TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – SLEEP NO MORE

SLEEP NO MORE
1 episode / 45m / 14 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Reece Shearsmith (Gagan Rassmussen), Elaine Tan (Nagata), Neet Mohan (Chopra), Bethany Black (474), Paul Courtenay Hyu (Deep-Ando), Zina Badran (Morpheus Presenter), Natasha Patel (Hologram Singer), Elizabeth Chong (Hologram Singer), Nikkita Chadha (Hologram Singer), Gracie Lai (Hologram Singer).
Plot: Video recovered from the wreckage of Le Verrier Space Station details how the Doctor and Clara became entangled in a rescue mission. As the footage plays out, a horrifying secret is uncovered, one that might threaten the life, sanity and species of anyone who watches. Comment: Experimental episode using the popular found-footage horror genre as the basis for a confusing monster takes over space station story where the viewer is never sure if what they are seeing is real, fabricated or imagined. The sandmen are a creepy design and the inter-cutting between shifting viewpoints helps keep the tension high. Capaldi is looking increasingly at home as the Doctor now, having settled down his characterisation. I’m not really sure I got the whole thing and will probably need to re-watch to dig out some of the subtexts, but I did enjoy this episode for its willingness to bring a new twist to a more traditional Who plot, which it executed pretty well..

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION

THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION
2 episodes / 93m / 31 October & 7 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Peter Harness & Steven Moffat
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Nicholas Asbury (Etoine), Cleopatra Dickens (Claudette), Sasha Dickens (Jemima), Rebecca Front (Colonel Walsh), Abhishek Singh (Little Boy [Sandeep]), Samila Kularatne (Little Boy’s Mum), Todd Kramer (Hitchley), Jill Winternitz (Lisa [Drone Op]), Gretchen Egolf (Norlander), Karen Mann (Hitchley’s Mom), James Bailey (Walsh’s Son), Aidan Cook (Zygon), Tom Wilton (Zygon).
Plot: The Zygons, a race of shape-shifting aliens, have been living in secret amongst us on Earth, unknown and unseen – until now! When Osgood is kidnapped by a rogue gang of Zygons, the Doctor, Clara and UNIT must scatter across the world in a bid to set her free. But will they reach her in time, and can they stop an uprising before it is too late?
Comment: A somewhat heavy-handed political allegory enlivened by some atmospheric visuals and a towering performance from Capaldi, who has really grown into the role of the Doctor. Jenna Coleman is also excellent in her dual-role as Clara and Zygon duplicate and Ingrid Oliver is again appealing as Osgood. The Zygons are an effective classic monster and the plot concerning a faction group looking to break the peace treaty brokered at the close of Day of the Doctor is involving. The story occasionally suffers from some over elaborate ideas, which lack follow-through such as the UNIT jet being shot down and no-one seemingly blinking an eyelid. I’m also not sure I still get the whole dual-Osgood scenario, but it did set up a splendid finale which gave Capaldi the opportunity to deliver one of the most passionate speeches in the series’ history. Capaldi’s performance is reminiscent of Tom Baker at this best as The Doctor argues ethics and values with the Zygons and Jemma Redgrave’s UNIT commander in an attempt to restore the treaty. Stirring stuff then in a story that ultimately satisfies despite its none-too-subtle political messaging.

TV Review – EDGE: THE LONER (2015)

Edge the LonerEdge: The Loner (TV) (2015; USA; Colour; 62m) ∗½  d. Shane Black; w. Shane Black, Fred Dekker; ph. Dante Spinotti; m. Brian Tyler.  Cast: Max Martini, Ryan Kwanten, Yvonne Strahovski, Alicja Bachleda, William Sadler, Beau Knapp, Robert Bailey Jr., Noah Segan. A Union officer turned cowboy roams the Old West in the post-Civil War era on a quest for revenge in this series based on the best-selling books of the same name. Martini gives a one-note performance in this familiar tale further marred by over-the-top violence, misfiring black humour and one-dimensional characters. Pilot for Amazon TV series is based on the books by George C. Gilman (Terry Harknett). [15]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE GIRL WHO DIED / THE WOMAN WHO LIVED

