Category Archives: matt smith

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

As it has since the beginning of the post-millenium series, “Doctor Who” returns for Christmas with a new special, a teaser of the season to come. This time, it’s a Dickensian Christmas-themed trip on a honeymoon spaceliner with returning cast Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as The Doctor and Amy Pond. Arthur Darvill also returns as Amy’s newlywed husband, Rory. At least that’s what might be expected from the previews, and the episode’s title, “A Christmas Carol.”

We begin on board a plummeting spaceliner, this being “Doctor Who” all spaceliners are doomed, but we find Amy and Rory arriving from the bridge of the ship, from the honeymoon suite, in meter maid and Roman soldier outfits (!), telling the crew everything is all right because they’ve called for help. Yeah, you guessed it, The Doctor, cue opening credits.

The spaceliner is careening into a planet whose atmosphere is controlled by an evil old man who refuses to grant entry, dooming the passengers of the ship, unless The Doctor can change his mind. Between the Dickens references, the Victorian steampunk culture of the planet, and the more obvious “A Christmas Carol” parallels, this is not what you think it is, and goes in a completely different direction. And I would expect nothing less from writer/producer Steven Moffet.

Yes, this is Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, but not in the way you think. While Amy and Rory are here, they are barely here. The story revolves around Michael Gambon as the Scrooge template, Kazran, whose past is altered helter skelter. Gambon is terrific here, as are his younger self Laurence Belcher and the love of his life Katherine Jenkins.

Steven Moffet spins a wonderful but bittersweet time travel tale that also mirrors last year’s season finale. It’s almost as if Moffet decided that if “Doctor Who” is a show about time travel, let’s make it a show a time travel gosh darn it – and he pulls out all the tricks. The result is delightful, and the Christmas tradition continues. I can’t wait for the new season to start.

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Doctor Who: The Big Bang

This is it, the finale. Last episode it was truly a 1966 “Batman” cliffhanger – The Doctor was imprisoned in the Pandorica by all of his greatest enemies and Amy had been shot, supposedly killed by the Nestine/Roman/Auton Rory at Stonehenge in 102 AD.

After the scenes from last week we get the caption that says 1894 years later to see Amy as a child praying for someone to come and fix the hole in her bedroom wall. This is significant as it skewers the rumors that the Doctor actually picked up Amy from the 1980s rather than the present day. Do the math.

What we see is very similar to the opening of this season’s first episode “The Eleventh Hour” – except there’s no Doctor, and no stars in the sky. With other things like star cults and Nile penguins, it becomes quickly apparent that this is an altered timeline. Young Amy is led to a museum by a path of Post-It notes Alice-style where she opens the Pandorica and is confronted by her older self. Cue title sequence.

My first reaction is that Steven Moffet was just watching a bit too much Bill and Ted. There is a lot of Bill and Ted time travel buggery going on here. You know, jumping back and forth in time quickly to make sure what you need is where you need it when you need it. It’s fun. Once. Not several times. But I have to say, Moffet covers his bets and makes sure everything is explained regarding these elements.

There are lots of cool bits in this episode. It felt sooo good when Rory punches the Doctor in the mouth. It’s even cooler when River Song makes a Dalek beg for mercy. And Rory seals his image with the ladies with perhaps the most romantic artist’s rendering ever. There were scary moments of premature realization when I thought maybe Amy was an Auton or perhaps DoctorDonna. There’s also the fez that the Doctor wears for a short time, “It’s a fez. I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”

There’s also an overlong backwards rewind through this whole season by the Doctor. In this we learn that not everything we have seen was the Doctor in his present time, at that time. It also serves to explain what I at first thought was an editing glitch in the Angels two-parter. When the Doctor is sans jacket, then with jacket and then sans jacket again – the jacketed Doctor was the Doctor from the future rewinding backwards.

“The Big Bang” was a somber and less special effects dependent finale than its first part, but it worked for me. It does suffer somewhat from Lord of the Rings-it is, in that it has far too many endings. The bad news is we don’t find out who River Song is, yet, so I cannot collect bets or pay folks off. I still think she could be the Rani…

So until Christmas… remember, in the words of Professor River Song, “the Doctor lies.”

