Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Written by Steven Moffat, directed by Peter Hoar, 2011

Last update for a while, as I’m going to South America for three months. If I don’t die, I will return to post more in October. Mm, the anticipation’s so palpable, I could bottle it...

Well. Doctor Who has repeatedly confounded expectations this season (at least in the event episodes), and so – again – I find it quite hard to know what to think of this episode. Less a story, as with The Impossible Astronaut, and more a culmination of various plot strands and scene-setting for continued narrative, its resultant lack of resolution renders it somewhat less than the triumphant story it’s been heralded as.

Don't get me wrong - in some ways it’s highly impressive, not least for having a structure pretty much unlike any previous DW story, with its various fleeting visits to disparate locations – in former years the sort of thing only budget-less media like the novels or comics could muster. I absolutely applaud this sort of outside-the-box thinking; DW is all about variety, but stories like The Curse of the Black Spot or The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People belie the possibilities that affords by delivering such staggeringly overfamiliar premises.

In A Good Man Goes to War, though not up with Moffat’s best – or maybe it didn’t feel quite worthy of him for the lack of voices over radios, memorably contrived monsters, or even narrative chicanery – it’s in its ability to prove that Doctor Who’s box of tricks need never be emptied in which it suceeds. Otherwise, there is something lacking to it. Like the season opener, it suffers for its dearth of answers – which, as I don’t really care that much about how a general audience might respond, doesn’t really matter a great deal, as they will presumably come; though we get a couple of biggies here (who the 'impossible astronaut' was and why she could regenerate; River’s identity – more on that later), the basics are somewhat neglected. 

For example, the Eye Patch Lady – maybe we’ll get to know more about her, but I wouldn’t be that surprised if the details will be considered unimportant and we’ll have to simply accept that she’s the head of a Doctor-hating organisation… just because she is. This role inevitably brings back memories of Army of Ghost’s Torchwood 1, so perhaps it’s a mercy that that was fumbled so spectacularly (a woman with bad hair in a white room with some soldiers) that this can’t help but have slightly more impact. Still, it is a bit flimsy – a default baddie: a militia on a secret base. But then, coming up with a non world-domination premise is pretty good. The grandeur the episode aspires to, certainly in its first quarter is laudable, but perhaps doesn’t quite come off, and feels almost unbalanced in its size (would, say, the Third Doctor really have bothered to scour the universe and tear battlefleets apart to find Jo Grant? Even if she was carrying Mike Yates’ child).

That aside, Moffat nevertheless makes some of the tricks he’s already previously played seem impressively fresh, like the cameoing guest characters from previous stories; I was somewhat dubious about a surplus of returning monsters (…again), but that he makes this work in a different way than in The Pandorica Opens is quite a thrill. (I was all ready to rant about how no-one really gives two shits about the Silurians or the Sontarans (“Don’t slump; it’s bad for your spine”) being rolled out as a gambit for ratings, so I’m massively appreciative in this instance for an entirely unexpected take on raiding Millennium FX’s storeroom.)

But - while I’m a sucker for glimpses of new characters and situations from Doctor Who’s huge universe, and as charmed as the next ming-mong by the idea of a sword-wielding lesbian Silurian crimefighter in Victorian London, broadly-sketched characters based more in concept than characterisation are symptomatic of – for all the talk of how ‘dark’ the series is becoming – the cartoonish universe Doctor Who inhabits. That it’s hard, for example, to imagine, say, Jago and Litefoot coexisting with Madame Varna, even though they share the same peasouper milieu, goes some way to illustrating how much the series' tone has shifted across the years. As with the lack of answers, or insufficiently developed Actual Plots, the guest characters here do seem rather underwritten and ultimately only really fodder for Character Options (Arthur Darvil even describes it on Confidential as feeling like a dream team of action figures and cartoon characters).

