Big Finish: The Diary of River Song

January 14, 2016 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Okay, I understand that you were probably expecting a review of River Song’s husbands rather than her diary and one of them may come along at some point but I decided that I’d rather discuss this little treat than write a fairly average review of what I found to be a fairly average story. So there you go, I didn’t hate the Christmas Special nor did I love it but that’s all I will probably say until a later date. But anyway, now onto The Diary of River Song which is a four episode long spin-off series produced by Big Finish. Now for those of you wondering Big Finish is a company which has been licensed by the BBC to produce high quality Doctor Who related audio dramas. For years now they have been breathing new life into the classic Doctors and giving spin-off’s to fan favourite characters from the past and now they’ve been the rights to produce content based on stories from the first fifty years, and they’ve wasted no time with stories about the War Doctor already out and stories about the Tenth on their way. But you may have picked up on the word audio drama and that means no visuals to be found here. Those are left up to your imagination and while that idea was a bit off putting to me at first by the time I’d listened to a couple and acclimatised to it all I couldn’t stop myself from continually buying more and more. The only limit is your imagination. The stories themselves are (most of the time) extremely well written and that coupled with extremely high quality sound design allows Big Finish to effortlessly put the moving image into your head. Admittedly audio’s not for everybody and some will fail to get into it but you’ll never know until you try.

The spin-off’s main character is quite obviously River Song and so before I talk about the episodes themselves I’m going to talk about her for a bit and what my thoughts were before and then after listening to this series. At first, I quite liked River, I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding her and yet she was a well written character in her own right. Cut to series six and the mystery behind her was gone and she had become the epicentre of this disaster of an arc as I saw it. She had also become more and more overly flirtatious which irritated me quite a bit. Going into series seven she was okay I guess but I think I was still recovering from the previous series and having her show up and remind me of it didn’t aid said recovery. It also felt that Steven Moffat wasn’t too sure what to do with her now that the mystery was gone. She did get a good send off though in terms of the Doctor’s timeline though at the end of last year but while her story has now reached an end in the television series, it’s time to go fill in the gaps with some of her solo adventures.

And the first of these is The Boundless Sea by Jenny T Colgan which is set in the 1920′s and sees River a sort of self-imposed exile. But a disappearance at an archaeological dig lures her out of her office to investigate. It’s probably my least favourite from the box set but I am by no means saying that it gets the box set off to a bad start, quite the opposite actually. It’s the most stand alone, setting up some stuff for the next episode but not enough to distract the listener from the story at hand. It also sets up what River’s character’s going to be like at Big Finish and I really like the take they’ve gone for here. She’s much more like her earlier self that I mentioned before and feels much older and wiser but here which I like. Something that plays into her character quite a bit here though as well as the box set as a whole is the idea of manipulation. The overarching story is about a group of beings behind the scenes who are pulling the universes strings but it plays on way more levels that just that. It’s something quite personal to River Song as the majority of her life was manipulated by the Silence and that is very much picked up on here as a way to develop her character. Despite the great character work here the plot itself is rather standard with a bit of an odd resolution. Nevertheless it’s enjoyable and does enough to whet your appetite for what’s to come.

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And what’s to come is the intriguingly titled I Went to a Marvellous Party by Justin Richards which I fittingly listened to on New Years rather than going to an actual party. A non-stop party ship seems the ideal place for River but she’s not here for pleasure, she’s here on business as she begins to unravel an intergalactic mystery. But along the way she is presented with another mystery to solve, a murder mystery. But when it comes down to it that mystery is very much in the background and this episode actually continues the overarching story a great deal more than I expected. Manipulation once again comes into play here and you can tell River doesn’t like it one bit no matter whether it’s happening to her or innocent people across the galaxy who she has likely never met. Ironically enough though this sees River becoming quite manipulative herself as things begin to turn into a bit of a high states game between River and her foes, what else are you going to play at a party after all. Now I think it’s about time we talked about Bertie Potts, a character who sort of maybe kind of serves as River’s companion throughout this box set. I found him to be a great character and while I can’t say much I can say he was highly enjoyable in the first episode and even more so in this as we got to see a very different side to his character. Now while I am disappointed that the murder mystery in this story was basically a side plot when it came down to it I did still enjoy this one a lot and it ended on a whopper of a cliffhanger.

And that cliffhanger brings us right onto our penultimate episode which is Signs by James Goss and it’s a weird one for sure. It’s a two-hander between Alex Kingston’s River Song and Samuel West’s mysterious Mr Song. I can’t say too much about it as I’m worried I’d ruin it but let’s just say that the whole episode is basically just them talking and yet it works so well because the chemistry between the two of them is so endearing. It doesn’t pick up directly from where the last episode left off but for a very good reason and instead throws you right in the deep end and leaves you to try and work things out along the way and then boom, it reveals it to you right at the end. Initially I wasn’t that fond of the ending but after I’d let it sink in and thought through it in my head a little I realised what a beautiful ending it was and that it really did do wonders for River’s character whereas at first I’d feared it had damaged her. Yes, Signs is a very weird one but at the same time it’s also my absolute favourite of the set and is definitely not a calm before the storm.