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Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens

I can’t believe it’s almost over. Here we are at the final story of the fifth season (series for you Brits) of “Doctor Who.” As the title “The Pandorica Opens” implies, we’re going to get some answers finally, and man, are they something! Beware, there be spoilers ahead…

The Steven Moffet scripted episode opens with various characters from throughout the series – Vincent van Gogh, Winston Churchill, Prof. Riversong and Queen Liz all working to get a message routed through time via a painting and the TARDIS. The painting, by van Gogh is called “The Pandorica Opens” and depicts the TARDIS exploding.

Somehow we end up back two thousands years in the past with the Roman legions of Julius Caesar, with Riversong as Cleopatra. Don’t worry, it comes together. The Doctor, Amy and Riversong track the Pandorica to Stonehenge, and I half-expected an appearance of the Ogri from “The Stones of Blood,” one of my favorite old school stories. No luck, but there is a very cool Raiders going on when they discover the Pandorica, which appears to be some sort of prison cell.

This is when things get very bad. The Pandorica is sending out a signal, and apparently calling various alien races to Earth, and not good ones – all ones with a hatred for the Doctor. First the Daleks, then the Cybermen, and as if that’s not enough, it seems they are all converging on Earth – the Sontarans, the Judoon, the Silurians, the Sycorax, the Slitheen, the Atraxi, and the Autons among others.

Yeah, it’s the final battle with all the baddies with fanboy giddiness. You can almost feel Steven Moffet grinning as he wrote this.

Just as I was starting to like Karen Gillan as Amy unhindered by Rory, the old boy makes a reappearance, believe it or not as one of the Romans. And she still doesn’t remember him. And just when you might think it just can’t can’t get any worse … it does. Rory is an Auton.

Meanwhile Matt Smith’s arrogant promise-breaking Doctor has problems of his own with almost every one of his worst enemies in the skies. He momentarily holds off the warring alien races with smack talk, which would have been much cooler had it not been the same smack talk and the same trick he pulled at the end of “The Eleventh Hour.” It definitely seems like arrogance is going to bite Matt in the ass just like it did David Tennant last season.

And then the Pandorica opens. Wow. Once all of the elements of this season come together, it makes sense, and man, is it nasty…

So until next time… “Hello sweetie” … or should that be “Goodbye sweetie?”

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Doctor Who: The Lodger

“The Lodger” begins with the Doctor kicked from the TARDIS, a machine that has proven in the past to be as temperamental as an agitated lover. I have to wonder at this point in the series, with only two episodes to go, if perhaps the TARDIS is being controlled by outside forces.

Next we tumble into what seems to be a completely unrelated sedate drama about a platonic couple – the man of which cannot verbalize his feelings for the woman – and a troublesome upstairs renter. It has a certain British sitcom vibe to it, but the situation could easily be “Everybody Hates Chris,” “Three’s Company,” Duplex or Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger. But this is “Doctor Who,” so you know there’s got to be more to it.

So the Doctor finds himself stranded with the TARDIS having ejected him and finds himself drawn into the above Britcom. Much like David Tennant did in the “Human Nature” two-parter, Matt Smith tries to blend in as both a human and a renter in the house, thinking that the upstairs tenant has something to do with what went wrong with the TARDIS. So the Doctor has some human misadventures, notably being wet, naked and in a towel (!) – has anyone else noticed how often he gets wet? And he also plays football (soccer for us Yanks). It’s a lot of fun until you take into account this aired the same day as the US/UK round of the World Cup – then it seems a bit forced.

While this is going on Amy is trying to get control of the TARDIS. She’s pushing and pulling controls left and right and taking the turbulent ride of her life while the blue Police Box is out of flux. In all the confusion I couldn’t help but wonder when she would stumble across Rory’s engagement ring.

And then things get bad. It all comes out all right though, for the moment. The universe is saved again, this time with a head butt and a kiss. There is of course still a question of where this second TARDIS came from. Only a Time Lord can build a TARDIS. Could it be the Rani? Or maybe the Doctor’s other personality the Dream Lord? No time to think about it, because then things get worse.

“The Lodger” was written by Gareth Roberts who has a long peripheral history with Doctor Who, having penned many novels in the New Adventures and Lost Adventures series of books as well as several of the audio dramas featuring the Doctor. He’s also written a few episodes of the series, some with Russell T. Davies and some alone. “The Lodger” also features a couple of previous Doctor cameos, and a bizarre and quite honestly hysterical new power for the Time Lord. Fun. Roberts turns in an interesting if oddball and madcap assignment here.

