Archive for June, 2008

The Age of Steal

Monday, June 30th, 2008

I’m pretty sure that blasted hand hanging about is a bit of a “gimmie” to somehow re-ungenerating Tennant. That and Martha’s mystery chip being some sort of Apocalyptic reset at the end… and while we’ve all been set up that Donna is toast with a big sacrifice in the offing, surely it’s Grandad Cribbins with his undisclosed (medical?) secret (Poision Sky) who is going to make the sacrifice. Donna and the Doctor are still somehow mysteriously linked tho – prehaps he’ll regenerate into her?

I just watched it again tho and I get the horrible sinking feelling we’ve seen it all before and it’ll end up a bit of a mess. The whole dalek fleet take on the Earth smacks too much of the Toclafane (and even the invasion of Canary Warf & Parting of the Ways), Turn Left’s phantom/alternative year as the world goes to custard was also lifted straight out of Last of the Time Lords (even down to the troops on the streets and red-lit Tardis) though rather than walking the world like Martha, Donna had to just jog four blocks. And the Donna “impending doom” thing too, they’ve been seeding that one for an age now… like they did with Rose’s “death” in Doomsday

And the Daleks are 3 for 4 in the finale monster stakes, with Davros and Supreme (and we are all waiting for that egg to hatch – looks like it’s designed arround the dramatically important Hasps) joining the long line of uber-Dalek baddies (Emperor/Cult). The planets were hidden a second in the future, we haven’t seen that since the Sontarans and the ATMOS systems a few episodes ago (or one ago if you are in a retcon mood). Copper gets name checked, coz he really looked like the type of chap to be into sub-wave communications, and yeah, for the second year running we have a plot device reliant (or should that be “Reliant“) on phone systems. And did anyone else get a funny feeling watching Rose and the Nobles “praying” (and the world calling) for the Doctor over their mobiles?

Deja-vu all over again.

And other things have just been thrown into the companion heavy mix (and doesn’t anyone else find use of the expression “companions” a little jaring when used by charcters in the context of the story), the Shadow Proclamation and Harriet Jones bits only served to carry truckloads of exposition. (As well as making them both seem far too dull and pompous). The thing with the bees just petered past, a waste after all that build up; the Darkness… well that had nothing to do with the story – how does the stars going out fit in? How does the Cardiff rift power still work if the planet has been moved from the space/time location it was fixed at? Bad Wolf anyone – what was that about, really?

I would love all this to pay off, but I just get the feeling it’s very nice looking window dressing and repeating memes pulled out of Rusty’s bucket o’cannon (it even had Richard Dawkins in it!)And I’m sorry, but I just don’t see them getting away with a year of “specials” with a new Doctor, you would want a season, a strong run, time for the new man (or woman) to get his/her boots under the table. While the Hamlet thing and recent reports of renegotiating contracts is a bit of misdirection, why would we have a cut down run of stories if it wasn’t true? And why scan out a future with River Song if you’re going to chuck it in the bin four episodes down the line?


Sliding Bores

Sunday, June 29th, 2008


It’s pretty clear that NuWho seems to be forming a pattern with how the stories run, and this year’s Doctorless episode, while receiving good reviews elsewhere, just really seemed like “more of the same”… even bringing Rose back couldn’t save the episode from just feeling like we had seen it all before, and I’m not talking about the Sliding Doors parallel worlds, or V for Vendetta (more the comic than the movie) fascist UK, or the Firefly space-aged Chinese culture, or even the insidious bugs on your back from Babylon 5 (although 10 years older they still looked so much better), but in NuWho and all its recent tie-ins themselves.

There’s a history changing Trickster in Sarah Jane, a memory meddler in recent Torchwood.  Even the concept of looking at established Who mythology through more mundane eyes was done by RTD in Love and Monsters.  A militaristic alternative Earth – Rise of the Cybermen.  That also covers the dead TARDIS, though the red warning lights, solders patrolling the ravaged streets and a lost year as the world goes to custard hark back to Last of the Time Lords; Martha had to walk the Earth, Donna had to jog four blocks, both had contend with alt.universe.familyissues.retcon, (though Rose had to contend with that on her sideways trip as well).

OK lets talk about Rose, the apprentice has become the Master, she’s got the Time Machine, UNIT backup (wouldn’t it have been great if Angela Bruce had done a cameo, Bambera recalled in a time of crisis), the alien tech, the otherworldly knowledge, she’s even regenerated with bigger teeth…  But we had River Song last week pretty much pulling off the same trick (sans teeth).  In fact it is another common theme in nuWho – all the ladies are special.  But as Jamas notes, even though this is Donna’s story, this time they seem to be laying it on a bit thick.



