Popular Posts

Friday, December 30, 2011

Doctor Who - "The Eleventh Hour"

WHOSCALE: 7.5 out of 10

This was perhaps the most anticipated episode for me since the revival of the series in 2005. It was a whole new start in so many ways, and I had been following production of the series closely. The internet was swamped with rumors of a new title sequence, a new version of the theme music, and one claiming that Moffat was planning to return Doctor Who to it's roots with Series 5/Season 31.

Since this episode opens the Steven Moffat era, I must point out in this review how quickly Moffat communicated the differences between the direction he was going, and what Davies had done the last five years. As always, I will also be reviewing this episode's approximation to classic Doctor Who, which will probably be the most difficult part from here on out for me - I'm partial to Moffat.

I'll begin by covering what I saw as a sign of things to come the first time watching this episode. The title theme had been revamped, but I was a little disappointed that (Murray) Gold had again chosen to orchestrate the majority of the theme. Also, the original bassline is all but completely drowned out by Gold's "chase" percussion. The main melody sounded good though, echoing back to the days of a synthesized theme.

Remember that "The Eleventh Hour" was to Moffat as "Rose" was to Russell T Davies. Both were their opening stories, and established the kind of show Doctor Who would be in future.

Ok, here are the comparions to show that Moffat intentionally wrote his opener to be a complete departure from what Davies wrote five years earlier:

SETTING: A recurring setting in the original series (probably due to budget constraints) was small, country side English villages. Virtually all of the Earth-based stories set in modern times during the RTD era were set in either metropolitan Cardiff or downtown London. This includes his series opener, "Rose." Moffat hits a home run by setting "The Eleventh Hour" in the small, rural village of Leadworth.

CHARACTER EMPHASIS: This is probably the most obvious opposite of the two openers. Davies titled his opener after the companion, whereas Moffat titled his after The Doctor. Moffat again wins on this level, because the show IS called Doctor Who, and as such revolves chiefly around the adventures of the lead character, The Doctor. Davies deliberately wrote his opener from the viewpoint of the companion, and as a result she frequently became the front runner of the show, over shadowing The Doctor. Although the emphasis on The Doctor in this episode doesn't equal that of the emphasis on Rose, the emphasis in this one IS generally balanced between The Doctor and Amy Pond, and is able to cover introducing Amy, the new Doctor, and the problem at hand quite evenly.

CLASSIC VILLAIN/NEW VILLAIN: This was one of the complaints voiced frequently by old fans about the new series. Davies opened with a very minor scrape with some Autons (which they were never even called), whereas Moffat chose to introduce us to a new villain, and a mystery to go with it. Prisoner Zero escaped into our dimension via a crack in Amy's wall. The crack is revealed to be a fissure in the fabric of space and time. Now, The Master was introduced on the backdrop of an Auton invasion in the Third Doctor's first story, "Spearhead from Space," but at that time, it was our first encounter with Autons. So once again, Moffat scores a 1-up against his predecessor.

DOMESTIC APPROACH: If you've read any of my previous reviews, you know what I'm talking about. Davies immediately introduced us to a wide range of companion family members to keep us coming back to Earth on a regular basis. It is my belief that Moffat saw this, and wanted to write a companion that had no ties here on modern Earth, leaving the field open for the duo to go anywhere, any when, for any length of time. Moffat established IMMEDIATELY in the opening scenes that Amy had no family except an Aunt, which was never even shown on screen. Ten minutes into "Rose," we had already had an unfortunate encounter with Jackie Tyler. With Moffat leaving out the domestic approach, he scores yet again.

THE DOCTOR'S COSTUME: Okay, look at all of the previous eight Doctors, and you will immediately notice that their costumes were all quirky, and seldom ever blended in with any time period he visited. Both Eccleston's and Tennant's Doctors were dressed in modern costumes, with Tennant at the forefront in his suit and tie. Moffat scores big again by returning The Doctor's curious sense of style - a tweed jacket, a button up shirt, braces, black rolled up trousers, black boots, and of course, the red bow tie. Bow ties are cool. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Moffat establishes here that this Doctor would not be eye candy for fan girls, but the lovable Doctor we could immediately connect with due to an item of clothing - a black suit, an oversized coat, velvet magician garb, a multi-colored scarf, celery and cricket, a quilt of a coat, and a question mark umbrella or in this case, a bow tie.

