Monday, 30 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 12 - The Impossible Astronaut/Day of The Moon

What We First Thought: Arghhhhhhhhhh! What's going on? Doctor Who is going to get cancelled because people don't understand! Arghhhhhhhhhh!

BOOM! Doctor Who is back and starts with The Doctor hiding under the skirt of a pretty lady artist (to be honest, I think only Matt’s Doctor would be able to pull this off so innocently!)  The other little scenes are like ‘little adventures’ and we’re only seeing a glimpse of them, much like when we hear about The Doctor and River’s adventures with ‘Jim The Fish’, much later on!  I think this is a brilliant way of introducing us to what’s going on, as we’re likely to be wondering what is going on, when the story reaches its half-way point!

It’s clear that some time has passed since A Christmas Carol, as Amy and Rory are now living together and The Doctor is elsewhere, having these adventures to attract their attention, for some reason.  Although I reckon he just did it for the sake of it – he just needs to turn up at their front door to attract their attention!  Turns out they’ve got an invite to attend a picnic with The Doctor – in America!  River also turns up and they’re having a nice time until a random person in a spacesuit turns up in the lake and shoots The Doctor!  Eh?  Did I miss something? Well, no, as that’s exactly what’s just happened!  Of course if you read Doctor Who Magazine you would have already been spoiled!

When I hear comments about this story they’re always formed around a variation of ‘it’s confusing’ what’s confusing about it?  It’s the FIRST PART of a 2-part story and a much-wider series.  Can you imagine people these days having to put up with the serial format that the classic series used to be in?  If you think The Impossible Astronaut is confusing, then watch the first 2 parts of Inferno or something!

The decision to use the American backdrops paid off in some style, as the scenery is absolutely beautiful.  But with the vast majority of the story actually filmed in Cardiff, some credit must go to them too as the sets looked just as good (though according to some American friends, the décor of the Oval Office wasn’t correct. Call it revenge for inventing the U-571! 1-1) The casting was pretty top notch, with Mark Sheppard (Fish Custard Fanzine reader and Brit – 2-1) playing the very-likeable Canton Everett Delaware III, being the highlight.

Watching this again has drawn me to how dark the story is.  The Silent killing Joy in the bathroom (though we call it a toilet, as there isn’t a bath in there. 3-1) was pure evil.  Then its reply to Amy (“Why did you kill her?”) “Joy…her name was Joy” was very chilling, and any children watching must have been a little edgy by this point.  What about the fact that they were uglier than the Royal Family (3-2) and the way their face twisted…eurgh!  And lets not forget the fact that you can’t remember them when you don’t look at them! This is exactly what we want in Doctor Who – monsters that are scary in EVERY aspect!  And I’ve not even mentioned how creepy a group of them looks! The Silence reminded me of the Weeping Angels.  They had both had the advantage of perception.  They both were very patient.  And perhaps, both of them can live in an image (when The Doctor shows Canton the hologram he made from Amy’s phone)

I really enjoyed how the start of Day of Moon puts us on the wrong foot right from the start.  That way, we need to concentrate that little bit more on the story in hand and that’s how it pulls you in.  The backdrop of the moon landing (if it actually happened - 3-3) worked well, but I thought The Doctor’s explanation of ‘The Silence need a spacesuit, so encouraged the humans to go to the moon’ was a bit cheesy, didn’t spacesuits already exist by then? And surely, with their technology, they could have made one anyway!  We've taken the Adric out of The Silence in the fanzine for being so easily-defeated, but they are genuinely creepy (I really enoyed on the 'You will shoot us all on sight' comment was delivered) and that's a good platform to work from for the future, in order to establish them as classic Doctor Who monsters.

Overall, I think this two-parter is better judged as the start of a story being laid down.  As the series moves on, it WILL make sense and we’ll look back and appreciate this more.

Let’s call it a draw.

What We Think Now: A good start to the story of a series that has yet to play out...

Your (5 Word) Reviews 

@abby_queenofall: "Astronaut shoots Doctor; Canton gay"
@AlistairGauld: "Rory in a bodybag AGAIN?"
David MacGowan: "Twists, humour, and real creepiness!"

If you would like to contribute a 5-word review for The Curse of The Black Spot Astronaut/Day of The Moon  please @ us on Twitter, using the hashtag #rubbishbeards, or post on our Facebook Page!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

RIP Mary Tamm

It’s proved to be a difficult 12 months or so for the Doctor Who world, even more so recently, as we have lost Mary Tamm, just over a week after Caroline John.  Known by fans for playing Romana during the Key To Time series, Mary brought a touch of class, which only reinforced her character as an equal to The Doctor.  I particularly enjoy her teasing of The Doctor throughout that series and the dynamic, which makes The Doctor look a bit uncomfy in his own TARDIS, was played out brilliantly.

Mary left before filming of the next series, which saw Lalla Ward take over as her next regeneration.  Despite willing to come back and film a regeneration scene, she was never invited to do so, which makes the scene at the start of Destiny of The Daleks, all the more baffling.  Mary’s reason for leaving in the first place, was because she felt that her character wouldn’t have been developed. To be honest, I think that reason has to be admired.  I much prefer someone to be so caring about their role that they were willing to challenge the writing, in order to improve, rather than sit there and take the job, and that just tells you what type of character Mary Tamm was.

Unlike (I think it’s fair to say) most former Doctor Who companions, Mary had a very steady career after Doctor Who and was still working regularly before her passing.  The Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures which she recorded with Tom, are due to be released from January and will feature her long-awaited return as Romana alongside The Doctor and K9.  At the weekend, I was at a Doctor Who convention where it was clear that her friend, Louise Jameson was very upset and Colin Baker even mentioned that he exchanged e-mails with Mary on a regular basis, but he never knew about her illness.  I think that speaks volumes about a lady who wanted to keep her news private without any fuss.  Big Finish even reveal in their tribute that they thought that the series was important to her.

