TV Review: You, Me and the Apocalypse (Episode Three)

you me and the apocalypse review nbc sky atlantic rob lowe mathew baynton jenna fischer megan mulally joel fry pauline quirke hulu iain holland

You, Me and the Apocalypse is a bold, adrenaline-fuelled comedy-drama about the last days of mankind – boasting a relentlessly entertaining mix of action, adventure, romance and wit set against a backdrop of apocalyptic chaos.

The story follows an eclectic group of seemingly unconnected characters around the world as their lives start to intersect in the most unexpected ways, all triggered by the news that a comet is on an unavoidable collision course towards earth.

Another strong episode of You, Me and the Apocalypse, which is fast becoming one of my favourite TV shows. This episode displays all the same strengths as the previous ones, really; lots of funny moments (Nick Offerman is a gift), interesting character development (Father Jude remains fascinating) and entertaining interactions between characters (Joel Fry and Mat Baynton are a brilliant double act).

What’s most interesting about this one, though, was the furthering of the overarching mythology of the show, as You, Me and the Apocalypse begins to concern itself with a much wider ranging plot, with implications that reach far further – yet, at the same time, remaining tied to what we’ve seen before.

In this episode, we see Layla (if that is her real name) for the first time – the missing wife that Jamie is searching for. Her daughter (who, it’s implied, may also be Jamie’s daughter) is the fabled giraffe messiah. A whole crowd of people have gathered in Warsaw, worshipping this young girl in a giraffe onesie, and Father Jude and Sister Celine have come to investigate. It’s an interesting look at mob mentality, and the sort of mania that the apocalypse might create in people.

But at the same time, they imply that this young girl might, in fact, have some supernatural powers. Because she knows about Sister Celine’s dead friend, from the convent.

And then later on, we see a model of judgement day, built by Jamie’s mother – one which has a White Horse as a central part of it. The White Horse, we already know, is Ariel’s hacker name. So perhaps there is something to this?

It’s a genuinely fascinating concept, and I love the fact that this show has chosen to play around in that sandbox. It elevates the show further – playing around with this imagery and symbolism allows the writing to go deeper and play around with certain ideas, that opens up a lot more potential. It’s really encouraging, and it’s got me really excited for the rest of the show.

And, you know, if you’re not into all that, it is still consistently hilarious. 8/10

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Indiana Jones and the Question of the Inevitable Reboot

indiana jones harrison ford fedora hat whip reboot 5 kathleen kennedy lucasfilm steven spielberg shia labeouf young

So, this is a question that’s swung around again.

At the same time that Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars, they also acquired the rights to Indiana Jones, meaning that, should they so choose, Disney is more than able to make further Indiana Jones movies. At the minute, they’re focusing on Star Wars (you may have heard about this), but make no mistake, there will be a fifth Indiana Jones movie.

What’s interesting, of course, is the fact that recently producer Frank Marshall (who’s worked on all the previous four Indy movies) has explicitly spoken out against “the Bond thing” of recasting, but is, in fact, open to letting someone “take the baton”.

Not so different from what they set up with Shia LaBeouf last time, when you think about it, but I get the impression they’re unlikely to turn around and hand him the fedora and the bullwhip.

Which of course begs the question – what should be done?

Recasting the role certainly has some benefits to it, but there’s a large hurdle too. Indiana Jones has always been the part of Harrison Ford, and it’s defined by his performance; it’d be difficult for an actor to find a new angle for the role, avoid imitation and simple mimicry, but at the same time remaining demonstrably the same character.

There would also, I suppose, be the temptation to reinvent the part, and start with something new from the ground up – like, say, casting a woman in the role. Now, whilst I am not typically against recasting traditionally male parts as women, it’s not necessarily a choice I’d advocate in this instance, essentially for the same reason that recasting has certain dangers to it. I think that, before you introduce a Diana Jones, you’d need to get audiences to be more receptive to the idea of a new Indiana Jones full stop. Incremental change.

(Mind you, I’d love to be proved wrong about that.)

Anna Kendrick female indiana jones reboot woman 5 kathleen kennedy lucasfilm steven spielberg

Harrison Ford on his own probably can’t carry the film; he’s 73 now, and I suppose he’d be approaching 80 before an Indiana Jones film gets off the ground. It’s a fairly physical role, and whilst on the one hand he’s still surviving plane crashes and all that, I am not entirely sure he’d be up to all the stunts which one would expect to come with the role.

