Doctor Who: Initial Reaction to The Girl Who Died

October 20, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Following two double-length stories with great first parts but disappointing seconds, it’s rather refreshing to have an episode which is kind of stand alone but not really. Now I personally am not counting The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived as a two-parter as the both appear to be telling their own stories but they are connected by the arc of Maisie Williams’ character Ashildr. Having not seen The Woman Who Lived yet though I’m not one-hundred percent on that. Now this episode seems to be a very dividing one. I know those who loved it and those who absolutely hated it with a passion. Some really liked the Mire part but hated the Doctor’s face part while others were vice-versa. I personally found it to be quite average overall. Some really amazing moments balanced out by some really bad ones. It got off to a fairly strong start (although I felt the Mire were introduced way too quickly) and it was all going fairly well until the resolution. It was far too comedic as were many of my least favourite parts of this episode. Also, the Mire could have easily just return and massacred them all in order to stop the video getting out there. Not very well thought through unfortunately.

So then, what were the moments I enjoyed? Well there were some wonderful conversations between the Doctor and Clara and during those scenes I found myself really liking Clara. I’ve been unsure about her for a while now and still feel that most episodes from series nine so far would’ve worked just as well without her and the plot of this one would’ve functioned just as well without her I don’t feel there would’ve been as much substance. Those wonderful scenes added substance to a story that would’ve otherwise have been rather bland. Now we come to Ashildr who is a wonderful character played by the amazing actress Maisie Williams. Her scene with Capaldi was great and while the script didn’t give her much to do beyond that (hopefully next week’s will) she still made the most of it. When I rewatched it she caught my eye in the background and if you focus on her in the background of these scenes you’ll see her doing some rather interesting things rather than just standing around. They’re nothing too incredible but they’re nice little incidental moments which add to her character as a whole. I’m excited to see what they do with this character next week as there’s a lot of potential there.

The Mire unfortunately went down the route which most new series monsters seem to go down unfortunately as they looked very impressive and I liked it when they had there helmets off as it showed that they weren’t bog standard robots but in terms of story they were very weak and very underdeveloped. But now we come to a moment which I am sure many of you are surprised that I have not bought up already and that is the explanation as to why the Doctor has the same face as Caecilius, a character who casual viewers have probably forgotten from an episode which casual viewers have probably forgotten. Meaning that this is simply for the fans and most of us didn’t really want this thing answered. Well I certainly wouldn’t have lost any sleep over it anyway. So that’s my stance on that well and truly made and it leads up nicely on to my next point which is the Doctor saving Ashildr and to be honest I felt that this would have worked much better if the Doctor had no idea that he was making her immortal and thought he was just saving. That could’ve added a nice bit extra to it I feel. It also could link back to the prophecy mentioned in The Witch’s Familiar about the hybrid. It certainly appeared that way to me.

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Overall, I did expect a lot more from Jamie Mathieson given what he gave us last year but nevertheless this episode did have some great moments. It gets a six-out-of-ten from me which is still a fair rating but not as high as I gave Jamie Mathieson’s other two. Anyway, I’m excited to see where Ashildr’s story goes next week in The Woman Who Lived which is by Catherine Tregenna, the first woman to write for the show in a long time. The episode also looks to be very good from what we’ve seen so far and the setting is very exciting but anyway, until next week be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to Before the Flood

October 14, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


So then, Under the Lake was magnificent and I was looking forward to more fantastic stuff in this weeks episode, Before the Flood. Like the premiere, I was left sadly disappointed by the second part. Was it a bad episode? Definitely not. Did it live up to the previous episode though? Sadly not, that’s where this one let me down. Now to be honest, I was worried ever since the cliff-hanger as it was obvious that the Doctor wasn’t going to die and that we were going to get a copout solution but I was hoping for something at least a little bit more than the copout simply being a hologram. However, I did enjoy the scene between the Doctor and Clara that we got out of this when he was telling her that he had to die. It felt like Clara turned into Rose a bit towards the end there when she was acting all entitled but other than that I loved the scene. I also quite enjoyed the pre-credits sequence and how it linked into the episode at the end there. I also really enjoyed the rock theme we had over the titles and I’d actually quite for that to stick around for a bit.

Anyway, I absolutely praised the quality of the supporting characters last week so what about this week? Well let’s start with O’Donnell who was shot down by the Fisher King fairly early in the episode. It was a well done sequence but I find it odd that her ghost only shows up at that point in the story rather than being there the whole time since she had died at the same time as Prentis. Given that the whole draw of mixing time travel and ghosts was that you could meet your own ghost it is a bit disappointing that this didn’t happen and having O’Donnell’s ghost there all along through Under the Lake would have made things very interesting indeed. There’s also hints of a possible future story when she mentions a Minister of War, could even be the finale. Now we come to Bennett who didn’t get a whole lot to do last episode. This episode he really gets the chance to step up and even challenge the Doctor at times which made for some great scenes. It’s a shame that his love for O’Donnell never really had any build up to it and was suddenly chucked in there at the end. The love between Cass and Lunn did thankfully have some build up to it but the main thing I like about these two characters is that they (mainly Cass) stand up to Clara and ask her a very important question. Last and also least in terms of supporting characters is Prentis who’s comedy routine seems a bit out of place this far into the story. It was also a bit too in the audiences face causing me to prefer Gibbis from The God Complex.

