Sunday, May 28, 2006

Doctor Who - The Idiot's Lantern

Like last year's The Unquiet Dead, Mark Gatiss gets another historical adventure, this time going not quite so far back in time, but to 1953 and to the Coronation of Queen Elisabeth II (which took place on 2 June 1953). As the story opens we're introduced to Mr Magpie, a superb character well played by Ron Cook, owner of a television store. He has problems, being in debt, but his problems mount when a red lightning bolt hits his television ariel, and a television announcer talks directly to him before his face is sucked into the TV by bolts of red lightning. This is a cracking opening, and sets the scene for what is to come. The Doctor and Rose are on Earth, expecting to go and see Elvis Presley perform on the Ed Sullivan show at TV studios in New York (this would therefore place the date the Doctor expected to arrive as either 9 September 1956, 28 October 1956 or 6 January 1957) however they are in Muswell Hill, London in 1953! I thought the Doctor had control over the TARDIS now - the idea of him arriving where he doesn't expect is slightly out of place. However there is no lead in from The Age of Steel, so we have no idea how many adventures the Doctor and Rose have had in the interim. As the Doctor realises they are in the wrong place and time, someone (Mr Gallagher) is taken from one of the houses by police, their head covered. There is much consternation, and one of the the locals, a boy called Tommy Connelly (played by Rory Jennings - I knew I'd heard his name before. He was in an episode of Urban Gothic:, mentions that people are turning into monsters - something that appears to have happened already in the Connelly household as their Gran (Margaret John) is now in an upper room, and the family are terrified by her banging on the floor. The tension builds nicely, and we're kept wondering as to what has happened to Gran. However this doesn't worry Mr Connelly - Eddie (Jamie Foreman) - who has been watching a little too much EastEnders and comes over like Al Murray's Pub Landlord at every turn. Meanwhile, Magpie, under instruction from the strange announcer, has built a portable TV set. These scenes are really excellent, with Magpie's reactions - 'burning me' - a great counterpoint to the TV lady. Getting Maureen Lipman to play the announcer was a stroke of genius. She manages to bring over haughty power, calcluating alienness and genuine menace in all her appearances. A brilliant performance. So the Doctor and Rose decide to pay a visit to the Pub Landlord and family, and Rose suddenly displays talents beyond keeping her mouth open too long - lucky that Jackie went out with a sailor and that Rose knows all about Union Jacks and Flags as a result ... well you would. Wouldn't you? We finally get to see Gran, and the poor dear has no face! This is terrifying stuff, and incredibly well realised. Shame it makes no sense whatsoever. Why should wiping someone's brain make their face vanish? And how do these people breathe? Through their ears maybe? I liked the clenching, grasping hands, but again, why? Are they in pain? In torment of some sort? If so, then they all recover pretty quickly at the end. So as the Doctor races off after the police, who arrive to take Granny Connolly away, Rose decides to do some investigating of her own and turns up at Magpie's shop, only to have her own brain sucked and face wiped. The Doctor meanwhile is hauled up by Detective Inspector Bishop (Sam Cox) and ends up helping him. The scene when he sees Rose all faceless in front of him is brilliantly done, which shows how good Tennant can be ... it's just a shame that he doesn't seem able to be able to do angry very well. To be honest, the Doctor started to remind me of someone in this story, and I couldn't think who ... but then it came to me. Eric Idle. But Eric Idle as his 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' character from Monty Python. The Doctor seemed to veer off into monalogues about things which I started to hear as a variant of the 'nudge, nudge' man. Most disconcerting. And when combined with the Pub Landlord, this started to break down the believability of this episode. I think the main issue is that the Doctor is not a part of the episode - he stands separate from the action, and he's almost like a narrator or something. I hope he can get more involved soon. The next day dawns, and family and friends (excluding Gran of course) assemble at the Connolly's to watch the Coronation. However family tiffs ensue and young Tommy goes off with the Doctor and Bishop to investigate the TV shop, wherein they find disembodied faces on the televisions (why?) and the portable TV. They are also confronted by the announcer, now revealed to be something called the Wire, executed on its own planet, but escaped into space, only to arrive on Earth (shades of The Hand of Fear). It feeds on electrical activity in the brain and wants to take power from people watching television. Bishop is faceless but the Doctor and