And then we have the sacrifice (another nuWho meme).  Not only Donna, but also the Torchwood and SJS crews are all dead Dave, dead Dave, they are all dead!  And in rather secondhand, throwaway ways.  Is it really for dramatic impact, a shorthand cheat to up the ante in one of the most gloomy episodes ever, or simply a way of reminding us that they all exist… just in case they all happen to show up next week?





Strangers on a Truck

Saturday, June 28th, 2008


 ”Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines, their telephones, their lawnmowers, throw them into darkness for a few hours, and then sit back and watch the pattern.”
-The Twilight Zone, ‘The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street’

Just when we thought RTD would be bringing us another lightweight, earnest little tale with a bonkers futuristic setting, a comedy sequence in the middle and a heartwarming message at the end, along comes Midnight, a curious little number, and quite an effective one.

You may think that many ingredients have gone into this pudding – Hitchcock’s Lifeboat? Possibly. The Twlilight Zoneepisode referenced above? Maybe. Some jealousy at The Moff getting the best writer award again? It’s tempting to see it that way, and interesting given the stories’ juxtaposition and the general geopolitics of Who‘s future nowadays (oh, an add a recent OBE to the mix for good measure). But it’s possible none of these were in Rusty’s head the day he put pen to paper and wrote The Version Of Voyage Of The Damned We Wish We’d Had Instead. 

The story has to be seen not just as an improvement of 2007′s tinsel lint, but also a step up from the story’s setting’s near cousin – Davies’ New Earth stories. Several elements are there – inhospitable environment? Check. Post-dual gender relationship? Present. Focus on the mundane (e.g. traffic, hospitals, tour buses) as a form of future entrapment as much as the present? Why hello again. From the outset you’d almost expect to see a Cat Nun gliding along in the background during the book-ending Donna scenes, but no. Midnight‘s different, and better. Mainly because it consciously uses less.

One of the biggest assets this story has is the casual dropping of the expository element. The Doctor’s fellow travellers are drawn vaguely, but for a change we know all we need to know early on. True, David Troughton’s academic gives us some filler info, but it’s not intrusive, and it’s grimly reassuring that at the end of the story, he’s just as fallible and unreliable as any other human on board. Crucially so; Davies’ point seems to be that no matter how good or clever or ordinary we may think we are, we’ll surely all go to pieces very quickly under the easiest influence. Even the Doctor isn’t immune; rendered impotent and speechless, he is almost literally dragged to his death. It’s only the resourceful memory of an altrusitic hostess (er, check?) that saves his life, and the day.

Good story then. Spooky, sure. Dramatic – yep, and well acted to boot. But if Moffat’s preceding story marked a change in the Doctor’s life then Midnightis no less intriguing for the change in storytelling RTD employs – using less, drawing on more. Molto Belle.


Over (the) Bite

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Am I the only person watching Turn Left who didn’t pick up on this apparently horrific teeth / lisp / accent disaster from Ms Piper? Not only did it hit the message boards straight away, but numerous newspaper reviews the following days were stating how odd they found the overbite thing. I just didn’t see it / care. Perhaps we should be taking more notice of features rather than, say, plot and drama. Next week: hair styles and nail lengths?


The latest issue of DWM is out in stores today, sporting both a ‘Bad Wolf Takeover’ and a free Target novel. There’s 27 to choose from, though every single one I saw contained The Twin Dilemma. So… if anyone wants a copy of The Twin Dilemma… Inside, it does seem to be a bit of a case of ‘we can’t say anything!’. There are numerous mentions of the returning villain, though no images. This should change next week, when the Radio Times is celebrating ( Inviso-text follows – Ed) the return of Davros – a 4th Series 4 cover perhaps?


Series 4 has been getting consistently good reviews in that bastion of cultural excellence, the London Underground Metro newspaper. Most likely to be found half ripped on the floor, should one be lucky enough to get their hands on one, you’ll find four star reviews for every story of the series thus far. Will TSE / JE be able to achieve the elusive 5 stars… watch this space (or don’t).


Overheard in HMV Oxford St – ‘I met Colin Baker at a convention… I was quite lucky cos he doesn’t do many’



Streamlined or Sawn-off?

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The year ahead looks to be an interesting time for Doctor Who and its two spin-offs. While a second series of The Sarah-Jane Adventures prepares for production, series three of Torchwood, and 2009′s Doctor Whospecials are in pre-production with a reduced series for both. Of Who enough is known to quell fan panic – the series’ star is currently treading the boards and the show itself is effectively between producers, so all is well (unless RTD is planning on having  crack at that stealth regeneration thing he tried out in 2005 for this series… nah…). It’s just a matter of working out whether the coming year will give us four or five stories. It’ll probably be four.