Now for the Fisher King who thankfully brought an end to Prentis’ comedy routine fairly early in the episode. Other than that though he doesn’t have much going for him. I mean he sounded magnificent and the costume was incredible although shooting him in broad daylight probably wasn’t the best idea as it made the monster look a bit rubbery to me. When in the shadow’s though, he was great. In the end though he just turned out to be a generic Doctor Who monster which didn’t really do a whole lot. Also, the reveal of how he made the ghosts was very poorly done by simply having it be an off handed line. It’s the same problem I have with the reveal of who blew up the TARDIS back in The Time of the Doctor, there was too much mystery and build up there for it to have been simply glossed over as if it were trivial. Speaking of the ghosts though, how didn’t find that scene with Cass and Moran to be simply magnificent? The tension was there and it really made use of the fact that Cass was deaf. Shame there weren’t more moments like that to be honest. And other than that the ghosts didn’t really do anything besides roam the corridors of the base. They felt far too much like a left over spare part from Under the Lake that Toby Whithouse (spelt his name wrong last week so sorry about that) just didn’t know what to do with. Now we come to the whole timey-wimey aspect of the story which I’ve heard many saying that a second watch is required to understand it as it’s apparently quite confusing but to be honest I picked up on everything first time and understood it without requiring a second watch. Oh and before I go any further I’d just like to clarify that I don’t dislike Doctor Who being timey-wimey. I think it’s great when it works but the truth is that it doesn’t work that often. So then the big question is was it done right in this episode? Besides the whole thing about O’Donnell’s ghost I mentioned earlier, yes it was done right in this episode.

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Overall, Under the Lake and Before the Flood were a better two-part story than Capaldi’s other two. Before the Flood on it’s own gets a seven-out-of-ten from me which isn’t a bad rating but it’s substantially less than what I gave last week sadly. So my favourite Capaldi story still remains to be Mummy on the Orient Express and the writer of that, Jamie Mathieson, is returning next week to co-write The Girl Who Died which Maisie Williams will also be guest-starring in. So I’m very much looking forward to that one but 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 Under the Lake

October 6, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


So despite a promising first episode I ended up being quite disappointed with the series nine premiere overall because of how The Witch’s Familiar failed to deliver. But now we’re back in the swing of things and Toby Whitehouse has now come along with his first two part story. I’ve enjoyed his previous efforts but am not sure how many of them I’d call classics. This episode however, well let’s just say that calling it a classic might be putting it mildly. Yes, I really enjoyed this episode. And if the next episode manages to keep this up then Under the Lake and Before the Flood will easily become my favourite Twelfth Doctor story (a spot currently held by Mummy on the Orient Express) but I won’t commit to that just yet as I have to see the second half. I probably mentioned before how difficult it is to review what is essentially half a story so please bear with me as I try my best to discuss Under the Lake. So let’s start off with the basic premise and that is that an underwater base is under attack by ghosts. Nothing confusing, just straight forward ghosts. We don’t have a full explanation as to what they are yet but I like that there are little hints here and there such as the fact that they can’t penetrate the Faraday cage (probably something to do with the fact that they are transmitters of some kind) and that they can only interact with objects that are metal. So the ghosts are great in this and I’m looking forward to seeing where they take the ghost idea when they introduce time travel into the story next week. Now then, as a base under siege story I was sort of reminded of The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit only underwater but thankfully the similarity doesn’t spread too far and this one does end up doing it’s own thing which is great. The sets are wonderful and I like the dirty look the corridors have to them but I don’t find them as claustrophobic as those in The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit which is a shame but I guess you can’t have everything.

Just as a side note, I would definitely recommend watching this at least twice as I picked up quite a bit more on a second viewing and also ended up enjoying it more. For example, I was able to work out that Lunn was spared by the ghost because hadn’t seen the symbols whereas before I hadn’t picked up on that and no doubt that plot threat will play into the next episode. I also found that it flowed much better than I originally thought but I’m not quite sure why that ended up being the case. But anyway, let’s now talk about the crew of the base, one of whom was of course deaf. When I first heard this I thought her inclusion would just be a gimmick and feared that it would slow the story down but actually she ended up being very well utilised in the story and both Cass and her interpreter, Lunn, were very likeable characters. I’d also imagine that Cass was very much an inspiration to the children watching who were deaf. So well done to Toby Whitehouse and actor Sophie Stone for that. But as great as Cass was I can’t help but love O’Donnell just that little but more. I did initially fear she was going to be a copy of Osgood when she had that fangirl moment towards the start but she actually ended up being very different thankfully and I look forward to seeing what they’ll do with her next week. Bennett on the other hand was a bit dull as a character but at least the have time to fix that. Moran and Pritchard were the red shirts here but it’s nice that Toby Whitehouse made them fairly rounded characters before they died.