Tommy escape as the Wire sees that the Doctor is armed (with his all-purpose sonic screwdriver), and they collect together piles of equipment from the TV shop before chasing after Magpie who has taken the portable TV with the Wire now in it to the Alexandra Palace transmitter, intending to allow the Wire to feed on a wider scale. Aside from the question of how Magpie gets into Ally Pally (even the Doctor is accosted by a guard), how does he get access to climb the mast! On this day, the security there would have been immense. But Magpie manages to do this, plugs in his portable and everyone's faces are dragged into the TV. But the Doctor connects up his gizmo which - I hesitate to say - reverses the polarity and turns the receiver into a transmitter and traps the Wire. Now ... don't think about this too long ... Ally Pally is a transmitter anyway, so Magpie's box turned it into a receiver ... and then the Doctor reverses this back, and manages to record the Wire onto a Betamax video tape ... Neat idea. I'm sure I've seen it before though, that something can be recorded to trap it ... can't think where, but I'm sure you folks will let me know. So all is back to normal. Rose gets her face back (she must have missed standing with her mouth open) as do all the others that the Wire fed on, and all is well. We even get a resolution to the small story of the Connelly's as Mrs C (Debra Gillett) kicks the Pub Landlord out. But Rose persuades Tommy not to cut his dad off completely and to go after him, which he does. This is an excellent ending to a superb episode. Despite concerns about the characterisation of the Doctor, and his general uninvolvedness, I loved this story. The mood was excellent and well maintained. The faceless people were terrifying (and brought back fond memories of Sapphire and Steel where a faceless man was on the stair ... and the villain was one of the best we've seen. Next week ... black holes, the TARDIS going further than ever before, creepy looking monsters with tentacular faces ... looks superb.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Doctor Who - The Age of Steel

The story continues from last week ... after a recap of events, the solution elicited a gasp of 'What?' from around the room. The Doctor escapes from 'maximum deletion' by the Cybermen with the little power gizmo from the TARDIS. Now this was the thing that the Doctor had to keep alive to allow the TARDIS to repair itself so they could all escape? And he discharges it. But afterwards, everything is fine and it will only take a few more hours to recharge again. Unfortunately this all throws the gravitas of the first episode into relief as it's obvious that there really wasn't much to be worried about here. Meanwhile we discover that Pete Tyler is the mysterious 'Gemini' who has been feeding the Preachers their information, and that Ricky is only London's 'most wanted' as far as number of unpaid parking tickets go. Lumic is obviously getting bored as he orders activation of his earpods and hypnotizes everyone in London to come to Battersea for upgrading into Cybermen. So what was all the business with the Cybermen crashing the party for then?

The Doctor, Pete, Rose, Jake, Mickey, Ricky and Mrs Moore are all chased around a lot by Cybermen - the Doctor does something clever with his sonic screwdriver to make them go away, but when Mickey and Ricky are chased, Ricky suffers the Cyber Electric Death Grip (hereafter called CEDG) and is killed, leaving Mickey to carry on with the role of hero. The wonderful Mr Crane turns on Lumic and tries to kill him, but he gets a taste of CEDG and the Cybermen decide that Lumic needs an upgrade himself to be their Controller. This is a lovely performance from Colin Spaull as Mr Crane - one of the best in the episodes in fact. He was very chilling with shades of the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mixed in with elements of Packer from Doctor Who's The Invasion. The Doctor, Pete, Rose, Jake, Mickey and Mrs Moore arrive at Battersea Power Station (a wonderful piece of CGI realises the building, Zeppelin parked on top, and belching black smoke into the sky) and take The Five Doctors's routes into the building: Above; Between; Below. While Jake and Mickey disable the transmitter in the Zeppelin, Rose and Pete will enter via the front door pretending to be zombified, and the Doctor and Mrs Moore will take an underground coolant tunnel into the complex. The scenes here between the Doctor, Rose and Mickey, start to highlight why I feel that this series isn't working for me as well as the last. It's based in the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. It's so inclusive, and Mickey can do nothing but feel like a spare cog, or the tin dog. The Doctor and Rose only have eyes and thoughts for each other it seems, and this hurts. Doctor Who always used to be a fantasy - in that the TARDIS could arrive in your street and you could be whisked away for adventures and friendship - but not if Rose is there. She is