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Doctor Who: The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe (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 Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe originally aired in 2011.

I don’t understand. Is this place real, or is it fairyland?

Fairyland? Oh, grow up, Lily.

Fairyland looks completely different.

– Lilly and the Doctor get their geography straightened out

The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe is, like A Christmas Carol before it, a rather wonderful idea. A Christmas Carol mashed up Doctor Who with one of the best-loved Christmas narratives of all time. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe does something similar, substituting CS Lewis for Charles Dickens. It’s a fantastic idea, given that Doctor Who is the spiritual successor of that peculiarly British thread of childhood fantasy.

The only real problem with The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe is that it can’t quite stretch that good idea across an hour of television.

On the run again...

On the run again…

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Doctor Who – The Shakespeare Code (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 Shakespeare Code originally aired in 2007.

Goodnight, Doctor.

Nighty night, Shakespeare.

– talk about your British icons

The Shakespeare Code is the third season’s opening trip into British nostalgia, a celebrity historical where the Doctor journeys back in time to meet a famous character and to deal with alien menaces masquerading as something altogether more sinister. This time, the Doctor and Martha travel back to meet William Shakespeare. It’s a little on the nose, but perhaps that’s not a bad thing. After all, teaming the Doctor up with Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw did seem a little cynical when the show opened with a gag at the expense of Margaret Thatcher.

The rather safe and occasionally quite “postcard-y” portrayal of British history aside, The Shakespeare Code is more interesting as a rather novel form of arc-building for the show. “Saxon” was the arc word for the show’s third season, but restricted to those episodes set in the present. However, The Shakespeare Code winds up offering major thematic foreshadowing of the season ahead.

Where there's a Will...

Where there’s a Will…

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Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead (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 Unquiet Dead originally aired in 2005.

What the Shakespeare is going on?

– Charles Dickens

It feels appropriate that Mark Gatiss should script the first episode of the revived Doctor Who not written by Russell T. Davies himself. Davies wrote the bulk of the first season’s thirteen episodes, and you could argue that he occasionally spread himself a bit too thin. However, I would argue that the first year of the revived show also had the strongest string of secondary writers on the bench, including Rob Shearman writing Dalek, Steven Moffat writing The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, Paul Cornell writing Father’s Day and Gatiss writing The Unquiet Dead.

Gatiss and Moffat are two of the most prolific writers for the new series, with Moffat even succeeding Davies as showrunner. It’s also worth noting that both Gatiss and Moffat are fans of the classic show with considerable writing experience in television. It’s very clear that Davies isn’t just recruiting fans of the classic show, even those who may have written material while it was off the air (Gatiss wrote spin-off novels, Moffat wrote The Curse of Fatal Death), but recruiting those with practical experience about how television today works.

And that was a very shrewd decision.

Ghosts of Cardiff...

Ghosts of Cardiff…

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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Note: Here’s a spoiler-filled, more detailed version of my review of The Dark Knight Rises. If you want a spoiler-light look at the film, click here.

It’s here. Christopher Nolan has defied the law of superhero trilogies, which seemed so natural that it was akin to gravity. The Dark Knight Rises might not be the perfect piece of cinema, but it does perfectly wrap up Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with enough grace, wit and intelligence to avoid the problems that faced other superhero threequels. While it falls a little short of The Dark Knight, mainly because of what it lacks rather than what it fails at, The Dark Knight Rises manages to make some telling observations about its central character, while proving an epic for our time.

The Dark Knight was the best mainstream film to explore the War on Terror, and The Dark Knight Rises might be the best movie about the social implications of the current economic strife – the philosophy of the “1%.” Finding a way to handle both the political allegory and the central character’s myth in under three hours is no small accomplishment, and Christopher Nolan once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best directors working today. Nobody blends blockbuster scale and aesthetic with sophistication and suspense nearly as well as Nolan.

The Dark Knight Returns?

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Non-Review Review: The Dark Knight Rises

If you’ve already seen the film, there’s a more in-depth, spoiler-filled version available here.

It’s here. Christopher Nolan has defied the law of superhero trilogies, which seemed so natural that it was akin to gravity. The Dark Knight Rises might not be the perfect piece of cinema, but it does perfectly wrap up Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, with enough grace, wit and intelligence to avoid the problems that faced other superhero threequels. While it falls a little short of The Dark Knight, mainly because of what it lacks rather than what it fails at, The Dark Knight Rises manages to make some telling observations about its central character, while proving an epic for our time.

The Dark Knight was the best mainstream film to explore the War on Terror, and The Dark Knight Rises might be the best movie about the social implications of the current economic strife – the philosophy of the “1%.” Finding a way to handle both the political allegory and the central character’s myth in under three hours is no small accomplishment, and Christopher Nolan once again demonstrates why he’s one of the best directors working today. Nobody blends blockbuster scale and aesthetic with sophistication and suspense nearly as well as Nolan.

The Dark Knight Returns?

Note: There will be some spoilers in this review. I won’t summarise the plot, but I will discuss some plot points. I won’t spoil any twists, but I may quote some dialogue. Don’t worry, I’ll warn you when I’m digging into the story itself below.

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Non-Review Review: A Christmas Carol (2009)

I’m yet to be sold on the Robert Zemeckis school of “motion capture.” Don’t worry, I don’t hold a prejudice. I’m just waiting to be convinced, and I worry that Zemeckis – for all his championing of the technology – might not be the one to do it. For, as impressive as the technical merits of his technique might be, I think that Zemeckis has yet to find a story that truly needs to be told in that format, or at least a story that resonates in that format. Much as Pixar have somewhat validated computer-generated animation (a school of filmmaking that met with a ridiculous amount of cynicism in its early years), I think the key to proving the worth of this sort of approach lies in finding a story that connects with audiences, while demonstrating the strengths of the tool being used to tell it.

While it’s an enjoyable enough holiday film, A Christmas Carol simply is not that film.

Totally Scrooged...

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Stop Motion Capture: Time to Worry About Tintin?

Mars Needs Moms bombed at the box office. Badly. Really badly. Ignoring the fact that Disney is in need of another hit, the failure of the Seth-Green-starring Robert-Zemeckis-produced motion-capture 3D CGI films raises serious questions about the future of that particular animation style. However, I wonder if it’s playing across the minds of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson as they add the finishing touches to their Tintin adaptation.

All at sea?

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