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

Well, the new series of “Doctor Who” started yesterday- so, it’s time for a review.

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 (eg: the review probably won’t appear for a day or so at least), it has been way too long since I last reviewed an episode of “Doctor Who” (and, yes, I know that I reviewed the Christmas episode a few months ago, but still…).

So, that said, let’s take a look at “The Pilot”. Needless to say, this review might contain some SPOILERS.

The episode begins at a university, where the Doctor is teaching. He’s asked somone called Bill to his office because she has a habit of attending his lectures, even though she isn’t a student at the university (she works in the cafeteria).

Yet, instead of complaning or ordering her not to attend lectures, The Doctor is intrigued by the fact that she apparently smiles whenever she doesn’t understand something. So, he wants her to become one of his students and offers to become her tutor.

Needless to say, it isn’t long before Bill realises that The Doctor is slightly… strange.

After a strange series of events involving another character called Heather – Bill, The Doctor and his friend Nardole find themselves fleeing through time and space in the TARDIS in order to escape a mysterious watery ghost who seems to be chasing them across the universe….

The first thing that I will say about this episode is that, as the title suggests, it’s an episode that can be enjoyed if you’ve never watched “Doctor Who” before. It spends a while reintroducing and re-explaining various elements from the series, which slows down the pacing of the episode slightly. Still, as introductory episodes go, it manages to cram a lot of characterisation and storytelling into just fifty minutes.

Plus, unlike the previous series, it’s a proper stand-alone episode. It tells a single story that is concluded by the end of the episode. After the relentless over-use of two-part episodes in 2015, it’s great to see the series returning to what it does best!

Still, despite all of the cool stuff in this episode, the pacing isn’t quite right. The beginning of the episode is surprisingly slow-paced for a “Doctor Who” episode and, whenever something thrilling, suspenseful or creepy happens later in the episode, it is often broken up by a subsequent scene with a different emotional tone.

This is especially disappointing since this episode really, really tries to be a horror episode. There are even a few scenes that are reminscent of late 1990s/early 2000s horror films too. But, many of the creepy parts of the episode aren’t really allowed to develop to their full potential since the suspenseful atmosphere is often broken by something random and/or silly.

For example, this had the potential to be a really suspenseful scene. But, Bill and the Doctor get into the TARDIS and flee to Australia long before the ghost even gets close to them.

But, although this episode fails slightly as a horror episode, there is still loads of really cool stuff here. In addition to lots of hilarious dialogue and subtle references to earlier parts of the show, there are all sorts of interesting locations and we also even get to hear the Doctor delivering a lecture about time too. Plus, there’s a vaguely “Blade Runner”-like scene that involves a mirror in an old photograph.

One other cool moment in this episode is where The Doctor uses the “monster infighting” tactic from the original “Doom” in order to try to defeat the ghost. In other words, he tricks a Dalek into fighting the ghost by standing in front of the ghost and diving out of the way just before the Dalek fires it’s lasers. Seriously, it’s great to see classic 1990s FPS gaming tactics in TV shows.

Well, the corridor was too narrow for circle-strafing, I guess.

As for Bill, it’ll be interesting to see how her character develops as the series progresses. The scenes involving her include a good mixture of both comedy and serious drama. She comes across as a fairly realistic character, even though she has a habit of asking hilarious questions almost constantly. A lot of the drama and comedy in this episode comes from the fact that Bill has only just been introduced to the TARDIS, time travel, other planets etc.. So, it’ll be interesting to see how her character changes when she gets more used to going on adventures with the Doctor.

One other outstanding feature of this episode is the set design. This episode contains a ridiculous number of locations and they all look suitably interesting, realistic and/or futuristic. In addition to the cool blue/orange colour scheme used in the locations where the Daleks appear, there’s also a scene set on another planet that includes almost Hollywood-level effects:

Seriously, the CGI in this series has really improved over the past decade.

All in all, it’s great to see “Doctor Who” back on TV again. Although this episode doesn’t really “work” as a horror episode and the pacing isn’t quite right, it’s an absolutely great introduction to the series for people who have never watched “Doctor Who” before. It’s kind of like a “greatest hits” compilation of everything that makes “Doctor Who” what it is – even if it ends up being slightly less than the sum of it’s parts sometimes.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would maybe just about get a four.

Mini Review: “The X-Files – Babylon” (TV Show Episode)

2016 Artwork X Files Babylon review sketch

Even though I still don’t know if I’ll get round to reviewing all of the new “X-Files” episodes, I saw the fifth one on Channel 5 earlier and I thought that I’d share my thoughts about it.

Even though I’m personally trying hard to avoid SPOILERS for this new series, this review may contain some SPOILERS for this episode. You have been warned.