behaving like a spiteful, jealous ex-girlfriend whenever anyone looks like taking away some of the Doctor's attention from her, and I don't like it. Poor Mickey. From being the idiot, now he is the person we most relate to. Having to watch his girlfriend fawn and drool over someone else is bad enough, but to have no way of redeeming himself or making himself feel any better stinks. So everyone gets into the Power Station unscathed. Pete and Rose encounter a Cyberman Jackie, but scenes that should have been quite shocking and chilling are rendered somewhat soulless, and I think the problem is that the Cybermen all look the same. It would have been nice to have seen something of the conversion process on Jackie, to see something of the human remaining in the Cyberman, but maybe to do this would have been to skate too close to Star Trek's Borg. Maybe you can't win however you try and do it. There are some wonderful scenes in the coolant tunnel which turns out to be unexpectedly full of deactivated Cybermen. Very spooky. But why are they there? Wouldn't it have been easier for Lumic to simply build more warehouses somewhere to keep them in? And of course they come to life and chase the Doctor and Mrs Moore to the exit, which the Doctor is somehow able to weld shut with his sonic screwdriver. Mrs Moore disables another Cyberman with an electromagnetic bomb (exactly when did she have time to put one of these together anyway - they seem to have been on the run ever since leaving Pete's party) and the Doctor explores how the creatures work, and realises that the emotional inhibitor chip could be turned off with a code. The sequence with the Cyberman reverting to its past identity - that of Sally Fielder - was really rather excellent. Showing them in a different light and eliciting some sympathy. But then Mrs Moore receives the CEGD from a Cyberman who has learned to walk quietly, and the Doctor is hauled off to Cyber Control. Mickey and Jake disable the transmitter with the help of a convenient Cyberman, and the formerly controlled humans panic and run riot. Meanwhile the Doctor, Rose and Pete are reunited in Cyber Control and meet the CyberController - an upgraded Lumic, complete with his very own Gigeresque steam powered armchair. As the Doctor talks with Lumic, Mickey manages to log into the CCTV system and watches and listens to the exchange. The Doctor notices the camera, and in an amazing leap of assumption, realises that Mickey is watching. He thus tells Mickey where to find the code to shut off the emotion inhibitors and gets him to text the code to Rose's phone, which he promptly uses to transmit it to all the Cybermen ... but hang on ... this is a great idea, but one which has been somewhat mishandled. I think the point is that all of Lumic's Cybus companies produce hardware and software which is compatible with each other. Sensible move and something that Microsoft and Apple do today. And so the phone would then plug into the main computer and transmit the signal as it would be compatible. But this is not a Cybus phone. It's Rose's phone from real-Earth. So why does it fit? All that was needed to solve this was in episode 1 for the Doctor to procure a couple of Cybus phones for Rose and Mickey and to talk about everything being compatible and the problem is solved. Maybe I'm thinking about this too hard again. So the emotion inhibitors are turned off, and the Cybermen all go mad, staggering about, clutching their heads and moaning electronically. First of all, would they really all go mad? There must be some folks out there who would quite like the idea of being a silver giant with no aches and pains, in a strong body that would live forever (or at least until the brain died). But even if you do go mad, then why does one of the Cybermen's heads explode? And why does the factory then start to blow up? Mickey to the rescue and the Doctor, Rose and Pete race to the roof where a handy Zeppelin awaits them, but the CyberController is hot on their heels and gets on the dangling rope ladder as well. So it's Sonic Screwdriver to the rescue again, this time in rope burning mode, and the Controller falls into the furnace below (shades of Aliens with the Alien Queen's death at the end I felt). All is well, and we conclude with Pete getting back to work, refusing to accept that Rose is his daughter, and Mickey deciding to be a hero and to stay, much to Rose's disappointment. But I can't blame him. As far as the TARDIS is concerned, it's the Doctor and Rose show all the way. Overall, a very entertaining episode which wraps the story up nicely. Except. I mentioned last review about all the stuff with the time vortex vanishing and so on, and hoped there would be some sort of explanation. Well there wasn't, and so this has to be the biggest cop out ever. Very disappointing (unless of course it has something to do with the ongoing arc, which so far seems very obscure - but then the Bad Wolf one made little sense until the end, and even then it wasn't really explained).

