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Under The Lake

under lake

I’ve not exactly been on the Toby Whithouse hype-train. He seems to get a lot of support as a possible show runner out there, and whilst I know he can do great things (Being Human), his Who work has rarely fully grabbed me. He’s not written ‘bad’ episodes, but also, out of the four he penned prior to ‘Under The Lake’, only one, ‘God Complex’, got me all ‘ooh!’ with little reservation. I mean, OF COURSE I loved all the Sarah Jane stuff in ‘School Reunion’, but outside of that, the episode didn’t do a whole lot.

So how did I take to this, the fifth episode by Whithouse? I really rather enjoyed it. I don’t think it topples (so far) ‘God Complex’, but it certainly did more for me than his other stories. And who knows? This is only half a story, perhaps when I’ve seen it all it will clamber up to top spot…

Part one is basically a classic Who base-under-siege set-up, and was much sparser than the opening two episodes. To sell spooky, you need that atmosphere, those drawn out moments. You need to have the space to build atmosphere, and this episode pared things down to give that necessary atmosphere room to build.

At the moment, having only seen the thing once, I do feel a little outside of the party. I’ve read and listened to lots of raves for this episode, and although I enjoyed it, I felt this was a solid 7/10 sort of an episode. It wasn’t distinctive enough to really step up any further. I mean, after you watched the last couple of episodes, there were so many moments, scenes, lines and ideas that you could gabble about after; with this episode, there was much less.

Now again, the need to build that spooky atmosphere meant you couldn’t throw too much at us, but it does mean that what you do give us has to be distinctive and strong. A lot of this felt like a retread of the familiar. Done very, very well, mind you, but adding little new or surprising to the mix.

By the looks of things, part two may well take the story into that more distinctive area I think it needs to pull the story up a few notches.

My slight reservations about this episode aside, there’s no doubt season nine has gotten off to a great start, probably the most enjoyable opening trio of episodes to a Moffat season since 5. This was another very solid, enjoyable, if not quite top-tier episode. Let’s hope the finale of this story finishes hard and brings that extra, distinctive flavour to make this one something special. If nothing else, this episode made me super-intrigued to see where things go next.

YAY!

Clara’s cards teaching the Doc how to speak to normal people. FUNNY. And did you spot the poignant nod to a certain Sarah Jane Smith…?

A genuinely creepy feel at times. I do love a bit of creepy in Who.

Loved the big close-ups on eyes as the alien words were reflected across. Also, great idea that the only people the ghosts could kill were those that had looked upon the words.

The ghosts whispering words you couldn’t hear: really cool, creepy stuff.

The ‘ghosts’ looked awesome. And a great use of CGI. Not building creatures from scratch, but accentuating a real person. Ghost Doctor under the water was a particularly effective moment.

Capaldi is again just so natural in the role. No moment feels false or forced. His giddiness upon deciding the ghosts are, actually, ghosts is wonderful.

The Sonic Sunglasses are back! And useful.

Great to have a deaf character, and for her to be important and in charge. And also for the show not to make a big deal out of it.

Who is in the suspended animation pod? Must be the Doctor, right..? Schrödinger’s Doctor.

Nice to see the Doctor was back to being a little bit brusk with normal people once surrounded by them again. I had slightly worried that we’d lose too much of that spikey twelfth Doctor, good to see that spike and awkwardness is still present.

One fresh feeling element was the Doctor’s decision at the end to go back in time to see how this all started. And so we will get a part 2 set mostly before part 1. That’s a really interesting and new feeling way to approach a two parter and I’m all for it.

Not Penny’s boat.

Pritchard’s death was very effective. Trapped in the airlock, water rushing in, and then we cut to a different room and he slowly turns around, a ghost. Brrr…!

Hmm…

Some of the wider casts performances were a little… sub par..? Several lines just not sold at all. Dropped from mouths to flap around listlessly on the ground like dying fish.

Another Doctor fangirl? Really? Don’t we already have Osgood? (Who, in fact, returns in a few episodes!) This felt a little much. How much better, in the context of a spooky story, if her knowledge of who he is doesn’t lead to big grins and fanish bleatings, and instead to yet a further realisation of how much trouble they’re in? If you know of the Doctor, then you know he helps, and is brilliant, but you also know that lots of death is a-coming.