Moving on - as for that revelation (spoilers! Of course): well, River Song’s identity is unsurprisingly a victim of its own expectations. I suppose I was expecting that Moffat’s tortuous imagination would confound us all, so her identity being relatively easy to guess (as one of only a few viable options), certainly given the clues in this episode, is a bit underwhelming. Also - and I don’t know how I feel about this - there’s the fact that her identity doesn’t really change anything… 

In a way, I'd've almost preferred that she turned out to have been a baddie or have dubious allegiances, or at least play up here moral ambiguity. The question of her physiognomy does raise some questions, but it’s overshadowed for me by it all seeming slightly cobbled together: Amy and River’s names tie in, but that could be happenstance on Moffat’s part; also, she’s never previously given her parents anything but the most cursory attention, which doesn’t ring true and makes the whole thing feel like a last minute fix. I don’t buy the idea that Moffat is pulling things out of his arse as he goes, but there wasn’t the big, ‘Ah, OF COURSE! It all fits together!’ moment which I was hoping for. (Especially when there’s loose ends like, why did River investigate the child and the spacesuit as if she knew nothing about it?) Also, the effect of the circumstances of her conception seem a bit too easy to me, whereas (perhaps because it hasn’t been the subject of a few years’ speculation) at least the baby’s appropriation as a weapon in a campaign against the Doctor himself is rather neat and satisfying. Though, personally, I thought it’d make most sense for the child in the opener to be River and the Doctor’s.

Still, whatever I feel about River’s identity, it doesn’t invalidate the character, and there’s still interesting things for her to do (killing 'the best man she ever knew'; perhaps even marriage? Which would make Amy and Rory the Doctor’s in-laws…). 

At least, though the hyperbole surrounding the Doctor reaches hitherto unseen heights here (something I've been becoming bored with), it’s refreshing to find this story fundamentally engaging with the idea that the Doctor’s self-aggrandisement and ‘impending godhood’ isn’t necessarily the best path along which to take the character. Perhaps disappointing is the total failure of the story to live up to its own bullshit: darkest day? Anger being new? We-ell, not really. That’s the trouble with hype; we’ve seen the Doctor go so much further into dark, vengeful territory in The Waters of Mars and The Family of Blood, while having him confronted with his own failings would be interesting if it hadn’t already been done in former story, and even Journey’s End.

In short… Well, I don’t really know what to think. As with my reaction to The Impossible Astronaut, there’s almost too much detail to take in… but also too little story to be ultimately satisfied. As with Moffat’s earlier contribution to this half of the season, it’s unarguably impressively audacious, and genuinely does new things with the series, certainly ramping the story-arc format to hitherto unseen heights. But, I feel we have to admit that judgement must be deferred until the autumn, when maybe some resolution will retroactively render this mid-season finale a landmark rather than a mildly frustrating curiosity.

More broadly, I’ve come to prefer the finale episodes of the Moffat administration over the dispiritingly soulless affairs they were under Davies, but, still, the thinking that increasing the amount of event episodes with a split season like this equates to a big win seems dubious territory to me; predicating the series around shock tactics and revelations is a dangerous, ever-escalating precedent to set – I’d much rather see storytelling held above attention-seeking twists, which, paradoxically, both court and alienate mainstream audiences (based on mainstream reaction). A Good Man is an exciting, confident episode, but outside of its place in this story arc, one wonders how much merit it’ll have in future; ironically for a hugely hyped EVENT EPISODE, I cant imagine it being held up as a massive classic in the way the more self-contained and satisfyingly standalone Doctor’s Wife could conceivably be.

But, yeah. ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ is a brilliant title, anyway, and given the strength of this half-season’s highs, I’m pretty excited. Only two stories were underwhelming, and generally speaking the remainder more than made up for any shortcomings, delivering some extremely successful and surprisingly challenging entries into Doctor Who’s canon.

