Doctor Who: The Girl Who WaitedBookmark and Share

Saturday, 10 September 2011 - Reviewed by Matt Hills

Doctor Who: Series Six - The Girl Who Waited
Written by Tom MacRae
Directed by Nick Hurran
Broadcast on BBC1 - 10th September 2011
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK preview of the episode.

Red or Black? In the hands of the right production team, 'Red or green?' proves to be an infinitely more dramatic question...

As a kindness, the use of two words has been minimised in what follows. I promise that there will be precious few mentions of 'timey' and 'wimey'. Because, of course, this episode covers richly Moffat-esque ground, as time paradoxes and “wubbly” foldings of the then and the now eventually create a dreadful dilemma for Rory Williams. However, writer Tom MacRae finds his own way to grasp the showrunner's favoured themes, and as a result this rendering of Amy Pond feels more emotionally real than perhaps ever before in her time on the show. Karen Gillan is a fine actress, but Amy-as-written has sometimes seemed like a collection of tics, betrayed by tendencies to go for the funny line or the plot arc rather than character consistency and depth psychology. As a result, it's not always been easy to relate to Amy as if she's a flesh-and-blood, real person (notwithstanding the fact that she hasn't always been a flesh-and-blood, real person in series six). Poor Amelia spent her childhood waiting for the Doctor, challenging everybody around her and holding on to the reality of her raggedy man, but we've rarely seen the psychological results of that struggle in the show. Not really.

But, oh, The Girl Who Waited makes good on the promise of Moffat's set-up for Amy Pond. This time we finally get a sense of how waiting for the Doctor might corrode a person's spirit, with Older Amy having become embittered, hard and unfeeling, donning an emotional carapace as well as a cobbled-together, protective costume. MacRae doesn't pull any punches, and his script is all the more intense and dramatically satisfying as a result, whether it's Future Amy confessing her hatred for the Doctor, seeming not to care if Rory gets himself killed, or mocking the Time Lord's “voice of God”.

Ostensibly a Doctor-lite episode thanks to virulent Chen7, MacRae gets around this in a series of ways. Not just via Rory-cam, but also by transforming Future Amy into a version of the Doctor – she's not quite emotionally wired up, she's in possession of her own lashed-up sonic screwdriver, and she's well up to speed on her environment, having cleverly figured out ways of fooling the Handbots. But Rory is also forced to become Doctor-ish: “You're turning me into you”, he realises too late as the Doctor compels him to choose between his wives. Narrative actions we'd expect the Doctor to perform are thus neatly handed over, in differing ways, to Old Amy and Rory – the Companions Who Can.

This episode is also notably guest-star-lite, which presumably pleased those in charge of the show's purse strings. Amy-heavy instead, it gives Gillan a chance to explore her character's darker side, as well as further fleshing out Amy and Rory's love. There's more 'emotional realism' on show here than has been evident for quite some time in the worlds of Doctor Who; compare this episode's character psychology to River Song's in Let's Kill Hitler, for example. Where River's change of heart – from psychopathic assassin to repentant love in 32 or so minutes – never quite felt convincing, this story rarely puts a foot (or a hand) wrong in its explorations of self-sacrifice, love and hate. Plot mechanics have sometimes all-too-visibly driven character emotions elsewhere, but here characters' feelings are seamlessly integrated into events. Good work, Tom MacRae. Despite promoting a piece of Moffat's previous dialogue into the episode title, this has the feeling of a script that Russell T. Davies would have been more than happy commissioning. It even has monsters with a catchphrase, hooray!

But if MacRae plays a blinder, then so too do the likes of Michael Pickwoad and Nick Hurran, handily reunited as a designer-director pairing after their work on the AMC/ITV remake of The Prisoner. Pickwoad transforms what could have been prosaic sci-fi – all labels and buttons for 'Arrivals' or 'Departures' – into a stark, blank minimalism intensifying the horror of Amy's life spent among such nothingness. (Again, this probably pleased those in charge of budgeting). It's a pity, however, that tension between production design and story logic makes Amy seem rather daft in the pre-credits sequence. From a design point of view, Green Anchor and Red Waterfall needed to be clearly distinct so that the audience would quickly pick up what's going on. But from a story perspective, for Amy to pick one of the two buttons haphazardly really calls for them to be fairly indistinguishable so as to sell this moment, and her mistake. Design triumphs over plot, however, making Amy's choice to press red to get into a room – without so much as querying which of the buttons she ought to select – look more than a touch implausible. This is a rare mishandling, though, as Hurran otherwise makes a series of great choices. Old Amy's final attack on the Handbots, all sparking slo-mo, is itself pretty stunning, but even that's immediately topped by the directorial and editing decision to mix together shots of Future Amy (far left of frame) and Rory (far right). In an episode where two timestreams interact, and where two Amys have been paradoxically brought together, this climactic sequence almost heartbreakingly brings together two different spaces on-screen. Inside and outside the TARDIS are almost made to touch; two impossible spaces folded together at the end of a tale of two temporalities. It's a thematically spot-on choice, and it allows both Gillan and Darvill to shine.

