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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Doctor Who - "Planet of the Ood"

WHOSCALE: 6.7 out of 10

The fourth season of the revived series follows the format of the first episode being Earth-based and the next two consisting of one set in the past, and one in the future.

In this case, the second episode was set in the past with "The Fires of Pompeii," so it was time to zip back to the future with "Planet of the Ood," written by Keith Temple.

Temple seemed to be greatly partial to the original series, and it shows with numerous elements in this episode. Temple references the Hartnell story "The Sensorites" in this episode by indicating that the Oodsphere is a sister planet to the Sensphere. Temple also sets up the Doctor and Donna's arrival on the Oodsphere in classic form, where they arrive on the outskirts of where the bulk of the story will take place, and The Doctor and Donna follow a kind of proverbial "trail of bread crumbs," starting with the discovery of an injured Ood left for dead in the snow. The setting used for the episode was a cement factory, so it tremendously echoed how the classic series cut costs on set design by improvising with nearby industrial facilities. The storyline was excellent, and it unfolded at a relatively decent pace, although executive producer Davies had to inject a substantial amount of 21st century society into the episode before it hit the broadcast waves.

One of the things I disliked about the opening and closing scenes with this episode was the over-use of CGI to create exotic backgrounds, for the sole purpose of indicating that "this is an alien planet." The classic series illustrated on a regular basis that you can set a story on an alien planet and make it believeable without having to have a quick "distance shot" showing an exotic landscape. ("Genesis of the Daleks" & "Destiny of the Daleks" both showed us the surface of Skaro with no mattes!) Granted, there are times when the use of CGI is simply unavoidable, such as the fly over of the rocket.

In spite of the story being set 2000 years into our future, Davies insisted that in order for the "idiot masses" to grasp the concept that the Oodsphere was in fact being visited by businessmen and buyers, they all had to be wearing 21st century businessmen suits.

Unfortunately, I feel like what we see onscreen is rarely what some of the writers had in mind after Davies gets through butchering them. An article on Wikipedia even states that Davies turned down Temple's first draft of this episode because it was "too much like classic Doctor Who," and "seemed more like a six-part serial." That in itself shows that Davies wasn't aiming for the revived series to be like Doctor Who, but more like as many fans put it, "Eastenders in Space"

After Davies nip and tucked Temple's script, the walking scenes are changed to running scenes and the action scenes are hyped up and accompanied with orchestral music. The tear jerker for this episode is a chorus piece used for the Ood's "Song of Captivity," which then makes Donna shed a few tears for us.

The story was relatively good, and the execution of the episode was OK, but I would have loved to see how the episode would have done if say, Steven Moffat would have edited Temple's draft.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Fires of Pompeii"

WHOSCALE: 5 out of 10

Following the traditional dose of Russell T Davies season opener, and keeping with the "one visit to the past, one visit to the future" format, James Moran takes us back to 79 A.D., one day before the eruption of Venusius in Pompeii.

Overall, I had mixed feelings about this episode. At times, visually speaking, the episode did remarkably well at fitting the Doctor Who format. The sisterhood echoed the sisterhood from the Fourth Doctor episode "The Brain of Morbius." The setting was well done, but the episode did frequently overdo the CGI a bit.

The pacing of the episode felt a bit rushed to me, as the first half was laying the groundwork for the rest of the episode, but it seemed like the history of the sisterhood, and the activities in Caecillius' house always felt a bit rushed, as if the story was in a hurry to get to the volcano scenes.

Once the Doctor and Donna were in the volcano, the episode rapidly began to lose Who points - the visuals turned into a CGI-fest, and the music turned into a full blown orchestra meant for the motion picture "Dante's Peak." The drama from this point on doesn't just go overboard - it goes bonafide bananas. Donna tears up, yells at the Doctor in and outside the TARDIS.

Additionally, some of the dialogue was ripped from modern-day behavior for Caecillius' teenage son, Quintus. For example, Quintus telling his parents to "get off" was a phrase unheard of during that time period. Another example was the Stallholder's reaction to Donna attempting to speak in Latin - a modern day smart alec response, "Me no speak Celtic."

The final scene to me was absolutely pointless - that of Caecillius' family living a normal life six months after the destruction of Pompeii, where Quintus is shown giving thanks to an engraving of their house gods - the likeness of The Doctor, Donna and the TARDIS.

An OK episode - the plotline was relatively good, but the episode just seemed to be hyped up big time with blasting choral and orchestral music throughout the entire length of the episode (save for one or two dialogue scenes), and the acting and drama just was way overboard, designed to make the fan girlies choke up at Tennant's tough decision.

Doctor Who - "Partners In Crime"

WHOSCALE: 4.5 out of 10

Russell T. Davies kicks off the fourth series and the third season for the Tenth Doctor with "Partners In Crime." As usual, this episode opens back on present day Earth, in metropolitan London no less.

The first half of the episode has two separate stories running parallel - one of Donna Noble's perspective, and one from The Doctor's perspective. The two merge into one at the point The Doctor and Donna see each other from across Ms. Foster's office, and Donna mimes her explanation of why she was there.

There were a number of things in this episode that just really turned me off. For starters, kicking off a season in downtown London where CGI aliens keep showing up was beginning to be a bit of a repetitive plotline, and Davies just didn't seem to venture very far away from the city scene. Another thing was Davies evidently must have a secret fetish for fat people, because this isn't the first time he's included a few overweight characters in an episode. Just to recap, the Slitheen in "Aliens of London/World War Three," Margaret the Slitheen in "Boom Town," the Duke of Manhattan in "New Earth," the Abzorbaloff in "Love And Monsters," and ofcourse Marvin and Foon Van Hoff in "Voyage of the Damned." In the case of this episode, Davies decides to pull a marketing stunt and create cute, cuddly little Adipose creatures out of human fat.

Davies just didn't seem to understand that Doctor Who wasn't about the characters themselves, but the trials and tribulations they often go through. Anytime Davies penned a story focusing mainly on a particular character (in the case of this episode, Donna Noble), the plotline and the legibility of the story often suffered tremendously. I could always tell when Davies was going to be focusing more on a character by the way he titled his episodes. The title of this episode presents clear evidence that its mainly about The Doctor and Donna, and the element inserted to make the script pass for an episode of Doctor Who - the Adipose element - is secondary. Other examples are "Rose," "Father's Day," "The Runaway Bride," and "Smith And Jones."

By the end of this episode, it was obvious to me that Davies had little to no imagination when it comes to writing great science fiction, and so to compensate, he often plucks sequences, settings, sounds, and objects right out of other successful forms of science fiction. Near the end of this episode, a spaceship stolen right out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind comes flying down over London, complete with similar sound effects and beams of light shining down on the ground.

Perhaps the most bothersome thing about this episode for me was the music, which frequently sounded like it belonged in an episode of "Sex and the City" rather than Doctor Who. Especially during scenes containing Donna. However, in Murray Gold's defense, I do have to say that I did like the music that accompanied the scenes of the Doctor running through the streets while he was tracking nearby Adipose with a "Y" shaped device.

Since this would be the final season opener that Davies would write, I have to say that out of the four that he did pen, "Smith And Jones" probably has to be his best, with "New Earth" coming in second, followed by "Rose."

In this episode we learn that Wilfred Mott, who we saw selling newspapers in "Voyage of the Damned," (you know - during that pointless visit to the Earth surface?) is Donna Noble's grandfather. Donna joins the Doctor in the TARDIS, footloose and fancyfree. Ready to see what's out there, the final scene show's Donna waving goodbye to Wilfred from the TARDIS doors as it flies away.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Doctor Who - "Voyage of the Damned"

WHOSCALE: 2.5 out of 10

With the close of Series 3, our next dose of Doctor Who would be the Christmas Special for 2008, which preceeded the following season that started with "Partners In Crime."

Russell T. Davies is at the helm again (no pun intended), and I have to say that I tried time and again to give this episode a chance to make a good impression on me, and it has epically failed every single time.

This episode is what you get when you cast an actor BEFORE you've even written the story. Davies casted Kylie Minogue for the part of Astrid Peth before he had even written a rough draft of what this episode would be about, and it shows tremendously in the lack of imagination that was used when Davies DID get around to quickly throwing a flim flam story together.

At the closing cliffhanger to "Last of the Time Lords," we were lead to believe that the original Titanic had crashed into the TARDIS.

