Friday, 31 August 2012

Matt Smith's Best Doctor Who Episodes

As the new series of Doctor Who starring Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill starts TOMORROW (!) I thought I would celebrate the occasion by having a quick run-through of the trio's five best episodes so far.

A Christmas Carol

By a way, my favourite Who Christmas Special ever. Moffat utilises his liking for signature a timey-wimey plot but imbues this one (based wholeheartedly on Dicken's classic story) with an extra warm glow and emotional heart that is sometimes sidelined by his complex storytelling. Michael Gambon is, of course, excellent as the Scrooge-like Kazran Sardick and Smith again proves he knows he's own role intimately.

The Time of Angels/ Flesh and Stone

This really is a cracking Doctor Who Two-parter. Not only does it feature the perennially scary Weeping Angels, it sees the return of River Song, her first reappearance at the time. There's some fab ideas (the Angel in Amy's eye, the time cracks, the great reveal about the statues) and its full of action but action centred on the characters - the very best kind.

The Girl Who Waited

This is an episode that really doesn't get praised enough. Yes, its 'low-budget' episode of last year but, seriously, who cares? Doctor Who has a long tradition of putting the strength of its writing and acting before everything else and this episode demonstrates that better then any other. Also, it's completely focused on the superb  Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Amy and Rory which is always a good thing.

The Doctor's Wife

The writer of this episode, Neil Gaiman, is my favourite author so I was always going to love it. To me, its so good because it takes perhaps the most familiar thing in Doctor Who and shows it in a completely new light; namely, making the TARDIS a woman. It's quirky, funny and at the end, almost heartbreaking. Also, Gaiman uses continuity references not in a solely-for-the-fans sort of way but so that it feels spectacular that the show has such a long history. Magic.

 A Good Man Goes to War

TGMGTW really has everything a finale should have. The stakes are raised to the highest for all involved and the thrills never stop. However, it not only works in an adrenalin-pumping sense but is stuffed full of memorable supporting characters (Silurian Madame Vastra, Sontaran Nurse Strax, Cowardly Dorium ETC) and is an excellent culmination of the themes running through the past six years of Doctor Who: the juxtaposition of the Doctor as an eccentric bumbler and also a great warrior. Technically, this is a two-parter with Let's Kill Hitler but I haven't included that here as, although it has the best title EVER, I don't think it quite lives up to 'Good Man''s heights.

So that's your lot. It was a incredibly hard task whittling the list down to these five as the Smith/Moffat Era is full of amazing episodes. I love the Smith/Moffat Era; the Smith/Moffat era is cool! The genius 'The God Complex', the surreal 'Amy's Choice' and the two hilarious episodes starring James Corden all came very close but those above just pipped them. The fact that I've not numbered them shows how difficult it was to sort out these five. However, what little I know of the five episodes to come (being a fan who dislikes spoilers) suggests that I may have to seriously rethink this list in the near-future.

On a final note, remember to watch Steven Moffat's Asylum of the Daleks on BBC One 7.20. OR. YOU. WILL. BE. EXTER-MINATED!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Countdown to Doctor Who at 50: The Seventh Doctor

Next on our countdown through all eleven Doctors in time for Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary in 2013 is that mysterious Master-Manipulator; the Seventh Doctor. You don't want to get him mad...

Think about me when you're living your life one day after another, all in a neat pattern. Think about the homeless traveller and his old police box, with his days like crazy paving.
                                                                          The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy)

No other Doctor divides fans opinions quite to the extent of the Seventh Doctor. To understand why you may need to know some of the context of the time. When Sylvester McCoy took over the role, Doctor Who had hit a rough patch. Previous Doctor Colin Baker had been sacked by the BBC and the show's future was on tenterhooks. The show needed to be new, original and accessible again. And one of the most important things the show runners decided to rethink was the personality of the Doctor. Gone was the colourful, brash Sixth Doctor, in was the impish, spoons-player-turned-cosmic-chess-player Seventh Doctor. For the first time, the Doctor was not just bumbling around the universe; now he had a plan. It wasn't a change that all fans took to.
However, I don't think it can be disputed how the Seventh Doctor, with the help of fresh writing, solid support from Sophie Aldred as Ace, gave Doctor Who a new lease of life. This makes it doubly upsetting that this era, perhaps the best for many years, was deemed not successful enough by the BBC and was cruelly curtailed when the programme was taken off the screens. But, as we know, it wouldn't be forever...

