Happy 11th Birthday to “New Who” – My 11 farourite moments of modern Doctor Who

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So, tonight marked 11 years since Doctor Who returned to our television screens in the UK with a new Doctor at the helm and a whole new look. I wasn’t a fan back then. Sure I’d enjoyed the Paul McGann special, but that was all really. Yet, the iconic status of Doctor Who in this country meant that on 26th March 2005 I was sitting down with my family to watch its relaunch on BBC One.

Rose may not have been the best episode (it still feels incredibly cheesy to me whenever I watch it), but it was perfect for re-launching the series. The plot was bonkers, but what lifted it to a different level was the performance of its central character – Christopher Eccleston was a superb Doctor from the start. He carried a weight to him that made it plausible that he was hundreds of years old and had suffered a painful past, one which had left him scarred and angry. He held my attention from the beginning. Throw in to the mix a surprisingly (back then anyway) good performance by Billie Piper as Rose, some jokes and some glorious shots of London (I still love the Westminster Bridge moment) and the series was well and truly back.

I admit that I never expected it to do as well as it did and the fact it’s still going strong is wonderful, as it continues to excite and inspire young children. Personally, I’m still not a classic Who fan, but I enjoy “New Who” and have it to thank for introducing me to some of the closest friends I now have and that’s priceless.

So, to mark this 11th birthday (bizarre for a show that has already celebrated its 50th!), here are my favourite 11 moments from New Who. I have to say it’s taken a lot of discipline to keep to just 11! Let me know yours in the comments.

1. The Doctor sees Rose again (The Stolen Earth, series 4)

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This moment has been my favourite of New Who ever since I first saw it and nothing has quite matched it since. It’s just so perfectly executed by the cast and crew. There is no dialogue – it doesn’t need it. It just needs Murray’s music and three great performances from Catherine, David and Billie. You don’t need to have seen any of the series before to understand just what seeing Rose again means to the Doctor. It’s all right there on David’s face. Gorgeous.

2. Vincent Van Gogh sees how loved his work is (Vincent & The Doctor, series 5)

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Oh I do love Vincent and the Doctor. People may criticise Richard Curtis but he did a superb job with this episode, tackling the subject of depression with such sensitivity, while still bringing a story full of fun and humour, as well as poignancy to the screen. The moment Vincent (played to perfection by Tony Curran) sees his exhibition in Paris and hears how cherished his work is, makes me well up every time. For anyone who thinks Doctor Who doesn’t carry real weight and emotion, you need to see this episode.

3. The Doctor has dinner with Margaret Slitheen (Boom Town, series 1)

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Boom Town is a lovely, silly story from the first series and enabled Eccleston to show his ability to play comedy more than perhaps any other episode. The scene in which he and Margaret Slitheen go out to dinner and exchange threats is wonderful, as she tries in vain to kill him, foiled each time by The Doctor being three steps ahead of her! Plus the fact I’ve been able to go to Cardiff Bay and eat in that very restaurant makes it quite fun too!

4. The wall / the beach farewell (Doomsday, series 2)

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I think this moment was when Doctor Wo gained so many more loyal fans (and perhaps David Tennant too!). The story of the Doctor and Rose had been a lovely one and their deep affection for each other was always obvious and with the arrival of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor became something more of a love story. These two people who could never really be together, who were then separated by a dimension, prevented even from finally saying how they truly feel for each other. Doctor Who’s female fanbase is very strong now and I think in part it’s due to David and Billie opening out the universe of the series with this very human relationship. Admit it, you cried at this moment too right?

5. When The Doctor finally has enough of the laws of time (Waters of Mars, series 4 specials)

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Waters of Mars was such a superb episode; so much darker in tone and allowing David Tennant to show another side of the Tenth Doctor. I could have chosen so many moments of this show, but I particularly loved the powerful moments as the Doctor walks away from the base, with the sounds of fear and dying of the crew in his ears, to then turn back. He has had enough of the laws of time and is going to finally say enough is enough. Although it’s a path we know he shouldn’t be on, you cannot help but admire the Doctor is this moment as he chooses to go back to help.

6. Fear Is A Superpower (Listen, series 8)

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As someone who always liked Jenna Coleman and Clara, the end of Listen remains a highlight of New Who for me. Hearing her gently talking to the young Doctor, to give him strength and comfort, which in turn he will give to the young Danny years later is lovely. It’s also added to by the beautiful score from Murray Gold and is a truly moving and powerful scene from the series.

7. Reunited with Donna Noble (Partners In Crime, series 4)

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Ahh Donna Noble, how we all loved her! Seeing her return in series 4 was a true treat and nothing could have been more perfect for her reunion with the Doctor than this wonderfully funny mime scene from Partners In Crime. Both David and Catherine are superb comic actors and this scene kicked off the start of the wonderful thread of comedy and fun that ran throughout this series and is something I still miss.

8. Never trust a hug (Death In Heaven, series 8)

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Peter Capaldi’s first series as the Doctor was a very strong one indeed (better than series 9 in my view). After such a brilliant series, this scene towards the end of Death In Heaven was played so perfectly by Peter and Jenna. Each character is so much like the other by this time and so good at hiding their pain from the other, pretending everything is fine. In this one moment the audience was able to see how sad and lonely each one was and how their love for the other meant that they were determined to hide it from them  so that they could be happy. “Never trust a hug. It’s just a way of hiding your face.”

9. Rory’s impossible choice (The Girl Who Waited, series 6)

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Oh how I loved Rory. He was a character who came such a long way over his time in Doctor Who and at times brought a level of emotion to the episodes that would otherwise have been lacking. The moment he is faced with the choice of which Amy to save in The Girl Who Waited was one of Arthur Darvill’s best moments. Whether to save his young Amy, or the Amy she would have become had she had the time to be lost there for decades as this old Amy had, is an impossible decision. Seeing him cry with confusion and desperation as older Amy begs to be let in to the TARDIS was heartbreaking to watch.