A final word on the Cyberman voices. Disappointing. Somehow they lacked power and presence. I do think they would have been better to have gone with the electronic ones from The Moonbase and Tomb of the Cybermen ... So next week we have something about televisions and people turning into monsters and Maureen Lipman. I have no idea what it's all about.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Doctor Who - The Rise of the Cybermen

Whoo - Cybermen. Now this was what I've been waiting for. The Daleks never really did it for me. Ok, they were quite cool, but in the sixties, there was only one monster that terrified. And that was the Cybermen. I suspect this was because for anyone growing up in the late sixties, it was the Cybermen who were the everpresent menace on Doctor Who. From The Tenth Planet, through The Moonbase, The Tomb of the Cybermen, The Wheel In Space and The Invasion they dominated. And they changed their appearance and voices most every time as well. So far more than the Daleks, it was the Cybermen who demanded a 2006 makeover. And in The Rise of the Cybermen we got just that. This is not to say that the episode was perfect, there were a few niggles, though far fewer than recent episodes, and it is hard to see at this stage whether what appear to be niggles will be resolved next week. But onto the show. Apart from it starting 20 minutes later than scheduled due to some rubbishy sport overrunning or something, the eventual pre-credits sequence was sublime. That bloke off Only Fools and Horses in a Davros-like wheelchair acting like Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers films. When he said the line, 'Do you know me?' to the hazy light-haloed figure of his creation, I expected the sentence to continue with, 'Dave?' at the end (and apologies to anyone who has never seen Roger Lloyd Pack as Trigger on Only Fools and Horses - basically the character calls one of the other characters 'Dave' all the time, even though this isn't his name ...) But the unseen thing (obviously a Cyberman) replies, and we get to hear their voices ... hmmm ... initial feelings of uncertainty. But no time to think as Lumic orders his lackey killed by Electric Cyber-Death Grip and then heads for England (and we cut away before he raises his little finger to his mouth and starts laughing maniacally). Good start ... but how to involve the Doctor and friends? Well, there's a massive explosion on the TARDIS for some reason, and the time vortex disappears, and the TARDIS dies and ends up in London. All a little drastic. And all a lot unexplained. I hope these elements are covered off later on as otherwise this is perhaps the biggest mcguffin ever to get the Doctor into the action. But it's not just London, it's alternate London. And how do we know? By some brilliant CGI Zeppelins flying overhead. Oh, and Rose's dad not being dead after all. To add more coincidence to the proceedings, Pete Tyler is best mates with John Lumic (although I have no idea why the cheesy 21st Century equivalent of a snake-oil peddler is of any use to the multi-national, every company on Earth-owning Lumic), and is also on 'come to my wife's birthday party' terms with the President of Earth, played to perfection by Don Warrington. Warrington was simply superb. Very watchable indeed. Although our living room echoed to an impression of him on Grumpy Old Men, complaining about Zeppelins. So now the plot is starting to stack up ... Lumic wants permission from the UK Government to allow him to continue with his (at this point) mystery Cybus programme, but this permission is denied by president Don. However Lumic, being the sound and well balanced citizen that he is, promptly orders another lackey, Mr Crane, to commence the programme anyway. Thus several hapless tramps are abducted and carted off for Cyber-conversion. The ensuing sequence of knives and screaming and soulless factories, concluding with a shot of Battersea Power Station is brilliant and inspired. Meanwhile we get some more really neat CGI as Jackie Tyler (here even bitchier and spoiled than in the real world) is 'accessed' by Lumic via her earpieces to obtain the security arrangements for her party (though why such an airhead would even know them is beyond me - and as Lumic and Pete are such buddies, then why not get them from Pete?). Meanwhile, loads of other plot threads are kicking off. The Doctor conveniently finds a single glowing power source in the TARDIS and realises they're not trapped at all, but that in 24 hours this will give them enough power to escape (there is some waffle about the power being different on this alternate Earth and the TARDIS not being able to use it - but then how did Rose's mobile phone work? Obviously satellite transmissions and telephone technology is identical ...) The Doctor and Rose see everyone freeze in mid step as the 'daily download' occurs - news and information from Cybus - but what a strange time to do this: 14:40pm. And what about anyone driving or operating machinery when this happens? Do they freeze as well? Why not do this at 3am when most people are asleep? Or surely there would be an option to receive the download when convienient to the individual. Even Microsoft doesn't dictate when your PC is updated. Seems a little thoughtless to me. Rose pathetically decides she needs to see her Mum and Pete and so she and the Doctor pretend to be servants to infiltrate the party. Mickey goes to see his Gran, who is still alive, and then falls in with a group of three freedom fighters led by alternate world Mickey, who is bizarrely called Ricky. This unlikely group follow Lumic's International Electromatics (a neat nod to the past - a shame they couldn't have used the music from The Invasion as well) vans to