Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Doctor Who - Attack of the Graske

Here's an oddity, an interactive Doctor Who adventure featuring the new Doctor, David Tennant. Shown on the BBC's digital 'red button' channel following the transmission of The Christmas Invasion, Attack of the Graske was written by Gareth Roberts and directed with a great deal of flair by Ashley Way. In fact, I admired the direction so much that I kind of hope that Way gets a crack at a proper episode sometime. Especially impressive was the way the camera moved and swooped and the revelation of detail in and around the TARDIS console which has been missing from the TV episodes so far. Back to the plot, and the idea is that you use your freeview remote control (or whatever remote is appropriate) to make on-screen selections at different points in the show. These then dictate which direction the narrative follows ... well that was the idea, but in practice, and in perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the show, it was pretty impossible not to follow the narrative as if you chose the wrong option then the Doctor either did it for you, or nothing significantly different occurred as a result. This was a bit of a wasted opportunity then, though maybe the constraints of budget meant that only a limited number of options could be available ... still, I would have thought that with a little more imagination, they could have come up with something better and more interesting to 'play'. The first puzzle is to decide which one of a family is possessed by an alien ... easy if you happen to be watching the camcorder footage but impossible otherwise. It was Mum for those who want to know such things, but if you get it wrong, no matter as the narrative carries on. Then we meet the Graske, a short fellah with pointy bits on his head. I wonder where the new series would be without Jimmy Vee, unsung hero of the show. From playing the Moxx of Balhoon and the alien Pig, now he's another alien being, a collector of sorts who replaces life forms with Graske replicants in order to take over the planet (or something). We now have to follow the Graske in the TARDIS and choose which controls to operate to do so. Again getting it all wrong changes nothing and we end up in England 1883 and have to follow the Graske's DNA trace to locate him. Getting it wrong makes no difference and we find ourselves with a rather nice street scene of child beggar and other Victorian characters. But the Graske is spotted and captures the beggar before transmatting off again. The Doctor is in hot pursuit and the TARDIS arrives on the planet Griffoth (no idea of the spelling of this, but it sounds right). Three air locks later (the answers are: Symbol 2; '89'; and key '1') and we're into the Graske's storage facility where there are all the life forms it has replaced. The production missed a trick here as aside from the Slitheen, there seem to be no recognisable life forms at all - why not include some old monsters? Or even be mega sneaky and include something from the 2006 season ... or maybe they did. The stored Slitheen is released by a ricocheting blast and chases the Graske around the complex and we now have our final decision to make: do we put the entire place in stasis or return everyone to their rightful place and time? This is the only point where the decision results in a different ending: choosing 'stasis' seems to be wrong as everyone is then trapped and the Graske replicants can continue to spoil Christmas for the family. Choosing 'return' results in a happy ending, the life forms returned and a happy family Christmas. As you make the various choices during the game, the Doctor, in both voice over and in shot has different lines depending on your progress. For example if you correctly spot the Graske hiding on Earth, you get a line about Opera, but if you fail, you get a random comment about liking mangoes. At the end, if you got it all right, the Doctor congratulates you with: 'You were amazing. Might even pick you up one day', wheras if you get things wrong, it's: 'Not good enough ... yet. But you weren't that bad - have another go.' I would rate this as a fun experiment. Something which shows the possibilities of the technology in taking the viewer on an interactive trip. The system seems straightforward and should be convertable for use on a standard DVD, with menu selections taking you to the different sections of the story. The scope of the script seemed a little limited, but perhaps this was itself hamstrung by committees and everpresent budgetary requirements. A shame if this was the case as the concept has a lot of potential which wasn't really realized here. I have no idea for how long this little adventure will be available or if it will find its way onto a DVD at some point in the future. It's worth looking out for as David Tennant is superb, and gives a far better demonstration of his power and charisma, and perhaps what his Doctor will be like, than most of The Christmas Invasion, where he is snoozing in bed as the world goes to pot around him, or confused with regeneration trauma.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Doctor Who - The Christmas Invasion

Christmas Days will never be the same again! For the first time since 1965 we have an episode of Doctor Who transmitted on Christmas Day, but more than this ... it was on the front cover of the Radio Times, the same with several other listings magazines and it was the pick of the day for just about everyone. But was it any good? Back in 1965, the production team chose to make that week's episode a bit of a jokey runaround, nothing too stressful for people to follow and with a few references to other shows thrown in for good measure. This time around though, things were a little different, although there were some that were the same. For a start, this was the first 'proper' episode to feature David Tennant as the new Doctor. I am convinced though that the brief sequence for Children in Need was planned all along - there's no way that the production team could seriously have considered leaping from the end of The Parting of the Ways to the start of The Christmas Invasion ... there's an obvious gaping hole there that needed to be filled. So we kick off with Jackie Tyler (who I am disliking as a character the more I see of her) and Mickey hearing the TARDIS arrive - and it must make one heck of a noise. Strange how no-one else seemed to hear it. The TARDIS appears and, in an impressive tour de force of effects, bashes around a few buildings and rubbish bins as it lands. And then there's our new Doctor. Breathless and confused he promptly collapses and is taken back to Jackie's to spend most of the episode in bed. Meanwhile the plot (what there is of it) starts to kick in and we learn about the Guinivere Space Programme and the probe which is approaching Mars. However it bumps into a huge rock-like spacecraft and is captured. It's a little strange to think that the folks on Earth who were tracking the probe didn't notice a pigging great spacecraft out in the vicinity of Mars ... and why was it there in the first place? No explanations are coming, making this episode a little light on logic. Back on Earth, Rose, Mickey and Jackie are menaced by apparently robot Santas armed with deadly musical instruments and then by a remote controlled spinning Christmas tree! Very eerie scenes, and the tree in particular is quite scary. I can see many kids frightened by their own household trees now ... but what was all this about? These Santas, they came from the spaceship, so how long had the Sycorax been monitoring Earth to be able to replicate the robots (if that's what they were) and to understand the customs of Christmastime and musical instruments (I can't see the Sycorax leader playing trumpet himself). And why were Rose and Mickey targetted? The Doctor suggests it's because he's leaking energy (why?) but it would have taken the Sycorax weeks if not months to arrive on Earth after the Doctor got there and they appeared to be there already. Oh well ... maybe we're not meant to think too hard about this after a heavy dinner. With the large spacecraft on its way to Earth, Prime Minister Harriet Jones (former MP for Flydale East) is in attendance at a UNIT operations centre apparently sited at the Tower of London. It's a shame that, when a ton of continuity references have already been dropped (for example that Martians look different, the UNIT logos, regeneration, the TARDIS translating languages) they didn't go the whole hog and have a Brigadier there as well ... But they can see the spaceship and so can Mickey with his super-laptop and ability to tap into secure government websites - wouldn't they have changed their passwords from when the Doctor told Mickey how to get on in Aliens of London? And then we get Torchwood crowbarred into the plot ... what? Another top secret organisation ... what's wrong with UNIT all of a sudden? Oh well ... The big ship arrives and I liked the touch of the Big Ben clock tower being repaired. The invaders seem to have some mystery power and cause loads of people to get hypnotically drawn to stand on high places. These scenes were very effective. I especially liked the woman trying to stop her kids - reminiscent of the scenes in The Lord of the Rings where the children are made to fight. But all these people have 'A+' type blood and the plot strands start to come together - there was some 'A+' blood on the Martian probe ... what? Actual blood? I thought in space travel every ounce was critical and so to include a tub of blood for no apparent reason seems a little strange. Why not give the chemical composition or have a picture of the DNA complex instead? Anyway, as the Sycorax have the blood, they can somehow control a third of the Earth's population. I guess we can be thankful that it wasn't a sample of type 'O' blood. So Harriet and her goons are teleported up to the ship where the alien leader has no trouble understanding them, but they need translation software to understand him. Two of the aides are killed with a funky electric lasso (neat death effects here), and the Aliens transmit messages that no-one can understand to the Earth. But then Rose and Mickey get the Doctor into the TARDIS and, thankfully leaving the annoying Jackie behind, conveniently get themselves teleported to the spaceship as the creatures detect the TARDIS' alien technology. So why did they bother with Harriet at all then? When Rose arrives she tries to get the Sycorax to leave, but they laugh at her cobbled together continuity-fest of a speech ... but then the humans realise that they can understand the Sycoraxic language and we all cheer as the Doctor appears, a hero in pyjamas. Tennant is brilliant here. His 'Hello big fellah' is superb as his is totally taking control of the situation and running rings around everyone else. He presses the big glowy button which will send the controlled humans to their doom but it doesn't work - it's like voodoo he explains and people's survival instincts are too strong ... but voodoo only works because the subjects know about it and fear it and believe it will work. You can't control masses of people you've never met at a distance in the same way. Oh well - it was nice and dramatic anyway. But then the Doctor (aka Luke Skywalker) challenges the Sycorax leader (aka Darth Vader) to a duel and they're off with swords flashing (and while we're here, why didn't the electric whip work on the Doctor?) The problem now is that the Doctor doesn't seem to have any plan past fighting the alien. He heads out onto the surface of the asteriod/spaceship thing and they fight some more. Then Darth (sorry, the Sycorax leader) cuts the Doctor's hand off ... but surprise ... the Doctor can grow a new one. I groaned at this. Cop out and silly I thought. What was the point of it? It seemed to serve no real part to the plot. And of course it had been done in Star Wars. The Doctor wins the fight and spares the alien's life. But then kills him with no emotion when he rushes at him. No. Not a very Doctory thing to do. Far better that the Doctor bends over to pick up something, or to straighten his shoe or something, and the alien trips over him and falls, but to have the Doctor actually kill him - I don't know. It reminded me of the conclusion to The End of the World where the Doctor kills Cassandra. I still feel that the Doctor needs to be a hero to all people, and that should include not taking the life of anyone who pisses him off. So the Doctor wins the day and the aliens leave Earth. I liked the comment about the Doctor being very 'Arthur Dent' - a reference to Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. However the plot is not yet over. The mysterious Torchwood let Harriet know they're ready, and she authorises them to fire. Immense bolts of power converge and blast the fleeing ship into oblivion. And the Doctor is well upset. In scenes harkening back to Doctor Who and the Silurians, the Doctor realises that maybe Harriet Jones is the real monster here and so chooses to set the wheels of change in motion with six words ('Don't you think she looks tired?'). I can't fully recall the end of World War III, but I thought that Jones' tenure as Prime Minister was hailed as a triumph for peace and prosperity. Maybe that squares with this, but maybe not. As the story plays out, the Doctor chooses his new clothes from an impressive TARDIS wardrobe. I liked seeing this - new parts of the TARDIS are always welcome even though we don't have much understanding of the layout of the inside of the TARDIS at the moment. But again, given the huge number of continuity references which have gone before, and given that it is now almost traditional, why were there no previous Doctor's costumes on display here? A shame. Still, I liked the Doctor's glasses - rather ugly black-rimmed affairs which make him look even more like gangly singer Jarvis Cocker. Overall I liked The Christmas Invasion. It showed a lot of the weaknesses in Russell T Davies' own writing though - a reliance on set pieces rather than a coherent plot, and way too many continuity references to be entirely self contained. Even the review in The Times picked up on the continuity, and so if it's apparent to general viewers then in my mind that's not a good thing. The story was fun, the aliens suitably nasty (even if we had little idea what they wanted or why they had come to Earth - this seemed to be to put half the population into slavery ... but doing what? And why only half? Or was it the Doctor they wanted? And where did those robot Santas come from?), and the Doctor totally brilliant (except when he was wasted lying in bed for ages). I think the future for David Tennant is very bright indeed. And Doctor Who would seem to be on a roll - the trailer for next season looked very promising indeed. But I hope they see the light and reduce the appearances of Jackie, and try and keep all that soap opera-ey kitchen sink drama in the background. Oh, and cut back on the continuity as well (fat chance with K9, Sarah Jane Smith and the Cybermen reappearing next year). I'd give this probably a 7 or 8 out of ten. Not as superlative as episodes like The Unquiet Dead, Dalek or The Empty Child, but not as disappointing as Aliens of London or The Long Game. EDITED 29/12/05 TO ADD: A friend has just pointed out that there are apparently old costumes in the Doctor's wardrobe. Here's his email:
Hi David, great review! But you'll want to watch the wardrobe scene again, because you missed some stuff. Not only are there definitely old Doctor outfits visible in the room, but the Mill have confirmed there's at least one thing there from every previous Doctor. Some stuff we've caught on screen grabs include Sylv's umbrella, the First Doctor's gold column thing from his console room, Davison's hat and standing mirror from 'Castrovalva', C. Baker's coat (very hard to see), and perhaps most amazingly, an exact - and I mean exact down to the colors of the stripes - replica of Steven's pullover from 'The Celestial Toymaker'! Lots of people went nuts when they caught that one.
I never spotted these as I was looking for Doctors costumes (ie long scarf, cricketting outfit and so on) rather than anything else. Still, good on the production team for making the effort.

