Review: “Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the twelfth (and final) episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. All in all, this series has certainly been one of the best series of “Doctor Who” that I’ve seen in quite a while.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Doctor Falls”. Needless to say, this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS.

“The Doctor Falls” is an hour-long episode that concludes the story arc that began in the previous episode. However, unlike the spectacular science fiction and eerie horror of the previous episode, this episode is more of a science fantasy/ serious drama-based episode that focuses mostly on The Doctor’s attempts at defending an idyllic farming community on one of the upper decks of the spaceship from an attack by the cybermen below.

Expelliarmus!

Up until the final few minutes, the episode is a slightly slow-paced, tense and sombre episode that is filled with emotional drama and dramatic conversations (in between brief, but gloomily understated, action sequences). In other words, it’s a far cry from the thrillingly epic “next week” trailer at the end of the previous episode. Never trust a trailer, I guess.

Even so, Nardole gets to be something of a badass in this episode though.

Even so, the level of drama and characterisation here is absolutely stunning. Not only are there lots of interesting conversations between Missy and The Master (and, yes, Missy is a future regeneration of The Master), but their complicated love/hate relationship with The Doctor is explored in more depth too.

However, depressingly, despite all of the characterisation that Missy has had over the past couple of years (or even just during the course of this episode), she dies during this episode.

Initially, I thought that the scene was left ambigious (and that Missy would just return, like she did during this series) – although, looking on Wikipedia, Michelle Gomez apparently isn’t returning to perform in any subsequent episodes of the show. So, yes, “Doctor Who” has just lost one of it’s best characters (if not THE best character).

Even so, Missy’s final scene in the episode is both brilliantly ironic and incredibly depressing at the same time, with Missy and the Master mortally wounding each other for different reasons, and then finding the whole situation hilarious.

Dammit! This is supposed to be “Doctor Who”, not a George R. R. Martin novel!

Still, despite the “war with the cybermen” background of the episode, this is much more of a character-based episode than a thriller episode.

This episode has a level of seriousness, depth and maturity to it that really took me by surprise. It is an episode about identity, about death, about hope, about the meaning of life etc.. Seriously, there is so much stuff here.

But, the most fascinating theme of the episode is the theme of identity. Whether it is Bill’s horror at the fact that she looks like a cyberman on the outside (with the show alternating between how she sees herself and how others see her), or the myriad similarities and differences between The Master and Missy (eg: two sides of the same person), or the fact that the grim events of the episode force The Doctor to be really clear about who he is and what he stands for (and how this affects his later refusal to regenerate, because he doesn’t want to change who he is), the episode’s treatment of the subject of identity is detailed, nuanced and profound.

It’s also chilling and somewhat depressing at times too.

However, the set design and lighting in this episode didn’t really impress me as much as they did in the previous episode. However, this is mostly because large parts of the episode are set on a rather ordinary-looking farm.

*yawn*

Yes, I understand that the set designers probably chose to use a more understated and dull background in order to place the emphasis on the characters, but it still makes me miss the more dystopian and futuristic settings of the previous episode. Even so, there are still a few cool-looking locations that are glimpsed briefly throughout the episode. Likewise, the lighting during some scenes is suitably gloomy, eerie and/or dramatic, so it isn’t all bad.

Such as some early scenes that take place on the roof of the hospital from the previous episode.

Or this scene of the cybermen preparing to attack.

Or some of the scenes set within the farmhouse.

However, some of the episode’s serious drama is undercut somewhat by a “WTF?” deus ex machina ending.

Basically, Bill is suddenly rescued (and turned into a ghost of some kind) by the pilot from the first episode of the series, who just suddenly materialises from a nearby puddle whilst Bill is tearfully mourning beside The Doctor’s motionless body. Yes, the episode tries to explain this sudden last-minute plot twist by showing clips from the first episode, but it still feels like a deus ex machina ending.

