Popular Posts

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.