Now I may have made that episode seem a bit stand alone but don’t worry as it does introduce and explain multiple key parts of the overarching story, one of which is the planet-killing SporeShips and they go on to play a big role in The Rulers of the Universe by Matt Fitton which the final story of the series. This is not only the episode where everything comes together but is also the episode where the Eighth Doctor comes into the fold and it’s wonderful to have Paul McGann as Big Finish have done wonders with his Doctor and more of him is always welcome. Now some of you may be wondering how this fits in with continuity as the Doctor can’t meet River until his Tenth incarnation and don’t worry as there is an explanation, you’ll just have to listen to find out. But wait, it gets more exciting as River Song isn’t the only new series thing in this box set, the Time War plays a part too as you may have already guessed from the Doctor’s costume on the cover. It’s the early days of the Time War though and the Doctor’s doing his best to keep as far away from it as possible but that doesn’t seem to be working as the rulers of the universe intend to get involved, and don’t have any great preference as to which side they end up being on. As for how it’s told it’s very much like a Doctor Who story but told from River Song’s point of view rather than the Doctor’s, meaning that we as an audience know more about what’s going on that he does which makes a nice change. However, my biggest flaw with this would be that despite what I just said it does still feel that bit too much attention is being taken away from River as it is supposed to be her box set after all and while she is a key player in the resolution to the series she does what she does at a distance with the Doctor being the one at the heart of the action. Nevertheless I found this to be a fun and action-packed conclusion to first series but not a flawless one as our title character begins to shift away from the limelight.

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Overall, the first series of The Diary of River Song is a must buy for any fan of the character and gets a nine-out-of-ten from me. Everything ties together so nicely by the time you reach the end and it really does feel like one long story but each episode can still stand alone in it’s own right. River herself is written differently enough that those who weren’t really fans of her before (like myself) can’t get onboard with her and yet similarly enough that those who were fans of her in the television series will still love her here, and maybe even grow to love her even more. I’m now happy to say that I love the character of River Song and can’t wait to see where Big Finish take her next, she’s got a second series of her own on the way at some point but first she’s got a special appearance in an upcoming Eighth Doctor box set but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Thunderbirds: The Perils of Penelope

December 31, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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The show’s third episode certainly doesn’t feature a standard rescue operation for International Rescue but instead has their London agent, Lady Penelope, trying to unravel an international conspiracy. It begins with the launch of the Sun Probe rocket (which does make a return later in the series) where a new top secret fuel is being tested. Following this however, the scientist is kidnapped. Penelope and Parker’s investigations into the disappearance take them from Paris to Anderbad. While Parker takes the car, Penelope journeys on the train that goes through the Anderbad tunnel. However, when the train comes out the other side of the tunnel, Lady Penelope is nowhere to be found. Virgil, Gordon and Alan are then called in and the former two go down the tunnel to investigate while Alan waits with Parker. Halfway down the tunnel they find the nefarious blaggard who kidnapped the scientist and find that he is threatening Penelope’s life in order to get the formula. While Virgil frees Penelope, Gordon takes down the villain and rescues the scientist. With the world safe, they return to the café in Paris and watch the fireworks in the sky above.

Now before I share my thoughts on this I’m first going to go through some trivia about this episode as while it’s the third episode in broadcast order it was actually the twelfth episode to be produced and the twelfth episode chronologically as well. So why were they broadcast out of chronological order? Well all the episodes were pretty much standalone so it doesn’t make too much difference so only keen fans would notice the minor discrepancies here and there meaning that it didn’t affect things greatly. The reason behind it was probably to avoid having episodes that were similar to each other being broadcast too close together and whatnot but I’m not sure if anyone really knows the real reason behind it, I’m only guessing. Now admittedly what I just gave you was the simplified version as often two episodes would’ve been shot at the same time by different production teams and some of the earlier episodes in the production order required extra shooting to extend them from the planned twenty-five minutes to the full fifty-minutes that were order. No-one really knows exactly what happened because it was so long ago but what I do know is that The Perils of Penelope was a fantastic episode. Yep, I am finally talking about the episode itself and as I mentioned earlier, it’s as bit of a political thriller. That side to the story instantly got me on board and while it was rather simple compared to other political thrillers it’s easily forgiven as there’s not much you can do with that in fifty minutes without making it feel rushed. So I guess the best way to describe it would be as a bitesized political thriller with all the fun and spy genre hallmarks that that entails.

The title character herself, Penelope, is wonderful in this and she truly is a great character. It’s just a shame that she sort of gets reduced to the damsel in distress at the end and although she doesn’t scream or anything like that it does basically become her role in the narrative for the final ten minutes. In fact I didn’t really see much need for Virgil, Gordon and Alan to be called in at all other than the fact that it’s an episode of Thunderbirds and it would feel odd without a rescue in it. Not that it was bad or anything but it did feel a little contrived to me. Up until that point though the episode is more or less flawless and the sets look beautiful through and through. I normally wouldn’t talk about stuff like this in relation to most other shows but since it’s all models there’s just something that feels special about it. But anyway, where Penelope goes you’re to find Parker not far behind so let’s talk about him. He is of course a fan favourite and gets some very nice stuff to do in this. Although it is early days so the crew probably haven’t fully realised what a gem they have with Parker so for the most part he’s stuck in the background. He does have his moments though such as shooting Penelope’s poisoned drink.