Basically, even mild to rookie sci-fi fans can accurately describe this episode as "The Poseidon Adventure" in space. Davies throws a bit of nostalgia into the mix by having the spaceship Titanic meet a similar fate as it's Earthbound counterpart, only this time the mammoth cruise liner is struck fire and not ice.

Absolutely nothing about the setting of this episode made sense, and it was often obvious that Davies made little attempt to make it do so. The backstory to support the reason for a space-faring Titanic is that the ship set sail from the distant planet Sto. While this is the first time that Davies introduces humanoids that don't come from Earth in some way, he does make every effort to make them appear as if they do. According to an Host Robot -- gold robots that echo the look of the robots used in "The Robots of Death" -- the cruise liner is intended to experience primitive cultures. In this case, conveniently being present day Earth around Christmas time.

Strangely enough, for a race of beings that come from a distant world, they seem to know quite a lot about Earth customs. Aside from the fact that the cruise liner is the exact duplicate of the sea-faring ship, except with a ginormous propulsion system jammed up it's stern, the interior is decorated with Christmas trees and other decorations, the band is singing numerous Christmas songs, and the passengers are all wearing Earth clothing. During interior shots, you could just as well assume that the Doctor has in fact traveled back in time and was aboard the original vessel.

Once again, Doctor 007.....err, Agent Who.......err.....Doctor Bond....well, the lead character dons his tuxedo again for all the fan girlies watching. The episode goes get worse the further it progresses, to the point of me considering not even finishing it because it was so utterly disappointing.

Besides the aforementioned plotholes that Davies neglected to logically fill, this episode has all of the typical marks for a Russell T Davies episode written just for the fan girls, including a kiss scene between Peth and The Doctor - complete with sparks flying in the background with a "New Year's firecracker" sound effect accompanying it, and ofcourse the usual notion that all other planets far and beyond all develop exactly like ours. The resident @$hole businessman, Rickston Slade, is often seen chatting with business associates on what appears to be a cell phone. Seriously Russell? Cell phones on the planet Sto? Davies also includes his usual exotically designed alien with a really long name so that dumbass masses will consider it "alien." This time its a short little red guy with a hint of HellRaiser in him, named Bannakaffalatta.

Don't even get me started on the music in this episode. Not only did we just watch a visual rehash of "Titanic" and "The Poseidon Adventure" blended together with a slight dash of Doctor Who sprinkled on top, but we also had to deal with motion-picture caliber musical scores throughout the duration of the episode.

The one redeeming feature about this episode is the introduction of Wilfred Mott, who we later learn is the grandfather to Donna Noble. One other thing I picked up on was that one of the robots was chanting "Kill! Kill! Kill!" in much the same way a robot did in "The Robots of Death." Sorry Davies, but that's all I could find in this episode that even remotely came close to an enjoyable episode of Doctor Who.

There should be a lesson to be learned here: write your stories with your plot in mind, not your actors. That way, the whole damned 70 minutes won't be one gigantic drama. I could have died a dozen times over during the slow-motion scenes near the end. Epic FAIL, Davies.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Infinite Quest"

WHOSCALE: 7.9 out of 10

Although this episode was not part of the official season with Martha Jones as The Doctor's companion, it was released on DVD as a full length episode. And since the story was well conceived, I felt like it would be an injustice to the revived series not include this stand alone story before beginning the Series 4 reviews.

"The Infinite Quest" was originally divided into thirteen installments, with one episode being broadcast each week. This was the first animated adventure for Doctor Who.

Penned by Alan Barnes, it was clear throughout the duration of this episode that Russell T Davies had very little to do with its production, as the episode contained no soapy scenes, and from start to finish revolved solely around The Doctor and Martha's quest for The Infinite. As bad as it sounds, Barnes had written a story that would have been terrific as a live-action three part story. Since the episode was restricted to a total of 45 minutes, the pace of the episode was extremely rushed. However, this is could be in part due to the fact that this animated episode was aimed mainly at children, who would probably not be as fond of the slower paced live action stories that ring true to the rules of the original series.

My main reason for including this episode in my reviews of the new series is because this story was one of the most imaginative of the entire series. At no time during this episode are we even remotely close to Earth; all of the locales are other planets in the far reaches of the universe. None of the planets are inhabited by humans that look like they were just plucked off the street in front of the BBC and dropped into scenes to act as inhabitants of the future. The episode is full of aliens - some good, some bad - and some of them are not all what they appear to be.

It's a pity that Barnes wasn't able to contribute some scripts to the actual series, because if he had I think we would have been in for a real treat.

Besides the light-speed pacing required to cram Barnes' elaborate story into 45 minutes, my only complaint with the episode was the continous music that seemed to accompany every scene. I'm sure had the episode been done live action, it probably would have been scored differently, but the fact is the story was so well written that it was one of those that didn't need soundtracks of epic proportions to "prop up" the episode in order to keep from putting viewers to sleep.

There are remarkable similarities between this episode and "The Key to Time" series with the Fourth Doctor. Starting with "The Ribos Operation," The Doctor received a special locator which when inserted into the TARDIS console would provide coordinates of the next hidden segment to the Key to Time. That entire season was The Doctor's quest to locate the six segments to the Key to Time, which had been scattered all over space and time, and were disguised.

There has been tremendous controversy over whether or not this should be included with the list of Doctor Who serials. I can only speak for myself, but as you all know I am a long time fan of the series - both old and new - and my opinion is that with a story that was so well conceived, how could we even consider not including it? It's definitely a gem in book. Cheers, Barnes.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Doctor Who - "Last of the Time Lords"

WHOSCALE: 4 out of 10

After just viewing this episode, I was not really looking forward to my review of it, because I knew that based on what I had just saw did not stack up at all to the standards set by the original series. This episode seemed to struggle throughout the entire length in sustaining a great plotline. This may have to some degree been contributed to the fact that Russell T Davies chose to set this finale -- and conclusion to the "Utopia" trilogy, one year after the events of the previous episode, "The Sound of Drums."

The bulk of this episode was centered around Martha, and with most of Davies' stories, it was often up to The Doctor's companion to the save the day rather than vice versa, as it was in the original series. This was always one aspect of the revived series that bothered me - the show was titled, branded, and sold as "Doctor Who," yet many of the episodes played out as though it should have been titled "The Adventures of Rose Tyler," or "Martha Jones & Company," etc.

There were only one or two scenes in this episode that were closer to the original series. The ones that stood out to me the most were the scene of Martha and Thomas Milligan are in a rocky area that is reminiscent of the quarries that original Who often visited for location shooting. The other was the scene atop the hill where The Doctor and The Master face each other one on one, away from innocent civilians.

Davies continued to stick to his typical formula for the final two episodes of a season: the first was generally nominally paced, and build up to a defeated Doctor in a hopeless situation, at which point the episode would end. The second episode drags the takeover of Earth out over relatively 40 minutes, and then the entire crisis is resolved in the last ten. In the case of this finale, unlike traditional Master encounters, The Master's plan is allowed to play out completely, first giving him the satisfaction of victory over The Doctor, and then rather than have The Doctor work out a way to STOP The Master before things get out of hand, Davies has The Doctor work out a way to REVERSE the damage done. So in manner of speaking, usually by Davies' final episodes in a season, it's too late to save the world.

However, Davies always has a David Copperfield or two up his sleeve for fixing out of control plots. In the case of this finale, the solution somewhat makes sense, but some of it looked like something pulled out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. The Master had set up a system of fifteen satellites around the globe to monitor The Doctor's activity and to telepathically keep the population under his influence. The Doctor turns this against him by having the entire population think of the Doctor at one specific time. The Archangel network would boost the thoughts, and then for some bizarre reason, this alone restores the Doctor to his original self, and engulfs him in a white light. He then hovers over the floor like an angel. Strange indeed.

We then deal with a sinister Master suddenly turned wimp, as he cowers in a corner in tears because of his defeat. What is it with Davies and his villains crying? Remember the Cyberman shedding a black tear in "Doomsday?"