10. Four knocks (The End of Time, series 4 specials)

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The End of Time may have been a bit bonkers in places, but the Four Knock scene was a highlight of New Who. The sheer joy and relief on the Doctor’s face as he thinks it’s over, to be replaced so suddenly by utter horror and sadness when Wilf knocks on that door is beautifully played, accompanied by some subtle, but equally powerful music from Murray Gold. It had me in tears the first time I watched it and even now is an emotional piece of drama that the series and the actors should be proud of.

11. A hologram farewell (The Parting of The Ways, series 1)

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My final moment to mark this 11th birthday goes to the Doctor who started it all – the Ninth Doctor, Christopher Eccleston. He has been through so much with Rose and in order to save her he does what he thinks is the right thing for her – to send her home, with this final message sent via his hologram. It’s a lovely gesture and shows a real depth to his character. It’s still a shame we didn’t get him in this role for a little longer.

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So those are my favourite 11 moments over the last 11 years of this iconic British series, one which has brought so much joy and fun to so many for over 50 years now. Thanks very much Doctor Who – long may you continue to let us travel through time and space with you!

 

 

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My Top Television Choices for 2016!

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After looking back at my television highlights of 2015, it’s time to look at what television treats we can expect in 2016. There are exciting dramas returning to the screen, as well as some new offerings which I’m curious to try. So, here are my top choices of programmes to tune in to this year. As I’m in the UK, this list refers to dates and channels on which the shows will be aired here (if known).

The X-Files (Channel 5 – early February)

Anyone who knows me will have expected nothing else to be top of my teleevision choices list for 2016! The X-Files was my first addiction and would probably still be my category if I were ever to go on Mastermind. Therefore, it’s fantastic that it is returning to our screens, albeit for only six episodes. With David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back in such iconic roles, Chris Carter back at the helm and stories also from Glen Morgan, James Wong and Darin Morgan, this is already very promising. I sincrely hope this delivers for all the fans, but also pulls some new viewers in too. Remember, The Truth is Still Out There!

The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses (BBC Two)

untitledIn the hope this would air in 2015, this was also on last year’s list, but we can expect the second series of the BBC’s Hollow Crown some time in the next few months. Entitled The Wars of the Roses, this captures Henry VI and Richard III, with some of Britain’s brightest acting talent involved. Alongside Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard, there’s Dame Judi Dench, Sophie Okenedo, Andrew Scott, Tom Sturridge and Michael Gambon to name but a few. If the quality is as high as the first series (recommended if you missed it), then we are in for a treat.

Happy Valley (BBC One)

timthumbI came late to Happy Valley in 2014, but it impressed me almost immediately, with Sarah Lancashire playing such a strong and complicated character as Catherine Cawood. After the traumatic events of the first series, it will be interesting to see what writer Sally Wainwright has in mind for her next. I’m sure it will prove to be just as exciting and engaging as before and especially when the teaser trailer just released includes James Norton as the awful Tommy Lee Royce!

Line of Duty (BBC One)

Broadchurch__Ripper_Street_and_The_Missing_stars_to_play__pivotal_roles__in_Line_of_Duty_series_3Line of Duty quickly became a success (with help from social media fuelling interest) and with two strong series, both with separate stories, the possibilities are endless of Jed Mercurio’s drama. After focussing on Lennie James’s Tony Gates in series one and Keeley Hawes’s superb multi-faceted performance as Lindsay Denton in series two, the bar has been set very high for the next instalment. With Vicky McClure and Martin Compton being joined by Daniel Mays and Will Mellor, I’m already very excited to see this and will be going to a BAFTA preview screening of episode one on 8th February, so we can expect this some time in the near future.

Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, 25th April)

Game_of_Thrones_Season_6Although the last series was a bit of a mixed bag (but made up for with Hardhome!), I’ll always look forward to my return to Westeros. Now that we are in uncharted territory, with the majority of characters past book positions, anything could happen in series six and in a show where no one is safe, that is very exciting indeed. Filming photos suggest there will be some wonderful sequences in the new series and I’m looking forward to finally moving forward with the story (seeing as who knows when we’ll get book six from Mr Martin)!

Grantchester (ITV)

Grantchester-1920X1080James Norton will be back on our screens again for the second series of Grantchester, in which he plays the lovely vicar, turned detective Sydney Chambers, in stories based on the novels by James Runcie (the opposite end of the spectrum to his character in Happy Valley thank goodness). This was a lovely drama when it aired in 2014, with some interesting charcater relationships and a great partnership in James Norton and Robson Green. Anyone mourning the end of Lewis can take comfort in this series as a worthy replacement.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, 15th April)

12137941I admit to being a person who prefers dramas to comedies, on both film and television, but after two friends raved about this Netflix series last year, curiosity got the better of me and I’m so pleased that it did. You cannot fail to warm to the ever optimistic, innocently naive Kimmy Schmidt, as she adjust to life in the real world after 15 years spent in an underground bunker. The scripts are witty and sharp, the characters are fun (who doesn’t love Tituss Burgess’s loveable Titus Andromedon!) and the acting is very good indeed. If you haven’t been tempted yet, give it a go – I guarantee you’ll be humming the theme tune all day.

The Crown (Netflix)

“Two houses, two courts, one Crown.” The first trailer for this upcoming, ambitious new Netflix series has just been released (see above) and it looks very promising. The Crown will chart the two key istitutions of Britain – the monarchy and the government, from the 1950s onwards. Written by Stephen Daldry (writer of the acclaimed play The Audience), with a huge £100 million budget and starring some excellent actors, particularly Claire Foy as the young Elizabeth II (last seen playing Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall), Matt Smith as Prince Philip, Alex Jennings as Prince Edward, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret and John Lithgow as Churchill, this could be a historical drama to rival the BBC if the quality is there.