Five on the other hand is the magic number for Torchwood, a series which is not yet out of troubled waters, yet clawed a few figures back with some (some) tighter scripts this year. There’s still too much going on that’s unresolved, and a weird sense of priorities going on with regard to characterisation (zombie team members, Captain Prat Heartless for two), but it would appear there are enough viewers for the moment. On the other hand, it seems there’s not quite so much money in the kitty – hence a cut-down one-story miniseries over one week. It’s a risky move, and it’s perhaps telling that the weaker series in audience is an all-in-one salvo, while the senior programme can afford the luxury of a thinly-spread series of one-offs. plus, there’s been something made of Torchwood‘s move to the less edgy/higher profile (take your pick) BBC1 – for good or not is unknown, but with the show being already watered down this year for family audiences there’s the sense that this could be a make-or-break time for Torchwood Cardiff (“now 33.3% Torchwood London”). Two of its core cast are gone, presumably for good (including, as some have observed, its most promising actor) and hopefully for a continued career on TV. The show itself is half as long, with half the team it had behind the scenes. From there – who knows? Although a third full series hasn’t been ruled out this stage (and is indeed rumoured, with up to ten episodes), it’s impossible to view this move in Torchwood”s fortunes as comforting as Doctor Who‘s ‘don’t-call-it-a-Gap-Year.’

So then, 2009 will be slightly lessened episode-wise for both the core series and its first spin-off. Will fandom cope after four years of being increasingly spoiled? Will the Sarah Jane Adventuresreap greater audiences as certain areas of fandom realise that cold turkey isn’t the meal for them? Or will less Who content on the telly produce an increase in fan activity as regulars find new ways to cope?

Who can say? It’ll be interesting to find out.


Carry on Screening

Saturday, June 21st, 2008



Its a quiet weekend, and while the next editorial takes shape in the drafts section of this blog, here are some old YouTube clips to while away the hours. Nothing new to see here, so you may want to move on…

1. History’s bogeyman reacts to the Torchwood finale. (and the series 2 premiere)

2. Torchwool – infinitely superior to the original. (the Primeval one isn’t bad either)

3. Because it’s now impossible to diminish its effect any more, an alternative take on Rose’s original departure.

4. Dalek on a rollercoaster (for Jono).

There you go. Feel free to post your latest finds below…


River’s Little Band

Monday, June 16th, 2008

I have to admit something of a bias in reviewing this two-parter, naturally, because I am a Librarian. To say I held the title of the first part of this story and its setting with a sense of trepidation and misgiving would be an understatement. But I was of course fearing too much. The knowledge profession (no, IT industry, that is not you) has nothing to be wary of here. Not even shadows.

But let’s move away from this strange career-obsessive and let us instead consider the story.

By virtue or fluke of timing we fans have come to expect much of a Steven Moffat script, and certainly from where we are now, Silence/Forest carries the extra burden of expectation because of course Moffat is now the man upon whom the future of the series now rests. The shape of the future takes form in the present – so does this story bode well for the series ahead? I say yes.

Silence/Forest (and apologies for the clumsy titling) is a lot of what I suspect a good number of older fans would want in a story – it is multi-layered, multi-locational, high concept and witty. For the kids it has scary shadows and Skeletor in a space suit. As they are, the Vashta Nerada aren’t the most vital ingredient of the story, being as they are an elemental force of nature (the initial revelation that The Library held billions of individual life forms carries no surprise to someone who has a professional awareness of spores and dust mites). Take the element of death away and you have another thought-provoking exploration of a central theme in Moffat’s Who work – loss. So far in the new series we’ve had the devastating impact of the loss of parents and family (Empty Child), of loved ones across time (Girl in the Fireplace), the loss of one’s own place in time (Blink) and now, crucially, the loss of knowledge itself. The invasion of The Library triggers the colapse of meaning where bodies disappear to be ‘saved’ but are also overwritten so personal histories are recreated, condensed and made meaningless; the digitised conscious of a dying person loops into itself and ultimately degrades in a disturbing collapse akin to the mental deterioration of a dementia sufferer, and of course at the story’s core is another episode of the Doctor’s life – and potentially another love story, involving a person also separated through time about whom he cannot allow himself to learn, even after it is too late. It’s a lot to juggle, and for the most part Moffat does it well – Donna’s Doctor-less story is the more effective for being hers alone, and it is only the Girl/Doctor Moon installments that continue to jar, perhaps not helped by their starkly lit locations against the visually dimming Library planet.