Born when the evil Time Lady the Rani hijacked the Sixth Doctor's TARDIS, causing him to take a nasty tumble, the Seventh Doctor was initially a clown bumbling his way through his early adventures, and as previously mentioned, uncovering a knack for playing the spoons. Soon after he picked up his companion Ace, however, his demeanour changed into that of a mellower, quieter figure who favoured grand schemes and long games than making up his plans as he went along. Several times he duped old enemies and even close friends into his plots; during a battle with the Daleks, he even tricked them into destroying their homeworld Skaro - perhaps starting the Time War!
His change of character also impacted the clothes he wore. At first, the Seventh Doctor wore a light jacket, question-mark jumper with accompanying umbrella but as time went on his jacket was replaced with a darker one and he swapped his ordinary umbrella for one with a question-mark-shaped handle: the Seventh Doctor really liked being mysterious.

Although largely a solitary figure, the Seventh Doctor had two friends with whom he shared his adventures. Cheery and screamer par excellence Melanie Bush, also a companion of his previous persona, travelled with him until she decided to go travelling with lovable space rogue Sabalom Glitz. He wasn't alone for long, however, as in the very same adventure, the Doctor met Ace (real name Dorothy), a feisty teenager who was mysteriously whisked off to an alien world in a time storm...
As a companion from the classic series, Ace is basically unique in having an actual story arc in which her character develops and grows. During her time with the Doctor, who she affectionately calls 'Professor', she confronts issues from her past that have led to her being a hurt and distrusting young woman and dealt with them; deep-rooted fears, criminal acts, parental problems, even her true destiny. The Doctor and Ace's relationship was one of a mentor and student who taught each other about themselves and about the world but also it was one of best friends, who love travelling together.

It is common among fans to describe this Doctor as the 'Dark One.' But, actually, he was just the first Doctor to explore the darkness within himself; paving the way towards the 'Oncoming Storm' sort of the Doctor that the Ninth and Tenth Doctors occasionally became and addressed again with the Eleventh Doctor in the most recent series of the show. So, in other words, the Seventh Doctor's influence on the show stretches into the current incarnation of the programme; knowing his wily character, the Seventh Doctor probably planned that out himself.

Ones to Watch:

Remembrance of the Daleks

A real fan-pleaser but in the best possible way. It's London 1963, the birthplace of Doctor Who, and there's a Dalek Civil War going on! Oh, and a mysterious Time Lord artefact! And Davros! It really is a belter, featuring some great spectacle but also touching smaller scenes...

The Curse of Fenric

The culmination of a story arc that lasted two seasons, on the surface, Fenric tells the story of the vampiric Haemovores attack of a army base during World War Two. However, it also explores issues of faith (particularly that of the Doctor's companion, Ace) and the Seventh Doctor's penchant for master plans. Great stuff.

It's both fitting and sad that the final story of Doctor Who's original run is one of its most outstanding. Layered with great characterisation and strong thematics, it sees people from Ace's hometown being kidnapped (or should that be cat-napped?) and taken to the world of the Cheetah-people to fight to the death. It also features one of the best confrontations between the Doctor and his greatest foe, the Master ever. Just class.

In other Doctor Who news, IT'S BACK ON SATURDAY -as if you're interested in the show enough to read this blog post and you didn't know. So, everyone, please tune into your telly screeens at 7.20pm on BBC One for Steven Moffat's Asylum of the Daleks! Don't say you're not excited.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Sherlock Series Three: Rat. Wedding. Bow.

Although we still have a long while before Sherlock series three hits our screens, showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have today revealed the three teaser words that sum up the three new episodes coming next year. Last year it was 'Woman. Hound. Fall' and this year... well, now is the time to avert your eyes downward.

Wow. I know. What can that mean? A rat? Who's wedding? And is that 'bow' as in 'how' or 'bow' as in 'tow'? Well, that's what this post is all about. Just what do those mean for Series Three?


As a Sherlock Holmes fan, the first thing that came to my head when seeing this was the Giant Rat of Sumatra, the most famous of the hints of untold adventures that Conan Doyle used to drop into his stories. The name comes from this extract from The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire:

''Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson,' said Holmes in a reminiscent voice. 'It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.'

On the other hand, another proper Holmes story has another reference to a rat. The Boscombe Valley Mystery features a murder victim's last word being 'a rat.'' However, without spoiling the story, its not exactly what it seems...

So, if this guess is right, the first episode as well as featuring Sherlock's return proper in the life of Watson may include either the great detectives going on a boat trip and facing a giant rat or a more straight-forward (if there is such a thing on Sherlock) adaptation of a classic Holmes story. Only time will tell! Who knows, it could be neither!


