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Dita Svelte
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Best of the series for me (I'm just catching up). Although I thought the influence was more McCoy than Key to Time - as well as Curse of Fenric, there's also more than a smattering of Ghost Light in the Sarah Jane subplot. Great writing and juggling of the simple but logical and consistent plot elements and quite moving. Clyde and Rani have really come into their own as presences now that the focus has moved on from Luke. The pacing really puts to shame a lot of the 45 minute episodes of Who proper, where there's a lot of faffing around and then a rush to a conclusion (Vincent and the Doctor, The Lodger, Amy's Choice to name but a few). I wish there were more stories that were consistently engaging and interesting all the way through rather than a build-up to an (anti-)climax. Rupert Laight is one to watch.
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I did a phone interview with Sylvester a few years ago - squee! - I asked him about whether he'd ever dipped into the NAs and such - and he said that since he never had any say over likeness and didn't receive any payment he was basically not interested. So from his POV he probably doesn't consider that intervening era before the 1996 movie or Big Finish as 'playing' the character at all.
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Go Frank! I will order this pronto. It will be interesting to read your extended take since given the 2010 series and characters didn't seem to quite work for you. I would have loved to see a more expanded take on the RTD years from you too - a prequel, perhaps?
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Things must be tight if the usually impressive opening story looks as if it was shot on an extremely restricted budget, especially part 2 with only two roles apart from the principal cast (although it was nice they scraped enough together for a scene full of extras in part 1 after the desolate feel of Series 3). Comparing this with a loud and explosive opener like 'Invasion of the Bane' or 'The Last Sontaran' only emphasises the feeling of an era, long passed. I didn't mind the story - it seemed superior to the similar 'Day of the Clown', which also featured a foreign-accented middle aged cosmetics aficionado speechifying threateningly - but I really thought Julian Bleach's peformance was embarrassing. The voice was appalling and all the jumpy-twitching-writhing wasn't so much creepy as bad pantomime. It seems stories where villains can suck out our darkest thoughts and fears are an excuse to go cheap with the rest of the production - enough, thanks. They really need to change that godawful fanfare of Mr Smith's, too - almost four years on, it's beyond grating. But on the upside, Lis and the rest of the main cast were great and the emotional core of the story re Luke's leaving was handled particularly well. If I seem a little non-plussed it's only because I feel sad that the budget seems so pinched. Maybe watching the Australian 'K-9' series in the meantime has sort of spoiled me with its constant visual colour and movement, but this did feel a little flat and drab. Thanks for the review! It's great to see BTS continue the tradition.
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I think Frank gets to the heart of it when he says that the Doctor's basically firefighting and that all the exciting conceptual ideas stuff we hear about - all those amazing ideas, tripping off Matt Smith's tongue! - are heard and not seen. Of the 2 big concepts of the season that were supposed to lead us up to this moment - the crack and the silence - the latter is postponed and the former is dealt with by the Doctor flying the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS due to a property that as Tom points out, we only found out about 20 minutes previously. (I guess we should have been warned when sometimes the crack was a gap between realities, sometimes it ate people, sometimes the Doctor had floss bits of chewed-up TARDIS from its teeth, and sometimes it spooged forth soft Rory-horny tentacles to consume dead bodies like a Hoothi.) Yes, 'The Big Bang' is brilliant and exciting and hilarious and moving and full of big ideas, but a lot of it doesn't make a lick of sense. RTD was lambasted for fairy Doctor and rewinding time, but I buy the amplified psychic power of a concentrating population more than I do than a Doctor summoned into existence through the imaginative recall of Amy Pond who is somehow special because she slept next to a crack for years on end (despite it seemingly eating the rest of the family first even if it was right next to her head.)
