UK TV

Review: Doctor Who – 2×12 – Army of Ghosts

Army of Ghosts

And thus season two of the new Doctor Who begins to crank itself up for the finale, while simultaneously winding itself down. There was good, there was bad, there was ugly. But, in contrast to the last few episodes, there was far more good than there was bad this time.

Doctor and Rose return to Earth in the “present day” and drop in on Rose’s mum, Jackie. As it happens, Jackie’s waiting for the scheduled appearance of her dead father. As you do. Needless to say, when a ghost turns up as predicted, the Doctor isn’t totally convinced he’s what she thinks she is and tries to work out what’s actually going on.

He eventually narrows down the source of the ‘ghost’ activity to Canary Wharf and Torchwood, the launch site of the new spin-off TV series a top secret government institute that investigates alien artefacts. There we find a ‘Void Ship’ of mysterious origin and before you know it, a bunch of cyber agents who have infiltrated our universe from the parallel universe we saw in The Age of Steel. Using the hole in the universe created by the arrival of the Void Ship, the cybermen manage to bring their entire army over into our reality. The world is theirs.

But wait! The Void Ship isn’t cyber-technology. Inside are… a bunch of Daleks. Cue end titles.

So all in all, very exciting. The usual RTD hallmarks were on display – cameos by people from other TV shows (not all of which were awful); movie references; ‘typical’ teenage behaviour (Here’s me washing, Mum!); very sly continuity references (“The Eternals call it ‘the Howling’.” Those would be the Eternals from the Peter Davison story Enlightenment and also from the 2005 Doctor Who Annual), etc, etc. But while the Ghostbusters bit was excruciating, the rest of it was actually kind of fun and forgivable.

David Tennant was giving a relatively calm performance this time round and Billie Piper had a return to form, finally getting something to do that was all about Rose. Graeme Harper did a reasonable job of directing but not outstanding – I don’t feel he’s quite had the dark story he needs to really show off his stuff. Murray Gold still can’t do incidental music. Oh well. But all in all, pretty good.

Now for the niggles. The plot was full of holes, which can be forgiven. But… Torchwood built Canary Wharf to investigate to the anomaly in the sky. So where the hell was the Void Ship all this time? Just lurking there in the sky? Funny, I’m pretty sure most of London would have spotted it. Or did Torchwood somehow manage to carry the ship back up to the top of Canary Wharf (even though they can’t touch it) once they’d built it, with presumably the Void Ship lurking in East London in a pub or something until it was time to come up. And how come Torchwood was telling everyone when it was going to conduct its experiments so there would be ghost forecasts? Renovation work on Canary Wharf? It’s not that old and wouldn’t Torchwood’s director know about it. And wouldn’t the Cybermen have come through the anomaly and be spotted? And, and…

But any Who plot has problems when exposed to the cold light of day, so let’s not get too caught up in that.

The Cybermen. Obviously going to turn up so no surprise there, but they’re still just not as scary as they should be. They’re too friendly looking. You want something that has a stench of the graveyard about it, really. Instead, we get flares and a friendly face. Not good. Still, there’s enough of them to be frightening: one cabbage patch kid isn’t frightening; 10,000 cabbage patch kids coming to get you – very frightening.

So actually a pretty good episode. Could have been better, but actually not bad. Now for a few notes:

Mickey: Nice to see him back. I had a vague inkling we were being led up the garden path on that one. Consider this. The return of the Cybermen was inevitable. They wouldn’t be this universe’s Cybermen, so it would have to be the new-look Cybies. That means there was a way for Mickey to come back. Couple that with the fact that in the Mickey send-off retrospective, Doctor Who Confidential didn’t once ask Noel Clarke what he was going to be doing next and there’s been no media blitz at all on that subject (unlike Piper) and it just suggested to me that he might be coming back. Mickey for the new companion anyone (now that whatserface that The Sun suggested has been dispatched into the sky)?

Piper: Still not sure she’s leaving. Still convinced this is a bluff, although the return of Mickey does make it more unlikely. After all, if she’s dead yet mysteriously on a seashore, how can she be narrating? Or is she in Heaven? Or, as Marie suggests, on the other side of the portal? She’ll be back at some point. Maybe she’s in Hell, as suggested by The Satan Pit. Maybe it’ll be like Search for Spock next year, with the Doctor trying to find a way back to the other universe.

The Daleks: Saw them coming. Sorry. A fun cliffhanger all the same.

Now there have been some complaints about the Daleks coming back. But they Daleks had to feature, I’m afraid. Here’s why:

Firstly, every Doctor has to meet the old enemies as soon as possible or else you end up like Jon Pertwee, Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston and not get a single Cyberman story – or, indeed, like Paul McGann and not get a Dalek story at all (see Footnote 1). With CE buggering off ASAP last year, getting DT to meet the Daleks was vital.

Secondly, the Daleks are the Doctor’s arch nemesis. You can only be an arch nemesis if you turn up regularly, despite all previous attempts to kill you. Otherwise, you’re rubbish. And since we’re looking at a new generation of kids who don’t really know that the Daleks are the Doctor’s arch nemesis yet because they’ve only had one series to work with, the Daleks absolutely had to be in this series as well to make kids understand all other enemies come second to the Daleks.

The important third point is that they’re necessary for the plot – or what I imagine the plot to be. If you think I’m likely to be on to something with my theory (which given my track record is unlikely), that it won’t be blindingly obvious and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read any further.

Footnotes

1) Technically, Paul McGann did get a Dalek story since they appear in voice over at the very beginning of Doctor Who: The Movie. Also Pertwee meets the Cybermen in The Five Doctors. Plus there are all those Big Finish audios where Paul McGann meets both Cybermen and Daleks. But they don’t count really. It’s just not the same, I tell you.