Following a terrorist attack on an art gallery in Texas by two Islamic extremists, Mulder and Scully are joined by another team of two agents (called Miller and Einstein) who are basically a younger version of themselves. Both Mulder and Scully have different ideas of how to communicate with one of the terrorists who survived the attack, albeit in a comatose state.

Scully teams up with Miller and plans to use a ECG machine to map the terrorist’s brain activity, in the hope of getting neurological responses to yes/no questions. Mulder, on the other hand, convinces Einstein to (reluctantly) give him a hallucinogen, in the hope of communicating with the terrorist telepathically. Can they question him in time to prevent further attacks?

The best way to describe this episode is probably ” ‘Homeland’ meets ‘ The X-Files’ “. Although I’ve only seen the first season of “Homeland”, it’s pretty clear where this episode got it’s inspiration from (I mean, the episode even begins with a Muslim character saying his daily prayers). Even so, it’s still very much an “X-Files” episode, with lots of brilliant dialogue, philosophy, occasional comedy, surrealism and thrilling drama.

The episode, as is mandatory in most vaguely intelligent TV shows about modern terrorism, contains a lot of philosophical debate about religion, and about attitudes towards Muslims. There’s some focus on Christian mythology and a small amount of focus on Islamic mythology too.

Although the episode briefly touches on the idea that the extremist terrorists attacked the gallery because of a “blasphemous” painting, there’s relatively little debate in the episode about issues of free speech (there’s a brief scene of two political commentators arguing on a TV screen, but that’s it).

After the whole “Je Suis Charlie” thing, I’d have hoped that this episode would have included more stuff about free speech and religion (eg: about how verbal/written/pictorial arguments, rather than violence, are the only appropriate response if someone feels that their religion has been “blasphemed”). Then again, this is a “dangerous” subject these days, so I guess that it’s courageous that the episode even mentioned it.

However, although some parts of the episode feel a bit melodramatic (eg: the nurse who tries to kill the comatose terrorist because she believes some conspiracy theory about the UN and Muslims, or the scenes with the other extremist terrorists in their hideout), the “moral” at the end of the episode is surprisingly nuanced and philosophical.

Basically, Mulder points out the fact that both Christianity and Islam share the same god (and about how this god is used to “justify” acts of anger and violence). He also points out that he can’t believe that mothers would have children in order for them to turn into violent religious fanatics.

The best scene in the episode, by far, is Mulder’s hallucination scene. This is, quite frankly, brilliant. Not only do the Lone Gunmen make a brief cameo appearance, but Mulder also goes line dancing too (this is even more funny than it sounds). There’s also a darkly futuristic gothic cyberpunk sci-fi S&M scene too. Then there’s this wonderfully, and beautifully, surreal scene set on a ship that floats through the clouds.

The idea of introducing a younger version of Mulder and Scully (Miller and Einstein) is an absolutely brilliant one. Seriously, these two characters need their own spin-off series. They’re like a modern version of Mulder and Scully. We only get to see them for one episode and, yet, they’re both similar to and different from Mulder and Scully.

My only minor criticism of the episode is that the ending seemed a bit rushed. Then again, since this gives the makers of the show more time for witty dialogue between the four main characters and for Mulder’s hallucinations, I can’t exactly blame them for making the ending fairly quick.

But, yes, the writing in this episode is brilliant. There are just too many excellent parallels and mismatches between the four main characters and so many brilliant lines of dialogue.

All in all, even if the thriller plot is kind of a generic “stop the terrorists” plot that could have come from “Homeland” – the sheer amount of weirdness and fun character-based stuff make this is a brilliant modern “X-Files” episode. Seriously, this new mini series just keeps getting better and better.

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

Mini Review: “The X-Files – Home Again” (TV Show Episode)

2016 Artwork X Files Home Again review sketch

Even though I still don’t know if I’ll get round to reviewing all of the new “X-Files” episodes, I saw the fourth one on Channel 5 earlier and I thought that I’d share my thoughts about it. Since I’m in a slight rush at the time of writing, this review will be much shorter than usual (for once, the “mini review” thing is literal as well as metaphorical).

Even though I’m personally trying hard to avoid SPOILERS for this new series, this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for this episode. You have been warned.

“Home Again” begins with a group of cruel city officials in Philadelphia, who are trying to evict a group of homeless people from a street using fire hoses. When one of them gets back to his office at the end of the night, there is a mysterious intruder who quite literally tears him limb from limb. Naturally, Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate and it isn’t long before a number of strange pieces of evidence begin to emerge.

However, halfway through the investigation, Scully recieves a phone call. Her mother has had a heart attack and is in hospital. Whilst Scully visits her mother, the mysterious killer strikes again and it is up to Mulder to investigate….

All in all, this is probably the closest thing to a classic-style “X-Files” episode that I’ve seen so far. The main plot of the episode is a classic 1980s/90s-style horror movie type story that reminded me a bit of the short story by Clive Barker (called “The Forbidden“) that later got turned into an American horror movie called “Candyman“.