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As I said before, it truly is a fantastic episode so let’s wrap up now by rating it a nine-out-of-ten once again. While it is only just my least favourite so far (mainly because of the final ten minutes) I still feel really enjoyed it so that’s three strikes in a row for Thunderbirds so far. Will Terror in New York City keep this up? Find out next time as Thunderbird 1 gets caught on camera, Thunderbird 2 comes under fire and Thunderbird 4 goes on a daring underwater rescue. It’s going to be a race against time but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Thunderbirds: Pit of Peril

December 12, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Thunderbirds reviews return at last and we’re back with Pit of Peril, the second episode of the classic series which features the first appearance of the Mole, the most famous of Thunderbird 2′s pod vehicles. Another famous vehicle in this episode is the Sidewinder which, ironically enough, winds up on it’s side after a sinkhole opens below it during a test run. It’s a US army vehicle built for getting troops where they’re need quickly during the bushfire wars which apparently keep breaking out, almost certainly a reflection of the Vietnam war which was raging while this was being made back in the sixties. So then, with the Sidewinder trapped in a blazing pit and three crewmembers trapped aboard it’s imperative that they are freed fast. The US army makes multiple attempts but without the right equipment they fail to make any breakthroughs. Eventually they call International Rescue for help and Jeff sends Scott, Virgil and Brains into the danger zone. After Scott assesses the situation, Brains comes up with a strategy. Virgil is lowered into the pit in a heat resistant suit to lay charges to clear a path for the Sidewinder. Scott then uses the Mole to get Virgil back up to the surface. Once there, he uses two recovery vehicles to pull the Siderwinder and crew out of the pit. When the crew awake they thank Scott and the whole of International Rescue for saving their lives. They are then sent to hospital to be treated for their injuries while Thunderbirds 1 and 2 return to base from another successful mission.

Now as good as Trapped in the Sky was there’s just something that makes me love this episode even more. Right from the start it has such an epic quality to it and it’s honestly one of my favourite openings ever. The music is genuinely fantastic and the model shots are mixed in very well with what is presumably stock footage of Peru. And then slowly we build to the reveal of the Sidewinder as the animals flee from it’s path of destruction (which funnily enough is the title of another episode but we’ll save that one for much later) as the giant feet stomp across the landscape and the claws uproot the trees. Then we finally get the full reveal and while I can’t deny it looks a bit top heavy it’s still a magnificent creation. Cut to a bit later there’s another wonderful shot of it in the pit the inferno is raging around it. To be honest this episode has so many beautiful shots that I could go on all day but, sadly, I can’t.

Instead I need to talk about the plot as this one certainly isn’t all flash and no substance as you could hopefully tell from the précis I wrote although I don’t believe I’ve done it justice. We start off with the focus not on International Rescue but instead on the members of the US army who are testing the Sidewinder. The characters are established very quickly and while we only really have a double act between General Peters and Lieutenant Ralph with a couple of other characters on the side but it’s never the less interesting to see these one of characters get such attention during the first half. It’s a testament to how much television has changed really as you’d never expect to see one-off characters getting such a great deal of attention these days. International Rescue themselves don’t really get involved until about halfway through and it’s at that point which the focus shifts to them and their rescue attempt. It’s a structure that may feel odd to a modern audience but it actually works really well with the key driving force being the rescue rather than the characters.

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Now with all that said I think we’ve reached a suitable point suitable point to rate this story and like last time I am giving it a nine-out-of-ten although it’s an even stronger one this time. What stopped it getting full marks? Just a few things here and there really. Especially a certain error in scale which probably annoys me way more than it should but anyway, out next stop is The Perils of Penelope where Lady Penelope and Parker must uncover an international conspiracy but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to Hell Bent

December 7, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Usually when an episode disappoints me these reviews give me an opportunity to get it all out of my system and then look forward to the next episode with a somewhat positive frame of mind. This episode however I just want to forget about as soon as possible and immediately move on to the strangely appealing Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. I mean I’m usually not a fan of the more whimsical specials but this one’s got River Song instead of Clara so that’s a definite plus straight away. Admittedly I’m not the biggest River Song fan out there but she’s been growing on me as of late and I’m really interested in seeing the tour de force of Capaldi and Kingston, especially because she won’t know who he is to begin with. It’s also got a shouting head for a villain so what’s not to love there? Okay, so I guess I should stop talking about The Husband of River Song now as I do want it to appear as if I’m taking this review somewhat seriously. So then, let’s actually start talking about the few positives and many negatives of Hell Bent.

Now I think it’s safe to say that this episode turned out in a way that none of us were expecting it to. For some that’s a good thing but for many like myself it’s a very big negative. This was supposed to be the grand return of Gallifrey after so many years of absence but it instead ended up being yet another departure for Clara and an unnecessary one at that as we had already experienced a fitting end to her story in the form of Face the Raven. I mean there was so much potential here for an epic Gallifrey story with the Doctor trying to bring down Rassilon and yet the most legendary Time Lord of all time just gets on a shuttle and leaves because the Doctor told him to. And it is from that point which the story goes down hill for me.

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Now it’s only fair that I dedicate this next section of the review to the episode’s positives as believe it or not I do believe it has some. Most of them come from before Rassilon gets on a shuttle and flies off though. Peter Capaldi is of course one of them and while his performance may have taken a step down from last week it is still nothing short of incredible and it’s amazing how much he gets across without saying a single word. There’s also some good comedy there as you get into the routine of the woman going to the Doctor, the Doctor going outside and then the Doctor immediately going back in again. The General was also a welcome return from Day of the Doctor and Ken Bones did a good job expanding on the small role he was given there and he turns it into quite a likeable character actually. The female version was good too but I honestly don’t see why we had to get rid of the magnificent Ken Bones for what was ultimately nothing more than a cheap political move. It was also nice to have the Sisterhood of Karn back in this even if they didn’t do a whole lot.

