Category Archives: steven moffet

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.

Bookmark and Share

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.”

Bookmark and Share

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?”

Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who: The Hungry Earth

Like the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, the Sontarans, and maybe to a much subtler extent, the Ice Warriors, it’s now time for the Silurians to get their makeover in the 21st century version of “Doctor Who.” Also known as Homo Reptilia or the Eocenes, and cousin to the amphibian Sea Devils, these creatures were here on Earth long before mankind and went into hibernation, and have encountered the Doctor in the past.

This new incarnation of the Silurians is more humanoid, and they have had their previous monstrous visages written off as masks. Nice touch, that, even though the new masks are still very scary. The new make-up gives the actors more opportunity to emote. They are very Sleestakian in appearance (in a good way) with long whiplash tongues. As I’ve mentioned before, Steven Moffet wants to keep us behind the sofa.

On to “The Hungry Earth,” in this Chris Chibnall written episode, the year is 2020 and a drilling operation is going deeper than ever before, and people are disappearing. This is where the TARDIS lands, and almost immediately Rory splits off from the Doctor and Amy. He can handle himself, not always well, but he can. This is one of the things I like about Rory. He’s starting to remind me a bit of Harry Sullivan or Jamie McCrimmon.

The Doctor makes a frightening discovery – “While you’ve been drilling down, they’ve been drilling up.” When Amy disappears, yanked into the ground by whatever lurks below, the tension of the anti-relationship between Rory and the Doctor intensifies. The Doctor thinks he’s lost her, and it’s an anguishing moment for actor Matt Smith. He just keeps getting better and better.

This also begins to establish a pattern we’ve been seeing since the start of the Matt’s turn at the character – if the Doctor says you’ll be safe, if he says everything will be all right… you should run. Unlike David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston, Matt doesn’t seem to be able to keep his word. He fails a lot, so if he promises you something, run. Or to quote the Doctor himself, “Under the circumstances, I’d suggest… run!”

Obviously it’s the Silurians who are down under causing trouble, and planning to make war on the ‘apes’ above. And with Amy a prisoner down there, the good guys take a prisoner of their own – a Silurian woman with a thick Scottish accent, which tends to stretch the suspension of disbelief for me a bit. Meera Syal plays Nasreen Chaudry, a doctor at the drill site helping the Doctor. She’s a fun character, more fun than Amy in my opinion, who I wouldn’t mind see joining the TARDIS crew.

And for all those snobs who had problems with the early season five previews that showed the Matt Smith Doctor with a gun (which was not at all what it seemed to be, as shown at the end of “Time of the Angels”), the Doctor has a great line in this episode where he says, “No weapons. It’s not the way I do things.”

A sidenote, there was also some terrific incidental music by Murray Gold in this episode. I can’t wait until the next soundtrack comes out. The composer has been outdoing himself this season.

Until next time… “Hey, don’t dis the sonic!”

Bookmark and Share

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!”

Bookmark and Share

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.

Bookmark and Share