Many of the scenes from this storyline could have been taken from an old 1990s horror movie (they also reminded me a bit of a modern TV show called “Supernatural” too), and they all work really well.

In classic horror movie fashion, Mulder and Scully are too late to stop the mysterious killer from getting his bloody revenge on the motley crew of villainous officials. Although there is very little dark comedy in these scenes, the epiosde is a classic horror movie-style/ vintage horror comic-style morality tale in many ways.

The resolution to the main plot is, in classic X-Files fashion left slightly mysterious. It’s a little bit contrived, but a street artist has accidentally created a golem-like sculpture (which is likened to the concept of a tulpa, or thought-form) who has come to life and is fighting on behalf of the homeless.

As for the sub-plot about Scully’s mother, it’s fairly depressing. Like with previous episodes in this mini series, there’s also more of the long-running sub-plot about Mulder and Scully’s son, William.

Although I really liked the main plot, I wish that the writers of this episode had spent more time developing it. But, since there’s a fair amount of emphasis on the sub-plot invovling Scully’s mother, some parts of the main plot can feel a little bit rushed or under-developed sometimes.

All in all, this is a reasonably good episode. The main plot is classic 1990s-style “X-Files” and it works really well. However, it also has to compete for time with the rather depressing sub-plot and it loses something as a result. Personally, I’d have preferred it if the episode had focused entirely on the main plot.

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

Mini Review: “The X-Files – Mulder And Scully Meet The Were-Monster” (TV Show Episode)

2016 Artwork X Files Were monster review sketch

Even though I still don’t know if I’ll get round to reviewing all of the new “X-Files” episodes, I saw the third one on Channel 5 earlier and thought that I’d share my thoughts about it.

Even though I’m personally trying hard to avoid SPOILERS for this new series, this review will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for this episode. You have been warned.

“Mulder And Scully Meet The Were-Monster” begins with a thirtysomething couple in Oregon who are sniffing paint in the woods when they hear a commotion. A lizard creature flees the scene and a man lies on the floor. Fortunately, the man – an animal control officer – is fine, but another man lying on the ground nearby hasn’t been so lucky. His throat has been ripped out!

Meanwhile, Mulder is settling back into his old office at the FBI and he has grown disillusioned with his previous cases. Talking to Scully, he despairingly explains that many of the monster-related cases he’s found in the archives all have logical explanations. However, Scully insists that he should investigate this new lizard monster case, much to Mulder’s chagrin…

One of the first things that I will say is that I expected it to be a “serious” old-school “monster of the week” episode. It isn’t. This is a comedy episode and, my god, what a comedy episode it is! It’s one of the most inventive, and funny, comedy episodes of “The X-Files” that I’ve ever seen!

The plot twists come thick and fast, and many of them are laugh-out-loud hilarious. The episode just doesn’t take itself seriously at all! The dialogue is witty, the characters are extremely eccentric and there are just so many funny moments. After the dreary heaviness of the previous two episodes, it’s great to see that the creators of the show haven’t forgotten how to write oddball humour.

There’s a fairly good variety of humour here. There are countless in-jokes – Mulder is the sceptic for once, Mulder loses his gun (yet again) and there’s even a tombstone with the name of one of the show’s directors (?) on it etc… There are a few quirky visual jokes too.

There’s a lot of witty dialogue too. Seriously, there are too many funny lines to list here. But the bulk of the comedy comes from the characters and the dialogue.

The main plot twist is that the were-lizard that Mulder and Scully are hunting isn’t actually a person who turns into a lizard creature. No, it’s a lizard creature who – after being bitten by a person – suddenly finds that he transforms into a human (called Guy Mann) when the moon is full. Likewise, he turns out not to be responsible for the mysterious killings (being an insectivore, he even feels a sense of guilt over eating a burger at one point).

Guy is, by far, the best character in the episode. He’s played by Rhys Darby (it took me a while to recognise him, but he’s the guy from “Flight of The Conchords”… although it’s been about eight years since I watched any of that show) and he is, well, brilliant. He’s able to be tragic and comedic at the same time. He’s able to make pretty much every emotion he portrays is comedic in some way or another. Seriously, he’s a brilliant comic actor.

One of the things I really loved about the episode was the fact that the lizard creature is genuinely horrified by becoming a human (and about having to bullshit his way through life as a human) and he quite rightly points out that it’s normal for him to be a lizard.

He feels genuinely happy when he changes back into a lizard in the privacy of his motel room. I’d try to point out that this is a subtle and poignant LGBT metaphor, but the show itself kind of points this out openly – only to (sort of) play it for laughs.

