Thursday, November 26, 2009

Doctor Who - The Waters of Mars

So that's what it takes ... a new Doctor Who episode to drag me kicking and screaming back to the keyboard to pen some thoughts ... soooooo much has been happening since I last posted here it's unbelievable. Those who keep up with me on Facebook will know some of it ... but every time I vow to post more here, everything conspires to get in the way. Anyway ... enough of that, and onto the latest Who episode, The Waters of Mars which was on a week or so back. What an intriguing episode. The trailers and pictures really got my imagination going, especially as they revealed the monster and all ... but what of the story itself? Well as usual I'm just gonna waffle on and we'll see where it takes us. The TARDIS arrives on Mars ... possibly the first time the Doctor has visited there since Pyramids of Mars (and I know people will correct me if I'm wrong) and it's a rather lovely red quarry, and the Doctor has a fetching spacesuit which looks very similar to other spacesuits he has worn (maybe to make it easier for the people who make the little figures to release another variant). As the Doctor had a helmet on, I wondered how he heard the cute Gadget robot when it threatened him ... and that robot ... hmmm ... another merchandise opportunity perhaps. To diverge slightly, I had to laugh watching the Confidential episode when they showed a drawing of Gadget and everyone sort of nodded sagely in the face of Russell T Davies' obvious enthusiasm and love for it ... when all I was thinking was that it was the same as Number 5 from the Short Circuit films ... at least it was changed for the televised version as presumably someone else spotted the near identicalness of the drawing. We head to a space-base which looked very CGI to me, more so than other exterior CGI shots in other episodes, and there the Doctor meets the crew. I liked the Doctor's response to 'Name, Rank, Intention' with 'Doctor, Doctor, Fun' ... but I was less impressed by the woman in charge - Adelaide - waving a blaster around. In a pressurised room? What if she missed? Maybe it was just some sort of Stun Gun or something, a taser perhaps. The flashes to the future-Wikipedia were nice at first, but became increasingly laboured as we saw them for every crew member. Alright already, we get the idea. They're all going to die. Today. The whole scene was further let down by the wall-to-wall rubbish music which irritated me throughout the episode. Please would someone tell Murray Gold that less is more ... But the monsters are afoot, and I liked the first transformation taking place in the background to the shot. It's a shame then that every transformation was then seen like this, weakening the initial good idea and making it all feel very samey. The lights go off in the Biodome, but they seem to make a noise when they do. Do lights actually make a noise when you switch them off and on? They do in films and on TV, but in real life? I know that when you switch on hot outdoor floodlights, there can be a sizzle as any moisture on the casing is evaporated ... but on Mars? In a partial vacuum? I don't know. And then they analyse a roar and decide that it's Andy's voice print. Rubbish! How could that possibly work? A speechless howl can be tracked to a person's normal voice print ... disbelief is beginning to be stretched here. Before we can say Lynx Deodorant, the monsters are sweating just like the poor man in those advertisements. Water literally pours off them, and the effect was very well done and very unsettling. When the coloured girl, Maggie, changes into a monster, she's the best of them all as she stands in the isolation ward. Now why does that have door seals of a lesser quality than elsewhere in the base? Don't the designers know what 'isolation' means ... Ah ... but of course ... the base was designed by the same lunatic who designed the spaceship in 42 and the walkway with the giant fans in The End of the World ... that also explains the hideously long, vast, pointless hangar-like connecting walkways to the external domes. So as it's all getting a bit scary for the kids - and Maggie is very scary and unsettling indeed - we need some light relief, so the Doctor manages to make a robot that is designed to go at 2 miles per hour, somehow sprout rockets and go at 10 miles an hour instead. Baffling but fun. I liked the ice field set a lot - very simple - and I hoped that something might come up from the ice later, but no such luck despite all appearances to the contrary. But the chat here between the Doctor and Adelaide is tedious. It drags the whole thing down for a good five minutes. Moments in time being fixed ... I dunno ... sounds a bit like make-it-up-as-you-go-along to me. But then a Dalek interlude. What a rubbish Dalek! Why didn't it kill her? The Daleks were dragging Earth light years off course ... killing countless people into the bargain. If Davros' plan had worked, then everyone would have died anyway ... so are they now trying to say that it would never had worked