In the space of one minute, Bill goes from the depths of abject despair…

…to joyous romantic bliss. Seriously, talk about a sudden change in the episode’s emotional tone!

Yes, this random plot twist gives this otherwise depressing episode something of a happy ending – and this is a refreshing change from the rest of the episode. But, it also seems like this ending has been bolted on to the episode, rather than being an organic part of the story. The emotional tone of the ending is so different to the rest of the episode, that it almost feels like the ending is a scene from another episode that has been edited into this episode by mistake. Even so, it’s good to see that Bill’s story arc gets a happy ending though.

Even so, this is kind of slightly similar to how Clara left the show at the end of the previous series. So, it isn’t the most original of endings…

As for The Doctor, he surprisingly doesn’t regenerate at the end – mostly because he just doesn’t want to. Still, the episode ends mysteriously with him possibly meeting one of his past (?) incarnations on a frozen planet. No doubt that, in the traditional fashion, this is also the set up for this year’s Christmas episode too.

Apparently, he’s supposed to be the first Doctor (played by a different actor). However, I’ve mostly only seen episodes of Doctor Who from 2005 onwards, so I can’t be certain.

So, yes, the ending is in part mysteriously intriguing and in part contrived. Still, this is probably one of the most “serious” episodes of Doctor Who that I’ve ever seen. Although it didn’t quite turn out to be the thrillingly epic episode that last week’s trailer seemed to imply that it was, I can hardly call this a bad episode either. It’s a serious piece of sombre, mature, emotional drama and a reasonably decent ending to an absolutely spectacular series of “Doctor Who”.

If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, it would get a four.

Top Ten Articles – June 2017

2017-artwork-top-ten-articles-june

Well, it’s the end of the month and that means that it’s time for my usual “Top Ten Articles” post. This is where I choose ten of my favourite articles about making art, making comics and/or writing fiction that I’ve posted here over the past month and link to them. As usual, there will probably also be a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, whilst this month’s articles started out well, I had some mild writer’s block near the end of the month – so, there were a few badly-written and/or repetitive articles. Still, hopefully, this will pass.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂

Top Ten Articles – June 2017:

– “Three Ways To Take Artistic Inspiration From Anime And/Or Manga (If You Don’t Use That Drawing Style)
– “Two Ways To Find Your Own “Version” Of The Cyberpunk Genre
– “Three Cool Art Tricks I Learnt From Films, TV And/Or Computer Games
– “Three Ways To Make The Lighting In Your Artwork Look More Interesting
– “Three Advantages Of Hyper-Detailed Art In Webcomics
– “Three Ways To Make Better Filler Episodes For Your (Story-Based) Webcomic
– “Three Ways To Make A Webcomic Update In A Hurry
– “Four Basic Ways To Preview Your Art (or Webcomics)
– “Four Awesome Advantages Of Watching DVDs Whilst Making Art
– “Two Basic Ways To Learn New Artistic Techniques

Honourable Mentions:

– “What GCSE ICT Taught Me About Making Art
– “Two Basic Ways To Cover Up A Failed Painting (Or Drawing)

Review: “Doctor Who – World Enough And Time” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the eleventh episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. Again, although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them. But, I’ll try to review as many as I can.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “World Enough And Time”. Needless to say, this review will contain SPOILERS.

The episode begins on an icy world, where the Doctor climbs out of the TARDIS and begins to regenerate. Then, we flash back in time to a giant spaceship that is hovering beside a black hole. The bridge of the spaceship is deserted. The TARDIS arrives… and Missy steps out, before introducing herself as “Doctor Who”.

And, yes, Bill and Nardole are her companions. Seriously, this would make an awesome spin-off series!

Of course, it quickly becomes clear that the Doctor is watching remotely and that it is some kind of training exercise for Missy. However, the exercise is soon interrupted by a message from a mysterious blue man who claims that humans have been detected onboard. He quickly bursts onto the bridge and brandishes a gun, frantically asking the three which one of them is human.