The other part of the solution makes a little more sense, but still doesn't fully abide by the laws of the original series. Harkness escapes and enters The Doctor's TARDIS, which The Master had been keeping onboard the Valiant. We learned in the previous episode that The Master had cannibalized the TARDIS, and turned the console into a paradox machine. I wasn't sure why paradoxes suddenly needed a machine until this episode. The theory behind the Toclafane's origins and purpose was correct enough - they were humans from Utopia, who travelled back through time 100 trillion years to kill their ancestors and begin a new empire. Naturally, the laws of time would render this impossible, since by killing their ancestors they would essentially be killing themselves in the future. However, The Master builds the paradox machine in order to allow the Toclafane to exist in the past without killing themselves in their future. Harkness, armed with a automatic rifle, steps inside and shoots at the paradox machine, destroying it and thus breaking the paradox. This bit also was something that completely ignored a minor detail in the original series. The Fourth Doctor stated in "The Hand of Fear" that while they were inside the TARDIS, they were in a state of temporal flux, and thus weapons were rendered useless. Yet somehow Harkness' gun seems to work here.

Harkness' destruction of the paradox machine reverses time to the instant before the Toclafane arrived, erasing all the events of the last 45 minutes we just watched. The Master's wife ultimately turns on him, and becomes responsible for his temporary demise (until The End of Time) by shooting him. The Master refuses to regenerate, and we are struck once again with a pull-on-the-heart strings scene where The Doctor loudly mourns the death of The Master. While this is understandable considering their history, you would think that after the events of The Movie with the Eighth Doctor that he should know by now The Master isn't beaten so easily.

Yet another tremendous minus for this episode was the overuse of music. From the instant the opening title sequence is over, every scene - both silent and containing dialogue - was accompanied by a pronounced orchestra. Minutes after the episode starts, The Master plays yet another modern day song - this time we have to listen to nearly the whole thing. Also, when The Master used his laser screwdriver to age The Doctor even older (which did not result in his death this time) the superfast scenes of The Doctor are accompanied by a sort of techno rave piece that just didn't fit the Doctor Who mold.

Although Davies did well in choosing the title for this episode, I feel like by this time he was starting to run thin on how to keep the central plot as interesting as it had been the previous two episodes. The title of the episode is however standard format for a classic title. By this time, I had just about decided that anytime he wrote an episode, this was what we were to expect at some point - particularly on stories spanning more than one episode. The fact was that he was better at writing works such as Queer As Folk than he was science fiction.

This episode ended Series 3 of the revived Doctor Who, and also saw the departure of companion Martha Jones. The episode ends in a decent cliffhanger, but again the events circumvent the laws established by the original series - it has always been understood that the interior of the TARDIS exist in a different dimension than that of the exterior, thus the reason for it being "bigger on the inside." That being the case, the exterior of a TARDIS was no more than a disguised doorway to the dimension containing the control room and other rooms. If the Titanic crashes into the EXTERIOR, how does it wreck the INTERIOR? Additionally there was a conflict of dimensions in the final scene - compared to the EXTERIOR, the Titanic would be hundreds of times larger, but yet as it crashes into the interior, it is still its normal size in relation to the interior.

Davies had a knack for stealing scenes from other forms of great science fiction. This time, we get the bon fire scene yanked right out of Return of the Jedi, except its The Doctor burning The Master's body instead of Skywalker burning Vader's.

Not much else I can say about this episode other than it was what I was pretty much expecting from Davies considering the last season's finale. The trilogy started off well, but sank fast five minutes into this episode. One final thing I can add in his favor though, is that he did allow for a future appearance by The Master.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Sound of Drums"

WHOSCALE: 8.5 out of 10

Russell T Davies continues the three-part story that reintroduces The Master with a followup from "Utopia," titled "The Sound of Drums."

It's rare that Davies' writing follows the guidelines set by the Doctor Who pioneers of yesteryear, but after watching this episode, Davies for the most part seemed to stay focused on story development. The previous installment left us with a traditional cliffhanger, with The Master regenerating and dematerializing in The Doctor's TARDIS, leaving The Doctor, Martha and Harkness to the Futurekind. Davies opens the second part of The Master trilogy with The Doctor, Martha and Harkness appearing in present-day Earth via Harkness' wrist teleporter.

The pacing of the episode was average for Doctor Who - not too slow, not super fast either. The plot seemed to thicken evenly on both sides of the fence - The Doctor's and The Master's - throughout the duration of the episode.

John Simm was terrific at portraying a ecstatic, diabolical Master. The Cabinet scene was particularly well done, from the moment he enters the room and tosses the portfolios, to the time when a Cabinet member's dying words are, "You're a madman!!!" At which point The Master, wearing a gas mask, gives the political "thumbs up." Another scene that was well done with The Master was at the airport when The Master greets the President of the United States.

For the most part, the incidental music in this episode was used sparingly, usually being absent for the serious dialogue scenes. That's always worth a point or two on the Whoscale. When Murray Gold did use music, the scores were usually subtle such as those in "Blink," "The Empty Child," and "Boom Town;" which although is orchestrated, doesn't sound like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, or Lord of the Rings. This episode suffered the most damage during the final ten minutes, when Davies reveals that he is still hell-bent on his villains being obsessed with world domination. The Master shouts,"Here come the drums!" and a song titled "Voodoo Child" starts blasting for a few moments.

As with all of Davies' season finales, he goes with world domination and strength in numbers for the base of his plot. Six billion Toclafane decend on Earth at the end of this episode, instructed by The Master to kill 1/10 of the population.

Davies also does something abnormal for his writing and goes to great lengths in this episode to link the new series with the original series. Indicated in this episode by flashbacks of Gallifrey, Time Lords, and a conversation between The Doctor and The Master about their lives long ago on their home planet. Something else that echoed the original series was the aging of The Doctor into an old man, which was reminiscent of "The Leisure Hive" with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.

While Davies' stories are usually peppered with plotholes, we learn a great deal in this episode that suddenly make many events throughout the season make sense that otherwise wouldn't have. For example, I mentioned in my review of "The Lazarus Experiment" how Martha's family was always involved. We learn in this episode that The Master had in fact been on Earth for eighteen months prior to Martha even leaving with The Doctor at the end of "Smith And Jones," thus at that time he had already experienced the events of "Utopia" and went about taking steps to lure The Doctor and company into a trap. This is tricky to understand, because it was so well conceived, but in short, it's a ginormous paradox spanning the events of the season. Certainly a paradox worthy of rivaling those written by Mr. Moffat. The Master even refers to the events of "The Lazarus Experiment" moments before reversing the effects of Professor Lazarus' experiment and applying it to The Doctor, resulting in his sudden aging. Davies obviously already had this well thought out, because during a tank scene in "The Runaway Bride" (months before the airing of Series 3, mind you) a voice on the tank's radio mentions Mr. Saxon's name - the alias The Master operated under since his arrival on Earth prior to the events of that episode.

For the most part, a fantastic episode. Davies often let me down with two parters because he often had to incorporate two separate plotlines running parallel to each other in order to sustain a story for the length of two episodes. The "sub-plot" was often a personal, emotional, love story for The Doctor and his companion. However, in the case of this trilogy, so far Davies had been able to provide two installments of Doctor Who that both stuck tightly to a central plotline, all revolving around The Master.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Doctor Who - "Utopia"

WHOSCALE: 7.5 out of 10

This episode marks the beginning of a three part story that reintroduces us to The Master, and also makes the first story of the revived series to span more than two episodes.

"Utopia" was penned by Russell T. Davies, who was also responsible for writing the two following parts to this story, "The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords."

If you examine the plot itself, and how it unfolds from a classic Doctor Who perspective, it's easy to see that "Utopia" was one of Davies' better scripts for the series. The pace of the episode was relatively decent, as the story unfolded steadily. Additionally, not only did Davies resist the temptation to have yet another phone call from Martha to her family back home, but he also set this episode on another planet, in the extremely distant future - 100 trillion, to be exact. The beginning of this episode also reintroduces an old companion, Captain Jack Harkness, who had not been seen since the final events of "The Parting of the Ways," Eccleston's regeneration story.

Davies pays close attention to scientific detail in this episode. The surface of the planet is always dark, due to the sky being devoid of stars - due to them all having already burned themselves out. The inhabitants of the planet are divided into two factions, the FutureKind, and the last remaining humans. The humans are taking refuge in an old missile silo, waiting for the green light to board a rocket bound for the legendary Utopia. The Futurekind are what some humans believe to be what the remaining humans will evolve into if they don't leave soon.