Spamming of My Blog

Just so that folks know, a company seems to have taken a liking to my blog and has been spamming me with random comments advertising their wares on nearly all of my posts - another 30 or so arrived over Christmas. I'm therefore moderating all the comments for the moment and any genuine ones just might get deleted due to the volume I'm having to wade through. I've emailed them to ask them to stop and if they don't then I'll report them to their ISP and to anyone else I can find who is associated with them. Not amused.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Children In Need Special

Whoo hoo ... some more new Doctor Who ... and a first proper look at the new tenth Doctor in the form of David Tennant. As usual at this time of year, the Children In Need charity fundraiser brings in all manner of stars of stage and screen to raise money, and for the third time, Doctor Who formed a significant part of the proceedings. This was an untitled 5 minute or so piece which took place immediately following the ending of The Parting Of The Ways, and introduced David Tennant as the newly regenerated Doctor, discussing the event with Rose in the TARDIS as he headed first for Barcelona and then for Rose's home on Earth. The piece was beautifully written and performed, and ran the gamut from whimsy to excitement with ease. Tennant was superb as the Doctor, wringing gravitas and humour from the situation and flashing the most winning smile since Tom Baker travelled the universe in his scarf and hat. There wasn't much time for plot, but as the Cloister Bell tolled (in a really nice touch to the original series) the Doctor announced that his regeneration was failing and the TARDIS hurtled towards a new adventure on Earth on Christmas Day ... I can't wait.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Teaspoon and an Open Mind

Picked up this new book the other day, The Science of Doctor Who by Michael White, and it's pretty dire to be honest. I don't mind a little non-Who material mixed in, but this seems to be nothing more than a selection of 'easy science' articles prefixed with a short paragraph which claims that Doctor Who featured or might have featured this aspect. It's really disappointing that none of the pieces bothers to use examples from Who to back up the arguments, preferring instead to rely on other shows like Star Trek ... there's a whole chapter on teleportation which is hardly a major element of the Doctor Who universe ... and it doesn't cover ray guns and blasters, or the dimensionally transcendental nature of the TARDIS ... White's style is easy-ish to read and the science is delivered in nice packages, but if I'd wanted to read a book like this I could have picked up a Stephen Hawking tome or something. There's also a consistent mis-spelling of Jon Pertwee's first name, and he gets the title of the first episode wrong as well ... It's basically a missed opportunity - a chance to look at the science which is in Doctor Who, using examples and themes from the show itself rather than being, as it appears to be, little more than a generic collection of articles packaged under the Doctor Who banner because it happens to be popular at the moment, and written by someone who has only a very casual acquaintance with the programme. A great disappointment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New Toys

With Doctor Who hitting the headlines all the time at the moment, shops are eagerly awaiting the new toys from Character Options - I was out the other day in Kingston town centre and the big toyshop there has a sign apologising that they haven't managed to get the remote control Dalek in as yet ... I spoke to them as well and it seems that demand is so high that they will only get 12 of the Remote Control Dalek! Looks like the predictions of Doctor Who being this year's 'must have' toys are coming true. I was lucky to receive a selection of the new toys a few weeks or so back and so have been giving them the once over. I'm pleased to report that they are, as a selection, brilliant. Ranging from the remote control Dalek to the Sonic Screwdriver there is something for everyone here. REMOTE CONTROL DALEK Starting with absolutely the Christmas must-have, the beautiful gold remote control Dalek stands a foot tall and comes with a neat rt unit which controls its movement. There are also buttons down the centre of the unit which make the Dalek say various phrases. The toy is fairly easy to control once you get the hang of it, although a polished wooden floor or kitchen lino would seem to be the best surface, and as it moves along so its head swings and the eye raises and lowers. The eye is also illuminated with that eerie blue glow and the whole thing is as stately as a tank as it chases cats, dogs or other family members around the room. Everyone who has seen this wants one for Christmas ... SONIC SCREWDRIVER A nice replica of the Doctor's trusty tool from the TV series. This is made from plastic and has two buttons which make the end light up with uv light and the buzzing sound to emit. It also has a uv pen nib at one end (which can be interchanged with a black ink nib) and a pad of post-it type notes which can be written on. The uv pen is only visible under uv light so secret messages can be left for like minded friends. On the downside the toy is a little plasticky and the handle lacks the detailing on the original. Though I am told that this aspect is being improved for future releases. DALEK BATTLE SET This consists of two Daleks, a black and a gold, two remote control units and a model of either the Doctor or Rose. The Daleks, which are about 4 inches high, zoom around trying to exterminate each other and their lights flash faster as they are 'hit' until one of them 'dies' and switches off. Neat stuff though the set I have came with no instructions so I'm not quite sure how the thing works ... my black Dalek keeps dying before the gold no matter what. This is a fantastic toy and having Dalek chasing games around the dining room floor was brilliant. Top marks for this. TELEPHONE TARDIS A really neat idea, this. A small TARDIS model about four inches inches high on which the light flashes and the take-off sound is emitted when a mobile phone nearby is about to ring. Simple and effective. I loved this one. It's very cool. WALKIE TALKIES Large foot high models of the Doctor and a Slitheen hide walkie talkie handsets which can be used to communicate with friends. These are quite large and chunky and I don't like to break them out of their packaging to see how well they work. They are great models though, and it's really cool to see a monster other than a Dalek appearing as a physical model/figure for once. I wonder if the Slitheen farts :) DALEK LCD GAME A neat little LCD game which seems aimed at younger kids who haven't yet discovered the delights of PSPs and GameBoys as yet (does such a thing exist?) Nice Dalek packaging on this one. DOCTOR WHO MONEY BANK A TARDIS-shaped moneybank which speaks several phrases from the show when money is put in and the doors opened and closed. A rather nice idea to save up enough money to buy the other toys perhaps ... All the items have brilliant packaging and make a very consistent and attractive set of goodies from the show. Overall this is a fantastic set of toys with a few more goodies yet to come like talking mugs and the like. What an amazing time to be a fan of the show - we've not seen toys like these for many years and I hope we have many more to come over the next few years.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Night Watch

