Tag Archives: Mark Gatiss

Doctor Who (8.3): Flights of fancy

robot of sherwoodSpoilers all the way down this week, folks…

I’m not sure what to make of a story that I only really enjoyed after the final twist was revealed.

When the only character you really like is the Doctor, the first 40 minutes feel like a bit of a slog. Now that I know the answer to the question of whether Robin Hood is real, a rewatch made Robin and his merry men more bearable.

But I’m getting ahead of myself in my attempt to decide whether I like this or not. So – plot. The Doctor makes his traditional ‘anywhere in space and time’ offer to Clara, who reveals she’s always wanted to meet Robin Hood (but hasn’t said so, because she knows the Doctor will say he’s not real). The Doctor, of course, says he’s not real, but points the Tardis in the direction of Sherwood Forest (1190AD) anyway.

Capricious creature that she is, the Tardis lands within shooting distance of Robin, no doubt feeling a little smug at her Time Lord’s discomfiture. The trouble is, he’s not the only one rubbed up the wrong way by Robin and his extremely merry men. As we discovered with the whole Impossible Girl arc, when you make someone (almost) purely a plot device, it becomes much harder to care about them.

robin hoodThey do such a good job of selling the idea that Robin can’t really be the prince of thieves, Earl of Locksley etc, that (like the Doctor) I was impatient to have him unmasked. By the end, when he steals the trick the Doctor used to defeat him on the bridge (well, wide beam) at the start of the story, I finally warmed to him.

And don’t get me wrong, I think they made the right choice in going for the Errol Flynn approach to Robin, rather than a grimy, realistic one, but I was totally behind the Doctor’s “And do people ever punch you in the face when you do that?” to Robin’s “Robin Hood laughs in the face of all – ha-ha-ha!”

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Doctor Who (7.11): There’s trouble at mill…

The Crimson HorrorWell that was fun! And funny too. Master of gothic humour (or perhaps I mean gothic and humour) Mark Gatiss has turned in one of the best episodes of the series with The Crimson Horror.

Look at the ingredients – Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax, more Victorian references than you can shake a stick at, ‘trouble at mill’, Diana Rigg AND her daughter Rachael Stirling, creative use of flashback and a Willy Wonka-esque ‘manufacturing process’ – and you can’t help but get your hopes up.

[Spoilers below the line….]

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Doctor Who (7.8): Under pressure

Doctor Who: Ice WarriorBlimey, the only thing that could have made this week’s episode more timely was a Nasa announcement that it’s found proof of life on Mars.

I didn’t really enjoy the Eighties the first time I lived through them (though the pop music was very good) – and have clear memories of the Cold War (living next to two American and one British air base, focussed the mind on the nuclear issue somewhat) – and I haven’t relished reliving them in a somewhat concentrated form for the past week thanks to Kim Jong-un and the death of ‘that woman’. I did enjoy Mark Gatiss’s Cold War though – a beautifully tense and claustrophobic piece of television.

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Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

Oh good grief this was a brilliant finale. Twisty as a twisty turny thing, full of shock and awe, it’s also the one in which my enjoyment of Andrew Scott’s ‘Jim’ Moriarty reached fever pitch.

One of many things that gave me great pleasure about this is how the writers (Steve Thompson for this one) are playing with the powerful celebrity persona that developed around Sherlock Holmes. It tormented Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. With the massive popular success of his character, he found he’d created a fictional monster. The public were addicted to Holmes, and to this day, people still believe Sherlock Holmes really existed. No-one was ever really interested in any of Doyle’s ‘serious’ writing, and at the time, he wrote to his mother in frustration,”I must save my mind for better things, even if it means I must bury my pocketbook with him.”

And so, sick to the back teeth of Holmes, Doyle wrote The Final Problem, in which he believed that he had finally got rid of the character that tormented him so, by killing Holmes off in a dramatic scene where he and Professor Moriarty fight to the death over the Reichenbach Falls. But as Victoria Principle found when Bobby came out of that the epically long Dallas shower, things are not always that simple. The public found Doyle’s belief in fairies less than convincing and screamed for the return of their beloved Sherlock Holmes. Doyle eventually had to bring him back to life in The Adventure of the Empty House.

