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What’s been refreshing about this season of Doctor Who is the absence of unwieldy arcs. Patient Zero, The Silence, the ‘mystery’ of River Song… They never really convinced, did they? Instead of enticing, they sort of weighed things down like the Doctor was swimming through treacle. I think I realized this when I was asked by my sister, who was returning to show after an absence, to briefly explain the backstory of the aforementioned Song and the Silence. It was impossible. Like trying to a do a join the dots puzzle without numbers on the dots. Or dots. Or a pen.

This time, Moffat seems to have taken a leaf from RTD’s book, giving us something to look out for each episode without it staining the episode too much. As the Ninth Doctor had Bad Wolf and the Tenth danced with Saxon, we’ve been meeting Missy, who seems to be gathering a nice collection of collateral damage from the Doctor’s adventures. Yep, we’ve had no throwbacks to two year old storylines whatsoever… Until now, when Twelvy rather rudely reminded us that he never did clear up the mystery of the woman in the shop was who gave Clara his private number. Sneaky Moffat.

And then, and then! He and Stephen Thompson, who wrote this episode with him, led us to a plot resolution that cruelly suggested it was going to tell all, before skirting off into another direction. Confound you men!

But what of the rest of Time Heist.

Well, it was okay.

The Doctor and Clara are seemingly kidnapped with their memories wiped and encouraged to rob a bank with two other people to get the TARDIS back. All in all, it was a perfectly watchable episode of Doctor Who that was only ruined because of my constant need to second guess everything. By the time, the Doctor had dropped several elephant sized clues as to who the ‘Architect’ of the bank heist was and the fact the episode has the rather spoilerific title of Time Heist, I was waiting for everybody else at the finishing line to hear him confirm my suspicions that he was the number one suspect. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

Then there was the two ne’er-do-wells also caught up in the action: Psi (Jonathan Bailey) and Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner). Painted in angst and black, this duo of cybertech and mutant felt like they’d been ripped out of the pages of The New Doctor Who Adventures Novel from the 90s. Oh, but I’m being mean. Maybe after all the character development we’ve had between Twelvy and Clara, I was so hungry for more I was left unsatisfied with what was essentially a rompless romp. It’s certainly not the worst episode of Doctor Who, but I won’t be reaching for it in the future when I’ve got an hour to spare.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

…we came in?

A few years back, in the early part of my relationship with the woman I proudly call my best friend/wife/listener to the worst of my pop culture rants, I used to have a terrible time shutting my brain off. I’d start thinking about little things that bugged me. Really pointless inconsequential things. These little ticks would snowball and before I knew it, I’d be turning to my best friend/wife/person who makes a cracking stir fry and cry, ‘I’ve done it again. I’ve thought too much.’ I could construct monuments to paranoia and anger; the biggest ball of introspection in the west. After a while, I managed to sort it out and can get through the day quite reasonably without starting a fight with myself…

I’m sure everyone has a similar story, which is why the latest episode of Doctor Who, Listen, worked so well. We’ve all talked to ourselves, we’ve all debated ourselves into a knot and we’ve all thought about the worst case scenario. And that’s where we find the Doctor; talked into a corner by himself and trying to find out whose fault it is.

Grabbing an almost unwilling Clara, The Doctor bounces around time trying to work out why we all talk to ourselves and why we sometimes have that sense of dread that we’re not alone. The genius of this episode is how Steve Moffatt manages to lay out two co-existing plots here, and I’m not just talking about the sub-plot with Danny Pink, but we’ll get to that. No, I’m referring to the following:

Storyline 1: The Doctor believes there is a creature out there with a terrific ability to hide. You can feel it just behind when you’re in the dark. It plays with you by moving things around. Everyone at some point in time will meet it. The Doctor pieces together the clues to hunt it down.

Storyline 2: Lost in thought he recalls a time in his childhood when he felt most terrified. The Doctor begins to overthink things, which leads him into failing to see the woods for the trees. He turns a molehill of a memory into a mountain of misunderstanding, corrupting the facts to fit his hypothesis.

