Doctor Who Review – The Pilot is a welcome return for our favourite Time Lord! 


Is it just me, or does it feel like it’s been a long time since Doctor Who was on our television screens?! Yes, there was the mediocre Christmas special, but after a year without a weekly dose, I tuned in last night with all my fingers crossed and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. We all know that series 10 will be the last for Steven Moffat and Peter Capaldi and I was so pleased that The Pilot saw a return to form, proving to be one of the most enjoyable episodes in a long time. 

This series opener acted as the perfect springboard for anyone new to the show, or hoping to introduce others to it, as we see the Doctor meeting Bill Potts (played by Pearl Mackie), the latest companion to be introduced to the fantastical life of the Doctor and his blue box. He is currently undercover as a university professor and Bill has been attending his lectures, despite not being a student. It becomes clear very quickly that she is someone with the curiousness and bravery that appeals to the Doctor and is the ideal candidate to travel through time and space with him and Nardole (continuing to be played with fun & wit by Matt Lucas).

It’s not easy taking on the role as new companion, but Pearl Mackie does a great job in this episode. So much so, that I already felt she’d been around for ages by the time the credits rolled. Bill is strong, independent, clever and able to think on her feet. She’s also kind, caring and not intimidated by the Doctor and takes the revelation of who he is in her stride. She reminded me a lot of Rose from series one, with her simply keen for adventure in her life. She also likes chips too! The Doctor has clearly taken an interest in her, investing time in her education and already displaying a protectiveness towards her. With the photo of his granddaughter Susan on his desk, I’m looking forward to seeing a similar style relationship unfold over the course of this series. Much has been said in the media about Bill’s sexuality, being the first LGBT companion. I think it’s great that a show such as Doctor Who is including such a character without making a fuss about this aspect of her life. It’s simply who she is. It’s early days, but I’m already thinking Bill could be one of my favourite companions yet.

Story-wise, this was a solid start from Steven Moffat. I admit I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with Moffat’s style of storytelling in recent years, with less than satisfactory resolutions to convoluted arcs, so it was great to see him back to writing an entertaining, creepy story without all that baggage. As is his style, this was a scare for children coming via something they see every day. He’s done shadows, statues and snowmen and now it’s the innocent looking puddle outside your front door that could be coming to get you and the episode had just enough creepiness, enhanced by its direction and Murray Gold’s music. The scenes with Bill in her bathroom were even tense enough for the adults watching!

Admittedly, there were ideas here that we’ve seen before in Doctor Who that fans will pick up on. We’ve already had water monsters coming to get you in The Waters of Mars and the eerie repeating of what you say in Midnight, so this wasn’t an original story in every sense, but I don’t mind that too much when the story is engaging (and admittedly only hardcore fans who watch the show a lot will notice these points anyway). I wasn’t sure about the inclusion of the Daleks though. Yes, they are a cornerstone of Doctor Who and in the right story they are brilliant, but this did feel a little unnecessary to The Pilot’s plot, being more a “look it’s Doctor Who with Daleks” stunt. It’s a minor gripe though and overall this was a fun, entertaining and engaging return to this iconic series, which also laid some questions that I assume will unfold over the next few episodes, in particular what is in The Vault and to whom the Doctor promised not to get involved with another companion. I just hope that there is a clear arc this year, culminating in a satisfying farewell to Peter Capaldi.

Welcome back Doctor! I’ve missed you!

Doctor Who continues in the UK on BBC One on Saturday nights and in the USA on BBC America, also on Saturday nights.

Who’s Who? – My suggestions for the next Doctor!

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Peter Capaldi has announced that he will leave Doctor Who during this year’s Christmas special. Personally, I’m disappointed Capaldi isn’t staying for longer. He’s a great Doctor, but I think the episodes he’s had under Steven Moffat have been somewhat patchy and I would have liked to see his Doctor under Chris Chibnall’s new era. Sadly it’s not to be.

The announcement has unsurprisingly been followed by speculation as to who should replace him. I’ve seen some rather wacky suggestions over the last few days, including actors far too famous (and therefore expensive) to take the role and so it made me start to think about who I’d like to see. Yes, I agree some of the names flying around would be great (Ben Whishaw, Bill Nighy, Rory Kinnear etc.), but I just don’t think they are realistic and so I’ve tried to keep this list within the realms of possibility!

I’ll start with a disclaimer – Personally, I don’t see the Doctor as a woman. I know not everyone agrees with this and I respect that, but for me, the Doctor is a man and I don’t see myself as doing a disservice to my gender by saying that. My list therefore reflects my view.

  • Kris Marshall

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I’ve been a big fan of Kris Marshall for years and now he’s leaving Death In Paradise, having him become the next Doctor would keep him on my television screen! He’s quirky, capable of comedic and serious work and would bring a new sparkle of fun to the TARDIS. He’s therefore top of my wish list. He also left Death In Paradise to be nearer his family, so regular work in the UK would be perfect for him.

  • Bertie Carvel

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Bertie Carvel is a fantastic actor, whose stage work is always a joy and although he’s started to be seen more on television (most recently in Doctor Foster), he’s not too famous that having him join Doctor Who doesn’t seem farfetched. I could easily see him handling both light-hearted and darker stories and I can already picture him doing a kick-ass “I’m the Doctor” speech.

  • John Heffernen

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John Heffernen has been one of my favourite actors since I saw him on stage in 2010 in After The Dance. Why would he make a great Doctor? The answer is his versatility. I’ve seen him tackle all manner of roles on stage and each time he brings a new energy to his work. Although this would take him away from the stage, I’d be willing to accept it if he was swapping this for such a plum television role!

  • Rafe Spall

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I’ve included Rafe Spall on my list, but I already accept he may already be too famous to be in the position to be open to taking such a role. As his current role in the National Theatre’s Hedda Gabler proves yet again, he has a wonderful way of being able to pivot effortlessly from a playful to dark (and often chilling – did you see The Shadow Line?!) personality and he’s already proved he can take on strong roles in BBC drama.

  • Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

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I first came across Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Mr. Eko in Lost and loved the air of mystery he brought to that role. It’s that sense of being a bit of an enigma that I think he’d be able to bring to Doctor Who. With recent Hollywood films Concussion and Suicide Squad on his CV, as well as a brief spell in Game of Thrones, he’s not an unknown, but is still growing in exposure. He’s probably also a good age for the iconic Timelord.

  • Sacha Dhawan

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Sacha Dhawan is steadily building up a solid television career, which has included roles in a two of Mark Gatiss’s projects (the creepy The Tractate Middoth and the story behind Doctor Who, An Adventure in Time and Space), not to mention a role in the latest series of Sherlock, as well as Line of Duty and Mr Selfridge. He’s certainly an actor on the rise, but someone not too well known, meaning he could bring something fresh to the series, while at the same time building his own profile.