Like all sad Who passings, I hope you can take the time to remember them, watch their episodes and enjoy their performances, because without them Doctor Who would be very different indeed!  I always watch this off-camera video (below) and smile. It’s like a peak into the TARDIS on their day off!




RIP Mary Tamm 1950-2012

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 11 - A Christmas Carol

What We First Thought: That was ok.  Going to switch over now, before Eastenders comes on. I don’t want to be depressed at Christmas.

I feared the worst when I heard that Steven Moffat was using a story written by a former Doctor Who star as ‘inspiration’.  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is re-imagined on stage, TV and film every single year, so there must be something in it that makes it appealing to generations of audiences.  But this is Doctor Who and when Doctor Who tries to ‘do’ popular culture, it can sometimes fall into farce.  Thankfully the episode, shockingly called ‘A Christmas Carol’, is pretty decent as it’s The Doctor that uses Dickens’ story as inspiration, not Moffat completely ripping it off!

Set on a planet whose skies are controlled by the Scrooge-like figure of Kazran Sardick (played by Michael Gambon), The Doctor appears and appeals for him to clear the clouds to let a crashing spaceship land safely.  It so happens that Amy and Rory are ‘busy’ on that spaceship, so it’s up to The Doctor to try and persuade Kazran.  But as we’ve already established, Kazran isn’t a very nice chap and apart from dabbling in the loan shark business, where he takes people as insurance, he just isn’t arsed about those people on the spaceship.  Although I reckon that The Doctor could have found a way of rescuing those people anyway, he does his Dickens bit and travels back to try and ‘change’ Kazran’s way of thinking. Which doesn’t work out too well…

On the whole, I really enjoyed watching this episode again. I found it interesting that Kazran was above everything and it was he told the authorities on the planet what to do.  It’s very much in the vein of big companies and corporations these days, who get their own way because they have something that is needed by governments.  Scrooge was like this to a lesser extent, as he knew that his workers wouldn’t dare speak against him (not to his face, anyway) and the people he loaned money to were terrified of what will happen if they didn’t pay up.  I didn’t think it was too far-fetched to have Kazran doing what he was doing (it’s the future and a different planet, so people have different attitudes/morals) Kazran was showing what he represented, as saving those people wouldn’t provide him with any benefits.  And on that theme, we could see how having Abigail ‘taken away’ from him had such an adverse affect – he couldn’t have her, so why should he do anything for others if it meant him still being unhappy?

It’s good to see Matt Smith at the forefront of this episode, as we continue to learn about his Doctor.  He has this knack of wanting to make people realise their worth – he did it previously with Sophie (in The Lodger) and Rory (in The Big Bang) and his attempts in this episode are all made to make Kazran realise, that by not slapping the boy, he isn’t like his father no matter how much he thinks that.  But as we learn, The Doctor going back didn’t do anything and in fact, was actually the cause of Kazran’s personality, thanks to them taking Abigail on all those adventures, and not realising the affect it had on her.  Throughout the episode we get to see how the young Kazran becomes enamoured with his adventures with The Doctor, even seeing him wearing a bow tie, like his new best friend.  But when he discovers Abigail’s predicament, he quickly loses faith and the way he snatches at his bow tie and removes it, symbolises the fact that he’s lost faith in The Doctor and more-or-less blames him for putting him in this situation. It’s a beautiful piece of television that shows his feelings, in one second of action that would normally amount to 20 lines of script!

Another beautiful set-piece, was the scenes where the older Kazran was watching his life unfold on the telly, just like we were!  Things like this make us viewers connect more with the story and feel involved, as one of the characters is in the exactly same position as us.  As mentioned, I thought the ‘homage’ to A Christmas Carol was done well – having Amy as a hologram left me feeling she was actually a ghost.  And if Kazran didn’t save them – they all WOULD be ghosts when the ship crashed!  Kazran’s resulting line of ‘Everyone has to die’ is very ironic, considering he was keeping Abigail alive by not letting her out of her box.  Even though she was cast for her singing ability, I thought Katherine Jenkins did very well in her first acting role and it’d be interesting to see if she’ll appear in anything else.  I thought not having a redemption for Abigail was a welcome change, as we normally have a sort-of magical solution to these things. 

One constant I hear about this episode is that ‘it looks good’ and it bloody does!  It’s the debut story for new production designer Michael Pickwood (who is the son of William Mervyn, who appeared in the 1966 story The War Machines as Charles Summer) and Pickwood does a great job with this planet, possibly very early in its history, due to the Victorian-style materials dotted around the place.  As we start the next series, it should be interesting to keep an eye on the sets to see the difference another pair of eyes makes.  With Doctor Who in HD these days, skimping on the cost of sets isn’t really an option any more!

The story is very much entrenched in double-meaning, as I’ve established, but it does have its silly moments (being a Christmas special!)  I didn’t mind the flying fish so much (it’s an alien planet – what do you expect?) but taming by song and then using the shark to pull them along the sky, was perhaps a little bit far-fetched.  But to be brutally honest, if that’s the biggest complaint about the episode, then you know you’ve seen something good.  Then again, is having a flying shark more jarring than the entire population of the world turning into The Master?

No, I don’t think it is either!

What We Think Now: Actually, it’s a lot better than we thought it was!

Your (5 Word) Reviews

@flaysomewench: "Singing, fish and Dumbledore... Yay!"
@abby_queenofall: "Ignored, has Smith and Pond"
@Blue_Rose_: "Flying fish, what the frell..." 
@AlistairGauld: "We need a bigger screwdriver"
@Landcross: "Flying shark and Marilyn Monroe"
Nicholas Blake: "Too 'clever' for my mum"
Jamie Beckwith: “What gives you the right?" 
Katie Steely-Brown: "I want a floating shark"
Aaron Robinson: "Best Christmas Special Ever. Period"

If you would like to contribute a 5-word review for The Impossible Astronaut/Day of The Moon  please @ us on Twitter, using the hashtag #12jammiedodgers, or post on our Facebook Page!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 10 - The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang


What We First Thought:  That was great. We think.

