• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Doctor Who: The Specials (Review/Retrospective)

In theory, the specials were a great idea. The BBC is in the middle of converting to high-definition broadcast. One of their best-loved and most respected dramas isn’t quite ready to make that leap, and will require extensive re-working in order to be sustainable for high-definition broadcast, which seems to be the future of home entertainment. It’ll be a year before the show can get back to churning out thirteen episodes and a Christmas Special.

However, the show runner who brought the show back from the dead and turned it into a highlight of your broadcast schedule, and the beloved lead actor who has become deeply associated with the lead role are willing to do a series of five specials that you can broadcast to fill the gap year. Producing a series of Doctor Who specials to tide over the viewing public and keep the show fresh in the public’s mind was a great idea. After all, you don’t want fans to forget about the show.

doctorwho-theendoftimepart2o

The plan has the added benefit of allowing Russell T. Davies and David Tennant a bit more freedom to stretch their wings. Davies can work on Torchwood in a way that he was never able to find time before, producing the superb Children of Earth. Tennant can work with Royal Shakespearean Company, playing the lead in Hamlet. All this, and fans get their prescription dose of Doctor Who and the BBC has the time to upgrade the show so it can broadcast in high definition. Everybody wins! Everybody stays happy!

Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a catch. It turns out that these five episodes have to do more than merely “tide” fans over. These five specials are also the last episodes that will be written by Davies and that will star Tennant. So these five specials become more than just a way to stop the public forgetting about Doctor Who. They also have to close out what has been a phenomenal era for the show, and wrap up everything in a nice big bow. And this is where the specials don’t really work.

doctorwho-thewatersofmars19

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: Die Hard

I know it’s a bit cliché at this point, but Die Hard really is my family’s ultimate Christmas movie. The season hasn’t truly started (or, if we’re delayed, truly ended) until all of us have sat down on the couch and indulged in the seasonal spectacular. Even if you don’t quite buy into the “Die Hard as Christmas movie” argument, it’s still impressive how tall John McTiernan’s action movie stands when compared to the bulk of eighties action films. Like Nakatomi Plaza itself, it towers over the competition – and it’s not because it does anything especially or novel or innovative in a genre that has always been fairly conservative. Instead, I’d argue, Die Hard succeeds because it executes all the conventional action movie beats exceedingly well, and because it doesn’t treat any of its plot points as necessary items on a check list.

Jump-starting Bruce Willis' action career...

Jump-starting Bruce Willis’ action career…

Continue reading

The Thick of It: Rise of the Nutters (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.

Are you f***ing kidding me? I mean, you’ve just watched me break my not-inconsiderable balls trying to get you the second spot on Newsnight. And succeeding! I can’t back down! No, no, you’re on, pal, right? And it better not be too boring, and it better not be too interesting either, ok? And it better not cost too much. It can’t be an old thing, obviously, and don’t make it too new. And whatever you do, please try not to embarrass yourself, right?

– Malcolm tells Swain his media strategy

I love the BBC’s Christmas specials. I mean, I know that other networks do Christmas-themed episodes of their shows, but the BBC does tend to go the extra mile. We get the opportunity to spend some time with a series that is on hiatus or even to provide an epilogue to a series that has ended. It generally affords considerably more leeway to a series to tell a different kind of story than they normally would. Here, in the hour-long Christmas special, Armando Iannucci’s political comedy gets a chance to drift its attention away from the fictional surroundings of the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship to explore the resignation of the sitting Prime Minister. Mirroring Tony Blair’s decision to step down at the same time, it lends the series a somewhat especially timely feeling, as well as allowing more focus to fall on the show’s main attraction, the brilliantly cynical and manipulative political advisor Malcolm Tucker, brought to life by Peter Capaldi.

Bully to that...

Continue reading

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

Being honest, this Christmas special had me from the moment that Michael Gambon was announced. I might have been a little uncertain when it was stated that Stephen Moffat’s first Christmas episode would be essentially a re-telling of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it a great deal. That isn’t to pretend that it’s a perfect episode of Doctor Who or that there aren’t significant flaws with the hour of television, but it’s fairly entertaining, features fantastic performances and has a few clever concepts playing about – making it great for seasonal viewing.

The Ghost of Christmas past, present and future...

Continue reading