  • Stephen Mangan

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Stephen Mangan’s name has come up in connection with the role of the Doctor in the past and I have to admit, I quite like the idea. If the BBC are wanting a more established name, he provides that, while also bringing a solid career of work with him of roles that don’t just include comedy. He’s also suitably quirky (and his friendship with David Tennant could lure the latter back for the odd cameo)!

  • Jonjo O’Neill

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Another theatre favourite of mine is Jonjo O’Neill, who has impressed me on stage with some unforgettable performances. He is also building his television career, with roles in the last series of The Fall and even a small part in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who. Jonjo has an energy that not all actors possess (anyone who saw him as Mercutio for the Royal Shakespeare Company or in the recent Royal Court play Unreachable with Matt Smith, can attest to this). Anyone taking on the Doctor needs to have a strong screen presence and someone with the mesmerising quality he has would be an ideal choice.

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So, those are my top choices to be the next inhabitant of the TARDIS. What do you think? It’s certainly going to be an interesting time for Doctor Who fans as we await a new series this Spring, as well as any information on what Chris Chibnall has in mind (will he have a writer’s room and who will he pick for it? will he turn to some directors from RTD’s era of the series?).

One thing is certain, it’s Doctor Who’s ability to constantly refresh itself with each new Doctor that makes it so fun to watch!

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!

 

 

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in Cardiff – the home of modern Doctor Who!

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Ever since Doctor Who returned to the BBC a decade ago, one constant presence has been the series’s distinctive musical soundtrack. While we’ve had four Doctors over eight series, composer Murray Gold has remained and personally his score is always one of the highlights of Doctor Who. I recently struggled to choose my favourite tracks of Murray’s music from the series for this blog, which you can read here.

Since Christmas 2005, we’ve also been lucky enough to have Murray’s music recorded by a full orchestra and chorus – the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales. This has given the music a wonderful level of depth and quality and has resulted in the regular soundtrack releases becoming a must-have addition to my collection.

A decade in to New Who and after the success of recent Proms (always selling out within hours), Murray’s music has this year been on a world tour, in the form of this concert – the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular and last Bank Holiday Monday it arrived in Cardiff. There seemed no better place to see this concert than in the city that has become home to modern Doctor Who and I can certainly say that Monday’s concert was a brilliant experience for fans of all ages.

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Peter Davison standing up to the Daleks

I confess to being a little worried that this would be similar to the Doctor Who Live tour of 2010, rather than the wonderful Proms. Thankfully my worries were unfounded and the show gave fans of the series two glorious hours showcasing some of Murray’s most iconic pieces from the series, as well as providing the first live event for the music from Peter Capaldi’s first series as the Twelfth Doctor. By the nature of the show constantly moving forward, some pieces have not been played at recent Proms and it was lovely to hear tracks from all ten years again.

The show opened appropriately with the latest Doctor Theme – “Am I A Good Man?” I admit, on watching the first few episodes, I was unsure if Peter’s Doctor’s theme was very distinctive, but this track truly shines when heard in all its glory. Its suitably grand horn section and fast pace compliments wonderfully its more quiet and calm beginning, which reminds me a lot of Vangelis (I can hear aspects of it belonging in Blade Runner). Accompanied by footage from the show, it was a brilliant summary of Peter’s first year (one which I for one thought was very good indeed – more of that here).

From there host Peter Davison (the Fifth Doctor and now father-in-law to the Tenth Doctor) took us through the rest of the show, with fun and yes some cheesy jokes. Continuing with the most recent music, we were treated to a suite from series eight, “Wherever, Whenever,” including score from Robot of Sherwood, Listen (including the beautiful track “Fear”), The Caretaker, Time Heist and In The Forest of the Night. I was impressed with how many great pieces of music had been condensed and combined to highlight how crucial the music is to the series. It brings lightness and fun in episodes such as Robot of Sherwood, but also moments of darkness, fear and emotion (such as Listen).

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Ben Foster conducting the end of the show in the Fifth Doctor’s coat!

Other highlights for me were The Companions Suite, which brought back the beautiful themes created for each of Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy and it’s interesting to be reminded how each one was unique to each character. I also love the series three piece “This Is Gallifrey”, which was given a new life by being accompanied by footage from the 50th Anniversary, in which Gallifrey was so important. This did however mean that the music from that special itself wasn’t included, which I did think was a shame. To close the first half of the show, we heard a selection of music from our last trip in the TARDIS, Last Christmas. As well as the music, as with the Proms, the show welcomed some of the frightening foes of the Doctor, as Cyberman, Whispermen, Silurians, a Muumy and many other creatures appeared on stage and roamed through the audience. It’s always wonderful to see the reactions of children when they get to be so close to the monsters! Of course there was also the compulsory entrance of the Daleks, who faced off to Peter Davison and conductor Ben Foster on stage. It was cheesy, but all in good fun.

The second half of the show also had some classic as well as recent themes and opened with yet more monsters with the superb All The Strange Strange Creatures, first heard in series three. The Death In Heaven Suite was particularly good, including within it lovely pieces such as the Theme for Clara and Danny, which strikes me as being quite a mature piece of music and very moving. Although not a favourite episode of mine, Abigail’s Song from A Christmas Carol was brought to life wonderfully by Elin Manahan Thomas. This half also included music from one of the stand out episodes of series eight, “66 Seconds” from Mummy on the Orient Express, as well as the wonderfully triumphant and uplifting The Pandorica Suite (although I was sad this didn’t include the music played at the end of The Pandorica Opens – The Life and Death of Amy Pond).

The show was always going to end with some classics and it was lovely to hear Vale Decem again. Although always associated with the end of the Tenth Doctor, it has now become the concert anthem for paying tribute to all the previous Doctors and is clearly a fan favourite at such events. Of course such an event could only end with one anthem – the latest imagining of the iconic Doctor Who theme! Peter Davison even gave Ben Foster a Fifth Doctor coat to wear for the occasion!

This was a wonderful celebration of the music of Doctor Who. Without it the show would shine a little less brightly in the universe and I will always be grateful for the extra effort that the BBC has invested in the music for the series. Its quality and popularity among fans was very clear in Cardiff at this concert and I’m sure similar events will continue to be a huge success. Fingers crossed for another Prom in 2016!

Murray Gold’s Out of this World Music – My top 20 tracks from a decade of Doctor Who!

