Tooth and ClawBookmark and Share

Thursday, 23 August 2007 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

There are a lot of little details in “Tooth and Claw” that ought to have been cut somewhere. Too much of the author’s personal politics and too much pop culture knowledge projected onto the Doctor really grate, as no doubt they’re intended to. In other words, I think Mr. Davies and some of the other writers enjoy taking jabs at the fans. The Doctor seems less like a mysterious alien and more like a teenager be-bopping around Earth’s history, listening to pop music and indulging in movies. These little asides never really come across as authentic character moments for the Doctor that we’ve been watching for 40 years now.

However, regardless of that, the episode itself is quite good overall. Despite the fact that I’m tired of RTD’s writing style, and despite the fact that this is his sixth episode in a row, for the most part he’s done a good job this time around and deserves credit for it.

“Tooth and Claw” is in many ways a very traditional monster tale with many familiar elements. There’s the old mansion out on the lonely moors, with the local legend of a monster that turns out to actually exist. True to form the monster is nearly indestructible, unaffected by bullets but allergic to a certain herb. The monster is of course is given the typical Doctor Who treatment in that it is not supernatural, but is an alien life form that crashed on Earth hundreds of years before the story takes place. The book that the Doctor finds in the library details the arrival, and the host in the cage tells Rose that he’s “so far from home”.

The idea of an alien werewolf isn’t actually new. The Eighth Doctor novel “Kursaal” introduced the Jax, a virus that migrates from host to host, and appears early on as a werewolf. The werewolf in “Tooth and Claw” could just as easily be one of the same creatures, though it’s been awhile since I read Kursaal so some of the fine details escape me. Regardless of the recycled idea, the CGI werewolf is excellently realized. It’s far more convincing than a man in a suit would have been, and is made very effective by being largely kept in the shadows of a dark house and by only being seen for brief moments. And it’s not just a mindless killer, but an intelligent alien with a plan to take over the British Empire by migrating into Queen Victoria. Presumably the monks are all for the wolf taking over, or else they’d just have killed Victoria on sight rather than set a trap. Perhaps they think that they will be able to exercise the same amount of control over the wolf once it possesses Victoria as they do over the current human host, and thereby rule the British empire.

The monks are effective villains, but the martial arts are silly. Since when do Scottish monks in the 18th century know kung-fu? Their disappearance at the end of the episode ought to have been at least addressed, although it’s easy enough to surmise that with Father Angelo and the wolf dead, the jig was up and they figured that they had better leg it out of Dodge. I expect Victoria had them hunted down later and punished for their crimes. Father Angelo is only around for half the episode, but he’s a creepy villain with his quick reflexes and glaring eyes.

Queen Victoria is treated quite well by the script, and well acted by Pauline Collins. It’s not unusual for someone to play multiple roles over time in Doctor Who, but isn’t it enjoyable to have someone return after almost forty years? How many programs are still around after that length of time? It speaks well of the Doctor Who formula that it allows such longevity. Victoria is a well-rounded character, displaying good humor, wit, grief and a good measure of determination and spirit. I was cheering her on when she shot Father Angelo dead. Her grief over Albert’s death is touching, and seemed to resonate with the Doctor as well, given his silence and facial expressions during that conversation. Victoria is also used well in the story, being not only the ‘guest historical celebrity’ of the week, but also essential to the plot. The actions of the monks are motivated by their desire to assassinate Victoria and take the throne. Victoria is the voice of incredulity as well, questioning the Doctor and his lifestyle, and outright condemning it in the end. She rewards the Doctor and Rose for their actions and bravery, and then banishes them for their cavalier attitude to life and danger. Brilliant. She also is open minded enough not to rationalize away the werewolf attack, but to found Torchwood as an institute to investigate and defend Great Britain from paranormal dangers. It’s an altogether satisfying use of the character, thoroughly justifying her inclusion in the story.