When you have this ace plan and the ghosts are chasing your crew, maybe pay attention and close those doors a little bit quicker? A little hustle, people! In fact this whole trap should’ve been much more frantic and scary than it was. Instead, it was rather laboured and flat.

‘I want to kiss it to death..!’ Brilliant line in the trailer, kinda stood out as a bit weird and ‘huh?’ in the actual episode.

The answer to what they were whispering seemed a bit of a …. stretch?

****

So that’s a quarter of season nine whizzed by, then. I know! And it’s been a strong opening, for sure. Can the rest of the season carry on this run of form?

@doctorwhothing

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The Witch’s Familiar

witch

WELL.

Welly, well, well. That was quite something, wasn’t it? Best two parter since The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang…? (YUP). And like that story, Moffat pulls a quite different second episode out of the hat. If episode one had a lot of Universe hopping, colour, and whizz-bangness, this episode narrowed its focus somewhat for a deeper, more contemplative forty five minutes.

If you’re interested, and I KNOW YOU ARE, here’s how I thought this opening story stacked up against Moffat’s other season openers.

The Eleventh Hour: I mean, how could this ever be toppled?

The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar: Read this page.

The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon:Moon doesn’t quite live up to the first episode, but still, WOW.

Deep Breath: Fourth, and yet I love it. Kinda tells the story of how ace Moff is at opening seasons, that.

Asylum of the Daleks: Bottom, but still lots to love. It’s just that damn fool ‘the Pond’s are splitting’ thread that pulls it down, really. I mean COME ON, was anyone really buying that baloney?

Moffat has been writing for Doctor Who for ten years now, and he can still pull out a story like this. By rights he should be rolling out tired old shite by now, but nope. The show still inspires him. That’s why he doesn’t want to go yet, he knows he still has scares to tell.

YAY!

‘Am I a good man?’ Oh no he didn’t! That was a real slap round the face when old no-legs said that.

Davros opened his FREAKING EYES. Daw. His sad, tiny little peepers. It felt at once awww and ewww. Unnatural. What a moment.

I saw someone mention that the rotten Daleks from the sewers, newly regen-powered up, taking out the Daleks above was a crappy Deus ex machina. No. You are a dumb-stupid. Please, fans, Google what Deus ex machina actually means. You are making yourself look daft.

Missy and a pointy stick.

How beautiful did those classic old blue Daleks look? I mean just gorgeous.

When Missy is recounting a past adventure, and we skip through a few Doctor’s before she decides to settle on Capaldi’s. GLORIOUS. 9Even if they looked nothing like who they were supposed to be…..)

Clara was hooked up as a Dalek when they were leaching some of the Doctor’s regeneration power, so… did she get a wee top up to? Or did it not affect her because she isn’t a Dalek? I guess we’ll find out.

‘Just the Doctor and Clara in the TARDIS, same old same old’ kinda seemed odd in the trailer. But in context, a mini-air punch of a moment.

Missy had a Daughter? Well obviously it’s Maisie Williams. (NO)

Ooh, the FEELS as Clara stepped into that Dalek casing. Asylum flashbacks ago-go. And when she opens the casing at the end, and the Doc cradles her big, sad face in his hands…. lovely.

‘Davros, your sewers are revolting!’ Cue slide whistle.

Missy always doing things ‘cos bananas. Attempting to get the Doctor to exterminate Dalek-Clara, just for shits ‘n giggles. 

Moffat loves to shed old things in a new light, or add to what we know, or think we know. Here, we realise when a Dalek says ‘Exterminate’, it actually might be saying a whole heap of other words. Or reloading. And that the casing basically strips the creature of individuality. It does not have a name, it is just a Dalek. That whole scene was funny and scary at the same time. Genuinely unnerving.

Clara says the Doctor is the last person she would ever kill… Foreshadowing, or nothing…?

I was right about how Missy and Clara survived, and about just what the Doc was gonna exterminate. ME SO SMART.

Julian Bleach. I mean… he IS Davros. Awesome work.

The Doctor walking hand in hand into the mist with little Davros at the end. Lovely.

Of COURSE it will be compassion that does for the Doctor in the end.