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This weekend saw the arrival through the post of the latest Doctor Who soundtrack, containing Murray Gold’s music from series 8 and the most recent Christmas special Last Christmas. Across 3 CDs! I’m a huge admirer of film and television composers, whose music I strongly believe is integral to the shows they accompany. None more so than Doctor Who. So many moments of the series over the last decade have been made stronger by Murray’s contribution, whether emphasising a sense of fun and joy or deep sadness and heartbreak. These scenes and the world of New Who wouldn’t be the same without him.

So, as I listened to the latest soundtrack this weekend, reliving Peter Capaldi’s fantastic first series as the Time Lord, while looking forward to next weekend’s Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular concert, it made me think about all the other musical moments from the eras of Chris Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith and which ones would make my track list if compiling the ultimate soundtrack to modern Doctor Who.

So, here are my top 20 choices (10 was too hard!). Let me know which ones you’d include in your list.

1. “I Am The Doctor” – 11th Doctor’s theme (series 5-7)

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From the moment I heard this piece of music, I knew it was going to be a firm favourite and it came to encapsulate Matt Smith’s time on the series. It is grand and sweeping in scope and exploded this new Doctor on to the screen with fun, fanfare and excitement. Surely no soundtrack or Prom could ever be without it and it’s a shining example of the powerful contribution music can have, to not only a mood of a series, but also to a character. I now cannot imagine the Eleventh Doctor without thinking of this track and it’s certainly my favourite theme of all the Doctors so far.

2. “Doomsday” – Farewell to Rose (series 2)

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The Doctor and Rose’s parting on the beach at Bad Wolf Bay is an iconic moment in modern Doctor Who, which certainly caused quite a lot of tears from some fans. David and Billie are exceptional in this upsetting final scene together (well at the time anyway) and Murray’s haunting theme, accompanied by Melanie Pappenheim’s vocals added a deep sense of heart and emotion to an already intense moment. It’s also quite an interesting track by itself, as the vocals and piano, carrying such sadness mix with the guitar, giving the music a heartbeat of sorts and an edgier tone too.

3. Together of Not At All – The Song of Amy & Rory / Goodbye Pond (series 7)

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This piece of music from series seven’s The Angels Take Manhattan immediately stood out for me on first viewing the episode. Although it begins very creepy in the first few bars, it becomes something altogether different, capturing through the music and the vocals of Halia Meguid the love between the Ponds and how ultimately being together was the most important thing in their universe. As long as they were together they could face anything, even death. The graveyard is perhaps the sad moment for the Doctor (and indeed “Goodbye Pond” is a gorgeous track to go with it), but it was this moment that moved me the most, watching this couple take that leap of faith together. It was a highlight of the last Prom for me and I’m still sad it was one of the sections cut from the televised version. This is one of Murray’s finest tracks so far in ten years and it was always going to make this list.

4. Fear – Clara’s message of strength to a young Time Lord (series 8)

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Listen was one of my favourites of Peter Capaldi’s first year (see my review of series 8 here) and the more I watch it, the more it edges to the top of the list. Despite being such a spooky and scary story, it also had a wonderful message for children (and indeed adults) about how fear is a superpower that we shouldn’t be frightened of, but instead should use to give us strength to achieve things we may not be able to do otherwise. This piece (thankfully on the new soundtrack) accompanies Clara’s speech to the young, scared Doctor. It is some of Jenna’s best work and is a genuinely beautiful piece of music from Murray and highlights how he helps enhance some of the most passionate and crucial scenes and messages in the series through his music.

5. Vale Decem – Goodbye to Ten and Tennant (The End of Time, series 4 Specials)

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Oh how this piece of music will always take me back to New Year’s Day 2010, as we said farewell to the Tenth Doctor and Russell T Davies in The End of Time. Some may think it was a drawn out end, but I loved it and Vale Decem (Farewell Ten in Latin) was the perfect choice to end David Tennant’s incredible time on the series. It was grand and emotional and still provided a sense of hope for the future with the arrival of Matt Smith. Hearing the combination of the music and choir live in the Royal Albert Hall, bringing this moment back to life at the Prom was a wonderful experience.

6. All the Strange, Strange Creatures (series 3 and 4)

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This piece of sweeping music has become a staple of the Doctor Who Prom and although associated with the Tenth Doctor’s time, it can easily be used as the theme for the variety of monsters all the Doctors have faced. It was one of the first pieces of Doctor Who music, within which you could truly appreciate the scope and power of the National Orchestra of Wales that bring each episode to life. Hearing it live is always a joy.

7. The Doctor’s Theme – Welcome Christopher Eccleston! (series 1)

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The first of New Who’s Time Lords, Christopher Eccleston was superb on the series. His Doctor’s theme was a perfectly otherworldly piece of music, which seemed to speak to the vast time and journey of this 900 year-old alien. It’s haunting and emotive and tinged with sadness, highlighting the great losses he has suffered in recent years. It was an early indicator that the music of the series was not simply going to be background noise, but a crucial thread of the production and this track will forever make me think fondly about Doctor number nine and his arrival in 2005.

8. This Is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home (series 3-4)

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Another classic piece from Ten’s era of the show is this one, first heard in all its glory during The Sound of Drums as the Doctor described his home to Martha and Captain Jack. The wistfulness is perfectly played by David Tennant and the graphics bringing our first real glimpse of his home were wonderful. However it’s this music that has come to be the biggest association with Gallifrey and is a lovely creation by Murray.

9. Rose’s Theme (series 1 and 2)

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She was the first companion of New Who and integral to the show’s initial success and Rose’s theme was one of the first pieces of Murray’s music to resonate through the episodes. It was such a great decision to have themes for key characters and this is definitely one of my favourites. I love how light the notes of the piano sound, giving it an air of romance and beauty, which matched the heart of Rose perfectly.

10. Four Knocks (series 4 Specials)

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Another tearjerker here in the form of Four Knocks, the heartbreaking music written to accompany the Tenth Doctor’s realisation that he still had to die in order to save Wilf. It’s some of David Tennant’s finest acting and this subtle, gentle, emotionally raw music is absolutely perfect. Well done to Julie Gardner, who I believe fought with Russell T Davies to have music over the scene. My one gripe with Four Knocks now however is the choice to have it play again over the top of Clara’s lovely scene with the old 11th Doctor just before he goes off to meet his fate in the clock tower in Matt Smith’s swansong. I can’t have been the only fan of the music of the series to be taken out of the emotion of the scene by the distraction and surprise on hearing what should always have remained a piece capturing the Tenth Doctor’s sacrifice.

11. A Good Man? (Twelve’s Theme) (series 8)

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I admit, on first watching Deep Breath I was listening for the Twelfth Doctor’s theme and by the end I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Matt’s Doctor’s theme had been so iconic and stood out immediately. Peter’s theme however, despite being just as strong, somehow seems less obvious. As Murray points out in his sleeve notes to the latest album, the horns that signal the heart of the Twelfth Doctor’s theme do pop up within every episode of series eight, weaving each story to the next. On listening to the theme by itself as part of this soundtrack, it’s power, excitement and beauty shines through the music and it’s a worthy successor to I Am The Doctor.