Now we come to the Doctor and Clara who were both great in this episode. Admittedly Clara didn’t have too much to do but since many episodes in series eight were dominated by her I’m fine with the Doctor taking the lead again. Plus, now that they’re split up she’ll probably have more to do next episode. I think they’re scene together in the TARDIS was quite nice but the main stand out was the flashcards and it’s great that you can go back and read the other ones despite them being only a minor detail in the story itself. There’s even a Sarah Jane Smith reference in one of them. Unfortunately I’m going to have to stop being positive for a moment as I will now discuss the only real negative about this episode, the cliffhanger. In isolation, it’s not too bad but given that Moffat’s done the whole idea of the Doctor dying to death (we had it in the previous story for crying out loud) I just felt a bit fed up with it at this point. Also, I don’t feel it was shot very well. Having the Doctor’s ghost slowly advance towards the camera would’ve been far more effective in my opinion.

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Overall, of course I loved this one and although I was negative about the cliffhanger I have faith that Toby Whitehouse will be able to change my mind about this next week. So there’s not much else to say beyond me giving this one a well deserved ten-out-of-ten. Now I only hope that Before the Flood can live up to this story and that Toby Whitehouse will provide a satisfying conclusion, and given how well thought through this one was I don’t see why next week should be any different. Anyway, those are just my opinions so be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Initial Reactions to The Witch’s Familiar

September 29, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Last week I was more positive about Doctor Who than I had been in a while, I thought that The Magician’s Apprentice was an incredible episode and I still think it is. It’s not flawless by any means but it was a solid start and I was looking forward to seeing how they’d continue with what they’d set up here. Fast forward to now and I am, unfortunately, disappointed with how The Witch’s Familiar turned out. While it’s not a bad episode by any means I just feel that it fails to live up to my expectations which were understandably high after The Magician’s Apprentice. Let’s start off with the elephant in the room, the Doctor usurping Davros from his chair. While a story this dark does require comic relief I feel that it could’ve been done in a better way than this. It undermines Davros as a villain, it doesn’t move the plot forward whatsoever and it takes time away that could’ve been used to flesh out that conclusion. Admittedly the dodgems line was funny but the scene was so jarring tonally that it just left a bitter taste in my mouth. Also, the Doctor just took away a dying mans life support so that he could go for a joy ride, that is not in character for him at all. Admittedly we did have a similar scene last week with the Doctor playing a guitar but I felt that worked better as it didn’t undermine the villain and didn’t seem too out of character for the Doctor.

Anyway, let’s be a bit more positive now and talk about what did work such as Missy. Still not the biggest fan of hers but it felt like this episode knew what to do with her. She was downright evil but you couldn’t help but love her for it. She wasn’t trying to take over the universe or anything like that, she was just messing with the Doctor but in a far better way than in Death in Heaven. Trapping Clara in a Dalek and then trying to get the Doctor to kill her was genius and was the most tense scene I’d experienced in Doctor Who for a long time. My heart was racing and the Doctor had a look in his eye that showed he could’ve done anything. It was also a nice call back to Asylum of the Daleks and it was wonderfully played by Jenna Coleman. Clara and Missy also had quite a nice double act going on earlier but the comedy didn’t jar with the tone unlike a certain other scene which I won’t go on about again.

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The Dalek sewers were an interesting idea and the sequences in them were quite well done. The design as great too and the way that Missy defeated the Dalek down there was quite cool too. Not so sure about her accent there though. I also think it was nice that they weren’t just a background detail and that they actually came into play in a big way at the end there, being a key part of the resolution itself. Plus, the revolting sewers line was great. The only problem with their involvement in the resolution is that it makes Davros seem rather foolish to have overlooked them. That and the fact that the Daleks can fly so most of them could have easily escape the destruction of the city. Another minor problem is Colony Sarff really intriguing last week but this week there was no explanation as to what exactly he was and he’s ultimately a repeat of the Whispermen, a very good idea but nothing really beyond that.

Another thing that annoyed me is that the episode never tackled the moral dilemma that should’ve been at the heart of it all: is it right to kill a child who will grow up to be a mass murderer? The last episode set that up so nicely but this episode threw that idea away. The older Davros scenes seem to have slipped too. Last episode Steven Moffat understood Davros perfectly and his speech about the Daleks at the end proved that. This episode, he doesn’t completely ruin him by any means but he misses the potential that was there from last time and makes this feel like just another Davros episode as there are no real consequences. Davros makes a full recovery and what was that whole thing about the Daleks getting regeneration energy? The threat there was never really explored because too much time was being wasted and because of this I just ended up not really caring. The Daleks honestly posed no threat at all here and their plan only really came in to play right at the end of the episode, quite shocking given that it’s the second part of a two part story. We never got an explanation as to why there were classic Daleks there either which is annoying. Then there was a prophecy randomly thrown in there which I totally missed the first time around. I mean what in the world was that all about? Hopefully it’ll be explained at some point as part of an ongoing arc or something.