Queen Victoria (ITV)

victoria_itvStaying on the historical theme, ITV will later this year be casting a light on the young Queen Victoria in their new eight part drama series. Fresh from her time on Doctor Who, Jenna Coleman is the young Victoria, as the series charts her life from accession at 18, through to her marriage to Prince Albert. It has a fantastic cast including Tom Hughes (as Prince Albert), Rufus Sewell, Peter Firth, Eve Myles and Nigel Lindsay. I still really only know about Queen Victoria’s later life and reign and therefore I’m looking forward to seeing a new aspect of her story.

House of Cards (Netflix, 4th March)

House-Of-Cards-Season-4Everyone loves Frank Underwood right? Or is too scared not to?! In the series which undoubtedly helped Netflix become the success it is now, Kevin Spacey has become so iconic in this role and his partnership with Robyn Wright is always glorious to watch. Now occupying the Oval Office, it will be interesting exactly what lies in store for them in the next series.

Death in Paradise (BBC One –  started Thursday 7th January)

Death_in_Paradise_s_sun_soaked_crime_solving_is_the_perfect_cure_for_a_case_of_the_January_bluesAnother heart-warming and fun series that blows away the winter blues is Death In Paradise, which returned this week. I didn’t see the first two series, but as a fan of the lovely Kris Marshall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching Humphrey settle in to island life. How can anyone not love him?! It’s fun, entertaining and is Sherlock Holmes on a tropical island, as Humphrey seemingly solves murders using clues that no one else can see. Yes, your parents may watch it, but so what? This is a brilliant winter tonic!

The Night Manager (BBC One)

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Coming soon in 2016 is this six-part adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel, in which a former British soldier (Tom Hiddleston) is recruited by intelligence agent Burr (Olivia Colman) to infiltrate the arms trade being run by Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie).  I haven’t read the book, but I love a good spy thriller and with such a strong British cast I have high hopes for this series.

Undercover (BBC One)

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As a fan of the BBC’s legal drama Silk, it’s wonderful that its creator Peter Moffat has a new series coming this year. Sophie Okenedo leads the show as the first black Director of Public Prosecutions, who discovers her husband (Adrian Lester) has been lying to her for years. I’m intrigued enough to tune in!

In the Pipeline / Awaiting a UK network…..

Prison Break

3d5de4f061d24b32cb8feecb460374a5I always enjoyed Prison Break, although admittedly the first series was certainly the best. News that it is the next show to be revived is a bit of a surprise, but I’ll tune in to see what direction the story takes next. I believe it will be set as though the finale (in which we said farewell to one character for good) didn’t occur. After watching them act together in The Flash it’ll be great to see Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell back in the roles they are most famous for.

Of Kings & Prophets (starts in the US on 8th March on ABC)

I imagine the makers of this new biblical series are hoping it’ll attract the same audience as Game of Thrones. Its success will depend on whether it’s decent and can attract an audience fast enough. The pilot has already been partly recast and reshot, but the trailer looks promising. With established actors including Ray Winstone (as Saul, King of Israel) and Nathaniel Parker, hopefully the acting quality will be strong. For me though the biggest attraction is its young, male lead, playing David (as in David vs. Goliath, future King of Israel) Oliver Rix. He was Aumerle to David Tennant’s Richard II in 2013 for the RSC and proved what a fantatstic actor he is. I hope this does well (but doesn’t keep Oli away from the stage for too long)!

Billions 

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Damian Lewis is back on television is this new US series, playing hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, who is trying to be brought down by US Attorney Chuck Rhoades (played by Paul Giamatti). Having just started in the US on Showtime, I’ll be keeping an eye how this series is received. Given the pull of the two stars, if it is successful hopefully it’ll soon appear here in the UK.

His Dark Materials (BBC One)

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I’m quite excited by the prospect of the BBC adapting Philip Pullman’s popular trilogy of books in to a series, especially after the success of last year’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Admittedly, this may not make it on to our screens until next year, but just in case, I wanted to include it here, as I’m sure it will prove to be a wonderful series for all the family, whether a fan of the books or not.

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So those are the shows I’m most excited about watching in 2016 from the ones we know about this early on in the year. Who knows what else could be coming to our screens over the next 12 months! Feel free to let me know what you will be watching. I’m always looking for recommendations!

 

A Doctor Who Christmas – Looking back at all the Christmas episodes of New Who (2005-2016)

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UPDATED: 25th December 2016

Christmas is here and in 2005 a new festive British tradition was born, which is now a staple part of Christmas Day – the Doctor Who Christmas Special! I honestly cannot imagine the day without it now, as the Doctor always brings an added magic and fun on a day all about families being together. I have to say though, some years I have been left feeling rather disappointed by the seasonal trip in the TARDIS.

Seeing people returning to this blog post again this year, I thought it was time to update it to include last year’s Christmas offering and tonight’s newest episode. So as we await series 10, I’m looking back on the Christmas stories of New Who and rank the thirteen episodes we’ve now seen so far.

1. The Runaway Bride (2006)

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For anyone who has read my choice of festive television episodes, you’ll be unsurprised to see that my top choice for the Doctor Who Christmas episode is The Runaway Bride, in which we first meet Donna Noble. At the time we couldn’t have predicted that Catherine Tate would return, but what made an impression on me when I first watched this was how fantastic the chemistry was between David and Catherine. They bounced off each other effortlessly. It’s also filled with magical moments – the TARDIS on the motorway (complete with superb score from Murray Gold) is a particular highlight of mine. It was also always going to be difficult to handle the Doctor’s first adventure after losing Rose and having this follow immediately when he is still grieving was a lovely choice, as we see how wounded he is and the end moment as he says “Her name was Rose” gets me every time. I’ll definitely be watching this again this month.

