Archive for the ‘SERIES 3 REVIEWS’ Category

Sec’s Bomb

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

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Hi. I’m one of the people who liked Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, so this year’s classic-creature-based-two-part-Art-Deco-extravaganza should appeal to me – right?

There’s a heavy sense of ‘seen it all before’s to this year’s Dalek epic, which is a pity, as inside with, beyond the showgirl and her pig of a boyfriend, Hooverville and the Back to the Future in Manhatten! storyline , there’s a rather interesting development in the character of Cult of Skaro leader Sec. But as I’m loath to admit, being a visuals junkie and all, this time the look of the story gets in the way. 

Evolution of the Daleks looks fantastic. It looks especially good being on the telly, and it copes admirably with having followed King Kong so recently. Watch the Confidential of the story and you’ll see the work that went into the establishing matte shots, but beyond that there’s great lighting and set design, wonderful music, fantastic period costumes and some really very decent dressing of Cardiff for New York’s Sheep Meadow. This aside, and it really must be aside, the story squanders its big reveal, its guest villains, and Martha. 

So what’s the problem? The Daleks are one. More directly, the Cult of Skaro is the problem. Great idea, and the ‘sacrificed’ skirting panels were a cool touch, but I think a ball was dropped in making the non-Sec members of the group so identical. Caan was the survivor at the end of the day? I had to wait for the dialogue to tell me that, and that’s a shame because for a group of free-thinking Dalek Machiavellis there’s little visually that distinguishes each from the others. Granted, being a litle more ‘Dalek’ than Sec was, this was probably intended, but it struck me as a return to the episodes of the Sixties, where anonymous Daleks waggling their eyestalks at each other was all we got. The Cult was an opportunity to relax this idea without resorting to the Davros character (or a Davros character), and instead this is what we got. Sec’s dream is an intriguing one, but the execution shortsells it – the hammy accent and the party balloon hat don’t help either.

By the time we get to the notion of a new Dalek race of hybrids created by a very Frankenstein lightning storm, things have collapsed somewhat, and the combination of classic enemy and bat-arsed scheme signal a return to the excesses certain Eighties stories have been accused of going to. I thought the Doctor climbing a radio mast in The Idiot’s Lantern was a nod to the past too many; to have him do it again here strikes me as just unneccesary. And to transfer Time Lord DNA? I’m not the kind of fan to let some implausible science get in the way of a good story, but I genuinely have had trouble trying to work out how that could happen: ”From the people that brought you spray-on intravenous drugs comes a new adventure in improbable physics!”

I’m rambling, and the last thing I want this review to be is a two-parter as well, so I’ll sum up. Interesting idea, looks nice, daft conclusion. Supporting cast not bad (liked Tallulah, Lazlo and Solomon), but either there were too many of them (adding Frankie plus Sec and others) or they were given too much to do, because apart from reading some schematics I can’t think of what Martha was given to do in this story. Except bring up Rose and rescue the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver – both quite unneccesary.

 So then, not a terrible story, but not one I’ll return to quickly. I didn’t like the two-parter as much as I enjoyed last year’s first Cybermen one (the Mickey arc was what sold that to me), and I liked that less than Army of Ghosts, which had a really effective reintroduction to the Cybermen AND a shocking return of the Daleks as its cliffhanger. So for all the advance spoiling of images and teasing of Helen Raynor’s first script, Evolution‘s a bit of a flop to me. Here’s hoping it’s only a blind alley.

PA

Dalek, I don’t love you no more

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

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There was a time when the Dalek stories were the ones to look out for each season, especially during the new series. Their appearances in Dalek, and the two series finales have been must-sees. As such, it was surprising to watch the first part of this season’s Dalek story and not feel anything. Where’s my Dalek love gone?

To sum everything up (there’s already been more than enough written about this episode), visually it’s very impressive (1930s New York looks stunning – it’s as though The Mill have nicked a few gigabytes worth of WETA material left over from King Kong), but the episode (and the main villains for that matter) does seem a little… well… by-the-numbers.

It’s fine and all, but there doesn’t seem to be anything that special about the episode. We’re treated to a song and dance number sure, but that could quite easily have been dropped. The hybrid storyline is interesting, but am I the only one who found the ‘walking out of the Dalek casing’ to be a bit naff?

It already feels like DiM is going to be one of the lesser-remembered episodes of Series 3, and we’re only halfway through. My thought – give the Daleks a rest for a few years and then bring them back as the truly evil little bastards that we know and love, with an master plan that doesn’t involve property construction.

Oh and the accent isn’t that bad.

JP

Mister Boe Rambles

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

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I’m loving the new series, but since The Runaway Bride I’ve had a vague feeling of sameness. Specifically – reheated final acts usually involving thwarted villainesses screaming their way into oblivion amidst Mill-concocted pyrotechnics, as panicked crowds point skywards.

