“It’s the end of the World as we know it – and I feel fine!” Michael Stipe
Driven by a romantic fog and a momentary lack of aforethought I bought tickets for a Singlonga Sound of Music (1965) event for my girlfriend’s birthday recently. It’s her favourite musical and I thought: try it – you might enjoy it. Well, I liked the film: an opposites-attract-love-story tied up with a formidable musical presentation beautifully performed, choreographed, directed and lit.
But what I did not enjoy was the preposterous introduction/warm-up compered by a rubbish Drag Queen plus a plethora of drunken morons dressed up as: nuns, Maria, Austrians, brown-paper-and-strings, and a goat! Actually, I must say, some of the costumes were impressive; but, call me a stick-in-the-mud, I don’t need to fancy-dress up to enjoy something because I have no desire to externalise my personality. I can actually use my brain and a thing called imagination. Still, each to their own I suppose.
Anyway, once the awful horror-show introduction was over the film itself – even the Singalonga aspect – was pretty bearable! The Sound of Music is a good film! But my underlying memory of the night is of a drunken man dressed as a Nun shouting at the Prince Charles Cinema employee complaining that a member of staff had been rude to his party because they were texting during the film. His exact words were:
“Your staff are out of order! I want a full apology or we’re going on Social Media to complain. We’re going on Facebook! THIS WILL GO VIRAL! THEN YOU’LL BE SORRY!!”
And at that moment in time in the Prince Charles Cinema Foyer, as I sipped my Hobgoblin ale from a plastic cup, I recalled idiot global governments bombing hell out of Syria while viewing this over-lubricated Man-Nun yelling; and I just thought we’re doomed as a species aren’t we?! Perhaps not today or tomorrow but, irrespective of all the great things humans have achieved, Judgement Day is inevitable.
What kind of future do you want, Paul, I asked myself? Why not have a look at some visions of the Apocalypse as seen on the film and television screens. I mean you have to hand it to humanity; it’s able to distract itself from the possible end of the world by creating stories and entertainment ABOUT the end of the world! Here’s some of the best I could think of.
**THIS CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**
PLANET OF THE APES (1969)
Poor old Charlton Heston never had much luck with the future as his characters often ended up as dystopic visions of hell. Such films included: Soylent Green (1973), Omega Man (1971) and the classic Planet of the Apes where simian humanoids are running the place enslaving the savage natives.
MAD MAX: ROAD WARRIOR (1981)
In between the road-raging original and this brilliant sequel there was some kind of global nuclear meltdown hitherto bringing about a dusty wasteland where fuel is God and humans will kill to get their hands on it! Mmmm. . . doesn’t sound like now at all does it?
THE TERMINATOR (1984)
Bloody Internet, sorry Skynet! We create these wonderful computers to help us with everyday life including our Missile Defence Systems and they turn on us! Only one man – who hasn’t been born yet – can save us from a life of death and slavery at the hands of the machines. What do you mean: it’s better than your current life?!
THE MATRIX (1999)
Damned Artificial Intelligence enslaving humanity and feasting on our fluids and organs for energy in some sick, twisted vision of a futuristic Harvest festival. Then again, compared to some of the shitty office jobs I’ve had I think I’d choose the Matrix over those; just don’t tell me I’m in the Matrix so I can use films and TV to distract me from my physical torment!
SOUTH PARK – GO GOD GO/GO GOD VII (2006)
Pissed off that he cannot get the latest Nintendo Wii, impatient Eric Cartman accidentally freezes himself and ends up in a no-religion 2546 future where talking Sea Otters and humans battle it out in a wickedly-funny-Richard-Dawkins-bashing-Buck-Rogers-parodying-classic-two-parter.
In this future we will basically live in the water, grow gills and dirt will be our most priceless commodity. Well, that’s what will occur according to this apocalyptic-polar-ice-caps-melting-earth-swimming-pool-with-pirates movie. At the time it was one of the most expensive film flops in history but actually wasn’t bad with Kevin Costner playing a soaked version of Mad Max.
TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)
Seeing someone close to you die in front of your eyes as a child is not a future you really need is it? Following the opening of this brilliant film prisoners are sent back in time to find the cause of the deadly viral apocalypse. The awesome mind of Terry Gilliam filtering Chris Marker’s classic short La Jetée makes this an intelligent and exciting end-of-the-world blockbuster.
DR WHO – THE END OF THE WORLD (2005)
Of course, up and down and across the years the Doctor and his companion(s) have witnessed the end of Earth and time itself on many occasions. In this episode though Rose, in her first adventure with Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor, sees the apocalypse via a satellite station called Platform One. The Sun has expanded yet the destruction of Earth has never looked so stunning, sad or beautiful.
**CONTAINS SWEARING AND SPOILERS AND OVER-USE OF CAPITALS**
Usually I’m very positive on this page but on occasions I feel the need to let rip at things that irk me. Loss of the Voice-Over Guy in film trailers pisses me off as does the generally poor expositional style of many trailers which TELL the whole story or give key plot points away IN THE TRAILER!!! E.g. Terminator: Genocide (2015). But there is one sub-genre of movie-making which has me tearing my nuts off with rage and that is the continued proliferation of FOUND FOOTAGE style films. And here are TEN reasons why!!!
1) THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT(1999)
I hate this fucking film! Because of its ridiculous success it undoubtedly gave birth to an army of other bastards that have been stinking up the cinema and TV screens for the past few decades. Firstly, this film sucks! As both a story AND a horror story. If this film scares you then you are a moron! It’s an okay short film padded out to an overlong bore-fest which was only topped for boringness when Paranormal Activity (2007) came out.
I’m happy for the filmmakers for garnering such success but given they have not released anything of note since shows this was a fluke success. I mean the characters were awful and dumb; notably when one moron threw away the map and got them LOST! The ending isn’t bad but I was just so relieved when they all died! Verbal Kint once said, “The greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing you he doesn’t exist.” I disagree: it was making this film so phenomenally successful.
Found footage is unnecessary to tell a story. I can see some benefit in perhaps framing your story like that if it’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and it’s documentary film crew blah-blah-blah! But in my opinion it ADDS NOTHING to the story as a stylistic device. Use flash-backs, montage, flash-forwards, voiceover, non-linear structures etc. but found footage is like one of those Chihuahua dogs: irritating, totally lacking in charm and completely pointless.
Like Hitler, Gangnam Style, Miley Cyrus, Adam Sandler, Ugg Boots etc. found footage films are inexplicably successful yet also poison humanity!! I admire low-budget/independent filmmakers and DO NOT begrudge any success these people have had BUT THE FILMS ARE RUBBISH!! The cinematic epitome of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
It’s just SO clunky!! Even the best ever found footage film Chronicle (2012) which uses the device imaginatively suffered because they had to make up some reason for one of the characters to be filming. Oh, it’s my sister’s mum’s birthday and funeral and we need to film it for future posterity. Oh, I accidentally left my phone camera on while in the woods and am now being hunted down by my own shadow! No! STOP IT!!
5) THE FILMS LOOK SHIT!
Need I say more?!? Low budget does not mean the film needs to be shot through CCTV or infra-red or in low-grade digital footage grainier than hamster shit. Ten minutes or so is bearable but a whole film like that is just too much to handle!
Oh, we’re gonna make a horror film shall but we don’t have much money: shall we use our imagination like say Sam Raimi or James Wan and construct a proper story with nasty monsters, witty dialogue, funny and horrific set-pieces OR shall we set up a fake camera and have doors move slightly or faces suddenly appear on screen or it’s quiet and then a shadow moves! Yeah, don’t bother with characters you may connect with or creating suspense through something called a story let’s make a found footage film because WE ARE LAZY!!