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Overall, The Witch’s Familiar has a lot wrong with it and while it pains me to do this I can give it no higher than a six-out-of-ten. It was too disconnected from the previous half and failed to live up to it as well. The two parter as a whole felt like Steven Moffat was just throwing too many ideas at a wall and seeing what would stick and so what we end up with is a rather poorly constructed but somewhat enjoyable story. Hopefully Toby Whithouse can do better next week with the first of another two part story, Under the Lake. With ghosts and time travel it certainly seems promising but 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 The Magicians Apprentice

September 22, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


It’s been a long wait but Doctor Who has returned at last and with it so have my posts about the episodes following their broadcasts. It’s now been over ten years since the series came back in 2005 and the ninth series has just kicked off with The Magician’s Apprentice, an intriguing title which does seem to have a lot to do with the actual episode. It’s also the first of a two-part story and it looks like we’ll be getting quite a few of them this series. The series eight finale was the first two-part story we’ve had in a long while and now they appear to be back with a vengeance. This is one of things that excites me about series nine as I feel that having two-parts really allows a story to breath and allows for more time to give a satisfying and unrushed ending, something a lot of stand-alone episodes seem to struggle with. However, two-part stories aren’t always the easiest to review as I’m ultimately only review half a story at a time. But I’m not going to let that stop me as I actually really enjoyed this episode and I want to discuss that. Yes you did read that last bit right, I really did enjoy this episode. It’s probably one of the best Doctor Who stories Steven Moffat’s written in a long while. And here’s why.

Well for one thing it feels a lot like a finale in terms of scale, which is something that a lot of people have commented on. But at the same time as feeling like a finale it also doesn’t have any overarching plot threads leading up to it so it has less to tie up and so it be enjoyed a great deal more on it’s own. But I’m not just talking about scale in terms of it being set in loads of different locations stretching all the way across the galaxy. I’m talking about scale on a personal level as well, namely for the Doctor. Speaking of the Doctor, I quite like the direction they took with his character in this episode as it appears to be much more balanced where are last series he appeared to be all over the place. He’s becoming slightly more like Tom Baker but he’s still retaining many of his defining characteristics and overall I’m quite happy with this new direction as long as they don’t loose what made him work in the first place.

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Now for one of the biggest surprises of the episode, the reveal of Davros. At least it would’ve been a surprise if the thing hadn’t leaked a while back. Never the less, it was exciting to see it come to life and those opening minutes leading up to the child’s name being revealed were breathtaking. I do feel that the soldiers death should’ve been a bit slower though, rather than just a sudden pull down beneath the ground. The whole idea of having a young Davros though feels very much inspired by Genesis of the Daleks but at the same time it doesn’t feel like they’re retreating that same ground. Then we get the reveal of the older Davros, once again played phenomenally by Julian Bleach, and that was something I was not expecting but I’m really happy to have him back. Also, I think we’ve finally found a proper villain who Moffat can write well for. He’s made Davros as devious as he was back in Genesis of the Daleks and I think that’s great. I only hope that he can keep this up in The Witch’s Familiar and not do what Death in Heaven did with Missy, who I will discuss in due course. It’s also nice that Davros isn’t planning anything big (that we know of) but he’s instead just getting as much enjoyment out of his final days of life by ruining the Doctor’s. Now that’s just downright evil. But then again, he could just be faking it and either way I don’t think I’d mind. It was also a nice touch to have Davros using his hand to lift up his head, it’s just one of those little things that does a lot to enhance the story.

Now on to Missy (it’s amazing how much there is to talk about in this episode) who appears to be going more in the direction of being an anti-hero in this story. However, she could just as easily be up to something. While I do think it would be truer to the character to have her be up to something I feel that if she were then there might end up being a bit too much going on in the next episode. As for Michelle Gomez, I feel that she was much better in this than she was last series. Maybe it’s because there’s no more mystery as to who the character is so she’s just free to be the Master or maybe it’s because she’s has more time to get settled in to the role. It’s nice that Missy describes her relationship with the Doctor as simply a friendship (an infinitely more complex friendship than anything on Earth) rather than a romance which had been hinted at rather too much for my liking last series. She is still a bit too overly sexual for my liking though. Anyway, now let’s talk about Colony Sarff who we’ll hopefully find out more about next episode. In this one he was quite a good villain, if a little single mined at times but the reveal of the snakes and the way that was done was wonderful. Now you’ve probably noticed that I’ve avoided talking about a certain topic and that is Clara. I’ve been saving her for last so that I can talk about that that cliff-hanger but first is Clara herself. She was alright, I guess. She played her part well but this story seems to be all about the Doctor and I’m fine with that given the amount of attention she got last series. Hers and Missy’s deaths though (while obviously fake) were never the less well used, mainly for their impact on the Doctor, leading him to point a gun at a young Davros in the final moments of the episode. Those moments were a bit too quick for my taste but I do like the dilemma it poses there.

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Overall, I think The Magicians Apprentice is the best series premiere since the show came back. Admittedly I wasn’t sure what to think about it the first time but after watching it again I really enjoyed it and would give it a strong nine-out-of-ten. While it does dip a bit in the middle with the Doctor’s guitar solo I can’t really deduct more than a point for that and the rest of the flaws were just minor things really. I didn’t really talk about the Daleks as I’m saving them for next week as they were hardly in this episode and speaking of next week, I have high hopes for The Witch’s Familiar and hopefully it will deliver but until we find out for sure be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Doctor Who: Looking Forward to Series 9?

