Revenge of the Swarm (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Monday, 29 September 2014 - Reviewed by Richard Watts

Revenge of the Swarm
Written by Jonathan Morris
Directed by Ken Bentley
Released: Aug 2014 by Big Finish

Both a prequel and a sequel to 1977’s Fourth Doctor story, The Invisible Enemy, the latest adventure for the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) picks up where 2013’s Afterlife left off. Hex (Philip Olivier), now known as Hector, and in possession of an entirely new set of memories, has re-joined the TARDIS crew, and his relationship with Ace has grown more intimate. Unfortunately, his condition has also left him psychically vulnerable: in the opening minutes of the adventure Hector is infected by The Swarm – a telepathic virus with delusions of grandeur that has lain in wait inside the TARDIS for centuries, having previously been defeated by the Fourth Doctor and Leela.

What follows is a solid but somewhat by-the-numbers story involving return visits to two prominent locations from The Invisible Enemy: Titan Base and the Bi-Al Foundation (aka the Centre for Alien Biomorphology), though at different time periods from the original television story. And just as part three of The Invisible Enemy ventured into a new, albeit derivative location, so too does part three of Revenge of the Swarm. Instead of Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s pastiche of the Sixties SF film Fantastic Voyage, however, writer and stand-in script editor Jonathan Morris references a more recent film, 1982’s Tron, in this audio adventure.

Major scenes in parts three and four of Revenge of the Swarm take place inside the Hypernet: a galaxy-connecting virtual world whose visual representation doesn’t seem to have much evolved beyond William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, in which Gibson described cyberspace as: “A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.” In Revenge of the Swarm, Morris similarly and somewhat unimaginatively describes the Hypernet through the mouths of Ace and the Doctor as resembling “glowing green lines of numbers in the sky … square buildings and skyscrapers but as outlines… symbolic representations of blocks of memory”.

Morris’ predictable depiction of the Hypernet extends to his plotting as a whole; his attempt to echo the plot beats of The Invisible Enemy results in a story that is serviceable, but rarely exciting; and its appropriation of Eighties’ cultural touchstones such as Tron lack the inventive flourishes that made similar pastiches during the Holmes-Hinchcliffe years so memorable.

Performances too are sometimes lacking, particularly Olivier, who comes across as unnecessarily leaden, almost somnambulistic in the scenes where he is possessed by the Swarm (especially in comparison to Michael Sheard’s vibrant performance as a similarly-possessed Supervisor Lowe in The Invisible Enemy); even McCoy seems a little bored, rolling his R’s constantly as if trying to bring some life to the script. Thankfully John Leeson, returning after 37 years as the Nucleus of the Swarm, brings some much-needed flair to the production. Supporting characters are consistently well presented, especially Phyllida Nash as Professor Oksana Kilbraken, whose invention of a particular cloning technique plays a key role in both The Invisible Enemy and the first two episodes of this new adventure.

Given that Revenge of the Swarm is the first real adventure for this new version of Hex following his introduction in Afterlife, it’s also surprising that the story is one in which he is immediately possessed, a scenario which denies both Morris as writer, and Olivier as performer, the chance to explore more of what makes Hector unique. Nor does this plot device provide the opportunity to flesh out the changed dynamics between Hector, Ace and the Doctor. It remains to be seen whether Hector’s new personality and its ramifications for a TARDIS crew who’ve been traveling together for a decade will be more successfully explored in future audio adventures.

Another problematic aspect of the script highlights issues that current Big Finish writers face with Ace: her cultural touchstones suddenly include films outside her era, such as 1999’s The Matrix, suggesting her character has evolved in the years since Ace was last seen on television. This impression is later contradicted by her curious naiveté concerning the story’s technology (“What exactly does a neural interface helmet do,” she asks in episode three, as if its self-explanatory name would not be obvious to someone who’s travelled with the Doctor as long as Ace has) and especially by her unwavering loyalty to the Doctor, when she tells Hector in the final scenes of Revenge of the Swarm that: “The Doctor’s right; he’s always come through in the end, without fail.” Fans know that McCoy’s manipulative Seventh Doctor has let Ace down before; a conundrum that’s difficult to reconcile with earlier impressions that she’s grown as a character since 1989’s Survival.

On a positive note, the dynamic between Aldred and McCoy is as strong as ever; a scene in which Ace tells the Doctor, as he prepares to enter the Hypernet, that “You don’t think I’m letting you go in there on your own?” has the perfect mix of exasperation and camaraderie; a simple but charmingly effective summation of the well-established bond between these two iconic characters.