So until next time, remember… “Bowties are cool.”

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Doctor Who: Vincent and the Doctor

“Vincent and the Doctor” is one of those history episodes of “Doctor Who.” They used to do these all the time way way back in the old days of the show. We’ve had a few in the new series. The recent Dalek adventure in World War II springs to mind, as does the older “Daleks in Manhattan” two-parter, and then there were the episodes with Agatha Christie, Queen Victoria and Shakespeare. This one falls more in line with the historical personage than just standard period piece. The personage in this case is Vincent van Gogh.

Geek that I am, my first exposure to van Gogh was in the Peanuts comic strip – Snoopy had one of his paintings in his doghouse. Later, I learned what a genius the man truly was, even if he was a mad genius. As one of the greatest post-impressionist painters of all time, his work still resonates and affects the art world even today. And yeah, he’s a perfect choice for a character in a Doctor Who episode. Of course his presence in this episode begs one question, is his name pronounced ‘van goff’ or ‘van goh’?

Notable this time out is that “Vincent and the Doctor” is written by Richard Curtis, more famous for Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and one of my favorite films Love Actually. He even brought along one of his favorite actors, Bill Nighy, for a pleasant cameo as a present day van Gogh expert. Good stuff.

Despite the ending of the last episode “Cold Blood,” Amy Pond seems pretty upbeat in this one, but of course she doesn’t remember she lost, or even had, a fiancée. It is a good upbeat though, and there is good chemistry between Amy and the Doctor this time. She is big and flamboyant. I like Amy here. Did Rory really make that much of a difference in her life? There’s a great moment when the panicked Doctor calls Vincent “Rory.” He’s taking Rory’s death harder than the clueless Amy.

The episode is highlighted by many beautiful visual references as well as several bad puns to van Gogh, his life and his work. Amy taunting the artist with sunflowers comes off just as well as Rose trying to get Queen Victoria to say “I am not amused” back in “Tooth and Claw.” The performance of Tony Curran as van Gogh plus the music of Murray Gold produce a perfect shattered portrait of the tortured genius. The music has been notably stunning this season.

The story has the artist, along with our TARDIS crew fighting off a stranded monster, the Krafayis, a miracle of the non-special effects of the invisible – almost a homage to Forbidden Planet at times. Look for inky cameos of the first and second Doctors, along with some frightening moments, and a powerful powerful ending that I won’t spoil.

So until next time, remember… “Sonic never fails.”

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Doctor Who: Amy’s Choice

This is a very intriguing episode. In “Amy’s Choice,” the Doctor and his friends are trapped in two parallel dreams – one of now in a doomed TARDIS, and one five years from now with a pregnant Amy married to Rory in ‘the village that time forgot.’ The challenge – figure out which dream is real before they die.

The nemesis that places the Doctor in this trap is the mysterious and self-proclaimed Dream Lord, played by Toby Jones. He’s one of my favorite character actors. I loved him as Truman Capote in Infamous and he recently was verified to play the villainous freak Arnim Zola in the upcoming Captain America feature film. Here he plays a foe the Doctor apparently knows as the only person in the universe who hates him as much as he does.

Toby Jones gets all the good lines in the form of insults against the Doctor, similar to the Valeyard. He calls upon all of his names like the oncoming storm, etc., but while I prefer my ‘Kid Who’ for the ‘Junior Doctor,’ I certainly do have a fondness for ‘him in the bowtie’ as well. And it’s not just Jones, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan as well as Rory played by Arthur Darvill, all have excellent dialogue in this Simon Nye script.

Rory this time out kinda falls into Mickey territory a bit in this episode, but I still like him. He has presence, which puts him above Mickey’s comic relief in my book. He only has that whiny quality when confronted by the Doctor as a romantic rival. It’s refreshing as it sort of reminds me of how the Christopher Eccleston Doctor reacted when Captain Jack Harkness was hitting on Rose.