The humor works sometimes. The bumpy landing in the highlands one hundred years off target is amusing, as is the Doctor’s sudden switch to a Scottish accent (Tennant’s real accent) and adoption of “James McCrimmon” as his alias. Rose’s attempts to get Victoria to say “we are not amused” grow old rather quickly though. The unavoidable gay joke is highly offensive, as well as quite honestly being a pitiful excuse for not noticing problems with the household staff. “Your wife’s away, your servants are bald and athletic. I just thought you were happy.” The wife’s away, forget marital fidelity, gay orgies everyone. It’s smut, and it’s not funny, it’s disgusting. I’m not British, but the mockery of the Royal Family at the end also disgusted me, as did the smug dismissal of Margaret Thatcher. No respect for anyone, eh Russell?

The Doctor and Rose are gelling as a team, though I think Rose worked better with the 9th Doctor than the 10th. Piper and Tennant seem like a couple of kids on a lark, laughing and irreverently mocking anything they feel like (rather like RTD), and it gets old fast. Rose in particular is becoming an annoyance. I don’t know what’s happened to her since last year, when she was such a great character. Much has been said about her attempts to get Victoria to say ‘we are not amused’ and so I won’t belabor the point, but if I were traveling in time and met a famous historical figure, I’d be trying to get to know them, not poking fun at them. It does make Rose look quite foolish, which may be the point. However she does display quite a bit more character and moral fiber when she is talking to the host and learning about the werewolf. She also shows some initiative and leadership when she leads the chained prisoners to pull free of the wall and escape the cellar as the wolf transforms.

I’m hesitant to compare David Tennant to either Tom Baker or Patrick Troughton, because I don’t think he’s anywhere near the level of those two actors, but his character seems to draw attributes from both. He’s energetic, enthusiastic and suitably eccentric. Whereas the anti-establishment attitude of the Doctor goes back all the way to Hartnell, it’s far too overt coming from the word processor of RTD and the mouth of David Tennant. Subtlety is the key. The Doctor’s rapid intellect is demonstrated in the library when he works out the trap inside a trap that Albert set up years earlier. His energy is apparent when he’s running down hallways and trying to spring the trap for the wolf. He’s sombre when listening to Victoria speak of her grief over her dead husband. He displays wonderful wide-eyed wonder at the werewolf when he gets his first view of it. It’s an excellent performance.

In short, “Tooth and Claw” is a rather traditional monster story adapted to the Doctor Who framework. It is very enjoyable, and I wish all of Russell Davies’ efforts were at this level. A good solid episode.





The Girl in the FireplaceBookmark and Share

Thursday, 7 June 2007 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

I have to admit that I enjoyed this episode more than I thought I would. On the surface, it’s a mix of absurd story ideas. A love story for the Doctor is going to struggle against long odds just to be acceptable or believable, especially with the limited development time available in the 45 minute format.

And “a spaceship from the 51st century stalking a woman from the 18th” is certainly an inventive idea, but any attempt to explain why that is happening is going to strain credulity, even in a Doctor Who context.

Let’s start with the Doctor/Madame du Pompadour romance. I’ll be the first to admit that Sophia Myles is stunningly beautiful, and would no doubt turn the head of just about any red-blooded man who noticed her. She’s also playing a character that was quite accomplished and intelligent in real life, and her performance brings that out fairly well in the limited time available. That being said, the Doctor isn’t normally given to noticing anyone, and indeed it’s possible to argue that the attraction in this story is one-sided. The advances and flirting certainly all come from Reinette, and the lengths that the Doctor is willing to go to in order to save her life and protect history (since history tells us that Madame du Pompadour did not die at the hands of clockwork robots) are perhaps no more than he would have done for anyone else.

The time needed for a genuine relationship to develop is the crucial missing element in the story, both for the Doctor and Reinette. At best she enjoys either flirting or toying with the Doctor, and he lets himself be pulled along perhaps by the sheer novelty of it all. Certainly he seems to treat her kiss as something to be proud of because of who it was that kissed him. “I’ve just snogged Madame du Pompadour!” he says exultantly, after first listing her accomplishments. As for her motives for kissing the Doctor when she’d only met him twice as a child, who can say? It certainly doesn’t make much sense in the context of the story. To be honest, it makes her look rather easy. That’s not a character trait to admire. At least when she becomes involved with the King she’s sleeping her way to the top, though that too is hardly admirable.