July 21, 2015 in Dr Who, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Around this time last year I did a post on the build up to series eight explaining everything we knew about it so far. Now I’m going to be doing the same for the upcoming series nine by examining the recent trailer we got from comic-con as well as all the other information we’ve been drip-feed by the BBC over the past months. The first thing to quickly note is something that came along towards the end of the trailer, the release date. So it’s now been confirmed that series nine will be starting on the nineteenth of September which is almost a month later than series eight started last year and will also mean a very short gap between the finale and the Christmas special. It also looks like we’ll be getting a lot more two-part stories which is fine by me as I feel that quite a lot of one-part stories end up having rushed endings and being just plain unmemorable. Now onto one of the two-part stories themselves, The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar which will kick start the series in September. They are written by show runner Steven Moffat and directed by Hettie MacDonald. The Doctor and Clara will of course be back along with Michelle Gomez as Missy, making a swift return after her inclusion in the series eight finale. Hopefully she’ll have a better plan this time. Also confirmed for this story is Jemma Redgrave as Kate Stewart along with Clare Higgins who previously appeared in Night of the Doctor as the High Priestess of the Sisterhood of Karn and after looking at some scenes in the trailer I wouldn’t be all too surprised if she was playing this role again.

Next up is another two-part story, this one written by Toby Whithouse and directed by Daniel O’Hara. While we don’t have any titles for the individual episodes it has been confirmed that this is a “ghost story” and so I’m guessing that many of the ghost like monsters in the trailer are from this story. It also appears to be set on an underwater base and it’s a story I am quite looking forward to as I love the sort of horror this story appears to be going for. The fifth episode is The Girl who Died by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat which appears to be linked with the sixth episode, The Woman who Lived by Catherine Tregenna, but it appears that they are not being counted as a two-part story. The inter-linking presence in both of them is Masie Williams’ character who appeared at the end of the trailer and very little is known about her other than she will apparently be giving the Doctor the right sort of hell. The episodes, both directed by Ed Bazalgette, appear to be set in two different periods of history with featuring Vikings and mysterious robots which can be seen in the trailer. Clara has also been spotted wearing a space suit and it appears some hugging will be going on in at least one of these episodes.

Kill the Moon writer Peter Harness is back for episodes seven and eight which are currently untitled but we do know that they are directed by Daniel Nettheim. What else do we know? Well we know that the Zygons will be making a return along with Osgood in some way, shame or form. Kate Stewart will also be back once again and thanks to this story involving a great deal of location work we appear to know a lot more about this story than we do most of the others. However, I won’t be diving too deeply into that but I will say that it appears that the Zygon’s plan involves children in some way which can be seen in the trailer when a Zygon kidnaps a child at the park. I moderately excited about this story as while I do love the Zygons I feel that they weren’t handled too well in Day of the Doctor and I’m not totally sure I have much faith in Peter Harness after Kill the Moon. There’s very little to say about episode nine other than it will be written by Mark Gatiss. Episode ten on the other hand we can talk about as it features the return of Rigsy who previously appeared in Flatline. It’s written by Sarah Dollard and directed by Justin Molotnikov (who may or may not be directing episode nine as well) and will also apparently be playing about with the idea of reality. Rachel Talalay will be back for the two-part series nine finale written by Steven Moffat and it is apparently very different from last year’s and Rachel Talalay herself has said that episode eleven is a big challenge for her. That’s all we have for the episodes themselves but in terms of characters it’s been claimed that the Doctor and Clara’s relationship is very different to what it was back in series eight. It’s said that they’re much more comfortable with each other now and are now in their glory days, exploring the galaxy and meeting all the wonders of the universe together.

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So then, it seems like some great stuff is on the horizon. However, I am trying to keep my anticipation in check as I said similar things last year about series eight and ended up being at least slightly disappointed by almost everything in that series apart from Peter Capaldi and Jamie Mathieson. Anyway, hopefully the inclusion of many more two-part stories will allow the storylines to be more developed and engaging and I also hope that tonally it will live up to the dark hue that the trailer gives off. So then, what are you most looking forward to seeing in series nine? Please leave your thoughts below while we wait for The Magician’s Apprentice to arrive on the nineteenth of September, now less than two months away…

Thunderbirds: Trapped in the Sky

July 7, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


So here we are at the first episode of a TV classic. If you’re not all that familiar with the world of Thunderbirds then I suggest you read the introduction post first. Now without any further adieu let’s talk about Trapped in the Sky. The basic storyline is that a criminal mastermind, The Hood, has placed a bomb aboard the Fireflash, a hypersonic airliner on it’s maiden voyage, in order to draw out International Rescue so that he can steal their secrets. If the Fireflash uses it’s landing gear then the bomb will go off but if they stay in the sky then the passengers and crew will all eventually receive fatal doses of radiation, meaning that it’s a race against time to save the Fireflash. After an attempt to remove the bomb fails Thunderbirds 1 and 2 arrive with a plan. While they put this into operation The Hood sneaks onboard Thunderbird 1 and takes pictures of the interior so he can recreate it. Scott and Virgil manage to get the plane down by using elevator cars as replacement landing gear. Meanwhile, Lady Penelope and Parker hunt down The Hood and destroy the pictures. With the bomb defused and the secrets of International Rescue safe, Scott and Virgil head back to Tracy Island with their first operation completed successfully. But The Hood isn’t defeated so easily and will return to plague International Rescue time and time again.

