Spotted at birthday celebrations at a pub in Chiswick…
Spotted at birthday celebrations at a pub in Chiswick…
You know how it is with buses – you wait for one, then two appear, then some dockers drop a container on it. So it is with ZeusBlog reviews – except for the bit about the dockers, hopefully. Here’s our fly boy Foo with his Doctor Who review…
Format wise, I’ve stolen from Jono, but hey, it makes it easier for me!
Loved it. Almost.
The juxtaposition of Earth and the alien planet was very well done – almost a way of splitting the Doctor and companion without actually splitting them. I really like the idea of Doctor Who trying out different things and believe it keeps the series fresh and alive – stories like Midnight, Turn Left, Love & Monsters and Blink are all a bit left of centre and this story partially fits into this category.
Dubai – sand is sand is sand. But, it does feel that little bit extra special when you know it is foreign sand rather than British sand. I think the on location aspect did add something, but maybe next time we’ll get a little culture thrown in as well as per Arc of Infinity or The Two Doctors.
A very fun and fast paced episode that for me, blew three of the previous specials out of the water and left me yearning for more…roll on The Waters of Mars. I also had a little chill run down my back at the “He will knock four times” line at the end of the story. Brilliant stuff.
UNIT, they should be tougher than the 70’s crew but in Planet of the Dead, they don’t feel like it. Thinking about UNIT’s treatment of Tosh in Torchwood adds to the tough as nails impression, but in PotD they fail to deliver. The exception to this was Captain Magambo threatening Malcolm with a gun…hmm; I don’t recall the Brig ever doing that to the Doctor!
It also bugged me about the way UNIT seems to regard the Doctor as a god like figure. I would have thought they weren’t his biggest fan. Now, I’m not sure why I feel this and perhaps it should be the other way round as the Doctor isn’t too enamoured with military organisations.
Lady Christina de Souza had shades of Romana which I understand was the general idea but she doesn’t seem to have a returning companion aspect. While she showed promise, I think a little more meat in the script would have helped Michelle Ryan.
With Russell and Gareth co-writing this episode, I didn’t know what to expect. I love Gareth’s novels, loathed The Shakespeare Code and loved The Unicorn and the Wasp, so wondered how the two would bounce off each others. I think that having a co-writer tempers some of Russell’s more extremes and wish that we had more examples to see if this makes stories better or worse.
A solid plot and prior to screening, Gareth had made much of there being many disparate elements that work well together. I think the many plates being spun do work; however a little more complexity would have been nice. Yes, it was a romp, but can’t we have more detailed brush strokes?
The people on the bus seemed a bit lacklustre – it felt like they were secondary to the main action and more of an afterthought. An attempt to relate to viewers as being normal, everyday people was done, but they simply came off as feeling 2D.
While the first half to two thirds was engaging, as was the conclusion, about two thirds of the way through I found things began to drag. I didn’t feel on the edge of my seat as I had for, say, The Next Doctor. While it picked up towards the end, the special effects were good but we have seen better. I always think that the specials should stand head and shoulders over other episodes, but for me, they rarely do. The twee ending with UNIT standing around clapping and Lady Christina flying away didn’t help either.
Another review I read said Planet of the Dead was as hollow as an Easter egg. I see it more as a Cadbury creme egg where someone has stolen a third of the filling. More yolk next time please! Thinking about it more and more, I realise I didn’t love it as much as I thought I did. It’s solid, but also very average. I’m really looking forward to the descending darkness of the last three specials and expect this in turn to be swept away by a new Doctor, companion and Executive Producer.
I’ve been reading a lot of reviews on Ain’t It Cool recently, so in the interests of brevity, I’m stealing their format:
The kick-off – I have a soft spot for the ‘hit-the-ground-running’ format that seems to start each new series, and this was no exception. Yes the ‘Tomb Raider’ start was a bit lame (why the OTT security around a cup!), once the bus comes into the picture. Nice to see some good aerial shots of London too. Maybe I’m biased, but it’s a great city to look at.
Malcolm – He might have come across a bit like a diminutive Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill but what a great little character to turn up, and certainly one of the more brighter parts of the episode.
HD – Yay! Finally Doctor Who looks filmic!
