Sleep No MoreBookmark and Share

Saturday, 14 November 2015 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
Reece Shearsmith (Credit: BBC / Simon Ridgway)
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Producer: Nikki Wilson

This review contains plot spoilers.

In a break from series nine’s pattern of two-parters, this standalone tale is gothic Doctor Who at its most chilling, and it would have greatly benefitted from a Halloween transmission date. Somehow feeling as if it’s arrived a fortnight late, this is nonetheless a gift of a story. Atmospheric and disturbing in equal measure, there is little in the way of musical bombast or melody to lighten the load of this episode. Instead, the events we see unfolding are accompanied by electro ambience, by slowly creeping bass lines and by dark rumblings. It’s distinctly non-traditional in form – found-footage horror which sacrifices the programme’s title sequence in order to better convince as documentary Who – and yet also conventionally creepy in a host of ways: we get some brilliantly realized monsters, and characters are gradually separated from the rescue team, as is the time-honoured way of things.     

 

Writer Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith (Rassmussen) are both very much playing to their strengths here; Gatiss as a skilled creator of unsettling worlds, and Shearsmith as our initially sympathetic narrator whose view of life is ultimately revealed to be dangerously askew. It seems as if Gatiss may have been inspired by Jonathan Crary’s 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, picking up on its theme of society’s apparent need for constant productivity. The Morpheus machines are a science fiction version of Crary’s cautionary tract, and Gatiss perfectly parodies corporate-speak in the Morpheus sales patter, and through that irritatingly jaunty Sandman song: “terms and conditions apply”. Meanwhile, Rassmussen is the obligatory Dr. Frankenstein-esque figure – an over-reaching scientist who has created monstrous new life. He suggests that human beings waste a third of their lives asleep, where “time is money”, and consequently he’s set out to remove this fruitless downtime, creating an entity which has gone without sleep for some five years.

 

In a sense, it’s a shame that Doctor Who didn’t do the found-footage thing when it was a fresher part of the horror genre rather than an arguably over-exposed and over-exploited trope. But that doesn’t really matter, because Gatiss uses the concept of found footage so brilliantly and so expertly that when you hear Chief Nagata’s statement about the rescue team’s “head cams” for the first time, like the Doctor you can’t quite get it to make sense. There’s a good, old-fashioned distinction in criticism, between content and form, and Doctor Who is typically more focused on content – what are the monsters? How will the Doctor and Clara escape and save the day? But here there seems to be very little mystery surrounding what the sleepmen, dustmen or Sandmen are: the Doctor nails this with a good theory about a third of the way into the episode, even if by the end we’re not quite sure exactly what’s been staged and collated, and exactly what’s actually happened outside of Rassmussen’s manipulation: ”none of this makes any sense”, complains the Doctor.

 

Because this is very nearly Meta Who; an episode that’s centrally about the form of the show, all direct address and signposted storytelling. Sometimes journalists (and some fans, and probably even some journalist-fans) complain that the series is too self-referential these days, all about knowing in-jokes and moments of spot-the-continuity. But these 45 minutes are properly and gloriously self-referential, ending with a discussion of how Doctor Who stories need to be shaped and structured. Sleep No More also hosts not one, but two of the sharpest pieces of misdirection in the series for some time – we assume that cameras must be everywhere within the Verrier station, of course, but at the same time we also assume that the recurrent, blocky glitches are nothing more than meaningless visual markers of the episode’s found footage gimmick. Marc Olivier has recently discussed what he calls “glitch gothic” (in the book Cinematic Ghosts), where the disruption of images signals the irruption of ghostly forces or the loss of reassuring vision, and Sleep No More’s most creepy moment resides in its closing example of glitching. The Sandmen surely aren’t going to escape into the world via physical objects or physical media, not in a world of digital, electronic signals… and Shearsmith’s final ‘piece-to-camera’ on the subject is thrillingly demented.