TARDIS APPEARANCE: Although I had no complaints about the appearance of the Davies era TARDIS, I definitely was pleased to see Moffat returning the design to the First Doctor style - white framed windows and the St. John's Ambulance sticker. The interior is much more fairy-tale looking though. I'm partial to the white walled Fourth Doctor console room. I did notice that the ceiling right above the console is the same disc pattern that the First Doctor's console had above it. I gave Moffat a few points for bringing back the old exterior, but it never was an issue for me, as I was just as pleased with the RTD outward appearance. So this one is a tie.

COMPANIONS: Granted, Moffat took a completely different approach to introducing The Doctor to Amy, but in the end, we ended up with more or less the same thing we had by the end of "Rose." A modern day female with a goofy, portrayed as idiotic boyfriend who stays behind. Now, I'm sure we can all agree that Amy is hands down less annoying than Rose, but I was hoping for an extra-terrestrial companion, such as a new Turlough, Romana, Adric, or Vicki. Or Jamie, for that matter. Why not pick one from history that we seem to frequently visit? No score here, Moffat.

CGI USE/VILLAIN SEVERITY: Davies was actually pretty sparing with CGI in his opener, just as Moffat was. At the risk of sounding like Davies actually out did Moffat, I think the Autons in "Rose" were more of a threat than Prisoner Zero was. The Autons were actually shooting people, whereas the most threatening Zero got was...well.....barking while standing still. Zero frequently reared his spiky teeth, but never actually used them. In fact, instead of just attacking Amy when she wandered into his room, Zero playfully stays out of her line of sight.

One thing I just have to mention: LENS FLARES!! What is so special about them that they have become a form of art in film?! There's a scene with The Doctor and Amy where slow motion reigns supreme, and with no visible source, a blue lens flare is cast across the screen during the slow motion sequence. Didn't like it then, and I never will in anything. All I can think about is how Abrams butchered Star Trek with them.

That about covers the comparisons between Moffat and Davies, as well as most of what I disliked about this episode. The Doctor saves the day instead his companion for once, which was also a plus. This episode felt more like Doctor Who than "Rose," so I was eager to see what was next.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Doctor Who - "The End Of Time, Part Two"

WHOSCALE: 6 out of 10

So begins the final story in the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who.

The second part picks up relatively soon after the last events of the previous part, but it wasn't a fluid continuation from the cliffhanger to the next episode. Of course, that's peanuts. Several two parters throughout the last four seasons have started their second parts that way, and I've seldom made note of it before, so there's no point in picking on Davies about it.

The opening scenes of this episode were terrific - splendid, in fact. Especially in terms of classic Doctor Who style. The dialogue between The Doctor and The Master echoes back to the original series, with The Master's madness reaching new heights. Now with the power of the entire human race at his disposal, he realizes that he can finally resolve the never ending drumbeat in his head. Now, I'm aware that The Master(s) of the original series never complained of such a noise, but I'm trying to be merciful on Davies' final story. Even the music in those first fifteen to twenty minutes is quite subtle.

Despite the CGI overkill in the opening Time Lord scenes, the meeting scenes were done well. The backdrop was dark, with no distinguishable background. The was a technique sometimes employed during the 60s and 70s by productions to cut down on cost. No doubt that wasn't the intent here, but nevertheless it works well in more ways than one. No CGI, and makes for an excellent Gallifreyan meeting place for high ranking Time Lords.

One thing I will say about this episode though: This one has to hold the record for number of rip offs from other science fiction films. I'll name them as I go through the review. The first rip off is the gauntlet Rassilon is wearing, which seems to have that familiar Emperor Palpatine flavor to it. Palpatine didn't need the gauntlet, but I guess if you've mastered the Jedi arts, you don't need one, huh?

Davies wrote some excellent dialogue for The Doctor in the opening scenes, perhaps the best being "Worst. Rescue. Ever!"

The episode continues to look promising as The Doctor, Wilfred and the Vincocci duo escape to an orbiting ship via a teleport. However, the episode starts to falter here a bit. The outward appearance of the Vinvocci ship looks rather...well, cartoonish. Granted, Doctor Who has displayed a wide variety of shapes and sizes when it comes to spacecraft, but they've always had that real-world touch to their design, and didn't look like something out of either Jules Verne or a Saturday morning cartoon.

