Don’t Touch Anything

Spoilers below… natch!

No sooner had we all tried to come to terms with the remarkable 8.2m viewers in the overnight ratings (and 10.9 in the 7-day, iPlayer-less ones) for TWWFTE, thoughts turned to the episode 2, The Ghost Monument, a.k.a. the difficult second album. Things kicked off in style with the debut of the new opening credits, which I really liked. Visually kaleidoscopic and a refreshingly traditional sound complete with a weird, yet supremely effective, slowy-down-distorty bit* near the start. (* Not an officially recognised musical term… yet). The other noteworthy part of the new title sequence is how quickly they finish. No sooner had the episode title flashed on-screen then we were right back to where we left TWWFTE with our Scooby Gang hanging in space, from where they were rescued (aka “scooped”) by the final two competitors in a Paris-Dakar rally-in-space. 

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The two guys, Ryan and Graeme found themselves with Angstrom, while Yaz and the Doctor ended up with Epzo. I would have liked these two teams to have stayed separated for a little longer, which may have given a little more time and space for these new friends of ours to develop their on-screen personalities. A little kudos though to Susan Lynch and Shaun Dooley here, who were both, entirely as expected, a little bit wonderful. Also noteworthy in these early stages of the episode were the cameras which, despite me being a little miffed that they haven’t gone full 4K UHD HDR with the format, still create magnificent, rich vistas as shown in the scene where Angstrom’s spaceship has landed. Great use of the location here too.

The six of them are soon thrown together in an unfolding mystery that for Angstrom and Epzo meant winning the race and for the other four meant getting back to the TARDIS. One of the big issues discussed prior to the series was the dynamic of having three companions again and specifically, would there be enough for each of them to do and avoid some of the pitfalls that arguably were present back in the day when Nyssa, Tegan and Adric were hopping round the universe together. I feel that it’s going to take a while to establish the connections here. With four people in the TARDIS, that’s six one-to-one relationships that can be explored. Compared to previous recent series with only one Doctor/Companion relationship at the heart of the show. This will take some time to embed but the early signs are good.

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There were times in the Ghost Monument when we essentially had six people, all on the same side with the same objectives trying to accomplish the same thing and I feared that some, like Yaz for example, were, at times, left hanging onto the coat-tails of the others. However, some nice touches, like the scene on the boat where Yaz talked about her family and Epzo told a horrific tale of how his mother taught him to be so fiercely independent, meant that any fears were soon waylaid. Character lies at the heart of Chibnall’s Doctor Who and impressive writing is letting us relate to each of the fab four as well as the guests.

Jodie’s Doctor also continues to develop her voice and, while the hundred-miles-an-hour pace and quick-wit that we’ve come to love in the post-2005 incarnation of the show remain (“Welcome to your first alien planet. Don’t touch anything”), I also sense a Davison-esque calmness and quietness at her core. I love the aside, when they are escaping the tunnels and Ryan’s dyspraxia causes him to hesitate at the foot of the ladder, and the Doctor quietly re-assures him “Can I just say, you’re amazing”. It was such a heartfelt comment that really made me warm to Thirteen.

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The main plot bounded along with Art Malik’s slightly underused character top and tailing the story to set the agenda at the start and then whisk away the winner(s) at the end. Also the reveal of actually what the Ghost Monument was felt a tad thrown away too early. When they arrived at the ruins, heavily previewed in some of the show’s pre-publicity, we got to the bulk of the story featuring Sniper-Bots, whose atrocious aim with a gun would put Stormtroopers to shame, the beautifully odd acetylene creatures, and a call-back to the Stanza who seem destined to appear at least once more down the line. While there was some needle between the racing pair throughout, I never got the impression that they hated each other or that there was any true animosity there, so when we eventually got to their denouement, I found the dead-heat finish entirely predictable. 

Of course, this wasn’t before our first (?) hint at a probably series arc/finale with the talking flying carpets (!) / acetylene creatures / whatever-we’re-calling-them ominously revealed, “We see deeper, further back. The timeless child. We see what’s hidden, even from yourself. Abandoned and unknown”. There was another thing earlier in the episode that got me thinking when Angstrom and Epzo hadn’t heard of human beings. I wonder whether this might get alluded to again as it seemed significant, or may be it was just a way to crowbar in the very funny “Moomin Beans” gag.

So, here are this week’s random thoughts in conclusion…

  • Ryan’s squeaky-voiced screaming after his Call of Duty attack backfired was a hoot.
  • This week’s Chekov’s Rifle a.k.a. Angstrom’s “Arthusian Cigar” was the most blatent Chekov’s Rifle I’ve seen in years.
  • It’s good to see the “present day / in the future / in the past” sequence for the opening trilogy is alive and kicking in 2018. Next week’s Rosa looks great already.
  • I’m going to give TGM a Demon’s Run score of 14 out of 20 (same as last week) for another consistent, solid adventure mystery.
  • This week’s favourite “Jodie Whittaker face” is this one, that was the same as mine moments later at the moment of the TARDIS interior reveal. I love the darker, earthier, organic look of this crystal desktop and the installation of a custard cream dispenser is something we all need in our lives.