because Adelaide could not die until her allotted time? Makes it all seem a bit pointless then. Back to the plot, and how can water get in through airtight seals? Air has smaller molecules than water, so there's no way it could happen. And in any case, if water did get through, why didn't the air inside then escape? The pressure seemed quite great later on ... Now we have messianic choral music which is OK, and the bit in the airlock where the Doctor talks with Adelaide was much better than the earlier scenes. And so the Doctor walks away ... listening as the humans all struggle to survive behind him. This is a lovely sequence, very nicely played and quite original I felt. However, where the Doctor said that Adelaide's dying to save the Earth was what inspired her granddaughter ... how does that then reconcile with the ending? But the Doctor has a change of heart and returns to try and help save who he can. I liked the hopelessness of it all when Roman was splashed with a drop, and then the Shuttle-guy, Ed, getting sprayed was nice, leaving them all with no hope. The shuttle explosion was spectacular - lovely effect and very impressively carried out. The hull is breached ... so how does everyone breathe then? And the Doctor can electrify the doors? Why didn't he do that before? And how does that work anyway? On what sort of space-base does a control panel allow you to electrify the doors. It would have to have been designed by a lunatic ... oh. The point of including the Gadget robot becomes apparent as the Doctor sends it to get the TARDIS. How convenient that it can hold a key, is the right width to get through the doors, can operate all the correct controls and get the TARDIS back to the Doctor in the nick of time. Lucky that the TARDIS console didn't need hitting with the rubber mallet then. But I was wondering ... when the Doctor first got to the base, he left the TARDIS and climbed over mountains and ended up looking down on the base from a quarry-like area which was in a crater of sorts with a mountain range around it ... so how did Gadget manage a straight run to the TARDIS then? Slightly puzzling. So the people are saved and the base and the water is blown up. A great climax, which is then spoiled by a rubbish final ending. I appreciate the Doctor's mindset of 'I can do anything I like' and being Timelord Victorious, but it all came over as wrong handed. I could see that they were riffing on Donna telling him he needed someone to rein him in sometimes ... and it put me in mind of how perhaps the Master justified his actions ... because he could. I also wondered if the climax to David Tennant's run will see the Doctor and Master change places, with the Doctor being the menace to the universe and the Master having to stop him ... All of which would have worked, except that the Doctor had no need to dump everyone down on Earth on the day the base exploded, outside Adelaide's own house! Why not anywhere else in the world, and tell them to take on new identities and allow everyone to think they all perished on Mars ... much more sensible and logical. So Adelaide's granddaughter is going to be inspired because her gran blew her brains out? She didn't save Earth doing that now did she? I can see it being all hushed up by the family anyway, and them pretending she died on Mars ... which makes her death ultimately pointless. There's also the question of why Adelaide killed herself at all - she never once gave the impression that she was a quitter, that she would accept her fate. It was only when all other options were exhausted that she set the base to detonate ... so it's so out of character for her to do what she did. So unworked for in the narrative and the acting. Just very disappointing. And finally, to cap it all, a comedy Ood Sigma appears like the Watcher of old, and stands, silently watching the Doctor as he gets all griefy and angsty about it all ... and as the Cloister Bell tolls in the TARDIS, so the credits roll. Overall then ... it was a great episode. Exciting and rollicking, you bet! Some brilliant monsters which were creepy and scary, genuinely unsettling and very well acted and brought to life by the cast. I loved the base under siege setting, so redolent of Doctor Whos past, and another great performance by David Tennant capped it all really. The script was generally strong - and I think the juxtaposition of Phil Ford and Russell T Davies' ideas really worked well, though I would be at a loss to guess who came up with what bits. I would hazard a guess that the basic plot of alien water monsters on Mars came from Phil, while Russell jazzed it all up with the Adelaide/Doctor interplay, and the ending. But I could be completely wrong. It had moments where it dragged - like the Dalek sequence half an hour in - but also moments of magnificence - like the Doctor walking away listening to humans die as he goes. Overall it was perhaps the best of all the Specials to date, managing to maintain the excitement and tension, to tell a nice little story, and to keep interest throughout. Personally I know very little about the final two episodes due for transmission, but as I'm not a fan of the Master, I'm kind of ambivalent about them. We have already seen a climactic two parter with the Master and I have a sense that this will be more of the same - all the characters from the past rolled out in a potpourri of deja vu, feeling like some sort of 'best of' all the previous season enders. Maybe I'm wrong ... but as always we shall see.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Day at the Races