But, until then, questions and speculations…

  • Why’d the church give the child to the Silents to look after? (...I hope there actually is going to be a satisfying answer to this and not just ‘because they did’.)
  • The deliberately playful intimations of incest or hardcore ‘hanky-panky in the TARDIS’ aside, surely the idea of River growing up as the love interest of someone who’s essentially her godfather is a bit freaky, is it not…?
  • Initially I didn’t like either “I speak baby” or the idea of Time Lords developing through exposure to the vortex – but, actually, both those ideas do make sense (especially given the seeming existence of a Time Lord rank and then a Gallifreyan hoi-polloi).
  • Interesting in retrospect seeing the things that have been foregrounded in previous stories – not so much stuff like the Flesh, but the signposting that, say, Amy and Rory do, yes, have a bedroom onboard the TARDIS, etc.
  • And, most nigglingly - why would the Doctor’s own cot be onboard the TARDIS, hmm? Was William Hartnell dragging it around with him when he decided to nick her (or her him). It doesn’t even make sense that he might have used it for Susan, as she apparently remembered Gallifrey - so who’s this someone else Alex Kingston has let slip it was used for...?
(More questions, here, on Bleeding Cool.)

PS I’m ashamed to say I missed the Silurian cunnilingus gag. What’s wrong with me?!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


Written by Matthew Graham, directed by Julian Simpson, 2011
You can find a version of my review of The Rebel Flesh here, on Kasterborous.
Tempting though it is to simply write “Shit sandwich” in lieu of a proper review, fanboy completism compels me to give it an at least slightly less desultory shot than that.
There’s nothing wrong with these two episodes – well, there is; they’re lazy and inconsistent and poorly developed, but Doctor Who’s been knocking out stories like this since… forever, so it feels a bit churlish to get the claws out. The thing that gets me is that, as showrunner, Steven Moffat can’t fail to be acutely aware of which stories in any given run are going to be the flabby also-rans that no-one’ll bother to rewatch on the DVD boxset. Maybe it’s necessary to throw the audience a bone and deliver some unreconstructed running-around-in-corridors, but… I don’t really by that that should be part of the programme’s structure, or that the series wouldn’t be improved if, as far as possible, it never let its ambition slip as low as this.
Okay, so, given a three out of four hit rate so far this season, and especially having the unenviable task of following up the impeccable Doctor's Wife, The Rebel Flesh suffers from not being an event episode. But then, I’m dubious about the mentality that says ‘event stories’ are fantastically important – I mean, using that phrase to describe the openers and finales where the narrative big-guns are cracked out. But then, title aside, The Doctor’s Wife isn’t easy to pigeonhole as an event episode in that way: no season-long plot strands come together, there’s no revelations about anyone’s character or origins… But it feels special just because it’s not only hugely imaginatiove, but well enough written to do justice to those ideas.

Even accepting the idea that dependable, nuts-and-bolts Doctor Who is desirable, what does this story have to work with? Karma-tempting overconfidence in scientific advances is hardly fresh territory, while having the Doctor wrestle with humanity's potential for inhumanity is becoming something of a shop-worn subgenre in itself – although, in fairness, at least the script attempts to engage with the resulting questions of what it is to be human. Throwing in the ever-present threat of acid is hardly the narrative flourish that might’ve redeemed matters.

In the interests of not being a totally unremitting bastard for a thousand words, Matthew Graham’s second contribution to the series may be unlikely to win many accolades, but despite a slow and somewhat infodump-heavy opening, it at least avoids the schematic seen-it-all-before pitfalls of stories like (most recently) The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood. It’s not even the worst story of the season – curseoftheblackspot, cough cough. As the action gives way to a more low-key creepiness – in keeping with season six's increased gothicism – Graham steers the story away from the action end of the Doctor Who spectrum into more engaging territory. The ganger head on a snaking neck – sort of an early-evening take on Cronenberg's version of The Thing – is pretty freaky, but it does feel there's still a lot of untapped potential for clammy who's-who paranoia which isn't entirely satisfied in the first instalment.

Unfortunately, I think any goodwill this territory might’ve clawed back is fairly comprehensibly squandered by The Almost People, which fails utterly to do anything interesting with the story. Again, The Doctor’s Wife plays against it; by comparison, this more straight down the line narrative can't help but feeling naggingly unsatisfying. Similarly, in launching the series with a story that matches or outdoes the complexity and relatively serious dramatic register previously built up over several episodes in previous seasons, it's a slight disappointment to regress (as in The Curse of the Black Spot) to a lighter, less character-driven approach. It's notable also that the more, uh, jobbing writers often fail to capture the regulars so effortlessly. Especially when it comes to the Doctor, unlike when written by Moffat or Gaiman, there is a risk of his becoming a collection of traits and wisecracks rather than a living, breathing interpretation – despite Matt Smith's continued dedication to the character.