Some of you may be a bit confused as to why I left Donald Sumpter’s Rassilon out when I was talking about the positives and it’s not because he was poorly acted but because the character just wasn’t written like Rassilon should be in my opinion. He was portrayed as more of a standard Time Lord as opposed to the legendary one he’s supposed to be. But anyway, let’s now talk about where this episode ultimately went wrong and that was when it bought back Clara. I didn’t care much about her before and I care about her even less now. The way it was written feels as if I’m supposed to care more for the Doctor and Clara and see the Time Lord’s as the villains but I was actually cheering the Time Lords on during this. It really did make Clara feel selfish in the way that she put herself before the safety of the timeline and when she called the Time Lords cowards for hiding at the end of the universe I was just sat there thinking that they’ve gone to the end of the universe so that the Time War doesn’t restart. As you can imagine, none of this rubs off well on Clara but hopefully now that she’s gone it’ll be a fresh start for the Doctor, especially since he won’t be able to remember her. Speaking of that, I’m glad they didn’t wipe Clara’s memory instead as that would’ve just been a blatant rip off of Donna’s fate so that’s another thing the episode has going for it, I guess.

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Overall, I’m going to give Hell Bent a four-out-of-ten and now that I’ve done that I can go back to talking about my odd sense of anticipation for The Husbands of River Song. Maybe it’s just because I’ll take anything after watching this episode or perhaps I just want a light romp after all the serious stories we’ve had in series nine but either way I’m looking forward to watching this one on Christmas day. So then until we see it a few weeks be sure to sound off your thoughts on either this episode or if you’re like me and you’d prefer to talk about the next one instead then you’re welcome to do both in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to Heaven Sent

December 2, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Since I was nice last week and started off by discussing the death of Clara I think it’s only fair that I be a bit mean this week and leave this week’s big event, the return of Gallifrey, until the end. But being mean isn’t the only reason for doing this. I’m also doing it because Gallifey’s return doesn’t really feed into this week’s story like Clara’s death did last week. In fact this episode could very easily be considered a stand alone one similar to the way The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived can be seen as two stand alone episodes. But anyway, I’ll wait until next week until I say whether or not I think it’s a stand alone as it doesn’t seem as simple as that at the moment. So then, this story has been of great interest to me for a while now, ever since we found out it was a one hander. I was intrigued by how they were going to handle it and to just simply have a showcase of Capaldi’s amazing acting skills. And obviously coming out of this Capaldi’s acting is one of the things you most remember. Then we had the trailer and I was really liking the otherworldly quality it had to it. I mean a story about the Doctor trapped in a castle which rearranges itself while a nightmarish creature is slowly pursuing him, what’s not to love about that?

Well this may surprise some people given the amount of positively this episode has got but I do feel there are some things not to like about this episode. Starting off with a simple one, the montage goes on way too long. I get what it was trying to do but it was basically five minutes worth of everything we’d seen up to that point on a loop. Two minutes worth would’ve been enough to get the point across nicely, three at a push. Another thing that annoyed me about this episode was the Sherlock-esque sequences in the Doctor’s mind. It broke up the flow of the story in my opinion and while it was more tolerable on a second viewing I still felt that they were unnecessary and the point could’ve easily been got across in a line of dialogue or so. And then inside his mind he’s trying to impress Clara, which is a bit creepy but that’s not my criticism here. My criticism here is that Clara is dead and the show’s still trying to convince me that she is the most amazing woman in the universe and no-one has ever come close to her and no-one ever will. Now it’s not that I don’t want her death to affect the Doctor but I would prefer the show not to treat her as the Doctor’s whole world. He’s had many companions before and will probably have many companions after, each are special in their own way so stop trying to push Clara as the god of all companions. It just feels forced and makes me like her even less, which is saying something as she’s already dead. Now I know I’ve been quite negative up to this point but I did like this episode really. It’s just that negatives are a lot easier. What I’m basically trying to say here is that if I haven’t mention it up to this point then I think it’s brilliant. The Veil and it’s slow but constant pace is a terrifying creation. The fact that it’s point of view is displayed on the screens only adds to that. I’m just happy that Steven Moffat’s come up with an original idea for once and done a good job executing it. Seeing as a lot of his previous scripts as of late have been rehashing his quite a few of his old ideas this one’s a breath of fresh air.

So now we come to the moment you’ve probably all been waiting for, the return of Gallifrey. Given that it’s going to play such a big role in next week’s episode there’s little to actually talk about in relation to it here but I will try my best as I’ll need as much room as possible next week to talk about all the other hopefully awesome things that may happen in that episode. So then the most obvious question to begin with would be am I happy that it’s back? And the answer to that would be of course I am! However, I’m not very happy with the reveal. Partially because it was spoiled by really bad marketing which revealed it weeks in advance. Secondly because This is Gallifrey from series three wasn’t playing during the reveal. It’s some of the best music the show’s ever had and would’ve made the scene so much more epic compared to the rather standard incidental music that we ended up getting. Hopefully we’ll get to hear it next week as that theme is simply beautiful. Look it up if you’re not sure what I’m on about. Now one more thing before I rap this up, I’m going to put a theory out there. Remember how Skaro was invisible in The Magician’s Apprentice? What if Gallifrey was invisible in Death in Heaven and Missy was telling the truth after all. Just think about it for a bit.