12. The Life and Death of Amy Pond/Amy’s Theme (series 5-7)

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Yet another theme for a memorable companion. I admit I wasn’t a huge Amy Pond fan, but her theme is lovely piece of music, which captures her special bond with her raggedy Doctor. It carries with it a sense of childlike magic, perfect for the girl who has known the Doctor most of her life and whose story is always a little unknown to the audience. This was expanded on in The Life and Death of Amy Pond track, which plays over the tragic scenes at the end of The Pandorica Opens, as River is trapped in the exploding TARDIS, the Doctor is locked in the Pandorica and Rory unexpectedly kills Amy in his arms and represents some of the most heartfelt music of the series.

13. “This Time There’s Three of Us (The Majestic Tale)” (The Day of the Doctor 50th Anniversary)

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The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was certainly a proud moment for the BBC’s flagship show and Murray’s music was right at home on the big cinema screen. Capturing the celebration and grand scope of the episode and everything it represented, I loved this track from it, which is equally exciting to hear in its own right without watching the episode. It picks up the emotion of the scene with the Moment, before whisking us up in to the sweeping grandeur of the hero-like fanfare that accompanied the Doctors joining together to save their home. There were three Doctors (and then 13) and what a wonderful team they made!

14. The Long Song / Infinite Potential (series 7)

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Okay so The Rings of Akhaten was not a great story in my view, but I did love the stirring choral singing in this track. It ensures that the end of the episode at least pulls off something lovely, together with the following track, Infinite Potential, which accompanies Clara saving the day with the power of infinite memories in her leaf. It’s an example for me of where the music of an episode is something I enjoy much more than the story itself! Also, it was a magical number to hear live at the Prom.

15. Song of Captivity & Freedom (series 4)

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Most of the attention goes on the Song of Freedom played in Journey’s End as the Earth is towed to safety. However I’ve always liked the other half of this theme, The Song of Captivity from The Planet of the Ood and this track from the series 4 soundtrack wonderfully combines both in to one piece of music. It is tinged with sadness through the incredible voice of Mark Chambers, but it’s a lovely part of the score of the show and was something a bit different in tone.

16. (The Majestic Tale of) An Idiot With a Box (series 8)

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I love what Murray has achieved with this piece from the series 8 finale and reading his sleeve notes makes it all make sense. Apparently Mr Moffat missed I Am The Doctor, associating it with his time as showrunner, whereas Murray associates it with Matt Smith’s era (I agree with Murray). So, as a compromise, this piece incorporates both! You can hear I Am The Doctor, albeit slightly tweaked in style, alongside Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor theme, with its bold, powerful horn section. What you get is an epic, bold, exciting and glorious number, which had better be played at the next Prom!

17. Up The Shard (series 7)

bellsofstjohnFarewell to the Ponds and hello to Clara in series 7. Her first adventure as an official companion, The Bells on St. John, was bonkers, but lots of fun and I particularly loved Murray’s grand musical choice to accompany the Doctor’s mad motorcycle ride up the side of the Shard, which uses I Am The Doctor as a base and expands it.

18. With Love, Vincent (series 5)

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This is one of my favourites stories of New Who and after the tears are shed after watching Vincent in the museum of his own art, it’s this lovely track which accompanies Amy as, through her tears at knowing she didn’t save Vincent, she sees her sunflowers, now bearing an affectionate message for her. It gives the episode a happier ending, in which the Doctor and Amy can look fondly on the life of an extraordinary man.

19. Altering Lives (The Waters of Mars, series 4 Specials)

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Waters of Mars is a much darker story than most of the Tenth Doctor’s time, deliberately building up to his exit in the following episodes. However, its story is one that on the whole is praised by fans and for me is the strongest of the Specials that year. It’s a story about loss, accepting destiny and sacrifice and this quiet, spiritual track enhances all of those important themes and is most associated with the scene in which the Doctor finally tells Adelaide her fate, as he stands in the airlock, preparing to walk away yet again from a fixed point in time, no matter how painful it is for him.

20. The Cybermen theme (throughout)

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Ever since its return in 2005, there have been two constant enemies, popping up over and over again for the Doctor to defeat. I love Murray’s themes for both the Daleks and the Cybermen, the first with its almost Darth Vadar style evil. However, it’s the Cybermen music, with its eerie strings and bold horns that has always grabbed me, especially once the frantic violins and choir join in and the piece builds to a crescendo. The theme always crops up in some form when the Cybermen appear, most recently of course in the series 8 finale, but I admit this track always makes me think of Rose desperately clinging the the lever in Doomsday!

So that’s my selection. It was a lot harder than I imagined, hence it becoming a top 20 and there were so many other possible candidates (The Impossible Planet suite, The Carrionites Swarm, Boe, Final Days from The End of Time to name just a few)! Now all I need is a re-release of series one and two, which only ever had one CD for both years. That is criminal! Surely others out there would agree that this is a much needed addition to the Doctor Who soundtrack collection? Come on Murray Gold and Silva Screen. You know you want to!

The Doctor Who soundtracks are released by Silva Screen (see their Doctor Who music website here) and are available through all the usual stockists.

10 Years of New Who – My top 10 episodes of modern Doctor Who!

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There seem to be a lot of television anniversaries recently and today marks another milestone – it is 10 years since Doctor Who returned to our screens with Rose in 2005. As someone who grew up in the wilderness years of Doctor Who my only real contact with the series had been watching the occasional rerun of Sylvester McCoy’s era on UK Gold, which didn’t grab me at all and then the 1996 TV movie with Doctor number 8. I’d enjoyed Paul McGann’s only outing as the Doctor and so on hearing the series was being revived I was curious to see what it would be like in the 21st century. I was also a huge admirer of Christopher Eccleston’s work (particularly the stunning and hard-hitting Hillsborough).

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The new TARDIS team in 2005 – Christopher Eccleston & Billie Piper

So, on Saturday 26th March 2005, I joined 9.9 million other viewers to see the TARDIS land back on Earth (and hear that crazy cross over with Graham Norton!), which rose to a final total of 10.81 million. The verdict at the time – enjoyable, although I thought the episode was incredibly cheesy. I did however love Chris and Billie and that was enough to draw me back the following week. It’s been a mixed 10 years. I loved Chris’s series (with barely a dud episode), adored David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor, which cemented my appreciation and loyalty to keep watching the show and thought Matt was great but had far too many dreadful stories. Now, ten years later, we are awaiting the second series of stories for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor (I thoroughly enjoyed his first series, which I discussed last year) and it’s great to still have the Doctor going strong on the BBC. To celebrate this 10th anniversary, below are my favourite ten episodes of “New Who.” I’d be interested to hear what episodes make your list.