Okay, I feel a bit back spewing so much scorn. Perhaps it is too harsh to see The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People as anything other than a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin return to the age-old base under siege format (albeit under siege from within). There are elements which strike on first viewing at least as unconvincing or a little unfortunate: a solar storm? Uh-huh. And pumping acid? From... where, exactly?; the slightly sitcom-ish suddenly-messy TARDIS interior; the-woman-from-Teachers’ abruptly changeable character (surely in a story lazy with doppelgangers, well sketched out characterisation is something of a must?); the two-parter tendency to stretch out a story over double the usual length, rather than sustaining the single-parters’ pace for twice as long; Muse. At least we're given a setting rocking the inherently memorable collision of ancient and technological which has been working since, say, The Ice Warriors’ combination of country mansion and pop-art catsuits. And, at least they didn't miss the ganger-Doctor boat; we haven't had a Doctor-double since... well, okay, since Journey's End. But you can never have too many Doctors. 

But then you get the dispiritingly raft of schematic plot points that you can’t help but see coming from a mile off. Male Guest Character #1’s despicably saccharine son; painfully contrived Noble Self-Sacrifices so as to prune the narrative loose ends, rather than resolving it through organic storytelling (and conveniently leaving no doubles) so as to prune the narrative loose ends, rather than resolving it through organic storytelling (and conveniently leaving no doubles – you can’t tell me there REALLY was no alternative to both ganger-Teachers-woman and ganger-Doctor sacrificing themselves?!). And don’t forget to throw in an arbitrary eleventh-hour monster! (Speaking of which - is anyone else feeling withdrawal for full-blooded slavering monsters this season? Even the Silents were genteel enough to wear suits.)
Add to that some Castrovalva-style impressions of past Doctors’ catchphrases (the naffest kind of ‘kiss to the past’) and another example of this series’ repeated insistence on solving everything with numerous guest characters trooping into the TARDIS (I mean, I know Moffat has a chubby for the Davison era, but didn’t everyone hate that back then?), and you get an exceedingly disillusioned viewer.
And then, as if that weren’t enough, even more laughably - riddle me ree, but doesn’t the Doctor’s out-of-hand liquefication of Amy’s ganger negate the WHOLE BASTARD PREMISE of the story, which just shows what pointless posturing all its ‘we’re equally valid too’ bollocks was. Squirm your way out of that one, Graham.
It’s even more galling that the lacklustre entirety of these two parts exist only to facilitate its final scene. I didn’t see the ganger-Amy revelation coming… well, before the coda, anyway… but the prior hour and a half of mediocrity numbed my ability to care somewhat. And, as natal body horror cliffhangers go, nothing can or ever will beat the fully-grown head of Udo Kier being born at the conclusion of the first series of Lars von Trier’s diabolically brilliant The Kingdom.
…But, having said all that, my seven-year-old niece appreciatively dubbed The Rebel Flesh “the scariest one ever,” so what do I know?

Thursday, 9 June 2011


Written by Steven Moffat, directed by Toby Haynes, 2011

I feel I may have been overly harsh with The Impossible Astronaut. It’s just that, while I applaud increased complexity in the series, I feel it could/should be better handled than as simply a plate-spinning exercise – yet, Day of the Moon worked for me in almost all the ways the previous instalment didn’t. Whereas that was forty-five minutes of frustrating and seemingly directionless foreplay, this flows and starts to makes sense, rather than being too busy delivering a zinging high-concept opener to bother with such trivialities as even a suggestion of where the plot was going to go.

The three-months-later opening is a typical Moffat curveball, and gives a welcome sense of scope (as it’s rare for a story to take place over more than a few days), which is also matched by the story’s geographical shifts. If you’re going to bother setting a story in America, I suppose it’d be a mistake to overlook the country’s ridiculous scale.

