Tag Archives: Matt Lucas

Doctor Who: World Enough and Time Review

World Enough and Time by Steven Moffat

I’ll give a spoiler warning, even if the BBC showed all but one plot point in the trailers.

This episode might have been a classic but for two avoidable problems. But really it comes down to one problem: unnecessary spoilers. The episode all moved a bit slowly in the second half, but that was only an issue because we all knew where it was going. We knew the hospital patients were being converted into Mondasian Cybermen. It was thus very easy to guess that was exactly what was going to happen to Bill. We knew John Simm’s Master was returning. Thus it was pretty easy to guess ‘Mr. Razor’ was more than he seemed. I can understand why the Cybermen’s return was announced early. They feature in exterior-shot scenes which extras or photographers could easy have spoiled. The episode works whether or not you know they’re coming. But Simm’s reveal was so late on, and only in front of the principal cast members, that spoiling his return seemed completely unnecessary. Had he been a surprise this could have rivalled ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Utopia’ for great Master shock reveals. But, whether to entice viewers or just out of idiocy, the BBC decided to announce Simm’s return and put him in various trailers. #Mistake. Fortunately, despite this misstep, the episode was pretty damn good!!!

I feel like I’ve been moaning about the direction for half the damn series, but Rachel Talalay has never disappointed on Who (seriously, someone hire her for the final Game of Thrones season!!! Imagine what she could do with that budget!). The ship reveal was sublime, the creepy hospital expertly shot, and the episode generally full of little directorial flourishes that helped make the last two finales so splendid. Murray Gold’s score was pretty good for the most part too. Moffat’s script deserves equal credit with Talalay’s direction, as, just like ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Heaven Sent’ Moffat comes up with a great sci-fi concept to base an episode around. The ship with time running faster/slower at each end is a great idea and one he has plenty of fun with, even if the episode spends a little too long explaining it as a concept. In short, the production team nails it.

Nardole and Capaldi played a smaller role in proceedings than normal, though Capaldi’s explanation of the gravity-time phenomenon was good and his recollections of him and Missy as young boys on Gallifrey was touching. The episode was instead largely carried by Missy, Bill and Mr. Razor (AKA the Master – I’d sussed that out within about five minutes of him being on screen and I’m guessing most of you knew well before he and Missy went face to face). Michelle Gomez had tremendous fun playing ‘Doctor Who’ and winding Bill and Nardole up, while Bill’s experience in the hospital leads to one of Pearl Mackie’s best performances to date. But the real praise has to be saved for John Simm. His performance (under heavy make-up) as Razor was so good I almost started doubting if it actually was the master under there. His Master may have only been on screen for two minutes, but this is the first time since ‘The Sounds of Drums’ I’ve really felt like Simm was playing the Master as he should be. He was (thankfully) restrained,  and more of a smirking, creepy villain than the laughing, overblown psychopath Russell T. Davies wrote. This version of Simm’s Master just felt instantly more nuanced – and hopefully the next episode will maintain this transition and not revert to the animalistic madman from ‘The End of Time’. Credit to Simm and Moffat if that happens. The scene between him and Missy was the best scene Simm’s got since the phone call between him and Tennant in Sound of Drums, and if we’re lucky the interaction between those two will give us plenty more highlights to look forward to.

Overall, World Enough and Time works very well, but the slow pacing in the second half and the big drawn out reveals are far less effective because of the spoilers. The stage is set for a truly great finale though. Don’t let us down Moffat.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Next Time: The Cybermen rise and evolve, The Doctor and Nardole try to save Bill, The Master fights for his future and Missy finally decides what side she is on…

Seriously if this finale doesn’t get 5/5 they’ve fucked up. Because they’ve created a set-up with so much potential that anything less than perfection would be a missed opportunity

Doctor Who: Episodes 8-10 Review

My enthusiasm for this series of Doctor Who has decidedly dropped, hence why I’m reviewing the last three episodes at once. I’ll cover the finale episodes individually because there will doubtlessly be more to talk about in them.

Warning: Spoilers!

The Lie of the Land by Toby Whitehouse

Oh dear. The Monk trilogy was going so well.

It’s not that this episode is bad exactly, its just deeply unsatisfying as the final part of a trilogy (sounds familiar). Wasting 20 minutes of the episode on a throwaway plot which ended with a fake regeneration (presumably only included to put some cool shots in the series trailer) really did not help matters. Nor did the Monks, who’ve been meticulous in their plans, being defeated so easily (by the power of love overcoming technology/brainwashing… groan – this plot device should never be allowed in Who again – its fucking annoying how overused it is!!! – Think Fear Her, Victory of the Daleks, Night Terrors, Rings of Akhaten etc… only reset buttons are worse or more bloody frequent). Rant over, Mackie, Lucas and Capaldi are all good (Capaldi’s fake turn to the dark side is very, very well acted, and if this episode had been in his first series it might have even been believable), but that’s not enough to save this episode. If it wasn’t for Missy’s scene stealing turn in the vault, it wouldn’t get nearly as high a rating.