So after 11 weeks (or for these reviews - roughly a month) it’s come to this.  Will The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang fall into that trap of being a disappointing ‘finale’ like the majority of its processors? As that ancient saying goes – “Does it bollocks!”  What we get is a slick but yet, satisfying ending that still leaves threads over to be picked up for the next series.  It all looks cosier than a Teddy sat with his paws up on a leather chair, wearing a dressing gown and drinking a glass of port.

What these episodes do, is encapsulate everything that we’ve seen in the series so far.  I’ve commentated in the fanzine that Steven Moffat isn’t a writer who just throws in lines and scenes in for effect – he has uses for everything.  Lines such as ‘There was a goblin. Or a trickster, or a warrior. A nameless, terrible thing, soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the cosmos. Nothing could stop it, or hold it, or reason with it - one day it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.’ are just brilliant. It’s something that perfectly describes what The Doctor is, but yet, we’re left thinking that it’s some other monster.  The only real disappointment is that I thought The Doctor should have questioned himself more about this.  We had the self-loathing in Amy Choice and it would have been a fine link to see him berating himself, whilst locked up.

When I first watched this, I must admit I was a little slow on the uptake.  It probably isn’t the fault of the story, I was a little distracted, but on this watch I fully understand the story a lot better.  The return of Rory, which was always going to happen, was very well done and contained a nice twist on the Autons too.  His ‘return scene’ was brilliantly done I thought – with The Doctor not realising for a bit and when he did – he had to poke him to make sure!  Again, this is something that could have overdone with using emotion as an affect – Rory’s return saw him not being remembered by his Fiancé and The Doctor forgetting he was dead!

This story is notable for the amount of ‘monsters’ it had in it - I did think that having all of them (and a kitchen sink) in there, was a little bit far-fetched, the story could have worked with just a few of them.  The scenes reminded me of The Daleks’ Master Plan – where the Daleks headed up a meeting of some of the universe’ most influential people. Sadly, no double-cross was going on so the Daleks very much remain the uncomfortable image they projected during Victory of the Daleks, as they force The Doctor into his box.  I can just about understand why they kept The Doctor imprisoned, but wouldn’t it have been more convenient if they just killed him? They weren’t aware that the TARDIS blowing up would have started the cracks that would end the universe, yet they believe locking The Doctor up, giving him a chance to escape in the future (he’s alive – there’s always a chance), was the right thing to do? Surely The Doctor (from their point-of-view) wouldn’t be able to cause any more cracks in the universe, if he was dead?  Obviously killing The Doctor would mean the end of the show, but not to make an explanation or why he was imprisoned was very un-Moffat like.

The cliffhanger is great though – as the universe is fading into darkness, The Doctor is imprisoned, River is stuck in the exploding TARDIS and Rory is cradling a dead Amy, as all the stars go out. It’s pure poetry, and for me, one of the better cliffhangers since 2005 (It isn’t an ‘everybody is The Master’ cliffhanger, for example!)  The start of The Big Bang isn’t bad either – a pre-title sequence of epic proportions is ended by Amy warning Amelia (and thus, the audience) that ‘it’s going to get complicated’.  Speaking of which – it was very complicated to get The Doctor out of the Pandorica, wasn’t it?  All it took was a sonic screwdriver (or The Doctor’s magic wand as it is these days!)  I let that slide though, only for the resulting scene in which The Doctor baited Rory with his ‘Amy isn’t important’ line, which got Rory up for the fight – and a punch from him for The Doctor!  This is a side of The Doctor we’ve seen before, recently in The Lodger when he made Sophie realise that she could do whatever she wants (her in case – travelling/volunteering to look after apes).

I’ve not yet mentioned the performances by the cast, which were brilliant as always, but Matt Smith was, yet again, something else.  Could we have (realistically) wished for a better actor to take over the role from David Tennant?  He’s shown so many sides to his character this series, but it’s only in these last two that we finally get to see all his emotions in full flow.  The way he’s pleading to the alliance that he’s done nothing wrong, belonged to a man much older than his looks (very apt from The Doctor).  And then there’s him talking to the sleeping Amelia, as he relives his own timeline.  The way he delivers his lines just tells me that he spends plenty of time learning and converting them into how his character would interpet them, because they’re absolutely perfect.  My favourite was ‘We’re all stories in the end’, which is a perfect summing up of the series, Doctor Who and even life in general!

The scenes at the wedding were a bit so-so for me, I liked most of it, but I would have liked a more practical solution than just ‘wishing The Doctor back’.  I know it plays into the fairytale aspect of the series, but despite it being explained, I still thought it came off as a ‘bit of magic’.  Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know!  Otherwise, I really enjoyed the ‘Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue’ line, which perfectly describes the TARDIS – and The Doctor!

When I started these reviews, I wanted to just say things that I noticed second time round.  I’m sure if you’re reading this, then you already know the plot backwards, so I’ll just finish by saying what a perfect ending this was to the series. But was it the ending? To be me it seemed like the beginning - we still have the Amy-Rory story, River’s story, the continued development of Matt Smith’s take on The Doctor and we still don’t have a clue who blew up the TARDIS!  All these plot threads were left hanging over for Steven Moffat and the team to pick up on, and of course, to make us fans excited about the future.

And I can’t wait to find out!

What We Think Now: On the whole, that was great. More of this please!