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Overall, despite my review seeming quite negative on reflection I did really like this episode. In fact I’d go so far as to say its a eight-out-of-ten in my eyes. Now there were a couple of other things which I didn’t mention here that slightly bothered me but depending on how Hell Bent turns out I could be fine with them so I’ll give this episode the benefit of the doubt in that respect. So hopefully Hell Bent will provide a satisfactory conclusion to those loose ends as well as providing us with a simply epic finale, something which I feel we haven’t had since The Big Bang. So until we see it next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to Face the Raven

November 25, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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So I could be mean to you and wait until the end to talk about Clara’s demise but since you’ve probably already suffered enough I’m going to be kind for once and talk about it first. Now for those of you who don’t know I am not a big Clara fan. None of that is really to do with Jenna Coleman as I think she’s an amazing actress who’s not been given the best material to work with. There was practically no solid sense of character during series seven as the whole impossible girl plot line simply treated her as nothing more than a walking, talking plot device. Then came the fiftieth anniversary where she suddenly became a teacher despite showing no prior interest in teaching. But anyway, moving on to series eight where the control freak angle was thrown in out of nowhere but on the bright-side we were at least getting some much needed character development at this point. Throughout most of series nine I couldn’t really care less about Clara and given how little she got to do I think the writers might have felt the same. But despite all of that I still found her death quite moving, mainly because of Sarah Dollard’s great writing and Peter and Jenna’s superb acting. Also, my heart was racing at times during this episode but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. This was probably at it’s worst during the scene where she gets the tattoo and while I had seen her death coming from a mile off this was the moment that sealed the deal for me. Some people have complained about the circumstances leading up to the death saying it wasn’t really that heroic but it wasn’t really meant to be, it was meant to show much of a risk-taker she’s become and now she’s seen the consequences of that which provides a fitting conclusion to her arc this series.

So that’s basically all I have to say about Clara’s death itself but I’m not completely done with it as it does hang over the episode as a whole quite a bit. In fact the reason I brought it up first was because it would have been hard to discuss the rest of the episode without mentioning it and it would end up feeling like I’m just killing time until I can talk about it, a bit like how the majority of the episode felt to me. Not that I’m saying I didn’t enjoy the build up to it, I thought some of it was great but ultimately it was rather uneventful and had a very thin plot, making it feel like the episode was only here to kill Clara off and set up the finale rather than tell a story in it’s own right. They could’ve done a neat little murder mystery plot in a mysterious setting but instead as soon as the investigation into what’s going on begins it’s over, there’s literally only really one scene of it. It’s something that Doctor Who’s been doing far too often recently in my opinion and that is introducing really cool and interesting ideas but rather than exploring them more beyond that they simply move on to the next one. Take the trapped street idea from this story as an example. It’s a wonderful idea and it’s done very well visually but we hardly go anywhere with it before we move on to the episode’s next big idea, the raven itself but by the time we get to it there’s not enough run time to flesh it out satisfactorily.

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Now let’s talk about Rigsy who I quite liked in Flatline and once again I quite liked him here. He now has a son but he’s still very much the same character as last time and it’s nice to have him back as not only did he work quite well with Clara last time but he also helped to point out how much Clara has changed since last series. However, I’m disappointed he sort of disappeared from the story at the end and didn’t get to properly say goodbye to Clara or the Doctor either for that matter. But his memorial for Clara at the end was nice. Now we come to the return of Me who has once again changed quite a bit since we last saw her. However, I feel like this story kind of undid some of the development she got in her previous story and it seems like most of the interesting character development has once again taken place off screen. However, those final moments she had with the Doctor were very strong and I get the feeling she’s going to need one more episode to resolve that.

Speaking of the Doctor, let’s talk about him now and I’ll start off by saying that this is probably one of the strongest performances that Peter Capaldi has ever given. It really got me excited for where we’re heading next week with a what has basically been described as an episode long monologue and the events of this episode should play into that quite nicely and make it even more entertaining. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself so let’s turn our attention back to this episode and talking about his goodbye to Clara. I already mentioned how superb both the actors were in this scene but I might as well talk about them again as they are both so good. Clara’s line about not wanting the last she sees of the Doctor to be him threatening people is a particular stand out for me and is the turning point of the scene. We then get such a range of emotion from Capaldi but then the way he turns on Me following Clara’s death is simply incredible and it’s great to see that it will affect him greatly as a character. It has been said that we will be seeing a more cynical Doctor next series and it’s good to see here that there will be a good reason for that. It will also be interesting to see how he treats his next companion due to Clara’s death although having said that I hope they don’t do what they did with Martha and have the new companion be overshadowed by the old one.