The episode then starts to bog down in terms of story development. As with traditional Davies stories, there is a "pause" in the flow of the story, accomplished by a heart wrenching heart-to-heart between The Doctor and Wilfred. Now I'm not saying the pacing was too slow. It never is for me in an episode of Doctor Who. Especially when you compare the slowest paced new series episode versus an original series story, such as "The War Games," which spanned a massive ten episodes. Just for contrast, nine and half of those ten episodes were about the story, with the last few minutes focusing on the Second Doctor's regeneration. That's in comparison to the Tenth Doctor's last season, which has been occasionally dwelling on his departure for the most part. Back to my point - the pacing was fine, but the scenes between The Doctor and Wilfred here didn't seem to further the story any, and felt like it was one of those things just aimed specifically at fan girls still whining because Tennant was leaving.

The episode then practically stops being Doctor Who and effectively becomes Star Wars: A New Hope when Wilfred a.k.a Luke Skywalker and Rossiter a.k.a Han Solo man the gunnery of the Vinvocci ship. Of course, the differences are that it's in Earth's atmosphere instead of free space, and they're fighting off hundreds of missiles instead of four TIE fighters.

The episode gets even more ridiculous when The Doctor takes the controls of the ship and aims it right at the Naismith mansion. Just before reducing the house to a cinder - which would have solved all of the problems in one blow (Time Lords returning, The Master, and the template holding The Master Race together - The Doctor sends the ship into a sudden ascent, narrowly missing the mansion. Then by a conveniently placed hatch on the flight deck's floor, The Doctor jumps out of the ship with no means of slowing his fall. In fact, he now holds a revolver. Seriously?! Was Russell half asleep when he wrote this scene? The Doctor didn't survive a fall from a stationary radar dish onto a grassy field in "Logopolis," how could he possibly survive free falling out of a speeding ship, though a glass sky light onto a cement, tile covered floor?!

The episode then turns into a semi-classic western showdown with The Doctor aiming at Rassilon with the revolver, then The Master, then Rassilon, then The Master again.

I remember watching this episode for the first time on New Year's Day, and thinking that perhaps the fall through the glass (which tore his clothes) would be the cause of his regeneration. I'm sure Davies intended it that way. Then I remember being on the edge of my seat when The Doctor was stuck with the decision of shooting The Master or Rassilon. I never saw the solution coming, so kudos to Davies for finally writing a resolution that fit like a glove.

The most utterly pointless element of this entire episode has to be Gallifrey returning. For no apparent reason, Gallifrey appears next door to Earth. Not to destroy Earth or take its place. Just to co-exist with it, I guess. In true Davies form, nameless people are running and screaming in panic as they look up into the sky and see the red giant, as if never seeing a sky full of planets before...."The Stolen Earth," anyone? Once the Time Lords and The Master are returned, Gallifrey in turn vanishes, followed by several scenes of cheerful, nameless people hurrahing that the big bad planet is gone. I say it was pointless because at no time in this episode is it explained HOW Gallifrey is instantly transplanted into our Solar System, or for that matter WHY. The prophecy said that Gallifrey was returning, but that was about all we got on it.

The biggest shock for me when watching this one for the first time was the truth behind "he will knock four times." I remember pondering that heavily during the final days of the Tennant years, and wondering what it could possibly mean. Most fans chose to go with the most obvious answer, being The Master and his sound of drums. I have to say hats off to Mr. Davies for this part, because as a diehard fan of Doctor Who - who studies the series - never saw it coming.

The Doctor enters the chamber and is hit with radiation, at which point he collapses. I remember thinking, "here we go. Finally the regeneration into number Eleven." But no, again The Doctor has defied all odds, and steps out unscathed. The episode's Whoscale breathes one last breath with the subtlety of The Doctor's beginning regeneration. One moment he's peppered with bloody cuts, the next he's healed.

The episode then drops off the map for the next fifteen minutes, as we have to sit through half a dozen farewells from The Doctor to his past companions from the Davies era. Oh yes, Rose is in there.

The Doctor enters the TARDIS and the regeneration finally takes place. Matt Smith gets his first few minutes of screen time as the Eleventh Doctor, and I am left being one hell of an eager beaver, anxious to see where Mr. Steven Moffat was going to take the series.