 

There's also some humour scattered through the shadows and pseudo-CCTV of Sleep No More. “Cuts, pet”, is how Nagata explains that there are only four members of the rescue team, while the fact that Nagata, the Doctor and Clara find themselves shut in with “dead meat” is also a deliciously dark moment. The computer voice’s refusal to allow Deep-Ando access, insisting that he “sing the song”, also offers a suspenseful but wry distraction from the episode’s underlying mechanics. And Sleep No More’s Shakespearean title is handily quoted for viewers; Peter Capaldi relishes the chance to break the fourth wall and address the ‘camera’ to eloquently educational effect.   

 

Preceded by ‘Terror(ists) of the Zygons’, and even an eye-opener of a Genesis of the Daleks remix, Sleep No More is likely to be edged out in end-of-season polls. It shouldn’t be, however, because this is exquisitely constructed Doctor Who that doesn’t draw on monster nostalgia or on revisiting an all-time great. This is simply great-storytelling-about-storytelling meets great-camera-work-about-camera-work, all wrapped up in some clever twists and outstanding monster designs. It’s a sign of the production team’s confidence and ambition that an episode like this – surprisingly experimental for an incarnation of the show that’s in its tenth year – could and would be attempted, and there’s an energy and vitality to proceedings that really fires things up. Yes, it may be frustrating that we’re left wondering about the status of what we’ve see – somewhat like sequences of The Trial of a Time Lord, perhaps – but the ensuing debate on unreliable narrators is bound to be entertaining.

 

Found footage is usually deployed as a budget-saver, and so we’re brought back again to “cuts, pet”. If this was an experiment born, in part, out of cost-savings then it shows how austerity can sometimes – only sometimes – be the mother of invention. Gatiss delivers a finely tuned and seriously spooky script, and Shearsmith sells it perfectly from beginning to end. It’s also a relatively unusual episode insofar as neither the Doctor nor Clara ever seem to work out exactly what’s been going on: their understanding remains glitchy and partial. But the shock ending requires that, and so our leads are subordinated, for once, to the gothic form. Perhaps there’s a dangling thread here that calls for a sequel, but I’m tempted to say not – Sleep No More is wonderfully effective just as it is, and deserves to inspire plenty of “wide awakes” among the audience. I do wonder if it’ll spark discussion over just how scary the show ought to be (though being shown in a later time slot this year may protect it from that). Shearsmith’s final revelation could have been even more terrifying, however, had it been entrusted purely to the actor’s performance, or perhaps if it had involved just the first moment of dusty degeneration: the overall special effect that draws events to a close strikes me as excessively stylized and heightened, as if fantastically drawing attention away from the horrifying implications of Rassmussen’s speech.

 

But there are very few missteps here, and Sleep No More shows that there are still, even now, innovative and compelling new games that can be played with the format and the very form of Doctor Who. It may not quite be an instant classic like The Zygon Inversion, but mark my words, in years to come generations of viewers will remember ‘the terrifying one with all the cameras and the sleepy dust monsters’. Oh yes, this one will be a sleeper.





LEGO Dimensions (with Doctor Who level pack)Bookmark and Share

Saturday, 14 November 2015 - Reviewed by Emma Foster
Lego Dimensions (Credit: LEGO)

LEGO Dimensions base pack, released 29 Sep 2015
(platforms: XBoxOne, XBox360, Wii U, PS3PS4)

Doctor Who Level Pack, released 6 Nov 2015

This evening I found myself watching Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle from The LEGO movie battle a huge robotic version of the Joker on top of a nuclear power plant hovering above Springfield with a massive grin on my face. From the moment the "toys to life" trend started it seemed inevitble that LEGO would be joining in sooner or later, with LEGO Dimensions they have done so with aplomb.

If you've ever played any of the pantheon of LEGO games before you'll find yourself in somewhat familliar territory when it comes to the control scheme, but the game play itself is taken to a new level with the interactive game pad which you will be using to solve puzzles and build customised LEGO teams. The game draws from a dizzying array of properties as diverse as the Ghostbusters films, Scooby Doo and the Portal series to send our motley trio on series of adventures to defeat the evil Lord Vortech. Of special interest to Doctor Who fans will of course be the show orentaited level within the game where our heroes find themselves bumping into the Doctor and ending up in the invitable creepy base filled with Cybermen and Weeping Angels. The level will probably take most gamers around 30-45 minutes to complete and if you're so inclined you'll be popping back frequently to pick up collectibles. Without venturing too far into spoilers there is lots of fun to be had with some excellent scary stuff mixed in with some genuinely tense moments trying to solve puzzles while under alien duress. In that respect the level could almost be viewed almost like an episode, albeit with some quite unusal companions for the Doctor.