Hurrah for Hurran; bring him back soon, please. Oh, right, he's directing next week's ep. I'm strongly tempted to view this as a budget-saver episode, promoted from over-commission on grounds of fiscal prudence. But whether or not it's Discount Who, it is nonetheless a TV drama treat, as affecting as it is well-designed, sensitively directed, and sharply acted. Beyond 'timey' and 'wimey' gimmicks, hand-on-heart, this is totally and wonderfully Doctor Who.

Matt Hills is the author of Triumph of a Time Lord, and is currently reviewing Torchwood: Miracle Day for the Antenna blog.




Doctor Who: Night Terrors (review 2)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 3 September 2011 - Written by Emma Hyam
Written by Emma Hyam

Doctor Who: Series Six - Night Terrors
Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Richard Clark
Broadcast on BBC1 - 3rd September 2011
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK preview of the episode.

Since its return Doctor Who has gone to great pains to show us the money. Huge, sweeping alien vistas, strange new races and intergalactic space stations, but every so often we're reminded about the ordinary scariness of the everyday.

With Night Terrors Mark Gatiss takes the story of a seemingly ordinary little boy who is afraid of the monsters in his wardrobe and brings his characteristic flair for the macabre to the proceedings. The episode is wonderfully atmospheric, with lingering shots of cracks in doors and long, empty hallways ramping up the tension to almost unbearable levels. The decision to set the episode in what Amy wonderfully calls "Planet Eastenders" was a brilliant one, an air of urban menace pervades the show, the people on the estate live in their own little boxes, deep down as terrified of their own surroundings and the "monsters" as little George is.

As well as the atmospherics of the show, the other stand out must be the guest performance from Daniel Mays, most recently the best thing in the otherwise forgettable "Outcasts" he turns in another excellent showing as a Dad at the end of his tether with his son. He provides an excellent counterpoint to a typically mile-a-minute Doctor who was also on great form. In another nod to Who tradition Amy and Rory are largely separated from the main action, with an nice little acknowledgement to the audience as Rory wonders if hes dead yet again!

This is a very simple tale, I feel a more than a few will find it too simple for them, the story itself is very reminiscent of Who episodes like Blink and Fear Her with the dolls immediately bringing to my mind the Clockwork Droids of The Girl In The Fireplace. The old standard explanation of "the perception filter" is wheeled out for another airing, the formerly clever idea is now getting slightly worn out with over use. While it was nice to get away from the River Song story line for an episode, I found it a little irritating that they felt the need to shoe horn in a shot of the Doctor's death date, as if it would have slipped the viewers mind in the intervening week. That being said I feel that conversely some fans will find the lack of River Song action just as irritating.

Overall I personally found the change of pace refreshing, the direction of the episode really allowed the ideas to breathe and allowed the viewer to reflect on what was happening on screen. After the frenetic pace of Lets Kill Hitler a return to a good old slow burn horror story shows off the versatility and range of Doctor Who. At the end of the day The Doctor came to town, saved a family and was magnificent in doing so and rather brilliantly I think theres going to be more than a few kids refusing to go to bed on Saturday night.

As it should be.





Doctor Who: Night TerrorsBookmark and Share

Saturday, 3 September 2011 - Written by Matt Hills
Written by Matt Hills

Doctor Who: Series Six - Night Terrors
Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Richard Clark
Broadcast on BBC1 - 3rd September 2011
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK preview of the episode.

In an episode all about multiple fears, and where the Doctor ponders whether young George suffers from pantophobia, it’s tempting to frame this review by referring to different phobias, both real and invented. With that in mind, perhaps this story will offer a cure for Gatissophobes still traumatised after Victory of the Daleks, though given its array of alarming lifts, nasty dolls, and recurrent darkness, it certainly won’t make comfortable viewing for phobophobes.