2. The Christmas Invasion (2005)

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A very close second is the first Christmas Day special of New Who, in which we were properly introduced to David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. It’s one of Russell T Davies’s best episodes for me as it has the perfect balance of comedy, emotion, action and scary moments (well for children not me). It’s fun to have Jackie and Mickey involved (especially being attacked by a Christmas tree!) and quite bold to have the focus of the episode be on Rose, while the Doctor sleeps. Only once there is no hope left does the Doctor appear to save the day – and in his pyjamas too! In a short space of time we see this new Doctor is full of exuberance, is flirty, funny, but capable of taking a more serious stand if required. It left me very excited for a new era.

3. The Snowmen (2012)

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The Snowmen is by far my favourite of the Christmas specials under Steven Moffat and quite honestly was a relief after a few years of disappointment. The Doctor is yet again struggling to deal with the loss of close companions after we said farewell to Amy and Rory, but through this story his sense of who he is is reawakened by the bold, feisty Clara Oswald. Victorian era Clara is such fun and more than a match for the Doctor and their rapport is wonderful. We also see some gorgeous images – the TARDIS on a cloud and the Doctor and Clara climbing the stairs to reach it is lovely. It’s also a great story, with a brilliantly scary monster in the form of the Snowmen (an inspired choice for winter time!) and Richard E. Grant is suitably creepy. Plus we even get Ian McKellen’s voice too! I sincerely hope Last Christmas is at this end of the scale of Moffat Christmas episodes.

4. The Voyage of the Damned (2007)

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It may get a fair amount of criticism but I quite enjoy the 2007 festive offering, which pulled in the highest ratings for New Who (with an impressive 12.2 million viewers tuning in on the day alone). I was certainly intrigued to hear Kylie Minogue was to guest star and I thought she was a fun addition to the story. Astrid’s cheeky personality and bravery were ideal for a companion and you could have imagined her and the Doctor having great adventures together, but it wasn’t to be. Yes, it’s a bit too similar to The Poseidon Adventure (more so than Titanic despite the ship’s name), as the survivors make their way through the crippled vessel, but the ensemble are fun to watch and David Tennant is on fine form (at a time which personally must have been very difficult for him after the loss of his mother). Plus we get our introduction to one of my favourite characters of New Who – Bernard Cribbins’s Wilfred Mott. It’s funny to think that not even the cast and crew at the time realised what that character would go on to do!

5. The Unquiet Dead (2005)

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Not a Christmas Day special, but technically the first Christmas episode of New Who is this trip by the Ninth Doctor and Rose to Victorian Cardiff! We also get our first historical TARDIS trip of this new era and Charles Dickens was a wonderful place to start. Simon Callow is perfect in the role and I loved seeing the Doctor be genuinely excited about meeting one of his idols (similar to when he first arrives at the Globe in series three). There are some lovely moments between the Doctor and Rose, as their bond grows ever stronger and Eve Myles makes her first appearance in the Doctor Who universe (it’s great this is referenced later in series four’s finale). This is still Mark Gatiss’s best Doctor Who story in my opinion.

6. Last Christmas (2014)

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Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas episode proved much better than most of Steven Moffat’s previous efforts for the Eleventh Doctor and was very enjoyable. The creepy base did remind me a bit of The Waters of Mars, but the mix of the scary brain-sucking monster and Santa (brilliantly played by Nick Frost) was fun to watch. I’ve always liked Clara and it was appropriate to see that her recent tragic loss was not forgotten so quickly and addressed her, with her desire to stay in her dream with Danny very believable. I’m glad Jenna Coleman decided to carry on, but I admit that had her story ended with her as the old lady, pulling a cracker with the Doctor, an echo of her doing it with the elderly Matt Smith Doctor the year before, it would have been very poetic indeed. Having said that, it was still a lovely episode, which didn’t feel dumbed down for mass Christmas audiences. I hope this year’s is more in this style than some of the ones further down this list!

7. The End of Time  (2009)

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In 2009’s festive season we said farewell to the Tenth Doctor in this two part, bonkers story. It’s by no means the best story of New Who and I did find the duplication of The Master a bit ridiculous and the Naismiths rather wooden and dull. However, despite its weaknesses, there’s still so much I love about The End of Time. First and foremost the acting by David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins is first class, raising the story to a higher level. All their scenes together are incredibly moving and beautifully written. John Simm also does a great job as the resurrected, totally insane Master and his stand off against the Doctor in Part One is a great scene. I think Part Two is better than Part One for me, as the stakes are raised before the Doctor sacrifices himself for Wilf and although I know some people are frustrated at the multiple endings, I think it’s a great way to say goodbye to the team of Tennant/Davies and Gardner. Plus, as someone lucky enough to get to watch the filming of the Doctor’s final trip to Rose’s estate one cold night in May 2009, it will also always conjure up happy memories for me!8. The Next Doctor (2008).

8. The Husbands of River Song (2015)

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Last year’s Christmas special saw Peter Capaldi’s Doctor meet River Song and what a wonderful pairing Capaldi and Alex Kingston were. Yes, the main plot was rather bonkers, as we see River married to a man in order to acquire the diamond in his head! I’m not a huge fan of robots in Doctor Who (see the next entry for more on that topic!), but I did enjoy seeing the resolution of River Song’s story arc, as we finally saw the Doctor turn up with a new haircut and suit to take her to The Singing Towers. I do think her character’s development did become rather ridiculous the more Steven Moffat brought her back, but this was a lovely, heartwarming conclusion, which did make me sad we didn’t get a chance to see her more with Capaldi.

