Friday, 18 December 2015

Doctor Who 2015 - the Dave Gibbons connection (my reviews)

This season of Doctor Who didn't make my Top Ten TV of the Year, the first time it's failed to do so since I started keeping count. Yet it wasn't that bad at all. Usually, the day after an episode's been on, I manage to post something on Gallifrey Base (fan site, don't ask). So, what were my immediate responses to this year's series of Doctor Who, as posted on GB at the time? Well, I have found that Dave Gibbons' artwork seemed to crop up a lot in my reviews, which I hadn't realised till I looked back, a full twelve months. Beginning with...

Last Christmas (which was on, er, last Christmas)

8/10. Brilliant though.

I only drop a few points cos it's all about the tricksy second-guessing, which might make it disappointing on a second viewing.

Was totally taken in by Old Clara, and thought that would be a good and original way to part with a companion. There were a few sniffles in our Christmas house-full during that scene. So we loved the "end of Rose" end of Last Christmas.

And, as opposed to last year when I ranted furiously about how much I hated The Time Of The Doctor, that's all I need to say about Last Christmas.

We had some sniffles during the Old Clara scene, for all the right reasons.

I was very glad we got that far, because we had a rocky start. I turn Doctor Who on at 6.15, and the cry goes out to pause it because someone's not finished adding up the scores from a Christmas quiz. Only then did I realise I'd not pointed out in advance that, in our household, you watch Doctor Who live, when everyone else in the country is watching it. (I wasn't in 'our household' in fact, I'm at me mum's, but it's obviously the first time my sister and the kids have been here at the same time as us on Christmas Day, since pausing a TV became "a thing".)

Am I the first person to mention 'For The Man Who Has Everything' ? (see the front cover, above)

Long before Inception, way back in 1984, Alan Moore wrote the Superman story 'For The Man Who Has Everything' where a cabbage-like alien attaches itself to people and immediately they go into a dream-state. The story is told in such a way that you don't know whether you're in the dream or not. It involves missed opportunities from earlier in their lives, long-dead family and friends, and wish-fulfillment.

It also takes place in a snowy base at the North Pole.

Yes, Steven Moffat read it. He's the same age as me.

The Magician's Apprentice

7/10 I do miss caring and being emotionally engaged with the characters.

Ever since 2010, central characters have kept dying and being brought to life - I lose track who's had more fake deaths, is it Clara or Rory? Either way, it's been done so you don't believe it for a second. Moffat's even blown up the bleeding Tardis more than once already, so I wish he'd stop thinking anyone will care.

The boy Davros twist was great, didn't see that coming. The rest was, as someone has said, tricks & sketches in search of a plot.

It must have raced by though, cos after 45 minutes we both said "is that it?"

Re: "The Magician's Apprentice" Influences, Sources, References and Similarities

The Doctor hides away for ages - The Snowmen, Bells Of St Wossname, Time Of The Doctor

Doctor has a choice over Davros's fate - Genesis of the Daleks

Character turns round to reveal different face - The Beast Below

Rubbish 2010 Daleks get conveniently ret-conned - every series since 2011

It's not the first time central characters have died and therefore you don't care when they do. - Every series since 2010.

Re: "The Witch's Familiar" Ratings, Audience Share

Strictly got 7.68 million, up against the exact same rugby. 4 million people turned off when Doctor Who started.

Under the Lake

Haven't read this whole thread but how many times have the words good old fashioned and spooky cropped up? Also unpretentious.

Not every episode can break new ground, but it's good to be plain entertaining and not disappointing. Plus I bet looooooaaaads of kids were scared plopless.

Before the Flood

8/10 Loved it, watched at 7.30 in the morning after a gig last night. Happy to have just enjoyed it before I start over-analysing it.

When Capaldi exits the Tardis in the 1980 village, he does it shoulder-first with his back to us. Was I the only person who thought that was a homage to Pertwee's entrance in Spearhead From Space?

The seeing-yourself-in-the-past as featured before in Father's Day and The Hungry Earth, was first featured (to my memory) in the 1982 comic strip Chrono-Cops by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (above), which featured many of the tropes they would go on to use in Watchmen.

The Girl Who Died

8/10 for Jamie Mathieson's fun romp, 7/10 for Moffat's portentous pretentious surrounding story arc thing. A curates egg.

The Woman Who Lived

7/10 I was so looking forward to Catherine Tregenna's script, after her Torchwood stories, but this was a proper dog's breakfast.

Parts of it were very entertaining, but too much of it was like a Sylvester McCoy story, and not in a good way. A big daft monster turns up, and blows fire WHY? then does nothing else of any use. Then there's an interstellar battle that takes place OUT OF SHOT?

A great shame, I had high hopes.

Oh yeah, and Maisie Williams was woefully miscast. If it wasn't for Game of Thrones, which I've never seen, she would never have got this gig through an audition. Would she?