This might be one of the greatest "family" games ever created, encouraging the adults to take to the carpet with the kids to move figures around the game board and help out with some of the more knotty puzzles. Some of the smallest LEGO fans may also need help putting together the base portal as it has quite a lot of fiddly, small pieces. Some adventerous parents might even be tempted to plug in a controller themselves as the game supports two player local co-op. For those of us adults playing the game while using the game board to move the interactive mini-figs around to solve puzzles and the like is innovative and fun it's also frankly a bit of a pain. I was playing on the XBox One and the game board plugs into the back of console via USB, the problem is that is where to put the blessed thing while your hands are occupied with the controller. It wasn't until I started playing that I realised just how much you're required to use it, so I found myself sitting on the floor next to it, ending up with an almighty crick in my neck. This being said though is minor complaint from a thirty something with a wonky back and the inherent satisfaction that comes from solving a puzzle using Gandalf to hop between portals soon cures all ills. Kids unencumbered by middle aged back woes will love it.

LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Level (Credit: LEGO)

Now on to the main drawback of LEGO Dimensions, the cost. The base game pack will set you back around £80 and if you want to buy some of the level packs and fun packs the effect on your bank balance will be ruinous. The temptation to invest in the many team and level packs so you can explore very nook and cranny of the enormous "multi-verse"of LEGO dimensions becomes irresistable. If you're a Doctor Who fan just looking to enjoy some of the Doctor in brick form this game may not be for you. The game relies on the user having at least a passing interest and familliarity with the properties it's "mashing up". If The Simpsons, The Lord of the Rings, the DC Universe and the LEGO Movie don't do much for you then you might want to wait for the Doctor Who LEGO sets coming in December.

Now on to the Doctor Who "level pack". Put simply and for those who wish to avoid spoilers about the content of the level itself, it is simply sublime, playing out like a TV episode and it even gets its own title sequence. For those of you who don't mind reading about the plot it's fairly simple as far as Doctor Who goes these days, The Doctor, aided by his trusty friend K9 and hopping from timezone to timezone using the TARDIS must destroy a series of shield generators in an effort to foil the Dalek's invasion of Earth. On the way you'll whizz breathlessly through 19th Century London, Skaro and even pay a visit to Trenzalore. You'll also be doing battle with Autons, Daleks, The Silence and even the Weeping Angels. It's quite incredible how scary the Angels manage to be, even when rendered with the inherently adorable LEGO faces. The main campaign of the level weighs in at over an hour, one of the lengthiest LEGO game levels ever and if you choose to hunt down every collectible you'll be spending considerably more time there. This is no bad thing as the main story is filled to the brim with background details that will delight fans young and old alike. 

In addition to the main campaign level buying this pack grants you access to the Doctor Who "hub world" where there are more mini missions to complete, baddies to beat up, races to run and collectibles to find. It's basically Doctor Who heaven and as a extra special treat you can choose between any of the Doctor's incarnations to play as while you're there, with little dialogue clips to along with them.

LEGO Dimensions: Doctor figure (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Hub World (Credit: LEGO) LEGO Dimensions: Doctor Who Hub World (Credit: LEGO)

The level pack was obviously put together by people with a deep and abiding love for the show and while any fan will enjoy what it has to offer the main issue must be with the cost of the pack. The set which includes three mini-figs (The tweleth Doctor, K9 and the TARDIS), the DLC Doctor Who adventure and access to the Doctor Who hub world retails at £29.99. This is roughly double what DLC costs for most other games and is more in line with the newer "Season pass" system that many AAA games are now utalising which generally speaking enables the user to get any and all future DLC releases, access to multi player and other bonuses. Ultimately it will be a personal choice if you want to invest in further Doctor Who LEGO adventures, especially as the level that comes with the main game is quite satisfying. However, the opportunity to run around Telos as the Second Doctor having just beat the beastly Daleks with a trademark Twelfth quip and some nose laser action from good old K9 is just enough to justify the investment. 





The Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue FourBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 11 November 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Paul Hudecek
Ninth Doctor Mini-Series - Issue Four (Credit: Titan)

Writer - Cavan Scott
Art/Color Finishes - Blair Shedd
Colors-  Anang Setyawan
Letterer - Richard Starkings + Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt
Editor - Andrew James
Assistant Editor - Kirsten Murray
Designer - Rob Farmer
Released October 21st 2015, Titan Comics

This penultimate component of the miniseries makes the thoroughly widespread consequences ofthe Time War very apparent, and the Doctor is forced to make another choice that will affect countless life forms across all of time, space and potentially all reality as well.

Thrilling incident follows astounding revelation in this story, as we have every right to expect given the potential demonstrated in prior months. Captain Jack has to somehow control an especially emotional TARDIS stranded in the Vortex which faces an imminent threat from the Unon.

The Lect reveal that their considerably bulky and powerful frames are just a shell for a very much organic alien life form. As that happens the captured Rose is forced to hear their side of the story and possibly change her very attitude to the scenario previously assumed to be clear-cut by the TARDIS crew.

The Time War has already been explored in much length by both TV Doctor Who and the recent Four Doctor special event series. But yet more secrets are un-mined in the narrative as the Doctor converses with several of the Unon. This prompts him into doing the most direct and game-changing action since the adventure first commenced. As that happens his more proud, even pompous side is on full view for all to see.

Whereas previous issues were wholesale action or slower paced showcasing of lovely scenery and character imaging this issue is a smooth blend of the two.

Now we have the more light hearted characters dispensed with, and perhaps rather brutally given the supernova that has decimated Fluren's world, focus swings squarely onto the two opposing forces of Unon and Lect. More personal clashes are resumed in the case of the two alpha males that are Jack Harkness and the Doctor. Whilst it may be a bit more of the same dynamic, and so lack the freshness when employed in issues One and Two, but is still enjoyable and offers up some choice dialogue. It also does not distract from all the important new plot developments.

The writer is also possibly still trying to wrong foot his readership as although we see much of the background of the Unon and marvel at their articulate and noble personalities, there is still scope for them to actually be a lot less benign than they seem. The Lect forces make sudden contact with Rose apparently their newly-appointed and seemingly non-coerced spokesperson. The fine cliffhanger leads the way for a  finale that will almost certainly see a decisive and big battle. And more immediately of concern is just what will the Doctor have to do to regain the Rose Tyler that he thought he knew(!?).

As ever Cavan Scott's characterization and dialogue are well above par - even by the strong Titan Comic standards. I eagerly await what he has to bring in Issue Five, as much as I dread having to move on as the mini-series comes to its end.

Of course, presentation is the bread and butter of any comic book; be it intellectual, emotive, a romp or a heady combination of all these. Blair Shedd goes from strength to strength as he has the stern test of having to convey so many large-scale concepts. Fans will enjoy the fleeting re-visits to foes of the Doctor such as the Sontarans and the Cybermen that had three digits on each hand. The colour work is simply top-notch, and i continue to enjoy the silhouette change-up which almost is the signature touch to this mini-series.

It is also probably the most realistic and photo-style artwork of any Titan range I have reviewed thus far, and for my tastes anyway this is a great approach. Artistic licence is never a bad thing but can sometimes be pushed too far in order to stand out from the crowd. With Series One of modern Doctor Who being such a leap forward in terms of visuals, it seems appropriate to have a 'cutting edge' style here which almost an irrelevance of the decade since Ecclestone, Piper and Barrowman first played their parts together on TV.

 

BONUS:

There is no humour strip in this issue, but we do get a nice insight into the artwork process which only reinforces the care and attention Shedd brings to the table. Some alternate front covers are also present so as to add full value to this edition.





