Monthly Archives: May 2017

Doctor Who: The Pyramid at the End of the World Review

The Pyramid at the End of the World by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat

Warning: Major Spoilers!

This isn’t a conventional three-parter so much as three interlinked standalone episodes, as very little of Extremis carries forward here (Missy doesn’t appear for one thing). The Monk’s real plan was the high point of the episode, as after totally misdirecting the Doctor they essentially blackmailed humanity into accepting their rule or be destroyed by a catastrophe of their own making. It was refreshing to see an alien race using humanity’s own mistakes against them rather than simply threatening them with some form of alien tech. I liked the use of the Doomsday clock as a warning, and The Doctor discovering where the threat was by tricking the Monks into revealing which security camera they were monitoring was very clever. However, the dragged-out reveal of the Doctor’s blindness to Bill was a bit frustrating, even if the final scenes delivered on the pay-off as the Doctor’s weakness nearly proved fatal for him, and was ultimately the reason the Monks won.

So the Doctor’s blindness is finally cured. As with last week, Nardole was actually a valuable addition here (the Doctor’s blindness plotline has really helped Nardole’s supporting role in the show find its feet) while Bill was back to her best as Pearl Mackie proved in the final scenes how well she can handle the emotional beats her character has to deal with. Bill putting the Doctor ahead of humanity’s safety should make things interesting for her next week as she deals with the inevitable guilt of that decision. Tony Gardner and especially Rachel Denning were also good value as the two lab scientists (wouldn’t mind seeing more of Rachel Denning – after David Suchet in Knock Knock she’s been the best guest star so far).

The Monks are more intriguing than anything else at this point. We’ve had two episodes of them now and still know very little other than they are methodical, strategic and that their monkish appearance isn’t their true form. This is creating a lot of theories that there is a more familiar foe hiding underneath the monks outer appearance, but I’m sure we’ll learn a bit more about them next episode. Their desire to rule through love rather than fear is a fair bit different from the normal alien invaders we see on who, while their test of the purity of surrendering (and their cold execution of those found wanting) all combined to make them something we’ve not seen before. However, it was another action-light episode, and I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m ready for more of an action packed adventure (which hopefully we may get next week!).

Overall an enjoyable episode that flirted with greatness but never quite went all the way. However, the stage is now set for the concluding part of this three-parter to be an absolute thriller, which this series is still crying out for. Hopefully Toby Whitehouse doesn’t let us down…

Rating: 4 out of 5

Next Time: The Monks have control of Earth and Missy’s giving advice on how to save it… what could possibly go wrong?

Doctor Who: Extremis Review

Extremis by Steven Moffat

Warning: Major Spoilers!

This episode has a different feel to the 5 that preceded it. They were all very straightforward and simplistic, and while that felt refreshing, I hadn’t released until this episode how much I missed Moffat’s usual style. Extremis has two separate stories at play, a flashback focusing on Missy and the Vault, and the main thrust of the episode in present day, which while still taking its time skipped all over the place while also dealing with the effects of the Doctor’s new state of blindness. And by god it was good!

The comedy was excellent, with Nardole getting his best material since The Pilot and the whole idea of the Pope accidently walking in on Bill’s date was hilarious (as was her oblivious mother who still can’t figure out Bill’s a lesbian). Nardole having to describe obvious events to the blind Doctor without alerting Bill was pretty funny too. Moffat’s always been good at this side of things (unsurprisingly given that he started out writing comedy series) but he really was on top form here. Also, this episode finally proved why Nardole is worth having in the series – Matt Lucas was excellent here and got several great lines (I am slightly worried that only Moffat can really write Nardole, but hopefully some of the remaining writers can prove me wrong!).

Also improving this week was the direction (this is the first time since Smile I was impressed by it) and Murray Gold’s score, which added to the tension in a way it had completely failed to do in Oxygen. The scene where the partially-sighted Doctor was fleeing from the monks in the Vatican library was visually one of the best we’ve got all series, and was a great example of what good direction can do for chase sequences. The Monks’ themselves certainly look (and sound) disturbing, but given how limited their screentime was we’ll have to wait till next time to see what they can really do.

Now looking at the Missy flashbacks: Michelle Gomez was as good as ever. She’s clearly going to have a major part to play later in the season. But the flashbacks were more of an amusing diversion that anything else – a tease for later on. I can’t wait. The revelation that Missy is in the Vault makes sense with everything we’ve seen so far, but there has to be an extra twist about the Vault. Missy being in their isn’t worth all the emphasis that’s being put on it. Knowing Moffat, we definitely don’t have all the answers yet!

The only problem I had with this episode was the whole matrix style resolution to everything – it wasn’t really foreshadowed and felt a bit too out of nowhere for my liking. The main plot was so interesting it felt a bit like cheating to explain it all as a practice simulation for the invasion we’ll see next episode. I can understand why it happened like that but it left me a bit deflated after how good the first 40 minutes had been.

Overall a very good episode with a slightly deflating final 10 minutes of set-up for the second part. Hopefully the next two stories will be worth it!

Rating: 4 out of 5. This series is consistent but it still hasn’t caught fire yet.

