Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy 11th Birthday, NuWho!

It's no secret that I am a Whovian - a big fan of Doctor Who - but I haven't really gone into depth about it; just alluded to my keen interest and stating my unachievable desire of actually becoming the Doctor. Although I have been a fan since I began watching aged four (beginning with Tom Baker's penultimate year, season 17), I have been a little more 'out & proud' since it became relatively cool to do so. The 21st Century version of Doctor Who (a continuation of the original run and not a "reboot" - gosh, I hate that term...) has been a cultural phenomenon and has taken fandom to a whole different level. Here I shall discuss my own personal feelings and critique of the show since it returned to our screens back in 2005. These opinions are my own and may be in conflict with your own. Isn't that what makes the world more interesting?

Imagine the greenscreen represents Skaro or Gallifrey...

As you will notice, I am heading each with its chronological 'season' number and the modern 'series' number - to please all...

Season 27/Series 1

Thank you Russell T Davies! That's how I have to begin because, without him, we would not be where we are today in the world of 'Who'.

The first series of "NuWho" (as some like to call it) has its highs and lows, but one cannot begrudge any mistakes during a pivotal 'freshman' year - although in this case, it's probably more of a postgraduate year for the mature student. Frequent criticisms from the nay-sayers cite farting aliens and burping wheelie-bins as the nadir of family-viewing. However, I can overlook these because I know that there will have been young children cherishing these moments with giggly delight. OK, so it's not to all tastes (and the burping bin was a bit odd...) but, as far as I am concerned, the Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius had a humorous side-effect to the oft queried notion of how aliens disguised themselves as humans. It was a cheeky gesture from RTD and I appreciate it!

Christopher Eccleston cast as the Doctor was a stroke of genius. He is a consummate actor and gave such a deft and appropriate performance giving the correct measures of pathos and levity without betraying the character's history or darkness.

Billie Piper was also a revelation. I remember being gobsmacked at the announcement of her addition to the show, but she proved me wrong within the first 45 minutes. (More of my misjudged foreboding later...)

Oh, and I can't talk about this season without mentioning the absurdly charismatic John Barrowman in the role of Captain Jack Harkness. An immediate fan-favourite who would eventually get his own spin-off TV series.

Highlights of the season include:

  • The End of the world
  • - a superb way to introduce new audiences to the varied world of the Whoniverse.
  • Dalek - Eccleston showing his acting chops.
  • Father's Day - a beautifully acted piece about Rose's late father (great monsters too!)
  • The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances - a genuinely unnerving story from the future show-runner. This is Moffat at his best.
  • Boom Town - for those miseries who hated the farting Slitheen family, here is a poignant and low-key episode that gets you thinking about who the Doctor really is.
  • Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways - an explosive finale to the series with some genuine shocks and surprises. This is rightly considered to be a modern-day classic.

Oh, and the Doctor returning Rose back home twelve months later instead of twelve hours was pure genius!

Season 28/Series 2

It was a sad shock when it was announced (prematurely) that Christopher Eccleston was stepping down from his role. I still have a little ache in my heart due to that decision for I believe he could have produced some more wonderful televisual history for him and his Doctor had he decided to stay. Alas...

However... along came David Tennant and sank into the role as easily as a brick into custard - a very fine, dashing and amusing brick, I must add.

Some fans grew a tad weary of Rose's affection for the Doctor during this season, but I think most people would fall in love with the Tenth Doctor, so it seemed perfectly natural to me.

The Tenth Doctor and Rose had a fabulous year with some enormously fun episodes. Some despise Love & Monsters but I enjoyed its bravado and the notion of a group of misfits finding their niche with their shared interest in the Doctor - a lovely metaphor for fandom. That said, Fear Her is as disappointing as fans make out. Sad, really, as it had some great ideas. I particularly liked the scribble monster. If you want a similar but better story, go watch Paperhouse.

Controversially, I am not a fan of The Girl in the Fireplace. Again, nice ideas, but with odd logic. I also hate the fact that the Doctor would leave Rose and Mickey stranded for the sake of someone he just met. Bizarre.

