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Finding out your husband is a porn baron would be daunting enough for most people. So spare a thought for uptight housewife Sophie (Natacha Langinger) who inherits her spouse’s ailing adult film empire on the day of his funeral in this entertaining French series.

Whilst the premise of the show suggests a potential for raunch, Hard aims more for tittering rather than titillating. It provides some genuine smiles as Sophie has to put aside her naivety to manage the company’s expansive portfolio. Going so far as to bring in an acting coach to help the performers become more believable in their work. Linginder is thoroughly charming throughout. As too is François Vincentelli playing Roy the Rod, the dimwitted star performer whose feelings for Sophie end up being bad for business.

Unfortunately, with only six episodes, each no longer than 28 minutes, Hard feels at times a little soft. There’s not really much room to let the plot breathe and a subplot involving prostitution that surfaces in the penultimate episode feels tacked on rather than organic. However, the show very rarely outstays its welcome and ultimately wins you over.

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The disappearance of a child ripples throughout this engrossing Irish drama which, due to various factors, never aired in Australia. Reminiscent of ABC’s dramatization of The Slap, we follow the lives of those close to the titular Amber. Her recently divorced parents who unwittingly use the search to take potshots at each other, a younger brother in danger of being caught in the cross fire and a family friend who uses her journalist connections to launch an investigation of her own. In addition, we see the domino effect the case has on the lives of those who would be considered complete strangers, including a young immigrant and a potential suspect.

Despite deliberately referencing high-profile kidnappings that have played out in the media, Amber never feels like it’s being exploitative. Adopting a non-linear structure that spans two years, it rewinds and playbacks scenes allowing for a different point of view, altering the perspective of the viewer and any feelings they may have already established. Whilst it does veer off into melodrama at times, Amber should be commended for its powerful performances, engaging script and a finale that refuses to present everything in a neat little package.

The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) lands on an Earth ravaged by environmental disasters. If helping a group of bureaucrats and scientists to hold back the next ice age wasn’t enough for the flute playing mop top, he has to contend with the arrival of the Ice Warriors; a reptilian army from the future who plan to take over the world.

Reconstruction is the name of the game in this latest Doctor Who DVD release. Episodes 2 and 3 of the serial – previously missing – have been animated using the original soundtrack. Whilst the animation is the not the most fluid and it does distract at times, The Ice Warriors narrative is strong enough to persevere. It’s also a step up from the rushed VHS links used back in the 90s, which are also part of the extras package on this DVD.

Commentaries for both of the animated episodes have been compiled from archive audio and statements read out by actors. It’s surprisingly touching to hear those who are no longer with us discussing the making of the show 40 years on.

This review was originally published in FilmInk.

UNIT is providing security for an experimental drilling project designed to penetrate the Earth’s crust. The recently exiled Doctor, played by an impeccably dressed Jon Pertwee, is on hand to advise and hopefully abscond with something to fix his broken TARDIS. Complications in the form of mutants and green goo arise and the Doctor is transported to a parallel Earth where a similar experiment is in the advance stages of blowing up the planet.

Inferno is considered not only to be one of the most popular stories in Doctor Who, but also one of the bleakest. And it’s not hard to see why. It’s rare to have a story where the Doctor is completely out of his depth. As things literally begin to heat up on parallel Earth, Pertwee is superb as he allows the cracks to surface on his usual defiant bravado.

As well as a restored version of the story, the DVD release contains the usual quality commentaries, informative trivia tracks and hit and miss featurettes. Of particular interest is Lost in the Dark Dimension; a candid look at the lengths fans went, including suing the BBC, to get the show back on air after its cancellation in 1989.

This review was originally published in Filmink.

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, The End of the F***ing World feels like a Wes Anderson film set in the backwaters of Britain. James (Alex Lawther) is like every other teenager careering towards their 18th birthday. He wants to do something different, he wants to escape being stifled by his father, he wants to kill someone. You know, the usual stuff. Alyssa (Jessica Barden) is spitting fire at the world. She hates her step-dad, she hates school and she’d probably hate James too, but he appears to be nerdy and aloof.

Over the course of eight criminally short episodes, Charlie Covell’s script uses James desire to kill Alex as a springboard into a deeper exploration of growing up, mental illness, and the ache of being dragged kicking into adulthood. Deciding to find her real dad, James and Alyssa decide to run away together, where they soon kill a serial rapist and find themselves on the run from the police.

In some ways, the show is like the reverse of Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker. There we saw troubled teen India realise that she can’t escape the dark feelings that course through her veins, before eventually embracing her desire to kill. James’ homicidal tendencies, as with Alyssa’s rebellious attitude, is revealed to be nothing more than a front. They’re both simply using mechanisms to help them ignore what’s happening around them.

