Review: “Doctor Who: The Last Dodo” By Jacqueline Rayner (Novel)

Well, although I’d originally planned to read a crime thriller novel, I was still in the mood for sci-fi. And, during a book-shopping trip to Petersfield a couple of days before preparing this review, I happened to find a couple of slightly older “Doctor Who” spin-off novels in a second-hand bookshop in Petersfield.

Since I quite enjoyed reading a more modern novel in this series a few months earlier, I was eager to read one of them as soon as possible. And, since Jacqueline Rayner’s 2007 novel “Doctor Who: The Last Dodo” involved both a dodo and time travel (the very idea brought back very fond memories of reading one of Jodi Taylor’s “Chronicles Of St.Mary’s” novels), I ended up choosing it.

Interestingly, although this novel is based on an older version of the “Doctor Who” TV series (the version starring David Tennant and Freema Aygeman), it can still be enjoyed if you haven’t seen the show – since the earlier parts of the novel explain/recap all of the important elements of the TV series.

So, let’s take a look at “Doctor Who: The Last Dodo”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2007 BBC Books (UK) hardback edition of “Doctor Who: The Last Dodo” that I read.

The novel begins in Mauritius in 1681, with a scene showing a dodo fleeing from hungry sailors who have recently found the island. When the dodo realises that she is the only dodo left on the island, two people in green shirts suddenly appear and rescue her.

Then we flash forwards to 2007, Martha is standing around inside the TARDIS and trying to make a decision. The Doctor has told her that the TARDIS can take her anywhere in time and space and this has left Martha frozen with indecision. Eventually, she suggests visiting the zoo – which prompts something of a self-righteous lecture from the Doctor about why he doesn’t like zoos. So, after happening to notice that the Doctor is using a dodo feather as a bookmark, Martha suggests going back in time to see the dodos before they became extinct.

Using the feather as a locator, the TARDIS travels through time and space. But, when the doors open, Martha and The Doctor find themselves inside a giant museum. In front of them, the last dodo floats in a box frozen in stasis. But, before Martha or The Doctor can really make sense of it, alarms go off and they are seized by armed guards. The museum’s director, Eve, explains that they are in the Museum Of The Last Ones – a planet-sized collection of the last members of all extinct species. And several specimens have recently been stolen from the “Earth” segment…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that, whilst it isn’t perfect, it certainly has some good moments. It is reasonably compelling and is also generally in keeping with the tone and style of the TV series (which is both a good and a bad thing). So, yes, I have fairly mixed views about this novel.

In terms of the novel’s sci-fi elements, this novel contains all of the stuff that you’d expect from “Doctor Who” (eg: time travel, other planets etc…) in addition to some classic sci-fi stuff like teleportation etc.. But the most interesting thing about this novel is how well it both does and doesn’t predict the future.

In at least one part, this novel is startlingly ahead of it’s time – since a running plot point in this novel involves Martha playing a vaguely “Pokemon Go”-style animal-spotting game on a tablet computer/electronic book that looks “a bit like a large iPod”. For reference, this novel was published in 2007 (and probably written a year or two earlier). On the other hand, this novel predicts that a near-future Britain will use the Euro as a currency and also predicts/implies that the Kakapo would become extinct in 2017. So, it’s a rather interesting glimpse into the near-past’s visions of the future.

The novel’s main plot is a rather interesting mixture of a detective and thriller story – with the earlier parts of the novel involving Martha and The Doctor trying to track down who has been stealing animals from the museum and the mid-late parts of the novel being a more traditional-style adventure/ thriller/ caper story.

Both of these parts work reasonably well and are fairly compelling, but are a little on the amusingly cheesy side of things (occasionally veering into “so bad that it’s good” territory). The detective segments have more of a focus on clue-finding and interviewing people and the thriller segments are a mixture of hilariously awesome/silly set pieces (sometimes involving dinosaurs) and classic-style cackling villainy, dramatic plot twists, clever plans, general chaos etc… These later parts are most close in tone to the TV series and, if you stick around for them, then you’ll be rewarded with something like a larger-budget mid-2000s episode of the TV show 🙂

Thematically, this is a novel about environmentalism and conservation. However, like some of the worst episodes of the TV show, this novel can sometimes take a fairly heavy-handed, patronising and/or lecturing approach to these topics. Not only that, whilst The Doctor does have quite a few comedic and eccentric moments, he can often be somewhat self-righteous during several parts of this novel.