Which suggests, I suppose, a film where Harrison Ford takes a role similar to Sean Connery in The Last Crusade, whilst a younger actor takes on the more physical elements of the role, setting this younger actor up as a potential replacement for Ford in future movies.

Maybe they’d cast Shia LaBeouf.

But I can’t see them being particularly eager to do that, necessarily, given what happened with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. So I would posit a slightly different route, combining both possibilities…

You’d present the film across two time frames; one with a young Indiana Jones, and one with the older, more experienced, Harrison Ford model. It wouldn’t simply be flashbacks or a framing device (though an elderly Indiana Jones lecturing or telling his grandkids stories could work as a pretty good framing device) but rather, a story involving both iterations of the character, moving back and forth, in a non linear fashion.

Essentially, the path you’d take would be old Indiana Jones revisiting a previous adventure, going after that one last relic that he never quite managed to get the first time – but because he’s older and wiser, now, he can succeed where previously he failed. Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones would take a more intellectual path; even though he’s older now, his mind is still as sharp as it’s ever been.

You’d still have fairly long segments with both actors – split fifty fifty, I’d say – and it’d be important to make sure that both of them have their own story. Harrison Ford shouldn’t simply be relegated to a narrator, and the young actor isn’t just there for set pieces. If done right, this would act as a celebration of the character as a whole, and indeed the movie franchise as a whole.

chris pratt indiana jones harrison ford reboot young 5 recast
I honestly thought that was Harrison Ford at first. I had to look at it quite a few times before I realised it was, in fact, Chris Pratt.

As an idea, I think this has a lot of potential. You could potentially market it as being Indiana Jones’ First and Last Adventure; if the young actor is playing an Indiana Jones at an early stage in his career, pre Temple of Doom, they can likely find something a little more interesting to do with the part than a simple imitation of Harrison Ford.

Perhaps, say, when young Indiana Jones was going through this adventure, he was in a particularly bad place? Hence why he failed, and why it has a later significance for the elderly Harrison Ford? That’s only the barest bones of an idea, of course, but the overarching point is that you have a lot of potential to play around with here.

And, of course, there’s nothing stopping them from making further movies with the young Indiana Jones in the future. Which I’m sure Disney would appreciate!

Related:

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TV Review: The Flash – Flash of Two Worlds (2×02)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

You defeated him because you trusted in people, because you believed in them.

Once again, we return to The Flash. It’s nice to be getting back into the swing of things again; having this show as a weekly occurrence, something to look forward to, feels very good.

We picked up from the end of the last episode, opening with Jay Garrick – the Flash of the other world – explaining his origin to the team, and introducing what’s going to be the overarching story for this season; the Multiverse. Teddy Sears has joined a fairly long (and growing!) list of excellent casting choices from the CW, bringing Jay Garrick to life with an impressive performance. I was similarly impressed by Shantel VanSanten as Patty Spivot, actually – she had a great rapport with Grant Gustin, and I’m actually quite interested to see where their relationship goes.

‘Twas also another great week for the cast we’ve come to know and love, of course. It seems worth singling out Iris in particular; whilst I never really held the same level of animosity towards Iris last year as other fans did, I think it’s fair to say she was at times under utilised, and poorly treated by the narrative. (Indeed, more scenes and deeper characterisation for Iris were amongst the things I called for prior to the beginning of the series.) It’s great to see the character being given more to do now, though, and living up to her potential; not just the love interest kept in the dark, but Barry’s closest friend, helping him when he needs it. It’s a much more effective use of the character, and I’m glad to see this change.

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Wasn’t this such a fantastic shot, by the way? I really appreciated that. That sort of thing is the kind of reference I appreciate; I’d never advocate sticking slavishly to the comics, because that’s limiting, but it is always nice to see little things like this.

The visuals were fairly impressive throughout, I’d say; I liked the flashback (haha) sequences to Earth-2, which had a nice, distinct looking visual design – I hope that’s explored further when we inevitably return there. Similarly, I quite liked the design of Sand Demon, which I thought was rather effective.

But that does bring me onto one of my two main concerns with regards to this episode – the fact that, for the second week running, the villain was killed at the end. And, actually, in a fairly brutal fashion too – this week, Sand Demon was turned to glass and smashed into tiny pieces, and last week, they irradiated Atom Smasher until his body was riddled with cancers.