So it was with some joy that I found myself surprised, absorbed and exhilarated by Gridlock, despite last years’ series opener leaving me wishing never to return to New Earth. Not only does it break the final act mould of the last three stories but reintroduces an environment and threat which feel real. Previously, fresh air had thoughtfully been provided in deep space, the lunar surface and apparently even surely-pungent Elizabethan London; whereas the first thing that happens to the Doctor and Martha on New Earth is a heavy shower of rain. The environment immediately impresses itself upon them and continues to do so. Smog replaces smug as the Doctor and Martha are both swiftly relegated to the status of helpless passengers, deprived of the TARDIS, one another and their own independence. There’s a true sense of desperation – Tennant even out-does McCoy in bellowing his companion’s name in one scene! Pleasingly, his Doctor initially seems less in control than usual, regretting ‘showing off’ and caught up in another of the new series’ ‘dead-end future’ scenarios.

But it’s not all grim and dystopian, in fact ‘road trip’ perhaps describes this stories ‘genre’ best. The plethora of eccentric characters and locations encountered along the way charm and engage as only Doctor Who at it’s very best can. As bizarre as many of the New New York inhabitants seem, they also present a very believable humanity – never more so than in the moving ‘hymn sequence’. Accompanying visuals are consistently good, including a truly thrilling ‘crab race’ and an arrival at the final destination straight from the Star Wars prequels.

The fact that the story concludes with the least surprising revelation in the new series’ history hardly matters, this journey hasn’t been so much about the destination as having fun getting there. So say what you like about Rusty Davies, and at Zeus Blog we always do, but at his best he is, to quote a certain Gridlock character:

“Insane and a little bit magnificent”.

AH

From Bard to Verse

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

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Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Yeah, alright.

Our second story is a tale quite fair
To satisfy Jon Preddle’s wishes yet
As our heroes journey to meet Shakespeare
And duly help him out with his Hamlet

But this is not the play our tale concerns
Love’s Labours Won instead is the subject
And through the episode’s chicanes and turns
The Doctor strives its performance to eject

Martha is also active in the plot
Aiding the Doctor in defeating witches
She casts her own spell on the Bard so hot
To find the means to get into her britches

As story two’s always historical
Tis odd to see some magic in the mix
The power of words is metaphorical
And so the Doctor’s wise to these same tricks

But I foresee a rocky road ahead
A TARDIS friendship surely to be vexed
As Martha and the Doctor share a bed
He clumsily compares her to the ex

But still the visuals do please the eye
Elizabethan London looked a treat
With lovingly attended CGI
To outshine any 1980s feat

The nation’s history teachers will rejoice
To see such visual dedication here
And as a certain sexy theory’s voiced
Numerous scholars may well punch the air

Though it’s no Stoppard I’ll not make a fuss
There’s wit and wisdom evident in score
To such a balance guaranteeing thus
That Roberts will be back for Season Four.

PA

Crash Start

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

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Nice. The new season opens without a pre-credit teaser, and straight into a slice of the new companion’s life. As before. Thankfully, we’re not woken by a honking alarm clock and Murray Gold’s acid gerbil ‘techno’ soundtrack, but by something a little more real, a little more urban – some hippedy-hop.

I like the opener; it introduces Martha’s family deftly and in a light-hearted way, and with its sudden appearance of the Doctor sets up a time travel gag that the kids will love looking out for later in the episode. But my god, RTD’s all about the cellphones, isn’t he?

So much of this story has been either publicised through advance images or, in the case of the Judoon, fierce fan rumour. Here we see the result and the bits missing – and it’s pretty much as you’d expect. Some lifting of Virgin Books moments (stranded on the moon in a hospital rather than Timewyrm: Revelationschurch, but still…); a bit of the absurd mingling in with the sinister (a blood-sucking alien – with a straw!); a plucky companion not screaming; a plucky Doctor verging on OTT and, in a movement surely to be repeated in playgrounds across the Commonwealth, shaking radiation out of his shoe – like you do; oh, and mention of Rose again. Sigh.

But as it goes, Smith and Jones is fun and a great improvement on the smug and irritating New Earth. Not only does this hospital have a gift shop, but it also has some wonderful alien foils – rhino Judge Dredds with marker pens (the name must surely be a portmanteau of ‘Judge’ and ‘Goon’). The Plasmavore story strand didn’t work so well for me – I wondered later whether the villain of the piece might have avoided detection more easily by just borrowing a whiteboard marker from the nursing station desk; and having endured the novelty of an MRI scan myself the threat of its magnetic field seemed a little… overstated. Still quite enjoyable though, and with some wonderful effects and shots – the best laser beams in the series yet, and the Judoon spaceship landing sequence was just lovely. With some strong CGI behind it Doctor Who has entered the age of the ‘landing strut’ sequence anew, but in a good way.

So then – a fun story, some minor scares for the kids, the new girl looks sensible and resourceful but is sufficiently Not Rose, and the Judoon came off a lot better than I’d anticipated.

And a mention of Mister Saxon too. Who’d have guessed?

PA