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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 6: “The Crimson Horror” (Spoilers)

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Doctor-Who-Madame-Vastra-Jenny-and-StraxSince both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures left the air, there have been slots open for new Doctor Who spinoffs. “The Crimson Horror” gives us a taste of the most obvious – and potentially greatest – choice. With plenty of innuendo to go around and witty one-liners flying everywhere, as well as a certain Sontaran‘s endearing obsession with violence, the return of the JennyVastraStrax triumvirate in 19th century Yorkshire is a witty glimpse into a world that deserves its own series.

doctor-who-season-7-episode-11The beginning of the episode is curiously Doctor and Clara-free, which – although frightening at first – is a refreshing change. We are introduced to the conundrum of the week: the Crimson Horror and its ensuing trail of bright red bodies in the river. An undertaker presents to the team the belief that the last The_Crimson_Horrorimage a soon-to-be-corpse sees is forever burned across their retinas in an image known as an “optogram.” Vastra discounts this immediately as superstition. However, with the help of unexplained (but very Victorian-looking) technology, the eyes of the latest stiff are found to reflect a very familiar face – that of the Doctor himself.

Doooooo-weeeeee-doooooo… Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 4: Hide (Spoilers)

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The Caliburn Mansion...

The Caliburn Mansion…

...is actually the interior of the Diogenes club!

…is actually the interior of the Diogenes club!

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The Doctor has turned into a teenager. Aliens, beware…

The folks at the BBC have done it again, airing yet another episode of Doctor Who on April 20th. Titled “Hide,” this week’s romp through the Doctor’s world centers around supernatural events occurring in and around the mysterious Caliburn mansion, where Professor Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) are investigating the “Witch of the Well” who is rumored to be haunting the place. Emma uses her empathic abilities to reach out to the specter, while the Professor snaps photographs and takes readings on a wide range of odd devices.

The news that Neil Cross would be writing this episode made me rather nervous. After the rather ham-handed grandiosity of “The Rings of Akhaten,” I suspected that he would try to transfer the same techniques to “Hide.” Which rarely, if ever, make a successful ghost story. Episodes are made thrilling and truly frightening notGhostbusters through gigantic plasma spheres with jack-o’lantern faces, but with a creak in the dark room, a shadow passing across a window, a camera angle that gives you the feeling that there’s something right behind you, a brief returns to normality before being assaulted yet again by tense forays into the dark unknown. And, thankfully, “Hide” included all this and more.

Sexual tension you could cut with a butter knife.

Sexual tension you could cut with a butter knife.

The characters were the central focus of the episode, which was a welcome relief from the giant scale of the episodes that have characterized Series 7. The tension between Emma and Alec as they fumble their way through a budding romance is lovely, though Raine’s acting falls somewhat flat at times. However, their relationship offers a mirror to the Doctor-Clara dynamic, as love story signals conflict with Emma’s warning to Clara about the Doctor: “There’s a sliver of ice in his heart.” Which one?

The Doctor does his classic about-face as he has a “Eureka!” moment and runs into the TARDIS with Clara. We see a brief montage of that exact spot on Earth throughout the millennia as the Doctor snaps photographs of the place where the Caliburn mansion was/is/will be. Continue reading

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Two Trailers for Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 3: The Cold War

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Doctor_Who__Cold_War___Ice_Warrior_preview_pictures_and_trailer

A classic villain is brought back in the upcoming episode of Doctor Who: the Ice Warriors! (Hence the title “Cold War.”) More specifically, Grand Marshall Skaldak. (This particular Warrior is not from Classic Who, but the concept of “Grand Marshall” is.) Anyway, let’s jump right into the trailers!

This first one is the “next time” trailer shown after “The Rings of Akhaten.”

There’s a great deal of information encapsulated in these 36 seconds:
the Doctor and Clara are aboard a sinking submarine armed with no less than 12 nuclear warheads and an angry Ice Warrior who evidently is intent on detonating them all. The last cut is of a scaly hand reaching towards a very smug-looking red button, whose purpose is presumably to trigger the missiles. We also see a rather bleak shot of Clara’s head lolling, eyes closed, looking very cold and wet and not very alive. Random aside: the premise reminds me very much of the Angel episode “Why We Fight.”

The next trailer on the list is the TV spot.

New information in this one: the Doctor was aiming for Las Vegas when he lands in the sinking submarine. Also, he seems to know who Skaldak is, proclaiming “this one is [dangerous]. He’s got nothing left to lose.” This could reflect a level of personal involvement with Skaldak’s plight. Or maybe Skaldak has just gone insane, and thus has no qualms with nuking Earth.

The description of this video reads: “On a Russian submarine in 1983, a frozen alien warrior is waking up, just as the TARDIS materialises.” So, Skaldak was dormant for who-knows-how-long before waking up, possibly as a result of the TARDIS’ rather hasty landing.