It was more than a little uncomfortable, to be honest. I hope this is picked up on at some point, within the narrative, because to leave it unaddressed would be a failing on the part of the show. The Flash has always aimed to portray more traditional heroics, with an eye towards a certain level of moral integrity; it’s concerned with questions of Doing Good and Being Good, rather than anti heroism and morally grey areas. Frankly, even Arrow, as early as it’s first season, never quite let killing the bad guys go unexamined. I’d expect The Flash to do the same.

the flash review flash of two worlds jay garrick teddy sears caitlin snow danielle panabaker
Basically about as much subtlety as a glow in the dark rhinestone studded hammer. That plays electronic dance music. Loudly.

The only other thing that bothered me, really, was the way that the relationship between Jay and Caitlin was handled. Now, it seems to me to be fairly obvious that they’re trying to set up a romance there, but it felt quite poorly handled; they seemed to sacrifice any semblance of subtlety or characterisation for a few cheap jokes about how well built Teddy Sears is. (And, frankly, the best of those jokes came from Cisco anyway!) I realise it’s a bit of a difficult situation that the show is in – obviously, they don’t want to retread the “Ronnie is gone” plot arc from last year, for fear of feeling repetitive, but it does seem like a bit of glaring omission if they do leave it out. I’m not entirely convinced there’s any need to start a relationship between Jay and Caitlin anyway, mind. Likely there are other, more interesting routes to go down.

So, in essence: Another fun episode, replete with plenty of entertaining moments, but on the whole, not quite as strong as the debut episode. Nonetheless, I’m still looking forward to the next episode (why wouldn’t I be?), and I’m particularly interested in the subplot with Iris’ mother.

7/10

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Doctor Who Review: The Woman Who Lived

doctor who the woman who lived review catherine tregenna series 9 steven moffat ed bazelgette maisie williams peter capaldi rufus hound

We need the mayflies. You see, the mayflies, they know more than us. They know how beautiful and precious life is, because it’s so fleeting.

So, with this episode, we’re beginning to see something of a departure from the traditional two parter structure of the series thus far. Obviously, this episode and the previous one are both connected, but here the level of connection is something that liberties are taken with. It’s a pretty wise choice; the format of the two parter was starting to struggle with Under the Lake & Before the Flood, to be honest, so mixing it up a little provides some much needed variety.

The two episodes are of course connected by Maisie Williams, who once again did a fantastic job here. This episode, I’d argue, is actually a better showcase of her acting skills than The Girl Who Died; the bitterness to Ashildr (or rather, ‘Me’) contrasts well with her more Doctor like qualities. A lot of that comes down to the writing, of course; Catherine Tregenna did a great job of finding a really interesting angle from which to examine what’s happened to Ashildr. Playing up her similarities to the Doctor – the long life-time, the adventurous nature – serves well to emphasis the changes that occurred as a result of her having to live her extended lifespan in a linear fashion, one day after the other.

Similarly, positioning Maisie Williams as a more antagonistic figure feeds into this, and is effective for much the same reason; the fact we already know of her as a ‘Hybrid’ adds a certain tension to these moments, given that there’s a real possibility that she could become a fully fledged villain. It’s a very well done, considered and subtle performance, that’s helped by nuanced writing. It’s fair to say that Maisie Williams is going to go down as one of the strongest guest stars of the series, not because of her prominence, but due to a genuine abundance of skill.

doctor who the woman who lived review peter capaldi maisie williams ashildr me highway man catherine tregenna ed bazelgette twellfth doctor

Capaldi too is worth commenting upon; he does a wonderful job of selling the Doctor’s anguish and indecision with regards to Ashildr – it’s worth singling out the discussion of Ashildr’s journals as being a great moment for both Capaldi and Williams. Once again, we’re lucky to have Capaldi. (It was also nice to see Ashildr taking the role of the companion throughout this episode; though Clara was much missed, it’s interesting to see how Capaldi’s Doctor interacts with another character filling the companion role, particularly given Jenna’s upcoming departure.)

Admittedly, though, the strengths of the episodes are disproportionately weighted towards the part of Ashildr, specifically, and the performances of Capaldi and Williams; everything else was a little weaker in some regards.