The Zygon InversionBookmark and Share

Saturday, 7 November 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Paul Hudecek

Starring: Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman,
Ingrid Oliver and Jemma Redgrave,

WITH  Nicholas Asbury, Aidan Cook, Tom Wilton, and Jack Parker

Written by: Peter Harness and Steven Moffat,
Directed by Daniel Nettheim,

Executive Producers: Steven Moffat and Brian Minchin
Transmitted BBC 1 on 7th November 2015

This Review Contains Plot Spoilers

"You are not superior to people cruel to you... The only way anyone could live in peace is if they are prepared to forgive."

The Doctor confronting the 'wrong' Clara.

 

The Doctor and Osgood are once again in big trouble on the Presidential plane. Where before the threat came from a Missy/Cybermen takeover plot, this time round there is another race of alien beings that closely resemble one another - except when using their baffling duplication abilities.

Somewhat uncomfortably at the time of transmission we have had a recent airline tragedy with some alleged links to terror. This story does partly cover some of the same general issues and themes. It is more likely to resonate with parents and other relatives of the target children audience, and this should not distract the BBC from making any major changes to what is ultimately a thrilling and thought-provoking escapist form of TV entertainment.

Firstly I must firmly point out how brilliantly capable Peter Capaldi is in this new episode.  His performance has been rarely better - if ever - than here. His onscreen alter-ego did have the somewhat tired routine of letting UNIT prop him up as his own private fighting force, but still did well last week. Now the Doctor emerges from the metaphorical shadows and is decidedly more proactive, causing a potentially explosive situation to resolve itself in the best possible manner.

This time he still has to work with UNIT, but shows his anger at their methods. The daughter of his late friend Alistair is the prime recipient. He wants the pacifist route but Kate Stewart quite firmly wants to veto that, due to the 'peace failing already'. Because the Doctor must now finally resolve the mess that his previous selves were partly responsible for, and show some wit and resourcefulness, we really get behind the main man with real verve. His final solution to the crisis is as gripping as any. (even if I find the method a touch labored, as I will discuss further on). It also manages very well to show his haunted state concerning the Time War still looms large. This also works on a subtle level as another good tie-in to the Twelfth Doctor's first (fleeting) onscreen appearance, when he appeared from his then-future lifecycle to help the other Doctors save Gallifrey.

Yet I was always expecting the acting chops from our lead performer, and now that the higher-ups have ironed out the wrinkles that seemed to alienate some viewers, he is really firing on all cylinders. Hopefully Capaldi has at least two further full series within him. He really appears to stutter and has unstable body language when trying to convince the two clashing forces to stand down, making this an utterly authentic portrayal. We see an alien being who has taken on many 'normal human' mannerisms and idiosyncrasies such is his attachment to this world. The use of a game show host imitation, complete with a Southern American accent, is wonderful to witness.

Jenna Coleman's acting is barely inferior to her co-star. There is a good stretch where the real Clara is forced to try and stop her evil imposter from causing devastation, as she sees through the Zygon's eyes on a 'TV set in her flat'. Later on there is a pretty good translation of the script's attempt to find some eventual redemption for the Zygon imposter. We had an evil companion before on modern Doctor Who with a specially bred Martha clone courtesy of the marauding Sontarans, but the evil Bonnie is a cut above; with no disrespect to Freema Agyeman's efforts.

Coleman is really a strong and engaging actor, and will be much missed by me. The present series is doing very well to tease the manner of her exit, and it is best to leave fans wanting more, even if she really gels very well with Capaldi. But what about this story's other assistant for the Doctor?

With UNIT boffin Osgood rescued and helping the doctor throughout the concluding part, this is another instance of the pseudo-companion dynamic. They have a wonderful rapport, and the more annoying fan-girl side of Osgood is firmly placed to one side, allowing for a very sincere and well-characterized participant to the pacey storyline. It also is a welcome device despite dating back almost to the very beginning of the classic series, when used in (the mostly missing) Troughton story The Faceless Ones.

What helps make this latest use of a stand-in assistant quite strong is the 'dual Osgood effect', with them often chiming in at the same time when they speak. The recorded video message and how it is presented in a frame in present action is also commendable and gives Ingrid Oliver a great platform to expand on the rather more two-dimensional character she began with in 2013. The mystery over whether this sweet bespectacled lady is really a Zygon replacement or not is a nice touch in these episodes. First it seems there really is a hybrid process, so only half the original perished in Death in Heaven. But then more dialogue seems to suggest that Missy did indeed kill the original human after all. It is tempting to assume that a Zygon would somehow be more stoic knowing it was in a lethal situation. Regardless, this episode's co-writer Steven Moffat wants to spin this out in his usual fashion: open-ended character paths being a typical feature in his vision of the show.

