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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: Tooth and Claw (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.

Tooth and Claw originally aired in 2006.

I want her to say “we are not amused.” I bet you five quid I can make her say it.

Well, if I gambled on that, it’d be an abuse of my privileges of traveller in time.

Ten quid?

Done.

– Rose and the Tenth Doctor are “cute”

There’s something quite interesting at the heart of Tooth and Claw, which might be the best  “historical celebrity + monster” mash-up of the Davies era. It’s a wonderful pulpy genre hybrid run-around with Queen Victoria, ninja monks and a werewolf, but it’s also a quite interesting vehicle to explore the way that the show deals with historical characters. After all, Queen Victoria is a British icon, a monumentally important part of the British Empire. It would be tempting to reduce her to a bunch of catch-phrases and a stiff upper lip. It’s a testament to Davies as a writer that he can flesh her out a fully-drawn character.

However, there does seem to be something quite strange about a show that opens with a cheap shot at Margaret Thatcher only to wallow in the iconic status of Queen Victoria.

This year's Bad Wolf is in Torchwood...

This year’s Bad Wolf is in Torchwood…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Elementary, Dear Data (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season (and a tiny bit of the second), episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

If you needed more evidence of the improvement of Star Trek: The Next Generation between the first and second seasons of the show, Elementary, Dear Data certainly provides it. Like Where Silence Has Lease directly before it, Elementary, Dear Data works so well because it takes a couple of ideas hinted at and teased in the first season and then develops them just a little bit further.

There’s a sense that the universe of The Next Generation is slowly expanding. While the first season treated our main characters as masters of all they surveyed, Elementary, Dear Data hints that the universe still has more to teach them and that they have a lot to learn.

Unfortunately, the trend would not continue into the next episode, but Elementary, Dear Data proves that the writing team (and the cast) are learning to play to the show’s strengths and that the pieces are all positioned to allow for a solidly entertaining hour of television.

Things take a turn for the better...

Things take a turn for the better…

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Non-Review Review: The Young Victoria

There are a few period dramas about classical nobility released every year. Most of them, such as The Dutchess are fairly bland and lifeless affairs – indeed, it’s hard to create an energy or dynamism around a world most of us have never known which is built upon self-restraint and self-control. The tendency is towards po-faced self-importance and excessive melodrama. While I would be hard pressed to describe The Young Victoria as “exciting” or “thrilling”, it is one of the better period pieces I have seen to focus on the British Royal Family, perhaps because – despite the impressive scope of its subject matter (Queen Victoria was, as the end titlecard informs us, the longest-serving monarch of Great Britain) – it remains tightly focused. It’s a story of courtship and romance, loyalty and dependency. It’s a genuinely and honestly romantic film.

Royalty and politics make strange bedfellows...

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