The Master disappears back into the gate with the Time Lords, and presumably back to Gallifrey within the time lock.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Doctor Who - "The End Of Time, Part One"

WHOSCALE: 7.5 out of 10

With the close of "The Waters Of Mars," most viewers were certain that the Tenth Doctor's end was near. Apart from the animated "Dreamland," this marks the only multi-part story of the revived series to feature the same episode title for all parts, with each part labeled "Part One," "Part Two," etc.

There is quite a lot to cover in this review because Davies had so much he wanted to do with this finale, being that it was also the last story he would contribute to the series. That said, virtually all of the loose ends he's left throughout the series thusfar had to be taken care of now, mainly because with Steven Moffat taking over as Executive Producer for the series at the start of Series 5 (Season 31) wanted a clean slate to work from with the Eleventh Doctor.

John Simm reprises his role as the The Master, and his performance is as brilliant as ever. Once again, he does a magnificent job of portraying the mad Master, even more so now with a botched resurrection resulting in an insatiable appetite for food. This insatiability is so extreme that The Master resorts to cannibalism.

There is of course, a few things that I think were a bit over done or otherwise pointless in this episode. Most of these things will be nothing my readers haven't heard me rant about in previous stories penned by Russell T Davies, because they have become such a staple item for his writing.

First and foremost was probably the music for me. Throughout the episode, I had the BBC Orchestra of Wales blasting my eardrums, even at times when the on screen action was very, very subtle. One such time is the opening sequence with Wilfred in the church. Moments after the mysterious woman vanishes, and Wilfred notices the depiction of the TARDIS in the stained glass window, the music is excessively bombastic. I know I sound like a broken record about it, but this level of orchestrated music just doesn't fit the tech-savvy sci-fi that Doctor Who is meant to be. It works for films like Star Wars and StarGate, because those respective films were the first of their kind, and thus we had nothing to compare them too. In the case of Doctor Who, it's my opinion that the revived series has a select set of standards it must live up to in order of being worthy of diehard fans' acceptance. These standards were set by the original series, and thus showed the world "this is what Doctor Who is like." Fans of any kind of cult sci-fi series are always weary of remakes and resurrections, because the last decade has shown so many ill-fated attempts, with the likes of Battlestar: Galactica, Hawaii 5-0, Transformers, Star Trek, Inspector Clouseau, Beverly Hills: 90210, Dragnet, Get Smart, The Love Boat, The Twilight Zone, Knight Rider, Bionic Woman, Melrose Place, V, Dallas....the list is almost endless. There have been so many bad remakes that I had to google a list of them. At any rate, it should be no surprise that Doctor Who fans were biting their nails when it was announced that the BBC was resurrecting it. While Dudley Simpson and several others performed orchestrated music for the original series, it was always used sparingly, and when it was used, was subtle comparable to the likes of "Blink."

Enough about the music. The second Davies mark was the character introduced for comic relief aimed at the kids watching. This time, it came in the form of the Vinvocci duo Rossiter and Addams. These two characters have about the same exact role - both in story and out - as Dr. Malcolm did in "Planet Of The Dead." Their behavior is often intentionally clumsy and goofy, in much the way Mickey Smith was in "Boom Town." The original series was often dotted with humor, mainly from one-liners by The Doctor, but it seldom required characters at the forefront specifically for comic relief. As I said in an earlier review, something that Davies did not understand and Moffat did was the fact that kids of all ages didn't care that it was super scary - they KNOW it's scary. That's why their watching. Of course, those kids are too young to see the obvious difference between tones in a cannibalistic Master eating people and a duo of green, cactus-looking aliens bumbling around like a Saturday morning cartoon. Nevertheless, the younger audience praised "Blink" and "Silence In The Library" for the sheer terror those stories provided, and thought they could not see it, their reasons for liking those episodes more was because they weren't pampered every ten minutes. Moffat knows they don't want to be. Honestly, if children were so terrified of the monsters on Doctor Who, they wouldn't watch it.