Still, leaving this aside, some of the characters in this novel are reasonably well-written. The best characters are probably Martha and a dodo called Dorothea, although many of the background characters feel like fairly realistic characters (even if they don’t get that much characterisation). Likewise, there are at least a couple of surprisingly emotional parts later in the novel (which are in keeping with the best character-based moments in the TV show).

However, although the novel’s main villains do get well-written motivations and backstories, they are very much from the cackling, moustache-twirling “elaborate and almost nonsensical evil schemes” school of villainy. Needless to say, this results in some wonderfully silly moments and other “so bad that it’s good” kind of stuff.

In terms of the writing, this novel is very much a mixed bag. On the plus side, the writing in this novel is informal and fast-paced enough to both make the novel very readable and to give it personality, whilst also being descriptive enough to add atmosphere to the story.

On the downside, the perspective is quite literally all over the place. Expect random jumps from first to third person perspective (or vice versa) to happen in the middle of chapters, with very little consistency (eg: some Martha-based scenes are first-person, some are third-person etc…) and with only the barest minimum of signposting to tell you what is happening. Yes, you’ll get used to this after reading the book for a while, but there never seems to be any real reason or logic for the perspective changes and the novel would have been much better if it had stuck with either first or third-person narration.

In terms of length and pacing, this novel is really good 🙂 At a very efficient 248 pages in length (less if you don’t count the encyclopaedia/game score segments), this is the kind of refreshingly short novel that can easily be enjoyed in a couple of hours or so 🙂 Plus, the pacing is reasonably good too – with a good mixture of suspense, mystery, drama, fast-paced set pieces and location changes that remain compelling throughout the novel. Not to mention that the later parts of the novel almost feel like watching a “lost episode” of the TV show too.

All in all, if you can put up with random perspective changes and a bit of self-righteousness, and if you don’t mind a little “so bad that it’s good” silliness, then there is actually a fairly good story buried in here. When it is at it’s best, this novel is like a really good older episode of the TV show (but with a slightly larger budget) and, when it is at it’s worst, it’s like one of the more annoying episodes of the TV show.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three and three-quarters.

Review: “Doctor Who: Combat Magicks” By Steve Cole (Novel)

Well, since I was still going through a phase of reading spin-off novels, I thought that I’d check out a “Doctor Who” novel from 2018 called “Combat Magicks” by Steve Cole.

This was a hardback novel that I splashed out on last December (and, yes, I prepare these reviews quite far in advance) shortly after series eleven of “Doctor Who” had finished.

Although I didn’t have time to review more than the first episode of this series, it was probably one of the best series of the show that I’ve seen and, well, I wanted more of it (especially since the 2018 “Christmas episode” was postponed to New Year’s Day 2019 and the show apparently won’t return until 2020). Hence getting this book.

I should probably also point out that, although “Combat Magicks” tells a stand-alone “Doctor Who” story and can be read without watching the “Doctor Who” TV show, it’s probably worth watching at least a couple of series eleven episodes before reading this novel in order to get to know the main characters.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Doctor Who: Combat Magicks”. Needless to say, this review may contain some SPOILERS.

This is the 2018 BBC Books (UK) hardback edition of “Doctor Who: Combat Magicks” that I read.

The novel begins with the TARDIS, a time-travelling spaceship shaped like an old police call box, being knocked off-course by a mysterious energy field. Inside the TARDIS, The Doctor and her earthly companions Ryan, Yaz and Graham try to work out what has happened.

When the TARDIS lands, they find themselves in Gaul in 451 AD. The sky is glowing. Something is interfering with Earth’s history and it is up to the Doctor to find out what it is and put everything right.

But, there is just one little problem. In the area around the TARDIS, the forces of Attila The Hun are about to do battle with the Romans who control the area. Being a fixed historical event that is a crucial part of Earth’s timeline, The Doctor can do nothing to stop the war. Still, it doesn’t take her too long to find out that mysterious witch-like creatures called the Tenctrama are involved in this whole mess…

One of the first things that I will say about this novel is that it’s like an extra episode of “Doctor Who”, but with a slightly more complex storyline, slightly more horror and a much larger special effects budget 🙂

In other words, it’s a brilliant mixture of quirky science fiction, subtle comedy, gruesome horror and thrilling drama 🙂 Yes, it takes a little while for the novel’s story to really become gripping, but it is worth sticking with this novel 🙂

I should probably start by talking about this novel’s sci-fi elements. Every futuristic thing here has a logical explanation and follows a consistent set of rules (which the characters have to try to understand). The nefarious Tenctrama who are threatening Earth also have realistic motivations for their actions and all of the story’s futuristic technology also feels like technology rather than magic.