Now, so much is known by the public about Doyle’s stories, the trap that scriptwriters of Sherlock can fall into is to be too clever for their own good, which I felt happened with Baskerville episode (not everyone agrees I know). But I didn’t feel that in The Reichenbach Fall. And there was so much that was scream-makingly excellent:

  • The touching, bookending scenes of Watson seeing his therapist to try to deal with the death of his friend Holmes, and visiting his grave.
  • The court scene with Holmes unable to stop himself being a smart arse.
  • The cameo of IT Crowd’s Katharine Parkinson as plaited haired Rita Skeeter-esque investigative journalist, Kitty Riley. I particularly enjoyed her encounter with Holmes in the Gents’.
  • The beautifully done interplay between Holmes and Molly Hooper in the morgue scenes.
  • Moriarty. So very fine an opponent for Holmes. I loved The Thomas Crown Affair meets The Wrong Trousers fun stealing-of-the-Crown-Jewels scene, particularly Moriarty being found by the police sitting on the throne in the jewel cabinet, wearing them. I think Andrew Scott has played him beautifully, exuding evil power with frightening, manic intensity without ever appearing totally psycho. Best bits for me: the chaos causing apps on the mobile phone, the carving of IOU into the apple and the delicate sipping of tea with Holmes. So many superb performances in this series, Cumberbatch and Freeman, Gatiss as Mycroft, Rupert Graves as Lestrade. But his is up there too.
  • The rooftop scene on St Barts and Holmes’ fall to his apparent death to save the lives of people he cares about. The eruption of excitement on my Twitter feed afterwards when we then see him alive lurking behind a tree in the graveyard. What happened? How did he do it? Was Molly involved, was a ‘spare’ morgue corpse switched at the last? Utterly gripping.

MORE BBC more. Bring it back and bring it soon. Best telly ever.

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Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

I'm up here, you idiot.

Sherlock invariably ends with me turning to Mr Qwerty and saying, ‘ But what about the bit where…’ in the hope that he will shine a searchlight into what looks like a large plot-hole and tarmac it over for me. In the case of The Hounds of Baskerville, in which Hound turned out to be a not very plausible acronym (after all, why would a group of dodgy scientists feel the need to give themselves an acronym, and what’s more get I’m-with-the-band t-shirts made noch?), I turned to Mr Q and said, ‘So why did the kindly bloke who was the baddie kill the posh bloke’s dad?’ And the best Mr Q could come up with was, ‘I guess he knew something bad they were doing.’ Well, yes. But what? It troubles me a bit that I don’t know for sure. Was it the paranoid gas thing (or lighter fluid as we called it when I was young)? Big slathering dogs? Fluorescent rabbits? (Actually a luminous bunny would be handy; you could nip out to its hutch at night and feed it without having to find a torch.)

Anyway despite not knowing exactly what the important-enough-to-kill-a-man thing was, I enjoyed this heavy-handed Freudian interpretation of the H of the B’s.  Or as I now think of it, ‘The Little Hans of the Baskervilles’, a not very amusing psychologist’s joke referring to Freud’s classic case in which Little Hans was scared of horses because they reminded him of his father’s penis. Or something. I graduated a while ago and the details are hazy. As indeed were Henry Knight’s of the night his father was killed – seemingly mauled by a huge slathering black beast with red eyes. Arrrrr-oooooooooh!

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Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia

The return of the telly (as opposed to the Robert Downey Jnr film) version of Sherlock had been hugely anticipated after the triumphantly brilliant trio of episodes a year ago. And A Scandal in Belgravia did not disappoint. Forgive me, I have to say it, it was a spanking good episode. Whipsmart in fact. Slightly more by way of raunchy undergarments and methods of restraint than I’d bargained for at 8.10pm on a Sunday evening, watching, as I was, with a nine year old, but it sparkled with fun and mischief from start to finish. Some possibly dodgy sexual politics too, more of which later, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it.

It began where the last episode left off, at the beautifully lit swimming baths with a standoff between Moriarty and Holmes. Moriarty’s ‘bomb’ jacket is on the ground and red dot scopes from anonymous rifles are trained on the foreheads of Holmes and Watson. But the crisis gets literally called off when Irene Adler, whom Moffat has made into a dominatrix, phones Moriarty on his mobile, and he leaves.

And then we’re off, with so much to enjoy. Much playing with modern culture in a droll, witty way. Best use of a text alert ever. And Watson is writing a blog about cases, including a man dying mysteriously by a loch (the blog ‘exists’, you can see it here). The rapidly increasing number of blog fans leads to Holmes trying to hide his face from fans trying to take his picture as he leaves a theatre – grabbing a random hat from the props box. A Deerstalker, of course. And there’s a ‘real’ Twitter account for Irene’s dominatrix business (@TheWhipHand).

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Kick ass women: Shirley Henderson

I’ve been enjoying Death in Paradise. It’s easy, light viewing and a bit Agatha Christie in approach, but Ben Miller is rather good in it, and the setting is so delightful, it feels like being bathed in glorious sunshine. You can feel your skin absorbing the vitamin D.

And now I’ve heard Shirley Henderson will be guest starring, there’s another fine reason to tune in. I loved many things about the BBC adaptation of The Crimson Petal and the White, but my favourite actor in it was Henderson. She’s quite a diminutive person, but whatever role she’s in, the character is portrayed powerfully enough to steal every scene. In The Crimson Petal, she played Mrs Fox, consumptive saviour of prostitutes, and the object of Mark Gatiss’s superbly wracked religious nut, Henry Rackham’s, constant lust. He played it, to misquote Colin Firth’s directions on how to play Mr Darcy, “as if walking around with an erection”.