Take, for example, the plot. Certainly it was a little thin – but, frankly, that’s both understandable and forgivable. The MacGuffin if far from the most important aspect of the episode – that’s Ashildr and the Doctor, and rightfully so. I’ve not begrudged episodes a weak plot before, of course, particularly when the focus is in the right place – and particularly in instances like this when the main object of their focus is pulled off so well – but I do feel like the thin plot had a little bit of an impact on this one. Not a huge problem – but it is noticeable.

Similarly, Rufus Hound’s standup section was… well, I actually liked it, for the most part. That sort of dodgy pun telling does actually appeal to me. Probably could have been funnier, though. Also undecided on the penis jokes.

It’s odd, actually – I started writing both of those things as complaints, before realising that I actually don’t mind them so much; a thin plot isn’t the end of the world, and I like puns. There’s just something about the episode that didn’t quite feel right; a little Doctor Who by numbers. It’s understandable, I suppose; Catherine Tregenna is on record as not being someone with a big interest in Doctor Who, which perhaps explains why we got something that – whilst very good – is certainly a departure from the norm.

doctor who the woman who lived review peter capaldi maisie williams ashildr me highway man catherine tregenna ed bazelgette steven moffat knightmare

I did have one technical complaint, though. Well, two, but one more significant than the other. The minor one was a couple of weird, jerky cuts between close ups and wide shots; it looked unprofessional, and a little sloppy. I suppose it may have been a deliberate directorial flourish, but not an effective one, to my mind.

The other, though, was the music. This is actually a fairly regular complaint, but it’s never been accurate for me before: the music was too loud and too obtrusive to be able to hear the dialogue. I also wasn’t particularly impressed by certain aspects of the score, though – there was one repetitive motif used whilst the Doctor and Ashildr were sneaking throughout the house that got rather grating rather quickly. (On the flip side of that, though, the theme for Ashildr was rather wonderful. I love that she got a theme at all, even, given that’s usually reserved for Doctors and Companions!)

So, a little bit of an odd one. Enjoyable, though. It’s certainly not traditional Doctor Who, but I much preferred it to this season’s previous attempt at traditionalism. We’ll call it an 8/10.

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K9 vs Omega Movie in Production (Seriously!)

doctor who k9 timequake omega bob baker dave martin nick park john leeson 2017 paul tams australia disney xd sleuth cloo channel 5 jetix

I had to check the date after reading this. It’s not April 1st. October 24th has no particular prank related relevance. This is not a hoax, as far as I know.

First, though, the press release:

The film “K9-TIMEQUAKE” has been written by one of K9’s original creators; Bob Baker, a renowned writer of classic Doctor Who serials. Bob went on to co-write with Nick Park the Oscar and Bafta winning Wallace & Gromit series of film shorts as well as the feature film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

The new K9 will be appearing in a multi-million dollar movie which promises to be a great action adventure set in deep space. The film will be full of dashing heroes and heroines, androids, monstrous aliens and an ultimate foe who will also be familiar to Doctor Who fans everywhere; the megalomaniac OMEGA.

Does anyone remember that Australian K9 series that was on a few years back? This movie is presumably following on from that; it’s not been explicitly confirmed, as far as I can see, but the suggestion is that this movie is taking the place of a second series of the television show. I watched a few episodes of it, back when it aired, and it was… alright, I suppose. Very reminiscent of a sort of Power Rangers type thing – it was not entirely far off from a live-action Saturday morning cartoon type thing. If you have no idea whatsoever as to what it is, I’d suggest giving this TARDIS Eruditorum article a lookover, and take a look at this trailer. I think you can find the episodes online if you look, though I’m not convinced they’re actually good enough to be worth looking for.

God knows how this is going to work, though. K9 is not really a typical lead character, given the whole robot dog thing, and Omega is tied fairly specifically into an overarching Doctor Who mythology that I don’t think they’d be able to use for this movie; Bob Baker owns Omega, but he doesn’t own the Time Lords, so I’m not sure to what extent the Omega seen in this movie would correlate with the one we’re familiar with.

Honestly, I would not be surprised at all if this movie was cancelled, or didn’t reach the sort of scale that they’re suggesting here – perhaps it’ll be reduced down into a TV Movie, specifically.