Of course, thanks to the historical setting, many of the Roman and Hun characters consider alien technology to be magic. This allows the story to include some really cool dark fantasy-style elements, in addition to allowing the story to occasionally explore the difference between knowledge and superstition. Seriously, as sci-fi stories go, this one is well within the “Doctor Who” tradition.

In terms of the novel’s horror elements, they’re really cool 🙂 In addition to some brilliant scenes of paranormal horror, scientific horror, death-based horror, zombie/monster horror and suspenseful horror, the novel also includes a surprising amount of gruesome horror too 🙂

Yes, this gruesome horror is relatively tame when compared to “proper” horror novels (with the story’s grislier moments being described in a slightly quicker and/or less detailed way), but it still adds a bit of extra atmosphere, grittiness and horror to the story in a way that the TV series probably wouldn’t be allowed to do.

Not only that, the story also includes zombies too 🙂 Yes, they are a little different from typical horror movie zombies, but it’s always really cool to see zombies in “Doctor Who” (like in the series eleven episode “The Witchfinders”).

In a lot of ways, the horror elements of the story reminded me a little of modern historical dark fantasy/horror/zombie novels like Rebecca Levene’s “Anno Mortis” or Toby Venables’ “Viking Dead“, which is never a bad thing 🙂

Of course, all of these horror elements are also balanced out with the series’ trademark sense of humour, consisting of things like pop culture references, amusingly eccentric comments from the Doctor and a few amusing narrative moments. So, this is more of a “feel good” novel than you might initially think.

As for the novel’s thriller elements, they’re really good too 🙂 Although the story takes a while to lay out all of it’s plot threads and become really gripping, this is worthwhile. There’s a really good mixture of suspenseful moments, a couple of plot twists, dramatic action sequences, clever plans and large-scale drama.

One of the cool things about the Thirteenth Doctor having three companions (rather than the usual one) is that this allows for more complex stories when they become separated, and this novel takes full advantage of this fact.

In terms of the characters, they’re fairly good. Not only are the main characters reasonably close to their TV show counterparts, but this story also allows them to be a bit more badass – whilst still staying within the show’s traditional pacifist themes.

Likewise, the fact that this is a novel means that there’s even more room for personality and humour too. In addition to all of this, the novel’s historical background characters are reasonably well-written – with the highlights being Attila The Hun and a Roman version of “Torchwood” called “The Legion Of Smoke” – although they don’t get quite as much characterisation as the four main characters do.

Plus, as mentioned earlier, the novel’s villains (the Tenctrama) also come across as characters with defined motivations who do evil things for a practical reason rather than just for the sake of being evil. Because of this, they are even more chillingly effective villains. Not to mention that their backstory and motivations also help to feed into the novel’s anti-war theme too.

In terms of the writing, this novel is fairly good. The story’s third-person narration has a little bit more of a distinctive “style” than I expected and it’s this brilliant mixture of more informal observations and mildly formal descriptions. It fits in surprisingly well with the tone of the TV show and, although there are a few mildly confusing moments (eg: a third-person segment written from the perspective of one of the Huns early in the story), it means that the story is a very readable and relaxing way to spend a few hours.

As for length and pacing, this novel is also really good. At an efficient 264 pages in length, it never feels like a page is wasted. The pacing is mostly really good too, although the second half of the story is probably somewhat more gripping than the first half is. Although this is probably because the earlier parts of the story have to spend time setting everything up for the spectacular drama in the later parts of the story.

All in all, this is a really good “Doctor Who” novel 🙂 Yes, it takes a little while to really become compelling, but it’s a brilliant blend of the sci-fi, horror and thriller genres 🙂 So, if you enjoyed series 11 and wonder what it would look like with a higher budget, a bit more horror and more time to tell a story, then this novel is worth reading.

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

Micro Review: “Doctor Who – The Woman Who Fell To Earth” (TV Show Episode)

Well, although I won’t have time to review every episode of the new series of “Doctor Who”, I thought that I’d at least take a super-quick look at the first episode (“The Woman Who Fell To Earth”). This is probably more of a short first impressions article than a full review though.

Even so, I should probably point out that this short review may contain some SPOILERS.