'So, David, back to the race ... how do you feel Something Perfect will do?' I'm standing on a small green, speaking with Jonno from Channel 4 Racing about a horse running in the next race to start; the 3:15 at Newmarket on Saturday the 20th June ... and I've never so much as stepped foot at a Race before! So how did this happen? Since when was I a Channel 4 pundit on the races? It all started because I was enjoying a nice weekend away with an actor friend, Frazer Hines, and we decided to spend the Saturday at Newmarket, which is where Frazer has his stud farm. So Sam, Frazer and I all roll off down to Newmarket on the Saturday. I am as green as anything, not having a clue what to expect. Sam had booked tickets for the Premier enclosure, so we finally figured out how to get in there and of course the first thing we did was get a jug of Pimms and settled down to watch the first race, and study the horses running that day. For me, it was all a case of seeing which one had the best name, but horses called things like 'TARDIS Travel' or 'Tennant's Fancy' weren't listed ... so I had no idea. Then Frazer spotted that a horse owned by a friend of his was running, so he decided to make a call ... seconds later, he's back with a big smile ... his friend's wife was there, and she had invited us into the paddock to see the horses with the other members of the Silver Lining Syndicate before the race. Now, to me, a paddock is a big straw-filled area bounded by wooden fences like you see on telly ... and I imagined we'd perhaps be sidestepping the piles of dung and trying to avoid getting trampled by these racehorses, all fired up before the race. Not at all ... the paddock is apparently a lovely big grassy area with a sort of track around it, where the grooms lead the horses next up to race, warming them up and getting them ready. So we wandered in there and stood watching the horses going around us. The horse owned by Frazer's friend was called Polly, and raced under the name 'Something Perfect' and she looked very smart. In fact, she won the 'best turned out' prize and we all applauded politely. Then the jockey arrived and we had a chat before he headed off to get on Polly to ride her down to the starting gates for the race. But Polly was having none of it. She got a little skittish and kicked out ... not at all a happy horse. The jockey hopped off and calmed her, and then led her out onto the racetrack before mounting her again and riding off to the start. We then decided we ought to put a bet on her, after all, the syndicate which owned her had been kind to us and ... well ... you just do that sort of thing don't you. So we popped out to the betting huts and Sam put a small bet on her. I nipped to the loo, and when I emerged, Frazer was standing by a fence. 'Here he is,' says Frazer. A nice gentleman on the other side of the fence says, 'Oh yes, hello, good afternoon, I understand you write for Doctor Who?' I smile, I often get this ... 'No, not for Doctor Who, about Doctor Who. I'm a sort of historian?' 'Oh very good, come round here then ...' So I look at Frazer, slightly perplexed, and he nods and smiles, so off I trot to the other side of the barrier. There to stand next to the nice gentleman, who seems to be called Jonno. Next thing I know there's a microphone thrust under my nose with a big Channel 4 logo on it. I look up, and there's a TV camera pointing at me. Oh crikey! The questions start with some stuff about Doctor Who ... that's fine ... I can deal with those. 'I understand you've travelled all over the world with the show ...' Eh? How could he possibly have known that! So I say something about conferences taking place in LA and that it's great the show has such a global following. And then he asks me about the horse ... I couldn't remember its name ... nor even the name it raced under ... at that point I couldn't even remember if it was a boy or a girl! We had enjoyed a jug of Pimms remember. I mention that the horse seemed a little skittish, but the jockey had sorted it, and we hoped she'd do well in the race ... Then Jonno asks me who else is in the Syndicate ... erm ... um ... but you can't do that on telly can you. So I say that there's quite a few people in it, including TV actor Frazer Hines who is here today ... Jonno seems happy ... he closes the chat and we return to the studio to watch the race. I thank Jonno and return to Frazer, now joined by Sam, who are laughing their faces off. 'You have to be the biggest bulls**tter going, David,' says Frazer when he can speak. 