9. The Next Doctor (2008)

thenextdoctordrwhoMy least favourite of the Russell T Davies Christmas era had to be The Next Doctor. There is much to enjoy here I know. David Morrissey is excellent as Jackson Lake, the would be Doctor, as we see his sense of fun and adventure as well as his vulnerability as he remembers his own past. It’s also lovely to have him and David Tennant acting together again (I’m a big Blackpool fan) and they clearly loved making this episode. Their final scene at the end of the story is truly lovely and one of my highlights of New Who. However, despite the positives, I’m just not a fan of Dervla Kirwan’s performance as Miss Hartigan, which I find rather weak, which only gets worse once she becomes the Cyber Controller. Throw in the ridiculous giant robot and I always feel that I have swapped channels to a Power Rangers episode! Not the worst but definitely not the best.

11. The Return of Doctor Mysterio (2016)

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So, we come to this year’s special, which aired a few hours ago. I’m still mulling it over. I did enjoy it, but it wasn’t one of my favourites and overall I preferred the other Capaldi festive episodes to this one. The story here was sweet, but I’m not sure having a superhero in Doctor Who is needed. The Doctor is the fantastical character in the series; having him upstaged seemed a bit strange for me! I did however enjoy seeing the bewilderment on the Doctor’s face as he watched Grant dart from emergency to nanny in the blink of an eye! I also really enjoyed Matt Lucas in this episode, much more than his role in last year’s story. For me, some of the acting in this special was a bit wooden and so for that reason it’s lower down my list.

10. A Christmas Carol (2010)

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A new era of Christmas specials began in 2010 with the first offering from Steven Moffat and Matt Smith. On original transmission I was incredibly disappointed by this story, although it has grown on me after a few repeat viewings over the last four years (and possibly due to other festive offerings annoying me much more!). Matt Smith is fantastic here, coming down the chimney covered in soot, having fun with the young Kazran, marrying Marilyn Monroe and facing off to Michael Gambon (who is also a brilliant Scrooge-like character). For me though, Katherine Jenkins is a bit of a weak link in terms of acting ability and I also couldn’t really take the singing to a shark conclusion seriously (it had the same effect on me as the giant robot did two years before).

 

12. The Time of the Doctor (2013)

I will always be angry about The Time of the Doctor, as for me it’s one of the worst episodes of New Who and Matt Smith deserved much better for his final story. I preferred the Tenth Doctor, but I still loved Matt and thought his Doctor was a wonderfully quirky interpretation, who suffered from too many weak stories during his time in the TARDIS. Why do I dislike this so passionately? It just seems to be a jumble of scenes that don’t really fit together and too many plot strands hanging in the air for years were “tied up” in a couple of sentences by Tasha Lem!! It felt very rushed and lacking in thought. Also did we really need another strong, older woman, with whom the Doctor had a flirtation so soon after River Song? There are some lovely moments between Matt and Jenna, including the initial phone call and her return to Christmas at the end (although why on earth their lovely cracker scene had to have Murray Gold’s Four Knocks playing over it I do not know, something else that annoyed me!) and the last ten minutes are fantastic as we see a Doctor thrilled at regenerating, before the beautifully poignant goodbye by number eleven to Clara, Amy and the audience and our introduction to Peter Capaldi. However an episode where I could skip the middle 30 minutes should not have been Matt’s finale.

13. The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe (2011)

Although I am probably more angry about entry nine above, 2011’s special had to take the bottom spot, as it is in my opinion the weakest of all the Christmas episodes. I liked the idea of climbing through an object in to a snowy woodland (although I guess I have C.S Lewis to thank for this rather than Steven Moffat), the little boy Cyril is wonderfully played by Maurice Cole and never fails to make me smile and Matt is on fine form as the Doctor. However the story is very weak and wooden (and that’s not just the boring trees), with inclusions that seem unnecessary, for example, the rather pointless cameo by Bill Bailey and Arabella Weir’s team preparing to spray the forest and by the end I just didn’t really care. I certainly hope Peter Capaldi’s first Christmas outing is a lot better than this!

So that’s my order of Christmas New Who. I’m curious to know how similar / different it is from yours!

 

Television Review: Doctor Who Series 8 – My Verdict on Peter Capaldi’s first year!

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Doesn’t time fly? It seems incredible that, after all the waiting and anticipation, Peter Capaldi’s first year at the healm of the TARDIS has come to an end! It’s been interesting to see a new era of Doctor Who begin and with such a fine actor in the title role. After reviewing episode one in early August after the world premiere (Deep Breath premiere review), it seemed appropriate to look back at series 8 as a whole. So, after rewatching all 12 episodes again, here are my thoughts and ratings for each one.

1. Deep Breath = 7.5/10

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Overall I like this episode and enjoy it more each time although I still think it’s too long and there are parts I don’t like. Clara’s initial reaction to him irritates me – she has after all seen every Doctor and understands what regeneration means, so her attitude feels a bit odd. The most frustrating aspect for me remains the episode’s use of elements from The Girl In The Fireplace. The direct references to this, although amusing, didn’t make it less annoying that this was a partly old idea being reused. I do however think it’s a solid start for Peter’s Doctor, with some great scenes and lines and his relationship with Clara grows over the story. The introduction of Missy in “heaven” is intriguing (love her implying her Scottish voice is because of the new Doctor), although after a while I found these cutaways rather annoying. There’s teasing and then there’s being irritating, when the same scene is effectively repeated again and again. Lastly, I loved the end – having Matt’s Doctor pass the baton on to Peter’s in such a lovely, moving way was very very nice indeed.