As first episodes go, this one was a lot better than I’d expected. Normally, when a new Doctor is introduced, their first episode is somewhat lacklustre compared to later episodes – with the episode’s story taking a back seat to introducing the characters.

However, the characterisation in this episode takes place at the same time as the actual story of the episode 🙂

To my surprise, this episode actually manages to be both a good character introduction and a good (if slightly basic) sci-fi/horror/thriller story too. In short, a hunter from outer space has arrived in Sheffield in search of human prey and is up to the Doctor to stop him.

Raaargh!!!!

As you would expect, the episode is a good mixture between comedy, horror, drama and thrilling action. In short, it is a good “classic style” Doctor Who episode, which also has a hilariously dramatic “ooops!” cliffhanger ending too.

One thing that also helps to set it apart from previous series of the show is the fact that it is set in Sheffield (unlike the many London-centric series of the show). Likewise, unlike some parts of the previous series of the show, this episode didn’t really preach at the viewer either – which is also a refreshing change.

As for the characters, they’re really good. In contrast to Peter Capaldi’s more gloomier interpretation of the character, Jodie Whittaker’s version of the Doctor reminded me a bit of Matt Smith and David Tennant’s more eccentric/light-hearted portrayals. The new Doctor is an instantly likeable character who pulls off the classic mixture of confidence, chaos and comedy absolutely perfectly.

And, yes, there’s a new sonic screwdriver too.

And, if you’ve ever wondered why all of the Doctors have slightly random outfits, this charity shop-based scene explains everything.

Although the news that there would be several companions in this series made me feel a bit sceptical, the three new companions (Ryan, Yasmin and Graham) are all fairly realistic and interesting characters. One thing that helps is that they already know each other before they meet the Doctor. Not only does this result in better character interactions, but it also helps to keep the show’s story focused despite the larger number of main characters.

Yes, the larger main cast actually works surprisingly well.

The episode also has a slightly more “cinematic” look to it, whilst still being very recognisably “Doctor Who”. The episode’s special effects also look fairly good and are complemented by some wonderful high-contrast lighting too. Seriously, I love the lighting in this episode 🙂

Seriously, it’s amazing that awesome 1980s/90s-style high-contrast lighting has made such a comeback in recent years 🙂

All in all, this is a really good opening episode. It is both refreshingly new, yet also classic “Doctor Who” at the same time. Although I probably won’t have time to review much more of the series (due to preparing lots of upcoming book reviews, being busy with other creative projects etc…), I’m looking forward to watching the rest of it. In short, if the opening episode is this good, then the rest is probably going to be brilliant.

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

Review: “Doctor Who – Twice Upon A Time” (TV Show Episode)

Well, although it’s a little on the late side of things, I thought that I’d review this year’s Christmas episode of “Doctor Who”.

So, let’s take a look at “Twice Upon A Time”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

“Twice Upon A Time” begins with a recap… of an old episode from the 1960s starring William Hartnell as the first Doctor.

Yes, if you were expecting a recap of the ending of the series from earlier this year, you’re in for a surprise…

Dying, he stumbles out of the TARDIS into the South Pole whilst displaying a Churchillian level of determination to stay alive. However, much to his surprise, he meets the current Doctor (who is also dying) – but doesn’t recognise him.

As they begin to talk, the falling snow around them suddenly freezes in the air. A rather confused WW1 officer then interrupts their conversation. It quickly becomes obvious that something is wrong with time itself..

Don’t worry, I’m sure that Baldrick has a cunning plan…

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it is classic “Doctor Who”. It is able to be serious without being miserable. It is able to be poignant without being depressing. It is able to be profound and deep, but is still able to be intriguingly mysterious. It is able to be morally complex without being too morally ambiguous. As send-offs go, this is one of the best ones that I’ve seen.

As you would expect, this is an episode about memory and death. A lot of the episode’s story revolves around whether our memories make us who we are. Not only is this shown in the many humourous and dramatic interactions between the two Doctors, but the premise of the episode also allows for a few appearances from familiar characters from earlier in the show (eg: Bill, Clara, Nardole etc..). And, in a lot of ways, the episode’s theme of memories also reminded me a little bit of both “Blade Runner” films. Which is never a bad thing 🙂

Of course, “Blade Runner” isn’t the only thing this episode reminded me of. This scene contains a brilliant parody of and/or homage to “Alien” too 🙂

Another cool thing about this episode is that time travel is a really central part of it. Although the entire show revolves around time travel, it is often more of a background detail or an excuse for the characters to be somewhere interesting. This episode, on the other hand, is all about how time affects people. A lot of the episode’s story revolves around the complex interactions between the past, the modern age and the distant future – and this is handled really well.