Went to the cinema tonight hoping to see Land of the Dead ... unfortunately that film was showing on different nights now, so we saw a film called Night Watch instead. I had no idea what this film was about, but I really was pleasantly surprised. It's in Russian with English subtitles, but please don't let that put you off as this is a rather classy horror flick with some superb ideas and visual effects, and it rolls along at a cracking pace. The plot is along the lines of there being two opposing forces: the Day Watch and the Night Watch, each of which keeps the other in check. But a new 'special' human, called an Other, has appeared and when he chooses whether to follow the forces of light (good) or dark (evil) then the balance will be tipped. The plot follows one 'Other' who finds himself seeking this new human to try and bring him to the light, but along the way there's a battle with vampires (some very neat stuff here with them only appearing in mirrors) and other witches and demons, and a nightmarish journey into something called the Gloom which seems to eat up those who venture into it if they are not careful. There are also beast-men and tiger-women, and an incredible sequence where an owl transforms into a woman ... there's a lot going on in this film! The sound design is brilliant, as is the subtitling which has been done in such a way that it actually integrates with the film itself, the words appearing at different speeds and in colours to match the tone at the time - some scenes are almost graphic novel-like in their combining of visuals and on-screen words. Very nicely done indeed. Other great moments are the spider-toy thing near the start, the incredibly edited sequence of the witch forcing a miscarriage on a girl, the sequence where a truck flips over a man in the road and lands and carries on driving the other side ... and many more besides. Overall the film comes over as a sort of hybrid between The Matrix and Underworld with much originality and cleverness added into the mix. I really enjoyed the experience and will probably get the film on DVD as and when so I can see and appreciate it again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Updates ...

Apologies to all for the lack of updates over the last few months ... things have been pretty hectic ... I have loads of things I want to talk about from the new merchandise and books to the exhibition at Blackpool and other things too ... I'm really going to try and get back into the swing of things and post some musings and meanderings soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Doctor Who in Brighton

The new BBC Doctor Who exhibition in Brighton, which opened on the 14 May 2005, is an impressive affair. It's sited at the end of the main Brighton Pier in a large domed building. The work that has gone into it is amazing - and more impressive is the publicity. As we were driving into Brighton, one of the roads was adorned all the way along with banners on every streetlight promoting the exhibition. Then, on the pier itself are many more banners each showing different elements from the exhbition. At the entrance to the pier itself there's a Police Box and large advert for it as well. It's hard to miss that the Doctor is in town. The exhibition itself has a separate ticket booth, but once tickets are bought, you move into the main dome. First up are the two makeover androids from 'Bad Wolf'. These are even more impressive in real life, and the attention to detail is astounding. Moving around them, and there's a small tribute to the first 42 years of the show's history, with booths containing information on the Doctors and some of their foes. There are also some original costumes sited behind the displays which are quite hard to see. Then it's into a main area where a large TARDIS is revolving sedately in the centre, two sides showing as Police Box and the other two cut away to reveal the original costumes for Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. Around this area are large murals of pictures and information about the show. There's some panels from the TARDIS interior and an original design model as well. Around the corner and we're into 'Rose' with an Auton model perched up high ... a wheelie bin and three Auton Brides crashing through a shop window. Then it's to 'The Unquiet Dead' and an area with a mysterious shrouded figure on a slab ... all the displays have audio/visuals and clips from the shows playing on screens. 'The Unquiet Dead' area is good, but a little uneventful. It's a shame that more costumes weren't on display here, or Sneed's cart and so on. It's good, but perhaps a little bare. I think I might have tried for a dingy, small corridor here, with flickering 'gas' lights along the sides and spooky funereal music playing, and then projected a Gelth onto the walls and made it flicker from 'good' blue to 'bad' red ... Around the corner and it's 'The End of the World'. Unfortunately both Cassandra and The Face of Boe were away when we visited, but it was nice to see the Moxx, costumes for the Trees and several props from the story. Next up is the Dalek! Hovering on a flight of stairs, the creature will turn it's eye to look at you when a button is pressed ... nice idea. Also here was the Emperor Dalek model from 'The Parting of the Ways' and lots of other bits and pieces besides, like the alien musical instrument. Around the corner again and we have the magnificent model of the Big Ben clocktower, all smashed in, and then the Slitheen, the alien pig and Margaret Blaine's skin ... The Slitheen can be made to fart on cue with a button ... Finally, we have a small display from 'The Empty Child' of a gas mask and the Schlecter Bomb ... again, slightly disappointing. Overall it's a superb exhibition, full of lights and sound and lots and lots to see. I'm told that more items are to be added as the year progresses, and I hope that some of the episodes without much presence at the moment will be represented, like 'The Long Game' or 'Father's Day'. Just before you exit the exhibition tent, there is a shop area selling piles of merchandise, including a load of items especially created for the exhibition, like CD cases, mini-tool sets, clocks, calculators, a mousemat, pens and other things. Other things I liked: the 'Bad Wolf' graffiti on the way out (but why wasn't it elsewhere in the exhibition ... they could run a 'hunt the Bad Wolf' competition to find all the references); the Dalek shell with the creature inside from 'Dalek'; Mickey's disembodied Auton head; and the fact that the place was packed - it was an incredibly hot Sunday afternoon that we went down, and the pier was heaving with people ... and there was no air conditioning in the Doctor Who area so air blowers had been set up. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves though. Outside the Exhibition, and back towards the entrance to the pier is a pub selling the most amazing chips and sausage (and beer and wine and coke) and the prices aren't too bad as well ... so it's well worth stopping off there for some good old fashioned English grub.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Brighton Toy Museum

Went down to Brighton last weekend both to see the new Doctor Who Exhibition there (more on that later on when I get the pictures sorted out), but also to install a pile of my Doctor Who merchandise into the Brighton Toy Museum.
Me with the display.
It was great to see all the items together, and I always enjoy sharing them with others. The display was arranged in conjunction with Experience Design and Management who are running the Doctor Who Exhibition, and it should be at the Toy Museum until at least the end of the year.

The main display of toys

If anyone wants to visit, then the Museum is up by Brighton Station. Out the front of the station there is a road which steeply heads down underneath the pedestrian area here. This road is called Trafalgar Street and the Museum is about 200 yards or so down there on the left. The full address and contact details are: Brighton Toy and Model Museum, 52-55 Trafalgar Street, Brighton BN1 4EB Tel: 01273 749494. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays; 10am - 5pm other days (11am start on Saturdays).

Nothing at the End of the Lane

The other day I received the second edition of a rather superb fanzine called Nothing at the End of the Lane ... now to actually have a print fanzine these days is a joy in itself as there are precious few still being produced, but to get something which is just so good ... The fanzine concentrates on Doctor Who research and restoration and this edition has numerous articles looking at just that.

First off is a piece chronicling the history of the Howe's Transcendental Toybox book to print. This piece was largely written by Richard Bignell from numerous interviews with myself and features unused covers and so on from the books.

John Cura is the next subject, and in a brilliantly researched and written piece, Cura's life and work is chronicled for the first time ever. For those who don't know, Cura was the man behind the tele-snaps - small black and white photographs from early Doctor Who taken from the television and which are now the only visual record of some of those early episodes. This article was superb ... showing how pioneering Cura was and how invaluable his service was to the television industry.

Then there's some articles looking at the BBC film vaults and video archives, detailing what is there and what has been found and so on. There's an interview with Michael Stevens from the BBC Audio Collection about the recent Power of the Daleks tele-snap reconstruction CD.

Derek Handley, who for many years has made his own reconstructions of missing episodes on video using the audio soundtrack and whatever images he can find looks at how his work compares with the telesnaps and with an episode rediscovered after he did his own reconstruction. This is fascinating stuff, and it's impressive how accurate Dereks's 'guesses' were as to what the visuals might be.

Then there's a very sad and poignant piece by Andrew Pixley about the junking of all the 60s episodes ... with a wipe they were gone for ever...

A piece about Doctor Who on 8mm film and what exists in that format is novel and informative both about the development, rise and fall of 8mm film, and of the various clips and film taken off the television which exist.

The whole magazine is topped off with a complete listing of what the BBC holds (or is known to exist) from all the missing Hartnell and Troughton Doctor Who episodes, and finally a selection of colourised telesnaps from some Hartnell episodes which are simply awesome. I loved these and would dearly love to see a true recolourised episode created by Stuart Humphreys who coloured these. Go on BBC DVD ... you know it makes sense to ask.

Overall the magazine is printed on really nice, good quality heavy stock, the print quality is superb and sharp and it's one of the most detailed and informative looks at the state of the archives in general that I have yet seen. I urge you to buy it. Visit the website at www.nothing-lane.co.uk for details of how to do just that.