In essence what we have is not so much a love story as it is the story of Reinette perhaps trying to hold on to the mystery of this man who keeps appearing in her life. I’m just trying to explain what’s on screen. We’re told it’s a love story, but the events that are acted out for us don’t support that description. There’s no time for love to develop, and there’s no depth to the relationship. Perhaps Reinette hopes that a good kiss and some flirtation will entice the “Fireplace Man” to remain longer so that she can learn more about him. After all it’s worked on other men in her life. This theory holds at least until the point the Doctor suddenly gains the ability to read minds and has his read in return. There certainly appears to be a bit more genuine affection in the final scenes where Reinette tells the Doctor about the one remaining link back to the spacecraft. The two seem very relaxed and happy in each others company, and the Doctor’s sadness at Reinette’s death is certainly heartfelt. Once he opened the letter and knew that she had never seen him again, going back to visit her in the TARDIS became impossible.

So where did this ability to read minds come from? We’ve never seen it before, though I admit it’s plausible given the Doctor’s limited use of telepathy in the past. Susan displayed some talent for telepathy, the Master was able to hypnotize rather easily, and Time Lords are supposed to enjoy telepathy among themselves, so it’s not inconceivable that the Doctor suddenly has the ability to mind-meld with a human. It’s just highly convenient as a plot device.

It’s so highly convenient that I’m tempted to be really irritated at the sudden appearance of the Doctor’s new ability, but I’ll let it go. Convenient or not, it’s certainly a shortcut around the time limitations of the episode and suddenly the Doctor and Reinette are intimately acquainted. Just how intimately acquainted depends on whether the ‘dance’ metaphor from last season still refers to sex and whether the Doctor went along for the ride. You can read it either way. If you like the Doctor as a cosmic Casanova who beds attractive women he barely knows while he’s supposed to be in love with Rose, you can read events one way. If you prefer a more virtuous Time Lord, you can go that route, despite the obvious intent of the author.

During the final encounter with the robots, the dramatic entrance of the Doctor as a heroic ‘knight on a white stallion” is entirely in keeping with the self-sacrificial nature of the character, though his abandonment of Mickey and Rose is hard to explain. He saves Reinette’s life, but (as far as he knows) strands himself in 17th century France, and strands his traveling companions in a 51st century spaceship with no means of returning home. When he asks Rose, “how long did you wait?” it doesn’t really make sense. Neither she nor Mickey can fly the TARDIS, and the Doctor is surely aware of that. What else could they do but wait? Perhaps it’s just a case of the Doctor trying to save face and mend hurt feelings.

Moving right along, there’s a lot less to say about the clockwork robots, proving yet again that this series of Doctor Who frequently puts character above plot, which is detrimental to the story far too often. Plot holes are papered over with sentiment while the writer hopes the audience won’t notice or won’t care. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that the attempt is successful in “The Girl in the Fireplace”, though in all honestly I must confess that the story is crazy. As a means of tying the spacecraft and France together, we have repair robots who create time windows and travel back in time to find the person their ship is named after, so that they can use her brain to repair the main computer, but only when she’s the same age as the spaceship. It’s so off-the-wall and creative that I’m willing to enjoy the idea tremendously and buy right into the premise.

The robots themselves are inventive, from their mannequin-like period dress and masks, to the clockwork-filled clear heads underneath. Having the first one that we encounter hiding under a child’s bed is just a wonderful conceit.

I have to address the issue of ‘self-awareness’ in the new series of Doctor Who. I would define this as actions or dialog which pulls me out of the story and reminds me that yes, I am watching a TV program. This is frequently a failing of Russel Davies scripts, but it crops up here as well. “The Doctor and the monsters,” Reinette says at one point. “It seems you cannot have one without the other.” And with that meta-textual line my suspension of disbelief is shattered and I’m thinking about Doctor Who the program rather than remaining engaged in the story. Any time that someone says “Doctor Who?” it does the same thing. And it’s very annoying.