Continue reading “Review: Doctor Who – 2×12 – Army of Ghosts”

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News

The next assistant

Or should that be companion? I don’t know the terminology these days. Anyway, as well all know know from yesterday, The Sun wasn’t telling porkies and Billie Piper is leaving Doctor Who at the end of this season. We’ve had various theories, most of which seem to be about Michelle Ryan, but some of today’s papers have ‘exclusively’ revealed who’s in the running to be the next companion (even though The Sun says she’s already been cast).

Nikki SandersonThe Daily Express (no link because their web site is pants) says former Coronation Street star Nikki Sanderson is going to be the name of choice, this time. I suspect that rumour’s about as reliable as their weekly Princess Diana revelations, in part because young Nikki seems to have done an awful lot of Loaded shoots, which probably won’t endear her to the Beeb as a possible star of its family flagship. You never know though.

Freema AgyemanMeanwhile, The Sun, which as we all know is the paper that managed to get the exclusive rights to the BBC’s press release first, is claiming Billie’s replacement is going to be Freema Agyeman, who appeared on the short-lived revival of Crossroads. She’s also appearing in the final two episodes of this season. Again, seems a little unlikely, but since it’s The Sun, which appears to have a hotline to RTD these days, we might have to give this particular rumour a little more weight.
Plus maybe RTD is thinking along the same lines as us and reckons it’s time for the TARDIS to finally get multi-cultural. Or maybe she’s a really good actress and we just never noticed. All the same, probably not.

None of today’s other papers have names yet: most are just following up with the news; the Daily Star, as always, is claiming their news is exclusive; the Daily Mirror is busy slagging off Billie in its ‘TV Land’ column, accusing of her dishonesty for making us all think she was signed up for season three (which she still might be).

Michelle RyanThank God for Welsh papers though. The Western Mail goes out on a limb and names… Michelle Ryan as the name in waiting, mainly thanks to an interview with Paul Murphy of TV Choice magazine. It also hedges its bets with a few other names, all of which are probably wrong. But who would have guessed “Billie Piper” two years ago?

Sarah Dunn“Sarah Dunn, who is leaving Hollyoaks this week”

Eve Myles“Eve Myles, currently starring in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood”

Roxanne Pallet“and former Emmerdale actress Roxanne Pallet”

The Western Mail has also commissioned John Campbell Rees, 39, from Treherbert, who has a science-fiction degree from the University of Glamorgan (I never knew there was such a thing…) and is a self-confessed Doctor Who super-fan, to tell us all (officially) who are the best/most important Doctor Who companions/assistants. Turns out, they were Sarah-Jane Smith, Romana, Victoria Waterfield, Susan Foreman and Jamie McCrimmon.

Caroline John as Liz ShawHa! No Liz Shaw? Your list is worthless, I tell you!

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UK TV

Review: Doctor Who – 2×2 – Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw

Ah, that’s a bit more like it. Only a couple of slack moments and a not totally convincing bit of CGI but otherwise, ‘Tooth and Claw’ was classic Who:

  1. Good plot with a load of made-up science
  2. Good dialogue
  3. Good supporting cast
  4. Lots of running around corridors
  5. A companion running around with nothing to do but escape after being captured and ask, “What’s going on Doctor?”
  6. A scary monster
  7. A research scene where they work out how to kill the monster
  8. Lots of people dying

And they had some wu shu-ing monks and a reference to Jamie McCrimmon. Cracking. What more could you ask for from Doctor Who?

Incidentally, wasn’t David Tennant good? No more companion overshadowing the Doctor. Mr T totally wiped the floor with Ms P. Ah, just like the good old days. Talking of which, it’s the Sarah Jane and K9 episode next week. Can’t wait.

Couple of extra things. Number one, I’ve turfed up an interview in my MP3 collection of David Tennant explaining his love of Who and his Big Finish work. It was actually done while the Christopher Eccleston series was airing, amazingly enough. Email me if you’d like to hear it (note: it wasn’t me who did the interview, so you won’t get to hear my dulcet tones).

Number two: I’m in Wales at the moment. My lovely wife wanted the house to herself because she had three of her friends coming down for the weekend. So I’ve upped sticks to the mother-in-law’s and have spent the day cutting hedges, creosoting fences, mowing lawns, uncovering hedgehogs (Ahhhh!), climbing into lofts, moving heavy things and a whole lot more. So now I’m a funny pink colour from over-exposure to sunshine. Curses. Outside bad. Inside good.

But if you’ve never watched Who in Wales, it’s very entertaining. Short of having a man in a red rugby shirt signing at the bottom, there’s almost nothing more they could have done to make it clearer that this was “Made in Wales. God man! That’s cowing lush!”. They even have a little placard with an announcer at the beginning saying “Made in Wales by BBC Wales”. In Wales. That was Wales. Sorry, did I mention that it was shot in Wales?

Incidentally, I have no idea if that headline is accurate Welsh. Despite my best intentions to learn Welsh, I’ve been unable to find an Instant Welsh book, those Instant books being about the only language-learning books I get along with. So my Welsh stops somewhere south of the numbers one to six. Don’t, therefore, quote me on the headline, but I think it means “Welcome to Doctor Who”. Which is pretty meaningless of course. Oh well.

UPDATE: Further thoughts – Another ‘classic’ point was the TARDIS didn’t turn up at the right place or the right time, which is always refreshing. But all that Torchwood stuff is starting to hack me off and doesn’t make a lot of sense at the moment. Yes, we get it, there’s a spin-off called Torchwood coming.