Pete and Jackie's place and see the new Cybermen being let out for a stroll. We're now heading for the showdown as the Doctor coincidentally finds a computer and is able to access Lumic's earlier presentation to Don and Pete - careless of him to leave it somewhere accessible via the Internet - at the same time as Rose sees steel figures advancing on the house. Cue shattering glass and the Cybermen are revealed. Very impressive too. All steel and angles and military precision. Tall and imposing and really quite terrifying. That is, until they speak. The voice is a sort of lightly pitched warble, and the closest I can find in Cyber history is that of the Cyber Planner, again from The Invasion. Not a bad tack to take, but the voice should be louder and more dominating in my view. Compare the scenes of President Don standing off against the Cyberman in Jackie's house with those of Klieg facing the CyberController in The Tomb of the Cybermen. In that earlier story, the CyberController's voice is bold and powerful and very alien. This is what we should have had here. Oh well. Maybe it will grow on me. As the Cybermen start using Electric Cyber-Death Grip on everyone in the house - what happened to the people being needed for 'upgrade'? - the Doctor, Rose and Pete escape outside only to encounter hoards more Cybermen. Rickey and Mickey and the anonymous other two rebles (I don't think they are named in the episode) arrive with guns, but they are all surrounded and despite the Doctor's surrendering, the Cyberman pronounces that they are incompatibile and will be subject to 'maximum deletion'. Cue end titles ... and thank you thank you thank you there is no next episode trailer. Very well done. This is a story that just had to be more than one episode. There is no way that this could have all been fitted in, and the space that the longer length affords is well used, building ideas and characters and leaving lots to resolve next week. Noel Clarke as Mickey gets a lot more to do here and is obviously happy with that, wheras Billie Piper as Rose seems to get less to do and seems unhappy with that - her reaction at the Doctor even speaking to another girl seems to get her back up. Maybe she's really starting to become a liability here. Other thoughts: why do we have that annoying school bell sound in the incidental music. I thought it was apt in School Reunion and I forgot to mention it in my review of The Girl in the Fireplace. It is grating and annoying and I find that I'm growing not to like Murray Gold's music. It's either too loud and intrusive, or wrong for the visuals or both. Bring back Dudley Simpson is what I say. We get a description of what a Cyberman is: a brain grafted to a cybernetic body, with all emotion removed. When asked why, the Doctor explains that the process hurts. But pain is not an emotion. It is a response to stimuli. Just because you can't get angry or frightened, doesn't mean you can't feel pain ... But then if these things are just brains in robotic bodies, then there are no nerve endings anyway ... So next week we see the conclusion to this tale. Hopefully some resolutions and explanations as to the TARDIS's plight, and we get to find out whether John Lumic's plans for Cyber-domination come to fruition. See you then.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cybermen and Covers and Voices

Cybermen. I have long had a great fascination for them. Unlike the Daleks, which never scared me, the Cybermen terrified me as a kid. Probably because I was a kid at the right time: The Moonbase, Tomb of the Cybermen, The Wheel in Space and The Invasion ... four of the best ever Cyber-tales and all sixties and all Troughton. But now, it's 2006 and the Cybermen are back as evidenced by the totally awesome cover for the new Radio Times ... wow. I love it to pieces. And then this morning (which is Tuesday 9th May) I heard the new voice on a radio advert for the show this morning ... golly gosh oh my! At least it was a new voice. For all I know the standard Cybermen sound different from the CyberLeader who sounds different from the CyberController - it is the latter who is pictured in all his brainy glory on the front of the Radio Times. The voice sounded to me closest to that of the CyberPlanner from The Invasion ... which seems appropriate as International Electromatics, the company which featured in that sixties story seems to have a part to play in the forthcoming 2006 adventure. Roll on Saturday :)

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Doctor Who - The Girl in the Fireplace

With thanks to Shaun Lyon. www.gallifreyone.netFrom a brilliant pre-credits opening, this episode went on to be one of the very best to date of either this series or the last. Steven Moffatt seems to have pulled out all the stops to present a coherent time travel adventure, which looks at the nature of time, and which manages, in the space of 45 minutes, to show a microcosmic view of what the Doctor goes through all the time. I suspect this is a follow-on from the comments last week in School Reunion that although Rose can spend her life with the Doctor, he cannot spend all of his life with her. From 1757 France, we head 3000 years into the future, to a grotty spacecraft hanging near the Diagmore Cluster in the 51st Century. The Doctor, Rose and Mickey arrive and start poking around. The Doctor soon spots an out-of-place fireplace and realises it's a time portal to the past. Through the fire he speaks to a 7 year old girl, Renette, and discovers that she is in 1727. Moments later, the Doctor makes the entire fireplace turn through 180 degrees and finds himself in her bedroom ... but it's now months later for her - time runs at different speeds it seems (and this is perhaps the biggest