Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)

Last year, the BBC graced upon us the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen in lieu of a full length feature ever appearing. Last time it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and then last year, it was regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in the series 8 opening, Deep Breath.

Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appeared to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.

After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that had been the previous Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffatt wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that managed to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era.

Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties, which certainly gave the whole thing a bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It doesn’t sound much on paper, but revisiting the scene still gives chills.

Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.

This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during The Twin Dilemma. Of course, as the series progressed, there would be further examples of her being left out to dry, but Clara managed to scrabble back her dignity and eventually became The Doctor. If only for a short time.

Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi has certainly become one of the more iconic interpretations. He’s rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples. In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (i.e. us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.

Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Of course, we all know what happened to her. Or do we? Deep Breath was bursting with fun and was the perfect jumping on point for those who still hadn’t dabbled in Nu-Who over the last ten years.

Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up as the ninth season approaches.

Here’s hoping.

Deep breath everyone.



The Day of the Doctor (2013)

Warning: We’ve tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but please advised that if you’ve still yet to see the 50th Anniversary Special of Doctor Who, you’re best looking elsewhere for now.

You’ll have to have been trapped in some distant nebula to not know that that Doctor Who is now into its 50th year. As part of the celebrations, the anniversary special has made it the cinemas in glorious 3D – and not 12D as the good Doctor (Matt Smith) suggests in the opening promo.

Steven Moffat was always going to have to a hard time of it with The Day of the Doctor. On the one hand, we have the hardcore, dyed in the wool fans who want to see a special that carts out William Hartnell’s corpse to appease them. To them the show goes beyond pin-up boy David Tennant and his lovey-dovey Doctor. They want a dark doctor! On the other hand, we have the youngsters, the ones who helped make the show’s resurgence. They embraced Russell T. Davies’ reboot and The Day of the Doctor should acknowledge them. And on the third hand – This is sci-fi! We’re allowed three hands – there will be people who know Doctor Who as nothing more than that show with the metal pepperpots, and will be tuning in to see what all the fuss is about.

So, how did it go?

Well, pretty well actually. In fact, very well. In actual fact, we’re still recovering from it all.

Moffat seems to have managed to address concerns on all fronts; embracing the show’s canon, whilst providing a narrative that embraces newcomers one and all. A series of events leads to three incarnations of the Doctor having to join forces to save the world from the Zygons. Well, that’s not really the A-Story, but it’s the one we’re going to tell you. The Day of the Doctor is a bit like opening presents on Christmas Day. You don’t really know what you’ve got until you open them, and then there’s that giddy joy of finding one or two extras tucked away behind the tree. From Gallifrey, to long scarves, to mockney accents, references appear like little chunky nuggets of fun that won’t confuse the casual viewer.

It’s not just Moffat’s script that’s worth mention, Nick Hurran’s direction is particularly dynamic. It’s very easy for a show-runner to say his script is dynamic, but it’s the director that has to realise it. From to barren deserts to war-torn cities, Hurran has added some real weight to the visuals. We are far, far, far from the days when two school teachers turned up at a junkyard to talk to an old man in a blue box.

Whilst we take a break from the gushing praise, we should address the elephant in the room. John Hurt. Yes, he’s a forgotten Doctor, but it’s quite obvious that the character was originally the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston. Whilst Moffat has provided a backstory to explain all this away, it does irk a little. But only a little. Hurt is superb as the earlier and grumpier incarnation of Smith and Tennant. He acts as a bridge not only from the classic series to the new, but he also plays mouthpiece to the numerous old school fans who have had quibbles with the new show’s tropes, such as the overuse of sonic screwdrivers as a weapon. ‘What are you going to do? Assemble a wardrobe at them?!’

The other major problem is a cameo from the show’s past that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really add anything to the story. But then again, who are we to fault a desire to please everyone.

The Day of the Doctor is a funny, moving, fast paced adventure. It’s big and bold and it’s a standing testament to the endurance of the show. Not bad for something that was cobbled together 50 years ago to fill a gap between the football and Top of the Pops. Not bad at all.