Highlights of the season include:

  • The Christmas Invasion - perhaps the finest 'first' episode for a NuWho Doctor, despite the fact he's asleep for most of it.
  • School Reunion - bringing back Sarah Jane Smith was a superb idea that really paid off.
  • Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel - the marching metal monsters are back and looking rather fabulous.
  • The Idiot's Lantern - not everyone's favourite, but I have a massive soft spot for this episode.
  • The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit - not perfect, but beautifully produced. Great supporting cast too.
  • Army of Ghosts/Doomsday - a superb finale with one of the most heartbreaking scenes to ever be seen in the show.

Season 29/Series 3

With Rose gone, the Doctor had little time to mourn when he has Donna Noble thrust upon him. Although this meeting was supposed to be a one off adventure for the best temp in chiswick, it wouldn't be too long before they teamed up again...

Enter Martha Jones, a medical student who also has sights on the handsome alien with a time machine. Martha Jones hits the floor running and proves herself more than able to keep up with the Doctor. Freema Agyeman had the unenviable task of being "Not Billie Piper" just like Linda Thorson had to be "Not Diana Rigg" in The Avengers, but she pulled it off and by the time she left, her character had grown and learned a lot more about herself and about the Doctor. I would have liked to have seen her prove her medical worth a bit more often.

This series reintroduced The Master and it was done in such a bloomin' marvellous pulled-rug-from-under-feet way, I still get goosebumps whenever I think about it.

Again, controversially, I am not a huge fan of John Simm's Master and I would have much preferred it is the incredibly talented Derek Jacobi had maintained that role throughout the finale. Still, he will always be a bloody good incarnation of The Master to me.

The least successful story this season is the Dalek two-parter. It starts well and has a good cast, but the whole Dalek-Human hybrid is quite embarrassing, sadly.

Highlights of the season include:

  • Smith and Jones - Possibly the best first episode for a companion in NuWho - debatable... Freema shines immediately.
  • Gridlock - despite a bit of a logic leap regarding the traffic jams, this episode never fails to entertain me - PLUS the return of a classic monster.
  • Human Nature/The Family of Blood - a retelling of an old Seventh Doctor novel, this works perfectly and sets up the finale (fob watch!)
  • Blink - Another Steven Moffat classic and features the sublime Carey Mulligan. I wish he hadn't kept bringing them back...
  • Utopia - The return of Captain Jack and an incredible performance by Derek Jacobi. Thrilling stuff.
  • The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords - flawed, but fun. The scene where the sky opens terrified me because I'd had a dream where that thing happened just months before!

Season 30/Series 4

Before I dive in to thsi season, let's have a quick mentio the Steven Moffat penned Children in Need Charity episode Time Crash - it's a remarkably endearing and entertaining mini-episode featuring two of my all-time favourite Doctors. A love-letter to fans. Exquisite.

OK... first we have Kylie Minogue guest starring in an explosive Christmas episode owing much to The Poseidon Adventure and films of its ilk. Great fun.

Now, I have to confess that when it was announced that Catherine Tate was coming back for a full-time role, I genuinely felt the blood rush out of my face. I honestly thought this was a bad idea and, quite possibly the end of my love of the show. No offence to Catherine, she is a superb actress, but I thought it stank of stunt casting.

I could not have been more wrong. Within the first episode, she had convinced me that this was RTD's best move since casting David Tennant and the chemistry between the two leads is electric. I have no shame in admitting how wrong I was and now Donna Noble is my favourite companion of the entire series (narrowly beating Ian, Barbara and Tegan!)

This 45th anniversary and 30th season of the show is one of my absolute favourites from start to finish without hardly a step wrong.

What breaks my heart the most isn't that Donna's mind gets wiped of her adventures, but that Catherine would have done another year if asked! Thank heavens for the forthcoming audio adventures...

We also meet River Song for the first time in The Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead - we shall more learn more about her later...

Highlights of the season include:

  • Partners in Crime - a fast, fun and delirious opening to Donna's second chance at a life of adventure. "I'm waving at fat!". Oh, and THAT cameo...
  • The Fires of Pompeii - a stunning performance from Catherine again and some strong support from Peter Capaldi.
  • The Unicorn and the Wasp - a joy from start to finish. For Agatha Christie fans like myself, it's an absolute treat.
  • Midnight - David acting his socks off in one of the most intense episodes of the shows run up until now.
  • Turn Left - quite simply my favourite episode of Doctor Who to date. Immaculate and stunning right up to and including that phenomenal cliffhanger.
  • The Stolen Earth/Journey's End - a wonderful way to celebrate the 45th anniversary. I often bung on these episodes when I feel like a good evening in.