Michelle Ryan – she looks good in black, but where was the chemistry that was supposed to be prevalent through the show? Some reviewers are raving about Lady Christina… I just didn’t see it. Ryan certainly gave the episode some glamour, but some of the dialogue was spoken like a first read-through, and the all-action anti-hero was more like ‘bird on a wire’. She isn’t any more the Doctor’s match than Rose, Donna or River Song. Disappointing
Location – some shots looked fantastic, but when the vistas are enhanced with CGI storms, you can’t help but feel that they could have filmed this on a beach.
Effects – a mixed bag. Loved the skeleton coming out of the wormhole… very creepy. The cityscape was also good, even if shown on a screen. The metal creatures… not so much. The bus… see below.
The Bus – or specifically, the bus when it was off the ground. Good grief, you can tell that the production time was short on this one. The bus looked horrible when it started to fly, with no sense of scale (in fact it looked strangely small) and an almost pixellated look. Even worse was the ‘critter swatting’ moment – nice idea, but just so badly executed.
The Tease – yes it creates a good atmosphere for the rest of the specials, but having the Doctor forewarned AGAIN by someone with psychic powers (after the Face of Boe, the soothsayers, the Ood) is getting a bit ho-hum for my liking. A story arc should be more than just ‘by the way, something’s coming’ – which is why I think I enjoyed the Mr Saxon storyline so much… it wasn’t so much ‘Beware of Mr Saxon, Doctor’, rather hints and subtle mentions that slowly built to a climax. This clunked.
The Plotholes – erm… given that the wormhole destroys flesh but not bone, and only gives a London bus a dent or two… can I suggest that maybe a metal tow-rope might have been a reasonable idea?
It’s not that I’m not grateful for a new episode on our screens – I am. It’s great. But when a much-hyped special (following a much hyped special) has two writers, overseas locations and an international guest star… but is only on par with middling episodes from a regular series, then I feel like we’re getting short-changed.
By the looks of the Waters of Mars trailer though, hopefully by November Planet of the Dead will be but a distant half-forgotten memory.
…we have a Water Of Mars cloister bell a-coming. (inviso-text for those who don’t want to be spoiled)
Full review of Planet of the Dead to come…
After a fourteen month wait between issues, any negative review seems like kicking an invalid while he’s down, but with TSV’s letters page gone without trace, and this issue release provoking barely a ripple of comment on the boards, TSV’s readership seems to have checked their critical faculties at the door. (with rare exceptions) This seems a shame as silence may be interpreted as assent.
Once again we have a wrap-around colour cover. Opinion may be divided on the merits of the artwork, apparently done as a “rush job” at least six months ago (described by one fan as “Peter Davidson, his ventriloquist’s dummy, and a wall of floating heads”; and by another as “the baby-poo brown issue”), but the real concern is if any visual advantage is offset by the loss of 12 pages of material. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great for a special issue, but given the time, effort and cost, (and that there only seem to be a couple of contributors willing to do it) is it really justified?
Inside we have a lovely caricature of Tony Hadoke warming his hands between sets (no, I know it isn’t, but two other readers thought of it independently), before launching into the “chunky” articles that dominate the issue. First up we have a series of Season 4 reviews by Mark Searl and Tom Reilly. But while it’s great to see new blood and critical opinion, I just get the nagging feeling I’ve seen a lot of this perspective before (even with RTP! wisely pulling the plug on its reviews last season). Mark Searl’s pieces particularly may have benefited from a “season as a whole” overview rather than repeating complaints over episodes. It would be good to see more from these two, but with tighter editing and an understanding that brevity and conciseness are essential in any “hit and run” or drive-by shooting. (And was the font made bigger so that each one would take up about a page or two?)
Preddle at Pendraw Place was a nice, very personal piece of work. If the editorial staff are keen to introduce a greater UK perspective to the dusty old NZDWFC zine more of this kind of thing would work nicely. Full marks.
Now on the other hand, pass me the hobnail boots as we deal with the Radio Times Reflections. Be assured none of the following it a criticism of author Richard Allison, whose writing style is inclusive, light hearted and flowing – the problem is that the concept of the articles themselves seems flawed. (I use the plural because the way it reads this is implied to be the first of a series.) I’m not going to harp on about what this is doing in a New Zealand fanzine (although the question about this and the TARDIS Has Landed in Kent would be valid), or that it’s not particularly topical (although this also would be true), or even that each issue summary seems to take up more space than entire novels in the PDA article, or even the annual reviews when a similar thing was tried there (although again this would be a valid point). The real problem is that, in an issue heralding online content this is the article that would be perfectly suited to being online, with the ability to link to high-res colour scans and illustrations, rather than printing highly reduced in black and white on the printed page. It is a waste of space – and I don’t mean that nastily. It could be better used elsewhere and feels like filler.(although it is worth noting that at the time of writing the “online” content wasn’t actually “online” yet.)