Next Time: The Monk’s invasion plans are imminent and the Doctor investigates a mysterious Pyramid that appeared out of nowhere…

 

Doctor Who: Oxygen Review

Oxygen by Jamie Mathieson

Mathieson has a pretty good record on Who. ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ and ‘Flatline’ were two very strong showings in series 8, while ‘The Girl Who Died’s flaws came more from the weak cast that the script. On Paper, Oxygen looked like one of the ones worth waiting for in the first 5 episodes. Did he deliver?

Warning: Spoilers!

It’s actually hard to say. I thought parts of it were excellent (The Doctor’s opening monologue, Bill’s Asphyxiation, the Blind Doctor) but overall I felt a bit underwhelmed by this episode. For the first time this series, the slow pace really didn’t work for me. Zombie stories are generally all about  two things: frenzied action or high tension. This was too slow and not scary enough for me. I’m not blaming the direction, which was fine if unspectacular. I blame Murray Gold (not a sentence I’d normally write on this blog) as the music really doesn’t ramp up the tension as much as it needs to. Also, zombies tend to work better in lower lighting (particularly if their appearance isn’t all that scary) so the station being well lit seemed an odd choice.

Also for the first time this series, I didn’t like Bill in this episode. She was too whiny and nervous throughout. I hope she gets more into travelling in the TARDIS as the series goes on, because her near-lack of enthusiasm is starting to go too far the other way from Clara’s death-wish love of adventure. Also, while Nardole got a couple of decent lines, his inclusion didn’t feel like it added much. Hopefully both those problems will be fixed next week when Moffat takes over the writing again.

I did like how, for once, the dangerous circumstances have a real consequence to them, as the Doctor is struck blind while saving Bill in a vacuum. If I had to guess, this blindless will either last up to the end of the incoming 3-part story, or will be a constant feature until Capaldi regenerates. The guest cast were also good, although we weren’t really given enough reasons to care about them. The whole ‘company values money above people’ cliché is used so often in sci-fi it didn’t seem particularly interesting.

Overall, there were a lot of good ideas flying around, but the execution could have been better, and needed to be scarier. The cast are performing well, but Mathieson didn’t write Nardole or Bill all that well as far as I’m concerned.

Rating: 3 out of 5. This series needs a big hit soon, cause right now it’s coasting along a bit too much. Next Week should fix that though, if the trailer’s anything to go by.

Next Time: Hey Missy you so fine… The 12th Doctor’s nemesis is back, along with some sinister Monks and Steven Moffat.

Doctor Who: Knock Knock Review

Knock Knock by Mike Bartlett

Warning: Spoilers!

The Capaldi era has so far given us some pretty promising new writers; Jamie Mathieson (who wrote the excellent Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express), Peter Harness (The Zygon Two-Parter and Kill the Moon) and Sarah Dollard (Face the Raven). Newcomer Mike Bartlett might just be the latest addition to that list. Knock Knock isn’t flawless, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first 35 mins and the Vault tease at the end.

Knock Knock is creepy. Not necessarily scary (though I’m sure younger viewers might have thought so) but whether its the giant-lice infestation or David Suchet’s eerie Landlord, the episode provides it’s share of chills. The sound effects and Murray Gold’s score work wonderfully here – giving us the same haunted house vibe Hide did so well in Matt Smith’s last series. The guest actors are all good (and fortunately Bartlett can write students without making them clichés) but it’s predictably Suchet who steals the show. His performance is nicely understated, yet menacing, and gives Capaldi someone worthy to face off with for the first time this season.

Bill and the Doctor spend more time apart here than they have since the opener, but Pearl Mackie is still as good solo, which is encouraging. The dialogue is pretty good, and Bill Anderson seems more comfortable directing this time (though I’m still not rating him compared to the other Who directors – fortunately we have a different one next week). The episode’s only problem is its resolution – while the Landlord being the tree-lady’s aged son is a nice twist, the reveal failed to pack an emotional punch for me (whether that’s down to direction or the rather underused music i’m not sure) and left rather a few questions unanswered (how did the Landlord tame the creatures not to consume him or his mother? why did they transform her in the first place rather than feeding on her?). Overall though, I still like the episode despite its so-so ending (the one problem this series has tended to have – they are getting the build-up right every single episode but the resolutions tend to be either just okay (The Pilot, Thin Ice) or a bit underwhelming (Smile, Knock Knock). It’s not a big issue atm but it could use fixing soon).

Now, that Vault tease. The Doctor is friendly with whoever’s inside and brings them food, so we can rule out Cybermen or other alien enemies. Whoever’s inside clearly isn’t the nicest of people (they seemed amused by the idea of students getting eaten) which leans heavily towards Missy or Simm’s Master behind those doors. Moffat’s suggested we’ll know who in episode 6, which is the first part of a three-parter, so its clearly going to kick something massive off when those doors open… can’t wait!

Overall, Knock Knock is a creepy, entertaining episode slightly let down by an underwhelming 5 mins at the end. Series 10 is still simmering nicely but hasn’t caught fire yet…

Rating: 4 out of 5

Next Time: Nardole joins the Doctor and Bill aboard a space station infested by air-deprived Zombies…