Capaldi was amazing, again. A Doctor prepared to die, if needs be, to atone for not living up to being the Doctor when he walked away from helping a small boy, to a man not prepared to go quietly once his friend gets pulled in.

I choose to believe that, when Capaldi is getting his neck squeezed by snakes, that face he pulls is a knowing nod to:

pert cap

pertwee nest

HMM

Okay, either my telly, or my ears, are crap, or someone needs to sort the audio levels out. There was one bit in the sewers where I couldn’t make out a word of Missy’s dialogue.

Missy kinda jabbed holes in that Dalek with her broach a little easily.

Where my Paradigm Daleks at?

Colony Sarff was given sort shrift this episode. A few crucial snakey moments, but mostly a forgotten character.

When Missy and Dalek-Clara return in ep two, the Supreme Dalek fella doesn’t seem to recognise Missy as the woman he just exterminated earlier. Goldfish memory?

I kinda wanted to see the Special Weapons Dalek blow the shit out of something. Oh well. Sad face.

****

Doctor Who, man. Best Dalek story since season one? Quite probably! Genuinely a little sad that a section of fans will watch this two part story and get nothing from it. How? HOW????

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The Magician’s Apprentice

capclarared

HOLY CRAP.

What was that?! It was just SO MUCH. It was a bit like having The Pandorica Opens as the season opener. I’m not gonna lie, I really need to see it again to get any settled, strong opinions. Need to let it all simmer and settle. I NEED TO SEE PART TWO! Perhaps more so than most two-parters, I need the full picture.

Okay, so here are a few (slightly half-formed….) (okay, very half-formed) first thoughts after watching this crazy beast just the once.

My main takeaway is that it was like the dark, deep season 8, coupled with the wild colour of season 5. Yes, dark AND colourful. The double. Moffat is taking everything he’s done and squishing it into one. It’s a giant, bold way to open a season. It takes no prisoners and doesn’t gently hold the hand of any newcomers. (And is Who the ONLY show that reviewers obsessively worry about what new viewers will make of it?)( They’ll think ‘What the heck was that pile of crazy? I need to catch up.’ Give ’em SOME credit, guyz.) (Alright, alright, if it neglects new fans, it’ll die. I get it.)(But also, COME ON.)(Has this got annoying yet?)(Yes?)(Okay, I’ll stop.)

(Not yet)

(Now?)

(FINE.)

Was it all a bit TOO MUCH to open with? It certainly ran at you screaming and waving its arms, it was quite discombobulating in a way. It was also a new, fresh feeling way to open. Moffat does like to change things up. If RTD liked a series to have a familiar flow to it, Moffat is the opposite. Change is his familiar. It does make me wonder, if this is where we start, where the heck is this season going to take us next?! 

Moffat’s Who is a big tangled mess of time, of cause and effect. This story was another dive into that sort of story. This can annoy some, confuse others, but I love it. No good or bad deed goes unpunished. You can’t just hop around in time for centuries without kicking over a few stools that you’ll end up tripping over later.

In terms of Moffat season openers, I’d currently place this above Asylum of the Daleks, and then… hmm…. possibly above Deep Breath? Nothing will usurp the Eleventh Hour, and I think The Impossible Astronaut thrilled me more completely on first watch. Let’s see how I feel upon second viewing, and after part two completes the story.

Oh, and remember when the first episode of a season was ‘New Earth’? Different show, mate. Different show.

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YAY!

DAVROS DAVROS DAVROS DAVROS. I LOVE Davros, okay? It’s been WAY too long since his last visit, and Julian Bleach was, once again, awesome. Unfortunately, the return of Davros was spoiled for me. A few hours before broadcast, someone found a pic of Davros and Twelve from the episode and tweeted it. Yes, some people really are total dicks. So a lot of the WAAAA?! OOOOH! OH MA GAAAAAAAAAAAD! of it all was stolen from me. But still… DAVROS.

The ‘hand-mines’. I mean, what on Earth? But also ‘wow’! And creepy as all hell. The opening, with young Davros, was wonderfully atmospheric and fantastical. It was Who meets a Del Toro film.  Seems like Skaro had a taste for mixing weaponry and the organic even before Daleks were developed.

