Tag Archives: Steven Moffat

Sherlock – “The Blind Banker”

“The Blind Banker”

August 1st, 2010

Look, “The Blind Banker” was bound to be a disappointment.

First of all, it’s the second act of a three-act series, which means that it has nothing to introduce and nothing to conclude, robbing it of any real serial potential.

Second, it’s the one hour not scripted by the series creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

And third, it has the ominous task of coming after a very strong premiere which overcame most people’s expectations for the project.

Mind you, I do not mean “disappointment” in the sense that I was not entertained by the episode, but the episode just has too much to live up to – the story is fine, and the characters remain well drawn, but the episode’s plot is thin enough that it seems to draw out my issues with the series as opposed to highlighting its best qualities. Lacking in both continuity and ingenuity, “The Blind Banker” struggles under the weight of its running time and eventually feels like little more than a basic procedural with some strong performances.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but certainly isn’t the same series we saw last week.

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Series/Season Finale: Doctor Who – “The Big Bang”

“The Big Bang”

June 26th, 2010

While I never publicly agonized over it, the decision to watch Doctor Who’s fifth series (or first series of the Moffat era, if we want to get really complicated) on the British schedule was not an easy one: while a large part of my readership appear to have been watching at the same pace, making for lively conversations, I have not been making light of the ethical dilemmas therein in continuing to post in this fashion.

However, ultimately, I think Steven Moffat has created a season of television which demands to be watched as part of a collective audience, and as a newcomer to the series I feel as if I would have been lost had I been following the North American viewings. Commenters have been most kind at helping contextualize my experience with the series within the series’ larger framework, and the season has been so aggressively timey-wimey that there is a great value to be watching at the same pace as those who can help provide important context for what I’m experiencing. If I were three weeks behind, many of those fans may no longer be interested in these episodes, and I think this season would have been a much less enjoyable one as a critic.

“The Big Bang” is a story at once about the beginning and the end of the world, and yet it is a sparse story told using only a few primary characters as opposed to some sort of epic struggle. There is struggle, but it is struggle which unfolds between various different versions of the same characters over time as opposed to between a larger number of characters. And while there’s enough time travel to make your head spin, and it introduces various elements which border on dei ex machina, those elements are so intricately linked to these characters that they play out more like poetry than plot.

And through a small story with big consequences, “The Big Bang” stands as a conclusive finale which connects back which all which came before, an episode which solidifies the quality of the Eleventh Doctor, the importance of one Amy Pond, and the sheer potential which lies in the future with Moffat at the helm.

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Series Finale, Part One: Doctor Who – “The Pandorica Opens”

“The Pandorica Opens”

June 19th, 2010

As a newcomer to Doctor Who, one of the challenges I’ve had to face in terms of writing about the series is what to do with its two-part episodes. In particular, there’s a distinct challenge with writing about the first part of those episodes, as Doctor Who tends to quite literally split narratives in half as opposed to telling two connected stories. As a result, the first half tends to be fairly heavy on exposition and setup before the second half brings it all to a resolution: while this means that there is plenty to speculate on about the first episode, it’s tough to offer a critical opinion when so much of the two-parter’s effectiveness depends on how it concludes.

[Note: this seems as good a time as any to link to Scott Tobias and Noel Murray’s fantastic conversation about the challenges of writing about television at The A.V. Club – I’d add “two-parters” to their list of confounding situations for television critics who write about television on a weekly schedule, although they are not particularly common in this day and age.]

I’ve gotten away with it so far this season by either writing about episodes from previous series (catching up with the Weeping Angels and River Song in my review of “The Time of Angels”) or catching up on previous episodes in this series (lumping reviews of “Vampires of Venice” and “Amy’s Choice” in with “The Hungry Earth”), but with “The Pandorica Opens” (the first part of the series finale) I knew that there was no such cheat available, which meant that the episode was either going to lend itself to instant analysis or it wasn’t.

There are times when I write about episodes of television because I feel I have something to say, or because I want to start or continue a conversation, but there are other times when I simply feel as if I need to write about something so as to be able to even come close to being able to wrap my head around it. “The Pandorica Opens” is one such episode, a first-part which wastes no time drawing a clear (and quite ingenious) connection between this story and the ongoing series narrative and in the process leaves me enormously confused in the best possible way.

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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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“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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