I’m going to start off by saying this straight away, I think that Trapped in the Sky is a very strong start to the series. It sets up most of what you need to know about the series and is also just a well made episode in it’s own right. More on that in a second but first I want to quickly talk about a line which is quite amusing in retrospect and that is when Kyrano says that Jeff Tracy was one of the first men on the moon. It’s a throwaway line and probably would’ve meant very little at the time it went out but looking back it’s rather interesting to see how some parts of society thought it would take a long time to reach the moon. Little did they know that five years after they made this episode man would indeed land on the moon. Since then we appear to have given up with space travel however and the world of George Orwell’s 1984 now seems like a more realistic future than that of Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds but anyway, I think that’s enough of my political views and now let’s shift focus back to the topic at hand, Trapped in the Sky.

Now if you’ve read some of my Blake’s 7 post you’ll probably have realised that I am a big fan of model shots and Thuderbirds has plenty of those, and some breathtaking ones at that. Now while the visuals here are rather simple compared to what will come later there are still quite a few nice sequences, namely the landing of Fireflash. It’s a wonderfully made sequence and the instantly recognisable music in the background just fits so perfectly. What’s also nice about this resolution is that it doesn’t work first time which just racks up the tension even more for the second attempt as there is no time for a third attempt. But it’s not the only well done sequence of the episode as there are plenty more such as the attempt to remove the bomb by hand. It was going so well until the man fell and it kind of makes you wonder why they didn’t try it again as it was fairly close to success the first time. Then there’s the scene where Lady Penelope and Parker chase down The Hood. It was a rather minimalistic chase but nevertheless it served it’s purpose and the shot of the car rolling down the side of the hill was nicely done. It’s also quite funny as you would not see roads like that that empty in England nowadays and I don’t imagine traffic is going to improve that much in the next half a century or so.

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Now we come to rating Trapped in the Sky and I think a nine-out-of-ten is a very fair rating for this story. Next up is Pit of Peril where a five-hundred ton US Army walker, the Sidewinder, ends up in need of rescue but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Thunderbirds: Introduction

July 6, 2015 in Cult TV, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Not too long ago now a new series called Thunderbirds Are Go premiere and so I thought now would be the perfect time to take a step back fifty years and look at the original series simply titled Thunderbirds, a series that was a big part of my childhood. While I wasn’t around during the sixties to watch them on first transmission I practically grew up on VHS copies of the episodes and reruns on some channel which I’ve forgotten the name of and probably isn’t around now anyway. So this will probably mean that as I review each of the episodes I will undoubtedly end up doing so through rose-tinted specs because the nostalgia will be too great. Apologies in advance for that. But anyway, let’s now talk about the series itself which was created by Gerry Anderson and his wife, Sylvia Anderson, and aired thirty-two fifty-minute episodes between September 1965 to December 1966. It is widely considered their most popular and successful series and, like many of their other TV shows, has gained a strong cult following. The series was made using a combination of marionette puppets and model shots, a process known as Supermarionation. The series was so popular that two films were also made during the sixties using the same techniques as the TV series and then a less than successful live-action film was later released in 2004. Finally there’s the previously mentioned series Thunderbirds Are Go which was released earlier this year and is made through a combination of CGI and model shots. But for now we’re going to stick to the original TV series so let’s move away from what went on behind the camera and instead focus on what was in front.

The series is set in 2065 and follows the adventures of International Rescue, a top secret organisation run from Tracy Island and founded by American ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, a widower and father of five sons, Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon and Alan. Each of his son’s pilots one of the Thunderbird machines, vehicles designed to help save people in almost any situation. The Thunderbirds were created and maintained by the engineer Brains who is also the inventor of practically every piece of technology you’ll see on Tracy Island. Jeff’s mum, more commonly referred to as Grandma Tracy, also resides there along with Malaysian man-servant Kyrano and his daughter Tin-Tin. Tin-Tin also serves the role of the love-interest of the youngest Tracy brother, Alan.

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International Rescue’s London agent is Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, an English aristocrat who helps International Rescue to track down dangerous criminals. She travels about in a modified Rolls-Royce (modified by Brains of course) with her butler Parker who is a fan favourite character with an instantly recognisable voice. So as you can see it really is an international organisation with members from many different nationalities. International Rescue’s most dangerous and persistent foe is a mysterious criminal known only as The Hood. He is Kyrano’s half brother and through the use of hypnosis and dark magic he uses Kyrano to steal try and steal the secrets of International Rescue. Now onto the Thunderbirds themselves.