In fact, this episode’s handling of LGBT topics is, well, complicated. Being LGBT myself, I feel like I have to discuss it here, but I don’t want to sound like a humourless political critic (because most of this episode is funny!). So, what I’ll say is that the LGBT stuff in the episode is handled with an equal amount of irreverence and non-seriousness as anything else in the episode is.

For example, a motel owner is revealed to be a sleazy peeping tom, but it’s revealed that he’s more interested in spying on Mulder (who sleeps wearing nothing but a pair of red briefs… which is more than I would have hoped/expected Mulder to wear, but American TV censorship… ). But, before any straight men, lesbian women and/or bi people complain, there’s equal opportunity fanservice later in the episode when Guy fantasises about Scully seducing him. So, it’s cool to see an episode that is refreshingly bisexual when it comes to it’s gratuitous fanservice scenes 🙂

At one point, the “monster” approaches a transgender woman (who, in clichéd American detective show fashion, is a prostitute) however, she’s easily able to fight him off using her handbag. Whilst this initially seems like a cool subversion of the grim American TV/ Hollywood movie cliché about transgender characters always being killed, it turns out to be the set up for Guy to make a groan-inducingly predictable comment about how she “fought like a man” later in the episode.

Likewise, at one point, Mulder begins to give an open-minded speech about the fact that some people are transgender – only for it to quickly degenerate into a few clichéd jokes about genitals being cut off….

So, yes, for every open-minded thing in this episode, there’s also something a bit more conservative. Then again, given that the comedic style of this episode relies on expectations being subverted over and over again, I can’t really moan about it too much. It treats LGBT topics in an equally irreverent way to any other subject.

All in all, even though I spent the last five paragraphs moaning about one small aspect of this episode, it’s my favourite episode in the new series so far 🙂 Seriously, I love it. It’s funny and quirky in only the way that “The X-Files” can be.

The main plot twist is genuinely inventive, and the episode contains a wide variety of different types of comedy that are combined in all sorts of hilarious ways. It isn’t a “serious” monster of the week episode, but it’s an astonishingly good parody of one!

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

Mini Review: “The X-Files – My Struggle” (TV Show Episode)

2016 Artwork X Files My Struggle review sketch

Although I don’t know if I’ll get round to reviewing all of the new “X-Files” episodes, I saw the first one on Channel 5 earlier and thought that I’d share my thoughts about it.

Even though I saw a couple of season one episodes of “The X-Files” on VHS in the early ’00s, I didn’t really get into the series until late 2012 (after watching most of another TV show called “Fringe”), when I began watching as much as I could of the series on DVD. So, although I’m a bit late to the party, I’ll be approaching this review as a fan of the show.

But, first, let me say how glad I am that this is actually being shown on a mainstream TV channel in the UK. When I first heard that there was going to be a new mini series, I feared that it would only be shown on satellite or, even worse, be one of those *ugh* “internet only” TV series. So, even though we’re seeing it after it’s been shown in America, I’m still really glad that I can actually see it.

Even though I’m personally trying hard to avoid SPOILERS for this new series, this review may possibly contain some of them for the episode in question.

“My Struggle” begins with Mulder giving a brief history of the previous events of the series, in a cool montage scene that uses old photos. Then we get to see footage of quite a few CGI UFOs, before seeing one crash in Roswell in 1947.

Later on, Scully (who is still working as a surgeon) is contacted by Skinner, who wants her to contact Mulder. Apparently, a prominent internet conspiracy theorist called Tad O’Malley wants Mulder and Scully to see some shocking evidence about the alien conspiracy that has been a backdrop for the events of the entire TV series…..

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it’s certainly one for fans of the show (like myself). Although there was a second “X-Files” film released in 2008 (?), neither the film nor the series ever fully resolved the long-running sub-plot about the alien conspiracy. So, it’s good to see that this is finally being addressed in the new mini series.

And, yes, this episode is filled with more conspiracy theory stuff than you can shake a stick at. However, unlike in the episodes from the 1990s/early 2000s, this isn’t an intriguingly weird thing that makes the show more fascinating. These new episodes have been made in the age of PRISM, drones, Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks etc… and all of this topical stuff is used to full effect to make the show feel very up to date.

Likewise, the episode makes full use of this fact to redefine the whole “conspiracy” sub-plot in a fairly subtle way. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there are some surprising revelations in this episode.

However, one part of the ending to this episode is a little bit contrived. Although I haven’t seen all of season 9 of “The X Files”, I’ve seen the finale of it (since it was released separately, and more cheaply, on DVD) and – well – The Smoking Man gets burnt to a crisp and/or blown to pieces at the end of that. And, yet, the big reveal at the end of this new episode shows him to be alive. However, although he’s been reconstituted somehow, he still has a tracheotomy for some bizarre reason. Surely if the technology exists to rebuild him from a scorched skeleton, then why wouldn’t they also rebuild his neck?

