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Doctor Who: Smile (Review)

Smile is a retro future thriller updated for the twenty-first century. It is 2001: A Space Odyssey and Logan’s Run by way of Ex Machina or The Girl With All the Gifts.

On the surface, Smile is the story of a rogue computer program seeking to enslave or destroy mankind. Popular culture is littered with that particular nightmare, a sentient AI that embarks upon patricide; Skynet from The Terminator, Alpha 60 in Alphaville. Indeed, Doctor Who has a rich history of playing with the trope; the sentient computer in The Keys of Marinus, B.O.S.S. from The Green Death, WOTON from The War Machines, P7E from Underworld. It is a classic science-fiction trope, and Smile plays with the idea of help robots becoming self-aware and murderous.

Bad bots.

Indeed, even the aesthetic of the episode consciously evokes those retro stories. Smile was filmed in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences, a beautiful architectural marvel defined by its smooth white surfaces and peaceful atmosphere. It feels very sterile and very clean, its minimalism evoking the set designs of those classic films and its relative lack of colour harking back to the time when Doctor Who was broadcast in black-and-white. For most of its runtime, Smile feels like a very old-fashioned piece of science-fiction.

However, around the halfway point, a shift takes place. All of a sudden, the smooth whites of the city give way to the grim industrial earth tones of the rocket. The episode seems to jump forward to gritty late seventies and early eighties science-fiction, the “used future” of Star Wars and Alien. As the episode continues, it pushes even further. Ultimately, it becomes a sly subversion of the archetypal “robot rebellion” story, instead exploring the implications of that narrative. The Vardi are transformed from renegade robots to freed slaves. It is a clever twist, albeit somewhat rushed.

Character arcs.

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Millennium – Through a Glass Darkly (Review)

This July, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the sixth season of The X-Files and the third (and final) season of Millennium.

Through a Glass Darkly is a terrible piece of television.

There is no nice way to say it. There is no excusing it. Through a Glass Darkly is an absolutely wretched script directed in a cloying manner. It is cliché, it is clumsy, it is trite. It is manipulative and cynical. There are no redeeming features to Through a Glass Darkly beyond the fact that it makes Human Essence and Omerta look significantly better than they actually are. This is an abysmal production, and one of the worst forty-five minutes of television that Ten Thirteen has broadcast to this point. It is up there with Excelsis Dei.

"You are a paedophile, you are a nonce, you're a perv, you're a slot badger, you're a two pin din plug, you're a bush dodger, you're a small bean regarder, you're an unabummer, you're a nut administrator, you're a bent ref, you're the crazy world of Arthur Brown, you're a fence foal, you're a free willy, you're a chimney bottler, you're a bunty man, you're a shrub rocketeer..."

“You are a paedophile, you are a nonce, you’re a perv, you’re a slot badger, you’re a two pin din plug, you’re a bush dodger, you’re a small bean regarder, you’re a unabummer, you’re a nut administrator, you’re a bent ref, you’re the crazy world of Arthur Brown, you’re a fence foal, you’re a free willy, you’re a chimney bottler, you’re a bunty man, you’re a shrub rocketeer…”

Child sex abuse is an absolutely horrific reality. The world is not always a nice place, and the world is not always a safe place. In the late nineties, film and television were growing more comfortable with exploring and addressing issues of child abuse. However, it was something that needed to be handled with a great deal of care and skill. Millennium had already learned how difficult it could be to tell a story about child abuse, with Chris Carter’s well-intentioned but clumsy The Well-Worn Lock.

Through a Glass Darkly manages to retroactively make The Well-Worn Lock seem like a work of genius.

 "...this paedophile has disguised himself as a school in Sheffield."

“…this paedophile has disguised himself as a school in Sheffield.”

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