Mostly, though, this is just completely and utterly bizarre. Certainly, I’ll be following it with keen interest – this sort of nonsense is right up my alley, frankly. Weird stuff that’s tangentially relevant to Doctor Who? Sure, sign me up.

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TV Review: The Flash – The Man Who Saved Central City (2×01)

The Flash Logo review analysis retrospective barry allen grant gustin greg berlanti andrew kreisberg cw

My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive. It’s been six months since the Singularity. I’m on my own now. Decided it’s better that way. Keeps the people I care about safe.

The Flash is back! I have been looking forward to this ever since the season finale, which was possibly one of the best episodes of TV I watched during that year. Certainly, it was the best piece of superhero related TV that I watched that year, easily trumping both Gotham and Agents of SHIELD, and subjectively more enjoyable than most of Daredevil in terms of my own personal tastes. I’ve had October 6th marked on my calendar since May. (And I’ve had the 13th October marked on my calendar since I realised that the 6th was only the US airdate.)

Essentially, then, expectations were high for this episode. Last year’s Fast Enough ended on one of those cliffhangers – you know the sort where it’s really aggravating, because you’re really into the plot, and it’s got you on the edge of your seat, and then it’s got you standing shouting at the TV screen, but you know you can’t begrudge the show that, because it’s been so brilliant, it’s really earned that cliffhanger? (No one knows what I mean? Really? Oh, well, that’s the type of cliffhanger that it was, anyway.)

Rather cleverly, I think, they chose to subvert expectations and not pick up immediately from after the cliffhanger – they shifted a little bit, moved the setting around, and we picked up 6 months later, with a well executed dream sequence. It’s not the sort of thing I’m typically very fond of, but I think it worked rather well here – the direction was quite well done, and subtly pointed to the fact that it was a dream sequence, before the appearance of Eddie and Wells really confirmed that. The slow pan around the room, and then zooming out, served to emphasis how alone Barry had made himself, and quite how empty the cortex is without the rest of the STAR Labs team joining Barry. Again, that’s down to the direction – it worked very well.

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Now, admittedly, what I am not so certain of is quite how well they used this concept. I’m in two minds about it all, really – on the one hand, I’m glad that the production team have their own view of the Flash as being a relatively bright and optimistic hero, and I doubt that dwelling on Barry isolating himself would really have worked here.

But, equally, since they brought it up, I want them to have explored it, you know? We have a missing six months, which genuinely sound to have been quite interesting – I want to know about the immediate aftermath of the singularity. How did Cisco begin to work with Joe? What’s been happening to Caitlin? How did Iris cope with the death of Eddie? How did Dr. Stein and Caitlin cope, in their own different ways, with the death of Ronnie? The consequences and repercussions of the finale all seem to have been paid lip service, but essentially skipped over for a reset of the status quo.

It bothers me a little, because I feel like we maybe lost out a little bit; would it have worked better as a three episode arc, at the start of the series? An episode focused on Barry, an episode largely focused on Cisco and Joe, with episode three being where they get the band back together? It’s hard to say. That might certainly have been more effective in telling the story of those repercussions, but that doesn’t seem to be the story they’re interested in telling – the production team wants to get onto the story of the Multiverse, with Zoom and Jay Garrick.

And, you know, it is hard to begrudge them that, because I am really very excited for that story…

the flash the man who saved central city review flash day mayor keystone grant gustin gabrielle stanton ralph hemecker

Another thing that I quite liked was the concept of Flash day. It’s an interesting idea that really seems to have legs (haha), and I hope they really run with it (hahaha). It’s setting up the fact that the Flash, unlike Arrow, is a much more of a public figure – the city knows about him, and they like him, too. It’s something that I think they can do quite a lot with, so I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.

As ever, it was nice to see all the different characters returning – Barry, Caitlin, Cisco, Iris, Joe, and Dr Stein. Lots of fun moments from the all; Cisco remains as funny as ever, and it was great to see some scenes between Joe and Iris, which was one of the things I’d been hoping to see from this series. (The full list is linked to at the bottom of the page.)

Of course, one of the most important moments of the episode was the release of Henry Allen from prison, as a result of Harrison Wells’ confession video. That was a genuinely fantastic moment, which really added to the complex nature of the relationship between Barry and Wells. (There’s a link to an analysis of that at the bottom of the page.) I’m really looking forward to seeing Tom Cavanagh return at various points throughout this series.