All in all, this episode looks like it has the potential to be pretty great. Neither of the trailers include much dialogue, but hopefully the writers have bounced back from the unimaginative script of “The Rings of Akhaten.” If you’re interested in more Doctor Who-related posts, check out my review of Series 7.5 Episode 1 (“The Bells of Saint John”) here, my review of Episode 2 (“The Rings of Akhaten”) here, and an early dissection of the trailers for Series 7.5 here.

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 2: The Rings of Akhaten (Spoilers)

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First of all, I’d just like to make the point that this episode has been getting way more negative reviews than it deserves. “The Rings of Akhaten” is a rollicking space-y adventure complete with Star Wars-ian alien fauna and some seriously awesome visual effects from the masters fromp017c9sc The Mill. The story structure is not revolutionary, but neither is it absurdly nonsensical like several of its predecessors. (“Fear Her,” anyone?) I believe the word here is ‘dependable’ – Moffat took a framework that has succeeded in the past and re-worked it. That said, there are several plot holes and gaps of logic – flying a space motorcycle through the void without a space suit, for one. Not to mention several occurrences of underwhelming dialogue. Before we get there, however, let’s backtrack a bit…

SUMMARY

The episode begins with the Doctor observing the meeting of Clara’s parents – a clichéd but ultimately sweet rendition of the “dramatic rescue of the damsel in distress” trope…except in this situation, Clara’s father is the damsel. Smacked in the face with a maple leaf, he decides it’s a great idea to meander into oncoming traffic flailing his arms about. His future wife pushes him out of the way in the nick of time…and true love ensues.

rings-akhaten-dave-ellie-4Cue montage of Clara growing up (come on, we haven’t had one of those in ages). We see her mother giving her the “101 Places” book we saw in “The Bells of Saint John” (and now we know the origin of the leaf that constitutes the first page). Her mother then inexplicably dies (hopefully we’ll learn more about that later, as it is a major character shaper).

Cut to present-day TARDIS, and the Doctor is asking Clara what she would like to see. There is ssssssssssaaaaaaaaaaaa_zpsc13a1018some fierce buildup as she ponders this question, and though her answer – “something awesome” – seems somewhat anticlimactic, the Doctor responds with his usual enthusiasm and begins dancing around the TARDIS console while pressing buttons and pulling levers in the standard takeoff sequence. (Interestingly enough, the order in which he does it all is actually the same episode to episode. And yes, I’ve double-checked this.)

doctor-who-rings-of-akhaten-overnights-mainThe Doctor takes Clara to the Rings of Akhaten – seven planetoids orbiting a gas giant. Their visit coincides with the Festival of Offerings, which the Doctor passes off as the alien version of Pancake Tuesday. In reality, the Festival “celebrates” the aligning of the planetoids with a live performance by the Queen of Years, the young Merry GejelhMeet_the_brand_new_Doctor_Who_aliens_from_The_Rings_of_Akhaten (played wonderfully by Emilia Jones). The Old God – christened “Grandfather” – resides in a golden pyramid on an asteroid, and the song is meant to placate him, acting as a lullaby. We see Clara in her “governess” role again as she comforts Merry and assures her that, despite her fears, she will not fail her song.

Merry is stolen away by Grandfather via tractor beam while she is singing and is taken to the pyramid. The Doctor and Clara arrive just in time (riding 0aforementioned nifty space motorcycle, paid for with Clara’s mother’s ring because of its sentimental value) to convince her not toThe Rings of Akhaten sacrifice her soul. Then, just as Grandfather is about to

escape his glass cage… Continue reading

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Review: Doctor Who Series 7.5 Episode 1: The Bells of Saint John (Spoilers)

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SPOILERS AHEAD. SPOILERS, I SAY! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

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Clara and the Doctor in “The Snowmen.”

Doctor Who Series 7 returned to televisions worldwide on March 30th with the invigoratingly flashy midseries premiere “The Bells of Saint John.” With all the hype leading up to it, however, some disappointment was inevitable. This episode was tasked with introducing Clara Oswald yet again, this time as the Doctor’s 21st century to-be companion. (For those who are unfamiliar with the mythos surrounding Clara, the Doctor has met different versions of her across different times.) “The Bells of Saint John” also promised a riveting adventure and strong story to boot.

spoon1The central plot itself foundered somewhat when it was asked to support the forgettable monsters known as the “Spoonheads” as well as fail to explain why “The Great Intelligence” (played by Richard E. Grant)photo wanted people’s souls all of a sudden when snowmen seemed to entertain it just fine only a few hundred years prior. Viewers never learn how the soul-snatching actually works – there isn’t even a pseudo-science explanation delivered hastily by the Doctor. Plus, the plot and story structure both seem like reiterations of “The Idiot’s Lantern,” and why on earth did Miss Kizlet want Clara to have computer skills if her sudden awesome hacking prowess ended up being the mysterious corporation’s downfall? (By the way, Celia Imrie was wonderful as Miss Kizlet. When UNIT is cleaning up the scene after all of the Spoonhead controllers have been wiped, and she looks up and asks for her parents…I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.) Continue reading

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