1. Human Nature / Family of Blood (David Tennant, series 3, 2007) b007m0r9_640_360

This two-parter remains my favourite story of modern Doctor Who, which is ironic seeing as it was originally a novel for the Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor! Paul Cornell’s story is so brilliant on so many different levels – it is beautifully written, has a chilling villain (particularly Harry Lloyd as Baines), highlights the country before the war, while commemorating those who fought in its ending and is also superbly acted. Freema Agyeman really has space to develop the character of Martha, who has to do the Doctor’s work for him when he can’t, Jessica Hynes is wonderful as Joan, the woman who captures John’s heart and there’s some lovely acting from young Thomas Brodie-Sangster (now popping up in Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall). Above all of that though is David Tennant’s incredible performance as two very different people. His portrayal of John Smith as he struggles to cope with his real identity is heartbreaking and his darker Doctor at the end is also chilling. It’ll take a lot to beat this one for me.

2. Vincent and the Doctor (Matt Smith, series 5, 2010) Vincent-and-the-Doctor

Coming second is Richard Curtis’s story from Matt’s first year in the role. Many people were horrified at the thought of him writing an episode, but his story was in fact the most emotionally strong and moving episode of Matt’s whole time on the show. By travelling back to meet Amy’s favourite painter, it enabled the story to tackle the delicate subject of mental health and depression, as most of those watching know the reason for Van Gogh’s death. The scene in which he is crying in his room is incredibly powerful and superbly acted, while the episode also still maintains some beautiful visual moments too – Amy among the sunflowers and the three of them looking up at the Starry Night. Above all though, for me, it’s the ending which truly makes this episode one of the best of New Who – watching Tony Curran as Van Gogh see his work and how much it is loved always brings a tear to my eye, as does the sad truth that Amy didn’t get her wish of there being more paintings when they return. It’s delicate, emotional, powerful and beautiful.

3. The Waters of Mars (David Tennant, Specials, 2009) s0_07_wal_20

As David Tennant’s time as the Doctor neared its end, there had been talk that we’d see a darker Doctor and that certainly happened in The Waters of Mars. Faced with the crew of Bowie Base 1 and knowing their ultimate fates yet again placed the Doctor in a difficult moral situation. The difference this time being that we got to see what he’d be like if he decided to try and change the future and intervene when he shouldn’t. Tennant’s scenes with Lindsay Duncan were wonderful, from the one telling her the future of her family, right through to their final conversation on a snowy London street. Seeing this angry, arrogant, Master-like version of the Tenth Doctor was very exciting and it’s almost a shame he didn’t have a bit longer to delve in to it.

4. The Day of the Doctor (50th Anniversary, 2013)

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The highly anticipated 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who must have been a huge pressure for Steven Moffat. There was so much to try and include in order to honour the past, while moving the story forward for the next 50 years and I admit I was worried it would turn out like one of the worst Christmas specials. I’m so pleased I was wrong and that instead we had a fun, entertaining, exciting episode. I’ll always be sad that Christopher Eccleston didn’t agree to return, not even for a few moments, but we at least had the wonderful partnership of Matt and David, which was only strengthened by the dynamic they had together with John Hurt. His War Doctor was a brilliant addition and one that allowed us to revisit the Time War in a new way. Not to mention the unexpected inclusion of both Peter Capaldi and Tom Baker, whose scene with Matt is so moving, whether you’ve watched the Fourth Doctor’s episodes or not.

5. The Girl In The Fireplace (David Tennant, series 2, 2006) reinette

Steven Moffat’s first story for the Tenth Doctor became an instant fan favourite and I think will always be a classic. Ten years on, we are used to Moffat’s trick of jumping between time periods, or having the resolution be one that you only see how clever it is at the end of the episode, requiring you to rewatch it immediately. This was the first time we saw how multi-layered and clever his writing could be and in my view, some of his more recent stories have lost this, thinking they are cleverer than they actually are. The story of Madame Du Pompadour and her love for the Doctor across her life is a lovely one and Sophia Myles was able to convey her fear and also strength, something the Doctor clearly admired in her. His realisation that she has died and the letter she has left for him is such a tragic ending, but one which is necessary to make the episode as wonderful as it is. More like this please Mr Moffat!

6. Doomsday (David Tennant, series 2, 2006)

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I will always remember watching Doomsday for the first time, aware that Billie was leaving but unsure how it would happen and being totally unprepared for the emotionally charged final few scenes. Doomsday was such a great finale, as it had a perfect mix of adventure and action, as the Daleks and Cybermen do battle, while balancing this with a very real emotional heart, through both the resolution of Jackie and Pete back together and the Doctor and Rose torn apart. Russell T Davies’s era on the show may be seen as too driven by emotions for some, but I loved this aspect of the series and question whether I would have become such a loyal, regular viewer without it. I cared about the characters and the heartbreaking events always felt real (something I’ve felt to be lacking, certainly in Matt’s era) and none more so that seeing the Doctor and Rose say goodbye. It has gorgeous music from Murray Gold and is beautifully acted by David and Billie, whose chemistry was very special and I’d challenge anyone not to shed a tear.

7. Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways (Christopher Eccleston, series 1, 2005) parting-ways-1

As a huge admirer of Christopher Eccleston as an actor I was very sad to discover he was leaving the series so soon. I still strongly believe that the series may not have taken off had it not had such a respected actor of his calibre in it from the start, forcing people to take the sci-fi show seriously. He was a wonderful Doctor, funny, kind and yet serious and detached when necessary. This finale is still one of the best of New Who. It was the first time we got to see the huge army of Daleks and the threat they posed, it had light hearted humour courtesy of John Barrowman’s brilliant Captain Jack (bring him back Steven!) and then there were the lovely scenes between the Doctor and Rose. His hologram telling her to have a fantastic life is still one of my favourite scenes and Billie really showed what a strong actress she was, as she fought to get back to his side. Although sad, Chris’s final scene did justice to his time on the show, before welcoming David Tennant aboard.

8. The Runaway Bride (David Tennant, Christmas 2006) THERUNAWAYBRIDE_(19)

The Runaway Bride has always been my favourite Christmas special and is one I return to often. It has  the perfect balance of light hearted silliness and comedy, sadness and excitement and wasn’t confusing for those who weren’t regular viewers of the series. I’d never been a fan of Catherine Tate’s comedy shows and so was relieved to see what a brilliant actress she was. Donna was so different from Rose, which was exactly right for the first episode without the partnership of David and Billie and yet there were enough references to Rose to acknowledge how important she’d been to the Doctor. I remember being sad at the end of the story that we’d never see Donna again and it’s wonderful she came back for series four, to have such a superb partnership with David’s Doctor. Plus David’s final line in this story is still one the best scenes of his on the entire show – “Her name was Rose.”