Gatiss has said that his brief was to make the contemporary scary, as per his excellent Crooked House. That, however, used portmanteau horror to give its present-day setting an overlaid creepiness, whereas this tale doesn’t have the luxury of different time periods and historically lingering spookiness to realise its threat. Instead, we jump straight into a repertoire of childhood anxieties, superbly realised via director Richard Clark’s use of shadows and complemented by a themed colour palette combining inky blues with sickly yellow-greens.

Since he is ostensibly a child of our time, I kept expecting George to have a remote-controlled Dalek or a collection of Character Options toys in his room: Bergerac exists in this universe, but not a television series called Doctor Who. Incorporating such visuals would have made this both more realistic and yet less real-seeming at the same time; a fiction pointing out its own fictional status. We are shown an Amy action figure, of sorts, in the form of her dolled-up version, but the episode resolutely avoids branded toys so that George’s collection of non-copyright-infringing, non-product-placement robots, dinosaurs, and themed wallpaper still end up looking like a strange, out-of-time BBC unreality. Despite refusing to permit any ‘meta’ appearances of Doctor Who toys, an episode centred on a scared child cannot resist referencing debates which have whirled through the series’ history: “may be… things on telly… scary stuff” should be blamed for George’s nervous state. It’s a knowing wink to the audience, but played lightly and without disrupting the story’s world.

This was one of the series six episodes produced by Sanne Wohlenberg, and though I’d not have a critical word to say about Marcus Wilson’s excellent work, this bears all the hallmarks of a very tightly, skilfully produced ep where key elements knit together well. Given the focus on paternity, and on Alex’s love for his son, Emma Cunniffe as Claire is rather underused, though Daniel Mays doesn’t put a foot wrong throughout and Andy Tiernan plays the sort of character his physiognomy seems doomed to enact – Purcell, a caricatured landlord, complete with Bernard the bulldog (surely a sly Quatermass reference from Gatiss).

Rituals are vital here, whether it’s switching lights on and off, putting fears away in the cupboard, or repeating phrases such as “please save me from the monsters”. Ritual holds and contains anxiety, and this theme is artfully reflected in Clark’s use of shots split up into angular sections; the housing estate which seems to box in its inhabitants; the serving hatch through which we observe Alex and the Doctor; doors and windows which frame various residents, and even the pile of bin bags which encloses Mrs Rossiter in a menacing reverse shot. Everything is constantly framed, bounded, and visually hemmed in, implying that characters may themselves have become shut in with what’s feared. And the episode’s editing also becomes almost ritualistic or incantatory at times, such as in the intercutting of slammed doors – wham, wham, wham! – on the Doctor, Amy and Rory.

Night Terrors poses a simple enough question: what can overcome a child’s fear? And the answer is an emotional one rather than a wodge of technobabble. Stories are one place of safety, such as ‘The Emperor Dalek’s New Clothes’ or the ‘Three Little Sontarans’. But even more powerful than storytelling is unconditional parental love: Alex is willing to embrace ‘his’ child, no matter what. This gives the tale an emphasis on human feeling that has always been at the heart of Who since its 2005 return, but it also feels a little off-kilter here. For one thing, why is the maternal so strongly written out of proceedings, as if Doctor Who’s natural constituency should involve focusing on a father-son relationship? And then there’s the matter of George’s alien identity as a cuckoo in the nest. Conveniently glossed over by the notion that he will adapt perfectly to life among humanity – i.e. he’s alien, but from now on, imperceptibly so – this seems all too rapidly and easily dealt with. Is Alex supposed to sit Claire down for a “by the way, dear, our sense of reality has been modified and we actually have an unearthly child” sort of chat on the sofa? Ironically for an episode about ritual, the ending feels rather ritualistic and by-the-numbers itself, observing the convention of contemporary Doctor Who that love and monsters are needed.

Always visually compelling, this is generally atmospheric rather than downright scary, treading a fine line for the family audience. And as for those watching from behind the proverbial sofa, well, perhaps it’s just that Doctor Who’s viewers exhibit an unusually high level of cathisophobia.


Matt Hills is the author of Triumph of a Time Lord, and is currently reviewing Torchwood: Miracle Day for the Antenna blog.