“Amy’s Choice” has terrific performances by all, a rough ending and then a soft ending, and of course more monsters worthy of making us all hide behind the couch. The same danger as usual but with a lighter touch than usual – I wouldn’t mind having Simon Nye return as a writer. His “Men Behaving Badly” vibe fits “Doctor Who” better than I thought it would.

We also get to see a bit more of the multi-level multi-color Soul Train set of the new TARDIS control room. Fun.

So until next time, “under the circumstances, I’d suggest… run!”

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Doctor Who: The Vampires of Venice

This week’s episode picks up right where the last ended. The Doctor is trying to set things right with companion Amy Pond and her-hours-away-from-her-vows fiancée. Although, is he trying to set things straight or is he just trying to get her off his back? Let’s face it, the Doctor’s been through this before, most recently with Martha, and he just wants to nip this in the bud as soon as possible. And in fetching fiancée Rory from his bachelor party, he makes his appearance in a very interesting manner. It has to be seen to be believed.

The Doctor sets them up on a date, in the perfect place – Venice, albeit sixteenth century Venice, but it’s still Venice. As always happens they get caught up in strange events that only the Doctor seems to attract – in this case, Senora Calvierri and her family of seeming vampires. At first I had to wonder if this was related to the Great Vampires, foes of the Time Lords who were encountered by the fourth Doctor in the episode “State of Decay.” Of course, as has been the theme of this fifth season, nothing is as it seems.

Vampires are perfect fodder actually for writer Toby Whithouse, who not only brought back Sarah Jane and K-9 a few seasons back, but also created the paranormal BBC series “Being Human.” However, old school fan that he is, his grasp of the newest season unfortunately feels a bit weak.

Matt Smith seems to be channeling David Tennant throughout the episode. It may be that this was written for Tennant or before Matt decided how he would play his Doctor. Amy is once again the companion of the week with little added to her character this time around. I think, so far, that only Steven Moffet can make her come alive.

Fiancee Rory on the other hand is intriguing. I love that he takes everything in stride, from the TARDIS being bigger on the inside to the whole time travel thing – he lets very little of the usual Doctor Who madness even phase him. What does bug him is the fact that everyone seems to think the Doctor is Amy’s fiancée and not him. Priceless. I actually like Rory a lot, especially when he calls out a monster by insulting its momma. Love it.

One thing is for sure, Moffet definitely wants us all hiding behind the sofa this season. We get a few more clues to the overarching plot for the whole season with the Pandorica, the Silence, and the crack in Amy’s bedroom. I have to say I was a bit disappointed in this episode’s climax as I thought it was too similar to that of “The Idiot’s Lantern,” but still it was fun. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Doctor’s library card!

Until next time, remember – stop talking, brain thinking, hush.

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Doctor Who: Flesh and Stone

When last we left the Doctor, Amy, River and a handful of assorted Space Marines, sorry, I mean future age priests with guns and body armor, they were in a maze of the dead, surrounded by an army of Weeping Angels, and it looked like the Doctor was about to bring a crashed starliner down onto their heads with a gun. And then the words ‘to be continued’ bitchslapped us back to reality. Two things writer Steven Moffet does well are scary and cliffhanger – the first part of this two-parter were chockful of both.

The resolution is sooo Doctor Who and very logical to the world he operates in, so I won’t give the cliffhanger away, but let’s just say we get to follow these folks for another forty-five minutes, and it’s a key element of the story. And in that forty-five minutes we see one of the other things Moffet does well – things get very complicated. Not only is Amy infected by the Angels, but we see the return of the crack in time and space from her home in the first episode this season. Seems it all ties together…

This episode brings about a bizarre paradox in the powers of the Weeping Angels. You can’t blink. You can’t look into their eyes. How hard is it not to blink? How hard is it not to look into someone’s (or something’s) eyes? How hard is it to watch something with no light? And how hard would it be not to open your eyes? Try it after you watch this episode and then be even more afraid.

The mystery of who River Song really is deepens as one of her priests threatens to tell the Doctor who she really is. Her hesitation at this, and also at saying that she trusts the Doctor is quite telling. Curiouser and curiouser. There is so much more to her than even before. Is she not just the Doctor’s wife, but also his murderer? Should I start taking bets that she’s the Rani now?

Until next time, walk like you can see.