Your (5 Word) Reviews

@Mr_Brell: "Best bit is stone Dalek!"
@AlistairGauld:Hello Stonehenge …. Oh bugger it” & "Fez, Mop Universe goes whooom" 

If you would like to contribute a 5-word review for A Christmas Carol please @ us on Twitter, using the hashtag #humbug, or post on our Facebook Page!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Scarifyers - The Horror of Loch Ness - Review

We’ve had some interest from our readers for our past reviews of The Scarifyers, so when the latest release landed on our doormat, we couldn’t resist in letting you know how we found The Horror of Loch Ness.  The story sees Harry and Dunning investigating a mysterious disappearance in the Scottish Highlands, where Malcolm Campbell, real-life land and sea speed record breaker, goes missing whilst testing on Loch Ness.  But who’s to blame? Shifty American spies or something stirring in the deep waters of the Loch?

The Loch Ness Monster myth is a premise that has been over-done by television and film in the past, but the Scarifyers team manage to pitch it just right.  They find the right balance of comedy, horror and (probably most importantly!) pacing of the story to keep the listener interested.  As always, Terry Molloy is on top form as Dunning and David Warner already sounds at home in only his second outing as the co-lead.

One thing I really do like about the series is that it likes to use real-life events and interweave them with the downright weirdness that goes on in the story!  Real-life Occultist, Aleister Crowley (played by David Benson) returns for this adventure and plays quite a pivotal role in the story.  One scene sees him messing about in a dining room (naked) because he thinks he is invisible.  Apparently, that actually happened in real life!  (Apart from naked bit. Maybe!)  One thing I love about Doctor Who is its historical content and how one of its stories can interest you in a particular time or public figure.  The Scarifyers plays a similar role with its stories, listening to it really does transport you to the 1930’s and interests you in the goings-on in that time period.  But the most enjoyment I take from it, are the characters.  From Benson’s whacky (but true) portrayals to a few old Army Officers relaxing at their club, passing humorous accounts of war that they were hardly involved in!

Beautifully written, jokes and references aplenty as well as an excellent performance from the late Philip Madoc, makes this a must listen for any Doctor Who fan. Needless to say, we won’t be spoiling it more than we already have, but if you’ve been gripped by the likes of Brain of Moribus and The Wicker Man (not Loch Ness with Ted Danson – that was rubbish!) then this will have a similar affect.  The Scarifyers ‘Horror of Loch Ness’ is out on CD and Download now.

It’s shaping up to be a big year for Cosmic Hobo, what with more releases planned, more radio airtime AND the release of a comic book chronicling the adventures of Lionheart and Dunning.  Be sure to check out http://www.cosmichobo.com for more information - and please support this excellent series!

This review originally appeared in Issue 10 of Fish Fingers and Custard, which you can read online here

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 9 - The Lodger

What We First Thought: Is that really James Corden playing that likeable bloke?

I sometimes feel a bit sorry for James Corden. By rights, he should be feeling sorry for me, what with his huge bank account, job offers and endless celebrity friends.  But there seemed to be a collective groan when he was cast in Doctor Who - for some reason, James Corden the man, comes across as a figure of fun to some people (not for his size may I add, but more for his personality).  His infamous ‘spat’ with Patrick Stewart at an awards ceremony is a good example (as is 80% of his acting output).  For me his horrible World Cup show, a very poor imitation of Baddiel and Skinner’s Fantasy Football, where he would gather all his celeb ‘buddies’ in a studio and have a chat, coupled with awful humour and a lack of knowledge about the game, was the final straw for me. I wasn’t going to hear a good word said for him.

But why do people feel this way about him? Maybe it’s just the fact that he isn’t as funny as he thinks he is?  Maybe because he’s just evocative of the times, where you need a gimmick or behave in a certain way to be successful?  It seems all of his ‘jokes’ are about his size, or him being thick or gullible.  It isn’t much of a departure for him, so it gets very tired after a while.  It’s a shame because he’s actually a very good actor when he’s got a decent script, as shown in this episode.  I remember watching him in the series ‘Fat Friends’ where he played a bullied schoolboy and he was excellent.  I realise to anyone that isn’t from the UK, or those who don’t give a shit, all this Corden-baiting is meaningless.  So I’ll finish by saying; please James, stick to comedy-drama, rather than all-out comedy!

Away from Corden, I very much enjoyed The Lodger.  Thankfully it was Matt that was doing most of the ‘humour’ in this episode, so that probably helped!  The way in which he holds himself and delivers lines like ‘Have some rent’ just makes me laugh.  He just plays that ‘fish out of water’ (that The Doctor should be) so well. He’s pure alien.  The ‘greetings’ he does makes me laugh every time and I just enjoy seeing the awkward reactions from people!  He wouldn’t get in my football team though - I’ve got no time for anyone who doesn’t pass!

The actual story seems to be one of the more run-of-the-mill efforts.  Although having a drunk woman being lured upstairs is a practice that I’ve seen many a time and couldn’t help but smile.  Although, to some people, it could have been seen as something a bit more sinister. To the kids watching though – the ‘monster was getting her’. So it was a scene that worked on all levels!  With the story being padded out with The Doctor’s attempts at trying to fit in, the simple explanation of the time ship ‘trying to find a pilot’ worked well and I was thankful, for once, that a ‘monster’ wasn’t required.  Not everything in Doctor Who needs to have a long-winded explanation, behind some costumed alien menace.

It’s interesting to note that this episode, written by Gareth Roberts, was based on a DWM 10th Doctor comic strip of the same name, written by Gareth Roberts.  In the comic, The Doctor stayed with Mickey, whereas the TV version is completely different, in the sense that The Doctor is living with people totally alien to him.  I think that this episode wouldn’t have worked with Tennant’s Doctor – he’s just too human.  You never really got the feeling that his Doctor was an alien and that’s the biggest criticism of his tenure (it wasn’t his fault that some of his scripts were poor!) But it just shows the quality of Matt Smith, that he's able to come across as somebody weird, good weird as Craig says!