And, yet, this episode still contains everything that made the old episodes so distinctive. Although it’s set in the present day, it’s still very much “The X-Files”. I was a little sceptical about how they’d be able to bring the show up to date, but it’s done absolutely seamlessly and the new episodes come across as a natural extension of the older ones.

However, one critical thing that I have to say about the new episode is that – for the start of a new series – it’s a little on the slow side. If, like me, you’re a fan of the show, then this probably won’t bother you that much (because new X-Files!!!) but I can see how it might puzzle, or even bore, new viewers.

Still, this is all part of what makes “The X-Files” the show it is. For every few dramatic episodes featuring a creature of some kind, there’s often a slightly more slow-paced traditional-style thriller episode. This is one of those episodes.

In terms of the acting and the characters, they’re as good as ever. Mulder is still Mulder, Scully is still Scully and Skinner is still Skinner.

All in all, although it isn’t the best episode of “The X-Files” that I’ve ever seen, it’s still astonishingly cool to see a new episode of the show 🙂 Although I don’t know when or if I’ll review the other five upcoming episodes, this episode was good enough to make me want to watch them. However, don’t go into it expecting it to be a “monster of the week” episode. It’s a slow-paced conspiracy thriller episode for long-term fans of the show.

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

Mini Review: “Doctor Who -Hell Bent” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who Hell Bent review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “Hell Bent”. This is the final part of the series’ three-part finale.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review will contain MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS.

“Hell Bent” begins with The Doctor walking into an American diner in the middle of the Nevada desert. The diner is empty, except for a waitress who bears a striking resemblance to Clara. The Doctor sits down and begins to tell the waitress a story, with the thought that “memories become stories when they are forgotten“.

After this, we get to see what happened on Gallifrey. The Lord President of Gallifrey and the ruling council initially try to arrest the Doctor and, later, to execute him. However, thanks to his actions in the Time War, the soldiers refuse to fire on him and he quickly finds himself in charge of the entire planet. The senior officers and elders on Gallifrey believe that the Doctor can stop “The Hybrid”.

The Doctor agrees, but with one request – that he can use Gallifrey’s advanced technology go back in time and talk to Clara in the split second before her death….

Although the beginning of this episode is slightly confusing, it eventually all comes together to form a stunning and stunningly-powerful story. Even though this episode is about 15-20 minutes longer than the average episode of the show, the story goes from feeling very large and expansive to very simple, powerful and short as the episode progresses.

In other words, although this episode starts out as a very traditional sci-fi episode, it slowly becomes something a lot more timeless and profound than you might expect. However, the sci-fi parts of the episode are really cool too – since we get to learn a lot about Gallifrey’s history, what happens to time lords after their final regeneration, what a fully-functional TARDIS actually looks like (it’s a boring metal tube) etc..

But, although there’s a lot of philosophy in this episode – about free will, determinism, life and death – it always carries all of the dramatic weight that it should do and it never comes across as melodramatic. There’s a serious dramatic tension between The Doctor’s view that we all control our own destiny and Clara’s surprising insistence that she was fated to die in London.

The plot twist regarding the identity of the Hybrid is kind of an interesting one – since it’s revealed that it refers to The Doctor and Clara working together. Although this part of the episode slightly resembles the blessed end of Catherine Tate’s tenure on the show quite a few series ago – even down to the part about memory wiping, it’s done with a really clever twist here. Namely that, thanks to Clara messing with the memory wiping device The Doctor stole from Gallifrey, it’s The Doctor who loses his memories of Clara instead.

Clara’s last scene in the show, where she flies off in a stolen TARDIS with Ashildr to have lots of “Doctor Who” style adventures before she eventually returns to Gallifrey (in order to return to her part of the timeline and to die) is exactly the kind of dramatic send-off that Clara deserved and it carries all of the emotional power that the first part of this finale failed to achieve. And, yes, this scene moved me to tears slightly.

There’s a lot more that I could say about this episode, but I’ve tried to keep my reviews fairly short for this series’ episodes (compared to the essays I wrote when reviewing the previous series).

So, all that I will say about this episode is that it is a stunning end to a stunning series. Yes, this series certainly had it’s flaws (eg: all of the two-part episodes) but it was easily as good as, or perhaps slightly better than, the previous series was.

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

Mini Review: “Doctor Who -Heaven Sent” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who Heaven Sent review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “Heaven Sent”. This is the second part of the series’ three-part finale.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review may contain PLOT SPOILERS, but I’ll try to avoid major ones.[EDIT: I’ve just changed the next paragraph slightly, since it inadvertantly contained more of a plot spoiler than I thought]

“Heaven Sent” begins with an ominous speech about how we are all followed by something in every moment of our lives. We see bloody footprints in the cold stone corridors of a castle. A burnt and bloodied hand twitches and moves in a pile of sand before falling lifeless. Yes, this isn’t your average episode of “Doctor Who”.