Thunderbird 1 is piloted by the eldest of the Tracy brothers, Scott, and is a hypersonic rocket plane designed to arrive first on the scene no matter what the situation is. Now if I remember correctly Scott was my favourite when I first watched it all those years ago. Not so sure if it’s the same now though. Virgil Tracy is the pilot of Thunderbird 2, a heavy duty transporter that carries vehicles and equipment into disaster areas. These are carried in detachable capsules known as pods and the most popular of these vehicles in the Mole which is designed to drill underground. Unfortunately there are so many vehicles inside the pods that I can’t go through them all so let’s instead quickly talk about Virgil who was Scott’s only competition when it came to my favourite character. And here’s a little bit of trivia for you, he and Scott are the only two Tracy brothers to appear in all thirty-two episodes of the series. Now onto Thunderbird 3 which is piloted by the youngest of the Tracy brothers, Alan. It is a space rescue vehicle and is unique in that it is a reusable spacecraft, meaning that it does no have to jettison any hardware to get into orbit. Scott also occasionally co-pilots Thunderbird 3. Thunderbird 4 is next up and it is piloted by Gordon Tracy. It is the smallest of the Thunderbirds and is used for underwater rescues. It is so small in fact that it is typically launched from Thunderbird 2’s Pod 4. Finally there’s John Tracy who is the space monitor aboard International Rescue’s space station Thunderbird 5. It receives all emergency calls from around the globe and then reports to Tracy Island. When John is on leave Alan takes over as space monitor.

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So there’s your introduction to the world of Thunderbirds and now we shall begin looking at the series episode by episode. Tomorrow we’ll be taking a look at the first episode, Trapped in the Sky, where the Hood sabotages a new aircraft called The Fireflash so he can draw out International Rescue and steal their secrets. So then, have you ever watched Thunderbirds? Have you ever even heard of Thunderbirds before now? Whatever your response be sure be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Pressure Point

June 7, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


What a gut punch of an episode that was. Now I don’t usually stress the point that these reviews contain spoilers but because of what happens in this one I would like to say that you will be reading on at your own risk. Now that that’s been said let’s talk about the big topic of this episode and that is, of course, the death of Gan. This means that this episode is the final appearance of David Jackson as Olag Gan, a role he had been playing since the second episode of the series, Spacefall. Jackson himself was not upset when he found out his character was going to die as he felt he had too little to do in many of the episodes. One of the original ideas was that Gan would be killed by a double agent who would then go on to join the crew of the Liberator as a Federation spy but for whatever reason this idea was not gone ahead with, possibly because they crew of the Liberator had grown quite large by this point and replacing Gan immediately after his death would not have solved
this problem. Gan’s death did quite a bit for the show afterwards as it gave an added element of suspense as viewers would now know it was possible for a crew member to be killed off and it also meant that with one less crew member to worry about more focus could be put on those remaining. The man who wrote out Gan was series creator Terry Nation, returning for his second script of the second series. The director, meanwhile, was George Spenton-Foster who had directed Weapon just two episodes earlier. One more bit of trivia before we move on to the synopsis is that the episode is the first to be set on Earth since the very first episode, The Way Back.

After fighting the Federation across the galaxy Blake decides to take the battle right to it’s heart and plans to destroy the main computer nerve centre on Earth. The episode begins with him preparing to meet up with resistance leader Kasabi but unfortunately she is captured by Servalan and Travis and together they set a trap for Blake. After evading the Federation’s trap Blake elects to continue with the plan despite the increased risk now that they don’t have back up from Kasabi. Despite some protest Blake, Avon, Vila and Gan continue with the plan and enter control. Inside they are disappointed to discover that the main computer nerve centre was moved thirty years ago and the whole thing was a trap. Travis prepares to execute them but before he can Servalan shows up, held at gun point by Jenna. She demands that Travis let’s her friends go and he does. They then run in an attempt to get into teleport range but during their escape Travis throws a strontium grenade which brings the roof down on Gan, killing him. His last words to Blake were that he was not worth dying for and he then breaks the news to the others than Gan didn’t make it out. They then leave to get as far away from Earth as possible.

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I’m gonna start off by talking about Gan’s death and, as previously stated, it’s a real gut punch. It also follows up on the on going plot line of Blake going too far in his fight to defeat the Federation. Gan’s death is very much down to Blake’s refusal to give up despite the ever increasing risk and no doubt this will have a huge affect on him in the episodes to come. Up until now there were very few consequences to Blake’s actions and now he has lost who was arguably the most loyal of his followers. Ultimately I feel that Gan was the right choice to kill given that his character was far too often given too little to do which ultimately made him the least interesting. This event also links back to Shadow in which Gan was challenging Blake and Blake failed to heed Gan’s warning’s then but just about got away with it. Nevertheless he didn’t learn anything from it and that failiure to learn lead to him repeating his mistakes again with far worse consequences. Gan will be missed but ultimately someone had to go to add some much needed suspense to the show as up to this point the character’s had been in difficult situations but managed to escape unscathed, in future they may not be so lucky.