Professor Yana, who has been working on the rocket's propulsion system, is revealed to hold in his possession a fob watch identical to the one the Doctor used in "Human Nature/The Family of Blood." Comments made by Martha, Jack, and the Doctor jog Yana's memory, and whispers of Daleks, Time travel, TARDISes, and so on begin to slip into his mind. Martha's interest in his fob watch allows him to overcome the perception filter around it, which he then opens, releasing his Time Lord essence.

The Master fatally wounds Chantho and locks the Doctor, Martha, and Jack out of the room where the TARDIS is. Chantho manages to shoot The Master, but he retreats inside the Doctor's TARDIS and regenerates. The episode ends in a cliffhanger with the TARDIS dematerializing as the Doctor, Martha and Jack watch in horror. The Futurekind had broken into the silo and were seconds from breaking the door open.

The biggest minuses with this episode to me were the "metal rock" music that accompanied much of the scenes with the Futurekind, and this episode also introduces the action-oriented Torchwood soundtrack that accompanied scenes of Jack Harkness running. The more subtle scores were great though, such as the conversation between the Doctor and Jack while Jack was working inside the red chamber. Much of the dialogue scenes in Yana's lab were musicless, which was great.
The marks that Davies almost always has in an episode scripted by himself are the gritty depiction of the future, humans dressed in 21st century "homeless people" clothing, 21st century automobiles on a distant future planet, and ofcourse, modern day automatic weapons (with the exception of Chantho's laser pistol.)

An OK episode, but the episode was walking a tight rope with the pacing in some scenes, and as with all of Davies' episodes, it was oozing CGI effects. The story was well-conceived, but Davies always pushed for more of a "Sliders" or "Farscape" kind of setting in these situations, and not a "Doctor Who" setting.

Doctor Who - "Blink"

WHOSCALE: 8.9 out of 10

I have to admit, that after watching this episode and then preparing to rate it on the Whoscale, I was at a loss. This episode was on fantastically brilliant that it's almost impossible to give this episode any kind of negative rating.

"Blink" was the second attempt at a "Doctor-lite" episode for the revived series, but this time it was penned by mastermind Steven Moffat. This proved to me beyond any shadow of a doubt that even when faced with the toughest script to write of the season - the Doctor-lite script - Moffat still delivers a fantastic story that terrifies and keeps us on the edge of our seats from start to finish. Or behind the sofa, whichever works for you.

Moffat continues to tinker with time in this story, this time introducing us to a ruthless group of villains known as the Weeping Angels, who turn to stone when being observed, but are quick as lightening when not. If a Weeping Angel comes into contact with you when it's not in stone form, it immediately sends you into the past, living off the potential energy left by your disappearance. Think that sounds interesting? I haven't even scratched the surface on how in-depth this episode gets.
A forewarning: If you have trouble wrapping your head around the idea of paradoxes, then you might want to steer clear of this one, because Moffat wrote a paradox for the books with "Blink."

The episode generally revolves around Sally Sparrow, a young girl who broke into an old abandoned house to take photographs, only to discover a message on the wall written for her, signed by The Doctor and dated 1969. Sparrow continues to run into bits here and there from the Doctor in various places. She returns to her friend's house after leaving Wester Drumlins (the abandoned house), and discovers several tvs set up in the living room, all with images of The Doctor on them.

Sparrow's friend - Kathy Nightingale - has a brother called Larry, who has been tracking the "easter eggs" on 17 different unrelated DVDs. All of the easter eggs are the same recording from the Doctor, but in the messages, it appears that we are hearing "half a conversation," as Larry puts it. Only The Doctor's responses and comments are heard.

Sparrow visits the local police station and meets a young policeman called Billy Shipton. Shipton takes her to a parking garage and explains that all of the vehicles in that garage have driven up to Wester Drumlins, and the occupants of the vehicles have never been seen again. Some of them were left with the engines running. Sparrow notices that a police box is among the impounds (The TARDIS), and Shipton explains that the doors are locked. Moments after Sparrow leaves, Shipton is attacked by a Weeping Angel, and is thrown into 1969, where he meets The Doctor and Martha. Sparrow, after remembering that she found a Gale lock key at Wester Drumlins, returns to the impound only to discover that the TARDIS is now gone - stolen by the Weeping Angels.

The Doctor instructs Shipton to give Sparrow a message in 2007. Shipton then lives out his life as a publisher from 1969 up to 2007. It is revealed that Shipton was responsible for the easter eggs on the 17 DVDs, and that those particular 17 DVDs are the ones that Sparrow owns, indicating that the easter egg message was intended for her.

Sparrow and Larry meet at Wester Drumlins with a laptop and the easter egg message, at which point Larry shorthands the other part of the conversation - that of Sparrow. Thus, this allows the Doctor in 1969 to know what she will be asking and saying in 2007. Confused yet? It gets better. Sparrow and Nightingale manage to lure the Angels into the cellar, where the TARDIS is being kept. They step inside and insert the DVD into the console. The Weeping Angels have gathered around the TARDIS, and as it dematerializes - leaving Sparrow and Nightingale behind - the Weeping Angels are tricked into observing each other, thus quantum locking them for eternity.

One year later, Sparrow is still stumped as to how the Doctor got all the information he had back in 1969. Just as Larry steps out the front the door of his DVD store, a taxi pulls up and The Doctor and Martha carrying a bow and quiver of arrows get out. Sparrow runs out and briefly explains to the Doctor the events that have already happened to her, but haven't happened to him yet. She then gives him the portfolio containing all of the infomation she collected throughout the encounter with the Weeping Angels, thus completing the paradox.

Like all Doctor-lite episodes, they do tend to deviate from the traditional formula of Doctor Who, but out of the three Doctor-lite episodes of the Tennant years ("Love And Monsters," "Blink," "Turn Left"), "Blink" seemed to contain the most screen time for the Doctor, and his disappearance from the episode was not only part of the story itself, but was logically explained. "Blink" remains one of my favorites in the history of Doctor Who, and was voted second best episode of all time in Doctor Who Magazine, beaten only by "The Caves of Androzani."

A fantastic episode, and hands down the best we had seen from Mr. Moffat yet.

Doctor Who - "The Family of Blood"

WHOSCALE: 8.5 out of 10

At the close of "Human Nature," Smith (a.k.a. The Doctor) was faced with a choice - friend or lover. "The Family of Blood" picks up right where we left off, and Latimer saves the day by momentarily opening the fob watch he snatched from Smith's study.

This second half to the story was once again overall well-written, and focused solely on the resolution of the story. There were some fantastic scenes in this episode that reminded me of the original series - particularly the gothic themed Hinchcliffe era. One scene was when Martha, Redfern and The Doctor looked on from hiding in some bushes, and could hear the echoing beckons of the Father of The Family. A scene then shows the Family standing in front of the Academy, beside the TARDIS.

The bulk of this episode was set under the cover of night, so the fright factor was definitely turned up a few notches. The scarecrows were certainly a treat.

The pace of the episode was relatively the same as "Human Nature."

Although this episode offered a chance for Tennant to step out of his Doctor character, I think in a few scenes he was a bit over dramatic, such as when they're hiding in the bush outside the academy, and then later when Redfern attempts to calm him in the Cartwright's abandoned house. The tenth Doctor in my opinion always seemed to be a bit of a cry baby at times, and was always the first to shed a tear.
However, this only happened about twice throughout the entire length of the episode, it wasn't an emotional rollercoaster the entire 45 minutes.

The incidental music was a bit more pepped up in this half than in the preceeding "Human Nature," but it wasn't as bad as some episodes, such as "Doomsday."

Overall, a brilliant episode, and one of my favorites of the Tennant years.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Doctor Who - "Human Nature"

WHOSCALE: 9 out of 10

My score of this episode may surprise some of you, but I based it on the plot of the episode, the limited use of CGI, the geographic setting, the pace of the episode, and the incidental scores.

"Human Nature" is actually based on the novel written by Paul Cornell back in the mid 90s, which probably accounts for the episode being so much closer to classic Doctor Who. During the 90s, the iGen and the grittiness of 2007 society had not yet gripped this world, and so it wasn't reflected in the writing of Doctor Who stories. The plotline of the story has been altered to some degree to better suit the Tenth Doctor's era, but overall the mix of elements introduced to make the story work with number ten and the elements pulled from Cornell's novel seemed to be the perfect amount of ingredients for a great episode of Doctor Who.