After this, a teleporter activates and The Doctor finds himself alone inside a strange castle-like building. A strange, shifting building. A strange building with screens in every room that happen to show the world from something else’s eyes. Something else that is moving towards The Doctor…

In case you haven’t guessed already, this is a horror episode. And, my god, what a horror episode it is!

Everything from the mysterious zombie-like creature to the gothic set design to the sea bed that is filled with nothing but skulls just oozes gothic creepiness. The best word for this episode would probably be “Lovecraftian“.

Everything from the constantly following creature, to the Doctor’s gradually deteriorating emotional state, to the castle’s strange shifting design could have been taken straight from the pages of a H.P.Lovecraft story and, yes, this is as dramatic as it sounds.

Although this episode was touted as being the first episode in the show’s history to only include The Doctor, this isn’t strictly true.

Since the episode is punctuated by scenes that take place within The Doctor’s mind (which looks a lot like the TARDIS), Clara makes a few appearances here – leaving mysterious advice written on a blackboard or, in one scene, actually talking to The Doctor. But, despite this, you still get the sense that The Doctor is completely and utterly alone as he explores the dark, mysterious castle.

Still, Peter Capaldi’s performance in this episode is absolutely stunning. There’s no other way to describe it, this is probably his best episode as The Doctor.

Another astonishingly cool thing about this episode are the sheer number of clever plot twists here. Ok, I guessed the episode’s main plot twist about a third of the way through the episode (the clothes by the fire gave it away)- but it’s still revealed in an astonishingly dramatic and creepy way near the end of the episode.

Not only that, the way that the main plot twist handled is surprisingly inventive – and some of the Doctor’s more nonsensical actions gradually start to make sense during a dramatic montage near the end of the episode.

The very last scene of the episode also sets everything up for the beginning of the next episode – which seems like it’s going to be an epic sci-fi episode 🙂

All in all, this episode is amazing. I know that I’ve thought that other episodes were “the best episode in the series“, but this one towers above them all!

It’s an astonishingly good horror episode that is filled with a level of psychological and dramatic complexity that is on a par with, if not better than, many great horror movies. It’s dark, it’s gothic and it’s absolutely compelling.

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

Mini Review: “Doctor Who -Face The Raven” (TV Show Episode)

[Edit: I've just ameded the text in this graphic since the media didn't outright spoil the ending, but they mentioned a few things which made it easy to guess].

[Edit: I’ve just ameded the text in this graphic since the media didn’t outright spoil the ending, but they mentioned a few things which made it easy to guess].

Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “Face The Raven”. This is the first part of the series’ three-part finale.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review will contain MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS!

Ok, everyone probably already knows what I’m talking about here (hell, it was unfortunately kind of common knowledge before the episode even aired – thanks to some well-publicised hints about the episode [edit: Thinking about it, I suppose that these hints didn’t outright tell you the ending but, if you put them together, you could guess it very easily – eg: one member of the main cast was said to be leaving the show, a description about how not everyone makes it out of the episode alive etc…]) but I thought that I’d give a spoiler warning nonetheless.

“Face The Raven” begins with Clara and The Doctor returning from another adventure, only to find that the TARDIS’ phone is ringing. The call is from Rigsy, who has no memory of the night before and a mysterious living tattoo on the back of his neck that is counting down from 526. After some investigation, The Doctor manages to work out that Rigsy stayed in London during his memory lapse.

He proposes that whoever did this is hiding in one of London’s many hidden streets (that are often mistaken for trap streets on old maps). These streets are shielded from public view by alien technology designed to distract people from them. Still, after a bit of searching, The Doctor, Clara and Rigsy find themselves in a very olde worlde hidden street. It is a refugee camp for aliens stranded on earth and the mayor of the street is none of than Ashildr.

She reveals that Rigsy’s tattoo is a delayed death sentence and that she has given it to him after he was accused of murdering one of the residents of the street. The Doctor and Clara only have two hours to prove his innocence……

One of the first things I will say about this episode is that it’s meant to be one of the most emotionally-powerful episodes in the series and it sort of succeeds at this. Although I wish that the fact that Jenna Coleman was leaving the show in this episode was kept a bit more secret beforehand.

Although Clara’s death at the end of the episode is very clearly meant to be a shocking and tragic plot twist, it only really comes across as tragic (in the traditional sense of the word, since Clara dies because of a well-intentioned mistake she made earlier in the episode) – because pretty much everyone already knew it was going to happen.

Even so, it’s certainly a very dramatic and powerful scene – especially after the long and emotionally-powerful dialogue scene between Clara and The Doctor, where she makes The Doctor promise not to avenge her death.

