Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Vampires of Venice

Now here we have a really cool alliterative title, which is a CON. They aren't Vampires and they aren't of Venice! They are of an alien world and/or Croatia depending on your perspective!

Now here's a thing. Back in the RTD era, the Vampire's probably would have been just that. RTD had an actual werewolf and actual Witches for example. So I am rather vexed, I've been waiting for the new series to do proper Vampires. The show has a good little history with Vampires: State of Decay, Goth Opera, Blood Harvest, even Zagreus. Good proper Vampires are becoming a rare thing in this post-Twilight, twee bullshit, era.

That point aside, this is the very definition of a bog-standard Who run-around. In some ways its arguably the first time the show has attempted to do something so pedestrian since the relaunch in 2005.

What raises the episode above Victory of the Daleks is the character stuff between The Doctor, Amy and Rory. Everything about that felt natural and Amy now feels like a much more fully rounded character to me than she did previously.

Nothing spectacular, but watchable enough and still better than Victory of the Daleks, which remains the season lowlight so far.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

The Time of Angels & Flesh and Stone

Okay, there was a lot in this one and I think I will need to watch it again to give any proper overview. I think that it was, without a doubt, one of the most intricate and clever Doctor Who stories and almost certainly the cleverest one to be shown on television. At times it was also stupendously cool. The whole sequence of River Song escaping and being rescued was the single best sequence/set piece I have seen since the "Putting out fires with Gasolene" sequence in Inglorious Basterds. Matt Smith is, once again, effortlessly brilliant and mulit-faceted as the Doctor. Karen Gillan gets to be more interesting as Amy. River Song remains firmly wedged on the line between intriguing and irritating, but by and large I remain intrigued.

All in all this was, at least, a solid 9 on 10. But I do have to take issue with the "OMG BEST EPISODE EVAR!" type reviews we are getting. Here's a list of episodes that are better:

1) Dalek.
2) Bad Wolf/Parting of Ways.
3) The Girl in the Fireplace.
4) The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.
5) Army of Ghosts/Doomsday.
6) Human Nature/Family of Blood.
7) Blink.
8) Utopia-Last of the Timelords.
9) Turn Left.

Not to mention a bunch of stories from the original run, novels, audios and comics.

But I'll certainly take "one of the greatest ever" any day of the week!

Monday, 3 May 2010

THIS was NOT their finest hour.

And so we move onto Victory of the Daleks. This was a strange episode and a definite case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts. I'll start with the positives, the biggest of which was Matt again putting in an excellent performance as the Doctor. The Moff and his team have stumbled on a real star here and I hope they have got him signed up for at least 3 years as he has not put a foot wrong so far.

Next up: Spitfires in space, Cool.E.O. but coming with an automatic negative. The scenes were not nearly long enough (compare with any number of battles in B5 or DS9, or even The Parting of Ways), really given the shortness of these scenes they should not have been included in the trailer.

The Dalek redesign. I have to admit I hated this when I saw the pictures online and they looked like toys. But in the episode itself they are big menacing buggers and I am now totally sold on them. I also loved the fact that the plot comes about as a way to trap the Doctor and that they got to win too, so good times on that one.

On the downside. Amy is basically anonymous again here and very Generic Who Companion for the most part. The portrayal and writing of Churchill is just too cartonish for my tastes, not to say that it isn't respectful, because it is, but it just didn't have the depth I was looking for. Depth of character was a problem for the whole supporting cast to be honest with the whole thing being a little too "Boys own" adventure for me. Indeed the tone of the episode seems, at best, uneven. Ignoring for the moment the Dalek involvement, it seems that the episode wants to have both ways being a "boys own" bank holiday special, but also trying to be dutifully respectful to the people that fought the war. The overall effect is a feeling of being preached at rather than quiet respect. And preached at in a rather simplistic and cliched way to boot. NuWho has stuck this balance better already (Empty Child/Doctor Dances and Human Nature/Family of Blood, Hell even Mark Gatiss as Dr. Lazarus) and old Who and spin-off who has stuck the balance better numerous times before.

Whilst its not generally fair to criticise a show for being one thing and not another, I do think its valid here to raise the issue of the whole concept of the Daleks versus Churchill. I have pointed out in the past the clear parallels between the Nazis and the Daleks and clearly this was in the mind of the creative team in formulating this episode. However, its not particularly well drawn out in the episode, which relies on the incongruity of the Daleks as wartime servitors. I would've preferred to see much more of the Doctor saying "these guys ARE the nazis", "these guys are the nazis taken to their ultimate conclusion", "if you rely on these guys you will become the nazis". I don't think that this point was expressed well enough in the episode.

I have to say that I am not convinced that Mark Gatiss is well suited to writing for the new series. He has done some great stuff in the books and audios and is clearly capable of doing "old who but better". But I have never been particularly fond of his work in the new series. I think that the Unquiet Dead was a hugely flawed entry to season one and although the Idiot Lantern was better, it was still one of the poorer episodes of season 2. On the other hand I would just point out that I thought that the Confidential episode was excellent.