Category Archives: Doctor Who

Doctor Who – “Vincent and the Doctor”

“Vincent and the Doctor”

June 5th, 2010

Last week’s “Cold Blood” was one of those episodes which required some time to decompress, for us to see the consequences (or the consequences of the lack of consequences, to speak more accurately) of the events at its conclusion. Of course, the complicated nature of those events (which I’m avoiding spoiling above the fold so that those following the American schedule don’t see something they shouldn’t) means that the show isn’t necessarily going to act as if something terrible has happened, and the characters (for various reasons) will be moving on with their lives as if it hasn’t happened at all.

It puts “Vincent and the Doctor” in a legitimately fascinating position, and lends Richard Curtis’ compelling standalone story a weight it may not have otherwise achieved. While you could consider the episode’s visit with Vincent Van Gogh and his encounter with an invisible creature to be a solid little piece of storytelling separate from its place within the season’s narrative, its subtle moments of serialization and its broader thematic position within the series make it more accomplished than it may have been otherwise. It doesn’t necessarily surprise us, nor dazzle us with anything particularly amazing, but the notes it hits feel like the right ones for this stage in the series as we march towards its conclusion.

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Doctor Who – “Cold Blood”

“Cold Blood”

May 29th, 2010

I didn’t have a whole lot to say about last week’s “The Hungry Earth,” both because I wanted to talk more about the two episodes which preceded it and because it isn’t actually really important. While “The Time of Angels” was also the first part of a two-part story, it seemed like it had a narrative of its own: actions were undertaken, and the tension built during the first hour felt carried over into the second. This time around, meanwhile, there was no transfer of tension, as “Cold Blood” more or less takes the basic facts and situations created in the previous episodes and gives them consequence the first part was lacking.

This isn’t to say that “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood” is entirely dissatisfying – rather, I simply want to note that this is a much less intriguing way to do a two-part episode, a scenario where the first part can be pretty easily summed up in a brief one-minute synopsis and the rest filled in through a few bits of dialogue here and there. However, luckily for the series, this episode packs both an emotional and intellectual wallop, delivering some key clues to the “endgame” of the series while also creating a substantial bit of narrative gymnastic which adds a new layer of complexity to our understanding of Amy Pond. Throw in a compelling glimpse at the Doctor’s love for humanity mirrored by a race with absolute disdain for them, and you’ve got an hour that does a better job at giving some hints at the big picture than it pays off the hour we spent last week.

And considering its position at this late stage in the series, that’s probably okay – the standalone story might have needed some work, but the ramifications of the story on the Doctor, his companion, and the series as a whole are a nice bit of momentum heading into the final act of the series.

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Doctor Who – “The Vampires of Venice,” “Amy’s Choice” & “The Hungry Earth”

“The Vampires of Venice, “Amy’s Choice” & “The Hungry Earth”

May 22nd, 2010

I’ve never watched Doctor Who before, but I think I’m starting discover that the mid-portion of each season is not necessarily conducive to weekly reviews (although it’s probably still conducive for weekly discussion, so sorry for my negligence). I didn’t review “The Vampires of Venice” or “Amy’s Choice” because I was busy on those respective weekends, but I also didn’t review the former because it didn’t feel particularly eventful even when I did get to the episode. This is not to say the episode isn’t worth our time, or that it serves no function, but rather that it will take a paragraph to discuss its function rather than an entire review.

However, there’s more to say about “Amy’s Choice,” and some preliminary thoughts on “The Hungry Earth” (on which judgment can’t really be laid until “Cold Blood” next week), so let’s take a look at these mid-season transition episodes, shall we?

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Doctor Who – “Flesh and Stone”

“Flesh and Stone”

May 1st, 2010

As I expected after last week’s extremely engaging “The Time of Angels,” philosophizing about the meaning of said episode was sort of impossible: I spent most of my review last week talking about the Weeping Angels and River Song in general (especially since I had just gone back and watched the earlier Moffat entries introducing them), but you could tell that this creepy thrill ride was not just leading to a simple resolution.

“Flesh and Stone” confirms these suspicions, delivering a continuation of last week’s action which communicates a very different sort of message. There are a lot of pretty substantial ideas at play here, and I think I’m probably a bit too new to the Doctor Who universe to grasp their meaning, but the hour managed to integrate them into the story without seeming out of place amidst the simpler pleasures (or terrors) of the Weeping Angels. The contrast between Moffat’s interest in finding fear in the ordinary and the extraordinary circumstances ends up serving the series extremely well, as despite a very forward-reaching focus “Flesh and Stone” remains incredibly engaging television, even when I don’t know what half of it means.