If he can detect that humans are there, then surely he’d be able to scan everyone and work out who is human fairly quickly.

Quickly, the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS and tells him to put the gun down. But, he points to a screen that shows a lift ascending and points out that “they” only come for humans (although this makes me wonder why he’s so scared of them if they aren’t interested in him). The Doctor tries to reason with him, but…

How heartless!

Suddenly, the lift doors open and mysterious masked men advance towards Bill’s body. Thinking quickly, the Doctor implants a message in Bill’s subconscious mind before they can carry her away to be “repaired”. Needless to say, it is up to Missy, The Doctor, Nardole and the armed man to find Bill. Whilst all of this is going on, Bill wakes up in a creepy old hospital….

Hmm… “28 Light Years Later”?

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is… WOW! There’s so much stuff to say about this episode! It’s an astonishingly good horror episode, it’s a brilliant piece of drama and it is an amazing piece of science fiction. Plus, this episode is a good example of how to start a two-part episode properly.

In other words, the episode is filled with all sorts of intriguing mysteries and shocking (but not entirely explained) plot twists that will keep you completely and utterly gripped, whilst also really wanting to see the next episode. Yes, this episode is the set up to what I presume is the series finale but what a set-up it is!

The horror elements of this episode are genuinely creepy and they mostly revolve around the mysterious hospital that Bill finds herself in.

For example, not only does this place look downright terrifying, but it is filled with masked men who occasionally scream robotically in agony or beg for death. The creepy nurse who runs the hospital responds to this by quite literally just pressing the mute button.

Seriously, this episode could almost be an actual horror movie in some parts!

Seriously, this has got to be the creepiest episode of “Doctor Who” that I’ve seen for quite a while. Not to mention that it has a real “Silent Hill” vibe to it too!

Hmmm… is this Alchemilla Hospital, by any chance?

The science fiction elements of this episode are also amazingly good too. Since the spaceship is near a black hole, time passes at a different speed in different parts of this ship and this element ends up becoming a central part of the plot. Unlike the “science fantasy” of some episodes of “Doctor Who”, this one actually tries to be a work of “hard” science fiction.

Likewise, the episode also takes a lot of influence from classic dystopian sci-fi too – with the run-down hospital and the grimy city surrounding it resembling something from a dystopian sci-fi film.

Seriously, if those buildings were a little taller and there were a few neon lights, this could almost pass for a scene from “Blade Runner”!

Not only that, the episode also explains some of the motivations behind the existence of the creepy hospital, which actually makes it even scarier (since the people living there are in such a dire situation that they’re forced to resort to horrific medical experiments in order to prolong their lives).

As for the story of the episode, it is brilliant on so many levels. Not only does this episode begin to explain a part of the show’s mythology but there are other shocking reveals too, such as the fact that Missy and The Master actually meet each other (and it is left at least mildly ambiguous whether they are different people or the same person at different points in their life).

And, yes, that isn’t even the most shocking thing about this scene!

But, shocking plot twists aside, the “ordinary” storytelling in this episode is really good too, with a very good mixture of witty dialogue, suspenseful horror and intriguing science fiction. Although the pacing of this episode is deliberately slow (perhaps to mirror the fact that time moves at a different speed), it never once gets dull or boring in any way.

The set design and special effects in this episode are, in a word, sublime. Some parts of the episode look like a cross between “Silent Hill” and “Blade Runner“. The lighting design is absolutely spectacular too, with clever placement of blue, red and orange lighting in some parts of the episode. Likewise, the level of special effects in this episode is easily on par with a mid-high budget Hollywood movie. This episode is cinematic!

Seriously, this is one of the coolest-looking spaceship bridges I’ve ever seen!