We then roll into the feature interviews of the issue, starting with Peter Davidson – The TSV Interview. This piece was surprisingly refreshing in its outlook, focusing on Davidson’s recent work in Time Crash, and his perspective on the new series rather than well worn anecdotes from 25 years ago. The only fault with this is that in some points it highlighted the age of the interview (the Georgina Moffet comments particularly), and it’s presented in an odd style that, while avoiding the traditional question/answer format, does seem to let the interviewer’s questions and comments run into those of the subject, making difficult to see in places where the interviewer’s supposition stops, and the interviewee’s comments start.
This problem also permeates Tony Hadoke – Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, although it seems less noticeable in the shear verbiage of the piece. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hadoke and enjoy his work, but even with this the interview seems to ramble (I shudder to think what anyone who didn’t have context to hang all this on would’ve made of it). Some more comments and observations on the series itself or his Who (non-acting) background would’ve made it more accessible, and while it was great for him to offer up so much time and effort for us, as he himself notes – sometimes cutting out stuff you love is the key to success.
(It’s also interesting to note that the two interviews are of different font sizes. It seems odd that the shorter interview was in a smaller print while the longer one was much bigger – seems like padding).
Sandwiched between the interviews is a local Con report, which again, age does not help (almost bang on a year); but also highlights what a missed opportunity it was not to interview Kate Orman and John Blum while they were about.
In the home straight is the last instalment of Chris Skerrow’s PDA articles, and it closes the series nicely. I don’t think any of us would begrudge the amount of effort and time re-reading all these novels must have taken, and I look forward to Chris’s next, hopefully less mammoth (for his sake) work.
The issue rounds off with a short story by Lorna Fleming. It is great to see fiction making its way back into the pages of the fanzine, although I am hoping for a slightly meatier plot next time.
But perhaps the most worrying thing about the issue occurs on the last page. While you can draw your own conclusions about the need for a third editorial set of hands (realisation that quicker turnaround is needed, or more basic executive grooming?), there seems a tacit acknowledgement that we’ve slipped again from being bi-annual to now “once a year (twice if we’re lucky)” …and nunce if we’re not. And given that one has to ask whether the latest issue suggests if it really is worth the wait?
(Note: as an aside I’ve also noticed the subscriptions page seem to have fallen off the website – is this also a sign of executive thinking?)
The following article was originally published in Baz! No. 1
It could be said that we get the Doctors we deserve. We certainly seem to get the man for the age – each Time Lord to date has been, unavoidably, a fair representation of his creators’ and audience’s times – the Sixties hobo, the Seventies Soho, the Noughties Emo. But spare a thought for the early-decaders, the cusp-trippers who have one foot in each decade; is Pertwee truly indicative of the era that kicked off just as he did? Isn’t Hartnell more a symptom of repressed post-war Fifties UK than fellow traveller to his swinging successor? And didn’t fan necromancy make the seventh Doctor more a Nineties antihero than an Eighties one? Indeed, it was as recently as January that next-up honcho Steven Moffat described Colin Baker as ‘The Eighties’. There’s no denying Tom was The Seventies – he nearly spanned the decade, but where does that leave Peter Davison’s Fifth Doctor? Well…
I’ve come to believe that some Doctors are less spectacle than place-keeper. For better or worse and surely not with intent, their lot is to warm the benches – Ecclestone will soon be all but forgotten, McGann now exists almost purely as a fan construct. Pity the poor sod who had to follow Tom Baker’s reign of tenure – and yet for the Fifth Doctor much of what went before is what makes this incarnation. He is the deliberate antithesis of what came before, stripped of colour and anarchy, studied and mannered, lost in a crowded TARDIS. His regeneration begins, fittingly, with an identity crisis and the unravelling of his predecessor’s visual touchstones, and we’d not see a frock coat, big hair or shouting until his innings were done and the next man was up. He is the rest between gulps, the smoothing of the pitch.
