The compassion for the space dragon was the same sentimentality bestowed upon that dinosaur in Deep Breath. This is about not being mean to cute animals. I very much doubt that Guardian-reading Clara cares in the slightest about abortion. She's probably one of those people who will be outraged at cruelty to animals, while approving of the legalised murder of unborn children. I did not feel admiration for the writers for accidentally touching on an issue I care about, but rather contempt for the moral clumsiness of it.

This really does feel like a clumsy story. As with A Town called Mercy, building a plot around a moral dilemma always feels a bit cold and artificial. The decision of Dr. Who to step outside the dilemma was interesting, but felt odd given he had never done such a thing before. This just feels like a way to set up the big argument between Clara and Dr. Who at the end. What is more, that the egg turns out to open harmlessly feels like an unconvincing and unsatisfying resolution.

All that talk about whether to say Courtney is 'special' seems a bit odd. I rather thought describing people as 'special' was meaningless and banal. I would imagine most teenagers would feel patronized by being called 'special.' I do find it interesting how the current show handles a teenage character. In the classic series, teenage companions were just treated as immature adults. Courtney is treated as a child who has to be protected. I'd quite like to see a teenager as a regular companion, but Courtney is a bit too whingey and cliched to be entertaining.

The most irritating aspect of the episode was the scientific howlers. How did the moon gain mass? The mass had to come from somewhere. How did a newborn creature lay an egg that was the same size as that it had just hatched from? Doctor Who often has wonky science, but howlers like that cannot be excused.

I think the idea of monster spiders on the moon is a pretty cool one. However, it seems just a little odd that over-sized singular celled lifeforms would look like spiders and even more surprising that they should spin cobwebs.

This was a really odd episode and not one that I enjoyed very much.