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Overall, this episode isn’t perfect but the final quarter of it very nearly is. I’m going to give it an eight-out-of-ten although I’m not sure whether more time could’ve improved this and fixed some of the flaws I’ve pointed out or just a better use of the time they already had here. With an extended run time and only one real character to cater for I hope next weeks doesn’t suffer from the same problems as Heaven Sent has a lot of potential and I only hope it can live up to it. So until we see it next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reaction to Sleep No More

November 16, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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Strange, isn’t it? There have been episodes this series that have been almost universally praised which I am not all that keen on and then along comes an episode which I positively adore and it seems that not many share my enthusiasm. Now I can kind of see why as it is quite experimental in more ways that one and quite a few people will probably not take very well to that element of the episode. That and the fact that the ending can be quite confusing. Admittedly I was quite shaken by it all the first time but after a second viewing during which I understood much better what was going on I enjoyed it much more. Now let’s begin with the elephant in the room, the found footage itself. Admittedly when I first heard about this I was quite concerned and thought it would be a rehash of Love and Monsters but with poor quality phone cameras. But as we got closer to the story and I realised it was set in space my hopes rose by quite a bit. Now that I’ve seen the actual episode I’m very happy with how the found footage element turned out and I’m particularly happy that it had an actual reason for being there, and an experimental one at that. Now in other shows found footage can feel superfluous to the story being told but the way that it tied into the narrative made me feel that the episode wouldn’t have been as good without it.

Now Mark Gatiss himself seems to be a bit of a mainstay when it comes to Doctor Who having been writing for the show since it came back, so it’s rather surprising that this is his first futuristic story. In fact all of his previous works apart from Night Terrors have been set in the past. And he can do horror very well (you only have to watch The Unquiet Dead to see that) but he instead seems to focus on comedy’s instead which are sometimes less than successful. Here though he does unleash his inner horror and the Sandmen are quite wonderful creations and quite a scary idea also. Now I’ve head some critics of the episode say the idea of living dust is more fantasy than science but I mean we’ve had stranger things before, haven’t we? I mean we had the moon turn out to be an egg for crying out loud. So having the Morpheus machine turn the dust from sleep sentient didn’t jump out at me as absurd whatsoever. In fact it more or less made sense to me. It was also quite a scary idea and the Sandmen themselves (especially when kept to the shadows) turned out to be quite scary as monsters. The song was also strangely unsettling. And then there’s ending which was marvellously done and was probably the scariest thing about it. The way he rubbed out his eye was particularly good although they may have got a bit carried away after that.

Before we finish off by talking about the characters I would like to bring up the interesting concept of the titles which I was quite worried about at first but they actually worked quite well and helped make the experience more immersive. Shame they couldn’t do something similar at the end though as the sudden appearance of the credits kind of threw right out of it and almost ruined that spectacular ending. But anyway, now for the characters and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Clara although I think Jenna Coleman is a fantastic actress. This episode however I feel that Mark Gatiss wrote her in a way in which she felt like a real, likeable person. The scene where they talk about space stuff is great and just highlights my point. We might not have long left with her but I still want more of this please. The Doctor was also wonderful during these scenes and while he didn’t get any material like last week he was still used well here. When it comes to supporting characters I find that Mark Gatiss always does a good job and this is no exception. Admitedly the only standout of the crew is Chopra but the others are still good. The main masterpiece here though is Reece Shearsmith’s Rassmussen who has quite a few layers to his character, and no I’m not talking about layers of sand. Good performances all around too which really helped this episode.

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Overall, Under the Lake may be my favourite individual episode from this series but Sleep No More is definitely my favourite story as a whole due to it not having a second part like Before the Flood to let it down. Having said that though, Mark Gatiss will apparently be writing a sequel but I’m not sure this needs one as the ending is as perfect as it is ambiguous in my view. But anyway, while I won’t be giving this one full marks I will be giving it a nine-out-of-ten and will look back on it as an underrated gem, even if you probably won’t. Now we look forward to next week’s episode Face the Raven which appears to have an awful lot going on in it. So until we see it next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reaction to The Zygon Inversion

November 11, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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When we left off last week I quite liked the direction the story was going in but I also expressed some concern that I had also felt this way before at the end of the first half of all series nine two-parters so far and had always ended up disappointed by the second half. Now I will say that this episode is the best second part from Capaldi’s era. It also linked well thematically with the first part and I can’t really say the same for The Witch’s Familiar and Before the Flood. It felt like one long story this time but the two halves do still feel distinctive. However, I did still feel disappointed with this episode in comparison to last weeks. But before I go into that I’d like to discuss something that kind of bothered me over the course of both episodes, the Zygons themselves. In the classic series they were set up as the ideal infiltrators. They took would take a human, get a body print from them and then take their form. This meant that they had limits but these limits set them apart from the standard sci-fi shape-shifters and therefor made them more interesting. They also had the Skarasen a giant armoured cyborg which they could not only use as a weapon but also depended on for survival due to the lactic fluid it produced for them. However, basically all of this lore is thrown away in this story and while there was sort of an in-universe explanation given by Osgood last week it still bothers me that if they were going to change the monster so much why did they not just make a new one to suit the story’s requirements. As it is they’re just fitting the monster to the story when it should really be the other way around in the case of pre-existing monsters.

Now I don’t think I gave enough praise to Jenna Coleman last week for what she did with Bonnie and I’m happy to say that she improved on it even more this week. I think this is the best performance Jenna Coleman has ever given in Doctor Who and she isn’t even playing her main role. Admittedly she didn’t do too bad a job as the normal Clara but ultimately Bonnie was just so much more interesting to me. I think it’s because we all love a good villain and he fact that said villain looks like one of the main characters is just adds to that. Now we move onto a character who I didn’t really talk about at all last week, Kate Stewart. Admittedly I saw the twist of how she’d get out of last weeks situation instantly but the Brigadier reference they put in there was quite nice. It was nice for her to go off and do her own thing last week but in this episode she seemed to act very out of character when it came to the climax. It felt far too similar to the Day of the Doctor’s resolution and wiping her memory robbed her or any development here. I personally think that they should’ve swapped her out for Rebecca Front’s Colonel Walsh instead as her character fitted the situation far better and there had even been some possible build up to this last week during her scenes. It’s a shame she didn’t appear at all in this one at all as it feels like her character only had half her story told.