Gap Year Specials

I was quite saddened to hear about a) the departure of RTD, b) the 'gap year' and c) David Tennant's departure. After four years of sublime TV, it felt uncomfortable to know we only had five episodes left. However, we were informed that Steven Moffat would be taking over, so we felt in safe hands...

I just wanted these seasonal specials to be... er... more 'special'.

We met Cybermen again at Christmas, a new (dead) planet at Easter, a terrifying new monster in Autumn and the Tenth Doctor's finale over Christmas and New Year.

Highlights of the season include:

  • Planet of the Dead - a great image of a Double Decker bus on a sandy planet. Plus we had Malcolm (who should be brought back, frankly)
  • The Waters of Mars - flawless. Lindsay Duncan is a favourite of mine. Genuinely scary in places.
  • The End of Time Part Two - part one left me flat, but the final twenty minutes of this episode was a beautiful piece of television.

Season 31/Series 5

A new pilot for the TARDIS, a new companion and a new show-runner at the reins.

I think of Matt Smith as the 'Looney-Tunes' Doctor. Full of energy but rather cartoonish. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it means that I never really warmed to him as "The Doctor". He certainly has a lot of charisma about him and he can channel the impish nature of Patrick Troughton quite easily.. I liked how Steven Moffat wanted an old mind in a young body. That made for some nice characterisation on Matt and Steven's behalf.

Now, I have to be honest and say that Amy Pond didn't do it for me. She began well, but I found her a bit too petulant throughout her journey. I actually felt sorry for Rory most of the time. I did like the younger version of Amelia Pond. She was quite adorable. I must say, though, that I might be a bit narky and sulky if the Doctor had left me behind for years and years.

This, for me, is possibly the better season out of Matt's tenure. I will explain why in the next two seasons.

Highlights of the season include:

  • The Eleventh Hour - a strong opener with a very confident performance from Matt.
  • Victory of the Daleks - oft maligned by whiny fanboys because they didn't like the new Daleks, I quite like the story as a whole. Should have been a two-parter.
  • The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood - a return for the "Silurians". I love this particularly based on Meera Syal's performance She should be a companion.
  • Vincent and the Doctor - Richard Curtis takes on Doctor Who and depression and pulls off a rather moving piece.
  • The Lodger - another fun episode with a great turn from James Corden who, it seems, can do just about anything!
  • The Pandorica Opens - only part one. The conclusion was a mess. Reboot the universe? WTF? That is just bloody lazy writing. Awful

Season 32/Series 6

This is where I think I am going to lose a lot of my readers, but as I said earlier, these are just my views...

I loathe this season. It's a mess. Incoherent and full of 'Love saves the day' bollocks. Go have a rewatch and see how many times a father's love for his child is key to the story. So tiresome!

I can't fault Steven Moffat's imagination, but the execution is somewhat confusing and, frankly, bonkers. To annoy many readers even further, I didn't like The Doctor's Wife either - which is a shame as I quite like Gaiman's writing usually.

We learn a lot more about River Song this season, but by this point I just didn't care.

Sadly, the conclusion of the season is also a sloppy mess.

Highlights of the season include:

  • A Christmas Carol - a jolly festive fare. Michael Gambon can do no wrong.
  • The Impossible Astronaut - has some moments, but my god, I hate Day of the Moon. So many logic leaps.
  • The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People - nice moments, but could have been a one-episode story.
  • The God Complex - the best episode of the season for me. Rita should have replaced Amy as a companion. She was excellent.

Season 33/Series 7

This season is a vast improvement on the previous year's. Stronger stories and a less confusing arc. The main reason for the improvement? Miss Jenna Louise-Coleman!

Let's ignore the Christmas special The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe for it was deathly dull.

Yes, I have mentioned that Amy and Rory haven't really thrilled me during their run, but they both put in fantastic performances during the Dalek episode. If I had seen more stuff like this, I would have been more impressed. However, their final episode left me very cold indeed. Again, logic leaps aplenty - I also think Steven should have been braver and actually killed them both off. THAT would have made sense within the internal logic of the story. Sadly, as with a lot of NuWho, "Everybody Lives" happens all too frequently these days. Drama shouldn't be afraid of death.