I was also impressed at how the support cast seemed to have a decent rapport with each other – it seemed like we had stumbled into their life, another TV show if you will.  The domestic set-up that Craig had was very well realised and I sort-of wanted to see more. Though I’m not advocating a spin-off series!  The 'love triangle' could have come off really badly, but I thought it worked well and you could sort-of sympathise with Craig being upset at The Doctor, who was basically stealing his life.

Does love save the day, as many fans have been moaning about? Well, no. If you actually watch the episode, The Doctor clearly explains that the ship won’t work if the humans touched the control and used their thoughts about staying put, as the ship worked on their mentalities.  It’s science-fiction, not fantasy!

The best way to sum up The Lodger is just by saying that it’s a ‘bit of fluff’ - a episode that everyone can enjoy, it won’t go down as one of the classics, it’s just another decent watch.

Even James Corden was alright.

What We Think Now: It bloody was you know! 

Your (5 Word) Reviews

Emma Donovan: "James Corden is actually good"
David Rudden: "Time Lords are awesome wingmen"
Keerdon Fline: "Moffat for same sex adoption"
Robert Beckwith: "Wonderful comic timing, laughed throughout"  
@Mr_Brell: "Bungalow looks stupid at end!"

If you would like to contribute a 5-word review for The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang please @ us on Twitter, using the hashtag #livinginabox, or post on our Facebook Page!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Issue 11 - Deadline

Just a note to say that the deadline for contributions for the next issue is 31st July. As ever, we'll accept anything that vaguely relates to Doctor Who!  However with the new series back on the screens soon, if you'd like to write a short piece (1000 words max) on your thoughts of the last series, or the Moffat/Smith era so far (positive and/or negative!) those would be very welcome.  Please e-mail us at fishcustardfanzine@googlemail.com with anything you'd like to contribute!

If you haven't read it yet, you can now read our latest Issue here

Cheers

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 8 - Vincent and The Doctor

What We First Thought: Nice story, with plenty of emotional subtext

There’s a great saying that ‘an artist’s work is only valuable when they’re dead’.  In the case of Vincent Van Gogh, his turbulent life-story probably adds another couple of million to the value of his extraordinary work.  He was an artist who suffered with mental illness in a time that didn’t comprehend the meaning of such.  Vincent and The Doctor just about captures the character of Vincent, thanks in no small part to a great performance by Tony Curran.

Bill Nighy pops up in a cameo role as art expert Dr. Black (not being credited – perhaps because he did it as a favour to his mate Richard Curtis?) He was very good, as he built up a good rapport with The Doctor.  Dare I say that this is a far better role for him than The Doctor, which he was reportedly offered back in 2004? He’s a great actor, but I just don’t believe he’ll be able to relate to an audience like Eccleston did, so I think the right decision was made all round. Nighy is more at home playing the humorous ‘upper class toff’ and every second of his performance in this, was a joy to watch.

The only real criticism I have of this episode was that it seemed to be very slow-moving at times, but yet the story was more-or-less over after 30 minutes.  The lack of a cast probably played a part in this, but we really could have done with a bit more background on the monster (or ‘Space Turkey’ as I like to call it!)  I thought the fact that Vincent was the only one who could see that monster was a nice touch though.  It’s established in the episode that he can ‘see things that people can not’, which can be extended from his ability as an artist, seeing the beauty in anything.  Even Amy!

Although a nice gesture from The Doctor at the end, Amy’s thought that it could have proved a bit risky and would have changed history, proved to be incorrect.  In fact you could say that The Doctor showed Vincent his destiny, giving him the strength to carry on and paint.  What happened next in his life was due to his troubled mind and I think that aspect was handled very delicately.  It’s a bit difficult for a family program to show a story of his real depression and I think it was pitched just right.  The relation between Vincent and the monster was very similar – both alone, both sad, both blind to their true path in life.  Perhaps the downfall of the monster made Vincent realise this?  In fact, this was the first time a Doctor Who episode had a ‘BBC Action Line’ phone number during the credits, so that just shows how seriously they took on the subject.  The scenes with the people at the Café played a part in the subject matter – the death of the girl, although not directly blamed on Vincent, was seen as his fault because ‘he’s mad’.  People often blame things on people they don’t understand and I thought this was a good way of showing viewers that.

Overall, Vincent and The Doctor is a decent episode that touches on an emotional subject, nothing more, and nothing less.

What We Think Now: Nice story, with plenty of emotional subtext. But nothing much else.

Your (5 Word) Reviews

@Mr_Brell: "Bill Nighy is almost watchable"
@backtoblack5:Giant space chicken? what the.....? (Lucky its not a 6 word review)
@AlistairGauld:Amy gets her Sunflowers but...”

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 7 - The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

What We First Thought: That was nice. Now for the washing up!

You know when you get into the middle of a book, where the pictures are?  Then you get past them and the second half doesn’t quite match up to your visions of the pictures, which in turn affects your thoughts as you continue to embark on the second half of the book? That’s exactly how I feel about The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood.  It’s a story that had all the makings of a classic, but part 2 just petered out into boredom, save for the ending.

The biggest disappointment of this story for me is the look of the Silurians, or Homo Reptilia, whatever you want to call them.  They just look too human. I can appreciate the ‘Homo’ bit indicating that they’re between the two (which is wrong, as they’re supposed to be fully reptile!) but still, they just look like a human that has been painted green!  Would it have been too difficult to update the classic look of the Silurians, with the third eye and everything?  There are so many differences between classic and new, that you could be forgiven in thinking that the Homo Reptilia are another branch of the Human Race, rather than the Silurians.  I found it amusing that they called the Humans ‘Apes’.  Look in the mirror!