The Invisible Enemy memorably introduced a now much-loved new companion to Doctor Who in the form of K9, as well as heralding what was to become a progressively lighter tone to the series in subsequent seasons. It’s unlikely that this by-the-numbers Big Finish adventure will prove to be as significant, in hindsight, in another 37 years’ time.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Audio - Seventh Doctor - 1781783306

The Brood of Erys (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Sunday, 28 September 2014 - Reviewed by Tom Buxton

The Brood Of Erys
Written by Andrew Smith
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released: Feb 2014 by Big Finish

The Brood of Erys packs a classic Doctor Who premise – arriving in a star system containing just a single planet and its accompanying moon, as well as an array of radio beacons lining its boundaries, the TARDIS intercepts a mysterious transmission informing its crew that their lives will be in jeopardy should they venture any further. Naturally, the Doctor and Flip (Lisa Greenwood) travel into the metaphorical heart of the danger zone, only to find themselves and their vessel latched onto by a family of “curious” extraterrestrial beings called the Drachee (think the Slitheen, but with subtler and less frequent expressions of gaseous exchange and, mercifully, far less slapstick humour).

There’s something charmingly innocent about the concept of a horde of alien toddlers exploring the deepest recesses of the TARDIS in order to simply learn more of the unknown (not least due to the high-pitched voice of their leader) – and something inherently hilarious about the characteristically melodramatic and agitated reaction offered by Colin Baker’s incarnation of the Doctor – yet as is virtually always the case in narratives taking place within the so-called Whoniverse, the situation turns sour in a matter of moments. Flip is taken hostage by those same individuals who claimed themselves to pose “no danger” whatsoever, while her self-appointed protector is forced to take refuge on a damaged space yacht – and, soon enough, the planet Asphya itself – with an amnesia-prone female humanoid who can’t remember her own name, let alone her dark history or the influence it’ll have on events to come.

In spite of the commendable sense of scale conveyed by these initial eventful set-pieces, Brood’s narrative comes to focus far more on psychological demons than it does physical antagonists, a rare attribute which previously worked to great effect in televised serials such as 42 and Midnight and which certainly doesn’t do the story any harm in terms of building the intrigue surrounding its constructs and the somehow-sentient moon of Erys. Central to writer Andrew Smith’s prolonged investigation of the inner workings of the mind is this notion of an intelligent planetoid and the ramifications its sudden (or gradual) metamorphosis could have for its inhabitants. Of course, as plot elements go, a sentient moon is by no means a completely original addition to the series’ lore (although one might argue that nearly fifty-one years on from November 23rd, 1963, it’s nigh-on impossible for today’s scribes to give birth to wholly unique antagonists) – The Doctor’s Wife’s House comes to mind as a recent example of how such a conceit can be implemented efficiently within the realms of modern science-fiction (and, indeed, modern Who) – so it’s a great relief to see Smith take such a contrasting approach to his predecessors, intertwining the arcs of the aforementioned amnesiac, the Drachee (who offer up an all manner of simultaneously humorous and quasi-philosophical insights into the current predicament facing Erys and the system as a whole) and the spherical landmass which gives this particular audio drama its name to such an extent that one can’t fail to be swept up by the mystery surrounding both of them.

That said, while Smith undoubtedly manages to subvert expectations of the traditional representation of adversaries who attack via the mind rather than through any physical manifestation, Brian Shelley’s voice work as the mental embodiment of Erys isn’t quite so successful in this regard. Sure, there’s genuine enthusiasm and vigour present in Shelley’s portrayal of one of the more abstract (and therefore challenging) forces conceived by the minds of Big Finish in recent years, but when it’s juxtaposed with Michael Sheen’s chilling vocal contribution to Neil Gaiman’s aforementioned 2011 TV story, it’s all but pointless to attempt to argue that the former performance is anywhere near as memorable or layered – instead, it comes off as rather derivative, as if Shelley has dedicated a considerable amount of his spare time to watching psychologically investigative serials like The Brain of Morbius in order to hone his contribution to the ever-expanding world of Doctor Who spin-offs (if such a term can even begin to do justice to the increasingly accomplished and ambitious work of Big Finish and its various writing teams) rather than focusing on putting his own engaging spin on the dialogue afforded to him in the notably generous script (that several scenes rely wholly on his ability to match and / or surpass Lisa Greenwood’s evident enduring passion and conviction doesn’t help matters either).