'I'm glad they didn't ask you how the syndicate named the horse!' So was I!! As it happened, 'Something Perfect' came third in the race. Beaten by 'Cosmopolitan' in first place, and 'Penzena' in second. There was a bit of a flurry, as the jockey on 'Penzena' was apparently seen smacking 'Something Perfect' in the face with his riding crop during the race, however on playback, the officials decided it was accidental as the horses were all close together on the track ... but then as there were only 8 horses running in the race, bets only paid on the top two places ... so we were robbed! Like I said to Frazer on our way back, the races have been spoiled for me now as I think you always get to see the horses before and after the races, get to go in the owners' enclosure, drink Pimms and appear on Channel 4 ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Radio Appearance

Folks might be interested to know that I'm interviewed talking about the old Doctor Who Target Books on a radio documentary being broadcast on Tuesday 23 June, from 11.30am to 12 noon. 'On the Outside it Looked Like an Old Fashioned Police Box' The PR reads as follows: "Mark Gatiss, Doctor Who writer and fanatic, presents a feature exploring the hugely popular Doctor Who novelisations of the 1970s and 80s published by Target books. In an age before DVD and video, the Target book series of Doctor Who fiction was conceived as the chance for children to 'keep' and revisit classic Doctor Who. They were marketed as such, written in a highly visual house style. Descriptive passages did the work of the TV camera; the scripts were more or less faithfully reproduced as dialogue. They were as close to the experience of watching as possible and were adored by a generation of children who grew up transfixed by the classic BBC series. Target Doctor Who books became a children's publishing phenomenon selling more than 13 million copies worldwide. From 1973 until 1994, the Target Doctor Who paperbacks were a mainstay of the publishing world. From humble beginnings they grew into a list running to 156 titles, shaping the reading habits of a generation." I've also heard that Russell T Davies, Gary Russell, Terrance Dicks, Philip Hinchcliffe, Chris Achillios, Caroline John and Anneke Wills are taking part. So give it a listen if you're around, or it should be on the BBC iPlayer afterwards.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


England is such a crazy country. One day you have to wear a coat to work in the morning as it's so cold ... the next it's chucking it down with rain so hard that you need a big golf umbrella (ella ella eh eh eh) to keep dry, and then that evening it's so scorchingly hot that you can't wear a jacket! But we live here and so are kinda used to the vagiaries of the weather ... Taking advantage of the nice weather, my partner Sam decided that she wanted another car (to be fair, we need two as I will be using the one for work, and so she needs another for her work) and so headed out and ended up getting the most adorable little silver softtop MG ... so we have been posing in it with the roof down, catching the rays, and generally enjoying the sunshine and the weather. The other week we ended up down by the river Thames and spent an amazingly relaxing afternoon eating tapas and drinking Long Island Iced Tea and beer while watching people go by. Both Sam and I love watching people ... I think it goes with the territory of being writers. Sometimes you see someone and a story just pops into your head! Their background or history or something equally bold and diverse and strange about them. Film-wise we finally saw Twilight ... hmm ... not that impressed. Some nice scenes where the evil vampires are hunting, but apart from that. And, I'm sorry, but vampires do not 'glitter' in sunlight. They smoke and scream and writhe and burn ... burn ... BURN! Much, much better was Ultraviolet, a kick ass SF vampire romp with Milla Jovovich. I liked the stylish way it was put together, the effects were great, and Milla struts her stuff wonderfully. The vampiric element was effectively handled as well, but it was also quite subtle too. Until next time ...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Forgotten Warriors

I managed to pick up a paperback edition of Tony Lee and Pia Guerra's graphic novel The Forgotten a month or so back and had a happy time reading it on the way to and then back from Paris, bracketing a nice weekend away. The strip had been published originally by IDW in their Doctor Who series (which, in a very rubbish way, is only available in the US. Such a shame as it's really very good) and now has been collected in this graphic novel format. I picked up a copy from Forbidden Planet, but it should be available online I guess. FP also stock some of the individual comic magazines, but a good place I have found is Graham Crackers, a retailer based in the US. Their website ( lists just about every issue still available. Anyway, the idea behind Tony Lee's tale of ten Time Lords is