Friday, 21 October 2011

Get them while they're hot!

Public service announcement:

Just put a couple of years' worth of Tennant-/Smith-era Doctor Who Magazine back-issues on Amazon Marketplace: check! Them! Out!

There's also assorted Doctor Who books, including a copy of Gareth Roberts' The Well-Mannered War - have a scroll through!


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Mel Vogt

I have little time for fan-art. And genre mash-ups between shows are par for the course in that sort of arena. So-oo, I should hate this... But, I only just discovered Adventure Time (I was so excited, I even wrote about it on my not-we page) and I like it enough that I actually think this is pretty cute.

More of Vogt's work here.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Written by Tom MacRae, directed by Nick Hurran, 2011

Okay, so, despite the white void and white robots, this isn’t 'Return to the Land of Fiction'. But – that’s okay, because this is the good stuff. And, yeah – the miraculousness of that doesn’t escape me, coming as it does from the writer of The Age of Steel – aka, THE WORST NEW SERIES STORY EVER.

I’m wary of openings as hackneyed as ‘the Doctor promises a location which he doesn’t deliver,’ but this makes it all the more astounding that The Girl Who Waited has almost immediately become located alongside my favourite episodes of Moffat’s era, Amy’s Choice and The Doctor’s Wife. That is (the latter's fannish grandstanding aside), stories which rely on strong premises and sense of place over flimsy ‘return of the Daleks!’-style concepts; which hold to their internally consistent rules (the failing of Night Terrors); and which are low-key enough to be able to explore that situation.

It’s no coincidence - and I'm aware I always bang on about this - that the ‘cheap’, limited episodes are the ones which are often most satisfying, having as they do to rely on compelling storytelling rather than sloshing money around on special effects. Having said that, this episode does look good, but all the more for being as controlled as the plot itself is. Equally, there really isn’t a lot to the plot, but, akin to mysteriously-opening stories like The Space Museum or The Web Planet, the situation is opaque enough to remain interesting and not develop in an entirely predictable way.

Plus, a major point in its favour: a DIY-samurai Amy, taking a leaf out of River/Liz 10’s book – fabulous! (ACTION FIGURE!) The makeup is even nicely underdone, while her hatred of the Doctor and her embittered outlook on life is convincingly brutal. And the climactic fast/slow robot slice-and-dice is pretty sexy.

The idea of characters ‘waiting’ has recurred repeatedly with Amy and Rory, but rather than feeling repetitious, it’s become a trope that lends some continuity to the characters, and is genuinely expanded upon here rather than simply being referred back to as a smug little nod. The various moral dilemmas here also don’t seem false or rote either, and the emotion seems to develop naturally - as opposed to the inevitable re-establishement of the ideal (and highly predictable) status quo in Night Terrors.

Obviously emotionalism has become a tenet of the revivied series, yet often its development can seem as textbook as a lazy pre-titles death, so it’s something of a joy when that emotionalism creates something genuinely moving, given how absurd a series it is we’re talking about.

I don’t have a great deal to say about The Girl Who Waited because I liked it so much it seems counterproductive to pick over it too much. But, a sincere development of Rory and Amy’s relationship is always going to be welcome, as is a return to a more authentically ‘adult’ tone adult tone. On this evidence – unlikely though it feels to be typing this – Tom MacRae is more than welcome to return for future seasons.

(Also, the reference to ‘Disneyland, Clom’ made me laugh more than anything else so far this season.)

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dan Hipp

I love illustrators who work in really bold, distinctive styles, and especially given his unashamed pop-cultural glee (Tintin vs Aliens, anyone?) Dan Hipp's work is consistently exhilarating and effortlessly cool. So, I love that he’s done a Eleventh Doctor illustration, but considering there’s so much that could be done with Doctor Who, I wish he’d done… more.

Loads and loads of other stuff here. (Warning: it's quite addictive.)


Monday, 10 October 2011


Written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Richard Clark, 2011

As this is the sort of second-tier episode we’ve seen so many times before, why isn’t it at least proficient? (And given that no-one has a good thing to say about Fear Her, why sanction something that comes across as little more than a rehash?) In the face of these seasons’ increasingly baroque approach to arcs, the idea of stories based round relatively basic scenarios is an appealing one (not because Moffat’s approach is ‘too’ complex, simply because the show is increasingly appearing rather too desperate to impress)… But despite how easy that sounds, Night Terrors doesn’t entirely deliver.