It all starts off pretty promising though, the great scenery blends in well and the story moves on at a decent pace, with the aid of some decent direction by Ashley Way.  But just as it starts to build up nicely, part 2 achieves the opposite.  I think describing it as a ‘mess’ is a bit unfair, but it certainly dilutes what was a decent first episode.  Cold Blood is just so clunky - the story moves very slowly, doesn’t make any real sense (why couldn’t the Homo Reptilia build better protection for their oxygen pockets?)  It’s nothing that couldn’t have been fixed with a line of dialogue, there was plenty room for it as this story was padded out more than a training bra.

Despite the shortcomings, there were some decent lines and performances.  Neve McIntosh did very well to play two roles - though the characters were very similar, she still managed to make me believe that they were different characters (which sometimes doesn’t always happen!)  I also enjoyed the performance of Meera Syal as the very likeable Nasreen Chaudhry and I was actually sad when Malohkeh was gunned down!  He seemed to be a very interesting character and I enjoyed his rapport with The Doctor, nearly as much as Nasreen’s!

Ambrose was a very intriguing character to me - very unlikeable, but yet you can’t really blame her for wanting to protect her family.  The line of ‘you are weak’ was well delivered by Alaya and probably pushed Ambrose over the edge.  It’s little things like this that make an episode, as a lot of thought is put into it.  This is why I don’t understand why the script ignored moral issues like the stolen bodies, which were taken from the graves.  It’s clear that they were taken for research by the Homo Reptilia, but surely that would play on peoples minds a bit, seeing bodies of local people, even loved ones, stolen?  The fact that it wasn't addressed when they went down to the settlements, was a very disappointing oversight.

Though a decent line (pass it on as legend/religion – like many stories are), The Doctor’s advice to the kid to actually pass it on, was a bit mental – who the hell would believe him?  Having Nasreen and Amy discuss terms with the Homo Reptilia was also a bit odd – who would listen to them?  And how will they explain the explosion of a drill and the disappearance of the people in charge?  I’m not one to bang on about poor effects, but that explosion was done very poorly.  Perhaps Ashley Way should have kept in the long-distance shot, which looked a lot better, instead of including the close up?

The ending is still a little shocking, but I was left to wonder what if Rory hadn’t have been ‘killed’ in the previous episode?  Surely this scene would have had more of an impact?  I realise that having Rory gunned down by the bad breath of OAP, played a role in Amy finally making her ‘choice’, but having him dying again a week later just takes the shine away.

And I think ‘taking the shine away’ best sums up this story! For me, this was just a disappointing rehash of Doctor Who and The Silurians, but without the very interesting soundtrack!

What We Think Now: Yet another missed opportunity with a classic monster.

Your (5 Word) Reviews

@Blue_Rose_: "Really Boring Episodes, Nothing Happens"
@Mr_Brell: "Feels more Torchwood than Who...".

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Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 6 - Amy's Choice


What We First Thought: Ponytails are cool. Not.

Like most people, when I first watched this, I thought it was a little bizarre.  A decent episode, but it’s one of those that you’ll need to watch again to pick up more from.  As mentioned during these reviews, I don’t believe you need to watch the episodes over-and-over again to understand them, but it’ll help you to take more from the series if you go back and watch them.  Amy’s Choice is very much an episode of that ilk, as there are lots of little bits in there that play around with the characters and the storyline of the series.

Amy’s Choice sees the introduction of ‘The Dream Lord’ (played by Toby Jones) who we find out is ‘The Doctor’s dark thoughts’.  Anybody can be forgiven in thinking that this is a reference to The Valeyard, who was the physical body of all The Doctor’s dark thoughts.  Created ‘between his 12 and final regeneration’ The Scrapyard put the Doctor on trial, in order to utterly destroy him, though surely that would rule out The Boneyard’s existence?  It was a plot that was made at a very confusing time in Doctor Who history, so it’s best not to think about it.  Needless to say, The Dream Lord is realised much, much better and this story actually makes sense!

I’ve touched on how Journey’s End introduced the self-loathing aspect of The Doctor that was very rarely seen afterwards.  Here we have an ‘Intergalactic Wag’ that just goes wherever he pleases, picks up who he wants and does whatever he likes.  Things like that have consequences and I don’t believe that Doctor Who takes advantage of that goldmine of potential material.  This episode though, may have started us on that path, as The Doctor is quite clearly affected by his dark thoughts.  Some of the best lines from this, come from The Dream Lord, but it’s The Doctor who sums it all up for us ‘There’s only one person who hates me as much as you’.  I think we all knew who that was.  (No, it wasn’t David Tennant!)

After watching this, I was left asking myself whether this episode acted as a device to acknowledge The Valeyard, but yet shove him to one side.  I really enjoyed how The Dream Lord got the The Doctor to squirm and made him feel guilty and ashamed.  We’ve never really seen that before.  Maybe The Knackers Yard is what The Doctor will become if he continues on the same path that he’s been walking down?  Maybe he’ll be able to avoid that fate now? Maybe this is the start of a Dark Doctor? Or maybe it could just be a coincidence and I’m reading far too much into it!  Whichever it is, it’s fascinating to think about and gives another area for the show to move into, if it ever needs it.

It wasn’t just The Doctor who was emotionally turned inside-out during this episode - so was Amy.  That’s why it’s called Amy Choice, presumably! Her ‘choice’ was designed to allow her to finally ‘get over’ The Doctor, as her true love for Rory was clinched when he was gunned down (by the gas of) an old lady!  Her quote of ‘If this is the real world, and Rory’s not in it, then I don’t want it’ was well delivered and finally gave the character of Amy some dimension.  The scene where Rory is attacked and he’s slowly melting away, represents all the hopes that he and Amy had built up during this dream.   This was also an opportunity for the character of Rory develop more.  His insistence that the family life they had was ‘real’ just shows how desperate he is to have a life like this.  And then there’s Amy, aboard that freezing TARDIS who says that this is the real world, which says to me that she’d rather travel in the TARDIS than settle down.  As it turned out, both of them were dreams.  Which considering this series is very much fairytale-esq, is very apt.