Look on the internet and you’ll see that people are divided as to whether there was anything out there. Even when there’s other witnesses, such as a young Danny Pink and his descendent Orson Pink, the story is written to fit a number of conclusions. Young Danny could be the victim of a practical joke, whilst Orson has been on his own for so long his mind is playing tricks on him. Or maybe not?

Staying focused on Danny for a moment; He is, for me, fast becoming our sense of reality on Doctor Who. He’s Wilfred. He’s Jackie Tyler and Mickey Smith. Suffering from PTSD, part of me feel he’s  a reason for Clara to stay in the present should the opportunity arise. But then, Orson did mention that one of his great-grandparents used to tell him stories about time travel… Why must we assume that it’s Clara? To assume that is to assume everything works out for Danny and her in the end. I don’t think Moffat works like that. Danny may step on board the TARDIS one day, but I’m not sure he’ll be with Clara forever. Especially if she continues to put in her foot in her mouth. She may very well be able to stand up to alien creatures and overlords, but she is not so good on a first date.

And then there’s that scene in the barn and a young weeping time lord. Some will, or already have, cried foul. Ooh, Moffat is messing with Doctor Who canon, blah, blah! But then those people, politely, need to get over themselves. Not to sound dismissive, but as the last 50 years of Doctor Who have been built on chopping and changing the show’s canon, I couldn’t care less. Whenever you get really angry about someone changing something in the show you hold dear, just remember that a long time ago, Doctor Who was about an old man with a time machine and one heart. Psychic paper, time lords, Adric and regeneration limits were the stuff of fancy. Times change and so must we.

Anyway, yes, it all turns out that the Doctor was comforted back to sleep by Clara, who soothed him with words she learnt from the older him only hours earlier. And then, and THEN! She ends up telling him something that he’ll end up saying when he kidnaps a couple of teachers in his future. It turned my brain in to a pretzel, but I loved it and, honestly, it brought a tear to my eye.

Listen was a brilliant episode and possibly one of Moffat’s best since Blink. Since the problematic sixth season, he has been upping his game and if this is the kind of thing he can do, then I look forward to more of the same. Come on Moffat. I know you’ve got it in you.

And then I began to think… How do we actually know that it was the Doctor Clara was talking to? Who’s to say that it wasn’t a young boy who had stared into the time vortex and was driven mad? Who’s to say that Clara’s soothing words weren’t accidental encouragement for a pre-destined goateed maniac who will try and conquer 1970s UK and then the world? Look, I’m not saying it WAS the Master, but it could have been. But it probably wasn’t. But it could have been. Though it’s doubtful. But it might not be. I’m drifting. Have I ever told you I over think things?

Isn’t this where…

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

After the previous two excellent and, let’s be honest, frankly dark episodes, a sense of frivolity returns in Mark Gatiss’ Robot of Sherwood. Fulfilling a promise to Clara, the Doctor whisks off to Sherwood and straight in front of the tights of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Which for Clara, as a huge fan of the legend, is a dream come true and an excuse to dress up. For the Doctor though, it’s a troubling matter because as far as he’s concerned, the Earl of Loxley never existed. Then there’s the problem of the knight robots who work under the say so of the Sherriff of Nottingham. What is a time lord to do?

Series 8 of Doctor Who, and in particular Peter Capaldi’s interpretation of the Doctor, needed this episode before the glumness set in. We know he’s moody, we know he’s arrogant. But let’s step out of the shadows, shall we? Whilst Twelvy doesn’t look like he’s going to be cracking a smile too much, Gatiss manages to bring out enough awkwardness in him that suggests the twinkle in his predecessors’ eye is still there. Working out complicated sums whilst eating some kind of desert behind Clara’s back? Done. Using a spoon to attack to Robin Hood? Check. Failing to recognize a real sandal when he sees one? We’ve all been there.