straightforward, and yet it manages to work so well that I think it's probably the best multi-Doctor story we'll never see on television. The Doctor and Martha (for she was the companion at the time of writing) arrive in a museum which seems to contain a multitude of objects all related to the Doctor in some way. Unfortunately the Doctor has lost his memory and has no idea why this is. The pair stumble across a room which contains all the Doctor's standard outfits, along with a key item for each. 1st: cane; 2nd: recorder; 3rd: keys to the TARDIS; 4th: bag of jelly babies; 5th: cricket ball; 6th: cat badge; 7th: umbrella (ella, ella, eh, eh, eh); 8th: cravate; and 9th: psychic paper. By holding each object in turn, the Doctor is able to 'see' an adventure his earlier self had, and in doing so it returns part of his memory to him. The ideas come thick and fast, with mini-adventures interspersed with the main narrative. As the Doctor remembers, so he comes under attack, first from Autons, and then by giant spiders before finally being hunted by a Sandminder Robot and a clockwork Droid. However a mysterious someone is controlling events from behind the scenes, and I won't say more or it will spoil the lovely surprises that this story has to bring. I loved all the continuity elements - and there are a lot of them - but they are worked into the story brilliantly and don't seem forced at all. Indeed, some points of continuity are worked into the resolutions as well. Overall the story has a very satisfying feel to it, and you can tell that the creators have a great love for the subject matter. One of the small pleasures for me was trying to spot as many of the objects in the museum as I could, I managed quite a few, but I wonder if there is a definitive list anywhere ... Another wonderful item which I have to rave on about is an Ice Warrior Helmet ... a what I hear you cry! Well, the Ice Warriors from Mars are probably the last, great, Who monster from the dim and distant past not to make an appearance in the new series on television. We've had the Daleks, the Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master ... even the Macra ... but no Ice Warriors as yet ... give it time I say. Anyway, this is one in a range of scale helmets produced by the amazingly talented people at Weta in New Zealand. When I first heard about the helmets I was a little unsure ... I had seen similar ranges for Lord of the Rings and Narnia amongst other current film franchises, but wasn't convinced that Doctor Who really lent itself to such a range. Well, if the quality of this Ice Warrior one is anything to go by, this should shape up to be a pretty awesome little addition to the collectors' shelves. It comes in a rather nice little printed box, with a great pic of the creature on the front. Inside, nestled in protective polystyrene is the helmet, and also a smart looking stand on which to display it. The first impression is how heavy the helmet is. After all it is cast in metal, and then painted up. It's a brilliant re-creation of the Martian creature, complete with red eye shields. If I was going to be picky, I'd suggest that a mouth section would have completed it nicely, but I can understand why that wasn't done, as the mouth is not really a part of the helmet, being part of the creature underneath. However in the series, it's suggested that the helmet might also be a part of the creature, with electronic 'ear pieces' and so on ... The helmets are limited to 500 each, and the limitation number is given on the base of the stand. With others in the range including a ceremonial Time Lord headpiece and a Cyberman head, they would look very nice indeed lined up in a display cabinet I think. Even the price isn't too shabby, being around the £35 mark each with shipping of £7.62. They are available from Weta direct from their website at The helmets also ship from the UK directly, and don't come winging their way from New Zealand!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trekking

That's the way to do it! Went to the pics recently to see the new Star Trek film and had one of the best times I can remember at the cinema in recent years. What a brilliant film! I have to admit that I am not the world's biggest Star Trek fan. I'm not even sure I have seen every episode of the original series and certainly can't name them or know what order they came in. Later Star Trek variants bored the pants off me, with perhaps only the Borg episodes coming close to interesting me (and that's only because the Borg were a cunning reworking of the Cybermen from you know what). But this film had it all. J J Abrams takes us back in time to before the original crew of the Enterprise were in situ, documenting the events which surrounded and led up to them all meeting and ending up at the helm of the USS Enterprise in the first place. The touches were all there - Captain Pike, Romulans, Vulcans, Kirk's legendary way with women ... but recast and mixed up so that it's not quite what you expect. The actors are uniformly brilliant, with each