If the Doctor had really been brainwashed by the Monks in serving them and Bill managed to break their hold on him, before the Monks attack on mass in response maybe we’d have got a decent conclusion from this story. In many ways it reminded me of Last of the Time Lords from Series 3: an occupied earth, a captive Doctor, a companion who is everyone’s only hope and a nonsensical climax which combine to provide a decent episode but an uttering unsatisfying conclusion to what had been a promising 3-parter.

Overall ‘the Lie of the Land’ is an entertaining enough episode, but a sorely disappointing climax to the Monks trilogy. The acting and dialogue is good, but the plot is bland and the direction flat.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Empress of Mars by Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss has a VERY mixed record on Doctor Who (rather like his mixed contributions to Sherlock) – while most of his stories fall safely into the average category (think The Idiot’s Lantern, Victory of the Daleks or Cold War) at other times he’s utterly predictable, churning out dull crap like Night Terrors or Sleep No More, or occasional triumphs like The Unquiet Dead and The Crimson Horror.

This episode combines two of Gatiss’ favourite Who tropes: Ice Warriors (as mentioned he scripted their modern return in series 7’s Cold War) and a Victorian setting (which he used in Unquiet Dead and Crimson Horror, as well as the Sherlock Xmas special). I preferred the Ice Warriors in this story to the one in Cold War, least because the Ice Warriors are slightly more nuanced this time. They’re ruthless, loyal, merciful and honourable, all in the same 45 minutes, rather than a monster running amok on a submarine and then being merciful in a completely out-of-character way.

If Cold War was the Ice Warrior version of Alien, Empress of Mars is Aliens with far more action and Ice Warriors than the previous entry. The Ice Warrior weapons are a bit odd (why they didn’t stick with their weapons from the classic series/Cold War is slightly baffling) but I’m just glad we got some action after what has been for the most part a pedestrian and rather uneventful series. Pity the Victorian soldiers were so forgettable. They are well acted (Ser Meryn Trant off Game of Thrones made an appearance) but very thinly drawn by Gatiss and downright clichéd in some places. Only the Ice Warrior Friday really leaves a lasting impression.

Overall, like Smile earlier in the season, it’s an entertaining filler episode that never really does anything revolutionary. It’s workmanlike yet enjoyable with an alien threat in the Victorian era and is standard Gatiss fare – but if this is his last Who episode, maybe that’s for the best.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Eaters of Light by Rona Munro

This is something notable. An episode written by not just one of the writers from the classic series, but the one who wrote the very last story of that run (Survival) in 1989 (it’s a decent but unremarkable 3-parter featuring the Master, appropriately enough). She’s the first classic-who writer to return for the modern series, but did she make the most of it?

Answer: Sort of. The Eaters of Light is one of the better episodes of the series, but given its consistent mediocrity that doesn’t say an awful lot. Like Empress of Mars it’s a very simplistic episode but fortunately has slightly better characters. The monster is more menacing than some we’ve had this series, but in the end its defeated rather easily (see also Smile, Lie of the Land etc.). Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi give their best as always, while the younger supporting cast is likeable. It’s probably the best material Matt Lucas has got from a writer other than Moffat too. Equally its the best soundtrack from Murray Gold in a while, but I still think it might be time for him to go; the music has generally been background noise this season (for series 1-9 it was something closer to an art form).

The Missy scene is kind of awkwardly fixed on, but Capaldi and Gomez make up for it. The Vault plotline really did go nowhere didn’t it? Rule for showrunners: never make the question more interesting than the answer (something season 2 and 3 of The Flash can’t stop bloody doing, but I had hoped Who was above that cheap viewer-bait).

Overall, a good script makes this one of the better entries in Series 10, but a forgettable monster and predictable climax means it doesn’t soar as high as it could have. Rona Munro can definitely come back next season though.

Rating: 4 out of 5

10 episodes. I’ve given five 4/5 ratings, two 3.5/5 ratings and three 3/5 ratings. This is currently the lowest scoring run of who episodes (according to me anyway) in all 10 seasons. No other series got this far in without getting a 4.5/5 or a 5/5. Moffat’s 3 episodes were all good but only 2 of the support writers really nailed their entries. Whatever happens in the last 2 episodes it’ll still probably be my least favourite (modern) series of Who. Unless the finale REALLY steps things up a gear. Fingers crossed. Speaking of which…

Next Time: Missy’s rehabilitation is put to the test on a ship stuck near a black hole, while her predecessor and some very old-style Cybermen…

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.