While we’re on the topic of the ending though, wasn’t the Doctor’s speech there just fantastic? It will almost definitely be one of Capaldi’s defining moments and while the American accent was quite annoying (albeit not as annoying as Missy’s was) it didn’t detract from the overall quality of the writing or the rest of the speech. And it’s not one of those grandiose speeches which Matt Smith had which only really served to big the character up, it’s instead a speech which could very easily be applied to the real world and it nicely tied up the anti-war theme of the episode. It’s almost call back to the Pertwee era as many of his stories had a strong political message. The Zygon splinter group itself is also very much a parody of modern day terrorism. It even directly paralleled to the idea that many people in our society blame all Muslim’s for the actions of a few radicalised groups and it did this right. And yet some people have still found something to complain about here by calling the BBC insensitive for broadcasting a plane getting shot down only a week after a plane was tragically struck down in real life. Now I am not trying to be insensitive here but surly viewers will be able to distinguish between real life and fictional events. It’s not like the production team are making light of this terrible situation and parodying it as it was filmed long before this event occurred. Cutting it out wasn’t exactly an option either as it was too crucial to the plot and it was last weeks cliff-hanger for heavens sake. I’m just glad we didn’t have a repeat of the Robot of Sherwood beheading scene fiasco but anyway, I’m going way off topic and way too political so let’s cool down a bit by talking about Osgood. She was a great character and while she didn’t do much beyond give the Doctor someone to talk to it was still nice to have her there. Also, it would’ve been great for her to have had at least one trip in the TARDIS as I feel she brings out a lot of good qualities in Capadi’s Doctor.

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Overall, I give The Zygon Inversion an eight-out-of-ten as I can look beyond the flaws in the Zygons and see that this is a really strong story with a great speech that it very relevant to events occurring in the world right now. Also, if you’re in the mood for more Kate and Osgood then you’re in luck as Big Finish just released UNIT: Extinction in which they and the rest of UNIT face the Autons. Alternatively the adventures of the Doctor and Clara continue in Sleep No More. It’s a found-footage style story by Mark Gatiss and will hopefully include some good, old fashioned sci-fi horror. So then, until next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to The Zygon Invasion

November 2, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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The Zygons are back and it appears that this is a story that has been in the works for a long time now. It all began during fiftieth anniversary, where a rather bland Zygon subplot is now revealed to have simply been laying the groundwork for this story. Following the events of this subplot in The Day of the Doctor a peace between humans and Zygon’s is established, with the two Osgoods acting as the living embodiment of said peace. Skip forward a year and one of the Osgoods is disintegrated by Missy, an action which I doubt even she was aware of the full implications. Now the peace is breaking down and a Zygon splinter group are now trying to claim the world for themselves. When I first heard about the story everything about it excited me except the fact that it was written by Peter Harness who of course wrote last years train wreck of an episode Kill the Moon. Then it was revealed that Osgood would be returning and I started to worry. Not because I dislike Osgood but because her Death in Heaven really meant something at the time and it felt like that was being thrown away and yet another death in Doctor Who didn’t mean anything. The few glimpses we got in the series nine trailers looked good but it was the individual episode trailers that got me really excited again. My hopes were held high again but I still had this thought in the back of my head reminding me that I felt the same way about be trailers for Peter Harness’s last story. The clips then came along midweek and they didn’t look too good out of context. So there’s been a lot of ups and downs on the road to this story but now that I’ve seen the first episode of it, what do I think?

Well, I thought that The Zygon Invasion was the best episode of series nine so far. Admittedly I wasn’t a fan of the once upon a time opening and for the first five minutes it felt like my worst fears about the episode had been confirmed. The Zygon’s using electricity now initially annoyed the hell out of me and especially considering that they got the sting so right in The Day of the Doctor this just felt like a cheap gimmick. But once we were beyond the opening titles and I’d had a chance to calm down I actually started to enjoy it. Not long after that I was riveted to it and was disappointed that I couldn’t immediately go straight on to the second part. So I did the next best thing a just watch the first part again. The second viewing definitely helped and some of the things that annoyed me the first time really ended up feeling like simple nitpicks the second time. The electricity still didn’t work for me though and the fact that it turned people into things that look like tumbleweeds just felt like an excuse not to show actual dead bodies on Doctor Who. Now I’m not a psychopath who gets a kick out of seeing dead bodies but I do feel that actual bodies would’ve had more of an impact. Other than that the Zygons were great and felt very menacing. Also, given that the electricity thing is my biggest complaint that just shows how strong the episode really is.