Doctor Who: Let's Kill Hitler (review 2)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 27 August 2011 -  
 

Doctor Who: Series Six - Let's Kill Hitler
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Richard Senior
Broadcast on BBC1 - 27th August 2011

This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK broadcast of the episode.

Under Russell T. Davies, Doctor Who found a new story type: the celebrity historical. This offered one way of promoting the show; the Doctor meets Charles Dickens, or Shakespeare, or Agatha Christie. An instant hook for critics and viewers. This series opener/midseries returner (delete as applicable) takes all the marketing chutzpah of the Davies era, and then has the guts to deliver something altogether different. Here, the conventions of the Davies-esque celebrity historical are firmly deconstructed. Adolf's not the point of the story, aligned with some evil, alien force as might be expected. No, because Hitler's shut in the cupboard, ridiculed and relegated to the sidelines. Storywise, it's all about the arc, not the Reich. Let's Kill Hitler is the suggestion of psychotic character Mels, never a serious statement of intent. Getting the high-concept marketing frills out of the way, Moffat's unbound and free to tell the story he's really interested in – 'The Beginning of River Song'.

Except Hitler-as-window-dressing is also thematically integrated into the tale; after all, his presence motivates the Teselecta and its hunt for war criminals. Following A Good Man Goes To War, we might ponder whether the Doctor himself is about to stand charge, but a storyline paralleling the Doctor and the Fuhrer was never going to secure any Brand Manager's assent. Instead, it's Melody Pond, Kovarian's weapon of choice, who seizes the Teselecta's interest and so narratively displaces Hitler.

Giving guilty parties hell, workers for the Justice Department have taken on a God-like status, able to cast definitive judgement and carry out sentencing. As the Doctor remarks, these miniaturised minions seem ever so certain of who they are. By contrast, Melody Pond's identity is fluid and insecure; post-Mels and yet pre-River, she's caught between selves, in a mixed-up state where regeneration energy can magically solve any crisis. The true crime of the Teselecta is to assume that identity is fixed, and that judgements can be final; by contrast, the Doctor doesn't judge, but instead proffers redemption, guiding Melody through the episode's rite of passage and into the mantle of River Song. Pond Junior doesn't have to be the object of Kovarian's scheming. She can be her own subject. She can choose life.

And yet one of the most important moments in the episode is withheld – an absence beating at the heart of all this quickfire fun. It's not The Question – though silence falls there too – but what the Doctor tells Melody to convince her that, as River Song, she can be so much more than her programming. This seems a bit of a cheat: the storyline requires the Doctor to say something hugely, emotionally affecting... so Moffat delivers the required outcome yet without the speech itself. Perhaps any possible dialogue could never have felt convincing enough; perhaps it's best left as a gap for fan speculation to play with. In any case, going beyond bananas and “spoilers!” this replays yet another Moffat-ism by recalling his previous use of such a device (in Forest of the Dead) where River whispers, unheard by us, the Doctor's name. Here again are the Doctor and River, sharing confidences, with this privacy maintaining the mystery of their relationship. Rather than delivering unadulterated sentimentalism, Moffat steps back and shrouds his protagonists' emotional lives just a little. Unlike Davies, this showrunner seems happier posing questions and constructing puzzles rather than delivering full-blooded emo-bombast. There's a curious reserve, or a discomfort, in relation to the big, predictable, plotted emotion. Or perhaps it's that, for Moffat, the Doctor and River's relationship is one of the show's current mysteries: this is emotion as narrative puzzle. No need to choose between character relationships and story arcs; they're all bound up in the same big wibbly ball of stuff.

And though the Teselecta may presume its own Godliness, Moffat throws in another fleeting metaphor: it's also a Star Trek-style crew rendered as a TV production team, complete with costume and art departments, the latter worrying about skin tone. Presumably this makes the Teselecta's captain a sort of showrunner, all key information at his fingertips, resolutely in charge of who's going to be given hell. Let's Kill Hitler thus makes crafty jokes about the showrunner-as-God, ridiculing authority just as it enacts it by setting out new mysteries and tidying away key incidents. We get the crowd-pleasing reversal of "spoilers!"; the first appearance of River's diary; and the beginnings of her archaeological career, as the Showrunner-God ticks all those boxes in rapid succession. Oh, and takes care to explain why River couldn't regenerate in Forest of the Dead, making fanboyishly sure that consistency is the mother of invention.