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This Is Gonna Be Fun

So, spoilers abound below; read no further if you haven’t watched The Woman Who Fell To Earth yet. If you have seen it (or if you haven’t and yet couldn’t give a monkeys about spoilers anyway) then read on and welcome to a whole new era of your favourite time-travelling “kid’s show”.

A few minutes before the episode aired last night, I sent out this tweet…

… and that was quite correct, almost. Doctor Who has a huge and unique heritage; 55 years and one single, ongoing narrative, like a time-wimey soap opera. However, throughout the history of that canon only one thing has remained constant… change. This series 11 / season 37 opener is one in a long-line of ‘reboots” where pretty much everything is different from cast and crew to music and effects, even new cameras with with their anamorphic 2:1 ratio presentation. However, from that first reveal of the Doctor crashing through the ceiling of a train (with barely a hair out of place) and immediately getting stuck in to solving the alien problem, it was clear that everything was just the same. As she said, “If there’s one thing I’m certain of, when people need help I never refuse. Right, this is gonna be fun” and, with that mission statement, the Doctor was back, same as she ever was.

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The episode needed to tick a lot of boxes. As with Russell T Davies’ glorious comeback episode “Rose” and Steven Moffat’s bow with “The Eleventh Hour” this 60-minutes needed showcase the acting chops of the new lead, introduce us to the lives of the Doctor’s new best friends, set the scene for the tone and attitude that the new series will be taking and give (without hesitation, repetition or deviation) a nice little introduction to the basic Doctor Who-y rules of engagement, such as being armed with nothing more than quick wits and a sonic swiss army knife. By any standards it was job done.

The episode’s threat came from a Predator-esque alien nicknamed via a fun gag (and even credited) as Tim Shaw although referred to in our house as the Tooth Fairy, who came to Earth to showcase his hunting prowess and earn himself a promotion back on his home-world. Trouble is that Tim had been cheating and sent some weaponised bio-tech in advance to gather the necessary information that would allow him to shortcut the route to his objectives.

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The Doctor managed to booby trap the bio-tech, gathering device that eventually led to protagonist’s demise, albeit not before a showdown high above a building site atop two cranes. This was probably my favourite scene in the show with the new characters really starting to gel and find their feet as the final confrontation with the alien drew ever closer.  Upon rewatching the episode it was the incidental music that thrilled during these escapades with its relentless beat ratcheting up the tension. Kudos to new composer, Segun Akinola and his team. Of course, the scene ended with the tragic death of Grace as she fell from the crane. Cutting back to Ryan’s YouTube video that had previously opened the episode, we realised the misdirection that “the greatest woman he’d ever met” was his nan and not the new Doctor after all. Nice touch that.

I think it was a brave move to have a slice of melancholy in a story like this but Grace’s death and her subsequent funeral seemed to have served a number of purposes: it will drive the already frosty relationship between Graeme and Ryan in an interesting direction, it will mean that Doctor’s new companions, as well as the audience, will be all too aware that travelling with the Time Lord (Time Lady?) will be a dangerous business, and it gave Bradley Walsh the chance to break our hearts a little bit with his eulogy.

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So, here are some random thoughts in conclusion…

  • I already adore Bradley Walsh / Graeme.
  • The cold, wet night in Sheffield in which most of the episode is set along with the dark colour palette , seems really at odds with the magnificently colourful promotional material that we all enjoyed.
  • The diverse cast, the treatment of Ryan’s dyspraxia, Graeme being in remission from cancer, the grieving for Grace, Yaz’s yearning for something more out of life all serve to wonderfully ground Chris Chibnall’s Doctor Who in a tangible, relatable reality.
  • I love the cliff-hanger ending leading into the next episode.
  • I am going to give TWWFTE a Demon’s Run score of 14 out 20, which may seem to be a bit stingy given that I have done nothing but praise it but I get the feeling I am going to need the leeway to give some higher scores as the next nine weeks fly by.
  • And finally, after making at least three appearances in this episode alone, I have decided that this is my new favourite Jodie Whittaker face….

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“Time of the Doctor” – The Second Trailer

A second trailer for “Time of the Doctor” has been released by the BBC. It’s similar (if not identical to the BBC America one). Not sure about the dodgy voiceover bloke though: might as well have got Peter Dickson in to do it. Completely detracts from what would otherwise have been a nice tease. However, it does seem to be fulfilling the promise that a lot of the loose ends from the Matt Smith era will be tied up, even to the extent of going back to “The God Complex“, to find out what was behind the door to “Room 11”.