9. Blink (David Tennant, series 3, 2007)

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Blink is almost certain to make any Doctor Who fan’s list of favourite episodes and not just of modern Who either. Series two’s “Doctor-lite” story had been fairly weak and yet Steven Moffat managed to make this one a series highlight! It also introduced us to one of the most chilling monsters on television as we watched the Weeping Angels creep up on people. I remain frustrated that such a frightening monster was then ruined by later stories (breaking necks just wasn’t as frightening as sucking the future years out of someone!) but at least Blink stands as a reminder as to how scary they can be in the right story. It was also a brilliant role for Carey Mulligan (now so famous I sadly think we’ll never see the return of Sally Sparrow) and has forever made statues just that little bit more disturbing! Remember – don’t blink!

10. Mummy on the Orient Express (Peter Capaldi, series 8, 2014) / The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End (David Tennant, series 4, 2008)

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Okay, so I’m cheating a little here as I’ve agonised over which of these two stories to include and couldn’t decide! It felt wrong not to include a story from the Twelfth Doctor and Mummy on the Orient Express was by far my favourite of his first series. It had everything right – scary story and monster, which felt fresh and original, fun location, excellent supporting performances (particularly Frank Skinner) and a lovely Doctor/Clara dynamic, as she struggles to leave, while feeling it’s the only choice. Above all though Peter Capaldi is fantastic – he really is the Doctor here, with witty dialogue, break neck speed cleverness, authority and a convincing relationship with Clara. I’ve no doubt this will remain a highlight of his years on the show.

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I couldn’t have a top ten list without The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End, as there is so much I love about it. Bringing all of the Tenth Doctor’s companions together in one story was a brave and ambitious move and yet it really did work and it made the ending all the more tragic, when the Doctor is once again alone. It was lovely to have John Barrowman and Billie Piper back, although I still don’t like the final beach scene. It still grates with me that the Doctor was fine with the idea of The Master travelling with him, but not 10.5 and Rose seemed to put up far too little a fight about not staying with the person she’d waited years to be with again. That aside though, their reunion at the end of Stolen Earth is another favourite scene of New Who for me – it’s the look on his face as he sees her and runs towards her, before that pesky Dalek ruins it! Then there is Catherine Tate, who is utterly spectacular here as we say goodbye to Donna. Her final TARDIS scene is heartbreaking to watch. If that scene wasn’t beautiful enough, it’s then capped off by Bernard Cribbins’s emotional doorstep vow to look up at the sky each night and think of the Doctor. Incredible acting all round.

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So those are my choices, some of which I’ll watch to celebrate this anniversary. Narrowly missing out were The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (“Are You my mummy?” will stay with me forever!), The Eleventh Hour (such a brilliant entrance for Matt), Flatline (it was just so original, scary and also funny), the entire end of series four, with its superb run of The Silence In The Library/Forest of the Dead/ Midnight and Turn Left, The Angels Take Manhattan (Amy and Rory’s exit was very well handled) and Boom Town (bonkers, but Chris proving just how comedic he could be in that restaurant scene).

I may not like all the stories, but Doctor Who remains a highlight of British television today and something the BBC can truly be proud of. It’s one of those rare shows that can be enjoyed by all the family together and that is something that should be cherished. I certainly hope we’re all here in another ten years time to celebrate another decade of stories!

In the meantime, here’s a brilliant fan made video, celebrating a decade of New Who! Watching me has made me want to get my box sets out and start all over again!

My Television Moments of 2014

After looking ahead to  what’s coming to the stage, cinema and TV screen in 2015, as well as picking my favourite theatre of the year, I thought I’d look back at those television moments in 2014 that had the biggest impact, whether for good or shockingly terrible reasons, especially if you didn’t see it coming.

Here are my top ten.

1. Line of Duty episode 1 – Farewell to DC Georgia Trotman

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I hadn’t watched the first series of Jed Mercurio’s police drama and it was only the buzz on Twitter as series two began that motivated me to catch up and I’m certainly glad I did. This definitely was one of the strongest dramas of the year – superbly written to keep you guessing as to guilt or innocence of Keeley Hawes’s DI Lindsay Denton. However the moment that stands out for me and had me stunned was the murder of new cast member Jessica Raine’s DC Trotman. Just as you felt you were getting to know her and she was settling in, she gets thrown out of a window! Goodness knows what series three will have in store.

2. Sherlock: The Empty Hearse – Sherlock & Molly 

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January saw the much anticipated return of the BBC’s Sherlock after two years! Yes it was only around for three weeks, but in three episodes it reminded us how much better it is than most shows on television. I could have picked so many moments from series three (the stag night, the best man’s speech, the game of Operation), but the one I have to go for is the fantasy Molly/Sherlock kiss from The Empty Hearse. I first saw it at a preview screening and the reaction from the audience was brilliant. For a few seconds I really wondered what on earth was going on! Not only was the whole sequence a wonderful way to open the episode, but it is one of the hottest kisses on the big or small screen.

3. Game of Thrones – The demise of the Red Viper

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Ahh Game of Thrones, it can always be relied on to bring some truly shocking moments to the screen. As someone who has read the books, it’s great to anticipate the scenes that you know will shock and see how well they are executed. Only choosing one is tough and a close second is Tryion’s superb speech during his trial, but it really had to go to the fight between the Red Viper and the Mountain and its unexpected and brutal end. Could this really be as shocking as it was to read? In short – yes. In fact it was more gruesome than I imagined it would be and is a great moment to watch with those who have no idea what’s about to happen.

4. The Good Wife – the tragic death of Will Gardner

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It’s refreshing that a series in its fifth year only continued to get stronger and I loved the latest twists and turns in The Good Wife, as we saw Alicia leave to start her own firm (the whole episode where everyone finds out is superb). However nothing could beat the tragedy of Will’s unexpected death. Sadly due to the gap between US and UK air dates (about five weeks), I found out what was in store and so the surprise was lost on me. However the moment Alicia hears the news was still beautifully played by Alan Cumming and Juliana Marguiles. Series six will certainly be interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing what direction it will take.

