Monday 29 September 2014

Doctor Who - Time Heist

In just a few episodes, Series 8 of Doctor Who has delivered a wide variety of styles. The fifth episode of the series, “Time Heist” by Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat continues the trend by presenting a somewhat convoluted bank-robbing adventure tale. Overall, it's a fairly fun story, but tries to be a little too clever for its own good. While it's reasonably entertaining and certainly much better than Thompson's last offering, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”, it's also ultimately kind of forgettable—which is oddly fitting for a story where amnesia plays a pivotal role in the plot.


Sunday 28 September 2014

Doctor Who - Listen

There is frequently a lot to criticize about Steven Moffat's writing, whether that's overused ideas, shallow characters, or more, and I've never been one to shy away from such criticism. However, I've also never shied away from giving praise where praise is due and stating the things that Moffat writes that I do like. I didn't expect to like “Listen” as much as I do, but it drew me in almost immediately and kept me mesmerized throughout. It's not perfect, of course—but what ever is? It contains a few of Moffat's more problematic tendencies, and reuses a lot of ideas, like scaring through the senses (in the vein of the Weeping Angels or the Silence) and “timey-wimey” plot-lines and paradoxes. In fact, there's really nothing new about “Listen” at all. Everything in it, Moffat has done several, if not numerous, times before. Yet despite all its repetition of old ideas, “Listen” surprisingly manages to become something completely different, something Doctor Who has never done before, breathing new life into a number of, frankly, tired ideas.

Kudos should also go to the production team for this story. Director Douglas Makinnon has created a suitably eerie and surreal atmosphere and the performances are top-notch throughout. The overall result is an episode unlike just about anything the show has ever produced, certainly since 2005. Some people will be dissatisfied with the ending, but nonetheless, I would rank it as one of the best stories since Steven Moffat took over as showrunner and certainly the best that he has scripted himself in that time.


Saturday 13 September 2014

Doctor Who - Robot of Sherwood

Doctor Who is a show capable of various different styles, from light and campy to dramatic to dark and foreboding. Yet even at its darkest, it always has a sense of humour. It might be the Doctor cracking macabre jokes in last week's “Into the Dalek” (“Top layer, if you want to say a few words”), or the zany antics of this week's “Robot of Sherwood”. It's somewhat fitting that, after a couple of rather dark episodes, the series should turn now to a light-hearted romp with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. It helps to show that, while Peter Capaldi's Doctor may be a darker, more serious Doctor, this is still Doctor Who and it can still do anything it wants.

Alas, even Doctor Who can take it too far sometimes, and “Robot of Sherwood” is an example. I would never want Doctor Who to lose its humour and it absolutely is possible to have a silly, fun, and ludicrous story that works. Doctor Who has certainly done it many times. “Robot of Sherwood”, however, tries too hard to be funny, and it does so at the expense of character. There are some genuinely funny moments in the episode, and Peter Capaldi and Tom Riley (who plays Robin Hood) have some brilliant moments together. Their rivalry is very entertaining to watch. Yet the episode frequently devolves into slapstick and nonsense, resulting in a story that, while entertaining, is ultimately unsatisfying. It's not a terrible episode and it has its moments, but it could have—and should have—been so much more.


Monday 1 September 2014

August Round-Up: Doctor Who Returns Along With Doctor Who Extra!

I got behind on a bunch of projects in August (several of them for this blog), but it was still a pretty good month. A new school year is beginning now, and I'm actually back in classes myself this year, so it's going to be hectic and busy, but I'm at my best when it's hectic and busy. I'm quite looking forward to it!

Of course, August was all about the return of Doctor Who, with Peter Capaldi making his first outing as the Doctor! There was a new trailer early in the month, and we also learned that the new title sequence would be based on a fan-made sequence posted to YouTube last year. But August 23rd was the main event, as the first episode of the new season aired, and the second has aired now as well. I was quite impressed by “Deep Breath” and I was absolutely ecstatic about “Into the Dalek”. I'm always excited about new Doctor Who, but I'm feeling a much bigger thrill this year. Peter Capaldi is amazing in the role.

Also premièring in August along with Doctor Who was Doctor Who Extra. This behind-the-scenes programme is similar to Doctor Who Confidential, a programme that ran for several years from 2005 until the end of Series 6 in 2011, when it was cancelled. Doctor Who Extra, however, is much shorter than Confidential, which had 30-minute episodes in its early seasons and 45-minute episodes later on. Extra runs about 10 minutes per episode. The first episode of Extra has not been made available for viewing outside the United Kingdom, so I haven't seen it. I'm not sure why it isn't available as the second episode is, and all further episodes will also be available as they are released each week. You can watch the second episode in the player below:

To be honest, I was never much of a fan of Confidential, especially towards the end when they were clearly running out of ideas to fill up their full running time. Coming up with 45 minutes of extra material for every single episode of Doctor Who was really overreaching. Extra's shorter running time will likely be to its advantage in this respect. The “Into the Dalek” episode is entertaining and reveals some interesting behind-the-scenes information. Alas, even though it airs after Doctor Who, each episode of Extra is still essentially an advertisement for its associated Doctor Who episode, meaning that Extra is likely to suffer from a need to praise uncritically. I much prefer behind-the-scenes documentaries made well after their subject programmes, like the documentaries on classic Doctor Who DVDs and the DVDs of other older shows. Although memories may not be as fresh, the people involved are generally able to be more honest and reflective in recounting the making of the programme. They can say if they don't like a particular episode as much as other episodes. Likewise, when they declare a particular episode as their favourite, you can be confident it really is. With documentaries made at the same time as their subject programmes, those programmes always have to be portrayed as the greatest thing ever. At any rate, I'm curious to see how Doctor Who Extra turns out as the season progresses.

Moving on from Doctor Who, I didn't get round to a lot of Pathfinder things this month, but I did get in reviews of the final two parts of the Mummy's Mask Adventure Path: The Slave Trenches of Hakotep and Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh. There are several more reviews pending, including the Mummy's Mask Player's Guide, People of the Stars, and the Advanced Class Guide. Expect those in the next couple of weeks.

Have a great September, everyone!