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Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord – Terror of the Vervoids (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 Trial of a Time Lord originally aired in 1986.

Mmm. This is a situation that requires tact and finesse. Fortunately, I am blessed with both.

– the Sixth Doctor

Okay, so the “past” and “present” sections of The Trial of a Time Lord haven’t been blow-outs. The Mysterious Planet demonstrated that maybe, once upon a time, Doctor Who had been decidedly average, constructed of a checklist of familiar and inoffensive tropes. Mindwarp demonstrated that Colin Baker’s Doctor was the kind of character who you could probably imagine chaining his companion to a rock on the beach, before leaving her to die… or marry Brian Blessed… or something. But, hey, there was some social commentary! If The Trial of a Time Lord is constructed as a defence by the show to avoid being sentenced to the bleak nether-realms of cancellation, I have to confess that I’m not convinced. And I like the show to begin with.

Still, it’s not a total failure. I mean, whatever the show was or is, it can always be something better, right? And so, this final story, Terror of the Vervoids, could easily prove that the show has a very clear idea of where it’s going next? The future will be better tomorrow, and all that?

Cue incredibly lame "Pussy Galore" joke...

Cue incredibly lame “Pussy Galore” joke…

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Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord – Mindwarp (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 Trial of a Time Lord originally aired in 1986.

Hey, keep together. This is a great day for battle. A great day to die!

Does he always go on like that?

Afraid so.

-Ycranos, Tuza and Peri discover she apparently has a type

The Trial of a Time Lord loosely adheres to the structure of A Christmas Carol. If The Mysterious Planet can be seen as the “past” story, then Mindwarp is very clearly the “present” story. The BBC’s sudden “hiatus” for Doctor Who yanked the series suddenly out of Colin Baker’s first season, to the point where dialogue from Baker referencing the planned series opener had to be dubbed out. As a result, for the eighteen month gap, Colin Baker’s first full season in the role was a perpetual “present.” It was the last Doctor Who that had aired, and – as a result – it was the version of the show that first popped into people’s minds when they thought of the series.

So it seems fitting that The Trial of a Time Lord sees Colin Baker yanked directly from an adventure that looks like it could have been filmed as part of his first full year in the role. If The Mysterious Planet evokes a hazy and romantic past, a story constructed from familiar archetypes and plot points, then Mindwarp is a very clear acknowledgement of what the show had evolved into. Given the difficulties facing the programme after that problematic year, Mindwarp is the segment of this over-arching plot that needs to make the most robust defence of the show, or at least deflect the most criticism.

Despite some interesting strengths, Mindwarp doesn’t quite construct a convincing argument in favour of the show. More than that, though, its deflections prove a little weak.

Out of this world...

Out of this world…

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My 12 for ’12: The Muppets & Everything You Need, Right In Front Of You

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #3

I can’t help but feel that The Muppets probably aren’t quite as popular over here as they really should be. After all, we had to wait about three months for the eventual release of the film in Irish cinemas. Even later this year, following all the publicity around the recent revival, I was only able to find one cinema in Dublin doing three screening of The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, despite the highly-publicised re-release. However, perhaps I shouldn’t take their international publicity for granted either. After all, Jason Segal spent six or seven years trying to guide everybody’s favourite felt performers to the big screen again.

Still, The Muppets demonstrated that the gang had lost absolutely nothing in transitioning out of retirement and back to the screen, demonstrating that all these sorts of characters need is a bit of sincere love and affection.

muppets6

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Five Minute Cloud Atlas International Trailer

This is really something. The five-minute look at Cloud Atlas, which certainly looks to be one of the most ambitious movies of the year, is here. It looks wonderfully impressive – with an epic scope that seems to span all of time and space, stories interlocked and connected. Directed by Tom Tykwer, and the Wachowski siblings, it looks like a visual feast. I have to say, this just got bumped up the must-see list. Check out the international trailer, below.

Non-Review Review: The Matrix Revolutions

Today I’m taking a look at the Matrix trilogy. All three films, all watched and reviewed in one day. Join us for the fun! All three reviews will be going on-line today.

I remarked in my earlier review of The Matrix Reloaded that I feel I’m in the minority in regarding the final part of the trilogy as a much stronger film than the second film in the cycle. I mean, if you look at the Rotten Tomatoes score, the second film is almost regarded as highly as the first (higher among top critics), while the third is very clearly “rotten.” On the IMDb, the second film scores higher among audiences than the third. However, while neither sequel comes close to matching the impact of the original, I do have a fondness for the third over the second. Perhaps my preference derives from the same reason many find it weaker – the fact that the only way to enjoy it is to really disengage from the underlying philosophical questions posed by the second film.

Whoa...

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Non-Review Review: The Matrix Reloaded

Today I’m taking a look at the Matrix trilogy. All three films, all watched and reviewed in one day. Join us for the fun! All three reviews will be going on-line today.

No, what happened happened and couldn’t have happened any other way.

How do you know?

We are still alive.

– Morpheus and Neo have one of the least obtuse conversations in the film

The reaction to the second and third films in The Matrix series has always somewhat surprised me. I don’t mean that I can’t see the criticism typically levelled at the films – I can see it and I agree with most of it. I mean that most viewers regard the second film as stronger than the third, while I always considered it the other way around. Rewatching all three films in one day just cemented that opinion – but I’m still curious about why cinema fans tend to favour the middle instalment over the last. Neither is as efficient or effective as the first film, but while I appreciate the sense of closure (and action) of the third film, I find myself regarding a significant portion of the second film as just idle padding – the franchise positioning itself for a final film, which would then go on to ignore a lot of what was suggested here.

Blade of glory?

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Non-Review Review: The Matrix

Today I’m taking a look at the Matrix trilogy. All three films, all watched and reviewed in one day. Join us for the fun! All three reviews will be going on-line today.

Part of me wonders if The Matrix has been somewhat tarnished by its two sequels and countless spin-offs, video-games, tie-ins and “expanded universe” material. I mean, you can pick any number of iconic pop culture moments from the original film (from “I know kung-fu” to “whoa” to “stop trying to hit me and hit me”), but you’re left with a third film in the trilogy that ultimately grossed less than the original. Watching the entire trilogy back-to-back helps the later films seem much stronger, but it also perhaps helps illuminate what was missing from the following two films that made the original such a classic.

Bending over backwards to make a good movie...

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