5. Life Story – Barnacle goslings leap from their nest 400 feet up to follow parents

barnacle-geese-lif_3147805cI don’t watch all nature programmes but the BBC’s Life Story was wonderful and filled with stunning moments. The one that stands out though is the story of the Barnacle goslings, who only days after birth must either follow their parents in their 400 feet leap or starve. Watching each chick leap off and plunge all that way, before hitting the rocks and bouncing to a stop was terrifying and astonishing and reminds you how incredible nature is.

6. Happy Valley – Catherine is almost killed saving the day

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I missed this superb drama on its original airing and have only recently caught up after so many people raved about it. They were certainly right. I’m still not a fan of shows with young women in danger, but I couldn’t stop watching this thanks to Sarah Lancashire’s superb performance as Catherine Caywood. She’s such a fantastic character. The moment for me has to be after she has found Ann and after a frightening struggle with James Norton’s horrid Tommy, is dragged, bloody and hurt out in to the street. It was shocking, but some of the most realistic and powerful television I’ve seen for a while. It’s great to hear a second series in on the way.

7. Doctor Who – Fear is a superpower

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2014 saw us welcome a new Doctor in to the TARDIS as Peter Capaldi became the Twelfth Doctor. I loved series eight, for its strong run of episodes and its slightly darker tone and I was torn between three moments that stick out. Runners up are the alley scene from Deep Breath, in which the new Doctor demands a homeless man (played by Elisabeth Sladen’s husband) gives him his coat and the scene from Flatline in which the Doctor moves the mini TARDIS to safety with his hand. However, my favourite moment is from Listen when the Doctor explains to a young Rupert why being afraid is a good thing because “Fear is a superpower.” I really knew at this point how wonderful Peter was going to be as the Doctor.

8. The Blacklist – Red’s monologue about death in “Anslo Garrick”

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Okay, I admit that this is a bit of a cheat as this moment was actually aired in 2013. However, as I only started watching The Blacklist this year and this moment has stayed in my mind, I thought I’d include it anyway. In this two-part story, Red ends up locked in the secure holding box with Agent Ressler to escape from the terrorists who have entered the FBI facility to kill him. As he tries to save Ressler’s life, in an impressive scene by James Spader, he explains why he doesn’t intend to die then and paints a vivid picture of everything he wants to do before he does die. It’s a really beautiful moment and was when I knew I was hooked on the story of this intriguing character.

9. GBBO – Alaskagate!

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Although series three of the Great British Bake Off has yet to be bettered for me, in terms of contestants and creations, Alaska-gate from the latest series had to be mentioned here! Along with a large portion of the country I was appalled when Iain discovered Diana had removed his baked alaska from the freezer. When she says “Well you’ve got your own freezer haven’t you?” I was livid! Fair enough it may have only been taken out for a few seconds and been edited to make it seem worse, but that comment from Diana seemed wholly unacceptable to me and very rude. Poor Iain.

10. House of Cards – Did you think I’d forgotten you?

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Last but not least is a moment from the first episode of the second series of Netflix’s political drama House of Cards. No, it’s not the death of Zoe Barnes, as I could see it coming a mile away. Instead the moment for me is from the very end of the season opener, when I’d forgotten that Frank Underwood tends to speak to camera every so often. After him not doing it for the whole episode, it’s quite creepy when, all of a sudden, he looks in to the bathroom mirror and says: “Did you think I’d forgotten you?” Kevin Spacey is so good in this role and his monologues are some of my favourite scenes, with this one certainly top of the list.

So those are my television moments of the year. Hopefully the next twelve months will be filled with many more.

My Top Television Choices for 2015!

As 2014 draws to a close, it seemed to be the perfect time to look at what television treats we can expect in 2015. There are certainly lots of 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 next year. As I’m in the UK, this list refers to dates and channels on which the shows will be aired here.

1. Broadchurch 2 (ITV, starts 5th January 9:00 p.m.)

uktv-broadchurch-2-generics-5 Series one of Broadchurch was a television highlight in 2013 and now series two is almost here. Starting on 5th January, I truly hope that our return to this little community meets the expectations that we all have. With the plot still much of a mystery, which is certainly a good thing, it seems a safe bet that the cast will be just as brilliant as before, with David Tennant, Olivia Colman and many of the cast returning, together with new additions including Eve Myles. From the trailer, will this revolve around Carver’s old case Sandbrook, is one of the new cast his ex wife (Eve Myles maybe?) and will we meet the character mentioned in the tie-novel, Jocelyn Knight, which I thought was the clue teased at. All will soon be revealed, but in case you missed it, here’s the trailer!

2. Wolf Hall (BBC Two, air date TBC)

24-wolf-hall-bbc I’ve owned Hilary Mantel’s pair of Booker Prize-winning novels for years and have never quite had time to start them. However after a February trip to the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the adaptations by Mike Poulton and Mantel herself, led by the superb Ben Miles, I am now very much looking forward to this BBC dramatisation. It’s an impressive cast, including the fantastic Mark Rylance as Cromwell and Damian Lewis as Henry VIII and no one quite pulls off a period drama like the BBC do. Maybe I’ll try and read those books at long last before it starts!

3. The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses (BBC Two, air date TBC)

624 More period drama coming to the BBC next year is the second series of the excellent Hollow Crown. After the success of Ben Whishaw’s award-winning Richard II and Tom Hiddleston’s Hal in Henry IV and Henry V, 2015 will bring us Henry VI and Richard III, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard and a starry ensemble cast including Dame Judi Dench. As with Wolf Hall, the cast and directors attached to the project are very exciting for a Shakespeare fan and hopefully these television dramatisations will continue to bring a whole new audience to some of the finest plays ever written.

4. The Good Wife (More 4, UK air date TBC) thegoodwife

It’s incredibly refreshing that a drama entering its sixth year only seems to get stronger. I’m currently avoiding all spoilers as this new series has already started in the US, but hopefully a UK air date on More 4 will be announced soon. After the tragic loss of Will last year, I’m excited to see if Diane will now indeed join forces with Alicia and what exactly will happen between her and Peter, not to mention seeing more of Matthew Goode’s Finn Polmar, as well as a return by Michael J Fox and the superb Alan Cumming.

5. House of Cards (Netflix, available 27th February)

Kevin-Spacey-in-House-of-Cards-Season-2-Chapter-26 Netflix certainly did well to bring this brilliant series to the screen. Based on the UK original, Kevin Spacey has become an iconic television character as Frank Underwood, who by the end of series two has successfully schemed and manipulated his way to the very top. I still see echoes of his Richard III when I watch the show and its twists and turns will no doubt keep us gripped yet again when the drama returns in February.

6. Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic, likely air date in April) Teaser-Game-of-Thrones-Saison-5-720x365

Another highly anticipated return is to the glorious world of Westeros as the series makes its way further through George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Books four and five split the narratives of the characters up, with some only appearing in four and some only in five. However, the television producers have sensibly decided to merge these for the screen, meaning we’ll get to follow all our favourite characters throughout. Whether like me you’ve read the books and are looking forward to seeing certain moments brought to life, or are simply enjoying the series as it unfolds each year, no doubt the production quality and cast for series 5 will be as high as ever. Winter is indeed coming (probably in April).

7. The Blacklist (series one returns to Sky Living in 2015)

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I was a little late to the party watching The Blacklist, but after having caught up this year, I’m certainly looking forward to the rest of series two, when Red Reddington returns in 2015. If you haven’t yet watched it, The Blacklist centres on Raymond “Red” Reddington, a former government agent, turned master criminal, who voluntarily surrenders to the FBI. He offers to help them catch dangerous criminals (some of whom they aren’t even aware of!), with the agreement that he will only talk to a rookie, young profiler Agent Elizabeth Keene. James Spader is superb as Red and it’s his mysterious link to Keene that really grabs your interest and attention. Catch up if you can.

8. Fortitude (Sky Atlantic, January)

Fortitude-Specials-02-16x9-1 Set in the Arctic town of Fortitude, a shocking murder rocks this usually safe, close-knit community. Sky Atlantic’s new drama has an incredibly impressive cast, including Richard Dormer as the local Sheriff, partnered with Stanley Tucci’s out-of-town DCI Morton, as well as The Killing’s Sophie Grabol, Michael Gambon, Christopher Eccleston and two of my favourite young actors Luke Treadaway and Jessica Raine. The plot reminds me of both Broadchurch and nordic hit The Killing and I’m truly hoping this will be as good as it sounds. You can watch the trailer here.

9. Sherlock (BBC One, Christmas 2015 Special)

fe817b86-1ba2-472b-b9ff-f1c473bcf4f8-bestSizeAvailable Although we won’t be getting a full series until at least 2016 (something I try not to think about!) due to the crazy schedules of those involved, we can at least look forward to a Sherlock Christmas special a year from now! With filming due to start in January, no doubt more information will start to be revealed (and I hope to at least see a bit of filming if I can!). So far we have the above photo of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, suggesting some nod will be made to a period-style Holmes and Watson. I do however hope that not everything is revealed as for me Sherlock is a series that is so much better the less you know before you watch it. I’m confident enough to say already that this will be a television highlight of next year’s festive season!

10. Crisis (Watch, 2nd January 9:00 p.m.) CRISIS-TV-Series

I was disappointed to hear that this series has already been cancelled in the US after 13 episodes. Created by Rand Ravich (who also created one of my favourite shows Life starring Damian Lewis), Crisis revolves around the kidnapping of a number of students at an elite Washington D.C school, whose parents include some of the most powerful and influential people in the country. However, as a Gillian Anderson fan, I’m thrilled that it’s at least being shown over here on Watch and I’m still looking forward to watching it. The trailer is here.

11. Doctor Who (BBC One, air date TBC) peter_capaldi_who

After a strong first series (see my thoughts here), Peter Capaldi will be back in 2015 for series 9 of New Who. With filming to start in the new year, not much is known as yet. The opening episode is to be called The Magician’s Apprentice and the good news is that series nine will also be aired as one block, rather than split in two (which I think is much better for the show). Whether Jenna Coleman will be back will no doubt become clear after Christmas Day’s special Last Christmas, the trailer for which you can watch here.

12. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (BBC) jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell

I have never read Susannah Clarke’s fantasy historical novel, but I’ll certainly be tuning in to this new BBC adaptation. It tells the story of an early nineteenth-century England at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, in which magic exists but has been largely forgotten. That is, until a young recluse (Norrell) displays some remarkable magical skills, kick-starting an expansive period tale of a society in flux, which includes fairies, war, and magic. I’ve always heard great things about these books and I’m definitely looking forward to this seven-part series starring Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan, to air some time in 2015. So far all we have is this teaser clip to whet the appetite!

13. Grantchester (ITV, air date TBC) uktv-grantchester-james-norton-episode-one-2

I thoroughly enjoyed the first series of ITV’s Grantchester, based on the books by James Runcie and was thrilled to hear that it’s been renewed for a second series. For anyone yet to catch up, the series stars the brilliant James Norton as Sydney Chambers, the clergyman of the sleepy village of Grantchester, who seems to spend more time solving crimes with Inspector Keating (Robson Green) than working on his sermons. Hopefully series 2 will appear some time next year.

14. RIVER (BBC One, air date TBC) Stellan-Skarsgård-198x300

This new drama by Kudos has been written by the brilliant Abi Morgan (The Hour) and stars Stellan Skarsgard as John River, a brilliant police officer whose genius and fault-line is the fragility of his mind. He is haunted by the murder victims whose cases he must lay to rest. As stated by the BBC he is “a man who must walk a professional tightrope between a pathology so extreme he risks permanent dismissal, and a healthy state of mind that would cure him of his gift.” Also starring Nicola Walker, Eddie Marsan and Lesley Manville, this sounds very interesting indeed.

15. The Game (BBC One, air date TBC)

the-gameOddly this BBC drama has debuted in America first and as yet has no UK air date! It is a Cold War spy thriller set in London in the 1970s, in which the head of MI5 sets up a secret committee to investigate the existence of a Soviet plot code-named Operation Glass, whose existence was revealed by a KGB officer seeking to defect. Written by Toby Whithouse (Doctor Who, Being Human) and with a great cast including Brian Cox, Tom Hughes and Jonathan Aris, this six-part drama sounds very promising. Here’s the BBC America trailer.

…And here are a couple that better reach the UK in 2015!

Aquarius (UK channel and air date TBC)

article-2736404-20DCB86300000578-475_634x291 After the success of Californication, David Duchovny is returning to television with Aquarius. Set in 1967, LA Police Sergeant Sam Hodiak is investigating the disappearance of the teenage daughter of a respected lawyer. Needing help, he partners with an undercover cop and along the way they encounter a small-time cult leader, who will go on to become Charles Manson and the series will delve in to his cat-and-mouse game with the police. As yet there is no UK channel or air date, but I’m keeping all my fingers crossed that we will get to see this some time in 2015.

Heroes: Reborn (UK channel and air date TBC) Heroes-Reborn-2015

I still maintain that series one of Heroes is an excellent season of television. It had a fresh and interesting premise, great characters and lots of drama and tension to engage the audience. Yes, the show did become a bit ridiculous and although I’m glad I watched all four seasons, it did become weaker by the end. I’m therefore intrigued as to what to expect from this new 13-part miniseries. It has the potential to be brilliant. All fingers are crossed!

…….With all this to look forward to, 2015 looks to be a fantastic year for high quality television!

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!