I can’t go without mentioning some of the scenes I laughed at – The Dream Lord’s costumes changes, The Doctor wearing a jumper with a dog on it (I would have made him wear it for a good chunk of the episode) and of course, hitting elderly people.  I know in the real world, it’s a terrible crime, but there’s just something funny about seeing Rory hit an old woman!  (Of course, she wasn’t really an old woman – she was an alien. Played by a stunt double. In a wig!)

Amy’s Choice is very much an enjoyable episode for all Doctor Who fans.  I wouldn’t show this to anyone who wasn’t used to the series though. It’s a bit weird!

What We Think Now: Get them dog jumpers in the shops!

Your (5-Word) Reviews 

David MacGowan: "dark, dreamy - nice sinister edge"
@Mr_Brell: "Frozen TARDIS looks really cool!"
@JayMcIntyre1: "Valeyard turned into Freddy Kreuger"

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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 5 - The Vampires of Venice


What We First Thought:  I would drag up to attend that school

Seeing as how we like to ‘buck the trend’ here at Fish Fingers and Custard, we’re going to plough that lonely furrow once more, by saying that we really enjoyed The Vampires of Venice.  Okay, it’s no masterpiece, but the disdain in which it’s held by fans is very undeserved. In our opinion, you understand. Don’t come here with a pitchfork demanding executions. Being the persuasive media tool that we are, we will attempt to convert all 4 of our readers into 'thinking again', like we do with these reviews!

Okay, I may be exaggerating the strength of dislike for this episode (for dramatic effect), but according to those Wags at the Internet Movie Database - this episode was a 7.1 out of 10, Time of Angels was a 8.5 out of 10, whereas Journey’s End is an 8.7 out of 10. I’m not saying that Vampires is the better episode, I’m simply saying that Journey’s End isn’t worth 8.7.  You see how fans minds work?  No amount of my exaggeration can ever surpass users of a website that rank Journey’s End above Time of Angels!  It’s just not that particular website though, I look around on forums, Twitter and Facebook and it seems that most fans look for a sweeping generalisation of something and collectively tear it apart like the mythical pink and blue-striped Tiger (Snappy) I mentioned in a previous review.  Not just that, but they don’t actually seem to be studying it properly and if they do, they’ve got their Rose-Tennant-tinted glasses on.  This episode seems to suffer from that a lot.  It isn’t the greatest episode of Doctor Who, ever. But it never claimed to be.  Things that claim to be the ‘biggest and best episode EVER’ are normally crushing disappointments. Just like Journey’s End crushed the spirit that was so well built up during The Stolen Earth…of course this is just my opinion, but I’d like to think I’ve come to it after hearing what others have had say, not to mention watching the episode.

No, Vampires of Venice is just a decent, solid episode that provides us with many layers to get stuck into.  We get a resolution to the cliffhanger left at the end of the last episode. We get more information about this crack that was confronted last time out. And the opening scene was as funny as Doctor Who gets!  I mean, who can look at that scene when The Doctor pokes his head out of that cake and looks gormlessly around, and not laugh?  You can see it in his eyes that he’s panicking, thinking he’s got the wrong place, again!  And who else but The Doctor, would take the time in getting to know the female Entertainer in such a way, that he’ll know that she was a diabetic?

Of course, this was the perfect tonic to last week’s ending (which again, was totally overblown by fans, but I’ve gone on about them too much already!) as Rory joined Amy for an adventure in Venice.  Doubling-up was Trogir, in Croatia, and you have to say that the scenery looked excellent.  The Venetians actually colonised Trogir at one point, which is why the scenery looks like Venice!  I’ve already said in a previous review how different the colour of the episodes seems to be and the new palette helps the look of this episode very much.  But of course all of those elements slip under the radar of people like Mr ‘Mastermind 1993’ Gavin Fuller, who, whilst writing for the Telegraph, first complaint is about CGI.  Since when has Doctor Who ever relied on frigging SFX in its story-telling? Surely Mr Super Fan would know that? Whoops, there I go again! 

Just for Gavin’s benefit (I’ve started, so I’ll finish) here are some genuine positives to take from this story (and this is from someone with 10 GCSE’s and scorer of 1 goal in an international football tournament in Belgium. Against a team from Birmingham) First, there’s comedy - as far as I’m concerned, anyone whose face didn’t crack into the faintest of smiles at the cake scene or the exchanges between Rory and The Doctor (You kissed her back? No, I kissed her mouth) or The Doctor pulling out a ultraviolet lamp (and Rory complaining 'yours is bigger than mine') or even a 15th Century Venetian man wearing a stag party t-shirt, needs to be sent to Siberia and made to watch videos of Ade Edmondson’s Teenage Kicks (on a loop, as there was only 1 series. Thankfully) Secondly, we have some actual meaningful lines, amongst the comedy.  Rory’s rant at The Doctor was so well done and very true.  How many times has The Doctor, arrogantly, put his companions into danger, without even thinking? This was something that was touched on during the aforementioned Journey’s End, but never really went anywhere afterwards.  Vampires of Venice also provided us with the sacrifice of a man who had just lost his daughter, his world (as he describes her at the start of the episode) so he has nothing left to live for.  Then we have the Space Fish who travelled through a crack in time to save themselves.  True, their dilemma could have been played out a bit better, and that should be the main criticism of this episode.  Thirdly – the acting. As mentioned about the line from Rory about The Doctor and his dangers, you can see in Matt Smith’s face how much that hit home - you can see the penny drop as he realises. Then there’s Rory, who gets a full run-out in this episode.  His reactions are just superb – from comedy to anger and back again in the space of seconds.  This is how you judge an episode. Not with ropey CGI, which happens to be the best that the BBC can afford. Because yes of course, they do it on purpose.