There are other things to like about this story apart from the Doctor/Reinette relationship and the robots. It’s Mickey’s first trip in the TARDIS, and his enthusiasm is wonderful to watch. The fact that he and Rose get along with no hint of Rose’s usual jealous streak is a breath of fresh air. I’m sick of Rose’s jealously and tired of the character for that matter. It just seems like her story was told last year, and there’s not really anything new to say about her. It’s a lot like Charley Pollard, whose story came to a good conclusion in “Neverland” and then the character seemed to stagnate. Rose has been irritating in “New Earth”, “Tooth and Claw”, and especially in “School Reunion” where the claws came out with Sarah Jane. She’s much better here, and I hope continues to do well in future. As of this writing I haven’t seen any stories beyond “The Girl in the Fireplace”, so I don’t know how the character develops over the remainder of the season.

Some of the dialog is almost poetic. References to “The slow path” to describe linear time, or Reinette’s phrase “In your world there are rooms where the days of my life are pressed together like the pages of a book” are wonderful to hear.

Overall, the story has an appeal that transcends the crazy premise, but it never lives up to the billing as ‘a love story for the Doctor’. But it is inventive, it’s different and it’s sincere, which sets it apart and elevates it above much of the new series. It’s well worth the time to watch it.





New EarthBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 17 October 2006 - Reviewed by Jordan Wilson

“Oh my God! I’m a chav!”

Notes: Unless intuitively obvious or otherwise noted, what follows is opinion; as the ‘in my humble opinion…’ tag rapidly grows tedious. Some spoilers follow.

There’s no messing about. Doctor Who: New Earth is the first in the 2006 thirteen-part run of 45-minute episodes comprising Series 2. In the fleeting and welcome pre-credits montage, the latest Doctor (David Tennant) fires up his TARDIS. This is juxtaposed with shots of companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) bidding au revoir (?) to her loved ones – all two of them: Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler (Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri). And then our two travelers are off, “further then we’ve ever gone before” promises the Time Lord. What ensues is a sequel of sorts to The End of the World (2005), and arguably one of writer Russell T. Davies’ strongest entries to date. It is, unsurprisingly, hurriedly-paced, effectively injecting the viewer with their weekly ‘hit’ of Doctor Who. By the outcome, one might very well feel visually fatigued. Indeed, largely due to this, New Earth feels like a mid-series story. There is no pause for an extended celebratory re-introduction, as the brisk opener readily attests.

In reciprocation to a mysterious message, from a familiar Face (voiced by Struan Rodger), our protagonists materialize in a distant and decidedly Welsh future, after the year five billion. There, they must contend with two primary plots, touchy-feely ‘zombies’, and various other story elements. The colloquialism ‘bursting at the seams’ springs to mind. Effectively, this is also Rose’s first televised visit to an alien planet (see suggested by Boom Town, 2005). By this point, I had almost forgotten that they existed in the Doctor Who universe.

Plot A, if you will, pertains to (at least) a trio of cats dressed as nuns. Go figure. In their clinic, the Sisters of Plentitude subject home-grown human vegetables to various interstellar illnesses and diseases, so as to devise illicit cures for their genuine patient population. Cue some old-school self-righteous indignation from the Doctor. Plot B concerns the return of another familiar character, Lady Cassandra [O’Brien] (Zoë Wanamaker), who is out for revenge (well… money). Her method? Possessing Rose’s body! During the course of the show, we witness Cassandra’s ever-changing form; she switches between human, a “bitchy trampoline”, an ethereal body-swapping vapour, and a mind-stealing entity. In the previous series, I felt Piper’s acting was very sincere and plausible (in stark contrast to the Doctor and his universe). Here, she impresses us further; with her depiction of “Cassandrose”1 (“I’m a chav!”) – suggestive of a fairly broad range. This extends to some amusing scenarios, although unfortunate lines akin to “it’s like living inside a bouncy castle” (and “Oh, baby! I’m beating out a samba!”) will, undoubtedly, remind avid viewers who penned the screenplay. Nonetheless, Piper’s performance is a highlight of this week’s episode. Her depiction of Rose is circumscribed to the very first few scenes, where – aside from an amusing elevator incident – she summarizes for us that she loves universe-trotting with her companion.