I’m sure Mark Gatiss is lovely fellow – but I don’t rate him as a writer. Not least since his brand of unreconstructed ‘trad Who’ grates so much, as it’s almost entirely founded on a spurious good-old-days behind-the-sofa nostalgia, which seems to necessitate the regulars being split up, and liberal amounts of textbook corridor-wandering. Let’s Kill Hitler may have been almost absurdly batshit crazy, but at least its melange of varied locations and flashbacks is inestimably more ambitious than a script like this. It reeks of wannabe ‘classic storytelling’ – yet despite the familiarity of its component parts, Gatiss manages to make his story both wildly ‘untidy’ (despite its generally simplistic premise in practise it seems weirdly overcomplicated), yet also rather too slight. The SJA-style ‘he’s an alien’ justification for the whole situation, and its saccharine happy ending are pretty bit weak, too (well, happy ending until the greasy landlord comes to collect, I imagine).

Overwhelmingly though, this is a bit of a too-transparent attempt to ‘do a scary one’ – though at least this belies and contrasts the opener’s rollicking broadness. The dolls are pretty freaky (though who’d give a child a house with figures like that in the first place?!), though an old dark house and disembodied child laughter are ridiculously old hat. Visually, it’s a shame they didn’t make more of the (obvious-from-the-wooden-pan) dollshouse, plumping for location filming rather than a set which could’ve more realistically replicated the scaled-down simplicity of a dollshouse, and made more of the oversized Planet of Giants props.

Ultimately its failings are in its lack of cohesion – even the various ways in which the incidental characters are taken suggests the story could’ve done with some judicious tightening up: people being sucked into a dollshouse: okay (though the lack of reference to the previous story’s miniaturisation makes its reshuffling pretty obvious) – the lift and the bin bag bit prob weren’t necessary.

Where it succeeds is in returning the show to a “could get a bus here” location – it’s been a while, and given my initial feelings about series one’s urban locales, it’s unexpectedly agreeable to be back somewhere akin to the Powell Estate, especially in the company of this most whimsical of Doctors. Less positively, I wondered at the time of A Christmas Carol whether the new series’ engagement with child characters (something unknown in the old series) would start to get old. It is something of a no-brainer, but I admit I’m starting to become a bit apathetic to it, maybe cos the Doctor-as-oversized-kid is maybe a bit of an over literal representation of his anti-establishment outsider status.

I’m sure Gatiss has got a good story in him; this just isn’t quite it. As I say, I think the notion of a ‘traditional’ Doctor Who story is kind of a nonsense – but though none of his TV stories have been entirely successful to my mind, it feels like there must be a Doctor Who and the Silurians-style unreconstructed number somewhere in his mind; something that’d work without being pulled between old-school straight-forward adventure and new series emotionalism. Or maybe just a full blooded monster story with graveyards and things. Yeah, there you go: someone pass that brief on: “graveyard and things” – go!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Elin Jävel

Apologies for the chopping-and-changing in the design department ('design'; I use the word loosely). I'll get it nailed... One of these days. (Sigh. I hate Blogger.)

But, in the meantime, THIS! This is great. Not only do I love that someone has made a doll of the Eleventh Doctor - and a non-realist one to boot; Character Options have got that covered - but I particularly love that it has the vibe of something that's been lurking at the back of an Eastern European toyshop. For forty years.

(More Deviations by Jävel here.)

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Written by Steven Moffat, directed by Richard Senior, 2011

Well – I seem to increasingly be saying this about Steven Moffat’s stories, but that was a queer fish. There’s lots of fun to be had here, and some lovely moments, but once again we get a rather self-involved tangle of wrapping-up and foreshadowing played out among the four main characters, in a situation which might as well have taken place anywhere. Like most people, I’m somewhat relieved quite how much the Hitler situation turned out to be ratings-baiting misdirection, but equally, I’d quite like Moffat to actually deliver an honest-to-goodness plot that occupies definite location, and features more than a handful of very minor characters in addition to the regulars. (Certainly, none of his event episodes have delivered as well as his first finale, which somehow managed to balance scale with a tangible sense of plot development.)

It’s a concession I’m slightly loathe to make, not least because it was a dynamic I’ve always been so disapproving of in the Davies era, but I suppose this story’s reliance on twists, set-pieces and the laying of future groundwork is acceptable in a season premiere (well, kind of). It goes without saying that the series’ ability to support a story featuring “a time-travelling, shape-shifting robot operated by tiny angry people”, a Hitler cameo, and an evil early Melody and the regeneration into the River we know – and more – is a prime example of Doctor Who’s deliciousness. But, equally – and, I suppose we can again lay this at the door of the ‘event episode’ defence – the series seems to be sliding in a somewhat lighter direction than Moffat’s avowed ‘dark fairytale’ mentality might initially have suggested. However, I say that with no foreknowledge of the remainder of this half-season, so who knows – it just concerns me somewhat that the Doctor is almost entirely a comic figure by this point.