And this location looks like both something from “Silent Hill” AND something from “Blade Runner” 🙂

And the lighting in this lift is AMAZING 🙂

All in all, this episode is astonishingly good in so many ways. Not only that, it will also leave you eager to watch next week’s episode too. It succeeds as a horror episode and as a science fiction episode too. Despite the occasional misstep along the way, it really seems like this series of “Doctor Who” is just getting better and better in so many ways.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Review: “Doctor Who – The Eaters Of Light” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the tenth episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. Again, although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them. But, I’ll try to review as many as I can.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Eaters Of Light”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

The episode begins with two children exploring a cairn in Scotland, with one of the children claiming to hear music and the other one worried about a scary local legend involving the cairn. A crow lands on one of the stones and starts cawing. The noises sound like “Doc-Tor“. The camera pans to the ancient carvings on the stones, and we get to see a certain vintage police telephone box.

Historically inaccurate!!!!

Then we see the TARDIS arriving in 2nd Century Aberdeen. Despite Nardole’s objections, The Doctor has travelled there in order to settle a historical argument with Bill about the location of the Roman ninth legion. Of course, Bill and the Doctor both decide to go their separate ways to look for the Romans, and prove each other wrong.

Seriously, of ALL the things to have an argument about…

Of course, it isn’t long before Bill notices a fire and decides to investigate. However, she is soon chased away by an angry Pict. Taking refuge in a pit of some kind, she finds a solitary Roman soldier who is hiding there. After establishing that, yes, the TARDIS’s translation software is working properly, they talk and he tells her that he is a deserter from his unit.

The lighting in this scene is amazing 🙂 It’s like a Caravaggio painting!

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nardole discover a dead Roman soldier – who has seemingly died from lack of sunlight, of all things. Of course, it isn’t long before they also find a devastated and deserted Roman encampment. Of course, it’s time to investigate….

CSI: Caledonia. Coming to the BBC this autumn!

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it’s a good old-fashioned “monster of the week”-style episode, yet it still manages to set itself apart as something distinctive too. A lot of this is due to the witty dialogue, the characterisation, the setting and the structure of the episode. Seriously, compared to some other “monster of the week” episodes in this series, this one is pretty much a work of art!

There’s so much to say about this episode. For a lot of the episode, there are two parallel storylines – with The Doctor and Nardole being prisoners of the Picts, and Bill hanging out with the Romans. Of course, both sides are bitter enemies and both see themselves as mighty warriors, yet are both also absolutely terrified by the monster that threatens them both.

And, given the amount of weaponry, they’re also a little nervous about The Doctor too.

In fact, although it isn’t really that much of a horror episode, fear is one of the main themes of the episode – with the general theme that it’s perfectly natural to feel afraid. Likewise, the fact that the Romans and Picts have more in common with each other than they think is also emphasised by a later part of the episode where the TARDIS’s translator actually allows them to understand each other – and they realise that they’re just people rather than terrifying invaders or savage barbarians.

Plus, although there are a lot of additional characters in this episode – both the Romans and the Picts get a reasonable amount of characterisation, with the main theme being that they’re both really just groups of frightened teenagers who are trying to appear brave [Edit: More so with the Picts than the Romans – since the Roman soldiers point out that they are deserters]. Again, they have more in common than they think.

The pacing of this episode is reasonably good too, being neither too fast nor too slow. Likewise the monster design and special effects in this episode are kind of cool too. For a lot of the episode, the monster is shrouded in darkness, with only it’s bioluminescent tentacles being visible. However, when it is revealed, it is a giant dragon-like creature.

Yes, it’s scarier when you don’t see it fully. But, this is probably part of the theme of “light and darkness” that is also a major part of the episode.

The best special effects in the episode can be seen in one of the more sci-fi based parts of the episode, which revolves around a really cool-looking temporal rift.

Yes, it might be a dangerous temporal rift but, damn, does it look cool!

Not only does this provide lots of cool blue mood lighting, but it also allows the episode to include the fascinating idea of time passing at different speeds too (which is a central part of the plot later in the episode too).