In the end, Let's Kill Hitler is a front for "Let's Find River", with the celebrity historical drawing audiences in for a story focused more strongly on the "TARDIS family" (Amy-Rory-River-Doctor) than ever before. This episode represents a Teselecta of showrunners; Moffat's finest shtick standing behind the eyes of a Davies era staple.

 

 

 

Matt Hills is the author of Triumph of a Time Lord, and is currently reviewing Torchwood: Miracle Day for the Antenna blog.

 

 

 





Doctor Who: Let's Kill HitlerBookmark and Share

Saturday, 27 August 2011 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

Doctor Who: Series Six - Let's Kill Hitler
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Richard Senior
Broadcast on BBC1 - 27th August 2011
This review contains plot spoilers and is based on the UK broadcast of the episode.

Blimey.

It is quite something when a series with so many known parameters and constituent elements can still be juggled together and delivered in a fresh manner. And yet Steven Moffat once again manages to do just that in Let's Kill Hitler!

For instance, regeneration. Back in The Christmas Invasion we learn that Time Lords are in a state of flux during the first fifteen hours where-in their bodies can 'regenerate' any damage. Then, in Journey's End the Doctor reveals that residual regenerative energy can be siphoned off into an appropriate vessel. For Let's Kill Hitler, Moffat skillfully revisits those ideas in the form of River, at one point reveling in her ability to shake off a hail of bullets, and then ultimately channeling her own energy into the Doctor to save him.

Then, for River herself, the signposts were pretty easy to read that the little girl from Day of the Moon was going to be her, cemented in A Good Man Goes To War with her being conceived in the time vortex within the TARDIS; but then not only does Moffat play a neat trick by having us first think it is River in the red corvette at the start only to see Mels instead, reveal her as a childhood friend of Amy and Rory, only then to further reveal it really was River after all! (why didn't I pick up on the name "Mels" straight away?!!!). Not only that, Moffat also gently guides us into preparation for the possibility of a black Doctor!

The stuff with Hitler was amusing, especially as the eponymous character is actually only a comedy sideline - though he did of course play a pivotal role in "killing" Mels, which is quite ironic considering it was her suggestion to go kill him! And of course nobody knew the Teselecta crew were also there for similar reasons!

As usual with Doctor Who, it is so easy to be taken along for the ride from beginning to end, and the cracks in the plot are easily plastered up by the sheer pace and display put on. One crack in particular that stuck out for me was quite how Mels ended up where she was. We see the young Melody regenerate into her at the end of Day of the Moon ... but this was in 1969(ish) and River says she only changed this once, so how did a young black girl get from New York City to Leadworth, not to mention being "born" at least couple of decades before her parents? Time Lords (should we call her that?) may age differently from humans, but then she seemed to match up with them rather well. Mind you, this could be a previously unknown facet of Time Lord physiology that they can control how they age (possibly borne out by an aside by River on getting younger tonight?).

But that's a minor niggle in amongst the gems, especially in the acting. The interplay between Matt Smith as the Doctor, and Nina Toussaint-White/Alex Kingston as Melody was great fun, and I should also mention Caitlin Blackwood being as enchanting as ever as both the young, innocent Amelia and the TARDIS's voice interface - "fish fingers and custard" was worthy of a great cheer!

I must admit I didn't find sub-plot of the crew on the Teselecta as interesting as what was revolving 'outside'. The antibodies almost felt like a contrived "alien of the week" was needed to menace our regulars, and the crew's mission to punish those who have committed heinous crimes might have been laudable except that it was (a) torture, and (b) they didn't seem to care that much about others they happened to steal identities off to reach their goal either. Still, I don't think we've seen the last of them ...

On the other hand River goes from strength to strength. The wibbly wobbly timey wimey way in which we've encountered her has been one of the most fun elements of recent series, and now we have her arising phoenix-like into the Doctor's life for the first time (her perception). And full credit to the consummate ability of Alex Kingston to bring River 'to life' as someone totally ignorant of who she will become to the Doctor (and us) yet the little quirks of her personality we know and love literally evolving as the episode progresses. There are still some big gaps in her life though, but these quite possibly will feature in future storylines! And I'm looking forward to them!