The Zygon Invasion

2/10 Worst score I've given to an episode since Time Of The Doctor, but it was worse even than that.

How much exposition? This was a radio play, almost a textbook demonstration of how not to "Show Don't Tell".

Most hackneyed dialogue ever.

Worst use of Rebecca Front in anything ever.

Worst use of overseas locations since The Two Doctors with Colin Baker (which had, now I remember it, dodgy looking aliens that were funnier than they were meant to be.)

I despair. Really annoyingly and disappointingly bad.

Could be worse. Could be a two parter.

The Zygon Inversion

7/10 Much better than part 1.

Moffat sprinkled a bit of fairy dust on it and rescued the exposition-heavy plodding story with a couple of his trademarks.

He may have done the Person-In-A-Virtual-World-Possibly-Inside-Their-Own-Head trope before in Silence In The Library and Asylum of the Daleks (and the Amy-having-a-baby arc throughout series 6) but it worked marvellously here.

But my god if I hear that "Question" trope one more time! (Ask your self this question / The question is / The question you're asking yourself / Question: etc etc). Can he possibly write a script without the word "Question" in it? That is the question.

So overall the two-parter was a less-fun replay of The Sontaran Stratagem, with more Shakespearian speeches, fewer snappy dramatic twists, and no real laughs (what I wouldn't have given for an equivalent of "back of the neck" somewhere in the mix), but by 2015's standards it was a crowd-pleaser. (The crowd being a lot smaller these days, those that remain will inevitably be easier to please).

Oh yeah, and that man-turning-into-Zygon in the shop. Padding much?

Re: What did the kids and the "Not We" think of "The Zygon Inversion"?

I asked my Mum what she'd thought and she says she's given up on Doctor Who. She's one of the 5 million who turn over after Strictly's finished.

Sleep No More

Ha ha very funny.

It was getting 6/10 for being a cliche-filled all-maguffin-and-exposition and full-of-holes load of melodramatic nonsense. Then...

Final 30 seconds = 9/10. So, on average, I'll round it up to 8/10.

So it was all a dream. I'm one of the many people who's just had to put a biro line through every clever criticism he was about to make.

(Fear The Raven is the only episode that escaped comment of any sort. My memory is that I didn't like it)

Heaven Sent

This was clearly one for the fanboys, as the responses on this site show. So I guess I was in the minority wondering what any kid would make of it all.

When it ended my wife texted "Source Code, he's doing Source Code"

Which is rather kinder than my suggestion that he was doing Groundhog Day.

And, oh god, the bloody Time Lords are back next week. I've never liked them.

Re: "Heaven Sent" Influences, Sources, References and Similarities

Source Code. He's doing Source Code.*

(* That's a quote from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's Socks In Space, but apt I thought).

Also Groundhog Day.

And Sherlock, when he's been shot and disappears inside his own head to have imaginary conversations that'll help him solve it all.

Also this from Doctor Who comic 1980, drawn by Dave Gibbons:

Discovered by Lance Parkin, via Facebook

Hell Bent

7/10 I have had enough of this season's deluge of exposition, and making stuff up as they go along.

All that nonsense in the Matrix, the endless references to some sort of Hybrid, about which nobody cares.

The "Hybrid" is exactly as interesting as "The Doctor's name". Nobody cares what it is, so nobody cares that we'll never find out. Oh, except a few rabid fanboys. You know, the sort of people who'd fixate on a throwaway line in a TV movie from 1996 about a character being half human on his mother's side and think "that'd make an interesting thing to keep banging on about twenty years later when everyone else has forgotten about it and nobody cared anyway." Do. Not. Care.

My wife teared up at the Clara bits, so something must have worked. But I found it emotionally unengaging on the whole, and disappointing as a series closer.

Oh yes. And we had the "Question" routine done again. Question: why does Moffat have to have a routine about a "Question" in every script. It's not a catchphrase, it's just repeating a thing you did before.

Where did he get the Gibson SG from?

And anybody who doesn't know what a Gibson SG is, imagine how everyone feels who doesn't know who The Sisterhood of Karn are, or why "I'm half human on my mother's side" is a thing.

And seeing yourself reflected in broken bits of mirror after the line "Who does he think he is". Ha ha, very clever. But for the benefit of a tiny tiny tiny minority of people. Too self indulgent and not sufficiently entertaining.

Has anyone mentioned that the line "hell bent or heaven sent" comes from Pump It Up by Elvis Costello?

So there you have it. Three stories inspired by Dave Gibbons comic strips from the 1980s, lots of stuff I didn't like, but reviews averaging above 7/10. I feel guilty for not putting in in my TV of the year now. I'm sure 2016's series will do the trick.

Scottish Falsetto Socks On Tour

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

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