managing to capture traits of the original cast members without it being too forced. I particularly liked Simon Pegg's Scottie (along with the almost obligatory appearance by Deep Roy who must hold some sort of record for genre film appearances by now) and Uhura was also nicely played, though I couldn't get my head around her romance with Spock. Sylar out of Heroes played Spock and was suitably broody and logical (even if I did expect him to wave his finger at Kirk and start to trace a line of blood across his forehead ... a little Heroes reference there for the initiated). The effects were awesome, with so many magnificent crowd-pleasing sequences on show. To pick just two: the sight of Vulcan imploding into a black hole was jaw dropping, and I loved, just loved the shot of the Enterprise rising up above the atmosphere of Titan like some sort of submerged behomoth hoving into view. The film managed to play with the emotions maginificently as well, eliciting tears in the pre-credits sequence - and any film that can bring you to tears in less than ten minutes is doing something right! But it then handled the comedy well, with Kirk's inflated hands and tongue, as well as his chase by the plant-monster-thing on the ice planet. Of note in all this is the sequence with Scottie in the water tube - a nicely handled piece of sctick which ended, predictably with Scottie being saved. The plot was well worked out (Doctor Who take note), playing with time in a way which got the brain cells working overtime. I adored the sequence near the end where Nero's ship is being destroyed on one side of the black hole in the sequence at the start of the film, while simultaneously being sucked into itself at the end of the film. Lovely stuff. Nero himself was suitably loony, but perhaps was also the weakest character as although he talked a lot, we never really saw what was driving him apart from his insane desire for revenge at any cost. Overall it's a rollicking two hours, which pass like lightning and which never drags. A brilliant way to revisit and reinvent the series, setting it up for more films, and along the way, by means of the cunning 'alternate time line' conceit, avoiding problems with the hard core fans of maintaining continuity with the original series. Truly a magnificent achievement.

Doctor Who - Recent Specials

Finally ... getting some time on a Sunday afternoon to sit down and pen some thoughts about recent Who and other things ... Thanks to those of you who nudged me to see if I was still alive after all this time. I am ... and I'm OK, though there have been some quite dramatic changes in my life since last I blogged. Anyway, onwards and upwards and first on my list of things to catch up with are the two latest Doctor Who specials. We had The Next Doctor at Christmas, and at Easter there was Planet of the Dead. Heading back to Christmas first, and at the time I wasn't sure how to take The Next Doctor. It seemed to be quite a fun romp at times, but scattered through with disjointed elements which didn't seem right. Overall I felt it was certainly one of the weaker Cybermen adventures, with only the very cool black and silver with brain showing variant to elicit much interest - though quite why this CyberLeader was like that is anyone's guess. I liked the setting and the idea of David Morrissy being the Doctor was a nice conceit which unfortunately fell into the Doctor's Daughter school of not being that at all, and all being something else entirely ... a shame really as again, the 'gosh wow' idea of it was better than the actuality. As usual for BBC Drama, the setting was well realised, but I'm not sure that the number of black gentlemen who were seen around could have been correct - at this time in England's history, weren't black men and women menials rather than toffs? Which brings us to Rosita and her perfect Cockney accent, let alone that she's treated as an equal ... hmmm. The Cybershades were frankly rubbish. Eliciting no form of excitement at all and looking like something which had been constructed from the pages of Doctor Who Adventures Magazine (but then perhaps that was the intention, to feature a monster which every child could effectively pretend to be with a sheepskin rug and a cardboard mask ... And why would the Cybermen convert cats and dogs anyway? There are enough people around after all. Then it all goes Oliver with Miss Hartigan's Fagin capturing the kids to work in a factory ... again, not much explanation as to why the kids were used ... why not controlled humans? Why were they needed at all? And of course finally it turns into Transformers and a giant Cyberking rises from the Thames to stomp all over London ... I have no idea what the point was, but it all looked nice if you disengaged your brain. Yes ... different from the other Christmas specials, perhaps not as good as Voyage of the Damned, but better than The Runaway Bride ... But then we get Planet of the Dead. Oh dear. I had high hopes for this, but it turned out that everything we had heard about it was exactly