If Shelley is the play’s weakest link, then Baker and Greenwood are easily the two central components which (in tandem with the near-unparalleled intelligence of Smith’s delicately-structured and thematically subversive storyline) hold it all together. Both of these talented thespians have had more than enough time to develop their portrayals and to tailor them to cater for the preferences of Big Finish’s constantly expanding Doctor Who-orientated fandom and, unsurprisingly, they’ve done so with enviable ease, to the extent that they’re now seemingly able to transform even the most exposition-centric sequences into dramatically engaging exchanges that reward the attentive listener in unexpected ways regardless of whether or not they feed directly into the narrative’s denouement. The sixth Doctor in particular is taken completely and utterly out of his comfort zone as the situation at hand shifts out of his control and unseen forces manipulate proceedings in order to suit their own ends, instantly enabling Baker to flex his performing muscles as his character’s increasingly desperate attempts to rally against his newfound nemeses begin to seem more and more futile.

After months upon months of mediocrity, then, Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio dramas may well have found their footing once again with The Brood of Erys. Andrew Smith – unlike several of his esteemed predecessors - doesn’t rely on the series’ past tropes in order to strengthen the credibility of his tale, nor does he integrate needlessly contrived references to classic or modern serials in a similar vein to those scribes who fear that they’ll lose their listeners’ attention should they neglect to include such call-backs in the mix. There’s still room to improve in future sixth Doctor productions, of course – perhaps it’d be worth Smith becoming more involved with the casting process when it comes to selecting a truly accomplished voice actor to portray his next storyline’s central antagonist, since Brood’s brilliantly subversive script certainly more than warranted such talent – but to paraphrase John Hurt’s already-beloved War Doctor, for now, for this moment, this is the show we’ve come to know and love again.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Audio - Sixth Doctor - 1781782997

The CaretakerBookmark and Share

Saturday, 27 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

Written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat
Directed by Paul Murphy
Starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Ellis George
Premiere 27 September 2014, BBC One
Clara Oswald had been doing a good job of leading a triple life lately, but something had to give.
She was already a teacher of unruly teenagers at Coal Hill, and assistant/carer/conscience to a newly unpredictable Time Lord to start with. As if those two factors weren't enough to contend with, now she's in a new relationship too, with Danny Pink. She's struggling to keep them separate, as she careers breathlessly between adventures and dates. She's eating two dinners in a row, going for a run after running down corridors, fishing seaweed from her hair. She's flagging. The control freak in her is working overtime trying to keep her worlds from overlapping. She seems slightly uncomfortable that the kids all know about her and Danny. She really doesn't want the Doctor and Danny even knowing about each other. So, when a very familiar looking relief Caretaker shows up in the Coal Hill staff room, she's appalled, and Danny instantly suspects that Clara already knows this man...

The Doctor is being proactive again, and has decided to go 'deep cover' to sniff out the threat. His version of deep cover is to basically put on an overcoat. His latest incarnation can't be bothered to try and fit in with the natives, particularly the P.E. Teachers. He makes angry signs, disrupts lessons, and even breezily shows pupil-with-attitude Courtney the TARDIS interior. Imagine if this incarnation had been the one exiled to Earth, he would have gone stir crazy. The Brigadier would probably have had him locked up next to the Master.

The threat is the deadly robotic Skovox Blitzer, drawn to the area by decades-worth of artron energy. It's a curious thing, another lone-gunman, a diminutive metallic soldier awaiting orders - scurrying around like a toy Racnoss. It's certainly very good at blowing things up - and people, like that poor Policeman, who meets a grisly end.

It's not a great villain, and although the design is novel, it's hard to believe that this critter could really take out the entire world. This series is getting quite robot-heavy. That said, this story isn't about the Skovox Blitzer. It's about the Doctor and Danny's relationships with Clara, and how they meet and reluctantly reach a grudging respect for each other, despite this Doctor's pronounced dislike of soldiers, a theme that has been prominent in this series, and looks to continue. 

The Doctor and Danny predictably clash, it's an interesting clash too, as normally when presented with a boyfriend figure it's not so much of a fair fight. Danny, being more of an alpha male, gives as good as he gets. Clara, meanwhile, doesn't end up having to choose between the men in her life, but does blurt out that she loves Danny. This, and Danny's inevitable role in the resolution help his case with the Doctor, who wants to know she's with someone good enough for her. Danny, meanwhile, wants to know Clara is safe. Although all three are at peace at the end of the episode, there's clearly something building, and we're probably due some turbulence and heartbreak soon.