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A tour de force review for the finale, Frank! You articulated a lot of what I found troublesome about the episode, although I enjoyed the ride while it lasted. My main sticking point would be the lack of explanation for why the TARDIS explodes and 'Silence will fall' - whilst I appreciate allowing the finale room to believe, you can't help but feel a bit cheated since it seemed as if Gretel-Moffat was leaving the trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow from Episode 1 right through to this moment. I also don't particularly want to sit through another 12 episodes of random characters muttering 'Silence will fall!' in every story of Series Fnarg+1. There is little in 'The Big Bang' that goes back to explain why Amy is such a pain throughout the rest of the series. Even with her restored family (and the implication is that she is at least somewhat damaged because the crack has eaten her parents) she seems little different in terms of attitude from her early appearances. The lack of a clearly defined protagonist makes this a rollicking series of wonderfully clever moments, but only half a story. Indeed, this production team seems unable to draw a convincing or memorable villains or monsters. Unlike RTD's very clearly defined 'monsters that a child can scribble' I can barely remember what the fish-people of Venice or the Krafayis even look like. And it seems everyone remembers the plummy-voiced New Daleks and the Silurians for the wrong reasons. I understand there are budget issues, but I did find the lack of a solid alien menace or even a story from Ep 6 onwards that wasn't tied to Earth or some English village rather repetitive. Teaser moments like River's space bar or Planet One are just salt in the wound. Ironically, whilst the series does feel frustratingly curtailed in terms of scope, it has never looked more beautiful. I was rewatching some Tennant episodes and the use of those horrendous green/ purple lights everywhere is garishly distracting. Even a story like 'Silence in the Library' which I remembered as being more polished suffers from the blanket lighting. The grading of that series and especially 'The Big Bang' have been magnificent - like the gently tinged unnaturally orange sky as the Doctor et al emerge on to the roof to see the exploding TARDIS. I feel torn between Paul Kirkely's 50 point enthusiasm and your more muted concerns. I loved this episode whilst I was watching it (and I tend to love all the finales, even the ones fandom seems to despise a la LOTL) but there seems to be more gaping logic holes in TBB than in probably all of RTD's finale's put together (the shifting nature of the Pandorica and the restoration field is a case in point). Most of all, I think I would find it hard to watch 'The Pandorica Opens' again knowing that 45 minutes of dramatic set-up is swept away with a bit of timey-wimey nonsense and all sense of the horror of locking the Doctor up for eternity and the moral implications of his worst enemies ganging up against him evaporates almost instantly in service of a runaround worthy of SJA's 'Mona Lisa's Revenge'. A mixed series of amazing moments but weak stories for me, but it's obligatory at this point to say how utterly brilliant Matt Smith is in the role.
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What a difference a director makes! This was the first slice of proper Who since TEH for me. I never found the Weeping Angels particularly menacing and whilst the TOA was well-paced, F&T suffered from the same jumpy-cutting ADD direction/ pacing as almost everything else this season. This felt like a proper story - well-paced, gripping, exciting, moving, genuinely scary, with appropriate character beats and a satisfying cliffhanger. Sure, I knew who was coming but I can imagine the 95% of the audience that had no idea were on the edge of the seat with the tense build up to the reveal of the monsters. The Dr Mengele of Homo Reptilia was generally creepy and a very scary way to end this episode for Amy. I don't watch Confidential so was unaware 15 minutes was trimmed.... *boggles* Great stuff! Let's hope Part 2 can hold it together.
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@Darth_Mongoose You make a convincing argument, but I don't think Amy needed to be empathic, kind, girly or tear-stricken to be at least interesting or convincing. You outline a whole lot of her character traits and flaws but 90% of that stuff comes from TEH - she has shown no particular development since then, even as episodes like AC are presented to us as being important for her inner life (What inner life?). That's my problem - she was a great character in TEH but as Frank says, we've been told how amazing she is but without much actual demonstration in the episodes since then, and there's just a whole lot about her I don't buy, like her engagement to Rory in the first place.