The episode is also the first of a two parter, so this allows for the story to unfold at a more natural pace, closer to the original series. At no time did the episode feel rushed, and the characters of this story have shown more courage and dignity than any character in the revived series. For example, during the dark cold night, Redfern walks alone down a path and is suddenly struck by a bright green light, as the Family seek a place to land their ship. Although she is startled, she becomes more curious than frightened - not one time does she shriek, gasps, or cry bloody murder in a fit of panic. A similar scene is where Baines is collecting his beer stash, only to be interrupted by the arrival of the Family's ship, at which point he investigates to satisfy his curiosity - ultimately leading to his capture and being the first to be possessed by the Family.

The episode recalls the chameleon arch, and also introduces the fact that Time Lords can store their identity in a special fob watch. There was no over-acting by any of the characters, so any drama in the episode was natural, and wasn't forced by pepped-up presentation. There are also numerous other direct nods to the original series, particularly in Smith's "A Journal of Impossible Things." Sketches of a Dalek, Cybermen, past companions, the Slitheen, and my favorite, a sketch of the Doctor's previous incarnations; all nine of them.

Ofcourse, two parters always get a few points on the Whoscale, because they're guaranteed to end in a cliffhanger, and offer tremendous nods to the original series. The ending of "Human Nature" is no exception. One of the best cliffhangers of the revived series, probably since "The Impossible Planet," the Family discover that John Smith is an alias for The Doctor, and crash the village dance. They take Martha and Redfern hostage, giving The Doctor (or Smith) an ultimatum - which one does he want to die - maid or matron, friend or lover. At that moment, a final clip of The Doctor's face is accompanied by the "sting" of the closing titles theme. The last few moments leading up to the cliffhanger wasn't action packed and wasn't blasting with orchestrated music, but the music that DID accompany the final scenes seemed to suit the mood perfectly.

A brilliant episode, and if my memory serves, this was the first episode to break the 9 mark on the Whoscale since Steven Moffat's "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances" during the Eccleston year.

Doctor Who - "42"

WHOSCALE: 5.5 out of 10

The seventh episode of Series 3 was titled "42," and penned by Chris Chibnall, his first and only contribution to Doctor Who until the Eleventh Doctor two parter "The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood."

This episode's plotline and story was actually nearly right on the money for a traditional Doctor Who story, but it was the manner in which the episode was set and presented that deducted the most points from its Whoscale score.

The story follows typical Who formula in which The Doctor and Martha receive a distress signal while travelling in the TARDIS. Upon arriving, they learn that a ship is rapidly hurdling towards a star, and only 42 minutes before impact - hence, the title of the episode. Martha shows traditional TARDIS companion initiative by teaming up with one of the ship's crewmembers, Riley, in order to assist in opening the deadlocked doors leading to the bridge. Meanwhile, an infected crew member is on the loose killing other members one at a time, and dons a welding helmet and gloves.

What disappointed me the most about this episode was Davies' continuing trend of setting futuristic episodes in a gritty, "down below on Babylon 5" kind of environment. Unlike the white-walled Ark in "Ark In Space," Davies tended to illustrate mankind's future as being stagnate - that although we would eventually develop space travel, we would continue to live in the gritty society we live in today. Additionally, the female Captain of the ship, McDonnell, wears a tank top throughout the entire length of the episode. Granted, it was uber hot in the ship, but all of her crew were wearing coats. To me, that was just a reflection of modern society.

The other big minus in this episode was the universal roaming trick The Doctor applies to Martha's cell, allowing her to phone anywhere in the universe at anytime, as long as she knows the area code. This sets the stage for frequent calls to Martha's mother back home, and ultimately leads to heated bickering. Even when The Doctor and Martha were far away from Earth, Davies maintained some form of link between the Doctor's companion and modern day Earth. I suppose that was for the fan girls, who were more interested in David Tennant and whether or not he would ever love Martha the way he apparently loved Rose, than being interested in adventuring through time and space, never looking back. (ahem, Sarah Jane, Leela, Romana, Tegan, Turlough, Ace...shall I go on?)

There were a few scenes that were a bit over-dramatic, and ofcourse we deal with the mandantory tear-jerker scene when Martha and Riley are trapped adrift in the escape pod. I think the title of the episode could have been chosen better, because "42" just sounds a bit too much like Star Trek: Voyager's "The 37s" or "11:59." The title of this episode has also been compared to the series "24."

This episode received the 5.5 because the plot paralleled Doctor Who well. The other 4.5 points were lost due to the gritty setting, and the overdose of 21st century society.
Luckily, Chibnall would have the chance to redeem himself under Moffat's reign in the Eleventh Doctor's first season. A two parter titled "The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood" respectively reintroduced the Silurians.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Lazarus Experiment"

WHOSCALE: 4.5 out of 10

After four consecutive episodes that were not set on present-day Earth, I knew it was only a matter of time before we were back in London.

Stephen Greenhorn had a terrific idea for a Doctor Who episode, but I think it was Russell T. Davies' direction that lopped off this episode's traditional Who head.

A quote from wikipedia's article on this episode even states:

"Executive producer Russell T Davies has stated that he directed writer Stephen Greenhorn to base this episode on the typical Marvel Comics plotline: "a good old mad scientist, with an experiment gone wrong, and an outrageous supervillain on the loose."

In retrospect, that's all this episode was. Some fans have even compared the episode to such Marvel adventures as Spiderman and X-Men. The plotline of the episode follows the typical pattern of a comic book caper. Naturally, with Davies' hands so deep in the script, the monster downright HAS to be a giant, slobbering CGI animation.

There were several scenes in this episode that were utterly ridiculous, and it was obvious that they were there to achieve "cheap gasps" from the viewers. Such as the scene in which a mutated Lazarus bears down on a female party guest, and as he lumbers over her roaring, the guest simply stands there screaming - which moments later leads to her demise. Meanwhile all the other slightly more intelligent guest are running and screaming for the doors, in total chaotic panic - another typical Davies mark.

Ofcourse, for the ladies watching, Tennant once again dons his "James Bond" tux, something else I didn't approve of in the new series - The first seven incarnations seldom changed their appearance simply because they were attending a black tie affair. But in order for the fan girls to get their jollies so that they would continue to tune in, Davies goes 007 on us again.

This episode also repeats the same complaint I had with Rose's tenure in the TARDIS - anytime there was trouble afoot on modern-day Earth (whether it be our dimension or another, or both), Rose's parents were ALWAYS somehow involved. In the case of "The Lazarus Experiment," Martha's sister, Tish, is working for Lazarus as head of the PR Department. Additionally, the rest of Martha's family shows up, there to voice their disapproval of the Doctor and to frequently asks, "WHO is he?" or "WHO is that man?" Davies goes a bit overboard when being playful with the title of the series and character dialogue. The "Doctor who?" gag works, but only in certain situations, and only when it isn't used regularly.

Granted, much of Pertwee's era was set on modern day Earth, but we didn't have to deal with domestic disputes because Liz Shaw's parents were always tagging along, or because Jo Grant's family and friends always seemed to be right in the middle of something they couldn't possibly have anything to do with. In reference to "The Lazarus Experiment," its obvious at these times that Davies tosses these characters into the mix for the sole purpose of stimulating the drama. This is what I like to call "forced drama," or "simulated drama." The reason being that the viewer isn't free to feel what they would naturally feel when presented with the crisis - we are bombarded with over-dramatic scenes that back us into a corner, forcing us to feel a certain way.

The same was true for the music in this episode. Once again, almost a continuous score played throughout the entire length of the episode, save for the cathedral scene where The Doctor confronts Lazarus for the first time.

Finally, one of the biggest kickers for this would-be great episode was that the pacing of the episode was way too fast. I'm sure this was so that the episode would mimic the comic book superhero format that it was attempting to impersonate, but Doctor Who works best when its stories are filled with mystery, and unfold slowly but steadily. When watching this episode, it just felt like the development of the story was always rushed from one scene to the next - for every five minutes of dialogue, we spent another ten running, screaming, and rushing off to the next phase.

I think what Greenhorn had in mind originally would have been terrific, had Davies exercised a bit more restraint. Greenhorn would later go on to write an episode for Series 4, titled "The Doctor's Daughter," which in my opinion was certainly closer to the Who formula than this one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Doctor Who - "Evolution of the Daleks"

WHOSCALE: 7.5 out of 10

First of all, I want to give thanks to Helen Raynor - or whomever made the decision on the title of this episode. It shows a tremendous nod to the traditions of Doctor Who when a Dalek story is titled in the form of "____ of the Daleks." (i.e. Genesis of the Daleks, Destiny of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks, Revelation of the Daleks, etc.)

