Those Time Heist cameos…

Moffat seems to be getting a touch of the JNTs lately with two gratuitous instances of continuity referencing in a row. Last week we had a brief glimpse of Pat Troughton’s Robin Hood, this week we get a flashback sequence with a whole load of faces from the past for no good reason other than to allow the fans to play spot the cameo…

time heist flashback

I don’t know which is more amusing – the fact that Abslom Daak is only represented by a police artist’s sketch [thus making him canon] or that the Trickster was arrested in China!

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Listen – 4/10

dr who listen title credit

Not only are we back to lower case lettering for the title this week but we’ve finally hit our first bump in the storytelling road of series eight. Listen sucks. A complete clunker that’s only marginally better than Fear Her, but not by much. Prior to this ep, I’d noticed that my ratings for the eps had put them in reverse order of transmission, meaning I preferred each successive one to the ep that came before it. I wondered at the time of last week’s ep how long that would last. Not very long as it turns out as this was a real let-down.

The idea that you’re never alone would be a good one for a story if it actually went somewhere. This leaves it all too open to it just being our imagination and there’s nothing there at all, Clara says as much when she comes back to the Tardis from the barn. Okay, I suppose for some folk the notion that there’s something invisible or unseen constantly with you might creep you out but the problem is that there’s no threat involved. For instance – there’s a spider in the house but you don’t know it’s there. It can be crawling all over the place happy as it likes and you don’t know anything about it. So the two of you live totally oblivious to the other’s existence. Until you see the bloody thing. And that’s the problem with Listen, there’s no threat. Whatever it is under the  blanket on Danny’s bed could well be just a kid larking about – a scene that makes no sense whatsoever. Are you seriously trying to tell me that the twelfth version of Mr Curiosity himself wouldn’t want to know what’s underneath? I don’t buy that for a minute, it’s a bad instance of character serving plot that you would expect someone like Moff not to fall prey to. Nice to know even the most successful writers can make the same mistakes as the rookies. The whole point of that scene should be that we find out what’s underneath and that we don’t is a cheat and feels like Moff didn’t actually know himself.

At the very least Twelvy should have whipped off that blanket only to discover that there’s nothing there, whatever it was has moved so fast nobody saw it go. I’m all for making the familiar scary and preying on people’s irrational fears but if you’re going to do that then at least give us an idea of what it really is, don’t leave it so open ended that we wondered why you bothered in the first place… And I’m sorry but if someone really did grab your ankle from underneath your bed you’d scream the place down not gasp dramatically, yet another example of Moff’s poor writing. Shame he didn’t give this one to someone else. Or watched Midnight to see how it should be done.

If the Tardis is taking them back along Clara’s timeline then how do we end up at the barn? That doesn’t add up and is a worse example of character serving plot than the previously noted one. Why not just wait for the Doctor to wake up? Okay so Clara’s a control freak but that still doesn’t explain how we end up at the barn. Of course the truth is that the reason we end up at the barn is because Moff wants to go there even if we don’t. And again, do you seriously expect me to believe that Twelvy wouldn’t have stepped outside or at the very least have checked where they were?

The whole thing is like a ghost story with no ghost. I’m all for ambiguity but if it’s all just fear and shadows and there isn’t anything there after all then what was the point of making us sit through that?  A set up with no payoff doesn’t make your audience think, it just pisses them off. Future Who writers take note – frustrate your viewers expectations at your peril!

In principle I’m against anything before An Unearthly Child so taking us back to when the Doctor was a kid is just wrong in my book. Not only that, they then treat us like idiots and stick in a flashback to John Hurt just in case we’re too thick to work out that it’s the same barn. Grrr! The scene in the barn must take place prior to him being plonked in front of the Untempered Schism  – Timelord children are taken from their families at the age of eight, Ten told us. So it looks like little lord Doctor-To-Be loses his aristocratic mum and dad in a ski-ing accident, gets put into an orphanage, so no other family, no aunties and uncles, he gets bullied by the other kids, runs away and meets K’Anpo, gets inspired, goes back, gets plonked in front of the Untempered Schism, runs away again, only just passes his Gallifreyan Eleven Plus and gets into Prydon Academy instead of doing his Gallifreyan National Service in the Army. Years later has a family of his own but only his Grand-daughter shares his love of adventure etc so when he learns that they intend to appoint him President [Five Doctors] or when he’s so bored out of his tits that he can’t stand it any more [War Games] or when he feels so compelled to Do Something about the injustice in the Universe [Robot of Sherwood] he steals a faulty Tardis and buggers off with his Grand-daughter to explore and do what he can where he can, deciding to call himself The Doctor from now on. But Susan eventually gets tired of wandering and wants to settle down somewhere. And then the Tardis arrives on Earth in 1963, which is where we came in originally. So much for the mystery of Doctor Who, we now know quite a lot. In fact I’d say we now know too much or at least more than enough to be getting on with.