The writing, acting and characterisation in this episode is, quite simply excellent. The episode’s plot is complex and it is also full of plot twists and backstory. Not to mention that – although the later scenes of the episode, and the episode’s many plot twists, are extremely dramatic – they never quite come across as melodramatic most of the time.

Well, there is this one slightly melodramatic scene where Ashildr mercilessly sentences an old man to death – although this is probably foreshadowing for later in the episode (when it’s revealed that she framed Rigsy for murder in order to trick the Doctor into entering the street – so that she could banish him to a distant planet).

It’s kind of a shame that Ashildr has turned into some of a villain (again) but it’s not entirely out of character and it’s handled in a fairly realistic way (eg: when someone suggests that Ashildr thinks that she’s doing the right thing, the Doctor merely says “they all do”.)

The special effects and set design in this episode are absolutely splendid too and the hidden street is shrouded in candlelit gloom and it has an almost Tudor/medieval olde worlde look to it. I really liked this setting and it was a suitably gothic location for such a tragic episode.

All in all, this is probably one of the most dramatic episodes of the series so far. Even though all of the hints in the media (about Jenna Coleman’s departure from the show etc..) robbed the episode’s ending of some of it’s dramatic power, it’s still an incredibly tragic and dramatic episode. It’ll be interesting to see who the Doctor’s next companion will be and whether he’ll break his word and avenge Clara’s death or not.

If I had to give this episode a rating out of five, it would get a four (if you’ve seen spoilers) or a six (if you haven’t).

Mini Review: “Doctor Who -Sleep No More” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who sleep no more review sketch

Sorry about the late review, but I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about today’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “Sleep No More”. Delightfully, this episode actually seems to be a self-contained episode rather than another two-part episode 🙂

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review may contain PLOT SPOILERS.

“Sleep No More” begins with some grainy footage of a mysterious man warning the viewer not to watch the events recorded within. After this, we see a team of four soldiers (Nagata, Chopra, Deep- Ando and 474) from the 38th century who have been sent to investigate a mysteriously abandoned space station in orbit around Neptune.

The station is eerily deserted until, of course, the team runs into the Doctor and Clara who are also investigating too. After they are all suddenly attacked by a mysterious creature, they take refuge in a nearby lab where they discover an improved version of “Morpheus” – a semi-sentient coffin-like hypersleep chamber which allows people to survive on five minutes’ sleep per month, so that they can work more efficiently…….

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it is very different to pretty much any episode of “Doctor Who”. Even the introductory titles are completely different (and they look a bit like a cool low-budget version of the scrolling text from “The Matrix”). All of the footage in this episode looks like it has been filmed by either security cameras or body-mounted cameras and this really gives the episode a very different atmosphere to most episodes of the show.

Not only is the emphasis on the four soldiers, all of whom are really interesting and unique characters, but this episode has one hell of a lot of backstory too. Seriously, it almost feels like an episode from another TV series altogether. In the classic cyberpunk fashion, lots of details are thrown at the audience and we’re sort of left to fill in the gaps ourselves.

This story is set in a future where India and Japan have merged into a single world power after an unspecified catastrophe, it’s set in a future where people have the ability to grow genetically-engineered replicant-like “grunts” (like 474), where lots of people use Morpheus etc… There has been an astonishing amount of thought put into the story behind this episode and this is absolutely astonishing too.

This episode is very much like a classic 1980s/90s sci-fi/horror movie in a lot of ways. It reminded me a lot of both “Aliens” and “Event Horizon” (and maybe a computer game called “Doom 3” too). Not to mention that some of the set designs later in the episode are very reminiscent of “Blade Runner” too.

Hell, even one of the other characters (Rasmussen) looks a little bit like Eldon Tyrell from “Blade Runner” (due to the glasses and jacket that he’s wearing). In fact, not only is this a horror episode – but it’s also a cyberpunk one too 🙂

Another cool thing about this movie is the lighting in it. It seems like an odd thing to mention, but the lighting in this episode uses a really cool red/blue colour scheme that lends a lot of atmosphere to the space station.

The special effects in this episode are kind of variable though. Some of the effects look like modern CGI and some of them (eg: the monster costumes in some scenes and footage of a pod moving through the station) look a little bit like something from a 1990s episode of “Red Dwarf”. Not that I’m complaining though, I love the 1990s and “Red Dwarf” 🙂

But, although the episode starts out in a very dramatic and suspenseful way, when the identity of the creatures is revealed, the episode becomes considerably less suspenseful for a while. The monsters are made from sentient sleep dust that has accumulated in people’s eyes because they’ve stayed awake too long after using Morpheus. It’s hilariously silly!