Once again, Raynor does a fantastic job of writing a Dalek story that unfolds steadily, that isn't too slow, but isn't rushed at the same time. Immediately following the title sequence, the incidental music is silent as we pick up where we left off at the close of "Daleks In Manhattan." The Doctor reveals himself, and confronts the Daleks. After a blast from his sonic screwdriver to a small radio, The Doctor, Martha, Frank, Laszlo, and Tallulah escape to the sewers. Not long after returning to Hooverville, the Daleks' pig slaves show up, as well as two flying Daleks. The Daleks launch an attack on Hooverville, kill Solomon, and following Dalek Sec's order, persuade the Doctor to return to their hideout beneath the Empire State Building.

I couldn't find much to complain about in this episode, because the writing, plot, and progression of the episode was virtually spot-on. Perhaps the thing I disliked the most about it was once again we had Murray Gold's orchestral and choral pieces blasting through much of the episode - particularly during scenes in which the Daleks were on the move, and the accompanying chorus was almost intended to frighten us into seeing the Daleks as more of a menace than they already were. Additionally, the chorus seemed to convey that "hey, these guys are f#%ing POWERFUL, so don't mess with them" kind of mood - in much the same way "Duel of the Fates" did with Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. That being the case, what I often say becomes clear; the television series starts to feel more like a motion picture than an episode of Doctor Who. Granted, Doctor Who is meant to be epic, but it has a reputation for achieving epic status through the writing of it's stories, and not spectacular CGI special effects and bombastic orchestrated soundtracks.

Another minus in this episode was the conflict of spaces. According to events that had transpired up to the point the Doctor re-entered the basement, we were lead to believe that the basement was the floor directly beneath the FIRST FLOOR of the Empire State Building. However, in a later scene Dalek Sec flips a switch on the wall, and illuminates an entire CGI room full of soon-to-be human Daleks. The room is atleast a hundred feet high, and stretches so far into the distance that we can't see the far wall. So how was all this packed into a single basement floor? I have no idea.

Other than that, I was overall satisfied with the episode. Raynor successfully wrote a Dalek story that wasn't rushed, and was an extremely thought out plotline. Unlike Davies - who tends to "destroy things forever" at every given opportunity, only to have the return the following season - Raynor leaves room for future encounters with the Daleks. As The Doctor attempts to offer Dalek Caan help, Caan emergency temporal shifts again, thus escaping. The Doctor later answers Martha's question about whether or not he will see them again with "Oh yes.......someday."

Great episode, and it was becoming more and more apparent that about the only way we could get a decent dose of Doctor Who was when Davies didn't pen it, since he insisted on either linking today with the future, or vice versa in his scripts.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Doctor Who - "Daleks In Manhattan"

WHOSCALE: 8 out of 10

After our routine dose of Davies' writing, it was time to get back to some relatively straightforward Doctor Who.

Helen Raynor becomes the first female to contribute a story to the revived series, as well as the first female to write a Dalek story in the entire history of Doctor Who.

Naturally, we all know that no one can top the masterpieces of Terry Nation, but I have to say that "Daleks In Manhattan" was the best Doctor Who-flavored Dalek episode we had got since its revival. Rob Shearman did a decent job with "Dalek" during Eccleston's year, all other Dalek stories up to this point had been penned by Davies, and usually consisted of the same plotline - an army of Daleks hell-bent on Earth's conquest.

Raynor deviates drastically from the Davies formula in this episode and follows the format that usually works best for Dalek or Cybermen stories, which places them in a peaceful day in, day out setting in the shadows, as underdogs. In those shadows, the Daleks are up to yet another one of their schemes, but this time it isn't to conquer Earth. This time, the Daleks are more concerned with perpetuating their own species, and dodging absolute extinction.

The story develops well, with The Doctor and Martha intending to visit 1930s New York merely for an observatory excursion, but minutes after they arrive the TARDIS duo discover that a mystery is afoot in Manhattan, setting the stage for The Doctor's usual "investigation to see what's REALLY going on."

Raynor cleverly writes a plotline that reflects the nature of the Daleks flawlessly; the remaining Daleks are all that remains of the Cult of Skaro (wait, didn't they get sucked into the void in last season's finale? Nice one, Davies. Stop killing off ALL of the Daleks when you write a story - leave some room for someone else to maybe write a GOOD Dalek story.) In Davies' defense though, Dalek Sekh was seen emergency temporal shifting near the end of "Doomsday," but how Caan and Thay survived the galactic vacuum in "Doomsday" is beyond me. I'm getting sidetracked - Raynor completely dismisses the notion of world domination, apart from Mr. Diagoras' ambitions of being ruler of New York. The Daleks - having been reduced to now only four, and fearing extinction, launch an experiment to merge a human being with a Dalek, thus creating a "human Dalek." This would then restore their bi-ped mobility as they once were on Skaro - when they were "Kaleds." The plot makes perfect sense, and to me was just the kind of scheme the Daleks would be up to. When I say "up to something," I'm referring to stories such as "Destiny of the Daleks," where the Daleks were mysteriously drilling into the abandoned Kaled bunker. We later discover in that story that the Daleks had reached an empass in their war against the android Movellans, and so they set out to dig up their creator - Davros - so that he could develop a solution to sway the war in favor of the Daleks.

In retrospect, the Daleks usually have a logical motive for their schemes, and although it may be loosely related to their conquest of the universe, I never understood why Davies insisted on always having the Daleks hell bent on conquering EARTH. There are dozens of other planets out there, but from Davies desk, the Daleks were only interested in Earth. That's why I favored this episode so much, because Raynor took the time to develop a logical, plausible explanation for the Daleks being in Manhattan. Even their location underneath the Empire State Building is explained - the Daleks have forseen a lightening strike to the building's steeple, and so they direct humans to modify the steeple with Dalek components so that when the lightening strikes, the power will be transmitted underground where they are preparing to convert captured humans into human Daleks, thus reviving their race.

There is one scene that I feel like is worth mentioning. In the sewers, where The Doctor snatches Tallulah out of the corridor and into an alcove, while covering her mouth, and a Dalek creeps by is almost identical to a scene in "Genesis of the Daleks," where the 4th Doctor grabs Bettan and they watch a Dalek creep by from an alcove.

The Doctor also logically identifies what he's up against - after finding a mutant in the sewers, he uses 1930s technology to build a make-shift DNA scanner, and after discovering the mutant's planet of origin code, utters "Skaro!"

What made this episode even more of a Doctor Who treat was that it was the first of a two-parter, and the episode ends in the traditional cliffhanger, accompanied by the theme music's "sting."

The only complaint I had with this episode was the background music, which seem to flow continuously throughout the length of the episode, making it seem more like a motion picture than an episode of Doctor Who. The 1930s era incidentals was fine, since naturally the Doctor and Martha were visiting that time period.

A great episode, and still my favorite Dalek story of the Tennant years.

Doctor Who - "Gridlock"

WHOSCALE: 4 out of 10

After two consecutive episodes that were favorable to the original series, I knew it was only a matter of time before Davies had to let loose and write yet another story butchered by modern society and seasoned with modern day elements.

This came in the form of the third episode of Series 3, titled "Gridlock" and penned by none other than Russell T. Davies. Relatively speaking, and in my opinion, this was Davies' botched attempt to write an episode containing one of the classic monsters - the Macra. (see "The Macra Terror")

Unfortunately, "Gridlock" seldom focuses on the threat of Macra, and devotes most of its time to ridiculous tear jerking drama. Right from the beginning, Davies' usual blend of setting a story in the far-flung future but containing people, behavior, and problems of today is evident; The Doctor and Martha arrive in New New York, where the first Series 2 episode was set, "New Earth." Davies introduces us to the darker side of New New York this time by setting the scene in a shady alley, where pushy pharmacists are eager to sell forget, happy, bliss, and so on "patches."

Martha is kidnapped by a couple wearing 21st century clothing - namely Milo's (the male kidnapper) graphic tee that looks like it was bought at American Eagle. Davies further introduces bizarre characters into the story by having the transports in the gridlock contain people such as the Mr. and Mrs. from American Gothic, two Japanese chics who dig anime styles, an old female gay married couple, a nudist couple (COME ON!!! NAKED CHICS?? IN DOCTOR WHO?? REALLY RUSSELL??! SHAME ON YOU!!!), a white alien who is xenophobic, a red alien, and lastly, a young lad sporting a suit and bowler.

