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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Doctor Who - "Cold Blood"

WHOSCALE: 8.5 out of 10

Chris Chibnall continues to pour on the Third Doctor era homage with the conclusion to "The Hungry Earth." Like this season's first two parter, the story utilizes roughly two main locations, in this case being above ground at the drill and the church in the first half, and focusing mainly underground in the Silurian city in this half. Once again the two part format does considerably well - largely due to the fact that with more time to work with - a more elaborate, slower paced story can be fluently developed over the span of the two episodes, instead of choosing between sacrificing depth or rushing an in-depth story through a single episode. That's not to say though, that some two part stories since the revival have still managed to turn out being flops. "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End," penned by former showrunner Russell T. Davies can arguably be the worst two part story of the revived series, mainly because of what he was trying to accomplish. Too many recurring characters and villains all twisted and intertwined into a basic Dalek storyline, with his usual soap subplots tossed in as well.

However in the case of "Cold Blood," Chibnall took the same approach to the second half that Moffat did with "Flesh And Stone." The episode picks up right where we left off in "The Hungry Earth," and once again the episode is chok full of nods to the original series. While Amy and Mo wandered the underground caverns, I couldn't help but be reminded of many a Third Doctor story, where Pertwee was exploring similar caverns.

As a diehard fan of the original series, I have a tendency to point out the little things that most viewers probably don't even notice. One of these little tid bits is the character names. For whatever reason, the original series seldom used common names for the characters in a particular story, whether it they be human or otherwise. The Silurian names stuck out in particular to me, as they were intentionally made to not sound like something you would hear above ground - "Alaya," "Restac," "Eldane," and "Malohkeh." Props for taking to time to be creative, Chibnall.

The story generally follows a universal narrative, without ever deviating for subplots. It only starts to go into a slight downturn right at the end - where once again, Rory dies. If you're still keeping count with me, that's two (2) deaths for Rory so far, and he's only been an official companion for four episodes. With Rory's death enters the usual sobbing, screaming companion scene. It almost as if all of the over-the-top drama was saved until the last ten minutes of the episode, where two episode's worth of drama was released, and thus causing the steady flow of the story to abruptly be disturbed.

There were a few scenes where I felt the CGI backdrops were a bit overdone, namely the one of the "Star Wars clone army" scene of Silurian soldiers. Now, in the Davies era, it would only have been a matter of time before that CGI army would have been marching up to the surface, but thankfully here, the backdrop scene is the only time we have to deal with a CGI army. Even after Restac has started releasing the soldiers, we never see any CGI Silurians, only the real ones.

The ending begs to question a few actions that I'm not quite sure analytical fans such as myself couldn't explain. For one, Moffat had already demonstrated that any object coming into contact with the light beaming from the crack in the wall would be instantly removed from history, yet here The Doctor is able to walk right up to the crack, stick his arm through, grab a piece from the other side and walk away unscathed.

The final scene definitely had be eager to see the rest of the season the first time I saw it, where the object The Doctor grabs from the crack in the wall turns out to be a charred piece of the TARDIS.

Another fantastic story, and tastefully done. At this point, it was clear that Series 5/Season 31 was going to blow the Davies era out of the water as far was traditional Doctor Who was concerned.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Doctor Who - "The Hungry Earth"

WHOSCALE: 9 out of 10

The second two parter for this season was penned by Chris Chibnall, who had previously contributed the Tenth Doctor story, "42."

Under the direction of Moffat, Chibnall is the second writer to have a kind of redemption story since the Davies era.

The idea behind this story was obviously to reintroduce the classic villains, the Silurians. To do that, Chibnall borrowed heavily from the flavor of the Third Doctor era, which was when the Silurians got the most air time.

There were tons of nods to the original series in this episodes, particularly the structure of the episode. It contained all the traditional elements you would have found in a Earth-based Third Doctor story - a mining operation, a small, rural village, and a scarce team of scientists drilling into the Earth's crust. Additionally, Chibnall successfully overcame the issue of avoiding present-day times while still setting the story relatively close to 2010 (in 2020), thus there's no reason to suspect that touch screen technology and present day clothes wouldn't still be the norm.

The plot is poured on thick in the beginning, with strange grass growing in the cemetery, a man swallowed up by the Earth, and empty graves with no visible sign of being disturbed. Although I knew well before this episode aired that it would be a Silurian story, I imagined when watching this time around what it must have been like for someone who hadn't followed production of the season before it aired, with absolutely no clue what this one was about. I expect it was even more of treat for Third Doctor fans than it was for me.

Everything seemed spot on in this episode. The pacing was a bit faster than that of "The Time Of Angels, " but not enough to feel like the producers were having to cram a six episode story into one. The music was sparingly used once again, if not a slight bit more powerful than what was used in "The Time Of Angels."

The Doctor is once again leading the way in this episode, with companions Amy and Rory tagging along as they should, and the two puzzled scientists joining in. Strange for the new series, but Amy was absent for much of this episode, having suffered the same fate as Mo near the beginning. She only appears in a couple of shots then, one of those being from a Silurian viewpoint, and a short scene near the end of the episode where a Silurian surgeon is apparently about to dissect her, having already done so on Mo.

As with most of the episodes from Moffat's debut season, I could find very little that just turned me off about it. If I just had to pick any minuses, it would be the slight over-injection of drama from The Doctor as Amy is pulled underground, the other being the CGI backdrop at the very end, and the ridiculous time discrepancy when The Doctor & company are setting up a security system - they had eight minutes to do, and it's hardly feasibly to accomplish what they did in that time. The "montage" format that is used even further indicates that far more time than eight minutes passed.

The production team took a new approach to the look of the Silurians, which has gotten mixed opinions since the episode aired. Personally, I think they looked fantastic. All mask and costume and no CGI will always win in my book. However, they did seem to fall a bit short on the facial features; the new breed of Silurian retains more human characteristics than their 1970s predecessors. No doubt this was to better smooth the transition for audiences. A sort of "safety measure" so they wouldn't look too far-fetched alien. At any rate, I think the revamp of the Silurians turned out far better than that of the Cybermen.

As with traditional Doctor Who style, the episode ends on a cliffhanger, leading up to the setting of the second part.