However, just when you think that this episode can’t creep you out, you learn why these creatures have been able to take over the station (thanks to some wonderfully creepy explanations from the character responsible) and you learn why the man at the beginning of the episode is recording footage of it all and… wow! I’d thought that this was a watered-down pre-watershed “horror” episode but it’s the kind of thing that would have probably given me nightmares for weeks if I was 10-15 years younger than I am now.

The last scene of this episode contains one of the coolest, creepiest and most dramatic plot twists that I’ve seen in an episode of “Doctor Who”. I won’t spoil it but, damn, I did not see that coming.

All in all, I absolutely love this episode. It’s an absolutely awesome piece of atmospheric 1980s cyberpunk-influenced military sci-fi. The characters are brilliant and there’s been a lot of thought put into the backstory of this episode. Yes, the horror elements of this episode drop away for a while, but they quickly return with a vengeance when you least expect it. Plus, it’s a self-contained episode too.

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

Mini Review: “Doctor Who -The Zygon Inversion” (TV Show Episode)

2015 Artwork Doctor Who Zygon inversion review sketch

Well, I thought that I’d quickly share some of my rambling thoughts about yesterday’s episode of “Doctor Who” called “The Zygon Inversion”.Sorry that this review was slightly late though, but I’m also not sure whether next week’s review will be late or not too.

Before I go any further, I should warn you that this review may contain PLOT SPOILERS.

“The Zygon Inversion” continues from where the previous episode ended. As virtually everyone could have guessed, The Doctor finds a way to escape from the plane with Osgood before it crashes – and it’s still up to him to salvage the peace between humans and Zygons. After trying to kill the Doctor, Clara’s Zygon clone is now walking around London and unmasking ordinary Zygons in the hope of causing mass panic and chaos.

Meanwhile, Clara is trapped within her own mind inside the Zgyon pod but she has discovered that the psychic link with her Zygon clone allows her to have some influence over her clone’s actions…

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it’s radically different from last week’s episode. Whilst last week’s episode was a fast-paced thriller story with several different sub-plots that was intricately interwoven, this episode is slightly slower and more cerebral. In other words, this episode’s story is mostly about a battle of minds rather than a battle with guns and soldiers.

Yes, there are still a few dramatic plot twists and the occasional thrilling scene, but a lot of the episode is taken up with discussions, debates and dialogue instead.

The scenes between Clara and her Zygon clone are absolutely brilliant and they consist of lots of clever dialogue and plot twists, as the two Claras try to outwit each other in various ways. These are probably some of the best scenes in the episode.

Another cool thing about these scenes is that the human Clara is actually trapped in a surprisingly realistic dream-like world, where the numbers on digital clocks are reduced to gibberish and where everything else also looks just a little bit uncanny too (in fact, Clara even actually does the classic lucid dreaming trick of checking whether she’s dreaming or not at one point). Seriously, this episode gets the depiction of dreaming absolutely right.

The main centrepiece of the episode is a confrontation between Zygon Clara, The Doctor, Kate, Osgood, Human Clara and the two Osgood boxes. Most of this is taken up with The Doctor giving a very “Star Trek: The Next Generation”-style speech about how violence begets violence and about how every violent revolution ends up inspiring another one.

But, whilst, it’s good to see that sci-fi shows still contain this level of philosophical depth -the Doctor just ends up stating the obvious for quite a long time, which can get a bit boring. Virtually everyone already knows that war is a bad thing and that violent revolutions usually end up leading to dictatorships.

So, these subjects could have probably been handled in a more subtle and quicker fashion. Then again, given that this show is still technically a kids’ show, I can see why the makers of the show might need to spell these things out in painstaking detail.

Still, this scene is kept interesting through the use of a few clever plot twists – such as the fact that The Doctor secretly replaced the Osgood boxes with placebos (because he knew that someone would eventually try to use them) or the fact that he had to wipe Kate’s memories (and possibly Zygon Clara’s memories too) fifteen times before she finally decided not to press the button that would start WW3.

But, despite all of the episode’s heavy philosophical drama, there are a lot of cool moments that help to lighten things slightly. The best of these is probably an exchange between The Doctor and Osgood where The Doctor (quite rightly) points out that London is an absolute dump – only for Osgood to ask why he spends so much time there. Given how it was genuinely shocking last series when an episode of “Doctor Who” was finally set in a city that wasn’t London, I found this line of dialogue absolutely brilliant.

All in all, this episode is a piece of classic philosophical sci-fi in the vein of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Although it would have been cool to see another fast-paced thriller episode like last week’s one, it makes a lot of sense for this episode to be radically different in tone given that one of the main themes of Doctor Who is pacifism and the essential goodness of every living being, rather than violent conflict.

Unlike most other great classic sci-fi shows, “Doctor Who” isn’t a military sci-fi series and, although it can be easy to forget this sometimes, it’s what makes the show it’s own unique and distinctive thing and this episode shows this more clearly than anything else.

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