With each episode narrated by the duo, their home lives are depicted are depicted as torturous purgatory that no one else will understand. However, we, the audience, are made privy to the odd glance, a dropped word, a small gesture that manages to paint volumes about things they can’t/don’t want to see. James’ dad, played by Steven Oram, is perpetually cheery, but it’s suggested this is merely a front to hide the fact he’s still mourning his dead wife. Meanwhile, Alyssa feels she can’t talk to her mum about her pervy step-dad, but the audience knows that not only does mum know, she’s scared to do anything about. Despite James and Alyssa’s, shall we say, affectations, they perfectly echo that deep-rooted angst in us all that forces us to believe at that age that we really are alone.

All of which makes The End of the F***ing World sound like you’re playing all your Radiohead albums at once. Far from it, a thick juicy vein of nihilistic comedy runs right through the series. Having shown his repertoire of nervous twitches and stuttering in Black Mirror’s Shut Up and Dance, Lawther brings them out to full effect as the Dexter-lite killer, who goes into panic mode when he finally gets a chance to kill someone. Barden, meanwhile, brilliantly captures that violent frown that only teenagers can do so well. Everything she’s face with is an annoyance of some kind; whether it be meeting her deadbeat, absentee father, or having to clean up after a dead rapist.

All of which contrasts nicely with the series bleak ending. The End of F***ing World is not merely a bombastic title, it’s a forewarning that everything you’re about to see may be for naught. Once the credits for the final episode play, you realise that the show was always going to end this way. Like James’ effect on Alex, and vice versa, the show leaves an indelible mark on you that’s both bittersweet and strangely uplifting.

Doctor Who Showrunner, Steven Moffat doesn’t do things by halves. If you’ve read anything about the nightmare that was writing the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, you’ll know the Press Gang writer really likes to fly by the seat of his pants. Soon to be stepping down to make way for new showrunner, Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), Moffat had originally planned to leave Doctor Who after The Doctor Falls, a regular episode that saw the Doctor ready for regeneration. It was only after hearing that Chibnall didn’t want his first episode to be a Christmas special, that Moffat agreed to oversee one more episode. In doing so, he probably added some undue pressure onto himself.

For not only is Twice Upon a Time his last episode, it’s also the last episode of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. When Doctors regenerate, the show’s audience demands it be epic. You gotta go out big! Inverting those expectations, Moffat has crafted an episode that manages to be much more personable than other Christmas specials under his watch, and it’s all the better for it.

True to his rebellious nature, the Twelfth Doctor is refusing to regenerate. Holding on with every ounce of strength he has, The Doctor escapes to the South Pole in 1986 where he meets someone extremely familiar. The First Doctor (David Bradley) has just defeated the Cybermen and looks set to regenerate. However, like his future incarnation, he won’t go down without a fight. Realising that if his first incarnation doesn’t regenerate then none of the good things he’s achieved will come to pass, the Twelfth Doctor looks set to go all Wonderful Life and show the First Doctor the true meaning of Christmas. But then there’s the small matter of the World War One Captain, played by Mark Gatiss, who most definitely shouldn’t be roaming the 1980s tundra. Along the way, the trio will meet creatures made of glass, see the return of Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and witness the Christmas Armistice of 1914. Honestly, it’s not as grandiose as it sounds.

Considering the weight that hangs over Twice Upon a Time, and everything mentioned above, the plot Is actually rather light. It doesn’t matter how many Doctors you throw on the screen, the whole mystery of Gatiss’ Captain being plucked out of time is merely an excuse for Moffat to allow the Doctors to rub each other up the wrong way. Grumpy, but a bit more in tune with 21st century ideals, Capaldi’s Doctor clashes somewhat with the equally grumpy, but old fashioned First.

The First Doctor may look the eldest, but he’s still a youngster learning about the universe. No one is inherently born woke and it takes the 12th doctor all his strength to stop from throttling the First over his problematic comments. All of which plays into the thread that runs through Twice Upon a Time; our past may define us, but we are who we are in the moment. We all still have chances to learn and grow. We will make mistakes, and some of them will be terrible, but we will overcome them and keep pushing forward.

This idea of acceptance plays nicely in Capaldi’s eventual regeneration. Having helped the Captain, and encouraged the First Doctor to get on with his lives, the Twelfth Doctor is afforded an opportunity to come to terms with his own end. ‘Doctor,’ he says tiredly, but content. ‘I let you go.’ If we cast our net further, past Moffatt’s tenure, this contrasts nicely with Russell T Davies’ send off for David Tennant, which sadly saw the Oncoming Storm reduced to a whining ‘I don’t want to go.’ It was a line that never sat well with me, and I can’t help thinking that it didn’t with Moffatt either.