As for River, in a way I sort of preferred her as a mysterious-but-glam archaeologist, though it’s undeniably good fun to see her psychopathic programming in action. Mels takes the piss a bit though: she’s like a refugee from some alternative-universe Hollyoaks-demographic version of the series. Mainly though, the sudden advent of a character in this way both reinforces the sense of Moffat’s on-the-hoof manipulation of at least the details of his own masterplan, whilst coming across as a contrivance too far. It’d be almost an unforgivable cheat, perhaps only justifiable because it involves River, and she can get away with anything.

Case in point: River giving up her regenerative ability to save the Doctor is pretty neat, and doesn’t feel like a pat reversal of his death-by-lipstick, but then, River’s Time Lord powers seem a bit too neat to me anyway. (Though the Doctor’s description of her as the ‘child of the TARDIS’ goes some way to suggesting a semi-conscious helping hand on the part of the old girl which sits slightly better with me that the idea that anyone shagging on board will produce a brand new Time Lord.)

What else? There are lots of pleasing nods – Rose, Martha and Donna’s images seemed a bit unnecessary, but the reappearance, even briefly, of young Amelia, and the glimpses of Amy and Rory’s pre-Doctor Leadworth lives are appreciated.

However, overall, there’s something quite shonky about this story – an uneven, slightly clunky tone, as well as the plot. It feels slightly, at the moment, like the River/Silence saga might keep on unfolding, forever, in ever more tortuous ways, but I guess when this arc is resolved it may be easier to accept Let’s Kill Hitler as the balls-to-the-wall romp that Moffat no doubt intender. And, fair enough.

Also: like the Doctor’s new coat. It’s good. Also, I found the Tesser-whatsit’s antibodies hearteningly crap.

NB: I enjoy the tortuousness of Moffat’s arc; but, I have to say, I kind of hope, next year – are we getting new companions?! – stripping things back wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome and might be quite refreshing. The unravelling of River’s identity, her killing of the Doctor, blah blah: as a dedicated follower, though it can get a tad overwrought, it’s satisfying to watch it all unravel, but, really, what did a casual viewer think of this?! I feel like the aforementioned Big Bang, say, wrapped itself up quite neatly, but in ways self-contained enough to not be entirely baffling.., whereas, this…

Saturday, 1 October 2011

'Shall We Destroy?' - reborn!

Well, mercy me, I'll be goddamned; SWD? has been idle, necessarily, for quite some time - but now, as (I'm sorry to say) I don't have any international jaunts on the horizon (...or a job), I intend to update with something approaching regularity for the foreseeable.

First things first, obviously there's series 6b to get out of the way (but I can't be fagged with Miracle Day...). Then, as I've been suffering classic series withdrawal somewhat, I'm planning on allowing myself a strict regimen of Doctor-by-Doctor stories (as per my previous Ten Stories series) - as a way to avoid spiralling off into an endless spiral of VHS-consumption...

So what else is already on here? Well, there's a handful of articles, of sorts, on DWM's 'Mighty 200' countdown, on the Doctors themselves, on the Doctors' costumes, top novels... Then there's the aforementioned series of Ten Storiesstory-by-story reviews of series one and Matt Smith's debut seasona whinge about (old-school) Torchwood masquerading as a review of From Out of the Rain; and standalone reviews of Evil of the Daleks, The Massacre, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, An Unearthly ChildFang Rock, Paradise Towers, Invasion of the DinosaursThe Smugglers, Planet of the SpidersRevelation of the Daleks, the Voyager and A Cold Day in Hell! comics collections - amongst others. Have a browse.

I've also accumulated a large array of visual apocrypha, with which I plan to continue gradually interspersing the reviews. This one's credited to 'Art Grafunkel' (which I presume is this guy), from a series of unbound Thirteenth Doctor designs, others of which I've posted before - here. A female Doctor with clown makeup, in an African blanket, fishnets, with a sonic staff/spear and a serpentine cybermat. This should be totally absurd, but somehow I like it; it has a confidence few of the other unbound Doctors from that ‘challenge’ did, both in terms of its visual realisation and in its concept; most of the others where white men in period costumes, so I appreciate the fact that, by comparison, this is a slightly bizarre imaginative leap.

So, SWD? isn't dead. Yet. Enjoy.

(PS - oh, BTW: assorted Doctor Who oddments for sale HERE, on Amazon Marketplace.)