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Doctor Who – “The Time of Angels”

“The Time of Angels”

April 24th, 2010

This afternoon, I spent a few hours doing what I guess I’d call “Doctor (W)Homework.” After last week’s episode, it was clear from the preview that the show would be returning to two key parts of Steven Moffat’s oeuvre, and so many suggested that I take a look back into recent seasons of the series in order to follow the continuities. Since I am not one to doubt the intelligence of my Twitter followers and blog commenters, I took this suggestion to heart, and so I sat down with Series Three’s “Blink” and Series Four’s “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead.”

Inevitably, this created quite an interesting experience going into this week’s new episode of Series Five, as both the Weeping Angels (central to the Carey Mulligan-enhanced “Blink”) and River Song (introduced in the two-parter) effectively pick up where they left off, as odd as that particular phrase may sound when considering Professor (or Doctor?) Song. “The Time of Angels,” the start of a two-parter itself, delivers on the promise of those earlier episodes, heightening the terror surrounding one of the universe’s most dangerous creatures while proving that River and her magical blue book are both just as fun and just as tragic as we imagined when reintroduced in this fashion.

Some thought on “The Time of Angels,” although probably not before I write out some thoughts on the episodes which came before, after the jump.

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Doctor Who – “Victory of the Daleks”

“Victory of the Daleks”

April 17th, 2010

On the one hand, writing this review seems a little silly: I know very little about the Daleks beyond their general appearance and their robotic cadence, so I can’t really tell you how “Victory of the Daleks” works in terms of returning the alien race to the world of Doctor Who. However, on the other hand, the whole point of this episode is a sort of rebirth, a Dalek renaissance designed to reassert the function of this particular arch-nemesis, so while I cannot judge the story for continuity I can judge how well the episode sets up the Daleks for their likely return in subsequent episodes.

“Victory for the Daleks” replaces last week’s futuristic setting with an historical glimpse into the London Blitz, and does not really switch up much else: the formulaic structure of the series is readily clear but also fairly effective, managing to continue to throw in some small characters beats and some fun standalone elements within an episode which primarily continues the series mythology.

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Doctor Who – “The Beast Below”

“The Beast Below”

April 10th, 2010

While Doctor Who effectively transcends our understandings of both time and space, it is generally the former which has had the most impact (at least from my outsider’s perspective): the Doctor is, after all, a Timelord, and the different locations that the Doctor visits tend to be defined more by “when” as opposed to “where,” especially when you consider that location is often dependent on time period. There is always that initial moment, upon the Doctor’s arrival, where the question of “where” becomes immediately important, but it is often superseded by the show’s interest in “when” the Doctor has arrived in order to place the events in question into some sort of new context.

“The Beast Below” is one of these examples, beginning with a really fascinating question of place and national identity before eventually delving into a complex investigation of morality in the wake of great tragedy. In the end, the episode boils down to considerations of time as opposed to any questions about location, but the presence of those ideas is sort of what makes Doctor Who so intriguing to me. While we would normally complain that so many potentially interesting ideas regarding Spaceship UK and its police state are left uninvestigated, their presence makes for a more engaged audience experience – the show may eventually boil things down to a single story, but the presence of that added potential is something for us to chew on, which is at least half of what Doctor Who means to accomplish.

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“Series” Premiere: Doctor Who – “The Eleventh Hour”

“The Eleventh Hour”

April 3rd, 2010

Part of me wonders whether I should be writing this review at all. You, my faithful readers, are not ignorant enough to think that I live in the United Kingdom, and as a result you know that I did not tune into BBC and catch the premiere of Doctor Who‘s fifth series, “The Eleventh Hour” earlier this evening. No, you are well aware that I found the notorious “alternate means” through which I could consume this material, and as a result I am incriminating (or, less hyperbolically, identifying a clear ethical conundrum for) myself by saying that I just finished watching Matt Smith’s debut as the eponymous Doctor.

The problem, at least for me personally, is that most of the conversation about the show is going to happen now as opposed to two weeks from now. While the series is a cult favourite in North America, it’s a major primetime event in the U.K., so the sorts of immediate responses and analysis going on at the moment are going to be the most diverse and (arguably) the most interesting. And, by nature of their taste in science fiction programming, there’s a mighty fine chance that the type of people who would be online writing or reading about the show in North America are probably tech savvy enough that they too would search for “alternate means,” which means that they’re in precisely the same boat.