Whilst Capaldi’s performance was excellent, time must be taken to give Bradly his dues. Having originally played William Hartnell in Gatiss’ Adventure in Space and Time, the actor was more than ready to cross the line and go full Doctor. It’s not the first time the First Doctor has been recast, but it was certainly the best. The Five Doctors saw Richard Hurndall take over the reins from Hartnell and, to be honest, it never felt more than a pencil sketch of the character. In Bradley’s hands, the First Doctor felt real, like he’d never really been away. The Doctor who once threatened to beat a caveman to death, was just as problematic when faced with ‘modern’ society and he was wonderful. Equally, Mackie appeared to be having just as much fun as Capaldi, clashing with Bradley’s pomposity. I’m not saying I want a series of adventures where the Frist Doctor and Bill travel together, but I am.

Surprisingly streamlined and as emotional as you would want it to be, Twice Upon a Time was – to quote the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) who made a cheeky appearance – brilliant. Moffat certainly had issues during his time as showrunner, his overly complicated sixth season will never be one of the classics, but it amazing to watch how the show has evolved. It’s going to be fascinating to see where Chibnall goes from here.

Since its reinvention 12 years ago, Doctor Who, to me, has a particular pattern to the way it introduces new companions for the Doctor. The first adventure between Doctor and companion tends to be a knock about race against the clock that allows the writer to establish the relationship between the two: see Rose, Smith and Jones, The Runaway Bride etc. Though in fairness to The Runaway Bride, Donna Noble did undergo a soft reboot herself before resurfacing in Partners in Crime, becoming a much less abrasive foil to Tennant’s wide-eyed cock-er-nee Doctor.

The second episode inevitably sees the Companion quickly learn a facet of the Doctor’s personality that will make them wary at first, but ultimately, they’ll realise he’s just a big lug head who needs a bit of human interaction to make him decent. Perhaps the best example of this is, to return to season 4, is The Fires of Pompeii which dealt with The Doctor’s decree of never altering history regardless of how cold that made him appear. Having kick-started the volcano that destroys Pompeii, The Doctor is convinced by Donna to save at least one family in the chaos. The suggestion is that had Donna not been there, then The Doctor would have turned his back on the city and come across as a bit of a bastard. This same episode would be used to explain why the Twelfth Doctor looks like the very man he saved in Pompeii. Making the deduction last season, The Doctor reasoned that this was a subconscious reminder that his fundamental characteristic is that he is The Doctor and he saves people. I personally like to write reminders to myself on my phone, but we all have our ways of doing things.

And so here we are with Smile, an episode that allows Bill to understand The Doctor’s self-imposed purpose in life: to save people. Landing on a planet under some form of terraforming, the duo quickly discovers that the original settlers – those sent to set up the planet for everyone else – have all been murdered by their robotic handymen, the Vardi. Resembling a cross between an emoji keyboard and the big screen interpretation of Marvin the Paranoid Android, the Vardi had been entrusted to ensure everyone was happy, but when they witness grief for the first time they set about trying to rid the commune of this ‘virus.’ This, of course, has a domino effect; human being just don’t like being killed when they’re already feeling quite sad.

Having established there’s something wrong, The Doctor does what he’s entrusted himself to do and leaps in feet first to help. What’s interesting here is that Bill, initially, isn’t that keen to do same and questions whether they should just call the police. We’ve come to accept that The Doctor’s companions are drawn to danger and fuelled by curiosity, so it makes a nice change to see one that’s willing to have a long hard think before charging in blindly. As shown in last week’s episode, Pearl Mackie as Bill is shaping up to be one of the classic companions. After Amy Pond and Clara Oswald, it just feels good to have a companion who is consumed with excitement about what they’re doing, rather than seeming indifferent to the wonders of the universe. It’s not that Bill shouldn’t be The Doctor’s equal, it’s just nice to have her be a little in awe of who she’s travelling with. It’s for reasons like this that make me further believe Moffat is going all Russell T. Davies on us; stripping the show of his convoluted timey wimey theatrics in order to prove that you don’t need the universe to be constantly in danger in order to provide spectacle.

That said, Smile may have provided an opportunity for Bill to learn some more about the Doctor and for us to learn more about her, but as storylines go it was very pedestrian. The final act seemed to run out of steam so quickly that we were left with the Doctor literally turning things on and off again to make everything better. Despite great performances by Mackie and Capaldi, something didn’t gel right here. It actually felt that behind the scenes, conversations were had in order to get around the thorny issue of the Doctor leaving one of the last groups of human in the universe with the very robots that killed their friends and family. As if, maybe, writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce had to be forced into crowbarring in an explanation. Whatever the reasoning, it just didn’t work for me.

So, whilst Smile felt like a bit of a letdown in comparison to last week’s caper, it managed to get by on the strength of its leads and, whilst further setting up the big reveal of The Vault, shows that season 10/36 is showing some promise.