flaw in the episode, but more on that later), but more than this, there is a spooky clockwork robot hiding under her bed. In scenes guaranteed to terrify the kids, the Doctor flushes it out and it attacks him. But how did it get into the room? And indeed when? The Doctor was by the entrance to the time portal the whole time. Oh well ... Back and forth, the Doctor immobilises it with a fire extinguisher but it teleports away. Seconds later, the Doctor returns through the fireplace, but now some 20 years have passed and Renette is a beautiful young woman. She decides to snog the Doctor's face off before heading away - leaving him someone bewhildered and happy that he snogged Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, otherwise known as Madame de Pompadour, mistress to King Louis XV. Returning to the ship, the Doctor finds a horse (!) and meanwhile Mickey and Rose have made the grizly discovery of organic components in the hardware of the ship. They all find more time portals looking in on the same woman but they cannot figure out why she seems so important to the clockwork inhabitants of the ship. Though one mirror, they see Renette confronted by another robot and they burst through and immobilise it. It reveals itself to be repair drone seven and that an Ion storm caused them problems. 'We did not have the parts,' it repeats when asked about the problem and where the crew has gone, and the Doctor realises that the answer is correct to both questions: the drones used the crew for spare parts. But now they want Renette as apparently 'they are the same'. Mickey and Rose return to the ship through the mirror while the Doctor reads Renette's mind to try and find out why she is important to them - she is 23 at this time. But she reads his mind too and realises how lonely he is. She promptly invites him to come dancing. Now this may be a euphamism as in The Doctor Dances last year, or maybe they really do go dancing ... either way Rose and Mickey are captured by the clockwork drones and sedated prior to surgery. But the Doctor rolls in blind drunk and saves them by pouring multigrade anti-oil into one of the drones and switching the rest off at the control panel - his being drunk was all an act. But he knows now that the ship is 37 years old, and so Renette will be taken when she turns 37. As the Doctor tries to close the time windows down, the drones come back to life and announce that Renette is now complete and teleport off to get her - or her head which is all they need. They seem to want to use her brain as a command circuit (but what then has been controlling the drones in the meantime?). More time jumping takes place, and Renette realises she must take the 'slow path' to her destiny when she hits 37, and has confidence that the Doctor will be there for her at that time. There is some lovely dialogue here: 'One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel,' and 'It's the way it's always been. The monsters and the Doctor. You can't have one without the other,' and 'The Doctor is worth the monsters,' this latter echoing 'Some things are worth getting your heart broken for,' from last week's episode. Renette is catured by the drones, but the Doctor arrives by crashing through the mirror/time portal on horseback (so there was a reason for the horse) and saves the day by showing the drones that they are now all trapped on Earth and there is no point in them carrying on - shades of Remembrance of the Daleks where the Doctor talked the Dalek to death. Here it's handled better, but it's still a little unsatisfying. If the robot droids were all being controlled from the ship, then the moment the link was severed, they should all have just collapsed. The Doctor is trapped on Earth with Renette, but he doesn't seem too upset. In fact he seems positively looking forward to it - and who can blame him. All that dancing to look forward to. But she has something to show him (oo er) and it's the fireplace from Paris. Conveniently 'offline' when the ship closed down, so now, all it takes is a good thump in the right place and a bit of the old sonic screwdriver and we have a now-operational time door back to the ship. But here's the brilliant bit. The Doctor goes back to check on things, but when he returns for Renette, she has now died - it being six years hence. These final scenes are brilliant in their simplicity and made my eyes well up several times. As I said at the start, it's a microcosm of the Doctor's life - stepping in and out of the lives of others, and always being the lonely angel. But ... as I mentioned ... the biggest problem is that these time doors don't seem to operate with any logic. Sometimes time runs the same time between them (as when the Doctor talks to Renette on two occasions through the fireplace), other times it's running faster in France (like the months passing in the few minutes it takes the Doctor to operate the fireplace-door at the start, but then years pass in France in not much more time on the ship. And when Renette comes through onto the ship for a minute or two ... how does she then return to her own time? Or was she missing for a few years in the interim? I loved The Girl in the Fireplace from beginning to end. The acting is awesome from all parties. The costume design brilliant, and the scenic design also works extremely well: the contrast between the ship and France is very well drawn. However if the ship is only 37 years old, then why is it so grotty inside ... And the final mystery ... why were the drones after this particular woman? This is superbly handled in a coda where we see her portrait behind the dematerialising TARDIS and then a pull back to reveal the name of the ship ... The SS Madame de Pompadour. Next week: Cybermen. That is all.