In addition to this, the set design (mostly forests, caves and huts) is fairly good. But, the best part of the episode is – by far – the lighting. Seriously, the episode is filled with so much awesome chiaroscuro lighting that, as I mentioned earlier, makes the episode look a bit like an old Caravaggio painting [edit: Like this one].

Yay! Chiaroscuro 🙂

..And these wonderfully ominous clouds too!

And I’m sure I’ve seen a Cradle Of Filth music video that looks a little bit like this.

The episode is also filled with lots of witty dialogue too, with some of the strongest writing that I’ve seen so far this series. However, one segment of dialogue might be either uplifting (and surprisingly realistic) and/or eye-rollingly annoying, depending on how you look at it.

Basically, after Bill stays with the Romans for a while, one of the soldiers jokes that another soldier is attracted to Bill. After a little bit of hesitation, Bill decides to come out to them (which is kind of realistic, given that coming out isn’t something people only do once in their entire lives). Despite Bill’s nervousness, the Romans are… well.. Romans.

Seriously, Bill mentioned that she read a book about Roman history earlier in the episode. So, you’d think she’d already know that they weren’t exactly the most narrow-minded people in history.

Amusingly, one of the Romans also points out that it’s kind of strange that she’s only attracted to one type of people (This is, sort of, realistic. The concept of dividing people into categories based on orientation only appeared in the 19th century, after all. Prior historical discrimination against LGBT people was based on specific actions rather than who a person is). And, yes, it’s also great to actually see bi characters in a TV show too (seriously, there really aren’t many of them on TV).

But, even so, the whole scene feels like it has been shoehorned into the episode in order to deliver a lecture to the audience. Yes, it’s surprisingly realistic in a number of ways. But the idea of Bill suddenly coming out to the Romans rather than just subtly dropping hints or making some kind of excuse or something seems oddly (and perhaps unrealistically/optimistically) bold.

But, this realism doesn’t really extend to all of the historical details in this episode though. Unfortunately, having watched a few history/film criticism videos (like these) on Youtube a while back, I now tend to notice historical inaccuracies a lot more than I used to – and there are a few here.

When a Roman soldier draws his gladius, it makes a loud metallic “shing!” sound (and, as this video shows, swords don’t do this! ). Likewise, one of the Roman soldiers is holding a flaming torch in the wrong way.

Seriously, he’d be too dazzled by the flames to actually see anything.

Surprisingly, I thought that one of the shields that one of the Picts was carrying was a possibly historically inaccurate medieval “buckler” shield. But, looking on Google Images, actual iron age shields may possibly have been tiny metal things (either that or only the shield bosses survived to the present day, with the wood surrounding them rotting away over time). So, you learn something every day, I guess.

Yes, that guy in the background may actually be carrying a realistic shield. Or just a shield boss. Who knows?

All in all, this is a surprisingly good episode. The characterisation, pacing and dialogue is absolutely brilliant. The lighting is superb and, thanks to the slightly greater level of thematic and structural complexity, this episode is something more than just a “monster of the week” episode.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.

Review: “Doctor Who – Empress Of Mars” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the ninth episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. Again, although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them. But, I’ll try to review as many as I can.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “Empress Of Mars”. Needless to say, this review will contain some MAJOR SPOILERS.

The episode begins with a group of NASA scientists eagerly awaiting a transmission from a probe that they’ve sent to Mars. Before the transmission can arrive, The Doctor and Bill turn up to watch.

One of the scientists explains that the probe uses a type of technology that will enable them to see what is underneath Mars’ ice caps. Of course, the transmission from the probe arrives a few seconds later….

Sorry NASA, it looks like Britain got there first!

Using the TARDIS, the Doctor traces the message back to the year 1881 and, along with Bill and Nardole, travels to Mars to investigate. They explore a series of tunnels underneath the Martian ice cap until they suddenly notice that there is a fire burning. Since there’s fire, there’s oxygen … and someone already there.