Occasionally, found footage is used well such as in Creep (2014) with Mark Duplass or REC (2007), but overall the films are an insult to the horror genre. I love horror films and there have been some really good ones recently such as: Insidious (2010), Saw (2004), The Conjuring (2013), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), You’re Next (2011), Let The Right One In (2008), The Descent (2005), Cabin in the Woods (2012), Shaun of the Dead (2004) to name a few. And were any of them found footage films: HELL NO!!!
It’s an invite for every talentless, breathing moron with a camera who think they can become a filmmaker. Don’t bother writing a script or creating decent characters or storyboarding imaginative cinematic moments – just don’t bother because you can just tripod a camera and PRETEND its close-circuit TV or a cameraman or videographer! Even horror legend George Romero got sucked into the talent vortex with the atrocious Diary of the Dead (2007) and Oscar winner Barry Levinson too with The Bay (2012). Stop the world I’m getting off!!
Like rats in London you’re never too far away from a found footage film. There’s too many of them – they are a plague upon the culture and humanity overall. Please STOP watching them because as they are cheap to make they spawn rubbish sequels! They are like the appendix; utterly pointless but when they burst on the cinema screen they are poisonous, painful and one must immediately seek medical help.
10) FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS ARE NOT SCARY!
Perhaps in the darkened cinema you could be tricked into THINKING they are scary when a shadow, door or tree moves but they’re not. Overall they are as scary as a Panda in a bib!
Pretty busy this month with my film viewings so here’s every film I watched in the month of July 2015 with marks up to 11!
**MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD**
ANNABELLE (2014) – NOW TV
Prequel to the chilling James Wan horror The Conjuring (2013) which explains the backstory to creepy doll Annabelle and how it came to be such a malevolent force. While not reaching the heart-in-mouth scares of Insidious (2010) there is much to raise the pulse here. I found the references to the Manson death-cults and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) influences to be interesting and there are some very jumpy moments. The ending lets it down but worth a look while the star is the gnarled doll which never fails to chill one’s core. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)
ANT-MAN (2015) – CINEMA
This was a blast! The awesome Paul Rudd plays “good” criminal Scott Lang — a Robin Hood-style thief — who while down on his luck tries one last job so he can gain parental access to his daughter. Little does he know is he’s breaking into top scientist Hank Pym’s (excellent Michael Douglas) place and thus a chain of events occur making Lang a perfect candidate for Ant-Man. It’s simplistic narrative-wise but what it does have is a fizzing script full of zingers and comedic moments as well as some great action set-pieces built around a complex but well orchestrated final act heist. A fun supporting cast including: Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannevale, Michael Pena and scenery-chewing baddie Corey Stoll add class to proceedings and overall I had a great time watching this. It proved that not ALL superhero films have to be HUGE as sometimes small, rather than big, is beautiful. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)
CLOWN (2014) – NOW TV
A father finds himself possessed by a monster having, inexplicably, tried an old clown suit on for his son’s birthday. It’s a low budget horror film from Canada and has decent moments of gore especially toward the end but clunky plotting really lets it down. It gets on my nerves when screenwriters put massive bits of exposition in the MIDDLE of a film to try and get the audience up to speed with the narrative. Show don’t tell please! The scene in the plastic-ball pit full of kids was good so worth a look at that. But coulrophobics beware as it gets nasty and definitely not one for the kids! (Mark: 5.5 out of 11)
DRACULA UNTOLD (2014) – NOW TV
This is pitched like a horror version of the 300 (2006) but lacks the brutal style of that muscular classic. Basically, Vlad must protect his Transylvanian family from marauding Turks so does a deal with a demonic vampire (Charles Dance) to become a super-being. However, it comes with a Faustian price. Some good action but the gore was too sanitized by the CGI for my liking but brooding Luke Evans — as the eponymous anti-hero — is great in this blood-thirsty prequelization of Bram Stoker’s literary classic. (Mark: 6 out of 11)
FLAME & CITRON (2008) – NETFLIX