The new direction for the plot with humans being threatened with being turned into Zygons and losing their sanity and sense of identity is promising. However I feel it could really have been explored a bit more and to greater effect. We do get a very moving scene where the Doctor tries his utmost to prevent the newly created Zygon from destroying himself, but has to live with his powers of persuasion not being enough this time round. But ultimately this new wrinkle to the plot does not really tie in well with the main objective of the splinter group to secure the Osgood box and so opt for an effective genocide of the humans that they so resent.

The climactic section where it is potentially left to humanity to cause genocidal disaster as much as the rebel Zygons is the ultimate lynchpin of this two-part story. Whilst some quarters will no doubt rave about this extended finale to the story, I am a little less sure. It certainly feels quite dramatic, but once we sense there may well be no actual weapon there, and the boxes were actually empty and so only stand for symbolic threat, it all just feels like a bit of a cheat. The Doctor did not have to worry unduly when leaving this pair of objects behind, whereas he did have to manage the potential threats of the Hand of Omega and the Nemesis statue when previously sporting a strong Scottish burr. It is also kind of predictable and seems to be revealed as a new twist in terms of how everyone reacts, whereas viewers may not be quite so dumbfounded,

Later on we have a pretty good coda to the story. Having Osgood forego a proper stint as companion on the TARDIS so that she can help UNIT protect the Earth, and keep the peace that seems to have been forged here is more than acceptable. Also the Torchwood spin-off series established the wealth of threats that the Doctor simply cannot (and in some circumstance  should not) deal with. Yet having the line about the boxes as safeguards continuing to need a guardian somehow feels like a ret-con justification for such a phony plot 'MacGuffin'. 

And as stated last week, the splinter group leader who so casually steals the form of our beloved Clara really did some terrible things. She may be forgiven by the Doctor, but is it his place to be so obliging on behalf of all the victims and their loved ones? The way he was prepared to give in to Clara last year over Danny's macabre fate at the hands of Missy established a seeming precedent, but maybe the Doctor is more of a hypocrite than we have come to expect. If it is not someone he directly knows who suffers, than it is not quite the same situation apparently.

The justification the writers give is that Clara gets inside her head. But Bonnie's core personality still was responsible for murder and causing terror, and that is just brushed aside in the final minutes by her conveniently taking on warmer empathic and sympathetic qualities. Even if I did find the smooth survival of this enemy acceptable, then her eventual assumption of the 'missing' Osgood twin is still pretty forced, and seems like an excuse to prolong a visual gimmick. No dispute can be made that the original concept of the twin Osgoods dearly loving one another was a fine way to hook different audiences into the early sections of Invasion, but did Inversion need to prolong this still further?

I do like the 'credit to both species' line, but it would have worked better if there was a different Zygon involved who was firmly on the side of Earth, or had become a turn cloak. Given all the promise with The Day of the Doctor setting up a suitably complex scenario - which this new story is taking its roots from - I do feel just a touch deflated at how things materialise ultimately.

More positively this story has given fan favourite Kate a better role. She is clearly having to make difficult decisions and realise that the Doctor is not always the one who can ultimately affect both the Earth's and humanity's future. The UNIT chief shows some good impersonation of what was assumed to be yet another Zygon clone, and we are wrong footed in an enjoyable fashion. (One nit-pick remains in that the rebel Zygons would know that someone is still just human rather than replicated). I also have sometimes felt there was not quite enough on paper to justify Kate's continued presence on the show, but this story has changed that stance in welcome fashion. We get a nice nostalgia quote in "Five Rounds Rapid", which echoes her father from the celebrated Pertwee story The Daemons. That line though is not played for any humour and shows her defiance against the softer approach her Time Lord ally prefers. And it is understandable given her learning of the brutal slaughter of the UNIT team, as so emotionally described to her by the fake Colonel Walsh.