Soon, both The Doctor and Bill discover that the British army has set up camp on Mars. The 19th century soldiers have travelled there after discovering a crashed spaceship in South Africa. A creature called an Ice Warrior was comatose inside the ship and, after they nursed him back to health and named him Friday, he led them to Mars with the promise that there were riches to be mined:

And, yes, the episode even explains that Friday’s name is a “Robinson Crusoe” reference, as if nobody could work that out themselves.

Of course, both The Doctor and Bill are appalled by the fact that Mars has become part of the British Empire. But, the military officers point out that they haven’t found anything on Mars and are possibly thinking of abandoning the planet. Of course, a few minutes later, the mining team breaks through into a sealed room and discovers a large golden sarcophagus….

Huzzah! Treasure?

The Doctor warns them that this is a hibernating Ice Queen and that they should leave Mars before she wakes up. But, a while later, one of the soldiers decides that it would be a good idea to pry off one of the jewels on the side of the sarcophagus with his pocket-knife…

It’s just one little gemstone. What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Soon, it is up to Bill and The Doctor to try to negotiate a peace between the Ice Queen’s reawakening army of Ice Warriors and the Victorians…..

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it’s actually a slightly better episode than I had expected. The preview trailer from last week and a description in the TV listings that went something like “…this time, mankind is the aggressor” made me worry that this would be a silly episode that would also be filled with heavy-handed political lectures, like some previous episodes in the series (such as this one and this one).

But, for the most part, this episode is actually a reasonably good piece of old-school sci-fi drama. One of the things that really helps to keep the episode interesting is the fact that the conflict between the humans and the Ice Warriors is a bit more morally-ambiguous than it first appears.

Whilst the Doctor initially appears to take the side of the Ice Warriors, he also realises that they would probably massacre the humans if given the chance.

Rather than a simplistic “good vs evil” episode, the episode is about a conflict between two aggressive military powers and, by extension, two queens (Queen Victoria and the Ice Queen – hence the ambiguous title of the episode and the “God Save The Queen” message at the beginning).

Even so, the Doctor still manages to squeeze in a “state the obvious” lecture about how colonialism is wrong. But, this is fairly brief. The same is true for the other few “obvious” political moments in the episode.

Likewise, the story of this episode isn’t entirely predictable either, and the ending is actually surprisingly clever (with neither side deciding to stay on Mars – for practical reasons, rather than ideological ones).

Another thing that helps to keep this episode interesting is the characterisation. Whether it is Friday’s somewhat conflicted loyalties, the ill-disciplined Victorian troops, or the tension between Colonel Godsacre and the treacherous Captain Catchlove, this episode puts a reasonable amount of effort into the characters. This helps the episode to rise above predictable silliness in some parts.

Yes, the Colonel is probably one of the most complex and interesting characters in the episode.

Still, that isn’t to say that this episode isn’t silly at times. I mean, it’s about Victorian soldiers and reptilian aliens on Mars! It is probably also based on old “Doctor Who” episodes from the 1970s/80s too. Still, the melodramatic parts of the episode are played to full effect and help to add some light-hearted comedy and drama to the episode.

Whether it’s the fact that the Ice Queen gives a very movie-like (for want of a better description) speech to her awakening army or the hilariously old-fashioned Victorian dialogue (eg: “I dare say that the British army is more than a match for a bunch of upright crocodiles” LOL!!), there’s lots of enjoyably silly melodrama here too.

Likewise, the costume design in this episode is pretty much what you would expect. The Ice Warriors look a little bit like people in rubber suits, but this fits in well with the “vintage Doctor Who” atmosphere of the episode. Although I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy of the 19th century military uniforms, they look fairly similar to other depictions of Victorian soldiers that I’ve seen. Even so, the episode manages a few interesting steampunk flourishes too:

I say! Does that space-suit contain a built in gramophone?

The lighting and set design in this episode are surprisingly good too. The episode will often contrast the gloomy red/orange Martian caves with bright blue lighting and/or fog.