This is a thrilling Danish WW2 story charting the exploits of Danish Resistance fighters/assassins codenamed Flame and Citron. Mads Mikkelsen portrays Jorgen, the latter of the partnership as he and compatriot Bendt laid waste to Nazis and their Danish collaborators amidst the German occupation. Mikkelsen is very good at playing smooth characters but here he’s nervy, dirty, sweaty and living-on-the-edge. He brings his classic mournful look to a character fighting inner demons, traitors and Nazis; all the while trying to cling to the family he loves. War brought the worst and best out of people; sometimes at exactly the same time as this film ably illustrates. A fine war story expertly told. (Mark: 8 out of 11)
GOD BLESS AMERICA (2011) – AMAZON PRIME
This was my favourite film I saw in July by a long, long way. It is a coruscating and murderous satire with a savage script that lays into the United States of the media nation; notably reality TV and talent shows. It has a majestically deadpan and downtrodden performance from Joel Murray as Frank, a lowly office worker, who after having a REALLY bad day decides to go on a kill crazy rampage to rid the world of people who sicken him. Think Falling Down (1993) but WITH hilarious jokes! Along the way Frank obtains a teenage sidekick called Roxy and she joins him in the mayhem as they wipe out everyone from hate-filled preachers to obnoxious political commentators. It makes simple but valid critiques about modern culture and allows one to indulge and enjoy the height of revenge fantasies while filtering influences such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), It Happened One Night (1934) and other gun crazy road movies. (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)
KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM (2013) – NOW TV
This damned awful horror spoof couldn’t even be saved by a cast that includes Peter Dinklage and Steve Zahn. It went for an Evil Dead style vibe as a bunch of live-action-role-playing game nerds accidentally conjure up a demon which wreaks havoc on their game-playing. Ryan Kwanten plays a handsome mechanic who is taken along for the ride and potentially could have been another Ash in the making. But alas the script and style are abysmal and overall this is a charmless film. I will always try and give low budget horror films a break critically speaking but, this is neither funny or horrific enough to make it worth recommending. (Mark: 4.5 out of 11)
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (2014) – NOW TV
The great filmmaker Woody Allen is quietly turning out one film a year and this one is a pleasant sojourn through 1920s France and the relationship between misanthropic magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) and young psychic Sophie Baker (Emma Stone). Basically, the older Crawford sets out to debunk pretty Sophie’s skills as a medium and it doesn’t take a seer to work out what happens. It’s a sunny film full of eccentrics and has some interesting discourse on the nature of death and the “other” side. While it lacks some of the classic Woody one-liners there’s gentle character humour to be found and Firth is always great, so it’s a film difficult not to enjoy. (Mark: 7 out of 11)
PURGE 2: ANARCHY (2014) – NOW TV
Sequel to The Purge (2013) takes the original’s claustrophobic home-invasion style and widens the action to the violent streets of the U.S.A. Again, criminals and ordinary citizens are given the chance, for ONE NIGHT ONLY, to commit any misdemeanour (rape, robbery, murder etc.) they so desire WITHOUT fear of arrest. I absolutely love this idea and the first film was pretty decent but this one takes a funky concept and delivers a film which lacks wit, thrills and more importantly horror. It’s not bad and the social satire works but it lacks a star to carry it and the characters are too paper-thin and badly written to care about. Some fun to be had with the urban warfare and the revenge on the filthy rich socialites that occurs but with a more imaginative director like say, James Wan, this could have been great. (Mark: 5.5 out of 11)
TED 2 (2015) – CINEMA
Sequel, believe it or not, to Ted (2012) – the one from the creator of Family Guy Seth Mcfarlane about the dope-smoking-sex-crazed-alcoholic-filth-mongering-talking-Teddy-bear. I enjoyed the original but this one was even funnier as Ted (McFarlane) and his thunder-buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) fight the US courts to prove that Ted actually exists as a “person” in the eyes of the law. The plot isn’t important really and merely acts as mannequin to hang a litany of sexual, druggy, politically-incorrect, sexist, offensive, toilet-humourist gags on. Wahlberg is a blast, even when he’s drowning in semen, during one particular gross but hilarious scene. If that’s the level of your humour then you’ll love this! (Mark: 7 out of 11)
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2014) – NOW TV
The latest TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE FILM was not half as bad as I thought it would be. But then again I could only sit through half of it as it was THAT bad. Here are some comments from my Facebook status: which say it all!