Henry Allen’s release and return home was rather well handled, I felt; Grant Gustin and John Wesley Shipp conveyed the emotion of it well, and it was nice to see everyone together at the welcome home party, happy and laughing. I’m not so sure about their reason to remove Henry, admittedly – I realise that they couldn’t keep JWS as a season regular, but perhaps it’d have been easier if he’d simply said that he’d rather live away from Central City, but he wants Barry to visit him as often as possible? It felt that the reason they gave was a little weak and contrived.

Still, though. This was a fun episode, and whilst it wasn’t quite at the same heights as the best of last series, it was a strong opener, that managed to balance most of its responsibilities reasonably well. Very much looking forward to next week’s episode! 7/10

(I actually found a set of deleted scenes online, which you can see here, here, and here. I think the episode would have improved a fair bit if they’d been kept it, so it’s a shame they were lost!)

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TV Review: You, Me and the Apocalypse (Episode Two)

you me and the apocalypse review nbc sky atlantic rob lowe mathew baynton jenna fischer megan mulally joel fry pauline quirke hulu iain holland

You, Me and the Apocalypse is a bold, adrenaline-fuelled comedy-drama about the last days of mankind – boasting a relentlessly entertaining mix of action, adventure, romance and wit set against a backdrop of apocalyptic chaos.

The story follows an eclectic group of seemingly unconnected characters around the world as their lives start to intersect in the most unexpected ways, all triggered by the news that a comet is on an unavoidable collision course towards earth.

So, another episode of this fun comedy-drama series. We’re still following the stories of our protagonists from last week – Jamie & Dave, Rhonda & Leanne, and Father Jude & Sister Celine – but we also meet some new ones (Paterson Joseph as General Gaines, and Kyle Soller as Scotty), and see the overarcing plot move forward.

A real strength of this series, I think, is the multiple perspectives and different strands that the story takes. The narrative progresses at a fairly strong pace, and they maintain a level of intrigue with the little introduction at the start of each episode. Making the ending clear, but not quite the details of the ending, gives them an anchor to each episode, which works quite effectively, I think. There was another new character shown to us in the bunker at the start this episode – a wounded soldier. He’s not been introduced in the present yet, so I’m interested to see where that goes.

It’s worth singling out Joel Fry as Dave, who was consistently the funniest character throughout this episode. He’s got a great double act going with Mat Baynton, which is a lot of fun to watch. The majority of the best lines and moments this episode came from him – the sequence with the elderly people was quite funny, as well as the car surfing. It’s also nice to see another approach to the idea of the apocalypse; the show’s done pretty well with displaying a fairly diverse set of circumstances and attitudes amongst the different characters.

Something that also stood out to me was the question of Father Jude’s faith. Admittedly, watching Rob Lowe read the Bible isn’t the most interesting thing I’ve seen on TV before (though they made a fairly good effort), but the fact that, despite all his vices, Father Jude has a strong faith and belief, seems to me to be a fairly compelling character.

Episode two wasn’t, admittedly, quite as good at the opener, but it was still an enjoyable way to spend an hour of my time. Which is really all I want from something like this!

8/10

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Doctor Who Review: The Girl Who Died

doctor who the girl who died review jamie mathieson steven moffat ed bazalgette vikings maisie williams title card

I’m the Doctor, and I save people. And if there’s anybody listening who has any kind of problem with that, then to hell with you!

Every so often, the question of who the next showrunner will be comes up. Mark Gatiss, Chris Chibnall and Toby Whithouse tend to be logical choices; Neil Cross looked like a possibility at one stage, and Peter Harness seems like he might be putting himself into the running now.

Another name that tends to come up is Jamie Mathieson – which is understandable really. His two episodes last year, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline were amongst the best of series 8, and I think it’s fair to say that his first two episodes comprised the strongest debut of any new writer across the whole of the Moffat era, and perhaps the RTD era as well.

And, typically, I’m not so inclined to agree with that crowd – Jamie Mathieson is great, but he’s not got any showrunning experience, so he seems an unrealistic choice – but after this episode, to hell with what’s realistic. I think Jamie Mathieson would be a fantastic choice to replace Steven Moffat, when the time comes, because he really clearly gets it.

