Tag Archives: Stephen Moffat

Doctor Who – series nine round-up

doctor-who-hell-bent-previewApologies for covering five episodes in one go (and being so late getting to the first four – real life has been getting in the way of the important business of TV watching/reviewing recently). Let us take a leaf out of the Doctor’s book and ignore anything inconvenient while rushing towards the action…

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Doctor Who (9.5): Don’t tell him your name Lofty!

DWS9-Trailer2Pix12I doubt I’m the only one welcoming Jamie Mathieson back to the DW writer’s room this series. His episodes last year stood head and shoulders above everybody else’s and he’s showing no signs of slacking here either. Thankfully The Girl Who Died is a lot better than last week’s trailer would have had you believe and has the Doctor at his best (i.e. doing something clever and making everything alright – or, if you’re a Cabin Pressure fan, finding his inner Douglas Richardson*).

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Doctor Who (9.2): In which the quality of mercy *is* strained…

9275114-high-… and the witch is, indeed, familiar. As is what I’m coming to realise is the Moffat trope that annoys me the most – things done for just for show. Lord knows, I’m no fan of Clara and I was happy to enjoy her being strung up and tutored/tortured by Missy – right up until the point it was clear there was no point to it. (See also last week’s Doctor on a tank with a guitar.)  It’s a shame, because otherwise it was quite a nifty piece of cliffhanger exposition – not an easy thing to do well. (Pushing Clara down the sewer to gauge the depth, on the other hand, was funny even if you could see the joke coming a mile away, because there was at least a purpose to it.)

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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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Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

Is it sad that this is the highlight of my Christmas Day?  Well, I don’t care if it is. Welcome back Matt Smith, Stephen Moffat, Karen Gillan et al – I’ve missed you all. And what a return it is – plunging straight into the action with Amy and Rory on honeymoon on a spaceship and about to crash and die  unless Ebenezer Scrooge – sorry Kazran Sardick – uses his climate control machine to clear the crystalline cloud layer. And he’s a nasty old man who will let them die just because he doesn’t care. Clearly the Doctor isn’t going to let this lie…

I love the recycling of the Roman and stripper costumes and the subtle references for grown-ups only. I love the ‘Come along Pond’. I love the perfectly pitched Scrooge performance of Michael Gambon. I love Matt Smith’s entrance down the chimney and that Father Christmas’s first name is Geoff (or possibly Jeff – what do you think?).

I love the forecast for fog and fish – and that even the Doctor thinks this is a little weird. I love that Stephen Moffat is bold enough to show how he’s ripping off/homaging Dickens. I love that the Doctor recovered the old film of Kazran using “quantum enfolding and a paper clip”. I love him walking out of old Kazran’s door and into the film that’s projected onto it as young Kazran’s ‘babysitter’.

I love that the Doctor’s claim that he is universally recognised as a mature and responsible adult is a lie too big for the psychic paper that shorts it out. I love that my daughter missed the whole thing about ‘facespiders’ because she was too busy with a new toy.

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Doctor Who (5.13): Something borrowed, something blue…

Is there anyone in the universe as brilliant and bright as the Doctor? Yes, actually – Stephen Moffat. He has taken wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey and created a fabulous series and tonight’s stupendous finale.

Throughout the whole thing he plays with stories and memorable scenes, ties up (almost) all the loose ends and packs a hugely emotional punch too.

As we enter our last hour of Who for six long months, the Doctor is imprisoned in the Pandorica, Amy has just been shot by a heartbroken plastic Rory, River is trapped in the exploding TARDIS,  the universe has almost completely disappeared and the fate of the whole of reality rests on little Amelia Pond (who is apparently the only person left on Earth who believes in stars).

But who is the strange man in a Fez who has posted a flyer for the National Museum’s Pandorica exhibition through young Amelia’s door? The words ‘Come along Pond’ are scribbled on it – but how could it be him? Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey… Continue reading

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Doctor Who (5.12): Trickster, goblin or good wizard?

Stephen Moffat is a god amongst men. He’s been teasing us with clues (and red herrings, no doubt) for the past 11 weeks, all on the promise that everything (except perhaps River Song) would be explained in the final two episodes. It was a lot to live up too – and on the evidence of what I’ve just watched – I have every faith he’s going to pull it off. (Not that I ever really doubted him, to be honest.)

It’s also nice to have him back as writer (rather than ‘just’ rewriter/polisher). You can feel his hand on the tiller from the first moment of the pre-title sequence (possibly, the most gripping and tantalising yet). We have Van Gogh painting a message to the Doctor, which turns up in London in 1941 so that Bracewell and Winston Churchill can pass the message on. When the Doctor doesn’t answer the phone to Winnie, the TARDIS reroutes the call to River Song – who promptly escapes the Stormcage to steal the painting from Liz Ten’s Royal Collection. She then procedes to finangle a vortex manipulator (I’m guessing just like Captain Jack’s) from a blue alien in order to travel in time.

In the meantime, the Doctor decides to head for the oldest cliff in the universe in order to decipher (via the TARDIS translation circuits) the oldest writing in the universe: “Letters fifty high. A message from the dawn of time. And no one knows what it says… All we have to do is open the doors and read the very first words in recorded history.”

And (channeling Hitchhikers not for the first time this series) the mystic words are… HELLO SWEETIE (plus some co-ordinates in time and space). The Doctor looks rather pleased with this vandalism for all that he challenges River about graffitting the oldest cliff in history later. Love her retort: “Well, you wouldn’t answer your phone.”  You go girl!

So it’s off to Salisbury Plain to meet River (pretending to be Cleopatra) – and a Roman legion (“The invasion of the hot Italians” according to Amy, who really liked History and the Romans at school apparently). By this point, I’d already lost track of the fabulous Alex Kingston’s costume changes – but even she’s outshone by Van Gogh’s picture (called The Pandorica Opens) of the Tardis exploding: beautiful and horrific in equal measures.