Friday, July 08, 2005

London Attack

I usually work up in London, but the end of this week I took off as holiday as I have editing and other stuff to do on the Telos book BACK TO THE VORTEX. So Imagine my surprise yesterday when my brother called about 11.30am to say that I bet I was pleased I wasn't in London ... what? Then he told me ... Then I watched the news ... And I went all cold and shakey and worried for my friends at work and elsewhere. London is where I live and work. It's my city and this was not right at all that anonymous terrorists could blow parts of it up. But as usual London reacted calmly and efficiently. I managed (finally) to get through to work and everyone seemed to be accounted for there :) And online, someone on the OG group assembled a cool set of comments from elsewhere and I thought I'd share them:

"NEWSFLASH:There has been a widespread outbreak of grumbling and tutting today in London, along with a large number of people going home instead of to work, with a certain amount of guilty pleasure.Sorry, bad guys. We've been bombed before, and we just adjust our day to account for it. This is London calling." ~ BBC Parliament

"To quote an old Londoner who lived through the blitz and got caught up in the Canary Wharf explosion: "I've been blown up by a better class of bastard than this!"

"It'll be easy to find any terrorists; everyone else will have just said "Bugger it. I'm off to the pub."
On days like this, the music radio stations play sad music - if they play any music at all. I turned on the radio in the bathroom when I was taking my shower just now, and they were playing One by U2.HAVEN'T WE SUFFERED ENOUGH?

I'm watching the news, I do it occasionally, it seems like a good time to do so. And I'm seeing a guy who was blown off his feet by a bus going up, but basically he's okay and being interviewed. And, shock allowed, he's pretty much laughing it off. Another interview, a woman who was on the tube, just the same response but maybe a little more detailed.I love the UK sometimes, I really do. What happened is horrible, I don't diminish it and I hope those responsible are suitably punished, possibly with chainsaws ... but if they wanted terror well, they probably shouldn't have gone to London. Not because Londoners are particularly braver than anyone else (although they might be, have you seen the prices there?) but because they've walked through a helluva lot worse than that.Nice try, no cigar.

"The great British Spirit triumphs once again! Take that, Al Quaeda. You tried to spread panic with your terrorist ways, but you hadn't counted on a nation of repressed, stiff-upper-lip Brits who refuse to show unseemly emotion in public!"

When the news reporter said "Shopkeepers are opening their doors bringing out blankets and cups of tea" I just smiled. It's like yes. That's Britain for you. Tea solves everything. You're a bit cold? Tea. Your boyfriend has just left you? Tea. You've just been told you've got cancer? Tea. Coordinated terrorist attack on the transport network bringing the city to a grinding halt? TEA DAMMIT! And if it's really serious, they may bring out the coffee. The Americans have their alert raised to red, we break out the coffee. That's for situations more serious than this of course. Like another England penalty shoot-out.

"It's hard to panic the British. They've dealt with the Blitz, the IRA, the Silurians, the Zarbi, the Daleks, the Cybermen..."

So Monday I'll be heading back into Town for work and will probably go for a walk at lunchtime. My thoughts are with everyone affected by this, the 100s of casualties and those killed and maimed and their families.

Peace to all

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Doctor Who - Parting of the Ways

And so the thirteen week odyssey concludes with an episode as triumphant and as impressive as any of the previous twelve. Parting of the Ways had a lot to live up to, promising to draw together all the threads and to present a conclusion to the series which would also be a new beginning and pointing to a Christmas Special ... And it delivered on pretty much everything. First off, the cliffhanger before the credits was in the right place - this is how the previous episode should have ended, with the Doctor's words 'I'm coming to get you' rather than random squarking Daleks and a thoughtlessly placed preview for the next episode. After the credits, the episode gets down to business with the TARDIS materialising around a Dalek and Rose. Wow. I was so impressed by this. I know we'd seen it before in The Time Monster and Logopolis, but it seemed more real and exciting this time ... and they were real beings brought into the TARDIS and not inanimate objects. After this superb start, a mis-step. The introduction of the Dalek Emperor was totally without any awe ... a shame I felt. In the original Evil of the Daleks, the Doctor and Jamie are escorted along corridors by the Daleks before they emerge into the Emporer's presence, a scene given much power by the change of locale from corridor to Chamber ... here it's all the same place, there was no build up and no revelation, and the Dalek Emperor really didn't look that impressive. But he was there and the Daleks all survived through him - he fell back through time, his ship surviving the Time War (as indeed did the Dalek in Dalek ... I wonder how many others survived as well?). But he's gone a little loopy and thinks he's the God of the Daleks and they all worship him ... some nice ideas were at work here, but they weren't really explored. But the Doctor's taunts get a little to much and while the Doctor and Rose return to Satellite 5 to try and stop the Daleks invading Earth, so the Dalek fleet starts to move in for the kill. The effects of this are stunning. Truly breathtaking and better than anything else I think I've ever seen! The Doctor starts to faff around building some sort of killing Delta wave thingy on the 500th floor while Rose and Lynda look on. The interplay between these two characters was fascinating - Rose is clearly disturbed and jealous of Lynda's intent to travel with the Doctor, and with the Doctor's willingness for this to happen ... it's a shame nothing more comes of this as Lynda, along with pretty much everyone else is slaughtered by the Daleks when they arrive. The Dalek's silent 'Exterminate' outside the observation windows was a master-touch. I found these scenes sad and poignant, that the humans who offer to help the Doctor end up cannon fodder while he himself cannot bring himself to use the device he spent all the time building as it would kill all the humans as well as the Daleks ... bit of a daft thing to build then. But then the episode twists again, and the Doctor tricks Rose into the TARDIS so he can send her back to her own time and to safety with her family and friends. However Rose finally realises what the 'Bad Wolf' messages mean everywhere ... they're not a threat, they're a message from her, to her, that she can get back to the future (what?? or something anyway) and so she gets Mickey and her mum to help pull the TARDIS console to pieces so she can look into the vortex therein. This seems to give her god-like powers, and the TARDIS returns to the future and Satellite 5 for a final showdown with the Daleks. When the Slitheen looked into the heart of the TARDIS it granted her wish, that she be given another chance ... Rose's greatest wish is that the Doctor be safe and protected from the 'false god', the Dalek Emperor. So Rose, using the powers of the vortex, sends the words 'BAD WOLF' spiralling back in time as a message to herself (neat bit of paradox there), she was the Bad Wolf all the time, and then sets about returning the Daleks to dust, unmaking their very atoms. They all seem to be destroyed, including the Dalek mothership containing the Dalek Emperor. She also returns Jack to life (but what about everyone else?), but then realises she cannot live with the power. The Doctor kisses her and draws the vortex power into himself, and then returns it to the TARDIS. All seems well, Rose is alive and so is the Doctor ... but he's now dying. As he tells Rose, all his cells are dying and he's going to change ... and this he does in spectacular fashion ... turning into David Tennant and tantalising us with the promise of a trip to the planet Barcelona. The question that this ending posed for me, was that if all it took for the Daleks to be destroyed, was for a single person to look into the time vortex ... and then the resultant power channelled to another Time Lord who then simply regenerated ... then why did the Time War happen at all? The solution seems very simple with no casualties at all on the side of the Time Lords (barring one incarnation of one Time Lord). Maybe it never occurred to them to do this, but this seems a little strange for a race with all the knowledge of time and space at their fingertips ... And so the season comes to and end. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I have enjoyed the last 13 weeks of Doctor Who as I have enjoyed nothing else on television. Probably ever. Each episode contained visuals, character and dialogue to melt the hardest of hearts, and for the most part the plots were pretty good (though these fell down slightly as a result of the need to tell a story in 45 minutes, and the frantic pace that television in the 2000s seems to need to move at). However for every Rose there was an Unquiet Dead and for every Long Game there was an Empty Child ... Christopher Eccleston was a marvel, but the true revelation was Billie Piper. She was magnificent at every turn, and her 'possession' at the end of the final episode was a magnificent scene, acted by Piper in a very real and believable fashion. The series never descended into farce or self-awareness and everyone took it all very seriously (yes, even the farting aliens). Now we have to wait until Christmas before the Doctor is back ... and The Christmas Invasion is unleashed. I can't wait. My son suggested that The Christmas Invasion be as follows: The Doctor comes up against Father Christmas (who is in fact a Slitheen), distributing gas masks made of living Nestene plastic around the world using a transmat system to achieve it all in one night ... Well stranger things have been known to happen.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A Series of Unfortunate Events

... no, not my life, but the film based on the popular series of books by Lemony Snicket ... Managed to catch it the other evening and ... hmmm ... not sure what to make of it. The design is very eyecatching and seems to be a mix of Beetlejuice, Batman and The Nightmare Before Christmas - everything is sharp and darkly perfect. The plot follows the adventures of the Baudelaire children who are orphaned when their parents are killed in a house fire and who have to go and stay with the somewhat eccentric Count Olaf. Olaf is played by Jim Carrey and his opening scenes looked to me rather like a slowed down version of The Mask. Carrey is incapable of playing a serious part and so goofs and mugs his way through the film taking on a couple of other personas along the way. The film for me was stolen by Violet, the eldest sister. She was brilliant. In control and superbly played, and very watchable indeed. I loved the subtitle captions for the utterings of the baby as well and these had me laughing out loud. Overall all the cast was exceptional, with really not a foot wrong anywhere. Otherwise the film lurches along as the kids are sent to stay with other relatives (including a wonderfully eccentric turn by Meryl Streep) and Olaf tries to get them back so that he can inherit the fortune that goes with them. It was certainly an enjoyable romp and of note is the music - by Thomas Newman who also provided the haunting score for the TV series Six Feet Under. This underpins much of the precise imagery and adds to the feeling of a film which has had a lot of love and care put into it at every level, and which Carrey *just* mangages to stay as a part of, rather than making it just another vehicle for his comedy.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Doctor Who - Bad Wolf

