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Doctor Who: The Gunfighters (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 Gunfighters originally aired in 1966.

Everything excepting that rattlesnake friend of yours Holliday blew in this mornin’. Who’re your friends, Wyatt?

Well I, er–

Oh, quite, quite so. Allow me, sir, to introduce Miss Dodo Dupont, wizard of the ivory keys, and er Steven Regret, tenor. And lastly sir, your humble servant Doctor Caligari.

Doctor who?

Yes, quite right.

– Masterson, Wyatt Earp and the Doctor

I am hesitant to turn my trip into the history of Doctor Who into a series of articles about fan opinion or consensus. If I like a story, or dislike a story, I have my reasons that I will often try to explain away. However, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of context. It is handy, for example, to know that I like The Talons of Weng-Chiang just a little bit less than most fans seem to. The Gunfighters is an oft-maligned serial. It is part of the show’s troubled third season, building – as it did – off the show’s generally quite solid second year. However, I actually enjoy The Gunfighters for what it is, which is a knack I seem to have for a lot of the stories from William Hartnell’s era.

People would try to convince you that it's like pulling teeth...

People would try to convince you that it’s like pulling teeth…

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Doctor Who: Tooth and Claw (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.

Tooth and Claw originally aired in 2006.

I want her to say “we are not amused.” I bet you five quid I can make her say it.

Well, if I gambled on that, it’d be an abuse of my privileges of traveller in time.

Ten quid?

Done.

– Rose and the Tenth Doctor are “cute”

There’s something quite interesting at the heart of Tooth and Claw, which might be the best  “historical celebrity + monster” mash-up of the Davies era. It’s a wonderful pulpy genre hybrid run-around with Queen Victoria, ninja monks and a werewolf, but it’s also a quite interesting vehicle to explore the way that the show deals with historical characters. After all, Queen Victoria is a British icon, a monumentally important part of the British Empire. It would be tempting to reduce her to a bunch of catch-phrases and a stiff upper lip. It’s a testament to Davies as a writer that he can flesh her out a fully-drawn character.

However, there does seem to be something quite strange about a show that opens with a cheap shot at Margaret Thatcher only to wallow in the iconic status of Queen Victoria.

This year's Bad Wolf is in Torchwood...

This year’s Bad Wolf is in Torchwood…

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The Sky is Falling: Skyfall & The Return of a Distinctly British Bond…

Country?

England.

– first lines of the trailer

I actually really liked the first trailer for Skyfall, released on-line last week. There were a lot of reasons for that: the fact it looks more stately than Quantum of Solace; the abundance of shots of Bond in a tux; the promise of incredible action paired with genuine character development. However, the most appealing facet of the trailer was the suggestion that this was a Bond who wasn’t ashamed to be British. Bond is a British icon, arguably a relic left over from the last days of the British Empire, but it seems like the past few films have been increasingly uncomfortable with that.

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Non-Review Review: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a wasted opportunity. The superb graphic novels by Alan Moore are among the best that comics have to offer, and even the basic concept of picking a variety of public domain character to base an action adventure around has a sort of pulpy thrill to it. It could have been a very witty and a very clever film, or it could have just been an effective big-budget blockbuster. In the end, unfortunately, the film is neither – it ends up feeling more like a waste of effort for all involved.

I feel like shredding this film...

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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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Non-Review Review: Battle – Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles is a movie we’ve all seen countless times, only with a different name. It’s perhaps the most generic and cliché-filled alien invasion movie that I have ever seen, and I think I’ve seen a lot of them. Part of the problem with the film is that it does a lot functionally, but does nothing especially well – but it’s also that it’s so mundanely bogged down in formula that it’s hard to ever engage with what’s going on.

Facing a completely alien foe...

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Non-Review Review: Quantum of Solace

Note: I have another review of the film here, but this was written as part of “James Bond January”, after watching all 22 films in quick succession. This post is part of James Bond January, being organised by the wonderful Paragraph Films. I will have reviews of all twenty-two official Bond films going on-line over the next month, and a treat or two every once in a while.

Quantum of Solace is a strange film. In many ways, it feels more like a return to the Bond formula than its direct predecessor, and yet it feels like less of a Bond film. It isn’t a case that film takes the franchise in a new direction while retaining its core identity (as Licence to Kill did, for example), but the feeling that there’s been a fundamental shift in the series, occurring under the radar. It feels as if, though the movie can talk the talk, there’s something different in the step – it can’t quite walk the walk, unfortunately.

Don’t leave us dangling…

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