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Non-Review Review: One Direction – This is Us

Let’s be honest here. As a brand, the success of One Direction has been phenomenal. In One Direction: This is Us, super producer Simon Cowell boasts about how it took him all of ten minutes to come up with the band, jamming five also-ran teenage X-Factor contestants into an also-ran X-Factor boy band that became a global pop culture juggernaut. Morgan Spurlock’s One Direction: This is Us is really nothing but a propaganda piece, a giant feature-length 3D pat on the back where a manufactured pop sensation are compared – not once, but twice – to The Beatles.

And there’s really nothing wrong with that. After all, this was never going to be an insightful piece of cinematic journalism, prying behind closed doors at the forces propelling One Direction to fame and the careful and painstaking maintenance and protection of the brand name. Anybody expecting anything but a celebratory ninety-odd minutes of mutual appreciation was clearly expecting something quite different from what was promised.

As piece of pop culture brand management, One Direction: This is Us is actually quite well-constructed. Spurlock knows how to frame an interesting documentary, and has always been theatrical and stylish. Even the talking head shots in One Direction: This is Us are tastefully shot, against a dark highway at night, Simon Cowell’s sterile studio apartment or in a band member’s makeshift art studio. There are moments in One Direction: This is Us when it looks like some humanity might accidentally shine through, but the film is quick to stamp that out with gushing about the fans and patronising discussions about how unique and individual the band members are.

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Doctor Who: The Android 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 Android Invasion originally aired in 1975.

Is that finger loaded?

– the Doctor

We’re in the middle of one hell of a season here, aren’t we? Indeed, The Android Invasion is sandwiched between two stories that could legitimately vie for the title of “best Doctor Who story ever.” Perhaps that’s why it feels like such a let-down. The Android Invasion isn’t the worst Doctor Who story ever. Indeed, it isn’t the worst Tom Baker Doctor Who story ever, nor is it the worst Philip Hinchcliffe Doctor Who story ever. It is just sort of… there. It’s a very dull and mundane piece of television, one that feels all the more dull and mundane for the fact that it’s positioned in one of the strongest seasons that the show ever produced.

He needs a Doctor...

He needs a Doctor…

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Doctor Who: The Ark in Space (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 Arc in Space originally aired in 1975.

I’ll have to link in my own cerebral cortex. That’s the only thing.

That is highly dangerous.

I know. Two more leads, Rogin.

The power could burn out a living brain!

I agree. An ordinary brain. But mine is exceptional.

– the Doctor demonstrates his tremendous ego to Vira

It really is amazing how quickly Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes established their mark on Doctor Who. Barry Letts finished up his time as producer working on Tom Baker’s first serial, Robot. The Ark in Space was the second adventure to star the Fourth Doctor, and certainly a lot more indicative of the shape of things to come. While you could argue that Holmes and Hinchcliffe did improved over the following years – for one thing, this first season still has the odd pothole – it is clear that they immediately knew what they were doing.

Hinchcliffe and Holmes would cast a tremendous shadow over Doctor Who, and it’s no coincidence that so much of that influence can be traced back to The Ark in Space, the first indication of their plan for Doctor Who.

The Wirrn really bug the Doctor...

The Wirrn really bug the Doctor…

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