And so the episode which promised to explain things is upon us ... except it didn't explain an awful lot. Bad Wolf is a sequel of sorts to The Long Game, and at least came up with an explanation for the former episode's title. However many of the 13 episodes seem to have had some resonance and linkage it seems, but so far there have only been some vague clues. The Doctor, Rose and Jack find themselves each within a television show: the Doctor finds himself a contestant on Big Brother, Rose is taking part in The Weakest Link and Jack is on some kind of clothing/style makeover show ... but things are not what they seem. The year is 20,0100 and it's 100 years after the events of The Long Game when the Doctor shut down the operations of Satellite 5 ... now the Satellite is The Games Station and the TV shows are played out with androids and the penalty for eviction or losing is to be vapourised with a disintegrator beam ... All very good, but do we really need half an hour of this stuff to bring the point home. I have to admit I was bored after ten minutes ... very bored. Perhaps it's because I don't watch any of these shows and can't see the point ... but the novelty of an Anne Robinson-voiced Anne Droid, Davina McCall voicing Davinadroid on Big Brother and two more robots: Trina-E and Zu-Zana voiced by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine soon wore thin. Aside from the fact that children tend not to watch any of these shows and so probably the joke went over their heads, the format was just not engaging enough. It was good to see 'authentic' music and logos for the pastiches, but give me something original any day. And what will audiences in the US and Australia make of this ... maybe they'll 'get' Anne Droid, but the others? Anyway, the Doctor soon sorts out what's happening and gets himself evicted so he can escape (they couldn't vapourise him you see). He takes Lynda, one of the other housemates, with him, and they find that they are back on Satellite 5. Meanwile, up on floor 500, one of the workers is concerned about what's happening, but the Controller - a girl plugged into the systems since she was five years old and through whose brain all the transmissions are routed (who designs these crazy systems anyway) - doesn't seem to know what is happening, or wants to divert attention from the strangers in the system. Jack escapes from the murderous intentions of the two make-over Droids and finds the Doctor and Lynda, and all three then race to the 407th floor to try and rescue Rose ... who loses the game, and is vapourised just as the Doctor arrives. This was a superb moment ... perhaps the best in the series to date ... as the Doctor and the audience is convinced that Rose is dead. We even have a new substitute companion in Lynda set up and waiting to step into the TARDIS in her place ... a very nice piece of misdirection, and something that only works once for an audience who does not know that the actress in question does not leave at this point. The trio are caught by security forces, but manage to escape and invade floor 500 to confront the Controller ... Jack finds the TARDIS and realises that the vapourising beams are really teleports and that Rose is still alive ... somewhere ... there is some solar flare activity and the systems go offline long enough for the Controller to warn the Doctor about her masters as they cannot hear her while the flares are active ... she tells him that they fear the Doctor ... but is silenced again before she can explain more. Rose awakens somewhere and is terrified to be confronted by a Dalek (which the audience does not see). And there's the tremendous and cheer inducing sound of the Dalek computers throbbing over all these scenes. Bravo for minor continuity! The Controller risks all and breaks silence to tell the Doctor the coordinates the transmat transports the people to, whereupon she is promptly taken to the Dalek ship and exterminated. A brilliant scene where we see the Dalek reflected in the wall, but still don't see it in clear view. The Doctor has the information he needs and reveals a fleet of 200 Dalek saucers sitting in space ... these are very impressive scenes of CGI, further reinforcing my view that inanimates are great for CGI, but not the monsters. The Daleks open a communication channel to the Doctor ... and a worryingly wobbly Dalek orders the Doctor to obey or Rose will be exterminated. But the Doctor refuses and instead comes up with an alternate sequence of events: he will rescue Rose, save the Earth and wipe out all the Daleks ... and he has no plan with which to do this ... as he tells the Dalek - this scares them. The Daleks panic and start the invasion of Earth ... and we power into a cliffhanger which should have been superb but which actually fails on every level. First of all, the direction is all a little casual, there's no real sense of total terror as we go to the final scene, and it should have stopped on the Doctor's final line, and not on the Daleks hovering about ... the closing title 'screech' seemed absent and finally, the 'Next Episode' preview came in immediately, ruining any suspense which might have been there ... I'd hoped the BBC had learned after the complaints from Aliens of London, and they changed the preview order for The Empty Child ... but no. And so a fascinating episode came to an end. In part tedious and in part triumphant (when I spoke to several children today, all they would say was 'Daleks!' and 'Lots of them!' showing what really made the impact here. The music was loud and intrusive at times, but also perfectly balanced when the Doctor thought that Rose had died, drowing out all the other voices and making the grief seem tangible and real. But at the end, I struggled to hear the dialogue over the booming cues ... not so good. And 'Bad Wolf' ... well I still have no idea who or what this is/was/will be. Is it the Daleks? Is it the Controller? Is it the Face of Boe? Is it the TARDIS? The Doctor? Rose? Jack? Or something totally different? We even had an obligatory (c) JN-T 80s WHO Productions inc Flashback Sequence with some of the earlier Bad Wolf mentions shown again ... but no answers. However there are questions ... there are always lots of questions ... whoever transmatted the Doctor, Rose and Jack into the games in the first place, never intended to kill them ... so what was the point of doing that? Who did transmat them in anyway? If it was the Daleks, then why? Why not just bring them straight to the Dalek ship? Maybe next week we'll have some answers ... certainly as far as the preview goes there are more surprises in store ... 'Davros!' as one of my sons gleefully exclaimed when we heard the final voice in the preview address the Doctor ...


Watched the latest Alien/Predator crossover thingy, AvP last night and was very pleasantly surprised. I had been expecting ... what ... something perhaps a little rubbish? The reviews the film got weren't going to set the world alight and some were positively hostile ... But I really enjoyed the film. The casting seemed spot on, and the majority of the backstory was filled in so that new viewers didn't miss much. The only thing that was not explained was the life cycle of the Alien, and so if you didn't know/understand Egg->Facehugger->Chest Burster-> Adult Alien then you would have been somewhat confused as to where all the adult Aliens came from ... Also the Alien Queen being trapped under the pyramid. Great idea but how and where ... This can be glossed over though as the plot and especially the effects were truly brilliant. From the bulk and violence of the Predators to the agility and grace of the Aliens the whole film was a treat. I loved the pyramid and it's shifting (though this seemed to get forgotten towards the end) and the teaming up of the heroine and the Predator was well done too. Some excellent ideas like using the head of an Alien as a shield as it's not affected by the acid blood, and also the sacrificial chamber was a neat idea and well achieved. As I say, the GCI was exemplary I felt - you could actually for the most part see what was going on rather than it all being a blur, and from the spacecraft to the Aliens it was all superbly integrated with the action so that you rarely stopped to 'see' the CGI. A tribute to the effects designers who worked on the film. Even the ending, with the Predator-Alien bursting from the dead creature, was neat. Though I don't quite understand why the Predators, with their X-ray vision, couldn't see that their fallen comrade was infected ... So a nice little film I though, packed with interesting ideas, characters and situations. I didn't even miss Ripley...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Doctor Who - Boom Town

Set six months after the events of Aliens of London/World War Three, Boom Town centres around a number of somewhat unlikely coincidences. First, that the Slitheen called Blon - the female one pretending to be MP Margaret Blaine in the earlier story - escaped the bomb attack on number 10 Downing Street by using a teleport device and is now back in Cardiff planning to demolish Cardiff Castle and build a nuclear reactor in its place ... second that the TARDIS arrives in Cardiff at the same time in order to draw power from the Rift which was sealed in The Unquiet Dead ... and third that the Doctor and his extended TARDIS crew, which includes Jack, Rose and Mickey (who has been summoned to Cardiff by Rose to bring her passport) happen to find out about Blon's plans and set out to thwart them. I guess we have to accept that the Doctor will inevitably get involved in trying to stop Blon, and this episode seems very plot-lite in favour of some great moments of comedy, as the Doctor's group tries to catch her (with everyone falling over things and Mickey getting his foot stuck in a bucket), and as innocent journalist Cathy Salter (or possibly Salt - her surname seems to change in the space of a few scenes) quizzes Blaine on the deaths surrounding the Power Station project. Having apprehended the rogue Slitheen, the Doctor decides to take her back to her home planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius where she will be executed by boiling in a pot ... but can the Doctor face being her executioner - and thus like her - and can he have dinner with a creature he is about to deliver to their death ... This seems to be the whole point of the episode, to ask these questions of the Doctor over a nice meal, and as a result Boom Town comes over as somewhat slow and boring compared with the other episodes of the season. After some more comedy moments as the Doctor thwart's Blon's attempt to poison his drink (he swaps glasses), to hit him with a poison dart (he catches it) and to blow poison in his face (he uses a breath freshener), the Rift opens and Cardiff starts to be destroyed by earthquakes. The reason is that Blon's secondary plan (in the event of her being captured before her power station could be completed) was to draw the Doctor (or any alien it seems) to the place, and then to use a bit of alien kit called a tribophysical waveform extrapolator or something (which she bizaarely had incorporated into the model of the forthcoming power station) as a surf board to ride the resultant shockwaves out of the universe. Aside from the total impracticalities of doing this at all, as Cardiff is rocked by earth tremors, it seems to be down to the TARDIS itself to save the day, and the console unexpectedly opens to reveal a bright light which reverts Blon back into an egg!! This has to be one of the most non-sensical get-outs to end any episode with. There are few explanations here, just that Blon saw the heart of the TARDIS and was given a second chance ... The Doctor decides to return the egg to her planet and place it in a hatchery so she can grow up again. I thought this was an awful cop out - deux ex machina to get out of the problem of what to do with the rogue Slitheen. While the Doctor is having dinner with Blon, so Rose is out talking with Mickey - initially planning a night of beer, pizza and debauchery, but then running off back to the TARDIS when the earthquakes start. While Jack seems to be doing nothing but tinkering with the TARDIS' systems (something I'm surprised the Doctor lets him do in the first place). Overall this is episode seems like a filler before we get to the final two parter of the season which promises (as far as the trailer goes anyway) pastiches on Big Brother and other reality TV shows and the return of the Daleks. My son was disappointed at this latter point being in the trailer ... he's eleven and wanted the Daleks' return to be a surprise ... So I can't decide whether I really liked Boom Town or not. I think on balance it is one of the weaker episodes of the season, relying too much on past continuity (there's a lengthy explanation of why the TARDIS looks like a police box, talk about the Slitheen, reference to the Gelth and the Rift, a spot where the ongoing 'Bad Wolf' references seem to take on portent, but which is then summarily dismissed by the Doctor ...) and not enough on developing a solid plot of its own. There's also a pile of questions: why did Blon bother to continue to pretend to be Blaine? Why not take another human skin? Did no-one wonder how she escaped from Downing Street? And why hasn't Harriet Jones (MP for Flydale East) 'outed' her as an alien? How could anyone progress a plan to build a nuclear power station in the middle of Cardiff and demolish a historic site into the bargain? When the Rift was opened, why didn't the Gelth come through as well? Not to mention all the stuff about the heart of the TARDIS at the end ... I don't think it's bad, just a little slow going, and even laboured in places, ultimately disappointing on the explanations. It's the first episode that I've felt could have done with more work on the scripting side ... and 1 out of 11 isn't a bad average.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Grudge