There’s an unsure quality built in to the Fifth Doctor, as if the man doesn’t quite believe he is who he is supposed to be. Likely the actor wasn’t entirely sure, employed to be ‘not Tom’ and soon to discover that contrary to expectations he was also to be ‘not Bill’ and ‘not Pat’, and so we are left with a performance which never takes off, never finds itself for three years. There’s little to pin on this Doctor; no wonder what he got literally was virtual celery, the calorie-less vegetable. He also got swamped – by companions (the mouth, the nerd, the skirt), by attempts at sexed-up science, by his predecessors and in the case of his new script editor, by his guest stars. The caricature of most Doctors, the early ones at least, is usually a scene stealing, attention grabber; but that’s not the case of the Fifth Doctor – he is incapable of stealing the show, it isn’t in his nature. So we get the other caricature – the Wet Vet, the reactor rather than the achiever. Bad things happen and people suffer or worse.
Still, perhaps blending in with one’s surroundings can be the smartest thing to do – it certainly never hurt the actor’s career to be identified less with the role. But try as I might I can’t get ‘behind’ this Doctor. He is age-wise my Doctor, of course, but I could never claim to be entraced, frustrated, entertained by this quite inoffensive and powerless version. And I can’t shake a feeling of unease every time the man who portrays him falls back on the easy head shaking mock weariness when discussing or contemplating his garish replacement. I don’t want to say I don’t like this incarnation, but I do find him unremarkable, a strange idol for the manic man-child of the hour. Edwardian in dress and manner, he is Eliot’s Prufrock at the TARDIS helm. On the cusp of something, perhaps, but defined as in his fate by the things over which he has the least control.
It’s April. Still, better late than Neville! (sorry Neville)
No Funny Things Happened on the way to this Forum
Forget your mystery casting and trailers - this was the big news of the month, and it’s sad news. The Restoration Team forum, once established as a venue for discussion of the technical side of recovering DW’s past, is no more from 1 April, having lost the War on Personal Abuse and Constant Questions About Fan Animations. A real pity, as it was a great service and probably did more to explain a lot of bewildering terms surrounding the work of the Team than many a DWM feature. Alas, the constant verbotening of speculation of future stories plus the veto on discussing releases in common knowledge but not yet advertised by 2Entertain meant a lot of thumb-twiddling and attempts to focus on those pesky occasional techie questions. Really, it’s a shame and deserves better coverage than a flippant monthly column like this one. Hopefully the likes of the future DVDs forum at the DW Forum will cater for those more fannish inquisitions in the future, and those more earnest and scholarly technical discussions can carry on elsewhere, unmolested.
Mind you, we only ever visited it for the future speculation ourselves…
Vote Billie in the FH[o Hu]M 100!
Mm. Yeah. See, if it featured the series’ other ‘Billy’, then we might have a story (albeit one that didn’t really demand pictures). Here it’s kinda dull. But nice try Kasterborous.
No Flies on Them!
Den of Geek called it – or near as dammit, with Easter Saturday being when we (oops, we mean the UK!) get to visit the Planet of the Deads! Everyone else of course will just have to wait a day or so for the torrents. A-harr!
And speaking of behind the times on everything, let’s get rid of one inevitable mash-up while we can…
DWM 405 missing from subscriptions shock! gate.
See? Fandom does give a toss about print media!
Old Rusty seemingly made little attempt to cover up his comic-reading past in the series to date what with the likes of Max Normal in Gridlock, the plot of a JudgeDredd story (‘Sob Story’, Prog 131 for those of you playing at home) in Gridlock and the designs for Satan being supposedly based on the art of Simon Bisley (though I have to admit I didn’t see it myself) BUT who could have guessed he was also in his time a Dungeons and Dragons playa? Well, it was probably obvious – coming of age in the late Seventies, early Eighties, it was kind of de rigeur in a loveable Old School way. But we digress. You want proof? Here’s a Berbalang from the Fiend Folio (and White Dwarf 11), next to a friend of more recent years…
Fast forward to White Dwarf’s Fly Man, and… well, you see where we’re going?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Mister RTD. Ahem. PitchBlackTremorsTheFlyBadCityBlueandJudgeDredd’sTheHuntingPartyABus?AreYouMad?AndEvenThisCloseToYourOwnEpisodeMidnight?!!!
Ooh, that felt better.