The third issue is not much a common Davies mark as it is the way he treated Tennant's regeneration. With all previous Doctors, the regeneration process was never a time of sorrow, because the man wasn't dying, just changing his outward appearance and maybe his behavior a little. The memories, knowledge, and soul was always still there. However, Davies knew that there were atleast a few million fan girls out there already broken hearted that their precious David Tennant...errr...Doctor was soon meeting his end. Because of that, Tennant's regeneration was treated as exactly that - an end. The scene with Wilfred and The Doctor in the cafe' verbally illustrates this, with a teary-eyed Doctor out right saying that he would cease to exist, that he would die, and another man takes his place and flies away. This is perhaps the biggest misconception of what regeneration is ever. If each incarnation did as Davies depicts and utterly died, to be replaced with a new man, then each incarnation would be totally and absolutely different from the last, with no recollection of his previous adventures. This served as a sort of early morning brain washing for the Tennant lovers, and instantly struck them with a sense of hatred for the newcoming Matt Smith. As a result, many fans were protesting, saying that the show would no longer be Doctor Who and that it would suck after Matt Smith took over, even though they had not even seen Matt in anything yet. The way the regeneration from Eccleston into Tennant is the way it should have been handled here. Rather than have a long, grueling build-up, it should have been on the spot and last minute, like all of Tennant's predecessors. It felt like a lot what Davies was doing with Tennant's final hours was specifically aimed at broken hearted teenagers, who only needed to see one tear from The Doctor before they buried their face in the sofa bawling.

Naturally, this episode contains some meaningless drama, namely the scene where The Doctor meets The Master in the wasteland for a second time. The Master pulls a Emperor Palpatine move and shoots lightning at The Doctor, causing climatic explosions behind him, which he doesn't even seem to notice. The Master gets enough of being mocked, and lands a shot right in The Doctor's chest. Strangely, this is enough to knock him down, but he soon recovers.

The transition from human race into Master race was done well, i thought. Rather than some fancy CGI light show that regeneration has become, it was more of a camera trick. It was neat how once the process had started, the people would fluctuate between person and Master before ultimately becoming a doppleganger of The Master.

The final scene shows the narrator of the episode to be James Bond....err....Lord Bond....errr...James Rassilon....err...anyway, Timothy Dalton stars as a Time Lord in a final scene that can be described as nothing less than a rip off from the senate scene from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

With that left only one final installment in the RTD era.

Doctor Who - "Dreamland"

WHOSCALE: 8 out of 10

Since I included the previous animated story "The Infinite Quest," I thought it would only be fair to include the other animated short that aired in weekly parts between the showing of "The Waters Of Mars" and "The End Of Time."

What scored this one high right off the bat was the fact that it was a in depth story divided into serial format, where each individual episode ended in a cliffhanger accompanied with the "sting" of the theme music. Even though each episode was only five to six minutes in length (save the opening episode), the entire story from start to finish has the feel of an original series story.

Many fans have criticized the serial's poor animation quality, and have thus considered it one of the worst stories in Doctor Who history. However, these viewers often think what makes a program great is shiny, high tech special effects such as those in the Transformers movies. The story doesn't have to be clever, just bombard the audience with explosions and shaky camerawork to keep them watching.

Perhaps the one complaint I had with the serial was the accelerated pacing of the story, which I was willing to overlook since writer Phil Ford was forced to cram his story into six minute segments instead of traditional 25 minute segments.

Ford also steers clear throughout the story of any wishy washy soapy romance, which was another plus and direct reflection of traditional Doctor Who story telling format. As with original series episodes, the romance between Cassie and Jimmie is limited to at most holding hands a couple of times. The most emotional scenes are perhaps the saddened Saruba Velak.

I also thought that the character of Mister Dread was done well, and Ford did a great job of interweaving them into the plot line.

Other than mentioning that the serial was praised by SFX Magazine, I can find no other things that I disliked about it. It was a solid story through and through, and the fact that it was a Doctor Who serial complete with cliffhangers alone was enough to sell me on it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Doctor Who - "The Waters Of Mars"

WHOSCALE: 6 out of 10

For the third special leading up to the big finale with the Tenth Doctor, Russell T Davies collaborated with Phil Ford to write this story set on Mars in the year 2059.

For about the first thirty minutes, this episode felt very close to classic Doctor Who, with the exception of a little over orchestrated music. However, the first half had the dark, creepy tone comparable to an episode of The X Files, and is definitely a rival for Davies' earlier "Midnight."

As with virtually all of Davies' stories, this one has a character whose main purpose is merely comic relief. In this case it's the Wall-E rip off called Gadget.

The episode starts to take tremendous downturns though when entire sequences begin to be solely devoted to enlightening the audience on Adelaide's personal history, from being spared by Dalek during the events of "The Stole Earth" and "Journeys End" to her future, where her great, great, grandchildren fall in love with new species. Davies continuously beat us over the head with the fact that Adelaide's death on Bowie Base One was a fixed point in time, and could not be changed. In spite of all that, I still didn't understand why it was necessary to know WHY Adelaide was even on the mission. Why weren't the other members asked?