Also, having less new characters involved in the action is perhaps not a bad thing as we get more focus on the regulars and pre-established recurring characters. As documented elsewhere, writer Peter Harness was at pains to provide good strong roles for female characters. Clara, Kate, Osgood and the apparently deceased Jac all have made this a story to inspire young girls to lofty heights in adult life. On the other hand, there may have been potential for some interesting scenes that could take place around the world, and which was one of the reasons I personally liked The End of Time. So it is a possible missed opportunity not to have some memorable cameo roles that show the far-reaching peril that can be unleashed. 

This episode bears a co-writer credit for showrunner Steven Moffat. As we know, he so often produces the most outstanding episodes, but he can also yield some more unremarkable efforts. Such is the change in quantity since his last script for the Tenth Doctor era, there is a corresponding change in consistency that reminds me of Russell T Davies' efforts. That brings me to another echo from the past. I am not quite sure how welcome is the whole conceit of Clara being trapped in 'her flat', as it clearly feels a bit like a recycling of the abstract concept seen in Forest of the Dead. Yes, it has some direct impact on the action but in a way which feels perhaps more interesting than believable: we witness the effect of a misfiring anti-aircraft weapon, and Bonnie sending a text explaining her human counterpart is still there to the Doctor/Osgood duo. In immediate dramatic terms though it remains watchable and well-presented, and it is better to have some balancing of the two Claras screen-time which was unavoidable given last week's important twist. Also it is necessary to provide strong material for Coleman this late on in the series, as virtually all reports are saying she will never return as an active companion after 2015.

Production values again are as good as fans and casual viewers have any right to expect, even if the actual plot is seemingly a lot smaller-scale this episode. The world's safety may be at stake, but the focus on events in England makes the overall story feel a touch less engrossing than in the set-up. But much of the direction by Daniel Nettheim is again strong. The scene where the Doctor talks to Bonnie having just survived her deadly attack on him could have been dull, but mixes in video phone call zooms, reverse zooms of people walking, and alternating perspectives. The gripping moments as Etoine suffers his 'infection' are also very well-helmed. However not much really could be done with the overly long confrontation scene with Kate Stewart and the fake Clara as they listen to the Doctor's grand speech. It is a darkly-lit chamber with few noticeable features, and even the design of the boxes fails to offer much scope for visual flair with the cameras.

Music is less remarkable in this one, with perhaps rather more subtle themes for the trapped 'real Clara' sections. The dearth of perilous action in comparison to Part One results in perhaps the blandest score from Gold so far this year, even if I found his The Girl Who Died effort to be weaker. But this latest story has many other hooks both in spirit and in visuals to make an impact, and be a competent component of a run that is more consistent than (the still very enjoyable) Series Eight. 

Overall this two parter is pretty solid. A lot was promised in Invasion, and this conclusion manages to work reasonably well. I would put the story in current third place after the excellent opening two stories, and clearly ahead of the (loosely linked) Maisie Williams multi-episode affair. It deserves to be remembered fondly, and to hook in new young fans via repeat showings, and commercial releases (possibly in the form of presents). And the Doctor may have had his goofy moments in the opening section that was Episode Seven but comes good and then some this time round.

But when push comes to shove, I think I will continue to re-watch and enjoy the Tom Baker tale that started the whole Zygon mythos in the first place; Terror of the Zygons was always going to be a tough act to follow. Notwithstanding my own tastes, Series Nine continues to showcase just how confident is the Peter Capaldi cycle of the enduring twin-hearted Doctor.





New Adventures With The Tenth Doctor #10 - EchoBookmark and Share

Thursday, 5 November 2015 - Reviewed by Dan Collins
 Doctor Who: Tenth Doctor #10 (Credit: Titan)WRITER: Robbie Morrison
ARTISTS: Eleonora Carlini
COVER BY: AJ
PUBLISHER: Titan Comics
PAGECOUNT: 32​pp​
RELEASE DATE: May 13

After being subjected to the horrors of World War I in the previous adventure, the Tenth Doctor and his companion Gabby return to her home in New York City to check in on her family. When a sudden and extreme rise in noise pollution starts driving the Big Apple’s citizens mad, the Doctor knows he needs to stop it, but will it be too late for Gabby’s family?  