Speaking of which…. Skaro! That beautiful Dalek city. And we got some classic era Daleks, including that sexy swine, the Special Weapons Dalek.

“Unlimited rice pudding!” Oh, I did snigger when I heard that. Davros is obviously a fan of watching classic Who. Though only the stories featuring him, the big headed so-and-so.

CLIFFHANGERS! Are there many things more lovely than a Doctor Who cliffhanger? And how wonderful that this season is so two-part heavy, ‘cos it means we’re gunna get a butt-load of cliffs to hang from.

The look on the Doctor’s face when that wee boy tells him his name…. Did the Doctor play a part in making Davros who he is?

The old ‘You would make a good Dalek’ thread continues to develop, with the Doctor holding the pepperpots own weapon and preparing to ‘Exterminate’… or is he..? I have theories, people! (Basically, no, I don’t believe he’s about to frazzle Davros Jr.)

Capaldi, man. CAPALDI! Have we ever seen a Doctor take such a journey? Develop and change so much over the course of his run? This isn’t just the actor getting used to the role, this is purposeful development. We have moved into peak Twelve, he’s a Doctor fully bloomed. The difference between the short-haired, severe Doc in, say, Into the Dalek, and the one we have now. Talk about a journey. We get everything in here, the funny, the wildness, the dramatic chops, the sense of loss, terror, shame. Capaldi can do everything.

Playing Pretty Woman when he saw Clara. The charming devil.

The Master/Doctor relationship. He sent her his final confession! His best and oldest friend. (Missy. Master. Missy. Master. Can we just call her by her proper title, now? She’s THE MASTER)

Gomez was superb again. So bonkers, then cruel, then funny, then everything at once. “Davros is your arch-enemy now? I’ll scratch his eye out.”  “How’s your boyfriend? Still tremendously dead?” She really gets some terrific lines, and Gomez delivers them all with aplomb. And, being the Master, of course she can’t resist attempting a bit of the old double-cross when Daleks and the TARDIS turn up.

The return of the hug agenda.

Colony Sarff was suitably creepy, gross looking, and the effect when his face twisted and he turned into a big ‘ol pile of snakes… coooooooool. And yuck. I bet that had a few wee ones shivering when they went to bed that night. (And was I the only one who couldn’t help but think ‘MARA!’ as the main snake reared up. Yeah, I knew it wasn’t. Didn’t stop me squeeing.)

Loved the Universe-wide jaunt, searching for the Doctor. Seeing the wider universe of Who.

The Doctor was afforded two different and equally ace entrance scenes. One dark, one pure, unbridled joy. Again, can you imagine early Capaldi rocking that axe? How far he’s come. And can you imagine any other recent Doctor getting away with that entrance? It just feels like it would be toe curling with Tennant or Smith attempting it…! At first I thought they’d thrown the switch too far the other way, but then Clara only went and addressed it and it was made clear just why he was behaving so. Good stuff.

cap road

HMM…

There were a few edit and sound issues for me. Weird late cuts. Strange shot choices. Hard to hear lines. Stuff like that.

It was kinda a bit much to take in comfortably on first watch. I really feel like I need a second watch. I felt ATTACKED.

Didn’t it, you know, destroy more or less everything last time someone had the bright idea of blowing up the TARDIS?

Looked a bit parky in UNIT HQ. Health and safety in the workplace nightmare, that. Maybe consider an office relocation, before someone catches their death.

Kate Stewart. I mean. *shrugs*. Underplayed to a fault. I get it, she’s supposed to be normal, unimpressed, straight ahead, but come on, inject a little personality. A little *something*.

As I said, it reeeaaaalllly feels like an episode that I can’t fully contend with until I’ve seen the whole picture. So come at me, The Witches Familiar.

(I reckon I know haw Clara & Missy survive (Missy basically tells us earlier..!), and just what the Doc is about to do with that gun. I wonder if I’ll be right? I’ll let you know next time….)

***

Doctor Who is back, guys. DOCTOR WHO.

@doctorwhothing

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Season 9

cap9

Hey Doctor Who nerds, guess what?

IT’S ALMOST HERE.

Oh my God…

Oh my God….

And so on.