So now we know that the barn in The Day of The Doctor was the only thing that remained of the orphanage where the Doctor grew up. Okay, so it could be a boarding school type thing I suppose but I very much doubt you would go back to your old school if you were about to use The Moment, whereas you might conceivably go back to your old orphanage where you grew up. Maybe. Especially if Clara has already told you that you will. That the Doctor was an orphan isn’t so very surprising and makes sense of Pertwee’s “daisy-est daisy” speech. How his parents died is a new mystery but what was the point of going back there at all? And is it really a straight choice between the Academy and the Army? Is that how it works on Gallifrey? Fail your Eleven Plus and it’s no University for you my lad, it’s off to the Army with you. And what the hell does Gallifrey need an army for anyway if they’re all meant to be non-interventionists?

Did you notice that the Doctor is wearing what looks like Peter Capaldi’s own jumper – if you look back at the first episode of Extra you’ll notice that he was wearing it at the read through for Deep Breath. Don’t think it really works though, so hope we don’t see much more of it.

Danny Pink continues to irritate the fire out of me and I still can’t work out what the hell Clara sees in him apart the obvious. Clara is starting to get a bit up herself now and this ep was the first time I found her just the tiniest bit annoying, not a good thing for your audience identification figure to be. She meets Danny and instantly wants to shag him, meets him as a child, possibly inspiring him to be a soldier, they get it together, become a couple and in the future one of their grandkids becomes Earth’s first pioneer time traveller. Nothing’s ever simple is it? Does this have anything to do with the finale or why the Tardis doesn’t like Clara? We’ll have to wait and see but I’m not sure if I like where these rather too obvious parallels between Pinky and Twelvy are heading. Both are former soldiers scarred by their experiences, Pink The Wimp changed his name and The Doctor gave himself a code name. Pink The Wimp is Clara’s boyfriend, The Doctor used to think he was Clara’s boyfriend. That, along with Danny and Clara being nothing more than a variation on Amy and Rory, is filling these new series scripts with some tired old ideas.

NEXT TIME – Time Heist. Now this looks really good, a sort of Ocean’s Eleven only in a Space Bank instead of a Casino. And that Keely Hawes, she’d get it.

SATISFACTION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 1/10

FRUSTRATION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 9/10

ANTICIPATION LEVEL FOR NEXT EPISODE – 7/10

SERIES EIGHT SO FAR?

Robot of Sherwood by Stuart Manning Radio TimesInto The Dalek by Stuart Manning Radio TimesDeep Breath by Stuart Manning Radio TimesListen by Stuart Manning Radio Times

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Craig Ferguson for series nine?

peter capaldi craig ferguson doctor who

With confirmation that James Corden will replace Craig Ferguson as host of The Late Late Show, what are the chances that Capaldi’s old pal Ferguson will now get a cameo in S9? Pretty good I’d say, in fact I’d put money on it now if I were you before the odds start to shorten.

 

 

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Rude Who! Naughty Capaldi

I thought this was what I’d seen but until I’d downloaded the ep I wasn’t sure. Did you spot Twelvy giving Robin the finger during Robot of Sherwood? No? Well he did!

doctor who robot of sherwood finger

1] Do you think we should class this as our first Doctor Tucker Moment?

2] Stand by for the GIFs…

 

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New Novels Previews

Thanks to the Random House insight widget, you can read the first few pages of each of the three upcoming Twelfth Doctor novels. Click on the covers to take you to each of the previews.

doctor who crawling terror
doctor who silhouette
doctor who blood cell

The Crawling Terror is probably the best of the three as it gives you a good idea of what the book’s about – an updated Green Death with that old B-Movie standby of giant spiders etc – whereas the other two don’t really do that. Silhouette is a Locked Room Murder mystery which looks like it was done by the shadow of an origami bird or something. And Blood Cell has the Doctor chatting away to the Governor of an asteroid prison that bad things will happen. Both are a bit bleh really and, given that each of these is a good 18 pages or so, potential future Who Book authors should take note – there’s a lesson here in how to hook your reader. If you still haven’t got me by page 18 then you probably aren’t going to be telling the kind of story I’m interested in.

So, if I only had the money to buy one of these books, then based on these previews I would spend the cash on Mike Tucker’s tome over the others.

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Robot of Sherwood – 7/10

Only three episodes in and the ghost of Douglas Adams returns to haunt Who, chanelled by Mark Gaytits.  I can just see this as the kind of thing that would work as a Williams/Adams story with Tom larking about and not taking it seriously. Of course here we get the inversion of that, with Capaldi probably the only one who is taking things seriously, everybody else seems to be playing it as if they’re in an update of Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights. Though, to be fair, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It came as something of a relief to have a RoS as a straightforward adventure without the irritations of either The Slap or The Snog from the previous two eps.

Thing is, all the Robin Hood cliches were there and it showed, although it did put me in mind of The Time Warrior, so it wasn’t all bad but you could pretty much guess exactly what was going to happen moments before it did. That’s normally a fun experience but only when it’s every now and then, not every bloody plot point. Too derivative by far, Mr Gaytits. If only you had told us the truth about the legend of Robin Hood instead of giving the story we all already know, all over again, only this time with the Doctor in it.  The joke of “the legend is actually what really happened” may seem funny on the train back from Cardiff to London but it just doesn’t work precisely because we’ve seen it all before, and simply sticking the Doctor in the middle of it does not in itself make it different enough to be engaging. Yes Capaldi is extremely watchable but all the stuff going on around him is a bit yawnsville. Nice idea but for me it just doesn’t work as well as it might.