“I’ve never seen anything so lacking in charm.”
“Starts off ok, but then becomes a mess.”
“I tapped out after 10 minutes of nothing but clunky exposition and the entire film treating it’s own premise like it’s a joke.”
(Mark: 4 out of 11 – mainly for the well-choreographed fight scenes)
TERMINATOR GENISYS – CINEMA
The iPhone spell checker changes Arnie to “sarnie” which is apt because the new Terminator film is a complete shit sandwich! It’s even worse than I thought it could be. It doesn’t make any sense as a story at all. Only Jason Clarke and Arnie himself save it with decent turns. The convoluted plot was an insult to the memory of the first two films and really this should be called Terminator: Genocide as it must have killed the franchise once and for all. How Jai Courtney gets work I do not know and the title SUCKS! I just hope Schwarzenegger dies soon and can never say “I’ll be back!” ever again. (Mark: 4.5 out of 11)
TWO LOVERS (2008) – BLU RAY
A really intriguing, human and romantic drama which had some mature performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow, plus magnetic direction by James Gray. It’s a slow-paced character piece with suicidal thirty-something Leonard trying to find some small happiness following the break-up of a recent engagement. The joy comes from Phoenix’ darkly humorous and awkward acting performance and it’s the kind of film which at times is sometimes TOO painful to watch as Leonard finds he must choose between two women: the attractive, yet safe, Sandra played by Vinessa Shaw and the sexy, flaky human car-crash that is Michelle (Paltrow). I very much enjoyed this film as it acts as an anathema to the obvious slick-sugar-schtick that Hollywood usually pumps out. (Mark: 7 out of 11)
DOCTOR WHO: A SPACE (AND TIME) ODYSSEY – PART THREE
**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**
Suddenly the Doctor was very, very young; almost a child in vision and attitude as played by the tall-stick-insecty-excitable-Tigger that was Matt Smith. My brain exploded. I was used to the Doctor being an elder statesman and of course this shifted somewhat with Eccleston and Tennant, however, they seemed older. These were actors who had done Shakespeare (I think) and looked like they’d lived. Not Matt Smith. He was an unknown. He looked like he had just left school and was on a gap year to India or a kibbutz. He was posh. His Doctor wore a bow-tie! A bow-tie! Never fear though because Matt Smith made the role his own over 4 years, a multitude of brain-twisting episodes and seven specials. His strengths were his physicality, mania, fun and playfulness and there was a lot of Patrick Troughton in his performance; playing the fool before revealing a devilish plan by wrong-footing the villain and audience.
Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON FIVE.
EPISODE 5.10 – VINCENT AND THE DOCTOR – Writer: Richard Curtis
Steven Moffat had written some amazing Doctor Who episodes so it made sense he would take over the production running reigns. The 5th season of the rebooted genesis veered from Davies’ strong science fictional, yet plausible, arcs to something more akin to science fantasy under Moffat. Quite frankly, I found some of the plot twists utterly barmy but still very much loved many of the episodes. Indeed, The Eleventh Hour was a fantastic introduction to Matt Smith and his feisty companion Amy Pond. Plus, the finale involving the Pandorica opening and subsequent Big Bang were impressive works of television.