This episode very loosely reminds me of the Fourth Doctor story "The Ark In Space," where The Doctor encounters a group of pioneering humans ready to "out-sit eternity" as he puts it. However, in that story, we didn't have to sit through five to six heart-wrenching minutes of Vira telling us why she was even on The Ark. In the case of "The Waters Of Mars," the episode would have done just as well without that info, especially the flashback sequence as The Doctor and Adelaide examine the ice crater.

On the subject of the ice crater, Davies does take time to nod the original series by mentioning the Ice Warriors.

The way the infected scientists looked was well done, and definitely gave me the willies a little the first time I watched it. It's those beady eyes and pronounced smile that gets you.

As if the first dabble in Adelaide's diary wasn't enough at the crater, we go through a 2059 version of a late night phone call between she and The Doctor via the comm system. Again, the episode goes from chaos to very somber and slow in the blink of an eye (no pun intended). This is another typical mark for Davies, as he did a similar mid-chaos pause in "Army Of Ghost" and "Doomsday."

From that point, the episode becomes 100% a music video, all shown in slow motion for boosted drama smothered in a orchestral and vocal soundtrack. This continues long enough for The Doctor to stand and watch the base team scurrying to load the ship, as well as turn and walk out.
At normal speed, the scene would have lasted anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds, but for the sake of barraging the audience with drama to cover up a spot of writer's block, we show the entire sequence over several minutes in slow motion.

As with most of the new series episodes, the sonic screwdriver yet again saves the day, by modifying Gadget into a DeLorean that leaves tire marks of fire. Not really, but ANYONE who has watched Back To The Future would have instantly thought of that film when they saw Gadget blasting down corridors and across the Martian surface. That bit was for the kids watching, because evidently today's generation of child sci-fi fanatics can only handle so much serious tone per episode. Remember when the original Doctor Who was a kid's show? Remember when the original Star Trek was a kid's show? Look Russell, kids don't want a cute little robot to make them feel like everything is going to be OK when they are intentionally watching the show because they know it scares them. Did Chris Carter hold back when he spooked us with The X Files? No! And Russell wonders why everyone picked "Blink" as their favorite. It's because it was super creepy, and Moffat didn't try to brighten up the episode's obvious dark tone with kid's humor. Yeah, it scared the Dickens out of kids and kept scaring them, but they loved it for that, and thus were pining for more.

The rocket explodes causing a hull breach on the base. Atmosphere is venting out so fast that the three remaining members - Adelaide, Yuri and Mia - have to hold on to keep from getting sucked out. Then The Doctor enters in heroic gesture to save the day, oddly unaffected by the venting atmosphere. He grabs a sealant canister and tosses it to Mia, who evidently is no longer affected by the venting atmosphere either, because she's standing straight and hands free to catch the canister.

The final scene was done rather well. The Doctor drops off the three survivors, and for once we see a darker side to the cheeky Tenth Doctor. Adelaide ultimately takes her own life, thus sustaining the current sequence of future events, and The Doctor is shell shocked at the realization that no matter what he does, he is powerless over the decisions of others. Ood Sigma pays him a visit in the street, then vanishes. Inside the TARDIS, the Kloister Bell is heard, and the stage is set for the Tenth Doctor's final story.

Doctor Who - "Planet Of The Dead"

WHOSCALE: 5.9 out of 10

When I first got word that parts of the Easter Special would be filmed in Dubai, and Russell T Davies has stated that the location shots would be for an alien world, I was somewhat excited, because my first thought was "he's finally going to an alien world." However, after further thought, I realized that it was a rip of either Tatooine, or a rip of Abydos. For those of you not familiar with the latter, it's the name of the planet in the StarGate film.

Everything about this episode just felt like a mess. It's like Davies came up with the plot - that of The Doctor and some fellow bus passengers getting stranded on an alien world via a portal - but didn't bother to come up with a resolution for the story until he was writing it, in which case he wrote multiple obstacles, and then had to invent ways to take care of them all in the final ten minutes. Normally, I would say that this is typical RTD style.