The Girl Who Died  is a very funny episode – which is what you’d expect, really, given that Jamie Mathieson used to be a stand up comedian, and Steven Moffat used to be a sitcom writer. So, two writers with a background in comedy, and you get one of the funniest episodes we’ve had across the entirety of Peter Capaldi’s tenure. Lots of things to appreciate here; the introduction of our alien Odin works very well, especially just after the Doctor’s dismal attempt at convincing the Vikings he’s Odin. I was also rather fond of the cut from “you’re ready to use swords” to the village in total disaster. That was quite effective as well. Honestly, very funny episode.

Oh, and the Benny Hill theme! That was rather wonderful as well.

doctor who the girl who died review jenna coleman maisie williams ashildr clara oswald jamie mathieson ed bazalgette steven moffat

The cast all did very well here too. Peter Capaldi is excellent. I don’t single him out enough, do I? It feels unfair, honestly. But it’s difficult to properly analyse his performance, particularly in a review like this. One day I might have to do a video review, picking out and commenting on every facial expression he pulls; for now, though, I’ll have to just refer to them more generally. Essentially every line he delivered was pitch perfect; the Odin jokes, translating for the baby, and his weariness after Ashildr’s death. Extremely well portrayed; once again, you’re reminded of how skillful Capaldi is, and how lucky we are that he’s the Doctor.

Jenna Coleman finally got something substantial to do this week, which was nice. You could really see Clara’s development into a quasi-Doctor figure (was it just me, or was Jenna Coleman imitating Matt Smith’s body language during her confrontation with Odin?) and Jenna Coleman did a great job of portraying that. Very strong episode for Clara, there, both in terms of the writing and Jenna Coleman’s acting. Which is nice!

And, of course, Maisie Williams. There is something a little odd about watching her acting, because she’s very close to my own age. I feel like it contravenes some natural order that she is out being a successful actress at this age. Probably she should just have a blog or something. (Or maybe I should be a successful actress!)

But, yes, aside from my own slightly ridiculous hangups, Maisie Williams is really, really good. I understand the hype now – I’ve never actually seen her in anything before (at least not acting – I’ve seen her vines, and she has a great sense of humour) but I am inclined to search her other work, like Cyberbully and whatnot. She gave an excellent performance. Clearly, she’s a skilled actress. I’m looking forward to her return next week quite a lot!

doctor who the girl who died series 9 review peter capaldi jenna coleman twelfth doctor fires of pompeii jamie mathieson maisie williams ashildr me

My favourite part of the episode, though, aside from the jokes and the acting and the direction and the clever plot resolution, was the way it handled the Doctor, and his approach to the “rules”, as it were.

It was really, really well handled; the Doctor’s rejection of the rule that he can’t save Ashildr is fantastic, and Jamie Mathieson did a great job of writing the Doctor weary, tired of the death. In many ways, it felt like a rejection of the problems of Before the Flood, too – the Doctor isn’t just accepting a death because of “the rules”, he’s driven to actually do something about it. Because he’s the Doctor. And he saves people.

That is a rather wonderful vision of the character, and I’m glad it’s something that we saw front and centre this week.

(Also, on the topic of David Tennant and Pompeii: On the one hand, I’m inclined to question the conventional wisdom of using flashbacks to a seven-year-old episode in conjunction with a plot point that no one really cared about… but on the other hand, it must be said that they did use it rather effectively, and we probably saw the best possible use of it that there could have been. So, you know, I’m happy enough to forgive it, but it does make me wonder about the how close we’re skirting to the ‘too much continuity’ line.)

[And! I guessed the hybrid line, before Capaldi finished it. I wonder where that might be doing? The concept of the hybrid is clearly the series arc, though to what it’s building up to it’s hard to say. Something to do with the War Lords? The Doctor, half human? Perhaps Maisie Williams will return in the finale as the season big bad? Probably not that last one.]

So, yes. I’m extremely pleased with this episode. Honestly, it may well be the best of series 9 so far; funny jokes, a clever plot, excellent performances, compelling writing, and a fantastic depiction of the Doctor and Clara. And on top of that, it more or less manages to tell a full story in and of itself! Certainly, this is my favourite of Jamie Mathieson’s three episodes.

10/10

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Doctor Who Review: Before the Flood

doctor who before the flood review toby whithouse daniel o hara morven christie peter capaldi jenna coleman sophie stone

We all have to face death some day, be it ours or someone else’s.