Wanamaker is also on form, although her Cassandra appears somewhat more ‘on the attack’ than interpreted previously, largely due to the dialogue. Referring to Rose as “that dirty blonde assassin” implies either warped rationalization, or Davies’ poor recollection of his own screenplays – the Doctor was the “blonde assassain” in The End of the World. Arguably, Rose is guilty by association, a scapegoat; as Cassandra does not recognize the “new new” Doctor.

Tennant is promising. As with the untitled Children in Need special and The Christmas Invasion (2005), my primary, trivial, criticism at this point in time, is that I find his occasionally-high-pitched voice irritating. Here, he is as quirky and eccentric as his previous outings implied; and morally self-righteous (“HOW MANY?!”) and self-mythologizing (“There is no higher authority”). I do not care for this “lonely God” business, though. Unfortunately, his outraged scenes do not develop the traditional ‘animal experimentation’ debate. From the given information, the moral of the story is ‘don’t keep zombies in cells in your basement detained via a simple and collective open-close switch’. Or something. However, as I noted in my Christmas review, this ‘superficial’ presentation of moral issues does allow the individual viewer to interpret them as he/she pleases. Regardless, a third fine and enjoyable performance from Tennant.

Unfortunately, our introduction to the detained ‘zombies’ heralds the onset of major absurdities in plotting. For instance, Cassandra no longer requires her “psychograft” for body-swapping. Furthermore, the Doctor’s solution to The Night of the Living Dead, as you will see, is blatantly impractical (whereas, of course, the rest of Doctor Who is not…). Nonetheless, it is all entertaining and engaging, with fine performances from the primary dramatis personae, and the supporting cast: Cassandra’s Welsh sidekick Chip (Sean Gallagher); and the Sisters Matron Casp, Sister Jatt, and Novice Hame (respectively: Dona Croll, Adjoa Andoh, and Anna Hope). As are the petrifold regression-ailed Duke of Manhattan and bespectacled Frau Clovis (Michael Fitzgerald and Lucy Robinson). James Hawes directs.

Is this production suitable for you?

The verdict: 3/5. Relentless, surreal, well-acted, engaging, and sometimes amusing; New Earth requires the suspension of disbelief. Not perfect, but another fun romp from the regular writer. An appropriate series-starter.

Target audience(s): General. Based upon my experiences, it is light-hearted and watchable enough for most viewers.

Certificate recommendation: U-PG. ‘Zombies’. A few minor sexual allusions children will overlook. Nothing major, and given today’s desensitized audiences, I feel PG is probably pushing it. Colourful atmosphere. (Being cheeky, that probably equates with an ‘18’ from the BBFC, who have not been desensitized since the Fifties… [But, then I am stereotyping somewhat])





Army of Ghosts/DoomsdayBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Robin Calvert

RTD's single biggest contribution to DR. WHO has been velocity of dramatic impact & pace of storytelling. And in ARMY OF GHOSTS/DOOMSDAY he penned a true epic. Daleks & Cybermen for the first time. The prison ship, the last remaining part of Gallifrey, housing millions of elevating Daleks above central London. In fact, there's a catalogue of iconic moments in every episode, all of which have been comparable to a film. Surely any potential film series shouldn't compete with new stories, but launch a long-running franchise to remake the classic old (eg: INVASION).

The cameos worked because of the ghost context and the fact they weren't dwelt on. But it was quite brave to include Barbara Windsor's Peggy Mitchell making references to Dirty Den, given the wife who turned him into a ghost was present in the shape of the attractive Tracy Ann Oberman. Now if DR. WHO ever becomes a woman, which seems increasingly likely, I hope Tracy Ann is it. Yvonne Hartman's journey concluded when duty led her to open the floodgates to a Cybermen invasion which threatened her very dominance at Torchwood. But even then her strength of character was enough to subvert the Cyber-programming and turn it around. In fact, she was never more human than once turned into a Cyberman (and never more like a Cyberman than when recognisably human). A triumph for the human spirit. The tear from the Cyber-head tear-hole was a lovely touch.