Orange and blue are apparently the most visually-pleasing complementary colour pair in existence (it’s why these colours appear in movie posters so often) and this fact is used to good effect in many parts of this episode.

This is only a small scene, but the set design and lighting looks really, really cool.

Seriously, you can’t go wrong with orange and blue. Which is probably why it’s so common in movies etc…

The episode also includes some really awesome ominous red/blue lighting too.

All in all, this is an ok episode of “Doctor Who”. It certainly isn’t the best episode in the series (so far, that title probably goes to either “Extremis” or “The Lie Of The Land), but it is hardly the worst either. There’s some vintage-style sci-fi, a plot that veers enjoyably between serious drama and silly melodrama, and some fairly decent set design too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get something between three-and-a-half and four.

Review: “Doctor Who – The Lie Of The Land” (TV Show Episode)

Well, it’s time to review the eighth episode in the new series of “Doctor Who”. Again, although I’m not sure how many of the new episodes I’ll end up reviewing or how long it will take me to review them. But, I’ll try to review as many as I can.

So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Lie Of The Land”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS. Likewise, this episode seems to be the final part of the recent three-episode story arc. So, although this week’s episode possibly works as a stand-alone episode, you’re best watching the previous two episodes first.

The episode begins with a propaganda broadcast, where The Doctor talks enthusiastically about how the monks are good for humanity. This is accompanied by altered footage of Earth’s history, with the monks being present at all key moments.

There’s even a Vitruvian monk too!

Fun fact: The “M” in “E=MC2” stands for “monk” in this timeline.

This montage is then revealed to be a propaganda broadcast that the Doctor is presenting. Needless to say, Earth has been turned into a gloomy, drab totalitarian dystopia, in the style of something like “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, “V For Vendetta”, “SS-GB”, “Half Life 2” or “Children Of Men”. There are even thought police too!

Who, like Judge Dredd, have the power to sentence people on the spot. However, their ominous red and black uniforms are a little unimaginative though.

Whilst all of this is going on, Bill is sitting in a room and imagining a conversation with her mother. Every day it becomes harder for her to remember life before the monks arrived. Plus, every few minutes, her mind is filled with images of the monks. Yet, she is determined to hold on to the memory of Earth’s true history.

The episode also contains occasional voice-overs of Bill talking to her mum too. These voice overs also help to add extra atmosphere to the episode too.

Then, suddenly, there is an ominous knock on the door! Luckily, it’s just Nardole (who has been ill for six weeks following the events of the previous episode). He tells Bill that the Doctor is being held on an old prison hulk moored off of the Scottish coast. Needless to say, it isn’t long before they begin planning a rescue mission. However, things don’t quite go to plan….

And, no, Bill isn’t pointing that gun at the guards!

The first thing that I will say about this episode is that it is an absolutely brilliant piece of old-school dystopian sci-fi! But, although I’d expected it to be slightly slower and more contemplative episode that would be more in keeping with many other things in this genre, the episode’s twist-filled story moves forward at a surprisingly fast pace.

Even though this is a refreshing change from the slightly slower pacing of the previous episode, the idea and premise behind this episode is so good that the episode just feels too short. There’s lots of fascinating stuff and thrilling drama here, but it almost seems to flash past too quickly. If only this episode had been twice the length! Still, forty-five minutes of high-quality dystopian sci-fi isn’t exactly a bad thing either.

Of course, it still contains several classic tropes of the genre, such as the plucky band of resistance fighters…

Although the episode is fairly light on humour, and the storyline goes in some fairly serious directions, the episode manages to avoid becoming too sombre or depressing due to the fast pacing, the intriguing premise and the emotional ending.

Yes, this isn’t really a comedy episode.

One of the central themes of this episode, like with the first episode in the story arc, is the theme of truth and lies. Not only is this reflected in several of the episode’s plot twists, but this theme is handled in both a topical and a slightly more “timeless” way.