Clara is a wonderful addition to the show and, although the pay-off at the end of the season isn't quite as satisfactory as it should be, Jenna's journey as Clara starts off rather strongly. I am so pleased she stuck around for another two seasons.

With the news that Chris Chibnall will be taking over for series eleven onwards, one might have high hopes after the successes of Torchwood and Broadchurch, but with his two entries to the show this season, it doesn't exactly fill me with hope. I particularly dislike The Power of Three. I won't go into my reasons here as it might spark controversy, but let's just say that it leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

Highlights of the season include:

  • Asylum of the Daleks - a bold and impressive opener to the season. Top marks.
  • A Town Called Mercy - normally I hate Westerns, but this one works beautifully.
  • Cold War - a welcome return to the Ice Warriors. I want MORE! Oh, and David Warner rules (and always has!)
  • The Crimson Horror - classy! unsurprising as it has Diana Rigg in it. Great episode until that end tag-scene which leads into the next episode - dire!
  • The Name of the Doctor - although not perfect, it's the best season finale for Matt's run. Jenna is great in this episode. Lovely to see old Doctors too.

50th Anniversary Specials

Gosh. Fifty years. I remember the thrill of watching The Five Doctors during the twentieth anniversary celebrations (and I love that story!)

There was lots for fans to lap up in November 2015 and some genuine surprises. Not even the most ardent Moff-hater could be churlish during the celebratory season. Although Steven has toyed with us like a boy poking a hornets' nest, he did look after old and new fans alike during this important time. That can not be denied.

The biggest kick in the nuts is the sad fact that the utterly brilliant Christopher Eccleston didn't join us for the ride. I respect his right to choose not to and I would never begrudge him of his talent or his legacy to the show.

In compensation, we did get the jaw-droppingly incredible John hurt instead. Huzzah!

Sadly, Matt Smith's final episode was gut-wrenchingly awful. I honestly think it's my least favourite episode of 21st Centry Who. Everything about it makes me cringe.

Highlights of the season include:

  • The Night of the Doctor - another perfectly formed mini-episode from Steven. Thank Paul McGann for all his terrific Big Finish work, but he needs a TV spin-off 'The Missing Years'
  • The Day of the Doctor - a fan-pleasing episode and Tennant finally gets to play with the Zygons. Plus a brilliant cameo at the end.
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot - this had me grinning from ear-to-ear throughout. An instant classic
  • An Adventure in Space and Time - simply beautiful.

Season 34/Series 8

Now, I was a bit 'meh' about the announcement that Peter Capaldi was taking over. I respect him as an actor, but I wasn't sure about him as the Doctor. This first season of his is a bit of a hit and miss affair, but he managed to convince me by the time series nine came along (once the writers really knew how to write for him, I think.)

Jenna, again, proves herself to be a terrific companion. many fans really dislike Danny pink, but I did not. I actually quite liked him.

Once more I shall provoke the wrath of the ardent fans by stating that Listen didn't do it for me. Once again with Moffat's work, there are some exciting ideas and some vivid stretches of the imagination, but I often find that, although sparkling on the surface, the more high-concept episodes don't stand up to much scrutiny. He is, obviously, a highly respected and worthy writer (just check out Press Gang, it's superb!) but I think he needs a better script-editor at times. It is often said that if you are too close to your own work, you can't spot the mistakes (which is why I should have a proof reader for my blog!!)

I don't want this to become a Moff-bashing blog, that would be childish and non-constructive. He has his moments, I just don't think Listen is quite the masterpiece as some seem to think.

As for Missy, I have no problem with a female Master and I really love Michelle Gomez (the TV series The Book Group is well worth seeing if you want more of the brilliant Michelle. She stole every scene going!) but there's something which doesn't quite work for me and I can't figure out what!

Highlights of the season include:

  • Into the Dalek - a rather nice idea and well-handled.
  • Robot of Sherwood - a fun romp that probably needs to be re-cut with the deleted scenes now.
  • Mummy on the Orient Express - The best episode of series eight. I wish Frank Skinner had become a companion!
  • Flatline - another great episode with genuinely scary monsters..