This issue is a standalone story where the reader doesn’t really need to know anything about the comic line in order to get into it, understand and appreciate it. In fact, this was the first Doctor Who comic that I have read in a few years.  Previous adventures and bad guys are mentioned and name checked, but the only information vital to the story is Gabby’s desire to return home, something that television viewers would be familiar with.

Sometimes, the noise of the world is deafening

The story itself is quintessential Doctor Who. You take something normal, average, every day and turn it into an enemy.  We’ve seen this premise in many of the televised episodes over the past ten years, perhaps most strikingly done with the Weeping Angels. In this case, who hasn’t been walking down a busy street and felt under audio assault from car horns, construction work, the buzz of conversation and a host of other noises? It has almost become a fact of life that nearly everywhere you go your senses are under one assault or another.  

In true Doctor Who style, there’s always more going on than first meets the eye. The Aliens behind the sonic attack, are they malicious? Misunderstood? Or themselves the victims?  

There are some political overtones to this story as well. The question is raised- just because something is legal does that make it morally right? What responsibility does a bystander have when something legal but morally reprehensible is happening in front of them?

The other main theme here is grabbing the moment. After the events of the previous story arc involving both the Weeping Angels and World War I, this issue seems to be all about not taking things for granted, whether it be the love of family and friends or even just a moment of peace and quiet stolen from another wise busy day.

The artwork is very appropriate to the story. In a tale where sound is the main villain, just how can that be portrayed on paper? The art team does a really splendid job of making those every day noises stand out, starting first as innocuous letters on the page (so subtle that it was my second read through before I noticed some of them) and then expanding outward, becoming more than just words as the victims succumb.  

A great example of this is the opening three pages. At first we see a very striking war zone image. We hear soldiers shooting at each other, bombs going off and buildings collapsing. The sounds dominate the panels, taking precedence over the pictures. Then it pulls back to reveal that the action we are 
seeing is really just a newscast and we are actually in an apartment with a couple who are arguing and a baby that is crying. All of those noises are now added into the mix, creating a visual cacophony. The following page shows Gabby’s best friend Cindy walking down the street in Brooklyn. Her phone is ringing, sending vibrant red music notes dancing across the panel while we see other noises in the background. Over the course of Cindy’s phone conversation, the background noises encroach further and the panels tighten up claustrophobically until there is nothing but Cindy and the noise.  When we return to Gabby and the Doctor on page 5 we are treated to wide open spaces and that built up tension is finally released.

Some of the wordplay used here is reminiscent of Marvel’s blind superhero Daredevil, who sees using sound. Perhaps it might even be an homage to that style.

One of the major fallacies of standalone stories is the pacing. Echo moves forward at almost breakneck speed with short and concise plot panels and action sequences that are very limited. The reduced number of panels showing explosions and battles is actually a nice change when compared to the massive page eating spreads that dominate most mainstream publications and are used to turn two issues worth of plot into five comics.  

This story has a quick resolution that appropriately gives the reader just a moment to pause for reflection before nudging them on to the next story.

Overall the story was an enjoyable read, but the plot was often predictable. With Gabby as the lead, it was inevitable that she would become the hero and save the day, her family and the earth. It tries to use familiar NYC back drops to give the story a more international feel, but instead it felt like retreading material that was done better on our television screens. All of those short comings are more than made up for by the phenomenal art direction. This was a visually dynamic comic to read.  

Bonus Humour Strip: A Rose By Any Other Name by Rachael Smith.

In this installment Rose-the-cat wants the Doctor to get over Rose-the-human, so she suggests a shopping trip. The Doctor agrees and takes them to a planet just outside Nebula 6879H that has been having a going out of business sale since the beginning of time.  The Doctor tries on a few new outfits to comedic effect and makes some purchases. It seems Rose-the-cat had ulterior motives for the shopping spree when she dives in and begins playing in all the empty boxes.  The strip is mildly amusing, with no real tie in to the main comic storyline except for a line at the end about trying to enjoy the little things in life.