She’s been in many things, and been wonderful in them, including Trainspotting and Hamish Macbeth. Plus she plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films of course. Jo the Hat reminded me she snogged Rufus Sewell in The Taming of the Shrew (I hate that play, but it was difficult to hate this, because those two were in it). But it’s a sign of how much I like Henderson that I will even forgive her this.

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Doctor Who (6.9): “You’re not from social services, are you?”

Night Terrors might not rank as the scariest Doctor Who ever (and to be honest I’m not sure I want them to make anything scarier than Blink or The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) but last week’s trailer was sufficiently creepy to have Hat Jr considering watching this in daylight…

In the end, she not only couldn’t resist watching it tonight, she rated it seven out of ten. And as I write I can only hear happy sounds coming from her bedroom. Phew!

(Spoilers below the line…)

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The Crimson Petal and The White

The Crimson Petal and The White continues to be the highlight of the TV week for me. Episode two kicks off with another of Sugar’s (Romola Garai) fantasies whereby she wakes William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd) with a red-hot poker. In reality it’s a gentle hand on his chest, and she’s soon planting the seed in Rackham’s mind of acquiring more salubrious surroundings for their liaisons. “I’ll be carried off by the cholera by the time I’m twenty five,” she warns him, when he moans about the smell in her rooms. She’s well aware that Rackham is worth a bit, having rifled through his briefcase whilst being – ahem – taken from behind in the last episode, (commendable multi-tasking) and checking out his address.

Meanwhile, Rackham’s brother, Henry (Mark Gatiss) continues his visits to Mrs Fox (Shirley Henderson) – who happens also to be the sister of the evil doctor Curlew played menacingly by Richard E Grant. Poor Mrs Fox is clearly ailing, though Henry seems oblivious to this fact, so captivated by her that the first rule of period drama completely eludes him (the first rule being; if someone coughs, they’ll be dead by the end of the episode). When this is finally pointed out to him, Henry questions his very faith, and burns his bibles and himself, fantasising in his final moments about finally getting it on with the Foxy Mrs F.

Mrs Rackham (Amanda Hale) visits a pale and emaciated friend, with something of the Lady Gaga about her, who introduces her to a new health regime – a diet of green beans, supplemented by the occasional spoonful of well strained oxtail soup (no doubt it will feature in the Daily Mail  health section next week). Basically, we’re talking anorexia, with added pills (no doubt opium) washed down with ‘Godfrey’s cordial’. By the time she gets home, Mrs R is as high as a kite, looking strangely serene at dinner with her husband, until she reveals that the reason for her newfound calm is that she has a ‘guardian angel’ (this being Sugar, spied from her window at the end of episode 1). Poor old Rackham – it put him right off his grub.

It turns out that Mrs Castaway (Gillian Anderson, reminding me, at times of an evil version of Dorcas Lane from Lark Rise to Candleford – not sure why) isn’t just Sugar’s ‘Madam’, but is her mother as well.  When Rackham announces that he wishes to take Sugar away from her, their parting is choked with words left unsaid, although Sugar’s initial joy at being given a place of her own is very touching. Feeling out of place and lonely however, she keeps popping back to see her old friends, one of whom asks if she’s actually fond of Rackham. Sugar responds that she’s ‘used to him’, and when he’s away, ‘misses the world that comes with him’. Despite her protestations, one gets the impression that Sugar is becoming quite fond of Rackham. Although he has the cash, she clearly wields the power in the relationship. Continue reading

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Doctor Who (5.3): Don’t mess with the Jammie Dodger

It’s nice of the writers to occasionally let us have the upper hand on the Doctor. It never lasts long, but there’s a certain joy in knowing something he doesn’t for a moment or two.

Thus it was tonight. We’ve known since last week’s trailer what Winston Churchill’s new secret weapon was. We’ve got a pretty good idea what the Doctor’s reaction is going to be when they glide out in their khaki battle dress from behind the sandbags – and we’re not disappointed.

I loved watching the Daleks ferrying box files and hearing that terrible voice asking if the Doctor wants a cup of tea – thank you Mark Gatiss. I also want to know how they make a machine look shifty? I mean, just the timing of the turning of its head made it look dodgy. (I know, we know they’re up to no good, but everything else up to that point had been consistent with good little Allied Daleks).

Having failed to convince Churchill that his little helpers are the scourge of the universe, the Doctor lets his wrath and terrible fury loose and rains blows and words upon the evil pepperpot until finally the Dalek admits its true identity and transmits the Doctor’s ‘testimony’ (I am the Doctor and you are the Daleks) back to the Dalek ship.

Ironically, the Daleks need the Doctor’s testimony to get a progenitor (method of making thousands of brand new Daleks) working – as they explain to him as he’s inevitably followed them to their ship (leaving Amy behind for safety – in the middle of the blitz, as she tartly observes).

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