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Doctor Who: Flatline (Review)

Same time, same place… ish.

…ish? Don’t give me an ish.

These readings are very… ish-y.

In many respects, Flatline can be seen as the flipside of Turn Left.

Turn Left was twinned with Midnight towards the end of David Tennant’s final year in the lead role. If Midnight was a story about the Doctor trapped in an adventure without his faithful companion, Turn Left was very much the story of the companion trapped in an adventure without the Doctor. Both of those stories seem to stress the need for both a Doctor and a companion to form a functioning team, building very consciously towards the merging of the two in the season finalé, Journey’s End.

Eyebrows!

Eyebrows!

While Midnight suggests that the Doctor would have great difficulty without a companion to help ground him, Turn Left is even more pessimistic. It seems to set a ceiling for the role of the companion. Without the Doctor, the best that his companions can do is fight to a depressing stalemate and hope to rescue some alternate universe where the Doctor is still alive. As far as Turn Left is concerned, the companion fills a very important function – but that function is very clearly secondary to the Doctor.

In contrast, Flatline seems to suggest that the companion can step up to fill the vacancy left by the Doctor. Flatline builds off the climax of Kill the Moon in positioning Clara as a character who could step in to the role of the Doctor. It is an interesting idea, arguably one that the show has been teasing from as early as Ace’s character during the final season of the classic show. Here, Clara suggests that it might be possible for a companion to elevate themselves to such a position. However, it remains questionable if such a possibility would be desirable.

Drawn together...

Drawn together…

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Doctor Who: The Christmas Invasion (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Christmas Invasion originally aired in 2005.

Oh, that’s rude. That’s the sort of man I am now, am I? Rude. Rude and not ginger.

– the Doctor

Part of what’s remarkable about The Christmas Invasion is that it’s a great big important episode. Not only is it the first Doctor Who Christmas Special, the beginning of a BBC institution, it’s also the first full-length adventure to feature David Tennant in the title role, and so it comes with a lot of expectations. Whereas most of Davies’ Christmas Specials tended to be relatively light fare – enjoyable run-arounds aimed rather squarely at the kind of people who didn’t tune into the show week-in and week-out – The Christmas Invasion is a pretty big deal.

It’s a vitally important part of Davies’ Doctor Who, and one that really lays out a general blue print for where he wants to take the series over the next few years. The fact that so much of this winds up tying back into the final story of the Davies era – The End of Time – is quite striking on re-watch.

Song for Ten(nant)...

Song for Ten(nant)…

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Non-Review Review: The Look of Love

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2013.

Paul Raymond (or “Paul Ray-monde!” as he introduces himself in flashback) is a pretty compelling character. The so-called “king of Soho”, Raymond was at one point the wealthiest man in Britain, owning an empire built on the back of gentlemen’s clubs, pornography and property. Michael Winterbottom’s exploration of Raymond’s life and times is a fascinating exploration of a very contradictory figure. On one hand, with his sharp suits and dignified dialogue with the press, Raymond presented himself as something approaching a gentlemen. He owned a nice house, his children partook of “all the right activities” and he was even fond of quoting Oscar Wilde. On the other hand, his empire was founded and built on an idea that was so simplistic it would be condescending if it wasn’t so successful: Raymond acquired his wealth through simple acknowledgement of the fact that people will pay to look at naked women.

All that glitters...

All that glitters…

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Non-Review Review: The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

The Deep Blue Sea has two reasonably solid leading performances and some nice enough direction, but it suffers because it can’t convince us to are about any of its central characters. We don’t have to like any of the three characters involved in the central love-affair, but there does have to be some hook that grabs us and convinces us to emotionally engage and invest in this post-War exploration of several broken characters. That connection simply isn’t there, and the rest of the movie collapses as a direct result of that absence.

Yeah, she wants to dance with somebody…

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Gideon’s Daughter (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

Stephen Poliakoff’s companion piece to Friends and Crocodiles, airing just a month after that original drama film, Gideon’s Daughter feels like it owes a lot to a bunch of fascinating central performances. While Robert Lindsay provides the only on-screen evidence of a link between the two projects, reprising his role as an embittered old writer here, Poliakoff’s two stories are thematically linked, as the author focuses a lot of his frustrations on meaningless celebrity culture. This time, however, he sets the stories in the late nineties, allowing him to explore what he undoubtedly sees as the vulgarity of the millennium celebrations and to subtly examine the national outpouring of grief offer the loss of Princess Diana, while telling a rather simple story of a father and his daughter.

All tied up...

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Non-Review Review: The Queen

The middle part of Peter Morgan’s “Blair” trilogy, sitting between The Deal and The Special Relationship, the movie is perhaps better known for its portrayal of the eponymous monarchy than of the controversial British Prime Minister. It’s also a rather wonderful exploration of the British monarchy, and how it struggles to remain in touch with the people that it (nominally, at least) rules, and yet remains heavily insulated from. Taking the death of Princess Diana, perhaps the most trying period in the reign of the current queen, as a jumping-off point, the film wonders what the public expects from their royal family, and how the public and private lives of those born into the family must be balanced.

A skilful portrait...

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Edge of Darkness (BBC)

Keeping with the theme of nuclear annihilation that began with Doctor Strangelove yesterday, I’m taking a look at Edge of Darkness, the BBC serial which was recently remade into a (reportedly disappointing) Mel Gibson film. Directed by Martin Campbell, who would go on to save Bond twice (with GoldenEye and Casino Royale) and is directing the upcoming Green Lantern, Edge of Darkness was something of a phenomenon in British television during the eighties. Originally broadcast on BBC 2, it was popular enough that it garnered a repeat on the parent station (BBC 1) within days. That’s something practically unheard of. And, yes, it’s just that good.

How does Detective Craven bear the loss of his child?

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