Such as this brilliant little moment when a man from the 1910s finds a piece of 1980s/90s technology whilst standing inside a time machine from the distant future.

The episode also approaches the topic of death with the high level of maturity, complexity, compassion and humanity that you would expect. The episode is also something of an exploration of the fear of death too (albeit in a somewhat stoical and understated way). Seriously, I cannot praise the writing in this episode highly enough.

Although some of the episode’s poignancy and emotional resonance will only “work” if you’ve seen Peter Capaldi’s other episodes on the show, the episode packs one hell of an emotional punch if you have. However if, like me, you haven’t really seen any of the pre-2005 episodes of the show, then some of the episode’s references may seem a little bit confusing.

For example, whilst these two characters are obviously the first Doctor’s companions, I have no clue what their names are etc….

The characters in this episode are absolutely brilliant. Although William Hartnell’s version of the Doctor is obviously played by another actor, he certainly seems like a character from an old TV show.

He’s a grumpy, patronising and stubborn old man – who somehow manages to be both steely and Churchillian, yet hilariously old-fashioned, at the same time. He could have easily turned into a caricature, but he comes across as a character who is both set in his ways and yet highly inexperienced at the same time. It’s a really difficult balance to get right, and the episode nails it perfectly.

Plus, he even wears a monocle at one point too.

Likewise, the WW1 officer in the episode is also a more nuanced character than he appears to be. Although he is something of a typical “stiff upper lip”-style character, he doesn’t really stray too much into the realm of Blackadder-esque caricature most of the time, and he comes across as a surprisingly nuanced and complex character.

The Doctor and Bill are, as you would expect, the same excellent characters as they have been for the past couple of series of the show too. And it is great to see them getting a proper ending to their story (as opposed to the “deus ex machina” ending of series ten):

Yay! There’s some proper resolution to this chapter of “Doctor Who” 🙂

Jodie Whittaker’s much-anticipated appearance as the next Doctor is also a really cool moment. The scene in question is dramatic, funny (eg: the Doctor’s amazed reaction when she looks in a mirror) and is quintessentially “Doctor Who”. But, it is literally just a moment. This awesome scene is over within the space of about a minute… and with a cliffhanger ending too!

And, in contrast to Capaldi’s gloomy portrayal of the Doctor, Whittaker’s Doctor seems to be more of the eccentric and/or cheerful David Tennant/Matt Smith school of Doctoring. Well, this is what I guessed from the few seconds she actually appeared for…

As you would expect, the dialogue in this episode is absolutely brilliant. Although there are lots of serious lines (such as the Doctor’s brilliant soliloquy before he regenerates), the episode is also filled with lots of amusing and witty dialogue segments too. Again, as a send-off for this era of the show, it is absolutely brilliant!

Seriously, this is the best “ending” episode that I’ve seen 🙂

The set design and lighting in this episode are brilliant too. Not only does the episode sometimes use lighting to create atmospheric colour schemes (eg: red and blue, blue and orange etc..) but there’s also lots of beautiful chiaroscuro/ tenebrist lighting here too. Seriously, the lighting in some scenes looks like something from a Caravaggio painting 🙂

Yes! THIS is how to use lighting 🙂

Seriously, this scene could almost be a Caravaggio painting!

However, this episode does have the annoying modern habit of using lots of lens flare sometimes….

This is also complemented by some brilliant set design too, with many of the episode’s locations evoking a theme of oldness, bleakness and/or decay.

Including a segment set on a post-apocalyptic planet that looks like something from an old horror movie 🙂

And check out this location that manages to look ancient and futuristic at the same time 🙂

The episode’s special effects are also reasonably ok too. Although the CGI effects are sometimes a little bit obvious, this doesn’t really matter as much as you might think since the story of the episode is so gripping that you’ll probably be willing to overlook any minor flaws with the effects. I mean, it could have 1980s special effects and it would still be a compelling episode.

Yes, some of the CGI effects look like something from at least a decade ago. But, the story is so compelling that this doesn’t matter.

All in all, this is a brilliant way to end this era of the show. This episode is poignant, funny, dramatic, spectacular, intelligent and visually brilliant. My only real complaint about it is that the scene introducing the new Doctor was far too short.

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

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.

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.