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Doctor Who: Into the Dalek (Review)

Fantastic idea for a movie. Terrible idea for a proctologist.

– the Doctor’s ten-word review of Fantastic Voyage

If you’re looking for a writer to collaborate with on a “dark Doctor” story, it would seem that Phil Ford is your man. Phil Ford collaborated with showrunner Russell T. Davies on Waters of Mars, the penultimate story of David Tennant’s tenure. Here, he finds himself writing with showrunner Stephen Moffat on the second story of Peter Capaldi’s tenure. So he also does symmetry where Scottish Doctors are involved. That’s a pretty solid niche, as far as Doctor Who script-writing goes.

Both Waters of Mars and Into the Dalek are stories that serve to problematise the Doctor; but each does it to a different purpose. Waters of Mars was positioned as the second-to-last story of the Davies era. It serves as the point where the Tenth Doctor’s hubris reaches massive proportions and explodes. It serves, in a way, as the justification for his departure in The End of Time. In contrast, Into the Dalek serves to solidify a character arc that was hinted at in Deep Breath, the Twelfth Doctor’s existential crisis.

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Into the Dalek is the source of the much-hyped exchange between Clara and the Doctor about the latter’s nature as a Steven Moffat protagonist. “Clara, be my pal and tell me: am I good man?” the Doctor asks. The best that Clara can manage is, “I don’t know.” The Doctor responds, “Neither do I.” This isn’t the first time that the show has dared to present a morally ambiguous lead character. Colin Baker’s infamous Sixth Doctor comes to mind, but Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor was arguably a more successful attempt to give the audience an ambiguous Doctor.

As such, Into the Dalek cannot help but invite comparisons to Eccleston’s morally charged confrontation a broken Dalek in Dalek. Sadly, it’s not a comparison that does Into the Dalek any favours.

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Doctor Who: A Good Man Goes to War (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.

A Good Man Goes to War originally aired in 2011.

Demons run when a good man goes to war.

Night will fall and drown the sun, when a good man goes to war.

Friendship dies and true love lies,

Night will fall and the dark will rise,

When a good man goes to war.

Demons run but count the cost.

The battle’s won, but the child is lost.

A Good Man Goes to War is pretty much the epitome of Moffat’s “let’s cram as much as possible into forty-five minutes” approach to Doctor Who. This is the episode directly following Matt Smith’s last proper two-part adventure, and it firmly sets the status quo for the rest of the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure. Moffat doesn’t opt for two-parters after this point, and you can see the roots of the “blockbuster” approach he adopted for the show’s fiftieth season.

A Good Man Goes to War has enough crammed into it to sustain a bombastic Russell T. Davies season finalé. There’s character arcs, betrayal, redemption, heroism, continuity, twists and radical game-changers – all bursting at the seams of this episode. There’s a staggering amount of ambition powering A Good Man Goes to War, and even attempting to do all this in the course of a single episode earns Moffat a significant amount of respect.

What’s even more impressive is that A Good Man Goes to War manages to carry it all off.

The Doctor goes with the flow…

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Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut (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 Impossible Astronaut originally aired in 2011.

Rory, would you mind going with her?

Yeah, a bit.

Then I appreciate it all the more.

– The Doctor and Rory

While Steven Moffat’s first season as showrunner followed the same basic format as the seasons run by Russell T. Davies, his second up-ends that. Viewers had become so conditioned to that structure that The Impossible Astronaut proves quite a shock. Far from an accessible and enjoyable romp in the style of Rose or New Earth or Smith & Jones or Partners in Crime or The Eleventh Hour, The Impossible Astronaut jumps right into the middle of things.

Taking advantage of the fact that this is the first time since New Earth (and only the second time in the revival) that a season premiere hasn’t been burdened with the weight of introducing a new Doctor or companion, Moffat is able to really mess up the structure of the season. Indeed, you might go so far as to suggest that he’s reversed it. Moffat’s second season ends with a one-part adventure that introduces us to a new era and new mission statement, but opens with a bombastic two-part climax.

It’s certainly ambitious.

Cowboys and aliens…

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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...

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A Matter of Time – Doctor Who: Season 5

Sorry… Sorry! Dropped it!

Hello, Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica, takes the universe. But bad news everyone… cause guess who! Listenw you lot, cause you’re all whizzing about – it’s really could distracting. Could you all just stay still for a minute? Because I. am. talking!

Now, question of the hour: who’s got the Pandorica? Answer: I do. Next question: who’s coming to take it from me?

C’mon!

Look at me: no plan, no backup, no weapons worth a damn – oh, and something else I don’t have? Anything to lose! So if you’re sitting up there in all your silly little spaceships with your silly little guns and you’ve got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who’s standing in your way; remember every black day I ever stopped you; and then – and then! – do the smart thing: let somebody else try first.

– The Doctor, The Pandorica Opens

Well, the first season of Stephen Moffat’s run of Doctor Who is over. And what a ride it was. On one hand, you had budget cuts at the BBC, putting an even great financial strain on the show’s transition to high definition, the first wholsecale chance of the entire cast between seasons since the show’s transition to colour in 1970 (and, fittingly, this was the show’s transition to high definition), and you had the World Cup skewing ratings towards the backend of the season. On the other hand, you had the writer of some of the show’s best episodes directing the entire run behind the scenes, the exploration of the time travelling nature of the central protagonist, and a blatant admission that the show is more a fairytale than a science fiction epic. And along the way, there was barely enough time to catch your breath.

No time to lose...

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Reset for Adventure: Has Stephen Moffat Salvaged the Reset Button?

Next week sees the season finale of Stephen Moffat’s first season as showrunner on the rather excellent Doctor Who. I have to admit that – with one or two minor misgivings – I’ve had a (space)whale of a time, just we’ll save that for the inevitable review. However, being the sort of meta-textual guy that I am, I love that Moffat has managed to balance both integrating this new iteration of the franchise (created and, despite what some naysayers would have you believe, served very well by Russell T. Davies) and connecting with the established history (note, for example, how many times we have seen flashbacks of the original eight versions of the character in these eleven episodes alone). What, however, has really grabbed me about this run of episodes is that fact that Moffat has seemingly decided to take one of the most common elements of Davies’ season finales – a reset button – and stretch it out over an entire season. In effect, he seems to be attempting to reclaim one the storytelling crutches that his predecessor arguably relied upon too heavily, but use it in an interesting and creative manner.

If the walls had eyes...

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And the Angels did Weep: Are the Weeping Angels the first truly iconic villains of NuWho?

The Time of Angels aired on Saturday on BBC and managed to singlehandedly demonstrate that Stephen Moffat is the master of scary Doctor Who and also that the show’s budget cuts were nowhere near crippling. Looking absolutely stunning in High Definition and looking every part, as Moffat alluded, like a big budget Hollywood blockbuster, The Time of Angels also offered the second appearance of Moffat’s own creation, the Weeping Angels, following their initial appearance in Blink a few years back. Part of me wonders if Moffat has, four hours into his first season, done what Russell T. Davies spent his entire run attempting – has he introduced a classic recurring Doctor Who monster?

Angels and demons...

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