The Cyber-army stomping through suburbia was quintessential DR. WHO wonderfully brought to life by the 21st Century team. Door off hinges from low angle. Cyberman comes marching in. Family cower in terror on the stairs. Young boy runs upstairs for refuge. Too late. The Cyberman wants him too! Pure behind the sofa stuff. Has no one noticed that the 2006 Cybermen sound like the alien ambassadors in THE AMBASSADORS OF DEATH? Pleasingly, I might add.

DOOMSDAY was likely the best episode of Series 2. Certainly the most powerful.

The punchy repartee challenged the presumption that Daleks & Cybermen should remain characterless. Dalek to Cyberman: "You're better at dying". True. Daleks can get out of control a bit too much. Their combined firepower was explosive, but I was surprised the battle was so one-sided, given the Cybermen are the 2nd most awesome aliens of classic WHO and were the main threat of the 2006 series (four episodes). However, given the Nation estate's robust stance, they probably insisted no one Dalek could be exterminated by a Cyberman! It might have been better had Daleks & Cybermen not fought each other, but concentrated their fire-power on the Army (the UN seem to have done UNIT in) and the humans. Even so, I'd hope for an "upgrade" and a rematch.

The look on The Doctor's face as Rose is sucked back into the parallel world. We didn't think Rose & Jackie would be joining Mickey, let alone that Jackie would get back what she'd been missing all these years - Pete. Their "reunion" across universes was moving stuff and Camille Coudouri's put-downs of The Doctor ("I think he makes half of this up", "shut up", etc) were funny and natural. Jackie was the Voice of the Unconvinced Mum of a Fan from the days when women apparently didn't really watch it. Her daughter was instrumental in getting them tuned in. Rose's attempts to stop her normal-universe Pete from being killed in FATHER'S DAY can now be seen to anticipate how it's ended for the Tyler clan. It was also poetic that, in the end, Pete rescued Rose from death and returned the compliment. So, the Ood were wrong about her dying in battle. Their telepathy couldn't read that she went into a parallel universe, it just stopped at ours - that she was on a list of the dead.

The scene with The Doctor & Rose either side of the dividing wall, guitar/vocal mood music playing = heart-wrenching. The unusual framing of Rose's journey for the encounter on the beach, which completely revealed the Bad Wolf subplot. The Doctor warning Rose that their final goodbye might risk two universes colliding, her "so" and his smiling tacit understanding of that mood proves he has got two beating hearts and bagfuls of emotions. He knows what it's like. And of course the final tragedy: that he never did get to say "I love you" and Rose's weeping torment. The single biggest emotional departure for any companion ever. It had more clout than the end of last season and that's saying something - although we knew from the offset Eccleston was leaving and we've only just found out about Billie moving on.

Two traumatic companion goodbyes in one season - and that's before getting to the departure of Jackie, Mickey & Pete. The ending of DOOMSDAY reflected SCHOOL REUNION in that you don't expect The Doctor to meet up with Rose or Sarah again. It makes SCHOOL REUNION all the more poignant, having Sarah and Rose together, signposting Rose's future without him. It had been building up to Rose's departure for awhile with little hints and a good idea to raise expectations with her warning prologue. It's also instructive for new viewers who knew next to nothing about the programme before March 2005. Then again, everyone else came back from the parallel world and Daleks & Cybermen will return because "that's what they do". And when Billie said "for the moment at least", maybe she'll guest in TORCHWOOD. She's working for the parallel organisation after all and I would have thought the Time Rift in Cardiff offered potential...

Now The Doctor's lost his new family, he's back at square 1 again. I reckon we'll be seeing a more sombre Doctor in 2007. I think the characterisation will change to reflect circumstances, as it should.





Army of Ghosts/DoomsdayBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Rob Littlewood

A War. The Cybermen. The Daleks. An epic season finale. The end of Rose Tyler.