I managed to watch this horror movie the other week ... the remake starring Sarah Michelle Geller rather than the original Japanese version. I was pleasantly surprised. The film has a somewhat eclectic narrative style and leaps about all over the place time-wise (a fact that the people making it liked according to the DVD extras, but which makes it hard to follow), and is something akin to an anthology movie where a number of characters all meet different ends after having come into contact with a house haunted by the spirits of a girl, a boy and a cat. There are some moments of genuine unsettling terror in here - in particular the episode featuring a woman (I'm not sure without checking who she actually is or what her relationship is to the other characters) who ends up getting dragged down into her bed by the girl spirit. Very scary use of lighting and the walking ghost, plus an incredible vocal effect as the ghost approaches. The later scene of the girl coming down the stairs on her hands and knees is likewise totally terrifying and matches the similar scene from The Ring where Sadako emerges from the television set at the end. I'm not sure what Geller brings to the proceedings. She spends most of her screen time looking bemused and the eclectic time jumping means that she appears then vanishes again for a long period before appearing again at the end. As mentioned, perhaps the film's biggest fault is that the characters are all somewhat vague and hard to remember who they are and what their relationships are together - the ghosts are non-descrimatory when it comes to attacking them and good guys and less than good guys alike get their come-uppance over the course of the film. The Grudge is a great little slice of modern horror, and tinged with that great Japanese talent for unsettling the audience rather than grossing them out, it's something I'd recommend for a dark night ...

Doctor Who - The Doctor Dances

I'm really not sure to make of The Doctor Dances. As a piece of television I enjoyed it a lot, and it tied up all the elements from The Empty Child satisfactorily, but it still seemed to be a little rushed in trying to achieve so much in a short time. From the offset, where the Doctor realises that he can send all the gas-masked zombies 'to their room' by talking to them as though they were a child, we realise that he knows more than perhaps he is saying as to what is happening here. But then he also seems to not know what is going on and needs Jack to explain more about the spacecraft he has acquired before the link with the nanobots becomes apparent. The visuals were superb as always, and the idea of Jack's 'squareness gun' was nice - even if it ran out of power after about three uses ... not a lot of use in a battle then - but there was a fair amount of running about and the eventual solution, to allow the nanobots access to the 'parent' DNA, ie Nancy, in order to remake all the people in the appropriate image was somewhat simplistic. What if the child's real mummy had been dead, or someone else? Why did the nanobots just assume that the gasmask was a part of the boy's body? Why not his clothes as well? Why didn't they make everyone infected look the same as the boy, if it was his DNA which was being mapped onto everyone else? Perhaps questions like these need to be glossed over for the greater good of the episode, but then this gets into arguments of style over substance and Doctor Who has always favoured substance. At least the Doctor finally got to do something here, providing the eventual solution and pushing the nanobots to put right the problem they had caused. This makes a change from the earlier episodes where the Doctor and Rose's involvement has been tangential to say the least. So a shorter review this time ... The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances was a great tale, well told and with some cracking dialogue. Jack looks to be an interesting addition to the TARDIS crew and the relationship between him and Rose and him and the Doctor could develop in any number of ways. Next week we have Cardiff blowing up and the return of the Slitheen ...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Doctor Who - The Empty Child

After the intense emotional wrangling of Father's Day, The Empty Child had a lot riding on it. As each episode of this new Doctor Who series seems to top the earlier ones, so the pressure is mounting for the series to deliver, and with this week's episode, the terror factor was turned up to the fore. If earlier, the series seemed to be playing to a childish denominator with farting aliens, burping wheelie bins and jokes about Michael Jackson, this now seems to be well behind us as the show ventures into a story which touches on a number of common horror elements. There's the horror of War of course, in this case the Second World War as we are in 1941, in the middle of the blitzing of London by the Germans. Then we have a spooky child who seems to be everywhere, watching through his gas mask and plaintively calling for his mummy ... finally there's the terror of infection and the body-horror of losing ones own individuality through a virus which, well, according to the Doctor is rewriting human DNA and turning them into gasmasked zombies ... literally. As to why - well this is the first part of the story and so I suspect we have to wait for the answers. The story so far follows two main threads. First the Doctor meets up with a girl called Nancy who is using the air raids as a means of feeding the homeless children. When a family hurries to their rather ramshackle and flimsy air raid shelter (although these were usually underground in the back garden, as far from the house as possible and not a tin shed), so Nancy and the kids enter the house to feast on their uneaten meals. The Doctor joins them and starts to get a sense of what is happening. However the gas-masked child comes a-calling and Nancy warns the Doctor away, not to let the child touch him, and also reveals that it can make phones ring. When the Doctor answers all that is heard is the child calling for his mummy. This is all very eerie and unsettling stuff, especially as there are no answers forthcoming at this time. Nancy tells the Doctor about the capsule that fell a month earlier and its location - they go there to investigate and the Doctor breaks into Albion Hospital and meets the sick and aged Doctor Constantine who is able to add some more clues into the mix - that all the 'patients' are not dead, and that they all have the same injuries and gas masks fused to their faces - this is physical injury as plague ... The cameo by Richard Wilson as Constantine is brilliant and although he's not on screen for long, adds a lot of presence to the character. The other plot thread is Rose's. She is distracted in the opening moments by seeing a gas-masked child calling for his mummy and leaves the Doctor to investigate herself. Before long she is hanging from a rope under a barrage balloon in the middle of a German attack. These scenes are very impressive, with Rose swinging there over London as planes fly past, searchlights roam and explosions go off all over. However this is so totally at odds with the truth that it's dramatic license taken to the extreme. Barrage balloons were tethered with steel hawsers to the ground so that planes could not fly below them. This forced any attacking aircraft too high to be able to accurately target their bombs. The balloons themselves also acted as a distraction and a physical barrier to seeing what was below them - and as there was a blackout as well, this meant that the pilots were taking pot shots rather than anything properly targetted. However here we have rope tethers and formations of planes flying under the balloons ... Rose is rescued by hi-tek Captain Jack Harkness (through total coincidence) whom she instantly takes a shine to (although to be honest he is far more likable and fun than Mickey or Adam) He seems to think she's a time agent and he has a deal on the table to sell her a Tula Warship he has hidden on Earth at this time. But after enjoying some Champagne and flirting on top of his space craft (which is invisible and tethered to the Big Ben clock tower), they go off searching for the Doctor as Rose claims he needs to give is okay to the deal. Bizarrely Rose seems to have developed something of an obsession with 'Spock' here, and mentions him on several occasions, as well as telling Jack that this is the Doctor's name - Mr Spock - I have no idea what that is all about or whether has been secretly watching old Star Trek episodes on board the TARDIS. Rose and Jack eventually meet up with the Doctor at Albion Hospital where, unnervingly, Constantine has just morphed into a gas-masked zombie (I would have loved to have seen the extended version of this, complete with cracking bone sounds which the BBC felt too graphic for the timeslot ... roll on the DVD extras) as he finally succombed to the same infection. Because this is now nearly the end of the episode (there seems to be no other reason for it to happen), all the zombies come alive and start shambling towards the Doctor, Rose and Jack calling for their mummy ... At the same time, Nancy is trapped in the house by the gas-masked boy who approaches her ... And the credits run ... and there is no 'Next Episode' preview. At least not crashing in and ruining the effectiveness of the cliffhanger. I have no idea whether this was changed due to the adverse reaction the 'Next Week' trailer had after the end of Aliens of London, but I'd like to think that in some way the Doctor Who Production Office had listened to the concerns expressed and took appropriate action. Bravo whichever way it was because this way we get the great cliff hanger, there is also a preview of next week, but before it an announcer warning to look away ... best of all worlds. The Empty Child was a brilliant episode. A terrifying slice of Doctor Who which touched on many fears, and which was in places genuinely unnerving and spooky. Captain Jack Harkness seems an interesting new character and the interplay between him and Rose was well done. Likewise the relationship between the Doctor and Nancy was nicely drawn, and the understanding/realisation that the child is/was her young brother added much to understanding her actions. On the negative side, there do seem to be a lot of plot coincidences - getting Rose flying from a barrage balloon being one, Jack seeing and rescuing her, Nancy finding the Doctor early on (and vanishing afterwards), and the Doctor being able to follow her anywhere ... also some of the wartime trappings - there would have been a lights out ban, so Jack would not have been at a lit window to see Rose in the first place, the clock tower's time did not change while Jack and Rose were talking (and they seemed to be there for some time) but the clock was not turned off during the War, only the lights were extinguished ... lots of small things, none of which detract from the overall impressive nature of the piece, but which in part niggle slightly. Maybe some of these will be covered off next week ... The Empty Child scores very high again for me both as a good and engaging piece of drama and of course as an episode of this incredible smorgasboard of treats which the 2005 series of Doctor Who is turning out to be. And of course, as luck would have it, I'm going to miss next week's episode as I'm away on a much needed break!! So I won't get to see it until mid-week after - you'll have to wait until then before I can share my thoughts on the episode.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Doctor Who - Father's Day