The more outrĂ© elements of Moffat’s approach to storytelling deliver some surprising and arresting moments (the Silence-flanked child-astronaut; Nixon appearing from a sealed prison cell), and generally gel better than in the jumpy first part. His continued (and impossible to ignore) reliance on familiar tropes – recordings/transmissions; a sinister child; writing on walls; monsters based round childhood fears; even down to specific elements like River’s freefall into the TARDIS – would be getting absurd if they weren’t coupled with an actual plot this time round.

Speaking of which, though grateful for it showing its face, I’m not sure this plot holds up to scrutiny that well; in fact, a lot of it doesn’t make a great deal of sense (as pointed out on Tachyon TV) - but, crucially, Moffat has a knack for circumnavigating these criticisms with events that seem absolutely, intuitively right, so you forgot they're not necessarily logical. So, on the surface at least we have a coherent story – which almost made me forget til the end that a) the Doctor’s willing self-sacrifice, b) the Silence/the Silents’ part in last season’s TARDIS explosion, c) Amy’s pregnancy, d) Frances Barber in a futuristic eyepatch, e) the identity of the Child, and f) holy shit, that cliffhanger… are all utterly unaddressed – and on top of the promised reveal re River.

I really, really hope none of the answers to these questions fall by the wayside. Perhaps it’s more frustrating though that the entire explanation for this plot is left hanging – what are the Silents trying to achieve with their occupation? And what do they need the child for – why the life-support? (Tying into the space race simply because they needed the suit seems a tad tenuous.) Also, why does the child only bust out of the spacesuit after her encounter with Amy? And is she no longer important once the Silents have Mrs Pond? And is the Aickman Road pseudo-TARDIS the Silents’, or something they’ve nicked? Can it time-travel?

And as for the Silents themselves: they're relatively freaky, in a Munch-does-the-Grim-Reaper double-whammy of tick-box creepiness, although not really outdoing the Weeping Angels as Best Moffat Monsters. I mean, why has no-one pointed out that a monster you can’t look away from is basically THE SAME PREMISE as the Weeping Angels? Or at least, leads to the same ‘don’t take your eyes off them’ scenarios. But, at least the inversion of the expected invader status is original, as is their having been on earth indefinitely. (Although this does smack slightly of the disclosure of Torchwood 1’s hitherto-unsuspected century-long presence – though at least this is kind of self-retconning concept.) The idea that every time the Doctor has or will land on pre-late-sixties earth they’re there is quite odd, and gives a sense of weight to the episode – but without necessitating Davies-style suspension-of-disbelief-busting and conspicuous worldwide incursions. The brilliantly satisfying conclusion wherein the human race fights off its oppressors… without knowing about it, is quite delicious.

What else? A less jokey, more emotionally convincing take on Amy and particularly Rory’s relationship works well. While I commend the twenty-first century version of the series’ insistence on being all things at once – funny, moving, scary, etc – the gap between the Chris Cunningham-lite of hordes of Silents clustering on the ceiling and the ever-present fanfare of The Star-Spangled Banner heralding Nixon’s various arrivals (which I though was very funny) nevertheless gives rises to some massive tonal lurches. Unless I was just feeling particularly uncharitable for part one, Day of the Moon seems more convincingly creepy, with its forays into (southern) gothic territory, but this did make me wonder whether it would have been more compelling without the underlying jokiness, for once?

Moffat’s tortuous approach to the series makes it increasingly difficult to make informed judgements, at least about an ‘event’ story such as this. I’m torn between being impressed by his audaciousness and also wishing that he’d still write – at least occasionally – with the self-contained coherence of something like Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead.

Also, how many people (like me) assumed from the trailers that the imprisoned Doctor prisoner was a secondary/future version, Jubilee-style?