How could these episodes fail?

‘Army of Ghosts’ sets the scene and builds the tension and drama; we’re promised so much by the episode end and left with a cliff hanger to end all cliff hangers, a Dalek and Cybermen war.

‘Doomsday’ has a lot to deliver but besides a really cool sequence on a bridge where a group of humans make a stand against a squadron of Cybermen, most of the action takes place off screen or in the skies above London, where some shaky CGed Daleks take out the earthbound Cybermen.

Like ‘The Parting of the Ways’ last year, the episodes are resolved with a sprinkling of fairy dust…the Doctor flicks a few switches, reverses the polarity of the neutron flow (or whatever) and sends the massive armies of the Daleks and Cybermen to hell. It’s all too easy…it’s lazy…and it’s poor writing. Before the fighting gets going proper and we get to see who really holds the cup for Masters of the Universe, the whole lot are sucked into the void. What a let down.

These new Daleks are once again left over from the Time War, but this time around they hilariously throw a few bitchy taunts at the Cybermen. In a war of words, the Daleks win, hands down.

There’s a nice little scene where Jackie meets Pete but this only really serves to halt the action once more and in all honesty, we’ve only really tuned in to watch the Daleks and the Cybermen kick arse. Jake appears once again from ‘The Age of Steel’ and confirms he certainly wasn’t hired for his acting ability (hey, Russell) and those celebrating cameo’s from ‘Army of Ghosts’, although not as grating as the ones from ‘Badwolf’ are once again intrusive, embarrassing and inappropriate and to top it all Catherine Tate appears in the final seconds as the Runaway Bride. Why Russell, why? Have you forgotten Hale and Pace or Ken Dodd? It takes all the credibility from your show and makes it silly and camp.

After initially loathing David Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor, I’ve grown to love it and would go as far as to consider him amongst the best actors ever to have gone by the name of Who.

Billie Piper however, was just about to pass her sell-by-date, so maybe it’s just as well she’s left when she has. It’s a fitting end to a great character as Rose has seemed a little awkward and occasionally stilted this season, still; she goes out with style and ultimately saves the day. The final sequence on the beach in Wales (sorry, Norway) is both touching and moving, and here is where Russell is in his element.

The design is what, like last season, let’s the programme down.

‘Welcome to Torchwood…’ cries Yvonne Hartman and flings her arms out to reveal a very drab warehouse in Cardiff with CGed saucer stuck on the ceiling, later the control room/lever room looks more like the interior of my local Halifax Building Society. The whole thing looks and feels mundane and dreary with the only real attention and thought having been lavished on the interior of the Dalek Spaceship last season.

For a Sci-Fi series, cutting edge design this ain’t.

Alien worlds we were promised this season and we got New Earth, a grassy knoll with Playstation flying cars, a barren rock orbiting a black hole and a few seconds of a totally CGed world with flying dinosaurs (quite liked this one), but please can we have somewhere other than London, Cardiff, Cardiff pretending to be London or Cardiff pretending to be somewhere else.

So, season two has come to its conclusion. Rose has departed. Catherine Tate has, hopefully temporarily, joined the Doctor in the Tardis. Am I bothered though…well, yes actually I am.

I fell in love with Doctor Who many years ago, when I was 4. Maybe the show isn’t aimed at me or my generation anymore, maybe I should switch off and enjoy Battlestar Galactica but quite frankly I want to see good, home-grown British Sci-Fi and more importantly the latest adventures of my favourite Time Lord. And they could be so, so much better than this.





Army of Ghosts/DoomsdayBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Patrick Leach

For as long as I can remember being a Doctor Who fan I loved the monsters that were widely considered to be the two most popular of the series - the Daleks and the Cybermen. They were both such iconic monsters and I could never decide which race was my personal favourite. They both featured in so many stories throughout the original series’ run, and so one thing always struck me as a little odd. Bearing in mind both species were considered to be probably the deadliest of the Doctor’s foes in the universe how come we never saw them in a story together? You’d think they’d have bumped into one another at some point in time and space, and yet the Daleks never once met or even mentioned the Cybermen in any of their episodes or vice versa. I know “The Ultimate Adventure” stage play in 1989 had them both in it together, but you can’t really count that. Neither can you really count stories like “The War Games” or “The Five Doctors” where the Daleks and Cybermen only appeared as flashback sequences and as enemies in different parts of the Death Zone - but were never actually together or in the same scenes. So as a fan the ultimate Doctor Who story for me was to see the Daleks and the Cybermen face each other, and at long last RTD has provided that story for us!