Now for the rest of the episode which was one of the strongest yet in my opinion. It seems a break was just what Terry Nation needed as after three episodes off he’s back on top form again and writing solid stories. This episode could almost be considered the mid-series finale as right from the start it has that sort of epic quality to it which lets you know something big is going to go down. It also holds nothing back and jumps straight into the story itself which can sometimes annoy me as it means there’s no build up but here it can be forgiven as any time spent on build up would’ve been wasted as the rest of the episode would then have been rushed, leaving a very poor balance of pacing overall. Should it of been a two-parter then? Maybe but maybe not. I personally feel they should built up computer control a bit more over the previous four episodes so that you’d know what it was about here but they’d only of been little mentions so that those stories could still stand very well on their own. Then we have the villains of the piece, Travis and Servalan. Brian Croucher does much better job here as Travis than he did before as he’s tuned down quite a lot compared to his previous appearance which makes him much less pantomime and much more threatening. It feels like he was trying to hard before but at least he’s now found his feet in the role. Then there’s Servalan who is played as wonderfully as ever by Jacqueline Pearce but we also get to dive into her back story a bit through the character of Kasabi who she betrayed. We also find out that part of the reason she is in her position is thanks to relatives in high places which fits perfectly with her character.

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In conclusion, Pressure Point is probably the best episode of series two so far and I look forward to seeing the aftermath in the episodes to come. It’s a nine-out-of-ten from me as it’s still not utterly breathtaking and I’m still waiting for the episode that really knocks me off my feet in terms of quality. Maybe the next episode will be that episode as Trial seems to be held in quite high regard by many fans. Will I give my first ten-out-of-ten to a Blake’s 7 episode? You’ll have to wait and see but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Blake’s 7: Horizon

May 31, 2015 in Blake's 7, Guest Blogs by GuestBlogs

A Guest Blog by Hevy782


Another new face for Blake’s 7 in the form of writer Allan Prior. He’s someone I personally wasn’t familiar with until I watched this although fans of the classic police drama Z-Cars will probably recognise him given that he wrote a total of one-hundred-and-thirty-six episodes for the show and it’s spin-off Softly, Softly. In fact, in a somewhat cruel twist of fate (I’m being slightly over-dramatic) Blake’s 7 was originally made to fill the gap left by the cancellation of Softly, Softly. Blake’s 7 even kept the same budget, a budget which worked fine for a police drama but it wasn’t the best for a space opera. Now let’s talk about the person who had to deal with that budget, Jonathan Wright Miller. He had previously directed the second episode of the second series so it’s a quick return for him but it’s also his only return as he directed no more episodes of Blake’s 7 following this. Admittedly I’m not going to miss him too much as he was a rather standard director who didn’t exactly bring anything to the series but at least didn’t really take anything away either. One other production note is that there’s a familiar face on the cast list in the form of Brian Miller who would go on to appear in the recently reviewed Doctor Who story Snakedance. He was also the husband of the late Elisabeth Sladen who had played the popular character Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who. Now with the production details out of the way let’s move on to the episode’s synopsis.

A mysterious Federation freighter is heading towards the edge of the known galaxy and the episode begins with a curious Blake deciding to follow it. It leads them to a strange planet designated Horizon and Blake and Jenna decide to teleport down to investigate. After loosing contact with them Gan and Vila go down to find out what’s happened and contact is lost again. Cally finally goes down and the pattern repeats itself once more, leaving Avon alone up on the Liberator. On the planet below it turns out that most of the local population are living as slaves under the rule of the Federation. Blake and the others were captured and are now being forced to work in the mines alongside the inhabitants of Horizon. After realising that he can’t go on forever without the others, Avon goes down and rescues them. Blake then manages to convince the planet’s leader, Ro, that the Federation are just using him and then together they fight back against the invaders. Ro promises Blake that he will continue the fight against the Federation and the crew of the Liberator then leave with the knowledge that they now have one planet with them in their crusade.

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Now I will admit that this was a rather standard and predictable episode although not necessarily a bad one. The plot is probably something everyone’s seen many times before with the mislead leader realising he’s been manipulated and turning against his former tutor in order to free his people. Nothing particularly original there but nothing particularly bad there either. It’s at least something Blake’s 7 hasn’t done before so at least we get to see it with these different characters although the only one who truly takes part in this plotline is Blake himself. Then theirs Ro who takes on the role of the mislead ruler and while he’s initially quite interesting he ultimately ends up being rather dull when his tutor, Kommissar, turns up. Kommissar is an enjoyable villain but he was no Carnell and I ultimately wasn’t disappointed to see him bite the dust at the end of the episode. Come to think of it even his death was predictable which pretty much says it all.

Thanks to this rather forgettable plot the most interesting part of this episode is the in depth look at the character of Avon who spends most of the episode up on the ship contemplating whether he can survive without the others. They may seem like padding to some but to me they are the most interesting part of the episode simply because Paul Darrow’s such a marvellous actor and these scenes really do show off his acting ability. He hasn’t really got anyone to act against accept the voices of Orac and Zen and there aren’t that many lines either which means a great deal of what’s going on has to come from his facial expressions and he does this wonderfully. And the laugh at the end when he realises he needs the others really does sum him up perfectly.

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To sum up, this is probably the most neutral I’ve ever felt about an episode of Blake’s 7 and the only part I can say I properly enjoyed was the scenes with Avon in. Because of this I’m going to go straight down the middle with a rating of five-out-of-ten although I’m not too sure if it really deserves that. Anyway, big changes are on their way next week when Blake heads to Earth to strike right at the heart of the Federation in Pressure Point but until then be sure to sound off your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

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