Well I wasn't expecting that ... One of the things that Doctor Who has always done is to subvert expectations. Just as you think you might have the show worked out, along comes a story like The Celestial Toymaker or The Mind Robber ... Warriors' Gate or even Battlefield ... and you're plunged into a different world and a different take on events. Father's Day, for me at least, fell into this category. Thinking about it afterwards, it is very surprising that Doctor Who has never done a story like this before, where the implications of changing past events become very apparent to those involved. Previously we have heard a lot of talk about the fact that you can't change history (The Aztecs, Earthshock/Time-Flight) and a couple of tentative attempts to explore it (in particular Mawdryn Undead) but nothing of the richness or complexity of Father's Day. But the whole changing time thing does bother me a little. Rose says at one point in the episode that it's OK for the Doctor to wade in and change things but not for her, and the Doctor replies by saying that he knows what he's doing ... but there are complex issues here which aren't really explored by Paul Cornell's accomplished teleplay. If Rose's changing history by saving the life of her dad causes a 'wound in time', then why hasn't this ever happened before when the Doctor or any of his companions did something to change history - which is pretty much in every story ever transmitted, right from giving the cavemen the secret of fire up to defeating the Jagrafess the previous week. From the Doctor's comment, it implies that perhaps history is fixed, it is immutable and cannot be changed, and so when the Doctor arrives somewhere, all his actions (and by association, the actions of his companions) already form a part of history ... in other words, they are destined to do whatever they do so that history can remain on track ... and yet in stories like Day of the Daleks, the Doctor actually does change history, likewise in Pyramids of Mars we see the results if he doesn't get involved ... ... and what about the other time travelling races like the Daleks? How does time work then? I can hardly see the Daleks taking care over making sure they know when and how to interfere. Cornell handles all this by, for the most part, ignoring it. Which is perhaps for the best, because otherwise the episode would have degenerated into incomprehensibility. What we get instead, is a love story about Rose finding her dad, realising that he is not the hero she wanted him to be, but who ends up saving the world anyway. There are so many great moments in Father's Day, but all the plaudits and praise from me go to Billie Piper. Her performance here us awesome. Emotionally rich and demanding, totally believable (with one scripted slip up) and bringing the audience along with her. The one scene which didn't work for me was where her dad, Pete, said she was pretty and she launches off into a rambling tirade about 'not going there' ending with her offering him her arm as she leaves the flat ... Pete even comments that this is a 'mixed message' and it so totally is ... Apart from this, Piper makes Rose come alive in a way that I don't think I have ever seen on TV before. Her performance was so well judged that it made the tears flow freely, and the overall emotional impact of this episode was unlike any other I can recall. The only time I can remember crying at Doctor Who before was at the end of Earthshock, but this surpassed that earlier milestone. The rest of the cast were pretty good, perhaps with the exception of Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler, who a) didn't look young enough and b) was too lippy and demeaning of Pete - they would never have got together I feel, and their bickering was both realistic (plaudits to the writer) but also embarrassing to watch. I liked Shaun Dingwell's Pete Tyler immensely - a man well aware of his own shortcomings and who knows that Rose is lying to him about his future as he cannot recognise himself in the person she describes. Even the minor parts of Stuart (Christopher Llewellyn) and Sarah (Natalie Jones) were well realised, and the scene with them and the Doctor is beautifully played - showing that the Doctor's values on human life are somewhat different to ours, and that every life is special, even those which seem simple and happy rather than complex and significant. The incidental music is brilliant. It complements every scene, and I loved the wavering notes as the time distortions started to happen. There's a couple of snatches of other music as well - with 'Never Can Say Goodbye' by The Communards playing at the start as Rose and the Doctor first arrive in 1987, and then, I think it was 'Don't Mug Yourself' by The Streets (aka Mike Skinner) on the car radio as time starts to go awry (of course this is a track from a 2002 album). On the Doctor Who Confidential show afterwards, they talked about the design of the Reapers and how they didn't want to go for something like a more traditional spectral figure ... I have to say I think this was a mistake. The Reapers were passable ... but more and more I'm wanting to see real monsters and not CGI ones. In common with many CGI created monsters, they moved too fast to really see them in detail and work out what you were seeing in the first place, and the combination of flying mantis/eagle/dragon didn't work for me and looked too derivative of other things. I would have liked to have seen something original and alien ... or just hellishly scary. I feel that silent, slow, hooded figures approaching people and then snatching them away in the folds of their cloaks would have been far more terrifying than giant monster birds ... but that's just my opinion. Overall this episode was simply awesome. It hit all the right emotions and made me cry like a baby at the end. The script was accomplished and clever, with only a few avenues of slight confusion along the way (like the TARDIS interior vanishing, why the car which was meant to hit Pete was still circling in a time loop and so on). It's hard to say whether this is my favourite episode to date, as they have all been so good in different ways. However I think that along with The Unquiet Dead and Dalek, this episode sets the bar for the future of the show. ... and from the trailer, next week's episode looks like something which might just raise the bar still further.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Doctor Who - The Long Game

The TARDIS arrives in the year 200,000 on a space station orbiting Earth. This is Satellite 5 (which implies at least 4 others, or perhaps that this is the 5th and the earlier ones have been decommissioned) and its purpose appears to be to monitor transmissions from everywhere and to add them to some vast database of information. The folks on the Satellite are journalists and have chips in their heads to aid them in their task. Among them are Cathica and Suki. Cathica is some sort of information node (she has what is described as an info-spike chip which allows her access to all the information, wheras the others just have a small chip in the back of their heads which lets them use the computers) and the journalists pump their information through her brain into the main computers. The first question I had here was that assuming the journalists never leave their own alotted floor of the Satellite (we are on floor 139 of 500) then what are they providing news and information on exactly? Cronk burger riots perhaps? The state of the air conditioning? There are screens telling them what is being reported elsewhere (including a network intriguingly called 'Bad Wolf TV' which reports that the Face of Boe - who we met in The End of the World - is pregnant with Baby Boemina) so are they then some sort of critic on the news ... reporting on the reporting perhaps? It's very unclear what the purpose of all this is. And then there's the Editor, a human representative of the financial banks who are running the operation on the Satellite ... he seems to live alone, on the 500th floor, which is freezing cold, and talks to himself a lot. He 'edits' the information, but with 499 floors and goodness knows how many people living on them, how does one man, and a group of immobile zombies, manage to keep track of it all? Does he sleep or rest? And what happens when he does? Does the news gathering/transmission stop? And how can apparently dead zombie-like humans continue to process information after their death? The Doctor says their chips keep working, but their brains would atrophy, surely ... Anyway, back to the plot, and the Doctor, Rose and Adam (who, after a promising introduction in Dalek is totally useless here - worse than Mickey, and that's saying something) faff about a little and get the jist of what is going on before the Doctor decides to find out what is really happening and hacks into the computer in order to check out the air conditioning systems (it is hot on the 139th floor despite the total lack of any visible evidence of this fact - no-one sweats or wears less clothing as a result, but maybe they're all used to it) and finds that all the hot air is being vented down from above. He and Rose then get the access codes for a lift to take them to the 500th floor. Meanwhile Suki has been identified by the Editor as a terrorist named Eva san Julienne and 'promoted' up, only to meet the Editor's boss - which attacks and zombifies her. The 500th floor is freezing cold and it's snowing there too (interesting as the rooms don't seem large enough to have their own climates which you'd need to generate snow). Again, despite any steaming breath or such like, Rose and the Doctor (and indeed the Editor) don't seem to mind the cold, and we finally get to meet the Boss ourselves - it's a huge monster thing which seems to be living in the roof, and which goes by the unlikely (and unpronouncable) name of The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe (or 'Max' as the Editor says he calls him). Once again the creature is achieved through CGI but this time it looks awful and even more rubbery than if it had been made of rubber. I would have far preferred to have seen a real creature for this effect, and the CGI made it all seem so unreal somehow on this occasion, and a far removed threat. Maybe if its saliva had been spattering the Editor all the time it might have seemed more 'real'. Cathica, having seen the Doctor and Rose questionning just about everything (something which she and her fellow workers don't do, which is odd for journalists) and taking the lift up, decides to do the same and follows them. She finds out the truth: that the Jagrafess has been manipulating and holding back humanity for 90 years and decides to reveal this information to everyone else ... and/or to disrupt the air conditioning systems to heat up the 500th floor. The heat causes the Jagrafess to explode with a messy pop and humanity is back on track again. What is it with this series of Who and exploding monsters anyway? The Nestene Consciousness was a sort of already-exploded gloopy alien thing in Rose, then Cassandra exploded in The End of the World, and a Slitheen exploded in World War III ... I almost wonder why the Dalek creature didn't explode in Dalek ... The denoument all seems so simplistic ... the Doctor leaves without a thought as to how the inhabitants of Satellite 5 will manage. What about the Editor ... was he killed? And how did the dead Suki hold on to him to prevent his escape? What happens to the news feeds to Earth now? The whole plot with Adam feels tacked on, and while Tamsin Greig is great as the nurse, none of her scenes add anything to the overall story, and she ends up in the same 'familar face in cameo' position as Ken Dodd was in Delta and the Bannermen. In fact all the cast are brilliant, especially Christine Adams as Cathica and Anna Maxwell-Martin as Suki. Overall, while I enjoyed this episode a lot, it left far too many unanswered questions in my mind, and really felt rushed. Adam was a waste of time and Rose did nothing (again). The incidental music was a mixture of the brilliant (where Suki explores the 500th floor for the first time) and the dire (when the Cronk-burger man is selling his wares). The CGI effects were a similar mix of the inspired and the pedestrian (brilliant for the forhead opening info-spike and the shots of Satellite 5 in space, and awful for the Jagrafess monster at the end). For me this was the weakest episode so far, and I wonder if this is why it's hidden away in the middle of the run. However it's still miles ahead of anything else on television at the moment, and with such high standards set already, it's almost inevitable that some episodes will fare better than others. But why is it called The Long Game? I suppose we have to wait and see, and maybe this refers to the succession of clues we're being given along the way as to some deeper mystery ... The trailer for next week looks intriguing. A sort of 'what happens if you change time' idea ...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The pweor of the mnid