Cap red hanSeason 9 of Doctor Who (yes, season nine, not 35, nerd!) is almost ready to sit on our chests and tweak our noses until we scream and cry for mummy. Which episode will be this years ‘Listen’? Or this years ‘Time Heist’….? I have a strange feeling that this run, with its multitude of two parters (and even a few lady types brought in from the cold to pen an episode or two) is going to be something quite special. That this will be the Capaldi era unleashed fully.

Just look at him there. How much does that picture scream I AM THE DOCTOR?

What are we going to get? Hm? By all accounts, the first episode is a mad, whirling beast.

Of course, one thing we know for sure (for probably sure) is that this will be Clara’s last run (oh ya-boo-shucks to you Clara haters)(I mean, up to you, obvs)(personal taste and all that)(and so on). She’s been AMAZING, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how Moffat handles her exit. So to speak.

So yes. Yes, yes. It’s a-coming. BRAND NEW DOCTOR WHO. Ah, the sweetest four words known to man. Well, ‘free money and chocolate’ is also a pretty good. 

What are YOU looking forward to most, hm? Apart from Capaldi’s MASSIVE HAIR, obviously.

GO AWAY.

@doctorwhothing

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Strangling Peri

six

“Hi… uh, my name is Matthew and… I sort of like ‘The Twin Dilemma’…”

Stop throwing that hot garbage at me!

Look, I KNOW it places bottom in most polls, and I KNOW it’s not actually ‘good’ in the most conventional (or, well,  ‘correct’) sense of the word, but every time I watch it I enjoy the heck out of the thing. More so than, say, the deadly dull ‘Frontios’, or the even duller ‘Planet of The Spiders’, for example. Mostly, this is down to Colin Baker BLOODY WELL GOING FOR IT. He does not shuffle onto the stage uncertainly, he ROARS in like a bloody maniac. Good on you, son!

ANYWAY.

I’m not here to try and defend Twin and my wrong-headed enjoyment of it, just one infamous scene. A scene that is constantly pinpointed by fans as a massive ‘mistake’: the newly regenerated Doctor giving Peri’s neck meat a bit of a squeeze.

I LOVE this.

Talk about a way to slap your viewers right across their pampered, preconception-reddened cheeks. Peter Davison, that lovely young man, just gave up his ‘life’ for this woman, and now this usurper is trying to strangle her?!

It knocks you off-centre, and it’s darn well supposed to. It’s purpose is to jolt you and make you question this new maniac who seems to have replaced the friendly, decent chap we’ve grown cosy-comfortable with. Colin Baker here was resolutely NOT comfortable.

GOOD.

New Doctor, throw the switch the other way and shake things up. It has to be different otherwise why bother changing the Doctor at all?

It’s an exciting, surprising moment; a modern equivalent (-ish) moment would be in Capaldi’s first episode, apparently leaving Clara to her doom in the robot’s lair. The last chap would never have done that! What the heck is going on here?! Of course not long after he returns heroically, turns out he never went far, but still, for a few minutes there you’ve been gut-punched.

And by giving that example, we get to the real issue with the Doctor strangling Peri. The mistake was not the moment itself, that moment is new and thrilling and completely unexpected. No, the mistake is that the story failed to turn us round on the Doctor sufficiently by the stories end. To show he was still the same man we knew him to be. Capaldi got to come back and be a hero, Baker doesn’t really get that quick turnaround in the story, certainly not with Peri. He continues to be untrustworthy, cowardly, un-heroic, and we’re left at the end of the story (and the end of the season!) without a real sense of closure on that attempted strangulation. The audience is left unsure.

That is the real ‘fault’ here, not the strangulation scene itself, or the desire to show a larger, more volatile Doctor. The modern show got it right with Capaldi’s Doc and made sure we had some moments to grab on to, to tell us it was going to be alright. Allowed him to be vulnerable. And that’s all that was needed here. Just a glimpse or two more of the hero, and, most importantly, a clear sense of the unbroken friendship between Sixie & Peri. 

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Listen: or ‘HOLY CRAP-ON-A-CRACKER, IT’S AMAZING-!’

Listen

Listen…

LISTEN

Good Lordy Lord. As I believe the kids would say, ‘I can’t even?!?!’