Capaldi, Coleman, and Anderson are all excellent in this. Capaldi gets some zingers from Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat's very funny script, and also the chance to run the gamut from boredom, rage, and a knowing little moment of vanity when he mistakes another teacher for Clara's boyfriend. His Doctor also gets to bond with the equally bolshy Courtney, who's back next week for a trip to the Moon, where bad things are likely to happen. Jenna Coleman gets better and better every episode, Clara continues to come into her own, and her chemistry with Capaldi is a joy to watch. She's equally good in a quieter way with Anderson, who continues to knock it out of the park with a subtle, well-judged performance.

The only criticism? More threat next time please. Although, looking at the teaser for next week, there's unlikely to be a shortage of that. See you on the Moon.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

The Last Of The Colophon (Big Finish)Bookmark and Share

Friday, 26 September 2014 - Reviewed by Ben Breen

Last Of The Colophon
Written by Jonathan Morris
Directed by Nicholas Briggs
Released: May 2014 by Big Finish

The fourth Doctor, accompanied by Leela, lands the TARDIS on a world designated by an orbiting spacecraft’s rather sceptical crew as a “lifeless grey rock”.

On yet another attempt to go for a holiday, they exit the TARDIS, finding nothing but a dry empty landscape, with rather “bracing” temperatures. This, in short, summarises the opening 5 or so minutes of the Last of the Colophon, the fifth episode of season 3 of the Fourth Doctor Adventures range.

Subsequently, a man, identified as Morax, is awoken by a computerised voice, relating the Doctor and Leela’s arrival. Morax also learns of the presence of the orbiting ship, which he orders to be kept under observation.

Leela and the Doctor, after seeing a vapour trail from the planet’s surface, resolve to go and meet the crew of the spaceship, the Time Lord remarking that they could give them a “guided tour” of the desolate ruin that was once a city. The comedic aspects of the Doctor’s character, as well as Leela’s seemingly constant sense of unease, allow for some rather humorous moments here, as well as allowing the occupants of the ship, now seen clearly as a survey vessel, to be introduced.

We meet a robotic nurse by the name of Torvik, seemingly intent on keeping Morax imprisoned while life-forms arrive and leave outside. However, he is not as powerless as he appears, up to now breathing through a respirator and moving via the aid of a wheelchair. He removes the citadels shielding and activates the distress signal, which the survey team manage to pick up, angering the sadistic Nurse Torvik in the process.

The survey team, along with the two Time travellers, are allowed entry to the Citadel by Morax, who is now shown to be far more resourceful than when we first encountered him. Asteroth Morax states that he was a scientist and is the eponymous “last of the Colophon”. Horribly disfigured, with his legs in a state of atrophy, kept in a “half-life for centuries”. This “persuasive case” convinces the Doctor to help, working with deputy surveyor Sutton of the Oligarch.

The story then takes a chilling turn, giving rise to a sequence that is not unlike something from a modern first-person shooter. Ending the first episode on a rather retro-inspired cliff-hanger, with his companion’s life in the balance the doctor must choose wisely if they are to survive.

The second episode does contain some clever writing, with the doctor’s objections to the many misrepresentations of his sonic screwdriver definitely being worthy of note. The familiar sequences of running through corridors are also present. The plotline of the second episode, whilst also being as gripping as the first, seems at first glance to be shorter and rather rushed. But for those readers/listeners in fear of having overpaid for an adventure, things only get more interesting. A few plot threads that were unresolved and unanswered come into their own, with the ending being a very satisfactory conclusion

The writing in this episode is well suited to the era, along with the score, whose suspenseful notes and background presence make the important moments stand out and the chilling ones attain a dark tone. The genius and madness of the villain of the piece is rather similar to that of Davros, although said antagonist does show signs of restraint when faced with a situation that requires cooperation from hostages.

This episode draws parallels to the very first episode of The Sirens of Time, featuring a wheelchair bound prisoner held on a planet that isn’t quite what it seems.

The casting compliments the clever and humorous writing well, with every character having their own comedic lines and moments in equal measure.

To conclude, this story is somewhat of a rollercoaster ride, with twists and turns that you wouldn’t really expect. Additionally, a notable point of this drama is that not only does it feel very authentic to the fourth doctor era, but it also feels longer than previous stories in the range. Whether that is because of the intricately crafted plot, or just the fact that the story is one that draws you in, it is difficult to tell. I would urge anyone who is a fan of the suspenseful classic era of Doctor Who to give this one a look as well as anyone who just wants a good story to listen to.