I fnoud tihs at wrok the ohetr day ... fisanntaicg ... The phaonmneel pweor of the hmuan mnid: I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearcr at Cmagbride Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers of a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Doctor Who - Dalek

So we come to the episode that the press have been waiting for. With their obsessions with the Daleks, sofa, stairs and 'Exterminate', it was perhaps up to this single episode to redeem Doctor Who in their eyes ... so did it succeed? From my point of view it most definitely did. Robert Shearman delivered a script that was intelligent, tense, exciting and very watchable, and which also fitted the 45 minute duration perfectly. The cast were all suberb, and the main characters gelled together excellently, providing an episode which held my household at least glued to the television for the duration. The TARDIS arrives in an underground museum - rows of cases hold alien artefacts of all sorts. I think I saw one of the Alien eggs from the film Alien in the background, and there's also a Slitheen arm, and a Cyberman head (though the head is of the style from Revenge of the Cybermen, and as far as we know this particular variant never visited the Earth, so there's either a slight continuity glitch there, or an implication that these Cybermen did visit Earth somehow). The Doctor and Rose are promptly arrested and taken to meet Henry van Statten, owner of the museum (and also, apparently, 'owner' of the Internet) who wants to know how they got into his complex which is buried under the sands in Utah. Shortly, van Statten takes the Doctor to see his only living specimen ... which turns out to be the Dalek of the title, battered and chained. This triggers some sort of death-wish in the Doctor and he starts raving about Time Wars and how all the Daleks were wiped out along with his race - this is the final Dalek to still be alive, just as he is the final Time Lord. Quite how the Doctor leaps to this conclusion is unclear ... he says later on that the Dalek must have come back through time, and so presumably at this point there could well be lots of other Daleks around. However the Dalek can find no mention of them on the Internet. Obviously it wasn't using the right search engine! The Dalek itself is a masterpiece of retro-redesign. It looks battered and war-weary, but is also strong and effective looking. Despite its chains, it is still dangerous - the last man to touch it burst into flames apparently - and the Doctor snaps and tries to kill it with electricity, but to no avail. Meanwhile Rose is chatting with Englishman Adam, van Statten's procurer of Alien Artefacts, and here we get a sense that he and Rose like each other. In fact, it's more than a sense as the music over this scene is intrusive and schmaltsy and hammers home the romantic interest - incidental music should not be noticed if it is working, but this stands out like a sore thumb and is perhaps the weakest aspect of this episode. Realising that the Doctor is also the last of his race, van Statten tortures him with some sort of laser beam x-ray device thingy and finds that he has two hearts. But before he can start cutting the Doctor up, Rose and Adam go to find the Dalek as Rose sees it on a monitor being drilled by one of van Statten's henchmen and crying out in pain. Rose talks to and then touches the Dalek as she feels sorry for it, and it immediately draws some of her DNA and uses it to regenerate itself. It quickly breaks its bonds, escapes from the cell and draws more power from America generally (as well as absorbing the entire content of 'the internet' into itself). This makes it gleam and shine, becoming a new soldier Dalek rather than the battle-scarred relic, and it goes off on a rampage. These are easily the best scenes of Dalek mayhem we have ever seen. The Dalek's movements are slow and precise, with not a jerk to be seen. Its gun fries victims to a crisp, revealing their contorting skeletons in the process, and it can even turn its middle section around to fire behind it, as well as ... wait for it ... being able to elevate up a flight of stairs. I bet the newspaper people were wetting themselves with excitement at this point. The scenes are superb, and the Dalek manages to wipe out all the opposing forces easily, with cunning and intelligence before the Doctor and van Statten, watching from the top level, decide to shut the bulkhead doors and trap it ... but of course Rose cannot run fast enough and is trapped with the creature. I do wonder why van Statten has so many armed troops at his disposal though, and, it seems, only a handful of scientists and other workers. Given that his facility is just for the storage of these artifacts which he is buying from around the world, why would he feel the need for his own private army ... but then maybe this is just his nature - he is certainly a man who likes to get his own way. Despite the Dalek crying 'Exterminate' (more new trousers for the newspaper people please who would be wetting themselves by this point) and us hearing its gun fire, the creature does not kill Rose, preferring instead to have a chat about fear as it seems to have absorbed more than just DNA from Rose. This is really the aspect which wins the Pip and Jane Award for meaningless gobbledegook. Apparently Rose's DNA was different because she had been travelling in time ... quite how or why this is, is not explained ... perhaps the TARDIS does more than just attune itself to your brain. I wonder why she didn't burst into flames as well, or why the Dalek couldn't use plain old human DNA to regenerate itself. The Doctor is forced to allow the Dalek to escape again, but while he's waiting for it to arrive, he decides to get tooled up with the biggest gun he can find in Adam's storeroom. Rose, meanwhile stops the Dalek from killing van Statten, and instead discovers that all the metal meanie wants is 'freedom'. So the Dalek and Rose take a walk to another area, where the Dalek shoots a hole in the ceiling to allow the sunlight to flood in. It then wants to know what it feels like and so opens its casing to reveal the mutant within, so that it can indulge in a spot of sunbathing. The effects here are simply awesome. The Dalek casing opening is impressive enough, but the mutant creature is both horrifying and sympathy inducing at the same time. The little tentacled creature seeming hardly dangerous enough to warrant the Doctor arriving with his big gun, wanting to blast it to pieces himself. Rose won't let him, though, and the Doctor, it seems, realises at last that he was becoming as bad as the Daleks. As Rose says, the Dalek wasn't the one pointing a gun at her. The Dalek finally asks Rose to order him to die, and this she does. The Dalek releases its balls and they form a ring around it and it vanishes ... presumably in a puff of its own logic. There seems to be no other reason for this final effect than to show off the CGI work, but it's impressive enough. The audience breathes freely once more as the Dalek is destroyed, but along the way, Shearman's story has offered hints of all manner of themes and ideas, some which might go against what we think we know about the series, others which explore the nature of survival, and the idea that a soldier without a war and without orders to follow might as well not exist. It's all powerful stuff, and Shearman's script manages to get it right pretty much all of the time. I can't let this review finish without giving special mention to perhaps the most important and siginiciant contributor to this story ... Nick Briggs. I have known and been friends with Nick for many years and his vocal talents lend this Dalek the most alien and yet human qualities I have yet seen in Doctor Who. He manages to catch the inflections just right, and adds pathos and believability to a role which could have descended into the rantings of a madman (Ok, mad Dalek). It's an extraordinary achievement, making this Dalek seem alive and dangerous and yet still make it sympathetic and Briggs manages all this with just his voice. When you add up everything that this episode has going for it: the cast, some superb direction, innovative ideas, a great script, a brilliant Dalek prop, some superb set pieces, and state of the art effects both mechanical and CGI, then it's not surprising that a simple story about a lone Dalek survivor has turned out to be the highlight of the series to date. I'd give this 10/10 if it wasn't for the slightly overbearing and in places just plain wrong music. But it's a delight from beginning to end, and I hope that the series can continue in this darker vein and start to really plumb the depths of our emotions in weeks to come.