And Now it’s Time for One Last Bow.

Clara “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”

Doctor Who fans rejoice! After the snippets of the Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor”, that have littered the general BBC One Christmas trails, it’s high time that Doctor Who got one of its very own. And here it is. Time to say Goodbye to Matt and Hello to Peter.

50th Anniversary Retrospective: “The Day of the Doctor”

Doctor “I could retire and be the curator of this place.”
Curator “You know, I really think you might.”
Doctor “I never forget a face.”
Curator “I know you don’t. And in years to come you might find yourself…revisiting a few. But just the old favourites, eh?”

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Whenever I watch Doctor Who, it has almost entirely been from the sofa of whichever house I happened to be living in at the time, although I do have memories of my childhood viewing technique of lying down on the floor, elbows under my head, with chin perched on my hands. Most of the time, viewing was a solitary experience. My parents, to this day, don’t really get it, and my brother was never a fan. I married in 2002 (during the wilderness years), over a year before the show’s triumphant return was even announced and nearly three years before “Rose” was broadcast. My wife had no idea what she was getting into, but she has enough taste in good television to sit and enjoy the new show with me. Having said that, I’m still not sure I could convince her to sit down and watch “Image of the Fendahl” or “The Romans” or somesuch. Given all this, it was beyond my comprehension to think that I would be watching the 50th anniversary special by leaving the “Official 50th Celebration” at the Excel with a bunch of other fans, many of whom were in Doctor Who costume, getting a cable car across the River Thames to the O2 arena, where we would watch the episode with 775 other fans on a screen 22-metres wide in glorious 3D. Not only that, there were more than 1,500 cinemas worldwide showing the same thing at the same time as it was simulcast in 94 countries and dubbed or subtitled into 15 other languages, watched by nigh-on 13 million people in the UK and who knows how many elsewhere. Not bad for kid’s show. But what to make of it all? The brief was not exactly a simple one: write an episode of the greatest television show that the world has ever seen that celebrates its dazzling, fifty-year heritage; that impresses dedicated fans of all ages as the centrepiece of the anniversary celebrations; that appeals to a large slice of an audience who have a take it or leave attitude to the show (the fools!); and paves the way to securing another half-century of Whovian goodness. It would not have been many people’s first response to this challenge, which had indeed been laid at the feet of Steven Moffat, to say, “Right. Let’s bring back the Zygons”. Continue reading

50th Anniversary Retrospective: Official Celebration Event

Doctor “Clara sometimes asks me if I dream. ‘Of course I dream’, I tell her, ‘Everybody dreams’. ‘But what do you dream about?,’ she’ll ask. ‘The same thing everybody dreams about,’ I tell her, ‘I dream about where I’m going.’ She always laughs at that: ‘But you’re not going anywhere, you’re just wandering about.’ That’s not true. Not anymore. I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours, the same as anyone’s. It’s taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at last I know where I’m going. Where I’ve always been going. Home. The long way around.”

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The 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of November 2013 were like all the Christmas Eves, Christmas Days and Boxing Days rolled into one for Doctor Who fans fortunate enough to have procured themselves a ticket or three for the “Official 50th Celebration” at the Excel in London’s Docklands. Twenty-four thousand fans (so we were reliably informed by Nick Briggs) made their way to London’s Excel centre for the weekend of the 50th Anniversary where there was more than enough entertainment on offer to satiate the desires of the most hardened fans. After running a smaller Convention at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff in March of 2012, which mainly focussed on the modern era of the show, they took the lessons learnt from that and turned the dial up to Eleven. 24,000 attendees were split across three days, and each day was split into two streams, known not as Red Waterfall and Green Anchor but instead “Ice Warrior” and “Weeping Angel”, this made the logistics a little more manageable as, on the whole, these groups were largely kept apart, with the schedule of events being duplicated throughout the day at times that were appropriate for each stream. Continue reading

50th Anniversary Retrospective: Introduction

 

 

Steven Moffat. 22nd November 2013 (at Official 50th Celebration) “[Doctor Who] makes all other television look redundant. Which, let’s be honest about it… it is”

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I stood in a queue at the weekend with a bunch of people I’d never met before, and in all likelihood, will never meet again. Complete strangers brought together with a sole purpose: to go and celebrate fifty years of a daft old television show. I stood in many queues at the weekend, some for over an hour, some for less than five minutes but in every one (in Every. Single. One) there was chat, and greetings, and good wishes, and camaraderie. They were full of smiles and laughter and fair amount of fezzes and tweed too. There were fellow queuers who had flown in from New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Scandanavia, and many more places to boot just to be there and say that they were there for the anniversary. I’d never been more proud to be a part of that community. Continue reading