At the end of the day, my view is this: this review will not be a plot description, nor does it have any chance of capturing the witty repartee that Steve Moffat brings to the table. It is not designed to replace the episode, or to inform those without previous knowledge how to illegally acquire or view the episode in question. Rather, it is a critical discussion of a rather intriguing and, at times, fantastic episode of television which builds from the momentum of David Tennant’s exit and has me legitimately excited to follow these characters into the rest of the season, or series, or whatever you want to call it.

And so if you have not found “alternate means,” and are intending on waiting until April 17th, then let the message be this: things are off to a fantastic start, Matt Smith is pretty darn great, and “The Eleventh Hour” is well worth 90 minutes out of your Saturday evening two weeks from now.

For those of you who have found “alternate means,” or who are here from across the pond, we’ve got some things to discuss.

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Review – Doctor Who: The End of Time, The End of Tennant

The End of Time, The End of Tennant

January 2nd, 2010

Watching Doctor Who: The End of Time, for me personally, is a bit of a strange exercise for two reason (one exclusive to me, the other general).

First, I don’t watch the show on a regular basis, so while watching a few of the recent specials (Specifically the quite enjoyable “The Next Doctor” and the thrilling “The Waters of Mars”) has given me some sense of what’s going on – the Doctor (David Tennant) without a companion on a self-destructive journey to confront his impending death (I think?) – I’m still left out of the loop in terms of both the show’s larger mythology and the intricacies of Tennant’s run on the series.

However, even considering my ignorance to the broader mythology at play, the two-part event (which airs in its entirety tonight at 8pm on SPACE in Canada, with the second part (Part One aired in Boxing Day) airing on BBC America) is unique in its clear purpose: the death of the Doctor, and the departure of David Tennant from the series to make way for newcomer Matt Smith. And while you could argue that Law & Order or CSI, with their revolving door casting policy, offer something similar (in terms of transitioning from one actor to another), Doctor Who is unique in the fact that Smith will effectively be playing a new character…except that he won’t.

The single greatest accomplishment of The End of Time, which is at times a mixed bag in terms of its effectiveness, is that despite my lack of knowledge of the show’s history, and despite the lack of suspense surrounding an inevitable conclusion that has been known for over a year, I was emotionally affected by Russell T. Davies saying goodbye to the Doctor, and the Doctor saying goodbye to the people he cares about. Built on a foundation of David Tennant’s fantastic performance, the movie overcomes a bit of a muddled first part (which is tied up in a lot of exposition) in order to deliver a conclusion which demonstrates the combination of whimsy and pathos that has made the show, with its low budget special effects and its quirky sense of humour, so enduring.

And it feels like just the right kind of note on which to head into the reign of the new Doctor, which based on what I’ve seen in these specials is something that I might be willing to spend some time with in the years to come.

[Spoilers for both parts of the Miniseries after the break, where we’ll discuss the special in more detail]

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Review: Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (December 19th, Space/BBC America)

Doctor Who? My question exactly.

This is not to suggest I don’t know the basic premise of Doctor Who: he’s an omniscient figure who travels through time/space solving exotic problems with the help of assistants (wait, I think it’s companions). However, I’m fairly certain there’s a deeper mythology here than “he’s mortal enemies with those ugly robot dudes that I think are called Daleks,” which means that going into Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (which according to the press kit is the second of the four final “movies” that David Tennant is doing before running off to star in an NBC pilot) my knowledge of this universe is a cribbed together collection of tidbits gleamed from pop cultural exposure and a couple of random episode viewings during the Eccleston period.

But, as was the case earlier this year when Russell T. Davies created an enormously compelling, stand alone piece of entertainment with Torchwood: Children of Earth, Doctor Who: Waters of Mars (which airs tomorrow night, December 19th, at 9pm ET on SPACE in Canada and on BBC America in the U.S.) is capable of engaging just about any audience. While it doesn’t have Children of Earth’s real world commentary on government corruption or anything so complicated, it tells a tightly driven story that at its core speaks to the inherent dilemma of being a man who is capable of changing time but only to a certain extent, and the plight of humans out to save the planet but finding themselves at the precipice of placing that planet in even further danger.

The result is a very compelling piece of television in its own right, but one that feels like a turning point for this character as he David Tennant prepares to say goodbye to what is very clearly a career-making role.

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