On the one hand, the monks’ rewriting of history and the Ministry Of Truth-like propaganda pyramid that the monks have built in London have echoes of George Orwell.

Likewise, thinking about it, the pyramid is probably also designed to evoke old American conspiracy theories about the “illuminati” too.

Yet, at the same time, there’s also more topical stuff too – like a brief comment about “fake news” and a destroyed statue (which is vaguely reminiscent of the toppled statues of Saddam Hussein during the 2003 Iraq war).

This mixture of old and new really helps to lend the episode a suitable level of gravitas, whilst avoiding the heavy-handed politics of some other episodes in the series (like this one or this one).

Another outstandingly good thing about this episode is the set design and lighting design. Dystopian sci-fi is a genre that consistently has astonishingly beautiful set design (Blade Runner” being the classic example) and this episode really doesn’t disappoint here.

The set designs here are reminiscent of films like “Children Of Men” and “Blade Runner”, with a slight hint of the BBC’s recent “SS-GB” TV series too. Seriously, this is one of the most cool-looking episodes of “Doctor Who” so far this series!

This room manages to look wonderfully retro and ominously modern at the same time 🙂

The lighting in this scene is reminscent of both the later scenes of “Blade Runner” and some parts of “SS-GB” too 🙂

Then there are these docks, which look a bit like both the opening scene from “Blade Runner” and the first level of the original “Deus Ex” too 🙂

In addition to all of the stuff that I’ve mentioned, this episode also somehow finds time to deal with some of the over-arching backstory of the series. Not only does Missy make another appearance, but she also has some extra character development too.

This little scene at the end of the episode is especially surprising. Then again, who knows if Missy was really being serious?

Plus, the cool moment in the first episode where The Doctor gives Bill a box of photos takes on a slightly greater level of significance in this episode.

All in all, this is an incredibly dramatic episode that somehow manages to cram a lot of storytelling into just 45 minutes. The set designs are beautiful, the story is compelling and it is a suitably dramatic conclusion to the recent three-part story arc. Yes, I’d have liked to see more of the dystopian world that the monks have created but this is a small complaint about a really good episode.

But, from the preview at the end of the episode, the next episode seems like it will be a thoroughly silly episode about Victorian soldiers on Mars (it even includes the phrase “walking crocodiles!” [or “upright crocodiles”, I can’t remember] said in a suitably stuffy and indignant way LOL!).

Well, if this preview is anything to go by, I guess that the serious drama of this story arc will be balanced out by something totally silly next week.

Anyway, if I had to give “The Lie Of The Land” a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.

Top Ten Articles – May 2017

2017-artwork-top-ten-articles-may

Well, it’s the end of the month and, as usual, I thought that I’d post a list of links to my ten favourite articles about art, webcomics and/or writing that I’ve posted here this month. I’ll also include a couple of honourable mentions too.

Although there were more reviews and rambling articles than usual near the end of the month (and I almost missed including articles on two occasions due to scheduling errors when I prepared this month’s articles quite a while ago), I really like how at least a third of this month’s articles turned out 🙂

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – May 2017:

– “Three Ways To Find Your Own Aesthetic
– “Three Ways To Blend Different Genres Of Art
– “Three Things You Can Learn From Failed Comic Plans
– “Four Basic Ways To Give Your Webcomic A Visual Upgrade
– “Four Reasons Why Artists Don’t Always List Their Inspirations
– “Four Reasons Why Shorter And/Or Segmented Webcomics Are Awesome To Make
– “Three Sneaky Ways To Cram More Stuff Into A Webcomic Update
– “Four Basic Tips For Making Detective Comedy Comics
– “Three Ways To Make Better “Uninspired” Art
– “Three Basic Ways To Get More Out Of Your Image Editing Program

Honourable Mentions:

– “Five Free Sources Of Inspiration For Cyberpunk Artists, Writers etc..
– “Why “Detailed” Art Is Often Less Detailed Than You Might Think