And all this before the titles!

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Doctor Who (5.6): Bite me space-fish…

It must be tough writing the episodes that fall between the Moffat-penned ones. Stories that would have been marked A* last year, are going to find themselves getting plain old As and Bs this year.

The Vampires in Venice has lots and lots going for it – a great writer (Toby Whithouse creator of the excellent Being Human, and writer of School reunion, new Who series two), fabulous location (even if it’s not actually Venice), stunning costumes and lighting, comedy potential (Amy’s great gangling fiancé Rory) and vampires (Hat Junior has been shouting “Vampires! Vampires on new Doctor Who tonight” for a disturbing proportion of the day).

There are lots of fine moments (more of those in a minute), but let’s get the carping out of the way first. Acknowledging that I’m not the target market for this, I just wasn’t grabbed and there wasn’t a peep out of Junior Hat either. (I know, normally I complain that I can’t hear what’s going on because she’s talking over the show – about the show – non-stop.) I don’t think she was scared, and I know I wasn’t.

I thought it was a bit of shame that Isabella died and I was moved by her brave father (the wonderfully understated Lucian Msamati – aka JLB Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe’s fiancé from The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency) leading the creatures to their mutual deaths – but that was about it on the emotional trauma front. I just didn’t get a sense of jeopardy – sorry guys.

That said, I don’t feel my 45 minutes were wasted. Even A- or B-rated Who is excellent value for money. Shall we bullet point again? I liked the bullet points…

  • First things first. One, the lovely little pre-titles scene where the Doctor jumps out of the cake, asks someone to find Lucy – the diabetic stripper – a jumper, and tells Rory that Amy’s a good kisser. Particularly enjoyed the embarrassed silence heading into the titles instead of the usual screaming/plunging/explosion type thing.
  • B (two): The Doctor slightly affronted by Rory taking the TARDIS in his stride. “I like it when people say ‘It’s bigger on the inside’.” But, not too affronted – a little tickled too I think.
  • Three – or C: Amy thinks she’s ‘done with running down corridors’ – she’s smart, but she knows nothing!
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Doctor Who (5.5): Ducks, Pond and River

I think it’s fair to say that the only thing I saw coming this week (apart from the Doctor defeating his foe, naturellement) was the Doctor’s cunning plan to get everyone out of the trap at the end of last week’s episode.

Stephen Moffat maintains both the pace and the tension of the Time of Angels, and, I think, writes even better dialogue for the Doctor than Russell T Davies (and he gave him some fabulous lines too), viz: “It’s a death-trap, a time bomb and now it’s a dead end. Nobody panic.”

There is only one real plot going on here – escaping the angels (yes, we deal with ongoing stuff, why Amy doesn’t know about Daleks (the biggest reset button in history – v useful for a new writer taking over a show like this); who is River Song (still don’t know, but the implication is that she kills the Doctor at some point – can’t believe it’s without his permission, or indeed instruction though); the cracks in the universe (time energy from a fire at the end of the universe bleeding back and wiping away whatever it comes into contact with – including the poor old ducks, I guess); and Amy’s wedding (I have to say I wish she hadn’t tried to snog the Doctor – I know she’s just been traumatised and it’s common to want to get it on with your rescuer, and it’s an excuse to drag Rory off into the TARDIS, but I still wish there had been another way).

So, we’re breaking through deadlocked doors, escaping angels, running through a forest in the middle of the ship (the oxygen factory – guessing the Moff ain’t in climate change denial) avoiding more angels, saving Amy’s life from the Angel in her mind’s eye, and defeating the angel army in convincing (if slightly reminiscent of Doomsday) style.

What makes this episode sing is the cracking dialogue, the interweaving of all those ongoing plot elements with the main one, and some fabulous lighting and SFX.

The angels are creepier than ever – moving in the strobe light of gunfire first and then, when Amy can’t see them (if she opens her eyes she will die as the angel in her mind will take her over), actually moving like creatures of flesh rather than stone. Oh and their laughter – yikes.

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Doctor Who (5.4): I’ll never get done saving you

God, but Stephen Moffat’s good. I’d be chuffed to have come up with a single one of his lines or ideas, but The Time of Angels was packed full of moments lesser writers would die for.

From the hallucinogenic lipstick to River’s message through time; from the Doctor swooping and shouting “Wrong. Wrong. Bit right, but mostly wrong. Wrong. Ooh, one of mine…” and Amy working out it’s the Doctor keeping score, to him explaining that the Gallifreyan graffiti could once have burned stars, raised up empires and toppled gods, and having to admit that this one says, “Hello Sweetie.” – these may be the best pre-titles scenes yet.

And still, we’re not plunging into the vortex of storm and fire. We’re on a Bond set (in space) with the fabulous River Song doing her best 007 impersonation, whilst counting on the Doctor, 12,000 years in the future picking up her clue, tracking her down and being ready to save her when she blows open the airlock. Which, of course, he does.

I like that RTD and Stephen Moffat have been coy about exactly who River is to the Doctor (I also like the neat trick of getting Amy to ask him outright if she’s going to be his wife, him seeming to say yes, but not really.). There is something of the bickering married couple about them – especially when driving the car together (sorry, flying the TARDIS). (I love how furious he is that she flies it better than he does, that the blue stabilisers (or boring-ers) annoy him, and that the Vworp, Vworp noise we all love so much (and which Matt Smith impersonates brilliantly) is actually caused by him landing with the brakes on.) But, as River points out when Amy asks her if she’s going to be the Doctor’s wife, isn’t the answer bound to be more interesting than that? I do hope so!

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