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Great review, Frank, but I am beginning to think your analysis is entirely too meaningful for a run of stories that are almost gleefully empty. Fairytales, fairytales, fairytales. I do think that key word is revealing. We are familiar with the concept of the 'dark' fairytale these days, the child's story that conceals a dark heart. But from a Marina Warner-style perspective, fairytales are almost always instructional and prescriptive - don't wander into the woods, beware strangers, sexuality can be deadly etc - and not particularly interesting from the emotional point of view that drives drama as we are more familiar with it today. Fairytales exist as a genre before you even have POV characters in fiction; Disney's enduring success seems based on blending the age-old fable of danger with an inviting emotional narrative. Maybe the problem with Amy is she is too strictly a fairytale character. She seems beset by travails but they are formal, ritualistic, social - 'growing up' - and I still have more idea of the interiority of her character's thinking from the first ten minutes of TEH than from anything since. And yet, Amy's problems - and hence, her 'choices' - are strangely unconvincing. Why is she even getting married in the first place? It's presented as a cliffhanger fait accompli at the end of TEH but nothing about Amy in that episode or later seems to suggest that domestic life in Leadsworth has any appeal, and she doesn't seem particularly fond of or attracted to Rory even in their debut. Throwing them together seems curiously old-fashioned but unconvincing - a formal test of the princess heroine in training but not one grounded by any emotional life as we expect characters to normally have. Rory, Amy and the Doctor often seem trapped in some kind of quip-driven Wildean comedy - cf with Jackie Tyler's famous 'skin like an old Bible' line in Rose, which was funny *and* said something about her character - but this wit doesn't resonate with Amy and Rory's characters. Sitcom! And so, like Frank, I found Rory's death unmoving even though I knew it was supposed to be the focal knot of the drama as it hurtled to the conclusion. In short, I don't buy Amy and Rory - their relationship, their engagement - and without that, I am not really interested in Amy's oh-so-hard choices, either.
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The problem with this kind of story is that the premise is inherently boring. Either the protagonists make the right choice and escape the dream world, or they don't. Obviously they choose correctly in a series like 'Doctor Who' which is a long-running adventure, and everyone knows they will make the right choice before the title sequence even rolls. So with a void where a story would be, what the audience is presumably meant to find compelling is the flow of events and thoughts which lead to Amy's choice. Unfortunately if you're finding Amy 2D after a promising start, and Rory's mangled expression of frustrated confusion doesn't predispose any 'aah, what a lad!' empathies, that pleasure is flimsy to non-existent. The emotional set-up this series is imbalanced and unconvincing. I found the the sweet but demented girl-child in TEH intriguing, but her jump to fully-fledged 'I know what to do!' problem solver in TBB too soon, her strange lack of concern that the Doctor was zipping off in VOTD almost unbelievable given her history, and lines like 'I'm sick of running up and down corridors' a self-reference too far. At episode 7 of a disjointed series it is too early to expect me to care about Amy's emotional turmoil in choosing between village bliss or time travel, especially since the character as written doesn't actually seem to feel emotionally driven along this path except in those moments when it's convenient to push the plot along. Yeah, Amy is constantly saying how marvellous the Doctor is and how he saves everyone blah blah but it would have been nice to have a run of adventures where this was actually shown rather than the intrusion of a messy mid-series menage a trois where only one out of the three seems to have much investment in its resolution. Matt Smith is the business, however. I just wish he had better material.
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The problem I had with the cliffhanger is that it doesn't really make sense beforehand - it's a visual mess. Angels closing in... Doctor speechifying... dramatic pistol cocking... and then blue spooge! Sorry, what? I buy the coda a lot more, especially Matt's hilarious and brilliant 'wriggly' acting as he attemps to escape. Isn't it just a bit of fun to justify the inclusion of Rory in the following adventures? But I don't find it convincing that the Doctor can go all moody-broody at new of River's 'engagement' to Bishop but then act like he has no idea what lust is when Amy goes for the goolies.