So, this is a little bit late, for which I apologise. It’s all those irritating real world commitments, getting in the way of things, as ever.

Now, Before the Flood. I was not so keen on last week’s Under the Lake, which I basically considered to be a fairly run of the mill base under siege style story, with very little else going on. There just wasn’t much that I was impressed by, sadly. Very little stood out – it was diverting enough, but there didn’t feel like there was much substance to it.

And, when the episode began, I actually quite enjoyed it. It seemed to me that Before the Flood was really improving upon its predecessor, picking up on its mistakes, and filling in the gaps that had been left. The opening with Peter Capaldi talking to the audience was really entertaining, and it was a nice break in terms of the conventional openings, where we might run around a little and then get a jump scare, or find a dead body, before the titles begin.

doctor who before the flood review peter capaldi twelfth doctor beethoven's fifth fourth wall break toby whithouse

And, you know, this episode had a lot of the same strengths as the previous episode, I’ve got to make that clear. The direction was really strong (something that stood out to me was the zoom in on the Doctor, Bennett and O’Donnell as they first heard the roar of the Fisher King), and the set design remained impressive.

There were still some tense moments and shocks throughout, and that can be difficult to create, so the episode does well there. The Doctor’s ghost had a few good moments, and Lunn’s journey to get the phone was quite tense in places too.

The Fisher King had a really great, imposing design too. Peter Serafinowicz (Darth Maul!) did a great voice, and Corey Taylor (the Slipknot fellow!) had a pretty impressive scream. So, you know, it came together to create a fairly impressive monster, with a lot of potential. (Squandered potential, in the end, given that the monster didn’t really do anything, but it gets some points for looking cool.)

Clara also had some interesting stuff to do this week – which is one of the few areas where Before the Flood did improve upon Under the Lake. Jenna Coleman is a brilliant actress, and I am again inclined to suggest that Clara might be the best companion of the new series. Ordering the Doctor to “die with whoever comes next” was a really well done scene, and everyone involved deserves plaudits for that.

doctor who before the flood review toby whithouse morven christie o donnell beckett fridging peter capaldi twelfth doctor daniel o hara

But, again, as with last week, where it fell down was on the writing.

Fact is, the episode is predicated upon an entirely nonsensical premise. The whole morality of whether or not you should change time is a completely fictional morality – the rules are hazily defined, the context changes regularly, and the outcome is different with every passing episode. Doctor Who does this all the time; sometimes it’s alright to change time, and sometimes it’s not. They have no hard and fast rules, because different writers want to do different things, so they can’t have any semblance of consistency.

But that makes it very difficult to take these episodes seriously. At the very least, it makes them difficult to write and get right – it takes a very deft and subtle approach to the dilemma to make it work. Something like Father’s Day does a fairly good job of it, actually. The Fires of Pompeii does too, actually.

Before the Flood does not. Now, it’s in a harder position anyway, that’s true, because it’s come after years of timey-wimey stories where the get out clause is to change time, but maintain the appearance of the timeline prior to the change – that having been the entire resolution to The Wedding of River Song, and arguably of The Day of the Doctor too.

In this instance, though, Before the Flood totally shoots itself in the foot. Because it opens by explaining how you can seemingly change time, but let history carry on “with hardly a feather ruffled”, as it were – and even then goes on to do this! The Doctor, of course, survives by maintaining the appearance of the original timeline. That’s why we have a holographic ghost of the Doctor, rather than his actual ghost.

Yet at the very same time, Toby Whithouse has expected us to take seriously the idea that the Doctor will die (we know he won’t, okay? We know) and we are supposed to accept that blatant, cheap, awful fridging of O’Donnell. It’s ridiculous.

If the Doctor can save himself, why can’t he save O’Donnell? That nonsense about seeing dead people? That wasn’t an ethical dilemma, it was an aesthetic dilemma. And yet the backbone of the episode was centred around this. An entirely hollow and empty piece of “drama”.

At this point, I’m inclined to suggest that we need to put a ban on all time travel stories, because they clearly do not work anymore. They need a rest, until someone has a new idea. Because here, there was not a new idea. It was just… nothing. There wasn’t enough there.

So, sure, very strong direction, good acting – and admittedly some good writing in places – but it’s all let down by the fact that, at its core, the episode was just sort of empty. 6/10

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Doctor Who series 9 reviews

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