Davies invokes further teary moments by having the gridlocked motorist sing "The Old Rugged Cross," in full.

About the only two plausible characters in the story were Thomas Kincade Brannigan, whom the Doctor gets associated with, The Face of Boe, and ofcourse Novice Hame of the Sisters of Plentitude. Hame catches up to the Doctor just after he discovers that he's up against the Macra (by peering through the bottom of the bowler wearing man's transport no less) and teleports him and herself to the Senate, where the Face of Boe awaits. The Doctor is able to restore power to the motorway and open the top allowing the motorists to escape into the open, and also hears The Face of Boe's final message before he dies - "You are not alone."

The episode closes with yet another hymn being sung in the background, and the Doctor telling Martha about his tragic history concerning Gallifrey and the Time Lords. In this case, the Macra are not even taken care of, so evidently they are still at the bottom of the motorway.

There were other ridiculous inconsistencies that Davies wrote into this episode to make it more appealing to a less intelligent audience, or as one YouTuber describes them, "the masses." There is one scene in which the Doctor opens the side door of Brannigan's car, and another car pulls up alongside - although the cars are hovering, the screeching of tires can be heard as the car stops. Throughout the course of the episode, and frequently during CGI scenes of the gridlock, car horns are sounding off - which sound like a modern day New York traffic jam. More to the point, some of the motorists had been sitting there for years...who the hell is going to keep honking their horn for that length of time??!

Overall, not one of Davies' better stories as far as Doctor Who is concerned. So much for bringing the Macra back in a great episode.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doctor Who - "The Shakespeare Code"

WHOSCALE: 8.9 out of 10

The second episode of Series 3 was titled "The Shakespeare Code," (in reference to The DaVinci Code) and was penned by Gareth Roberts.

For Martha's first trip in the TARDIS, the Doctor takes her to the past to the year 1599 A.D., just as the Globe Theatre has been completed and Shakespeare is putting on "Love's Labours Lost."

The episode opens with a young man being attacked by witches, and its only a matter of time before trouble is afoot; The Doctor and Martha originally intend to stay only to see "Love's Labours Lost," but soon decide to stay longer when Shakespeare, after being cheered onto stage, announces that the following night he will debut a sequel, titled "Love's Labours Won."

The story unfolded quite well, in much the same way "The Unquiet Dead" did with the Ninth Doctor. The majority of the dialogue scenes were music-less, and when music was present, it was subtle enough that it didn't become a distraction. Furthermore, the entire length of the episode from start to finish was devoted to the problem at hand, with no side plots.

This episode also offered some great dialogue between The Doctor and Martha, such as when the Doctor attempts to explain how the future is in flux, and references "Back To The Future." Martha asked, "The film?" A smart-alec Doctor responds with, "No, the novelization. Yes, the film!"

I could find very little to complain about in this story, but if I had to point out one thing, it was the fact that Shakespeare was depicted as too much of a modern-aged man.

However, in spite of that minor drawback, the episode was well-executed and well produced, and certainly had the flavor of Doctor Who to me.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Doctor Who - "Smith And Jones"

WHOSCALE: 8.5 out of 10

Russell T. Davies kicked off Series 3 of the revived Doctor Who with "Smith And Jones," and introduced us to the Doctor's new companion, Martha Jones.

Davies did a fantastic job in this episode of playing on some of our more obvious fears, such as blood-sucking vampires, unusual weather phenomena, and of course, strange aliens.

The Doctor once again assumes his usual alias "John Smith" so that he can become a patient at the hospital at which Martha works. The Doctor is investigating strange readings around the building, unbeknownst that they are actually the work of the Judoon.

Davies for once doesn't use the non-humanoid aliens as the chief menace, and instead embodies the real threat in human form, as Ms. Finnegan.

The episode begins with the normal goings on of a hospital, with Martha and fellow students examining patients. During some of these scenes, thunder can be heard rumbling outside, doing a great job of giving us a sense of false security because its one of those "early morning storms while I'm at work, but were all safe and cozy in here." Moments later, rain starts to fall, but things get a bit creepy when Martha realizes that the rain is falling UP, followed by violent flashes of light and tremors. Martha recovers and soon discovers that the darkness that has suddenly appeared outside is not night, but in fact the lack of atmosphere on the Moon.

Martha shows remarkable intelligence and courage during a crisis, immediately grabbing my attention and proving that she would make a terrific companion. The Doctor and Martha team up (hence the title, "Smith and Jones" - probably a pun on the 1980s western "Alias Smith and Jones") and use logic to work out whats happening. Martha inadvertently stumbles into a room where Ms. Finnegan - revealed to be a Plasmavore - has killed Mr. Stoker, the chief Doctor at the hospital.

The episode's plot follows a seamless logical order, and every event in the episode is explained logically - something that often wasn't present in a typical Davies story.

The Judoon, who are described as police mercenaries for hire, have no jurisdiction over Earth due to articles of the Shadow Proclamation, and thus to complete their task of finding the Plasmavore, they elect to transport the entire hospital to the surface of the Moon, which is neutral territory.

Davies demonstrates further logic in this episode by writing an extremely clever villain, who intended to avoid capture at all costs. Plasmavores assimilate the blood of their victims, and thus appear to be whatever species they last feasted on to any type of scan. Finnegan kills Stoker in order to change her DNA appearance to humanoid, thus disguising her true species type and allowing her to be cataloged as "human" by the Judoon.

Davies then writes a terrific solution to the problem, one in which solely involves the Doctor himself - the Doctor allows himself to be captured, and later attacked by Finnegan, thus changing her DNA appearance to Gallifreyan. Although it isn't her true species type, it does register as non-human to the Judoon. The Judoon eliminate Finnegan, and with their mission accomplished, return to their ships to leave the Moon. The Doctor, after being revived by Martha, saves the hospital from destruction mere seconds before the oxygen runs out and the Judoon successfully return the hospital to its proper place on Earth.

What really won me over with this episode was how well written it was, and how Davies intentionally had The Doctor and Martha working together as a team from the very beginning. The episode also used minimal music, which certainly added to the uneasiness of the scenes in which the subtle rumbles of thunder could be heard outside at the beginning of the episode. The Judoon were fantastic as well. Although they appeared menacing, their intentions were benign, and they weren't CGI.

The best dialogue in this episode for me is moments after the Doctor expels radiation through his foot, and removes one of his shoes and tosses it into a bin, Martha stares on and says, "You are completely mad." The Doctor stares back and replies, "You're right. I look daft with only one shoe," at which point he removes the other and says, "Barefoot on the Moon!"

Terrific episode, and certainly some of Davies better attempts at a true-bred Doctor Who story.

Doctor Who - "The Runaway Bride"

WHOSCALE: 7 out of 10

In the final moments of "Doomsday," a woman wearing a wedding dress mysteriously appears in the TARDIS console room, to the Doctor's bewilderment, setting the stage for the second Christmas special since the series was resurrected in 2005.

"The Runaway Bride" was penned by Russell T. Davies, and was in my opinion much more focused on being an episode of Doctor Who than a treat for Christmas. Davies took the time to explain things more carefully in this episode, and the explanations made sense.

Probably the best thing about this episode was the introduction of future companion Donna Noble, portrayed by Catherine Tate. Although Donna would not join the Doctor until the start of Series 4, I could tell just from the chemistry between the two of them in this episode that she would make a great companion.

Some great dialogue in this episode, namely Donna continuing to call the Doctor "martian boy," at which point The Doctor reciprocated with "I'm not from Mars."

The entire length of the episode focused on the unraveling of the mystery surrounding Donna.

Although Davies seldom strayed from writing episodes that were set on Earth, this one actually worked rather well.

The biggest drawback for "The Runaway Bride" was the borderline continous music that seemed to play throughout the majority of the episode. It was almost like trying to listen to an orchestral soundtrack and watch an episode of Doctor Who at the same time, which sometimes made it difficult to understand what was being spoken.

My favorite scene is above the rooftop with the Doctor and Donna are gazing across London, with only the sound of the wind whooshing by. No music accompanied that scene, so we were able to concentrate on the Doctor's attempts to unravel the mystery. Speaking of, allowed for another great moment - the Doctor scans Donna with his sonic screwdriver commenting that she isn't important, clever, etc. Donna replies with, "This friend of yours - she didn't by chance punch you in the face just before leaving did she?" (referring to Rose.)