Oh-hoh this one's got fans got fans going. Is Sherlock getting married? To whom? To Irene? To John?! The most likely answer to me is that it will be John getting married, just as the original character did in The Sign of the Four to Miss Mary Morstan. Steven Moffat has spoken before about the fact that most adaptions ignore the fact that a great deal of the Holmes canon involves Holmes and Watson living apart and called these versions lazy for not tackling it. Who knows how this will affect the modern Sherlock and John's relationshp...
Of course, there's also the question of who John will marry. Fans are suggesting Molly Hooper, the Sherlock-infatuated pathologist at Bart's Hospital, may switch her affections to the good Doctor.


Now what could this mean? Will the final episode of the series focus on Sherlock starting to wear bow ties? I think it refers to Holmes' final case before he retires His Last Bow which sees him up against German spies on the eve of the First World War.
How could this translate to 2013? Will it really be Sherlock's last case? Your guess is as good as mine here.

Well, there we are. None of ths may be true but at least it's giving me (and hopefully you) something to chew on until the series itself emerges. How are we going to last till next year?! Bring on 2013!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Doctor Who Series Seven Trailer!

Yes, yes, it's the Olympics. Yes, yes, Britain's winning some golds. But, really, the excitement of everything happening in London 2012 is nothing to the excitement packed into these one and a half minutes! If you haven't seen it yet today  - you are way behind the times but I'll forgive you - I won't spoil anything until you've seen it. Then we'll get into what we can pull out about the coming episodes.
So, here you go. Here's the first full-length trailer to the NEW SERIES OF DOCTOR WHO probably starting this month. At long last...

To quote the Doctor himself; 'I know!'

Wow, is still all I can say after seeing this several times. Daleks, Dinosaurs, New York, River Song, Daleks, Lestrade from Sherlock,  Baby Weeping Angels and Daleks - this trailer has it all! But, for the moment, I'll try and calm down to look at what treats we have in store very soon...

The TARDIS seems to have landed in the Asylum of the Daleks (the only episode title we know as of yet) itself - right in the heart of the action! As we've been promised for ages, this episode, the series opener, will feature every Dalek ever. By the signs shown in this trailer, it looks like the episode is sure to live up to expectation. We've got that wonderful snowy landscape in this one plus that awesome moment at what is presumably the end of the episode; 'Who do you think?'

'Dinosaurs ... on a spaceship!' There can't be many more audacious lines in Doctor Who than that. And there's also rumours it's the title. We've got Triceratops! Raptors! Other sorts! Plus, on what looks like the same set we've got Rupert 'Lestrade' Graves in a hat and an Egyptian woman. Only in Doctor Who...

The Doctor. In the Wild West. With a Stetson! On Horseback! Wonderful shot from the third episode of the series which looks very impressive in terms of scale. By the looks of things it also involves a cool-looking cyborg cowboy. And, if that wasn't enough, the Doctor mentions the Master in one of these clips too!

See him? Behind Matt Smith. No, that's Rory. The other one. Got him? It's only Mr Weasley! Yes, the trailer also gives us our first glimpses of Mark Williams as Rory's Dad. As a fan of companions' families, I've missed that from Moffat's series but it looks like Mr Williams (as he shall now be known) is getting really stuck into the action. What are those robots about? This clip could either be from episode two or four as Rory's Dad is in both. If it's from episode two though, that will mean there's nothing of episode four in this trailer. They are obviously keeping that well under wraps.

And here he is. That infamous baby Weeping Angel, as fans are now labelling him. Whether he really is remains to be seen but he can guess that he is indeed from episode five of the series which is Amy and Rory's final adventure. From this trailer, we know River shows up in a trilby, there's a creepy old decaying Angel and proper, proper New York! They're definitely pulling out all the stakes for the Pond's final farewell...

Well, don't they all look amazing? Going by the trailer, one thing this series isn't going to be small on is scale. We've got awe-inspiring snowy landscapes, an army of Dinosaurs, Spain mocked up as the plains of the Wild West, Times Square and a truck-full of Daleks! On a more personal level, it's interesting to note the hints of the darker aspects of the Doctor's personality resurfacing. As a big theme of Series Six, the Doctor was shown to be nonplussed by his reputation as a dark warrior throughout the universe but it seems like he may be about to accept it. He derides his own mercy in that Wild West scene and in the last seconds of the trailer we are led to believe (whether it is him or not) that he has killed all  the Daleks - something he banished a copy of himself to a parallel world for doing in Journey's End (2008).

Now, let's all put cold compresses on our heads, relax and calm down. There's no need to get ourselves in a hype just yet. We've still got... JUST 23 DAYS UNTIL DOCTOR WHO IS (PROBABLY) BACK ON! Wow, that's soon. The TARDIS is flying in the skies and is about to land back in our living rooms very soon. Where it belongs.

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