I started off by mentioning the ghost of Douglas Adams – who else could possibly have written anything so ridiculous as the Sword v Spoon fight. That’s straight out of the Season Seventeen playbook and just the sort of thing that would have stopped Tom from being bored again. Ridiculous.

doctor who robot sherwood tom baker spoon

In the real world Robin would have cut the Doctor’s hand off with his first stroke, and Twelvy isn’t within the first fifteen hours of his regeneration cycle so that would have been awkward. And speaking of cutting things off…

Two days before this ep was due to TX there came the dreadful news of Steven Sotloff’s beheading by IS, the second following that of James Foley. And so the Beeb took the decision to cut the beheading scene from the episode, quite rightly. And then, again just a day or two before transmission, but after the edit decision had been taken, we had the gruesome beheading of Palmira Silva, here in the UK, which only proved the Beeb made the right call, if nothing else out of sheer good taste and decency. Perhaps those who initially complained about the edit would have been slightly less vocal if the BBC had cited the murder of Silva as the reason for the cut instead of Foley and Sotloff.

For those of you who haven’t seen the workprint the cut sequence is detailed in my previous post but essentially it reveals that the Sheriff is the robot of the title and not Robin. That the sequence still works without the excised material makes you question why it was there in the first place. When I watched the workprint of this ep it struck me that it was all a bit too similar to the half-face clockwork man we’d had only two eps earlier. So all in all, that was a cut that improved the episode for me and if anyone really is bothered, I’m sure they will be able to see it on the Box Set. As well as all over the Internet as soon as the ep is over!

And did you notice that the story title was in CAPS this time instead of the lower case of the previous two eps?

series eight titles one two three

So overall, for all it was just a cut price Men In Tights it was entertaining enough and, though still something of a mis-fire, I think it’s still the best of the three we’ve had so far.

NEXT TIME – Listen. Oh dear, not looking forward to this one at all. Capaldi will, as ever, be the best thing in it, but this looks awful…

SATISFACTION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 7/10

FRUSTRATION LEVEL FOR THIS EPISODE? – 2/10

ANTICIPATION LEVEL FOR NEXT EPISODE – 1/10

SERIES EIGHT SO FAR?

Robot of Sherwood by Stuart Manning Radio TimesInto The Dalek by Stuart Manning Radio TimesDeep Breath by Stuart Manning Radio Times

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50th Anniversary DVD Box Set Review

Postie brought my 50th Box Set today, purchased from the BBC Shop. Nice surprise for it to arrive before Monday when it’s officially out, so might order Series Eight from them if that’s how they roll over there… Each box is numbered and mine is 04485. The sleeve with the disc info simply slides off, leaving you with the “moment” box, devoid of writing.

drwho 50th box set 2

The Box itself is somewhat disappointing as it’s simply a thin outer cardboard sleeve as you’ll see on all the upcoming video reviews on YouTube. And the problem with that is that, to access the discs, you have to open the top of the box, which is going to mean a lot of wear and tear, so best rip the discs to your PC if you plan on viewing them more than just the once. Can’t understand why they’ve done it this way instead of you being able to slide the individual discs out of a sturdy cardboard outer like you can with the series box sets. Cost, I suppose.

The box itself is a thing of beauty, packaged to look like The Moment, and with the edging around the Gallifrey symbols nicely embossed in gloss to contrast with the matt of the rest of the box. The front is a clear plastic window so you can see the Doctor of your choice on whichever disc you choose to put topmost. And there’s a nice pic on the back, a variation on the very end shot where all the Docs are together. This should probably be released as a poster with an upcoming issue of DWM…
drwho 50th box set 1
The four discs in the set are all in the same sliver-grey amrays as the classic series discs. Each of the four has  a different Doctor – McGann, Hurt, Tennant and Smith – on the cover, and each disc has the Seal of Rassilon. The spine of each disc sleeve is simply a series of circular gallifrey symbols, ordered slightly differently for each Doctor, no writing at all. The box set also includes an insert for the Legacy phone game with a link for you to get a gift promo code.

Funny thing is that the discs are numbered in reverse order to the order of the Doctors, so Smiffy is 01 and McGann is 04, meaning you have to reverse the order of the discs to have Smiffy in the window. Overall, this set is only really let down by the daft decision not to have the same style of box as each of the series box sets, otherwise a great release.

dr who 50th box set disc 1
dr who 50th box set disc 2
dr who 50th box set disc 3
dr who 50th box set disc 4
All the disc menus are standard, as per the Series Seven Box Set, but the menus for disc 4 are different:
50th box set disc 4 menu 150th box set disc 4 menu 250th box set disc 4 menu 350th box set disc 4 menu 4

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