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Everyone's raving about Octavian's death scene as some kind of moving triumph, but rewatch that scene (from 23:30 on). Octavian asks the Doctor *four* times to come inside the hatch to avoid danger. Four! If I was Octavian I'd be extremely pissed that the Doctor not listening to him led directly to his death instead of being all manfully brave. The Doctor doesn't do much or even apologise for basically killing the man either. Just a variation of 'I'm so, so sorry' by other means and then he's off! Yes, it's a beautifully written moment but I think the more appropriate emotion would have been anger on Octavian's behalf.
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If you're going with a religious reading, then the question of idolatry and imagery seems more pertinent than Laura Mulvey-esque musings. If the mere image of an angel creates an angel, I wonder how many sleepless children have already destroyed their 5" Character Options toys? I just dug mine out in celebration of this episode and it's starting to giving me the creeps.
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> and reintroduced that Daleks in an interesting way that leaves scope for the future < The problem is that the new Daleks didn't do anything except line up like display models in a showroom - which is what I think people are responding and feeling resistant to. If there had been a meatier story attached to their introduction, perhaps less people would feel like this episode was the launch of a new toy range. As it stands, everything hinging on the RTD Daleks was unnecessary. Even the placing of the story in WWII was gratuitously unnecessary considering Moff wants them parked in the future rather than the present. Since when did Daleks care about the timelines so much they wanted to return to their own continuity anyway? Why not make the new Daleks the starting point of a story rather than the end? Why bother having this convoluted genesis? Why not just kick-off the launch of the new models with a proper story at some point in the season in the time period that they've zoomed off too? Make them bold and exciting right from the start, rather than a corporate handover. A couple of lines of technobabble could explain their new origins then rather than this 45 minute muddle. There was a lot to enjoy but the heart of this episode was a fannish 'Look! New Daleks! Aren't they exciting? They'll be back! In the meantime, buy the toys and download the interactive game!'
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The retro-leaning quintessential-English rhetorical stylings which were so charmingly different to the RTD era in 'The Eleventh Hour' and a little curious in 'The Beast Below' flare into full pastiche in 'Victory of the Daleks'. I'm not sure I can bear a whole series of it. I find the most telling thing about the gallifreybase reaction to the new Daleks - even from those who seem to hate the new design - is a palpable excitement that the Daleks now have an identifiable class structure. I'm not sure wherein lies the appeal of this idea. Surely it will lead to just more expository scenes where the Scientist Dalek makes a report to the Supreme Dalek, for example? Yet there's something about the idea of classes of Daleks which has definitely struck a fannish nerve, and I can't help but think it's related to the nostalgic 'Tally-ho!' feel to the series so far. Defined class systems are back, my dear, and not a moment too soon!
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Maybe that would be more forgiveable if great leaps in the plot weren't reliant on a completely anti-fantasy 'Sherlock Holmes' style deductive logic approach like suspiciously still water, clean booths and silently crying children.
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'Doctor Who: Dark City of the Space Whale' was not a success. There's too much going on, and little really makes sense. For example - the kids. So the regime in charge knows the Star Whale doesn't eat kids? Why then continue to toss kids to it? Why does the lift in the opening sequence have a recorded test-card girl who recites menacing and oblique poetry about things noone is supposed to consciously know? I thought the reference to not forgetting was a reference to the previous 5 years, but in comparing this to 'The End of the World' I think the latter wins. That had an overly simple plot with a central great character and an emotional journey in Rose's disconnection from home. This had about 5 or 6 different stories going with too many central characters (including the leads!) and a trite and repetitive moral (alien life forms do not suffer the little children to cry!). I'm not really keen that by Episode 2 we've already bumped into a character who knows the Doctor shagged her ancestor and the Prime Minister can dial up on the phone. What's next - Torchwood? Goodbye, RTD's working class 'colour' and oppressed alien blue plumbers! Hello, posh accents and 'eccentric Uncle has connections, dear'! Loved last week's elongated and dreamy opening, but this was a miss.
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Apr 12, 2010