THE GIRL WHO DIED / THE WOMAN WHO LIVED
2 episodes / 92m / 17 & 24 October 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: (1) Jamie Mathieson, Steven Moffat & (2) Catherine Tregenna
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Cast: (1 & 2) Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Maisie Williams (Ashildr/The Knightmare). (1) David Schofield (Odin), Simon Lipkin (Nollarr), Ian Conningham (Chuckles), Tom Stourton (Lofty), Alastair Parker (Limpy), Murray McArthur (Hasten), Barnaby Kay (Heidi). (2) Rufus Hound (Sam Swift), Gareth Berliner (Coachman), Elisabeth Hopper (Lucie Fanshawe), John Voce (Mr Fanshawe), Struan Rodger (Clayton), Gruffudd Glyn (Pikeman Lloyd Llewelyn), Reuben Johnson (Pikeman William Stout), Ariyon Bakare (Leandro), Ariyon Bakare (Leandro), Daniel Fearn (Crowd 1), Karen Seacombe (Crowd 2), John Hales (Hangman).
Plot: (1) Captured by Vikings, the Doctor and Clara must help protect their village from space warriors from the future, the Mire. Outnumbered and outgunned, their fate seems inevitable. So why is the Doctor preoccupied with a single Viking girl? (2) England, 1651. Deadly highwayman ‘the Knightmare’ and his sidekick stalk the dark streets of London. But when they find loot that is not of this world, they come face to face with the Doctor. Who is theKnightmare in league with? And can the Doctor avoid the hangman’s noose and protect the Earth from a devilish betrayal?
Comment: A two-parter with each episode having distinct plots but an overarching theme concerning Williams’ Ashildr and how the Doctor impacts her life. Both stories are historical based with fantasy/alien elements incorporated and both are entertaining if slight. The Viking story is the more enjoyable of the two with a simpler plot, but occasionally it descends into childish humour. The highway bandit story is a more serious affair dealing with the aftermath of the Doctor’s decision from the first story. Clara is absent for most of the episode leaving the story to delve deeper into the cause and effect of the Doctor’s decision – notably its impact on Williams’ character. The resolution is a little disappointing for a series steeped in plot twists and unexpected turns, but may potentially be evidence that Moffat has scaled back on the big concept shock tactics and opted for more concise character-based stories – not necessarily a bad thing.

TV Review – JUSTIFIED (2010-2015)

JUSTIFIED (2010-2015, USA, 1 x 52m and 77 x 38-45m, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Crime/Drama/Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗
     Starring: Timothy Olyphant (Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens); Nick Searcy (Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen); Joelle Carter (Ava Crowder); Jacob Pitts (Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson); Erica Tazel (Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks); Natalie Zea (Winona Hawkins); Walton Goggins (Boyd Crowder); Jere Burns (Wynn Duffy).
     Developed by Graham Yost, based on the short story “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard; Executive Producers: Elmore Leonard, Graham Yost, Fred Golan, Michael Dinner, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Dave Andron, Don Kurt, Timothy Olyphant, Taylor Elmore, Benjamin Cavell, Chris Provenzano; Theme Music: Steve Porcaro
     DVD Blurb: For six electrifying seasons, no crime series proved more combustible than the Peabody Award-winning Justified. At the explosive centre of the action, Western-style, gun-slinging U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) confronts murder, drugs, bank heists, mobsters, crime families, corrupt politicians and even his own tumultuous past – and never backs down. His ultimate adversary is the cunning, complex outlaw Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), but the real wild card is Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), the mysterious woman torn between the two men and both sides of the law. From creator Graham Yost and based on legendary author Elmore Leonard’s crime novella “Fire in the Hole,” it all leads to a perfectly unexpected final showdown.
Season One (2010) ∗∗∗∗
The story arc of season one concentrates on the crimes of the Crowder family. Raylan seeks to protect Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) from the rest of the Crowder clan after she shoots her husband, Bowman Crowder, dead in retaliation for years of abuse. Mix of standalone episodes and story arc make for a slightly disjointed season offset by the strength of characters and a witty scripts. Olyphant displays a wry charm and toughness, whilst Goggins creates a character of real depth as the bigoted criminal who got religion, Boyd Crowder.
Season Two (2011) ∗∗∗∗∗
Season 2 deals primarily with the criminal dealings of the Bennett clan. Family matriarch Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her three sons Dickie (Jeremy Davies), Coover (Brad William Henke), and Corbin County Police Chief Doyle (Joseph Lyle Taylor) plan to expand their marijuana business into Crowder territory following Bo’s death, as Boyd has proven somewhat reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps. The best series of Justified is helped by a superb support cast who give great depth to their characters, engaging plot and top-notch performances all round – notably Martindale as the matriarch Mags.
Season Three (2012) ∗∗∗∗
Season 3 introduces a new main villain, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) of Detroit. The criminal organization connected to the Frankfort, Kentucky, mob has exiled Quarles to Kentucky. Quarles allies himself with local enforcer Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and supplants the local criminals when Raylan begins investigating. Quarles is an initially interesting character but McDonough’s performance quickly descends into psychotic overkill. This season sees sadistic overtones playing an increasing part in the series.
Season Four (2013) ∗∗∗∗
Season 4 is about a mystery which was left unsolved for 30 years. On January 21, 1983, a man wearing a defective parachute plummets onto a residential street in Corbin, Kentucky, dying instantly. His body is surrounded by bags full of cocaine and an ID tag for a “Waldo Truth”. Interesting change of pace for the series that hinges on the mystery element. Once the mystery is solved it then becomes a tense tug-of-war between organized crime and the US Marshal Service.
Season Five (2014) ∗∗∗∗
Season 5 features the alligator-farming Crowe crime family, led by Darryl Crowe, Jr. (played by Michael Rappaport). The Crowes try to muscle in on the drug scene in Harlan county. Lots of incompetency amongst the criminals in their quest to climb the totem pole. This is interspersed with the series’ sometimes laugh-out-loud and dark wry humour and increasingly bloody violence. This is the series we get to see the most of Damon Herriman’s likeable rogue Dewey Crowe and he is excellent playing off Olyphant and Goggins.
Season Six (2015) ∗∗∗∗∗
Season 6 revolves around the culmination of Raylan and Boyd’s rivalry, complicated by Ava’s betrayal, the machinations of Avery Markham (Sam Elliott), and a plot to rob him by Boyd, Wynn Duffy and Markham’s secret adversary. Boyd succeeds in robbing Markham, but Raylan’s plan to entrap him with Ava’s help has tragic consequences. Triumphant final season rivals season 2 in quality and depth of character, displaying all the series’ strengths in its writing and performances with humour, shock twists and a satisfying conclusion to the Raylan/Ava/Boyd triangle. This has always been an excellent series for females and Carter gives her best performance of the series as the resourceful Ava, whilst Mary Steenbergen is also very good as the seductive and cruel Katherine Hale.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – UNDER THE LAKE / BEFORE THE FLOOD