It all begins very well in voice-over scenes where Rose talks about the story of how she “died”. A great pre-title sequence and a wonderful “hook” to make sure you stay tuned to see how her story pans out.

“Army of Ghosts” mainly serves as a build-up to the episode’s cliff-hanger, but nevertheless it is a very engaging episode. The appearances of the ghosts are well handled and intriguing, and the scene where the ghost of Jackie’s dad appears is wonderful, even if we do know that it can’t really be him.

Murray Gold’s music is particularly good here. I even liked his strange “poppy” soundtrack that accompanied the scenes with David Tennant whilst he’s doing his “Ghostbusters” act! The scenes where we first see the sphere too are wonderful and I think Murray Gold’s score here is one of his best.

Torchwood was very intriguing, but I’m a bit baffled as to why the Doctor has not come across them before. And where was UNIT?

Graeme Harper still proves to us that he can direct some classic stuff! His low-angle shot of the Cyberman breaking through the front door of a suburban house made it seem so menacing, and to top that when the child runs up the stairs another Cyberman appears! Now that scared ME so lord know how the kids will feel about that!! I also loved the scenes where the Cybermen cut their way through the plastic sheeting - definitely a nod to “Tomb of the Cybermen” there!! The ghosts appearing and then revealing themselves as Cybermen was certainly a thrill and I was thinking to myself here “how on earth is the Doctor going to defeat them this time?!” Then of course we had the thrill of the sphere opening to reveal the Daleks! How cool was that?!

And so on to the confrontation between the Cybermen and Daleks….. brilliant! It was such a great scene where they meet each other for the first time! The Daleks exterminated the Cybermen pretty easily and I have to admit that I really wanted to see a Cyberman grab at least one Dalek by its plunger and crush the damned thing!! Oh well it was still good to see them in battle together.

The acting was very good all round in this story too. Tracy Oberman was very scene stealing as the head of Torchwood, and it was a pity that she was dispatched so early on in the second part. Seeing her reappear as a Cyberman was interesting, but bearing in mind she destroyed a few other Cybermen in this scene are we to assume that her “upgrading” wasn’t a success? This wasn't too clear to me as to what happened.

It was good to see Mickey back too. His character has come such a long way since his first appearance, and I always felt sorry for him. I really wanted to slap the Doctor and Rose because I thought they treated him like he was just a big joke, and so it was great to see him here in all his heroic glory so that he could stick two fingers up to them!!

Of course as soon as Pete Tyler turned up it became pretty obvious to me how the story was going to end…….. and I was right!! Rose, Jackie, Pete and Mickey all live happily ever after in the parallel world. I was sorry to see Rose go, but I think they’ve done enough with her character now in the series. Two seasons seems pretty good for Billie Piper and I think she’s been a great companion, even though she did start to irritate me at times during this last season.

I’m in two minds about the ending. I liked it to a certain degree, but for me it was a little too over dramatic and far too long. I could never take to the “soapy” elements of this new Doctor Who as the classic series concentrated more on the story itself and the menace they were facing, and not dwelling on the soap elements. Rose turning to the Doctor and saying “I love you” was just bloody awful. The Doctor has always bonded well with his companions, but I could never get to grips with Rose and the Doctor being “in love”. I just hope that when the series returns for its third year they don’t dwell on soap too much.

I wasn’t overly keen on the way Catherine Tate suddenly turned up like that in the Tardis either!!

Anyway these are minor criticisms as I thoroughly enjoyed the “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday” as a whole, and alongside “Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel” this is my favourite story this season.