Back to intriguing ideas, as well as the question of Time Lord's "ethnicity" neatly answered this episode, there's also the moment when River ploughs all her remaining lives into the Doctor - have we just seen Moffat's masterplan for the Doctor to continue on beyond his thirteenth incarnation subtly put into motion ... (or did she really use up 504 lives if you accept the Death of the Doctor comment of course!)

I'll leave you with an even more subtle idea, which maybe even Moffat hasn't considered (not that I believe that for one moment, nothing he writes is throwaway!); this series has effectively revealed with River that it is possible to 'reboot' the Time Lords (well, Time Lord-like beings) as a more innocent race to once again inhabit the universe ...






The Mind RobberBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 April 2009 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Delightfully surreal. Delightfully cool. 

That pretty well summarises this classic "oddball story". Long before the bizarre tales of the McCoy era that were officially given this term by fandomn, we have "The Mind Robber". A tale that was years ahead of its time. Of course, it's still not the first true oddball story - that award goes to "Celestial Toymaker" but it's another fine example of just how great the series can be when the writers are allowed to just let their imaginations totally run wild.

Atmosphere and imagery have a huge role to play in this story. And most of the tone here is creepy. Really creepy, actually. Possibly some of the most chilling moments the show has ever produced. And a lot of it is done very subtly which is what makes it even more unsettling. Nice little touches like the Master of the Land of Fiction chuckling evilly after the Doctor tosses the book into the wishing well. Every time I watch that, even though I know it's coming, it still gives me the slightest of shivers. And that's a testament to how well-crafted some of those sequences are. 

The overall "flow" of the story is another great strongpoint. Aside from the first episode (which I will gripe about at some later juncture), the way the plot unfolds is masterfully executed. Intrigue and suspense are distributed in perfect measures. Along with neat liberal doses of comedy to offset things wonderfully. The fictional characters weave in and out of the tale at all the right moments. Sometimes helping the plot out, sometimes just adding atmosphere. It's all done so stylishly that you can't help but become completely engrossed with what your seeing. 

Even the leads seem to notice that they've got a very special story on their hands and are putting a lot more into it than normal. And "normal" with the Doctor/Jamie/Zoe team is already superb. But here, they shine all the more brightly. Of particular noteworthiness is Troughton, himself. I love the way he's made the Doctor genuinely fearful throughout the tale. The moment he finds himself forced to activate the special device in the console, we see him become genuinely skittish. He's a well-travelled man but, for once, he's going somewhere he's never been before at all and has no clue what it will be like. And he doesn't like that. The way he jumps moments later when Zoe goes to see him in the engine room is a clear indicator of this. This sentiment continues throughout his journeys in the Land of Fiction. Only as he fully understands what this dimension is about and what the plans of the Master-Brain are, does he revert to his traditional hero status and take proper arms against his enemy. And it was a gorgeous touch for Troughton to put into his performance that gave the story that much more of an edge to it. 

Now then, let's tackle my one little "beef" with the story. If memory serves, The Mind Robber wasn't originally meant to be a five-parter and that first episode was added on almost superfluously. It's not quite a total piece of annoying padding. There is, again, a sufficient dose of atmosphere and creepiness. And it almost manages to sustain the episode. But not quite. I get just a little bit tired of Jamie and Zoe seeing illusions of home over and over again in order to fill in those few extra minutes. I recall on my first viewing actually being a bit less receptive of the whole thing because we had to wait a whole episode before getting into the real meat of the story. And if it wasn't for a few minor plot points that are made in episode one, you can almost start watching the story from episode two onwards. And, in my book, this problem is a big enough "taint" on the story to stop it from receiving the status of "classic" that so many of you bestow upon it. It's still an amazing story, but the blatant padding of the extra episode does work a little too much to its detriment. 

But, aside from that one problem, we really have a magnificent story. Like a lot of other great Who stories - it is loaded with moments in it that remain forever etched in one's memory. The children gathering around the Doctor to taunt him with riddles, Jamie's fights with the red coat, the first time we meet the Master of the Land of Fiction and, of course, the climactic battle toward the end with the Doctor and the Master using various fictional characters as pawns in a duel. And these are just a few of the stronger examples of such moments. The story is loaded with these kinds of sequences. Making the whole adventure truly fantastic and incredibly creative. 

And, just to really make the story great, all of Gulliver's dialogue is taken right from the novel. It's like the writers didn't think they could just impress us with their imagination, they had to show they were willing to actually do some real research too. How's that for "icing on the cake"?!