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Doctor Who: The Time of Angels

One of the most frightening new monsters of the second incarnation of “Doctor Who” has been the Weeping Angels who appeared in the Steven Moffet-penned episode “Blink.” These demonic angel statues don’t move as long as you don’t stop looking at them – but if you blink, you’re dead. With Moffet now in charge of the series, the fourth episode of the fifth season features their return.

But Moffet couldn’t just let eleventh Doctor Matt Smith and his companion Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan, just deal with the Angels, could he? He also threw Professor River Song into the mix just to shake things up. This woman, portrayed by former “ER” star Alex Kingston, has met the Doctor before, but not yet in his lifetime, and knows a lot about him, intimate stuff – leading some fans to speculate she might be his future wife.

Officially she’s from the Doctor’s future and his current incarnation is from her past, to quote the Doctor, ”Time travel, we keep meeting in the wrong order.” This episode intimates that there may be quite a bit more to River Song than we may have suspected. May I throw a monkey wrench into the guessing game? What if she’s the Rani? Discuss.

The crux of “The Time of Angels” is that a starliner has crashed and there’s a Weeping Angel inside – River Song, along with the Doctor’s help is after it. This is where Moffet puts the screws to us with the horrifying fact that even images, like video footage, of the Angels can move if you blink. It’s one of the scarier moments with Amy in the middle.

Guided by a madman’s book our heroes explore a labyrinth of the dead, decorated by statues, which is where the starliner crashed. If that’s not creepy enough, it seems they are all Angels. This episode is to “Blink” what Aliens was to Alien, and this is not a horror you can nuke from orbit, or from behind your couch either. And it’s to be continued.

What will happen? Tune in next week, same Who channel, same Who time. Season five just keeps getting better and better.

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Doctor Who: Victory of the Daleks

Here we are, episode three of the new season of “Doctor Who.” I must say that I still don’t understand all the hating on the new theme. For some folks that seems to be the only thing wrong with the new series. I quite like it. I don’t hear the screams of ‘techno’ that some people complain about either. I hear the same old strings and synthesizer beats as always. And while I myself am still not thrilled by the TARDIS made from the D and W in the logo, I love the opening sequence. The lightning and spinning TARDIS add a level of precarious danger that I quite like.

“Victory of the Daleks” is not only the first time Matt Smith encounters the Daleks, but it’s also the first non-Steven Moffet-scripted episode of the season. I was a bit afraid there might be a change in tone or character, but writer Michael Gatiss brings the Moffet Who quite admirably.

WWII Prime Minister Winston Churchill calls on the Doctor for help, a bit that both demonstrates that the PM knows The Doctor intimately (even about his regenerating) and that the TARDIS is still a bit wonky (he arrives a month late). It seems that the UK has a new secret weapon against the Axis – a Brit scientist has ‘invented’ something that looks very much like the Daleks.

This episode includes a terror only a Brit or a student of history could appreciate, and be terrified of – the Daleks turn the lights on all over London during the Blitzkrieg. That must have made some older adults hide behind their couches over in the UK. In the meantime The Doctor involuntarily creates a new model of multi-colored Daleks. More colorful, maybe, but more dangerous, we’ll see.

The new Daleks are just a small bit of what has made this new season something different. From the new inside of the TARDIS to the fine blue wood of the Police Box outside to these new Daleks, everything has been brighter and more colorful. It’s something, that like the ‘too-young’ Matt Smith, is mis-leading in flat 2-D photographs, but vibrant and exciting in action. I like it.

Trust me, you haven’t lived until you see Spitfires attacking a Dalek saucer in space (shades of Warren Ellis!), The Doctor use a cookie as a TARDIS self-destruct device or seen Daleks serve tea. This one is a hoot. And of course, next week can only be better, and scarier – as Steven Moffet’s Weeping Angels return. And River returns as well. This should be good.

Matt Smith gets stronger in the role with every moment. Karen Gillan has a role here, but she really doesn’t have much to work with personality-wise. Her listing may as well read ‘Doctor’s generic companion’ this time. And Ian McNiece, the newsreader from HBO’s “Rome,” is a brilliant Winston Churchill.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a review of the first episode “The Eleventh Hour,” that aired for the first time in the States on BBC America last night, click here, and for the second episode, “The Beast Below,” click here. This is a great time to be a Doctor Who fan.

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