what it was. Recorded in a Dubai which looked like sand dunes in Cornwall, and featuring some woman off EastEnders and The Bionic Woman who acted well but had no clue really, and a race of giant flies who eat excrement, and you start to think that it's all going to hell in a handcart. What niggled me most about this was the lack of plot. The Doctor is on a London bus acting like the loony you try to avoid and wittering on about easter eggs and fiddling with something electronic when the bus is sucked through a space time portal and dumped in the desert. As happens you know ... We then have most of the running time taken up with Doctor on said bus trying to figure out how to get back while another loony on the bus goes on and on about death coming (no love, it's just a swarm of alien stingray things), while on Earth, UNIT has it's hands full as they've inexplicably put Lee Evans in charge of the tech ... Lucky that on board the bus is the Bionic Woman who can't do anything useful really, but who has a gold chalice she just nicked and which is exactly what the Doctor needs to turn the bus into something out of Harry Potter and fly back home again. And that's about it. Obviously co-writer Gareth Roberts has a thing about flying beasties as he's used them in The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp as well as Planet of the Dead. Maybe we should call it Lara Croft on the Planet of the Flies and be done with it as that was really what it seemed to be about. Of course we had to end with the loopy woman going on about something returning and knocking four times ... but then her predictions of death were so way off kilter that if the Doctor has any sense then he'll ignore her. But then again, he's so used to everyone he's ever met suddenly turning up again on a giant Dalek saucer, or at the end of the world, or in a submarine or somewhere equally unlikely, that if I were him, I'd just assume that Rose was coming back for him having worn out her clone Doctor, or that Donna had remembered her past and rather than Wilf have to put up with her whining about that, decides to find the Doctor himself and give him a piece of his mind. I've been hearing the rumours about Tennant's swan song and thinking ... oh no, not again. It's interesting to look back just a couple of years ... I watched a repeat of Army of Ghosts and Doomsday again last week, and I was again reduced to crying my eyes out over the ending. They should have left it there, they really should. The production team seem to have stopped trying in many respects. Now that Doctor Who is rightfully back on top of the schedules, and that it's pulling in more money than ever before in its history through merchandise and overseas sales, it seems like the golden goose cannot be harmed. So the scripts get a little rushed and shoddy, less care is taken over the finer details than in which celebrity casting we can use this time around ... it's all worryingly like the slow decline of the show under John Nathan-Turner, when scripts came second to crowd-pleasing reunions and a wacky opportunity to record in Spain gave us The Two Doctors rather than spending the money on a decent set of scripts and some great ideas. I worry because I care ... I love that Doctor Who is top of the telly pops again, and that my interest in it is seen as being cool and interesting rather than geeky and sad ... but if the scripts aren't cutting the mustard, then the public will turn away quickly and find something else to watch. Primeval perhaps, which has really given Who a run for it's money with this new season. The episode shown along with Planet of the Dead apparently killed off one of the lead characters in a way that was dramatic and effective. Not just for show, or to try and grab viewers (as no-one knew it was going to happen), but in a script that was tense and well thought through. The Who production office has many, many very talented people working in it, and I know they do care ... but complacency has a way of creeping in. I'm glad that Russell T Davies has stood down and that Steven Moffat now needs to prove himself against the mirror of Davies' television juggernaught. This should provide the necessary boost and up the ante for everyone to create not just Doctor Who, but a bigger, bolder, better Doctor Who. Something that amazes and terrifies in the same breath, something which is thought provoking, touches on the human condition, and which works on a number of levels. No pressure then ...

Monday, May 04, 2009


My word, doesn't time fly ... I'm feeling very guilty at having completely neglected my blogging and hopefully will be able to make some time to catch up a little over the next few weeks. There's a lot been happening for me personally which is the main reason for the the lapse but I have notes on the Christmas Who special, and the recent Easter episode to talk about (Lara Croft on the Planet of the Flies), as well as hopefully some other random subjects. So apologies to all, and I'll try and pen something more pithy over the coming weeks.