UNDER THE LAKE / BEFORE THE FLOOD
2 episodes / 86m / 3 & 10 October 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Director: Daniel O’Hara
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Colin McFarlane (Moran), Sophie Stone (Cass), Zaqi Ismail (Lunn), Morven Christie (O’Donnell), Arsher Ali (Bennett), Steven Robertson (Pritchard), Paul Kaye (Prentis), Peter Serafinowicz (Voice of Fisher King), Corey Taylor (Voice of Fisher King).
Plot: Under a lake, in the dripping gloom of an underwater base, stands a gleaming black space ship, recovered from the lake bed. Nothing is inside – but when the base crew start dying, they make a terrible discovery: ghosts are real! And their friends are refusing to stay dead! The Doctor and Clara arrive to find a base under siege from beyond the grave. But how can the dead be walking? What has brought them back? When the Doctor discovers the truth, it is more terrifying than any simple ghost story.Comment: A traditional Who story in many ways as it features many elements that have worked well throughout the show’s history – the isolated base under siege, the use of different time zones for the Doctor to influence events, etc. The first episode is set entirely in the underwater base and leaves the Doctor, Clara and the crew to untangle the mystery of the messages left in an abandoned spacecraft and the seeming ghosts that are beginning to kill them off one by one. The second episode sees the Doctor and two members of the crew travel back to 1980 and before the valley was flooded, where he ultimately finds the source of the message. The Fisher King is an imposing monster and the story neatly wraps up the mystery. Along the way there are some creepy and atmospheric scenes, even if there is a little bit too much chasing through corridors (another Who staple). Capaldi and Coleman are in top form, but the guest cast is a mixed bag with only Sophie Stone’s deaf/mute Cass and Paul Kaye’s alien undertaker standing out. The two-part format again works well allowing the plot room to develop and this is a good solid story – the type of which the series continues to do well. Not sure about the specs as a replacement for the sonic screwdriver though.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE / THE WITCH’S FAMILIAR

THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE / THE WITCH’S FAMILIAR
2 episodes / 95m / 19 & 26 September 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗½
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Hettie MacDonald
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Julian Bleach (Davros), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Harki Bhambra (Mike), Daniel Hoffmann-Gill (Bors), Joey Price (Young Davros),
Benjamin Cawley (Kanzo),  Aaron Neil (Mr Dunlop), Clare Higgins (Ohila), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Kelly Hunter (Shadow Architect), India Ria Amarteifio (Alison), Dasharn Anderson (Ryan), Stefan Adegbola, Shin-Fei Chen, Lucy Newman- Williams (Newreaders), Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg (Daleks), Jonathon Ojinnaka (Soldier).
Plot: Capaldi returns as the Doctor for another series of time-travelling exploits. However, as this first adventure begins, it seems the Time Lord has gone missing – which is bad news for Earth, as a mysterious alien force has frozen the skies. Clara needs to find her friend – but where is he and what is he hiding from? Things soon become clear with the appearance of a familiar old enemy with a black hat and Scottish accent.
Comment: Confident two-part series opener. The plot takes the concept from the powerful scene from 1975’s GENESIS OF THE DALEKS – in which Tom Baker’s Doctor and Michael Wisher’s Davros debated genocidal ethics – and stretches it over a full story. Capaldi’s scenes with Bleach are enthralling and their interplay is the highlight of what is a stylish production. The story also pairs off Gomez’s Missy and Coleman’s Clara and their exchanges are lively and witty. It is also great to see the Daleks in most of their various liveries from over the years. Great ideas abound – including Hand Mines reaching out from the mud and a sewerage system on Skaro that is literally alive with waste. In recent series Moffat has taken an increasingly scattergun approach to his writing, cramming so many ideas that the stories can sometimes lose focus for the sake of a witty or wacky scene, but here he stretches them over two-episodes allowing the story room to breathe. The result is a visual treat combined with an emotive plot, creating a very satisfying whole.