Let's start with the pointless opening sequence. A young lady steals a precious cup from a secured museum Mission: Impossible style, and then for a speedy getaway she hops on a bus. Rather than use the advanced tracking capabilities of the TARDIS, The Doctor boards the same bus with a little scanner thingy....and Easter chocolate. A spine-tingling 25 MPH hot pursuit begins, with cops chasing down the bus through a tunnel. A London tour bus outrunning police cars? Hmmm.

The episode finally starts an upward climb when the bus is transported across the universe to a barren desert planet. The next ten to fifteen minutes is more or less a repeat of the ten to fifteen minutes of "Midnight." There's crying, whining, "we're gonna die" and a lot of finger pointing at The Doctor. Sound familiar?

The Doctor and Lady Christina venture out from the stranded tour bus, and notice an approaching storm on the horizon. The episode then takes another Doctor Who form when we see that someone is watching the two of them from afar. It not is revealed what the aliens look like until later, and they turn out to be reminiscent of the Foamasi from "The Leisure Hive." Speaking of nods to the original series, The Doctor also mentions "the giant robot" when asking about past UNIT involvements, referring to The Fourth Doctor's first story, "Robot." Something that an original Doctor Who episode would not have done that this one did was have The Doctor snatch a passenger's cell phone to ring up UNIT for help. Really? The man who has seen all of time and space and he needs help from HUMANS to get out of this? He can defeat armies of Daleks, Cybermen, Toclafane, he can outsmart Weeping Angels, he can destroy all the Time Lords, but when he has car trouble he has to call road side assistance?!

Probably the most useless character was that of Dr. Malcolm. It was clear on numerous occasions that his character was introduced for the sole purpose of comic relief, and often drained the episode's serious tone dry.

Meanwhile back on Earth, the chasing police are stunned to see a tour bus vanish in front of them. Ok, here's the plothole. The bus is heading through the tunnel towards the roadblock, but passes through the portal at the end. Later, the cops giving chase are with the cops manning the road block. How did they get around the portal? Did they turn, go back and make two blocks? Is the portal anti-police?

About forty minutes in, Davies starts wrapping things up. It was already clear that the bus was not getting out the sand trap under its own power. To solve this, Davies introduces a crystal at the end of a long shaft held with anti-gravity clamps. Why would the Tritovores construct their ship that way? Oh I see. So the opening sequence can have meaning. Lady Christina uses her Mission: Impossible skills to retrieve the clamps. The Doctor offers to give the two Tritovores a lift, but rather than deal with writing a TARDIS scene for them, Davies just kills them off.

Back to the tour bus, The Doctor installs the anti-gravity clamps on the wheels, which oddly enough, seemed to be tailored specifically for clamping bus wheels. A fifth clamp is placed on the steering wheel, and after requiring to hammer the hell out of Lady Christina's earlier swag, the bus suddenly has the capability to fly, steered and accelerated using the bus' steering wheel and pedal.

The Doctor and company fly safely through the portal just in the nick of time, trailed only by two of the metal stingrays. This leads to a fire fight between UNIT forces and the two stingrays. The bus sets down, and there is an overly emotional group of passengers filled with joy that they're back in good ol' London town. The ending virtually goes on a killing spree of WhoScale points. Malcolm is in tears that he finally gets to meet the legendary Doctor, and continuously chants "I love you!" Enter homosexual humor here. Additionally, UNIT now caters to The Doctor by picking up his TARDIS where ever it was and delivering it to him. Funny how the Fourth Doctor had to walk back to his TARDIS in "Terror Of The Zygons" and "The Android Invasion." Who are you kidding, Russell? Just another way to conveniently tie up a plot hole you had not foreseen until you were writing the ending.

Lady Christina asks to join The Doctor in his travels, which he declines in favor of justice for her theft at the opening. The Doctor then has a change of hearts and sonic screwdrivers Lady Christina's handcuffs at a distance. She hops on the tour bus, and flies away into the starry sky.

Rather than traditionally have The Doctor figure out how to close the expansive portal when he gets back, the scientist Malcolm accomplishes it. My question is, if they had the tech to detect and close portals of this magnitude, why wasn't it detected and closed immediately?

Well, as most of you know it usually pointless to try and justify the plot holes that Davies often overlooks in favor of writing a good EastEnders drama. The episode scored a high five because that's about what it was. Thirty minutes of what felt like Doctor Who, and thirty minutes of "am I still watching Doctor Who?"