FILTER: - Big Finish - Fourth Doctor - Audio - 1781782946

Doctor Who FAQBookmark and Share

Sunday, 21 September 2014 - Reviewed by Virginia Cerezo

Doctor Who FAQ
Written by Dave Thompson
Publisher: Applause Theatre Book Publishers
Available from Amazon UK
Available from Amazon USA

As the author states in the introduction, this is not a Doctor Who encyclopaedia, nor a guide, but “the story of all of the Doctor’s adventures,” and that is indeed what one gets to read.

A British ex-pat, Thompson writes a book mostly orientated towards new viewers, people who probably discovered the show by the end of Matt Smith’s tenure, or who just went on board because they were already Peter Capaldi fans. In any case, what this book offers is a detailed story of the show’s history, from its creation to its demise in the 1980s and its reboot in 2005. Of course, there is a detailed account of all the Doctors, the companions and the villains of the show -needless to say, the Daleks have their own chapter.

The funny thing about this introductory book (which also contains plenty of new and useful information for the Doctor Who connoisseurs) is that Thompson is not afraid to share his personal opinion. After all, this is a very intimate book, written by someone who witnessed the birth of the show back in 1963 and who grew up with it. That way, anyone who has never watched Doctor Who and decides to give it a try, will probably feel biased and influenced by Thompson’s own tastes, instantly disliking the Sixth Doctor (and I say dislike in an effort to avoid the word “hate”) and Matt Smith’s Eleventh, as well as companions Rory and Amy, whose stay at the TARDIS he considers “a nest of domestic tedium.” They are not the only ones, though, as he shares his views on every companion (he could not stand Adric, Mel or Peri and does not even consider Grace Holloway as one).

These are Thompson’s memoirs of his life as a Doctor Who fan, so he talks about every companion and Doctor with the knowledge of an expert, one that simply tells you whom he liked and whom he did not, as it is expected. Or maybe I am okay with it because he loves David Tennant’s Tenth and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler, who happen to be my Doctor and my companion.

The book is written with wit and in a compelling way that allows the reader to learn more about the history of Doctor Who, but it is especially helpful for those who joined the show’s fandom after its comeback in 2005, because it contains an impressive amount of stories and facts from the series’ first stint, information that surely helps understand many thing from the new Doctor Who. Because in the end, 50 years is a lot of time. There are so many episodes, novels, audiobooks, comics... The so-called Whoniverse comprises a huge amount of material than can get lost in the mind of a fan, and that is exactly what Thompson wants to avoid, by collecting all the necessary information a Whovian needs to know.

After all, if each one of us wrote a book about our Doctor Who life experience, it would look pretty much like this one. And that is what makes it a must-read.

(If you want to read more from a Doctor Who fanatic, you can visit my blog )

FILTER: - Book - Factual - 1557838542

Time HeistBookmark and Share

Saturday, 20 September 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Time Heist
Written by Steve Thompson and Steven Moffat
Directed by Douglas Mackinnon
Premiere, 20 September 2014, BBC One

The Doctor and Clara are drafted in by a mysterious figure called the 'Architect' to rob the bank of Karabraxos - one of the most secure and dangerous monetary institutions in all the universe. Along with a cyborg /human hybrid named Psi (Broadchurch’s Jonathan Bailey) and a mutant shape-changer called Saibra (The Smoke's Pippa Bennett-Warne) the chase is on to secure something of great value. And just as vitally: to understand why all four of them have had their recent memories erased by their own volition!

Once again events are set in motion by a telephone call made to the Doctor's Tardis. Clara is thinking of her next meeting with Danny, but a normal life with romance is not that simple for someone who assists the Doctor in his adventures.

A clever edit is made to a later point in time, with amnesia being deliberately chosen by the four bank robbers. All of this comes together to form a very snappy and enticing pre credits sequence. Steven Moffat knew this opening would be a cut above the average and has gone on record as saying as much. It would be a real shame were the casual viewer to miss the start time by five minutes and be left to wander what is going on a little too much.

The two 'extra' companions on this mission both are easily distinguished. Psi is a die-hard gamer with a somewhat shaky record in staying on the straight and narrow. Rather endearingly his half-computer status results in his voice being prone to switching to a robotic tone under stress. His record of theft plays into a big crescendo of decision making as the episode really clicks into top gear. And shape shifter Salibra has some back-story she'd rather keep to herself. Despite a kindly persona she is rather unsettling in being so conversant with assuming others' visual identities. All the same, her special ability is crucial in order for the Doctor's party to casually walk into the Bank with their express aim of pulling off the 'heist'.