Written by Stephen Thompson, directed by Jeremy Webb

Stories aping the titles of pop-cultural bilge like The Da Vinci Code or Pirates of the Caribbean are always going to approached (by me) with caution. I didn’t expect massive amounts of originality, and The Curse of the Black Spot spectacularly failed to subvert those expectations. An arbitrary pseudo-historical setting with an arbitrary ‘supernatural’ villain, couched in slightly naff sci-fi terms, cf Tooth and Claw, Vampires of Venice, et al. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

The lazy historical shorthand of this story led me to spend most of the time watching it thinking how I’d inestimably prefer a see the show take the plunge and deliver a genuinely dramatic take on historical settings. Even – the very idea! – a pure historical. Having people say ‘blaggard’ doesn’t a convincing sense of time or place make.

Doctor Who has always been a beast of varying quality, of course – that’s all part of the appeal – perhaps most obviously illustrated by the yawning chasm of quality between The Caves of Androzani and the hot-on-its-heals Twin Dilemma. However, whereas that is at least impressive in its inexplicability, this unsteady volte-face from The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon is perhaps even more dispiriting, as it marks an example of Doctor Who at its most production-line banal. That this story could be entirely transplanted from the second half of this season to the second story in the running order speaks volumes about its inherent pointlessness and paucity of anything approaching originality or character development. A cutesy, precocious, kickable child (actor)? An eye-stabbingly inept father-son relationship, written with no feeling or insight whatsoever? A flippant guest-character-in-the-TARDIS scene? Really?

I might’ve moaned that Moffat took too long to let us in on the plot of his season opener, but at least there were still enough memorable things happening for it to never be less than watchable. This, on the other hand, is less a story, more a collection of contrived injuries, the repeated identical deaths of non-characters, and a criteria for ‘monstrous’ appearances almost more contrived than The Vampires of Venice’s. What a waste of the quite lovely Lily Cole, too, especially considering how good she is in Gilliam’s (overambitious but surprisingly effective) Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.

I’ll concede that at least the final third stuff is a little unexpected, even if the solution to the situation does lift from Steven Moffat’s Girl in the Fireplace and The Doctor Dances – was Stephen Thompson (who?!) looking to pick up some brownie points with this blatant brownnosing? It does however suffer from the same damaging tonal shift as The Stones of Blood.

How can forty-five minutes of filler be so stretched? Talk about a first draft script; this doesn’t even warrant hating. Listen to The Smugglers instead.

Written by Neil Gaiman, directed by Richard Clark

Well, this is certainly the one I've been looking forward to – if only for that ming-mong-baiting former JN-T decoy title seeing the light of day.

I can take or leave Gaiman – generally there’s rather too much just-because macguffin-based plotting in his writing; nevertheless, the prestigiousness of having him write for the show doesn’t escape me. Yet, my apathy aside, this quickly announces itself as without doubt the work of an original – especially in contrast to the generica of the preceding episode.

Gaiman brings a definite, richly detailed but off-kilter sensibility to the series, which rubs off even on the production design – the eroded formations of the crashed ‘spaceships’, the dresses and the hotchpotch costumes – and there’s a similar richness and depth to the concept at large: a sentient, TARDIS-eating asteroid outside of the universe, and the TARDIS herself being given human form. The latter of which could have been so awful, worthy of all those dreadful post-Survival movie concepts where David Hasselhoff and Eric Idle and god knows who else were mooted as Doctors. I had no idea what was coming so it’s a huge complement that the way it’s handled felt entirely natural, with Idris’ glitchy and non-chronological speech. A lesser writer would’ve just made a human TARDIS a sexy sidekick in a policewoman’s uniform, rather than a Helena Bonham-Carter-style “bitey mad lady,” so I can only be grateful that we dodged that bullet.

Perhaps the most notably thing about this story is how unapologetically fannish it is: from the title down to the throwaway inclusion of an Ood – which shows how misleading trailering can be; this is no recurring monster per se, rather the big-picture perspective of a fan to whom elements from throughout the series’ history are fair game to explore.