Having an episode like this, following the scares of Flesh and Stone, is perfect to provide a bit of light relief.  The Vampire girls weren’t meant to be scary, they were clearly meant to be enjoyed by the Lads and Dads.  And maybe some Women too. And I’ve not even mentioned the nice touch of The Doctor producing his original incarnation’s library card (no doubt he has some well-overdue books!)  And I must mention one thing that got me the first time watching it – at the end when The Doctor switches the generator off.  The amount of people moaning over that, expecting some kind of complicated resolution.  It’s a generator, it can be turned off by a simple switch (after you deactivate all the connections to it and abide by Health and Safety guidelines, obviously). What did you expect? Not everything in life needs to complicated. Even for The Doctor!

Overall, The Vampires of Venice is just a solid episode that ticks all the boxes and at the same time – develops the characters further. What else do you want in a Doctor Who episode?

What We Think Now: If this honest review doesn't get us any angry letters, nothing will.

Your (5-Word) Reviews 

David MacGowan: "fishy funny romance. And Hartnell!"
Jamie Beckwith: "Fish Chicks? Still would though!"
Alexis McAdams: "Fish extinction? Rory with broom!"
Devon Torrey Bryant: "Forget the horny fishmen, Doctor?"  
@JayMcIntyre1: "Slow start, but good adventure!"
@Mr_Brell: "Gorgeously directed. Rory fights hilariously!"
@Draculasaurus13: "Fun story bad green screen"
@vauxhallwoman: "Mama spacefish backcombs girls' hair"

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Monday, 2 July 2012

The Matt Smith Review: Part 4 - Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone


What We First Thought: Is that Angel made of stone, or is it pleased to see River?

There’s no doubt that Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone represents the watermark for all Steven Moffat/Matt Smith episodes. When I say watermark, I don’t mean a dancing cartoon of Graham Norton bouncing along the bottom of the screen at a very tense moment!  Everything about this episode just oozes quality and arguably - they’ve not really hit that same watermark again…

If there’s one thing that hits you about this episode, is that it’s cinematic.  The way in which its shot, the lighting and the scenery is just absolutely superb.  You could whack this up on a big screen, show both parts back-to-back and people would think it’s a movie.   Soon they’ll be purchasing expensive food and drink and demanding it to shown in pointless 3D, so they can wear those funny glasses.  One woman who doesn’t wear funny glasses, is River Song – and she’s back!  Last seen in the memory of a computer, we finally get to see the start of her story (or should that be the start of the end?) and what exactly is her relationship with The Doctor.  Speaking of which – The Doctor! Has anyone really hit if off as well as Matt Smith in their first appearance?  These two stories were the first he filmed and he nails his character better than he’s done from what we’ve seen so far, maybe bar The Eleventh Hour.  After watching this, only those staunch David Tennant fans won’t be able to appreciate what a talent Matt is.

Like many others, I was wondering how the hell could they make the Angels work over two episodes.  Great in Blink, but apart from the ‘sending people back in time’ bit and looking genuinely creepy, they didn’t seem able to offer much more.  How wrong I was!  Not only was another dimension added, I’m now queuing up for some 16D glasses!  The scenes where the Angel was coming out of the television screen was a masterstroke – how many people watching will take that literally and be scared witless by a Angel (or dancing, cartoon Graham Norton) coming out of the telly?  We actually got to see them move too, which looked very unsettling.

Speaking of scares, another bit I liked was Angel Bob.  Just before he was killed, the script allowed for him to have a bit of character to be built up.  He was a young soldier, a bit scared as we’d all be and someone who was comforted by The Doctor.  Then we hear him over the radio, talking normally…and he’s dead…but he sounds fine. It’s pure genius.  Just like Steven Moffat can only dream about writing a ‘hilarious’ list of Fives in a fanzine every 3 months, I can only dream of writing a story as good as him.  (Even though he rips character names off me!)

As mentioned about River, I think it’s great that we get to see her character again so early on.  Her cheek at robbing things from the ship, leaving messages for The Doctor, making him pick her up, then landing the TARDIS, just after hanging her (quite large) shoes up…it’s something which we’ve never really had before.  It’s interesting to note that these episodes are sequels – to Blink AND to River Song.  I’m sure we all know from experience that most sequels don’t often work due to them coming out with the same old plot.  This story actually BUILDS on its predecessors, what with the Angels killing people and ripping them apart to talk and River’s character continues to grow and get more intriguing.

This has been touched on by many people when talking about this story, but I really like the idea of the Clerics.  History has shown that armies have been built up on the back of religion and faith, so why won’t it be the same in the future?  Despite the on-going narrative, I liked how the character of the Bishop was developed throughout.  He went from not trusting The Doctor (Bishop: Do you absolutely trust him? River: I absolutely trust him. Bishop: He’s not some kind of madman is he? River: I absolutely trust him) to telling him about why River was helping them.  Maybe not exactly why, but we’ll get to that (much) later!  His death was also a bit shocking and very well realised.

I think it’s important to remember that this is the 4th episode out of 5 that have been written by Steven Moffat.  It’s obvious that he wanted to get ‘his Who’ across as quickly as possible, to give the series a great chance at settling down.  The story behind the crack could have got very tedious if it carried for a another week or two, but BANG it’s addressed at the end of the episode and we get a bit of an explanation, which only opens up more questions for us to ponder throughout the series.

With many more episodes to go in this series, those questions will undoubtedly grow!

What We Think Now: Yes, I think it was pleased to see River.

Your (5-Word) Reviews 

@JayMcIntyre1: "River Song is Mary Sue"
@Scrobby: "Doctor should kiss Rory instead"
@Mr_Brell: "Good scary stuff all round!"
@Landcross: "There's DUST in my EYE!"
 
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