Ladies and gents, we have a new classic on our hands. For me, this is one of the finest episodes of modern Who. In fact, of all Who. After the credits rolled I actually had to stand and pace the room, my insides were juddering; this was something special. With this episode, Moffat once again confirms why, when he’s firing on all cylinders, he’s one of the very best writers Who has ever had. Perhaps even the best. Yeah, you heard me Holmes fans..! (Yes, yes, Holmes is bloody brilliantly amazing too, alright?! They’re both champs! Holding hands (perhaps kissing) atop Mount Who)  He can just make any surrounding episodes look resolutely ordinary.

‘Listen’ is all about fear; more specifically it’s about childhood fear, fear of the nothing, fear of the illogical, fear of the dark and what might be quietly waiting in there, looking back at us. Childhood fears can be irrational, imaginary, and grip like a vice. They can bubble up and affect us as adults, you never fully leave them behind, and in the Doctor’s case it seems it can actually shape who you are and how you choose to live. The Doctor became a man who rather than give in to fear, rather than spend his life crying in the dark, will make a point of leaping into shadowed corners waving a stick around, just to see what might come slithering out. He’s learned to refuse to let his fear debilitate him, for the Doctor fear is a superpower. In this episode he can’t quite accept that his fear is potentially irrational, that he may only be afraid of the imagined, and so tries to put a face (or tentacle) to his terror.

listen clara

Now this won’t be for everyone, because there’s no monster at the end to clearly identify, only the monsters of the mind (OR ARE THEY?! *WOOOOOOOO…!*). No CGI or rubber creature to pull into the light and dispatch, the monster exists in the Doctor’s imagination (OR DOES IT?! *WOOOOOO….you get the idea). ‘Listen’ is basically an exploration of the Doctor’s psyche, into just what makes him tick. What makes the Time Lord scared? What makes him jump into the dark to see what’s there? This is absorbing, brave stuff for Saturday night family entertainment. Despite the fact Who fans like to trumpet the elasticity of the shows format, when it actually does attempt to step outside of it’s usual boundries, a section of fans don’t like it (Hello ‘Love & Monsters’..!). Well TOUGH.

Many complain that there’s no clear resolution to the episode, was there a monster or wasn’t there? Perhaps there was. Perhaps there wasn’t. Perhaps there was one under that blanket, but not outside the door, or vice versa. But you’re missing the point. As I said, this is about childhood fears, the fear of the irrational, for that to keep its potency it must remain forever under the bed, forever in the closet, forever just out of view and shrouded from the absolute. Maybe it was all in the Doctor’s head. Maybe it wasn’t. But the FEAR was real, and will remain so.

OH! And the Doctor himself? He’s amazing, and brave, and wonderful…. and he was also a small boy, alone in his bed, crying because he was afraid of the dark. What a wonderful thing to show children watching this show, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of, even a man as marvelous as the Doctor once wept whilst curled up alone and frightened in bed.

‘Listen’; it’s creepy, thought provoking, moving, clever, funny: in short,  it’s the very best of Who, and I love it. 

listen dan

So what did you think of Listen? And did you fall for it as hard as I did?

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WARNING: Season 9 Starts Filming!

cap filming

Well yippee and yay and woo-hoo and shizz of that over-enthusiastic nature, season 9 has started its no doubt lengthy filming period! This means that the journey towards actually watching the thing becomes ever shorter! Oh, and that in the next few days, pictures of a spoilery nature may well begin to hop around the internet.

Now how you react to spoilers, pictures or written, varies from person to person. Some love devouring every leaked fact (and assumed-fact) squirted onto the net, whilst others like to stay as un-spoiled as possible, hating even knowing the episode titles ahead of time (episode titles aren’t spoilers, come on, guys!). The problem with us all being on the internet is it’s almost impossible not to stumble across something about an upcoming season that you didn’t want to know. Click the wrong link, or even follow the wrong person on Twitter who loves to attach filming pics to their missives, and before you know it the whole season is COMPLETELY RUINED. Well. Possibly not, but it can still annoy!

So guyz, be careful out there, and be kind to your fellow fan. Pics like the one at the top of this article? Cool. But give people the option not to click on real spoilers.

Oh, and one more thing… DOCTOR WHO SEASON 9 HAS STARTED FILMING!!!! *flails-around-madly*

Matt Happy

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