2. Into The Dalek = 5.5/10

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This was my least favourite story of the year. I wasn’t overly fussed about it on first viewing and although enjoyable, I haven’t changed my mind after watching again. It starts well with the Doctor again facing a Dalek, I liked the introduction of Danny Pink and the awkward conversation with Clara and it was interesting to see the colder aspects of the Doctor’s personality so soon after number 11. Plus it contains one of my favourite lines: “I’m his carer. Yes she cares so I don’t have to.” However, for me personally, there were too many echoes of other episodes – the chained up Dalek from series 1, sliding in to the slimy depths of a creature from The Beast Below and above all the miniaturisation element which was done to death throughout series 6. It made the story feel a bit too recycled and dull for me.

3. Robot of Sherwood = 6/10

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Clearly the most silly episode of series 8, which almost feels like a pantomime on screen, this is another ridiculous tale from Mark Gatiss. It is a bit weak and childish, but on the other hand, episodes like this help remind me that Doctor Who is a children’s/ family show and so sometimes I think it needs an episode this mad. Identified by most as the weakest of the year, I prefer this to Into The Dalek simply because it is light-hearted fun and is less of a recycled episode than episode 2 (although the gold circuits did remind me a bit of The Fires of Pompeii…) and it was nice to see Peter Capaldi able to have some fun in the role. We’ve encountered famous historical figures in Doctor Who before but I liked the idea of someone we all think is a fictional legend actually being real. You never know, maybe like Robin Hood the Doctor is real and out there after all!

4. Listen = 9/10

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A superb episode, which was just as wonderful on second viewing. I’ve felt Steven Moffat’s writing has been way below par for a while and yet this episode finally has him back to the standard of years past. He’s given us creepy before (e.g. Blink, shadows that kill) and Listen is up there with the best of New Who. As RTD’s Midnight proved so brilliantly, some of the creepiest stories as those which leave work to the imagination and aren’t fully explained. As well as being a dark and creepy story about the creature under the bed and our fear of being alone in the dark, Listen also weaves a beautifully poetic tale of helping people gain strength from fear. Jenna Coleman is excellent here, showing her character’s kind heart with Rupert and then the young Doctor, which is a very clever plot twist – the moment she grabs his foot is fantastic and I loved that the Doctor’s inspiring words to Rupert actually came from Clara. Plus the reference to the barn from the 50th was a nice addition. The date scenes are a bit annoying, but overall I loved the balance of the episode. It also raised the question still unanswered – if Orson is related to Clara, then is she pregnant at the end of the series?

5. Time Heist = 6/10

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For me this is an average episode, mainly because I suspected the Doctor was the Architect all along and the fact that I find Keeley Hawes’s character a bit weak and two dimensional. I do like the characters played by Jonathan Bailey and Pippa Bennett-Warner and there are some great lines in here (love the Doctor’s reasons for why Clara needs high shoes on and comparing himself to a magician!), plus it’s yet another fab outfit for Jenna Coleman. However I just find the plot a bit dull, predictable (two mates needing reuniting was also done recently in Hide) and at the end of it I can’t help wondering what the point was.

6. The Caretaker = 7/10

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This is an enjoyable episode, although I can see why some may think otherwise. It’s the first time we see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor attempting to fit in to the human world and his turn as the caretaker makes me smile. Matt’s bumbling non-human approach in The Lodger frustrated me following on from the 10th Doctor, who was clearly pretty in tune with human life and customs, making 11’s lack of them unbelievable for me. 12’s slightly clueless, alien attitude on the other hand works – he’s been slightly less human as 11 and we’ve already adjusted to Peter’s Doctor’s personality so his behaviour makes perfect sense. I love his scenes with Courtney – honest despite what he’s saying being bonkers and his assumption Clara’s new man is a bow tie-wearing geek! Samuel Anderson does well here in my opinion. Unlike Mickey and Rory, he is not going to run blindly after Clara and his attitude towards learning her secret is far more mature. Despite knowing now where the series is going in the finale, I still find the Doctor’s vehement harshness to Danny’s soldier past a bit jarring as he hasn’t been this harsh to other military people (and has at times encouraged military service e.g. Planet of the Dead), so this feels engineered simply to fit the finale. Oh and geeky location spot – I can’t watch this without thinking of Sherlock’s His Last Vow, which clearly used the same location for the drug den!

7. Kill The Moon = 7/10

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Although it’s received mixed views online I quite like this episode. Leaving aside the mad idea that a newborn would be able to lay another egg immediately, I tend to like the slightly claustrophobic stories where just a small number of characters are stuck together in difficult circumstances. I still like Courtney and enjoy her banter with the Doctor. Plus the Doctor leaving them to make the decision was something new and quite shocking, emphasising more and more how different he is from numbers 10 or 11, who I find it hard to picture taking the same action. Jenna Coleman is again fantastic here and her final angry confrontation with the Doctor is very believable. Despite its story flaws, it’s still quite enjoyable for me.

8. Mummy on the Orient Express = 9.5/10

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This is definitely my favourite episode of the series. The story is interesting, scary, wonderfully paced and filled with great characters and dialogue (including some great nods to the past, e.g. the call to the TARDIS about something on the Orient Express and Are You My Mummy? for a start). It also moves the Clara/Doctor relationship on, as we see Clara struggle with the tougher aspects of travelling with him, especially this new version, who appears to be far colder and at times heartless than the last one, before realising she can’t give it up. The central themes of the series that come together at the finale are also present (soldiers and the cost of war, whether the Doctor is a good man). We also see Clara developing more of the Doctor’s traits as she lies to both Maisie and Danny. As Frank Skinner’s Perkins notes, travelling in the TARDIS can change a man, something he can’t sign up for but something Clara can’t give up, despite the hard decisions it may bring. Definitely one of the best of New Who.