Everybody was on fine form, with Jenna Coleman getting more to do than she ever did as a plot device last season (And I mean that with the greatest respect, I bloody love Clara) Standing up to the Sherriff of Nottingham, played with Alan Rickman familiarity by Ben Miller, she was just a bad ass. Okay, she went a bit squiffy when she met Robin Hood, but come on, who hasn’t gone a bit weak at the knees when they meet a hero?

Whilst there was no Missy to be seen, Gatiss’ episode carried on what I suspect is Season 8’s key theme of breaking down the Doctor into little bite sized chunks of psychology. After badmouthing the very existence of Robin Hood, the Doctor discovered that he shared a lot in common with the green tighted vigilante; inspiring future generations to do good and stand up for they believe in. The Doctor may have lost his oversized fringe and buried his head in calculus, but he knows his right from his left.

What I originally thought in Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, was a way of breaking the new Doctor to the kiddies seems to be more complex than that. The Doctor has gone through a belief shattering experience. After coming to terms with his life ending, he was rather surprisingly given a whole new regeneration cycle. That’s a whole new life! If any one of us were to die right now having accepted our fate, only to rise like Lazarus, how do we think it would affect us? Would we begin to cherish every new day and find the beauty in everything? If we looked back on our life, would we scrutinize the bad things we’d done and try to better ourselves? Maybe we would.

Now imagine having over 2000 years to look back on. Wouldn’t you feel pretty small and humble when stood next to your mistakes?

If the Doctor is asking if he’s a Good Man, I think he’s hoping whatever he achieved at the end of his first life cycle justified the means.

Obviously this is a bit deep for an episode that was a wonderful bit of history and nonsense, but I’m putting it out there nonetheless. I’ll be interested to see where they go with this.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

Warning: We’ve tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but please advised that if you’ve still yet to see the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, you’re best looking elsewhere for now.

You’ll have to have been trapped in some distant nebula to not know that that Doctor Who is now into its 50th year. As part of the celebrations, the anniversary special has made it the cinemas in glorious 3D – and not 12D as the good Doctor (Matt Smith) suggests in the opening promo.

Steven Moffat was always going to have to a hard time of it with The Day of the Doctor. On the one hand, we have the hardcore, dyed in the wool fans who want to see a special that carts out William Hartnell’s corpse to appease them. To them the show goes beyond pin-up boy David Tennant and his lovey-dovey Doctor. They want a dark doctor! On the other hand, we have the youngsters, the ones who helped make the show’s resurgence. They embraced Russell T. Davies’ reboot and The Day of the Doctor should acknowledge them. And on the third hand – This is sci-fi! We’re allowed three hands – there will be people who know Doctor Who as nothing more than that show with the metal pepperpots, and will be tuning in to see what all the fuss is about.

So, how did it go?

Well, pretty well actually. In fact, very well. In actual fact, we’re still recovering from it all.

Moffat seems to have managed to address concerns on all fronts; embracing the show’s canon, whilst providing a narrative that embraces newcomers one and all. A series of events leads to three incarnations of the Doctor having to join forces to save the world from the Zygons. Well, that’s not really the A-Story, but it’s the one we’re going to tell you. The Day of the Doctor is a bit like opening presents on Christmas Day. You don’t really know what you’ve got until you open them, and then there’s that giddy joy of finding one or two extras tucked away behind the tree. From Gallifrey, to long scarves, to mockney accents, references appear like little chunky nuggets of fun that won’t confuse the casual viewer.

It’s not just Moffat’s script that’s worth mention, Nick Hurran’s direction is particularly dynamic. It’s very easy for a show-runner to say his script is dynamic, but it’s the director that has to realise it. From to barren deserts to war-torn cities, Hurran has added some real weight to the visuals. We are far, far, far from the days when two school teachers turned up at a junkyard to talk to an old man in a blue box.