In terms of specifics, the Eye of Orion, the Matrix (kind of), and the High Council are namechecked, while ‘House’ and ‘Auntie’ and ‘Uncle’ suggest the Gallifrey of Marc Platt’s Lungbarrow novel; there are hints of Morbius’ Karn (crashed spaceships and stitched-together bodies); then there’s The War Games hypercube things; even corridors! Only an unashamedly slavering fan would give us our only glimpse of new series TARDIS interior space (aside from The Christmas Invasion), or have the Doctor build a console out of the remains of a hundred different crashed TARDISes. Then there’s the archived spare console rooms (that’s so fannish – the idea that any of the previous console rooms could be revisited), Rory’s brief query about the Doctor’s room, and the concept of the TARDIS’ consciousness residing beyond human comprehension or language and across all of space and time, which is straight from the novels.

Even the idea that exploring the Time Lords in post-Time War Doctor Who is entirely viable shows pretty definitively what a ming-mong perspective Gaiman’s coming from: exploring the Doctor’s initial theft (and the neat inversion of it/her being the one doing the choosing); the shaving mirror on the souped-up console… That a story containing all these elements isn’t a massive gushing fanwank of Gary Russell proportions – that’s impressive. It feels like fan fiction with a budget – and, in case you’re not sure, I mean that entirely in a good way, in the sense of the best New or Eighth Doctor Adventures, which drew on a fannish perspective to continuity, but made something new and original out of the ideas they tackled. Also, these things aside, that The Doctor’s Wife is dramatically successful despite consisting of a junkyard, some corridors, and a disembodied voice as an enemy – well, I take my hat off to Gaiman.

Though I really like his American Gods novel and have a soft spot for the Neverwhere series, Gaiman’s not an author I’d expect to praise. I think it just shows though that authors coming out of leftfield (despite being a long-term fan) and bringing a new sensibility to the series can be so much more rewarding than those who evidently feel they know what format is expected (The Curse of the Black Spot) and are afraid – or it doesn’t even occur – to subvert established boundaries. By way of example, the grotesque, Beckett-like Auntie and Uncle are far more interesting than you’d ordinarily expect from such short-lived characters, while ‘House’ - something innocuous made sinister - is so much better a name than some made-up SF bollocks (‘Zolfar,’ or whatever); in these elements, Gaiman unarguably distinguishes himself from the second tier of Doctor Who writers, who’d never inject this much interest into such tiny elements of their scripts.

Likewise, it speaks volumes that the idea of the tattooed Corsair will undoubtedly inspire countless flights of fan-fiction fancy. I love how buccaneering the name is, and, from only the couple of details we're privy to, he/she sounds far more interesting than the numerous other renegade Time Lords the spin-off media in particular has always been littered with.

It’s seldom that I fall a bit in love with every element of a story, but in this case the location, the characters – Idris/the TARDIS especially – House, etc, all did it for me. (And I think while its engagement with fannish preoccupations helped, it certainly wasn’t the be-all of the story, and references to the High Council or whatever wouldn’t have meant diddley had it not brought anything new to the table.) This “plughole of the universe” is one of those situations that could sustain so many more stories (which is surprisingly not that common in Doctor Who), and this magical and strangely moving story makes me very, very keen for Mr Gaiman to become a regularly contributor to the Doctor Who world. (Perhaps a novel...?)

The status of the titular wife could seem a cop-out of Doctor’s Daughter proportions if the story at large weren’t up there with The Girl in the Fireplace or Human Nature; those occasional new series stories where everything is above reproach. In fact, this really does feel like a perfect example of a Doctor Who nailing absolutely every element: it’s mysterious and intriguing, creepy, exciting, funny, moving – yet without the lurches of Moffat’s opener.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Wild Horses of Fire mk. II

Oh dear - another dirty, dirty bit of self-publicity, I'm afraid. 

I posted a while back about my Blogspot movie review blog... but I've now jumped ship to Tumblr, home of kittens, porn, and wannabe-hipsters - so, CHECK IT OUT HERE! Hurrah!

PS Also, while I'm at it, still lots of Doctor Who goodies for sale on Amazon Marketplace HERE (second and third pages). Oooh!

PPS Day of the Moon, The Curse of the Black Spot, and The Doctor's Wife reviews coming soon, I promise! Watch this space, etc.