9. Flatline = 9/10

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Another brilliant episode. The concept was exciting and creepy, with The Boneless being a fab monster. We’ve had the enemy under the bed and here’s the one in the walls! I also loved the hilarity of seeing the mini TARDIS, which despite the tension of the episode brought a dash of humour and silliness to some scenes (Peter’s little dance when he has moved the TARDIS is fab). Plus the Doctor gets to do his best hero speech so far. I know some people have been frustrated that this series has had the companion taking centre stage rather than the Doctor, which again happens here, but I quite like it (I admit my fondness for Clara over Amy perhaps helps me form this view). The series has slowly, brick by brick, shown how being with the Doctor changes you and here, as the Doctor sees how good Clara is at being him, we see him try and make her realise that being the Doctor is not necessarily a  good thing as he continues to struggle to understand if he is a good man or not.

10. In the Forest of the Night = 7/10

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I enjoyed this episode quite a lot. The story is something a bit different and it’s nice to see more of Danny, who we have still not really got to know well (which seems odd in light of the finale). Visually I loved seeing this version of woodland London and it was nice to not really know the reason for the invasion immediately. Yes, the idea is a bit bonkers and the end with the daughter suddenly reappearing was a bit too cheesy, but it was fun and allowed us to see more of Clara & Danny together. I still find Danny’s attitude refreshingly mature – all he wants is honesty, something Clara has been using less of as the series has gone on. I also really enjoyed the scene in which Clara tells the Doctor to leave. By this point I think the relationship between number 12 and Clara has found its stride and is something quite different from recent Doctor/companion relationships.

11. Dark Water = 8.5/10

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So we reach the finale and I thought this first part was pretty darn good. The opening sequence with Clara and Danny on the phone was very poignant. I could see it coming a mile off, but I still felt sad for Clara, as I imagined how awful that must be. The episode then seemed to take an unexpected turn at the volcano. Teasers had possibly suggested Clara was a baddie, but this scene was much more interesting and Jenna and Peter were excellent. It’s also lovely to see the Doctor opening up and acknowledging how much he cares for her. I do wish the Cybermen inclusion had been kept under wraps. I knew but had it not been in the teaser I imagine many would not and the teardrop logo, doors and windows were a clever hint. Samuel Anderson tackled Danny’s confusion at his new state well, making me feel incredibly sorry for him. Then of course there is Missy, who is wonderfully cruel and funny. I was not annoyed by the final reveal (perhaps because I’m not really a classic Who fan) and was left feeling very excited for the finale.

12. Death in Heaven = 7.5/10 

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My biggest problem with the finale was, for me, it didn’t live up to the strong start of Dark Water. There were too many little things that annoyed me, such as why does Danny take Clara to a graveyard of all places? Why doesn’t anyone recognise the Cybermen from the battle of Canary Wharf? Why get on a plane when the sky is filled with dodgy clouds? Plus there isn’t a shopping centre outside St Paul’s (yes I know that’s picky!). There is however lots to enjoy. Osgood is a great character – fun and intelligent. I’d much rather she’d survived than Kate Stewart, who I still find rather two dimensional and dull. Her “death” initially impressed me for doing the unexpected and her survival annoyed me for chickening out. Danny’s fate was sad, but his last scene with Clara lacked some emotional weight due to the lack of him in the series as a whole to make us really care too much. I also really  did not like the Doomsday rip off – the ghostly voice calling Clara’s name and someone unable to cross through (heck it even looked like the same bedroom as Rose!) and although honourable, I found Danny’s final sacrifice a bit naff. I did however love the final cafe scene – wonderfully performed by Peter & Clara as she shows what a good liar she has become despite saying earlier she’d never lie to him, as each of them lies for the supposed benefit of the other. The inserts of the Doctor’s fruitless trip to Gallifrey’s location is also superb. I only wish they’d held off a few more moments before the Christmas teaser broke the mood created by that poignant last scene. Finally I can’t forget Michelle Gomez’s incredibly brilliant performance as Missy. She’s superbly insane, cruel and funny too and is a great match for the 12th Doctor. I certainly hope she’s back very soon!

So summing up……., I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series overall, particularly once we hit episode 4 and it seemed to find its feet. Peter is a fantastic Doctor, bringing a fresh slant to New Who that is exciting to watch, as the Doctor comes across as slightly colder, until moments of genuine affection shine through. Although a couple of stories have bored me a bit, the standard of the episodes as a whole have been above average, with some of my favourites since 2005. Series 4 remains my favourite, but series 8 is in my view the strongest since Steven Moffat became show runner, with decent stories as well as a great actor who is a joy to watch. Roll on Christmas as we see whether outstanding questions are answered – is this the end for Clara and the Doctor (I assume so)? Is Clara expecting Danny’s baby (I assume so – there’s Orson 100 years from now and a post it in her flat referencing 3 months, not to mention the Doctor saying she is a mess of chemicals)? At least we don’t have too long to wait!

Doctor Who: The Complete Series 8 is out on DVD in the UK on 24th November 2014 and the Doctor returns as usual on Christmas Day! 

Spoiler free review – Doctor Who – Deep Breath World Premiere – 7th August 2014 Cardiff

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On Thursday I was lucky enough to have a ticket to the World Premiere screening of Deep Breath, the first episode of Doctor Who starring the new Doctor – Peter Capaldi. After a difficult few weeks for the Doctor Who team after various leaks, it was lovely to see so many people turn out in Cardiff City Centre to celebrate what is still such a treasured part of national television and welcome a new actor in to the role. On the announcement of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor last year I was thrilled with the choice (although, as when David Tennant left, I’d hoped for Chiwetel Ejiofor, but his recent critical success probably means this will never happen now). 