As he has shown us in earlier stories, Moffat is defter at the fannish touches too – references to ‘spoilers’ being one of a few digs whihc, rather than break the fourth wall between viewer and story, add to the Doctor’s life using a common vernacular. Finally, there is the sense that, intended or no, here is Moffat laying down some conventions and threads for the future – the likely ‘return’ of River Song, the Doctor’s awareness that within this incarnation he will change dramatically (a very big thing given the slightest coverage), the fate of Donna and, with a literal click of the fingers, the Doctor begins his journey toward those things. it’s a magical scene, strangely reminiscent of the ‘blades of death’ scene from Euros Lyn’s directoral debut The End of the World. This of course is far from the end, it’s a restart, intended or not. And the future looks all the more intriguing for it.


The Exhibitionist

Friday, June 13th, 2008

Good god, I’m a fanboy. 5 days in London and I was already at the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre to check out Who’s At Earl’s Court.

Perhaps due to the midday weekday arrival time, the exhibition was pretty much empty, which, whilst giving some welcome relief from hordes of screaming children, did take away from the buzz a little bit. The lighting and sound effects were pretty impressive, though seeing David Tennant’s visage projected onto a faceless dummy with a wig was little odd.

The exhibition was planned out in order of broadcast, so you essentially walk through the seasons.

And there was some pretty cool stuff on show. Of note:

  • The Face of Boe (pictured)
  • A Slitheen, Sycorax and Clockwork Man
  • A Green Screen room which transposes you into the TARDIS console room – well… it sort of does… one slight move to the right and your shoulders disappear – think episode 4 of Robot.
  • K9 (of the ‘push the button’ display variety – tail wags, ears move, eyes light up, voice starts – brill).
  • The Cyber Controller (sitting), closely followed by the ‘Blink’ statues
  • No Season 4 exhibits at that stage, despite notices saying there would be. There was Kylie Minogue’s costume from Voyage on a rotating stand just near the extensive gift shop (Doctor Who gift wrap anyone?)

To be fair, some of the displays are pretty standard – great if you’ve ever wanted to see the model of Cardiff from Boomtown, or Peter Kay’s cane from Love and Monsters, but a bit ‘meh’ if you’re looking for something truly interesting from the show.

Of most interest though was how basic some of the props were when you looked at them up close. The back of the Face of Boe was barely painted, with wires and tubing just stuck on randomly. Also, the Trinny and Susannah robots from Bad Wolf looked pretty scruffy – damaged during transit? Or just not made to be displayed after being packed with explosives? And if you thought the Big Ben prop looked a bit fake on screen… The TARDIS prop looked great but made a very plastic sound when you tapped it (fibreglass if I remember correctly?).

That said, the Racnoss costume was pretty impressive close up, and long-held dreams were fulfilled when I was finally able to sit inside a Dalek, listen to the voice changer and extend the plunger (oh, sir!).

Only major drawback – the lack of old series props… a trip to Blackpool beckons. Hoo-ray….


Fast Return – May 2008

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Greetings! It’s the 7th of Eurovision and we’re not long for the remainder of the mid-series pause. You can view our analysis of the trail elsewhere on the blog, but for now, let’s look at the month in review…

You realise that fandom has taken an almight leap back into its own innocent youth when, in the midst of a spoiler thread about the reappearance of certain OS icons, someone pipes up the sort of comment that’s only a few crucial details away from being an opinion:

Still, at least they’ll freely admit to being wrong. But honestly, what are we teaching the kids, eh? Etc.

The Official Site’s tribute to last weekend’s musical
interlude. We’re thinking the heading probably sounded better said aloud.


Ugh. You know how it is when your fannish enthusiasm overtakes the niceties of Net life. News rolls in as you wake to it and, bleary-eyed, medicated and in a back brace compose a feverish epistle to the apostles. Tired and emotional, before you know it you’ve forgotten to check a nearby DWM for spelling, and you hit Publish. Then someone like Love and Garbage alerts everyone to the oversight. Excellent pwnage, dude. No really – we’re just happy to have been Googled.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Editor of Her Majesty’s Fanzine called for reviewers for series four for TSV 76, sure to come out some time after Journey’s End you would think. Here at ZeusBlog Terraces we think the job has been half done already, with the TSV Message Board already filling with regular viewers clamouring to be the early bird for each individual episode. Surely all that remains is some prudent editing of those comments (a vertitable round robin) and a sorting of who’s to be up for the job. We did the maths already in a handy Olympic-themed chart, running from Gold (first review per story) through to Silver and then Bronze of course. Here’s how it looked halfway through series four, including the mid-series trail. As you can see there’s a clear advantage to Darrell P and Jon P, but the game’s being joined more recently by the likes of Wade C (currently in the UK), and there are a few others unnamed bobbing along under the vital top three. At the top though, it’s pretty bloody and it could go to the wire. There’ll be tears before bedtime, we’re sure.