The episode had more than a couple of parallels with modern-day terrorism. The Zygons using Osgood to send out there message. The fact that many are blaming the vast majority for the actions of a few. These are all things that relate to problems we have in the real world and while it does feel like these themes are being bashed over your head from time to time I still feel that it works. It also helps to make the Zygons even more scary as they remind us of people we fear today just like the Daleks reminded sixties viewers of people they feared back then, the Nazis. But that’s not all that made the Zygon’s scary this week as the scene outside the Church was one of the most gripping things I’ve seen in a long while. While it may have been obvious that she was a Zygon the acting made it very tense and the music added to it also. In fact the music added a lot to the episode, as it can be quite creepy at times. Another standout moment was the reveal of Clara being a Zygon and while it was fairly obvious on the second watch I somehow did not see it coming first time around so well done to Peter Harness on that. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where they take this next week with Jenna Coleman playing the main villain. Exciting stuff. Also, poor Jac. She was quite good in this and even though there wasn’t much character there I feel that the actress did a lot with the role. Another good character was Colonel Walsh who will hopefully be back next week as Rebecca Front worked brilliantly alongside Peter Capaldi. The Doctor obviously dislikes her but not because she’s a soldier but because of her attitude towards the Zygons which works a lot better. But what is probably the best thing about this episode is the global scale of it. It feels like a finale in the way it’s written and a movie in the way it’s directed. Steven Moffat was spot on when he described it as a global urban thriller and it’s a style that’s very new for the series, thus making this episode really stand out.

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Overall, I’m going to give this episode a very high nine-out-of-ten as it simply blew me away. Now there are some things which I deliberately missed out of this week’s review but rest assured that I will bring them up next week as I want to talk about them parts when we have the full picture. Now it probably goes without saying that I’m looking forward to The Zygon Inversion. Having said that though I am worried, as Capaldi’s era seems to have a habit of producing disappointing second halves. Hopefully this will be the exception but until we get the answers we seek next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to The Woman Who Lived

October 27, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782

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If you’ve been keeping up with these little review I’ve been doing you’ll know that this series has been rather up and down for me so far. I’m happy to say that this episode was on an up though. Not up as high as Mummy on the Orient Express or Flatline but a definite improve over the last two weeks. Which makes me wonder whether this one will be well remembered in the future or whether it’ll be one of those strong episodes that doesn’t quite stand out for being either really good or really bad so just ends up being forgotten about. Time will tell on that front I guess. But anyway, this Doctor Who story is written by a woman but that’s not the important part about Catherine Tregenna, the fact that she’s very good at writing characters is. And she really is good at it and adds a genuine sense of character to Ashildr (or Me as she goes by now) that wasn’t really there in any great abundance last week. She also does some great stuff with the Doctor and you can really see Peter Capaldi sinking his teeth into all that wonderful stuff. However, the intense focus on character does mean that the plot takes a back seat. Admittedly it is a simple plot and is nothing really new but nevertheless it would’ve been nice to have had a bit more build up and a slightly longer scene for the invasion and it really was far too quick. Me’s sudden change of heart was (as the word sudden would suggest) a bit too sudden and a bit too convenient. That might’ve been more down to directing rather than writing but I do feel that it shouldn’t have been as instantaneous as it ended up being. Just a couple of seconds extra would’ve been able to fix that I think but I guess you can’t have everything.

Speaking more in-depth about Me, she very much feels like a substitute companion in this episode and I am begging to wonder whether or not this was supposed to be a Doctor solo series before Jenna decided to stay as it does feel like most of the episodes would have been no different without her and here she’s just written out altogether excluding a short scene at the end. Did I dislike her absence? Not really as I feel that there was no other way to get her in the episode without detracting from it as a whole. It is very much a two hander between the Doctor and Me and it wouldn’t work any other way. Anyway, back to Me herself. Maisie Williams was great last week but here she take it to a whole other level, probably because the script really allows her to. I really loved the idea of her being an immortal but still having a human sized memory. I also liked that she wanted to explore beyond the confines of her world and join the Doctor. The way those scenes where played though implied there was some sinister reason as to why she knows about the Doctor’s travels but that’s never really followed through on. Maybe that’ll be explored in a future episode? It would be nice to have her back some time.

In terms of supporting character there are only two worthy of note, Sam Swift and Leandro. Sam Swift was wonderful and it’s a shame we didn’t get to spend more time with his character. Leandro however was more of a plot device than a character and was a rather poor villain if I’m honest. He, like the plot, was only really there to push the character drama between the Doctor and Me forward. You could argue that Sam Swift was there for that purpose too but he was a much more entertaining character and had such a style about him thanks to both Catherine Tregenna’s writing and Rufus Hound’s acting that it’s much less noticeable that he’s kind of a plot device. He even gets a bit of development himself and ends up being friends with the Doctor and Me in the end. The gallows humour was very nicely done and while it did feel a bit like padding at the time I appreciate it in hindsight. In terms of humour it fitted in much more with the story than the humour did last week in The Girl Who Died. Speaking of, I did bring up the topic of whether or not I classed it as a two-part story last week and I still stand by my statement that they are two separate episodes but with a small link between them. They each tell their own stories and only really have a single character in common. Or three characters if you count the Doctor and Clara. It’s nice to have that though as it’s great that they’re trying something different the format and also something different in the form of the character of Me.

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Overall, Catherine Tregenna’s Doctor Who debut has a rather week plot but that’s mostly forgivable because it’s main purpose is to be a character piece and it does that spectacularly. I think eight-out-of-ten is a fair rating for this one and I hope I’ll get to give out more scores like this or higher as we enter the second half of the series. The Zygon Invasion is next up and it’s Kill the Moon writer Peter Harness back for another go. It looks to be very good but I said that last year about Kill the Moon and look how that turned out so I’m not counting on it being a classic just yet. However, we don’t have long to wait now so until next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.