Daleks on the red carpet at St. David's Hall in Cardiff!
Daleks on the red carpet at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff!

The screening was great fun, with St. David’s Hall a huge venue to screen the episode for the first time and the appearance of Peter and Jenna on stage before the start was greeted with applause and cheers. After the screening there was a Q&A with them and Steven Moffat, which had some interesting and some ridiculous questions. Peter Capaldi thinks his Doctor has been influenced by all the previous ones (he is a lifelong fan after all) and both the actors talked about how much fun they had had filming the series. Peter Capaldi was asked about his audition and he mentioned how he had no idea that he was the only person Steven was planning to audition! Jenna was asked about her favourite costume and she said the one from Asylum of the Daleks as she got to wear an egg whisk! Steven also joked about when Peter was picking his costume and he’d receive photos of him in various clothes and you could tell when he didn’t like an outfit from his face. It was clear when the right one had been found as the photo he received was Peter in full Doctor pose mode! Steven was also asked if there were any plans for a 10th Anniversary celebration for modern Who next year (which seems nuts after a 50th really doesn’t it?!). He said there were no plans, but who knows what the truth is with Mr Moffatt!

Cybermen on patrol.
Cybermen on patrol.

So what did I think of episode one “Deep Breath”? It isn’t a straightforward answer as there are positives and negatives. Starting with the positives – first and foremost, Peter Capaldi is a fantastic Doctor and I have no doubt he will only get better as the series develops. His Doctor is funny, with some very witty lines in this episode, but he is also darker. As when Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor rebooted the show in 2005, you are conscious that with this Doctor there is a distinctly darker man within and this will be even more evident with the 12th Doctor. Some say this is a brave choice and perhaps it is, but I think it’s absolutely right for the show now, almost ten years after its return. I’ve enjoyed all three of the modern Doctors, but it’s time for something different and a darker Doctor is an exciting prospect.

The opening episode also sees Clara dealing with a new Doctor and their relationship is re-established for a new era. I was a little irritated by her initial reaction to him – she has after all seen every Doctor and understands what regeneration means, so her attitude felt a bit odd in some respects. Although, I suppose despite meeting 13 Doctors, Matt’s was “her” Doctor so perhaps this reaction is fair enough. There is some lovely development over this feature length opener of their relationship, right through to the end (which was probably my favourite bit of the whole episode). 

Daleks entertain the crowds.
Daleks entertain the crowds.

There is a new version of the theme tune and opening credits sequence, which I loved. It’s a variant on the time vortex but focuses on the cogs of time and looks lovely on screen (and interestingly people tell me it’s based on a fan’s You Tube idea)! Murray Gold’s music is great, although the Doctor’s theme didn’t leap out at me here the way Matt’s did in The Eleventh Hour.

As for the story itself, this is where my negatives kick in. I won’t give much away, but for me the plot of Deep Breath is just average. First episodes of a new series aren’t easy, but I thought the plot was a bit boring and not very original. Beginning with a dinosaur in the heart of London, we see the Doctor, Clara and the Paternoster Gang encounter an eerie half-faced villain, who is using those around him for his own disturbing purpose. The most frustrating aspect for me is the episode’s use of elements from an earlier stand-alone story, which will be obvious to fans. There is even a couple of references to this other story by the Doctor. For me, this didn’t alter the fact it’s partly an old idea and referencing that, although amusing, didn’t make it less annoying. I want new ideas for this Doctor, not variants on old ones.

In our seats for the screening!
In our seats for the screening!

I’m also not a fan of the Paternoster Gang of Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax. They still feel more CBBC than Doctor Who to me and their inclusion results in repetitive dialogue and plot points. We are reminded about ten times that Vastra and Jenny are married. We get it – one reminder is enough and the constant mixing genders, war-like talk of Strax feels a bit dull at this point. I know lots of people like them but I’m not one of them. There are some fun moments and lines with them here (Vastra being Scottish gets a good scene for example), but overall I hope they pop up less this year.

There are also some odd choices – the dinosaur has a purpose but it’s a bit needless. I also didn’t like how villain’s story was resolved and I couldn’t help wondering what the point of it all had been. It seemed a bit too easy to me. Although, this does include a great sequence, which is quite different for the show and will no doubt have people debating for weeks to come and I’ll be interested to see what sides people take on that debate. 

Peter and Jenna at the Q&A
Peter and Jenna at the Q&A

The episode does have an emotional base and that’s the Doctor and Clara’s relationship – what it was, what it is and where it’s going. I’ve always liked Doctor Who when it cares about character relationships (something I still think RTD was more skilled at than Mr Moffatt) and it was lovely to see some truly emotional moments between them. They are after all the heart of the show and the last few scenes are genuinely lovely to watch. 

So there’s my attempt to write a review without giving too much away. For me, the episode’s plot is average, building too much on ideas already used to better effect in an stronger earlier episode. There is also some weak dialogue, particularly from Jenny (“It’s the TARDIS, do you think it’s the Doctor?” – well who else would it be was my response). The episode also did not need to be as long as it is and could be better if some bits were cut down. 

Showrunner Steven Moffatt
Showrunner Steven Moffatt

However, as expected, Peter Capaldi is superb – he may be older, but that only adds to the image of a Doctor who makes you feel a little uneasy and who you sense you do not want to make angry. A mix of humour and darkness is an enticing prospect and I’m looking forward to seeing what awaits in the rest of this series and beyond (first up appears to be Daleks in episode two). Welcome aboard Mr Capaldi – all of time and space awaits!

Doctor Who begins with Deep Breath on Saturday 23rd August 2014 on BBC One. Follow this link for the trailer: Series 8 Official Trailer