Whilst we take a break from the gushing praise, we should address the elephant in the room. John Hurt. Yes, he’s a forgotten Doctor, but it’s quite obvious that the character was originally the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston. Whilst Moffat has provided a backstory to explain all this away, it does irk a little. But only a little. Hurt is superb as the earlier and grumpier incarnation of Smith and Tennant. He acts as a bridge not only from the classic series to the new, but he also plays mouthpiece to the numerous old school fans who have had quibbles with the new show’s tropes, such as the overuse of sonic screwdrivers as a weapon. ‘What are you going to do? Assemble a wardrobe at them?!’

The other major problem is a cameo from the show’s past that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to the story. But then again, who are we to fault a desire to please everyone.

The Day of the Doctor is a funny, moving, fast paced adventure. It’s big and bold and it’s a standing testament to the endurance of the show. Not bad for something that was cobbled together 50 years ago to fill a gap between the football and Top of the Pops. Not bad at all.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.

Oxford Notebooks

September 20, 2009 — 3 Comments

There are many sure things in life. Megan Fox is a flash in the pan, Come Dine with Me is compelling viewing, Kanye West is a jackass and each new Sugababes song sounds more and more like a death rattle escaping from the cold blue lips of their career.

Another sure thing is that if you put an infinite number of advertising execs in a room, they will eventually write a sequel to Macbeth. In the mean time, whilst we wait, these same execs are pumping out ads for products that don’t need them. For example, Oxford Notebooks.

Who was the person they spoke to in the post tests that cried out ‘People need to know that they can write on paper!’.

When I first saw the advert, my initial thoughts were that this was for some form of zit cream. There sits our heroine, lonely on a park bench and in a ridiculous AC/DC top (CH/LD? FFS). Oh, she’s lonely, I thought, I’m sure Clearasil will help her. I was so very wrong.

Seemingly taking pity on this Juno cast off, Oxford Notebook begins shows her her future like some bastard spiral bound Nostradamus. We see her go to a club where she looks like she’s going to be approached by an unnerving elder gentlemen. Surely this isn’t how her life is going to end. But it’s okay! Oxford Notebook jumps forth and scrunches the man right out of existence and before we have time to marvel at the special effects, he’s replaced by a floppy haired git whose very smugness can only be compared to that of Simon Cowell when he spies his own reflection. Astoundingly, this chinless wonder is the very thing our child looks for in a man and soon Oxford Notebook is showing her getting married and having babies.

It should be pointed that despite the fact she appears to be growing up, hubbie and her don’t appear to actually age. Possibly aiming for the Twilight demographic’s opinion that wrinkled skin is uncool, husband, wife and child are merely shown wearing black rimmed glasses. A true sign that one has aged.

Comforted with the knowledge that her life is going to be nothing special, our heroine closes Oxford Notebook and sits back wondering how long it is before she meets her future smug bastard husband.

What makes the advert equally intolerable is the Diane Vickers sound-alike warbling over the top. I’m informed that Diane is in fact a popular Indie band from America. Well, let’s hope they stay there.  No punch line. Seriously, stay there.

After watching the ad, you’re left with so many questions. If Oxford Notebook is so clever why didn’t he give our heroine next week’s lottery numbers? Did he feel that Derren Brown had already stolen his thunder? Why, when her book began to flash images of the future, did our heroine simply sit forward and watch when she should have burnt the book for being the Devil’s tool it really is? However, before you can come to grips with all this, we are reminded that Oxford Notebooks aren’t just packed to the brim with divination, but they also  ‘allow you to write on both sides of the page’.

HALLELUJAH!

I cannot tell you how many times I have got to the end of a page and thought ‘where do I go from here?’. Thank you Oxford Notebook for finally answering this problem. Like our punky protagonist, the clouds above me have cleared and I realise that I don’t need to be afraid any longer, because I can now write on BOTH sides of the page. Soon, they’ll be researching re-fillable glasses.

In the meantime, let’s just get on with the task of selling ice to Eskimos.