The final farewell scene was drawn out a bit, I thought. But overall the episode did quite well. A welcome improvement from the previous episode.

Doctor Who - "Doomsday"

WHOSCALE: 5.5 out of 10

This episode marks the end of David Tennant's first season as The Doctor, and also sees the departure of Rose, who has been travelling with The Doctor since the end of "Rose" with the Ninth Doctor.

"Doomsday" was also penned by Russell T. Davies, and was the concluding part to "Army of Ghosts."

Once again, Davies devotes large portions of screen and script time to story elements that were completely unrelated to the crisis at hand. At the close of "Army of Ghosts," we saw that our troubles had become two-fold; not only did we have an army of Cybermen on the loose, but the sphere opened and revealed to contain the remainder of the Dalek order known as the Cult of Skaro. Mickey and Rose are trapped downstairs with the Daleks, while Jackie and The Doctor are held captive by the Cybermen high in the Torchwood tower.

The overall reason for this episode scoring as low as it did is mainly a reflection of Davies' typical attempt to write to simultaneous plotlines and cram them both into a single episode of Doctor Who. In the case of "Doomsday," we were not only dealing with the Cybermen/Dalek war being waged in the streets of London, but also the domestic and combatibility problems surrounding Jackie Tyler of our universe, and Pete Tyler of the parallel universe from "Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel." Near the end of this episode, things begin to look dark and bleak for Doctor/Rose fangirls, because the Doctor devises a plan to save the two universes, but requires Rose to be on the parallel side prior to the void being opened. Once closed, she would never be able to see him again. The Doctor does this with little regard for Rose's feelings. This episode showed the peak of just how selfish Rose could be, and how well The Doctor looks at the big picture. While The Doctor was openly ready to sacrifice his companionship with Rose in order to save two universes, Rose continually disregards the safety of others for the sake of her beloved Doctor, namely the final scene in which the Doctor explains that both universes would collapse, and Rose replies, "So?"

The episode would have scored much higher on the Whoscale if Davies would have focused the entire episode on the crisis at hand, but it was obvious by now that Davies was intending the series to be chiefly watched by little girls in their early teens who were hooked on the kind of drama offered by Twilight.

In my opinion, the episode was about 55% Doctor Who.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Doctor Who - "Army of Ghosts"

WHOSCALE: 5.5 out of 10

This episode marks the beginning of the season finale, and the first of a two parter. This story has all the markings of a typical episode penned by Russell T Davies - the story is set on present-day Earth, in the heart of London, with Rose's family playing an integral part in the plot development. Additionally, Davies once again toys with the "alien takeover" theme, this time using Earth as a battlefield for the Cybermen and the Daleks.

What subtracted from this episode's Whoscale score so much is the level of modernization that was present. As with all of Davies' stories, the episode had a tendency to be over-dramatic at times, and often strayed from the initial plotline entirely for the sole sake of providing heart-wrenching moments for the fan girls.

No one could not notice Evon's provocative dress, and once again were stuck with the annoyance of Jackie Tyler.

More often than not, Davies' episodes usually falter due to how they were executed, rather than the story lacking solidity. In this case, Davies had a brilliant idea - ghosts start appearing at specific times around the world, briefly after a mysterious sphere appears in the sky, which according to measurements taken by scientists has no mass, electromagnetic field, weight.....in short, it shouldn't exist. I never understood why Davies felt it necessary to set all of his Earth-based episodes in the London or Cardiff. I suppose it was so drama would be heightened enough that little kids of real-world London would be frightened out of their wits. Of course, Moffat seemed to do that more effectively without needing to hit close to home. This story would have worked just as well if the ghost appearances had been limited to a specific rural village, rather than worldwide. I find it difficult to grasp that every nation would have treated the ghosts' appearances as completely benign.

Davies had a knack for writing apocalyptic themes for his finales, usually containing an army of sorts hell bent on the occupation or destruction of Earth. The title of this episode was self-evident, and at the end of the opening title sequence, I knew where this one was headed. An army threatens to take over Earth. No surprise there.

The pre-title sequence oozed drama, and it was beyond obvious that it was written solely for the fan girls, intended to make them all gasp and say, "oh no! Rose can't die!" As usual, we deal with one or two lovey dovey scenes, namely the one with The Doctor and Rose overlooking a canyon, with The Doctor turning to Rose and asking, "How long did you say you were going to stay with me?" Rose replies softly, "Forever." This is so far out of character for the Doctor, compared to his attitude towards Rose earlier in the season, particularly in "School Reunion," where Rose was struck with the reality that she was not the first to travel with the Doctor. In fact, she was "the latest in a long line" of companions, all of which had come and gone.

We then discover that the Cybermen have devised a odd tactic for converting ussuspecting humans at Torchwood by method of workplace flirtation via IMs.

Doctor Who fans have long wondered what a Cybermen VS. Daleks story would be like, and this one could have been great had it focused more on being a "Doctor Who two parter" rather than a "modern day sci-fi romance" two parter.

The blasting orchestrated music was once again prominent in this one, so that didn't help it's score much, either.

The cliffhanger was good - it felt like a Doctor Who cliffhanger.

All in all, I felt like I was watching Doctor Who about 55% of the time. Great story, but too tainted with modernization so that it would appeal to a broader audience to score high on the Whoscale. Davies obviously doesn't believe in finding a niche and sticking with it, because his stories often suffered tremendously from trying to please all audiences. If you're writing for Doctor Who, then aim it at the Doctor Who fanbase. There are enough of us to keep it alive.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Doctor Who - "Fear Her"

WHOSCALE: 6.5 out of 10

While this wasn't the best episode of Tennant's first season, it was a welcome return to relatively fundamental Doctor Who formula from the previous episode, "Love And Monsters," which flat out departed from the traditions of Doctor Who and practically executed itself as an episode from an entirely different series.

This episode was the last stand-alone story before the two-part finale of Tennant's first season. "Fear Her" was written by Matthew Graham, and like so many other writers of the revived series, Graham unfolds his story in accordance with the laws established by the original series.

The Doctor and Rose arrive on Earth in 2012 to watch the Olympics, only to discover that the suburban street they land in has recently been experiencing unexplained disappearances of the local children. The episode takes on the classic form of Doctor/companion investigative parts, where the TARDIS duo split up to follow separate leads. Rose befriends a tarmac worker, while The Doctor follows his more finely tuned Gallifreyan senses.

For the most part, the episode was good - most of the dialogue scenes were music-less, and when they did contain music, it was subtle. The music accompanying the first 30 to 40 minutes sounds dark and creepy, and goes well with whats happening on-screen.

The episode started to lose its classic appeal near the end, within the final 10 minutes, where we are once again forced through a dose of hero-worship for The Doctor. The final scene also once again caters to the fan girls, where Rose notes that "they keep trying to split us up...,"

However, the biggest kick I got out of this episode was the scene in the TARDIS when The Doctor utters, "I was a father once," and the look on Rose's face just says "WTF???!!!" Rose immediately replies with a "What did you say?!" I never was a fan of the Doctor/Rose relationship element, so anytime Rose got a reality check like this one was always music to my ears. The other one this season had to have been "School Reunion," where Rose discovered that she wasn't so special after all - she was in fact, the latest in a long line of companions come and gone.

The best dialogue for me had to have been when Rose consults Kel one last time about fixing the potholes, and Kel is once again boasting how well he filled a hole, yet others turned out lumpy. Rose shows her disinterest in it by replying, "Well, when you've worked it out, put it in a big book about tarmacking."

Worst dialogue of this episode had to have been moments after the spectators vanished, and the news anchor utters, "Can switch to you in the box, Bob? Bob? Oh no, not you too Bob!"

There were a couple of scenes that utilized reality TV shaky camera work, namely the one of Trish, The Doctor and Rose in the kitchen. I hate that kind of camera work, because it feels like the production team was in a rush to shoot the scene, so they don't bother with setting up tripods and other equipment - they just throw the cameraman onset toting a gargantous, cumbersome camera and shoot.

Overall, a decent episode - atleast it wasn't a Earth based episode where the baddies are bent on world domination. This time, the antagonist actually was reminiscent of Moffat's writing. It wasn't exactly evil in nature, it's just that it's actions made it appear so.