Alien creatures stand out in this colourful instalments. Memory worms are an unsettling but actually benign 'cameo' monster, whose function is actually to introduce the conceit of a gang of four who must figure out why they are suddenly together. The main alien creature, the Teller is a more important new addition to Doctor Who's huge menagerie, and has something of a minotaur aspect to its design. Although in some ways this foe is similar to the entity from 'The God Complex' it is also very different at the same time. The sequence in which an apparently dodgy businessman pays a heavy price for his misdemeanours relating to the Bank is a very effective 'behind the sofa' sequence. Although little is known about this somewhat unfortunate victim the scene ends up being simultaneously dark satire and sheer horror. There is also an uttering by the Doctor of the word 'soup' which will stick in viewers' minds. Peter Capaldi certainly knows how to make the most mundane sounding sentences have an edge to them.

The Teller's main role as a brain eater is sufficiently scary and memorable. However there is no question that the most malicious and cruel antagonist is villainess Miss Delphox - played by Keeley Hawes (Ashes to Ashes). We are even led to have sympathy for the monster, as it is harnessed to cause damage to enemies of the Bank, by being kept in either chains or in a form of cocoon. Furthermore Delphox manipulates the Teller to dispose of a nuisance individual or two and describes the action as 'account deleted' and generally struts about the Bank giving out orders in a nonchalant way. Evidently the Doctor will have to use his keenest wits to come up with a solution against such an antagonist.. except the finale has a twist where our Time Lord icon gets help from the most unlikely of sources.

Given the title of the episode the actual 'Mission Impossible' material is given suitably sufficient screen time to build up, and then pays off in a fluid and engaging way. The uncertainty over the Architect's identity and whether he is someone to dislike is well done and the eventual twist over his motives is certainly one which may surprise the viewer; although I would imagine a certain number can perhaps be ahead of where Moffat and Thompson had imagined the general viewer to be.

The regulars are once again very enjoyable to watch. Capaldi is still growing from episode to episode, and I sincerely hope he will stay the standard three years in the title role if not substantially longer. He can go from being icy-cold to bubbly and optimistic in a heartbeat, and he is so definitively alien. Even with a cyborg and shape shifter for company, he stands out like a mega-watt light bulb. Many lines of dialogue feel so well-suited to him, and he gets to emphasise why his distinctive eyebrows should afford him 'authority'.

Clara is now somewhat back to traditional companion territory like a number of her episodes in 2013, but still the after-effects of episodes like Deep Breath and Listen are here to stay. The Doctor's expression makes clear that sees her as someone not to talk down to although he very much wants to be the leader and the one to inspire others to greater heights. And yet the emotions conveyed in the Robin Hood episode are also on show - right at the end of the story, as the Twelth Doctor displays a fit of pique and childishness. Overall both leads' performances make clear the various levels upon which The TARDIS crew dynamic works on.

I did think on seeing the name of Steven Thompson that this could be a somewhat flat episode like 'The Curse of the Black Spot' and 'Journey to the Centre of The Tardis' were. Instead this is perfectly solid and engaging and feels just right in its one-part/ 45 minute format. One nitpick I have is that the Doctor tells Clara not to 'think' in a manner reminiscent to combating the Weeping Angels. More importantly the main humanoid villainess just doesn't make a strong impression. Keeley Hawes is a stellar performer normally yet seems to have been landed with a poorly sketched character and doesn't really get out of second gear given her enormous talent. "Intruders are most welcome" is one example of a quip from Delphox - it just would have been good to have an actual story behind her as well as some malicious wit.

But nonetheless there is a very good final confrontation with the Doctor meeting 'the Director'. Belated exposition plays its part, even as the surrounding location becomes a threat in itself. The urgency of the Doctor's assertion of full knowledge - and determination to end the problem - makes this a very well paced and fulfilling final act to the episode. And the revelation behind the Teller is a fine scene, both poignant and logical given the other information from earlier.

Overall then this is a solid joint writing effort from Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat; with perhaps their prior collaboration on 'Sherlock' allowing for a keen sense of what to bring out from one another. With frenetic action, satire, a surprise twist or two, and good lively direction this episode is to be enjoyed much in the same manner as those that preceded it in Series 8.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television