However, my favourite episode of the whole season was one, which while rewriting history in a most memorable way, had at its heart a very warm, tragic and human story. Vincent and The Doctor was about depression, art, failure, creative perception and did what we all would hope to do with time-travel: right the injustices of the past. At the heart of the story is the Doctor and Amy’s meeting with Vincent Van Gogh and the artist’s battle with his demons, both literally and symbolically. The monster of course is depression and the writer Richard Curtis handles the subject deftly and gives Vincent an incredibly emotional denouement to the artists’ life; something denied him in reality.
EPISODE 5.10 – THE LODGER – Writer: Gareth Roberts
This season was brimming with imagination and great science fiction and the story arc involving the “cracks in the Universe” worked paradoxically but still created SO many unanswered questions. Moffatt asked us to take a massive leap of faith and his ambition and vision was to be applauded; but with the fantasy, complex structural conceits occurring at such it was sometimes tough to keep up on first watch.
Thus, The Lodger was a welcome moment in the season when The Doctor – with Amy ‘chilling’ on the TARDIS – came into the lives of Craig (James Corden) and Sophie (Daisy Haggard). The Doctor had a big impact on Craig’s life playing accidental matchmaker, impressing his mates with his football skills and his boss at work. Utilising Matt Smith’s great comedy timing and buddy-buddy act with the excellent Corden, The Lodger relies not just on laughs and but emotion too. Throw in a nefarious alien presence to deal with and you have a wonderful episode that is a lot of fun.
Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON SIX
EPISODE 6.3 – THE DOCTOR’S WIFE – Writer: Neil Gaiman
This is the season where Steven Moffat really made things VERY complicated with all manner of twisty, turny, space operatic plots delivered at a whizz-bang pace that at times left me dazed and confused. It was paradox upon paradox as the Doctor faces an existential crisis being given the knowledge of his own death and also knowing his mysterious assassin. Also, thrown into the mix is Amy’s pregnancy, a weird eye-patched villainess as well as horrific memory-melding monsters called THE SILENCE. Moreover, enigmatic River Song pops up all over the place just to confuse the viewer further! These stories encapsulated within: The Impossible Astronaut, Day of the Moon, A Good Man Goes to War, Let’s Kill Hitler, The Wedding of River Song etc. are all great and full of wonderful ideas and I think in time will be considered classic Doctor Who. However, they don’t quite make my list.
The Doctor’s Wife was an immediate and cracking hit for me with a wonderful concept, beautiful effects and stunning cast including Suranne Jones as a physical incarnation of the TARDIS. Doctor, Rory and Amy pass through a rift which means the TARDIS ends up in a weird isolated place run by a nasty sentient being called HOUSE. In HAL-like fashion, House (voiced by Michael Sheen) steals the TARDIS along with Rory and Amy on board and it is left to the Doctor and an odd, sparkly female being called Idris to save the day. It’s a lovely relationship between Idris (the TARDIS personified) and Matt Smith’s frantic Doctor as they exchange flirtatious banter while constructing a makeshift TARDIS from the scraps lying around the amidst the crumbling tip that is the place on which they are trapped. Suranne Jones is amazing and beautiful as Idris and there is great chemistry between her and Smith as they race to save Amy and Rory from the murderous HOUSE.
EPISODE 6.10 – THE GIRL WHO WAITED – Writer: Tom McCrae
This is what time-travel films and TV shows are all about for me: presenting complicated paradoxical timelines where individuals eventually face different versions of themselves and must deal with a moral dilemma. It’s occurred to the Doctor many times before in the classic older and the newer series but in The Girl Who Waited it was Amy Pond who becomes trapped on Chen7 in a timeline that splits her character into younger and older versions of herself. So, when the Doctor and Rory attempt to save her trapped soul they overshoot by 36 years and find a bitter, rabid Amy now characterised as an ass-kicking-Sarah-Connor-survivalist-type who refuses to save her younger self. It’s a heart-wrenching episode which can be considered Doctor-lite, however, Karen Gillen owns it; giving two great performances. The relationship between Rory and Amy hangs heavy in the air as there is papable sense of loss to the core of The Girl Who Waited.
Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON SEVEN
EPISODE 7.1 – ASYLUM OF THE DALEKS – Writer: Steven Moffat
This season wasn’t as mind-blowing in terms of the over-complex story arc as Season SIX, but it still tested the grey cells and by the time we got to the excellent-almost-made-this-list-season-finale The Name of the Doctor plausibility was on the creative rack screaming for mercy; in a good way. The season traversed the loss of not one, but TWO companions in Amy and Rory, and introduced Clara Oswin Oswald in her various incarnations. One may argue the whole Clara-in-the-Doctor’s-timeline arc was quite baffling and needn’t be so insane but I enjoyed the mystery of the “Impossible Girl”; and it was great to see all the old Doctors again.
Anyway, the season opener Asylum of the Daleks is an absolute cracker as the Doctor, Amy and Rory are “summoned” by the Daleks to venture into the Dalek “nut-house” and save them from a bunch of crazy rogue Daleks threatening their very existence. Oooh, what a switcheroo; the Doctor SAVING the Daleks! The production values of Doctor Who just got bigger and better as the seasons progressed and with an Army of Daleks and the planet Skaro on show here the special effects teams were producing TV work of the highest order in shiny, shiny high-definition. Arguably, though the writer(s) could have dug the season into a narrative hole in relation to what comes after but Jenna Coleman’s appearance was a fine touch and her lightness in performance was a fine counter-point to the heavy nature of the insane Dalek asylum. The subplot of Rory and Amy’s marriage difficulties, the crazy Daleks and the sadness in the final reveal really added to the drama and pulled at the heartstrings. This episode breathed further life into the Daleks as one, if not the greatest, of the Doctor’s greatest foes.
EPISODE 7.5 – ANGELS TAKE MANHATTAN – Writer: Steven Moffat
Angels Take Manhattan wins out over episodes I loved like: Cold War, Hide and The Snowmen, because it is just so heart-wrenching. Matt Smith excels in a very dramatic show which finds the Doctor lose Amy and Rory to old foes the Weeping Angels! The opening of the episode begins in a film noir style story and is framed like a detective novel as Moffat delivers a meta-fictional structure combined with a spooky haunted hotel story. It’s full of grand twists and turns which pull the viewer from past to present and back again. Moffat ratchets up the scares by introducing us to new version of the ‘Angels’ like little buggers the Weeping Cherubs. And get this: the STATUE OF LIBERTY is a WEEPING ANGEL! Incredible! Saying goodbye to a companion is always tough but Amy and Rory went out in great style and are still out there somewhere.
Malcolm Tucker as Doctor Who? Say that again: Malcolm Tucker as Doctor Who? Yes! This is where the whole-huge-behemoth-new-Doctor-Who-binge-catch-up began for me. Peter Capaldi is a great actor and has been in many fine shows, not least the iconic-Machiavellian-sweary-political-demon in the awesome Thick of It. So, when it was announced he would replace Smith the younger, I was back into the Whoniverse like the proverbial rat up a drainpipe. This would be, in my mind, the return to an older, darker Doctor spitting out words of wisdom and barbs to his companions while shooting venomous looks and ire at his villains. The season kind of was like that and kind of wasn’t. I think Capaldi is a fine, fine Doctor and probably would have been better in the previous era as his visage and ability is probably more suited to age of Troughton, Pertwee and Baker. But, overall, he brought a real depth and dark sarcasm to the series which leavened out the more ridiculous and fluffy aspects of the show; the slushy romance and kids basically.