Dr. Who and The Daleks (1965)

Dr. Who and the Daleks is what happens when the BBC tries to make a bit money off a flagship show, but realises it’ll be a good 30 years till someone invents video. With the promise of not only starring the Daleks, but also being in colour and having Peter Cushing as the Doctor, you can see how a child of the 60s would be screaming down the house to go see it. The thing is, if we were that child we’d be punishing ourselves afterwards for even letting our parents considering to take me.

The film wastes no time in taking us straight us to a mysterious planet and getting the plot running. At a run time of only 70 minutes, it can’t afford to. Within six minutes, we’ve met Dr Who, his family (also with the surname Who), a man called Ian (played in Carry-On style by Roy Castle), the TARDIS and then, BOOM, we’re on an alien planet. You want to get straight to the point, you come to this movie. Unfortunately, the proceeding 65 minutes is filled with poor acting, terrible scripting and some fantastic conjecture. ‘No one could survive on this planet,’ says Dr Who, having only been on the planet for 30 seconds and both seeing and hearing evidence to the contrary.

So, onto the Daleks… A race of terrifying aliens… who need static electricity to move around. Which really makes them a bit quaint and, honestly, a bit shit. They mope around wanting to be released from their casings and yet these metal pre-cursors to emos managed to find time to destroy half their home planet in a war. They really are crap.

The Thals, our hero species and enemies of the Daleks, look and act like a satirical dig at the rising hippie youth of the time. All floppy hairs and clothes no doubt made from hemp, Dr Who ensures that they buck up their ideas and learn to fight. In fact, aside from impersonating William Hartnell, this is all Cushing does for the entire film. He really does seem to be phoning this one in. It will be probably come as no surprise to some that he never mentioned this, or its sequel Dalek Invasion 2168 AD, in his autobiography or anywhere else.

What we have here is not so much a Doctor Who movie, but rather a cheap sci-fi movie that’s managed to get hold of a couple of BBC licenses. And once you remove those copyrighted items, you still can’t garner any joy from it.

The Trip (2011)

Michael Winterbottom is an odd sod. I mean, how else do you describe someone who follows up a controversial film about rape and murder with an improvised six-part comedy series which is then edited into a 100 minute movie for audiences in America and Australia?

On paper, The Trip sounds like the worse idea ever; two middle aged actors play themselves driving around the northern countryside and eating at incredibly fancy restaurants. In practice, it actually works rather well.

Following on from 2006’s ‘A Cock and Bull Story’, Steve Coogan (Steve Coogan) is still reaching out for the gold hoop that is a film career in America. With his girlfriend moving to the US to pitch a new series, Coogan stays at home debating whether to follow to pursue a potential HBO pilot, leaving his son with his ex-wife. Meanwhile, to impress his girlfriend, he accepts an offer to write an article about a week long restaurant tour with Rob Brydon (Rob Brydon).

Watching Coogan and Brydon bounce off each other is a delight. Coogan playing straight man to Brydon’s affable stooge. Brydon seems incapable of not being charming and it’s the thought of this author (and not so much the blog) that he really does deserve a bit more exposure outside of the UK. Brydon’s phone-calls to his wife are touching, funny and believable all at the same time. Coogan, himself, emotes self-pity like no one else (eg his decision to play Joy Division as a soundtrack to his trip is excruciatingly pretentious) and it’s a compliment to him that he manages to make us hate him, but ultimately feel sorry for him in the film’s climax.

Note: When I say climax, I don’t mean ‘giant squid destroys New York’ climax. More ‘Oh I see. Fair enough.’ climax.

To be honest, The Trip’s only real flaw is that it is clear it’s an edited version of its source material. The hallmarks of episodic comedy are plainly there to see (the meals, the fights, Steve Coogan’s nightmares). However, that’s my only real complaint.

Eat. Enjoy. Love.

…That’s the worse sign off I’ve ever written.