Season 35/Series 9

This is the season that Peter Capaldi really slides into the role effortlessly. I really believe he is the Doctor as I believed in David Tennant (and not Matt Smith, sadly).

Let me get this out of the way: I simply do not get the fandom squeals over Maisie Williams. OK, so she has been in Game of Thrones, but so what? So has Diana Rigg and she is vastly more exciting and brilliant. No offence to Maisie, but CALM DOWN people! Sheesh!

OK... that said. This season was a little stronger than the previous year and I enjoyed the two-parter-fest. I do love a cliffhanger.

The biggest regret I have about this season is that I didn't feel anything with Clara's story ending. We had so many false endings for her throughout the years that by this point I had lost any emotional connection. I still love Jenna and Clara, but also with the stepping in the moment before her death, we had the "everybody Lives" rigmarole again. It's a shame. I really, really do love Clara, but I wanted more of an impact with her ending.

Oh dear, I really wanted to love Sleep No More as I often like Mark Gatiss' scripts, but this failed. What a shame.

Although fans worldwide loved Heaven Sent, I am sorry, I did not. It felt like a pointless exercise in trying to do a high-concept episode which, once again, defied certain logic. Why would ANYONE trap someone for that long just for one answer? Even Davros wouldn't be so cruel. Also, the pay-off in Hell Bent was so ineffectual. Where was this devastation that the "hybrid" was supposed to wreak? This is the problem with all sci-fi/fantasy prophecies... they are just so underwhelming and pointless.

Highlights of the season include:

  • The Magician's Apprentice/The Witch's Familiar - I don't love this two-parter but I do love Julian Bleach's Davros, so that's why it's here.
  • Under the Lake/Before the Flood - this feels like Classic Who. Solid stuff.
  • The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion - another rockin' two-parter. The speech in part two is worth the price of the Blu-Ray boxset alone.
  • Face the Raven - great idea (reminded me of Gaiman's Neverwhere) but flawed in places.
  • Hell Bent - seeing the old TARDIS console room made me very happy.


As I look back on the last eleven years since Rose aired, we've had our ups and downs, just like with any show. When it returned, it was a huge part of my life for five years. I was obsessed (again), but as the years went on, my love dwindled and I grew more apathetic about it. I still watch with a sort of fascination because it IS a great show and always will be. The nature of the show is CHANGE. that's why it has been so successful over the years.

It's undeniable that I am less fond of the "Moffat Era" and I favour the "RTD Years" but I know that Steven and Russell would understand that some have affections for different styles.

Of the classic era, there are highs and lows throughout and friends of mine who are also fans will have differing opinions to my own about which periods work best (I get mocked for loving the First and Fifth Doctor quite frequently, but i don't care!). It doesn't really matter if I have disagreed with you about your favourite or least favourite episodes - we all get something different out of the show. What will always be a constant is the fact that its a TV programme that has fired the imagination of millions across the globe and one cannot underestimate that. So, whether you disagree with me or not, let's just admit that it has been a terrific 52 years so far. Here's top the next fifty...

The Future..?

A female Doctor?

A solo male Companion?

If I were in charge, I would leave the 'arc' template for a bit and simply have the Doctor visiting planets and solving problems.

I would also have more Ice Warriors, a return to aggressive, scary Sontarans, and I'd bring back the Rani (played by Gillian Anderson)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

All I Want

When I win the lottery...

...there will be parties...

...there will be drinks...

...I will get fit...

...but I will maintain a decent support network...

...I will get a whole new wardrobe...

...I will learn to dance...

...I will become a better driver...

...I'd get my teeth fixed...

...I will buy the comfiest furniture...

...I will be more carefree...

...I will be charitable...

...and maybe become really altruistic or something...

...there will be lots of cats...

...I will have a full social life...

...I will hang out with my friends a lot more...

...but just my friends...

...I will be classy...

...I will have the BEST house...

...I'll be a terrific home-maker...

...I'll throw the best dinner parties...

...there will be shenanigans...

...I might even take up Pilates or Yoga...

...did I mention drink..?

...I will be a lot happier...

... and maybe there will be love(?)

...or maybe I should stop daydreaming.