TV Review – THE TRIALS OF JIMMY ROSE (2015)

Trials of Jimmy Rose, The (TV) (2015, UK, Colour, 135m) ∗∗  d. Adrian Shergold; w. Alan Whiting; ph. Tony Slater-Ling; m. Ben Bartlett; ed. Tania Reddin.  Cast: Ray Winstone, Amanda Redman, John Lynch, Mel Raido, Paul Jesson, Tom Cullen, Leticia Dolera, Marion Bailey, Akin Gazi, Charlotte Randle, Leticia Dolera, Jack Colgrave Hirst, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Daisy Cooper-Kelly, Montanna Thompson.  Winstone stars as a former armed robber released from prison after a lengthy sentence. He returns home to try and get his life back in order and reconnect with his wife and children – but he finds the world and his family have changed in his absence, and faces a struggle to avoid being drawn back into a life of crime. Predictable crime drama with over-wrought script and one-dimensional performance from Winstone. Tone is heavily downbeat and noir-ish, without the saving grace of rhythm and wit. Redman tries her best to overcome the clichés within the script, but ultimately this is standard fare with nothing new to offer. Shown in 3 episodes. DVD [15]

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.3 – THE UNQUIET DEAD (2005)

THE UNQUIET DEAD
1 episode / 45m / 9 April 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Alan David (Gabriel Sneed), Huw Rhys (Redpath), Jennifer Hill (Mrs Peace), Eve Myles (Gwyneth), Simon Callow (Charles Dickens), Wayne Cater (Stage Manager), Meic Povey (Driver), Zoe Thorne (The Gelth).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose back through time to 1869. But in Victorian Cardiff, the dead are walking, and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local Undertaker. Can they halt the plans of the ethereal Gelth?The Unquiet Dead
Comment: The series kicks into gear with this episode, which delves into history and literature. The atmosphere is perfectly pitched by director Lyn with strong turns from his cast. Callow, a Dickens fan himself, is excellent as the renowned author as are David as the grim welsh undertaker and Myles as his housemaid, who has second sight. Eccleston and Piper have already built a strong rapport and there is plenty of opportunity for Eccleston’s Doctor to be commanding. The scene where the Doctor realises he has been tricked by the Gelth, who have used Myles as their passageway is wonderfully played by both actors. The only downside is some of the comedy early in the episode is again a little forced, but that doesn’t prevent this from being the best episode of the series to date by far.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.1 – ROSE (2005)

2015 is the 10th anniversary of the return of one of British TV’s most historic shows – Doctor Who. Having also recently celebrated 50 years since its inception in 1963, the show continues to delight fans both old and new. To celebrate I have decided to revisit each episode from the re-launch masterminded by Russell T Davies, so here goes…

ROSE
1 episode / 45m / 26 March 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Keith Boak
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mark Benton (Clive), Elli Garnett (Caroline), Adam McCoy (Clive’s Son), Alan Ruscoe, Paul Casey, David Sant, Elizabeth Fost, Helen Otway (Autons), Nicholas Briggs (Nestene Voice).Rose
Plot: Rose Tyler is just an ordinary shop worker living an ordinary life in 21st century Britain. But that life is turned upside down when a strange man calling himself The Doctor drags her into an alien invasion attempt!
Comment: Introductory stories are always difficult to pull off due to the elements they are required to juggle – not least of which are the introduction of the main characters to the audience and the tone they set for the series. The stories are therefore often of secondary importance as a result and this is no exception with a lot to cram into its 45-minute running time. On the whole the episode works well in its purpose, although some of the comedy is played too broadly – notably Clarke’s Mickey and the CGI burping dustbin. The climax is well staged however as the Auton dummies spring to life in a busy shopping centre and wreak havoc as the Doctor tries to negotiate with the Nestene Consiousness. Eccleston is an atypical Doctor, simply costumed in a battered leather jacket, and merely hints here at the range he would display as the series progressed. Reference is made to his northern accent. Tyler is excellent as Rose as is Coduri as her mother, the flirty Jackie.