Here are my favourite episodes of SEASON EIGHT
EPISODE 8.8 – MUMMY ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS – Writer: Jamie Mathieson
I struggled big time picking two out because I enjoyed most of the episodes of this season. Many of them had moments of greatness in them but they also had some elements which I personally didn’t like such as: over-reliance on Danny and Clara’s Hollyoaks romance. Having said that there were some memorable concepts, baddies and nods to film genres including: heist movies; earth-saving trees; hatching moons; a Dinosaur in ye olde London; half-faced clockwork Victorians; chilling 2D Boneless; the mysterious Missy; the Doctor as a child; an analysis of a Dalek’s soul; Robin Hood and a shrinking TARDIS!
Capaldi was brilliant as I thought he would be and I loved one of his opening gambits to Clara: “Am I a good man?” Then, just then, I thought we are really going to take a deep look at WHO the Doctor really is! Indeed, the army of writers led by Moffat developed this character subtext very well notably in the episode Listen, where not much occurred on the page yet in the murky margins and shadows there was impressive suspense and terror. However, my first choice is the awesomely titled Mummy on the Orient Express and this crammed so many great things into the 45 minutes running time. The Doctor and Clara are on one last voyage before going their separate ways yet a vicious Mummy (AKA The Foretold) is killing passengers who only have 66 seconds to live once he targets his victim. It’s great fun and kind of scary and as the Doctor cracks the case he shares some fine one-liners and banter with a terrific cast including Frank Skinner and David Bamber. Brilliant script too.
EPISODE 8.11 – DARK WATER – Writer: Steven Moffat
This episode is pitch black darkness personified. It opens with Danny Pink’s death, before moving onto a tricky scene where Clara fails to get to the Doctor to change this event. Yet, the Doctor rewards Clara’s desperate attempt to trick him by saying they are “going to hell”. Thus, they attempt to track Danny’s spirit and end up in the NETHERSPHERE or “Promised Land” where they finally get to meet the enigmatic Missy who had popped up at the end of quite a few episodes throughout the season.
Death casts a looming shadow over this episode and even I had my pillow over my face when I heard the screams of the dead cry: “Don’t cremate me!” in one particularly harrowing scene. Further, we also get to delve into Danny’s backstory such as that of the child he killed when serving in the army which, along with Clara’s grief, added texture to the theme of mortality within the show. By the time the Cybermen are marching down St Paul’s (in tribute to The Invasion from 1968) steps I was gripped. The performances are superb from Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and the Mistress herself Michelle Gomez, who demonstrates a gleeful mania to great effect. A superb episode with thankfully no kids to ruin it and one which the second part Death in Heaven had to go some to match.
SPECIAL MENTION: THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR – 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL
I’ll round up this run through of the Whoniverse with a special mention of The Day of the Doctor, which was the closest we’d get to a new Doctor Who movie. It was a spectacular piece of writing by Steven Moffat and a brilliant story which rewrote the whole Doctor Who narrative. It brought THREE Doctors (Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt’s War Doctor) into a mixture of high concept sci-fi and operatic drama which soared in tribute to fifty years of the Timelord. The chemistry between the Doctors was a joy (and Tom Baker popped in at the end too) as they go back to the Time War era and review the decision to destroy Gallifrey and the end the war with the nefarious Daleks. This was a Doctor Who production of the highest order and it demonstrates the power and prowess of the show that it was shown simultaneously in 94 countries hitting the Guinness Book of Records for largest ever live simulcast!
Finally, in doing this piece I have read a lot of critical, blog and online forum reviews during my research I have realised Doctor Who is MORE than a TV show. It’s a huge cult with fans all over the world who are as passionate about the show as people are about religion or their chosen football team. If I’m honest the old show I watched as a child holds so many great memories but nostalgia can be a cruel guide so it could be easy to dismiss the new show “because it’s not as good as when I was a kid!”. But, the reboot has on the whole. has been brilliant too. I may not like everything about it but it still retains that magical quality I experienced as an earthly child growing up on a high-rise estate in South London.