TV Review – DOCTOR WHO Series 8 (2014)

DOCTOR WHO: SERIES 8 (2014, BBC, UK, 1 x 77 mins, 1 x 60 mins and 10 x 45 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: PG, Sci-Fi/Adventure) ∗∗∗∗
Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald).
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Peter Bennett; Music: Murray Gold.

Doctor_Who_Series_8_boxsetPeter Capaldi is the most alien Doctor since the series returned to our screens in 2005. He produces a well-judged performance keeping the balance between eccentric humour and gravitas, something that could not be said of many of Matt Smith’s later stories where the humour began to take over. Capaldi’s age also helps give the Doctor a more authoritative presence.

Jenna Coleman embraces the new dynamic and rises to the occasion to produce her best performances of her tenure. The addition of Samuel Anderson as her love interest, teacher and former soldier Danny Pink, ensures she remains a central focus throughout the series.

The plot umbrella involving the mysterious Missy (played with almost pantomime like relish by Michelle Gomez) led to a two-part finale that attempted to cram in too many emotional thumps. In general, however, the stories are of the most consistently high quality since Matt Smith’s debut season with the most successful of them going back to the basics of what makes this show the most enjoyable thing on television.

1  DEEP BREATH (77m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Dan Starkey (Strax), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Peter Ferdinando (Half-Face Man), Paul Hickey (Inspector Gregson), Tony Way (Alf), Maggie Service (Elsie), Mark Kempner (Cabbie), Brian Miller (Barney), Graham Duff (Waiter), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Peter Hannah (Policeman), Paul Kasey (Footman), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]), Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor).
      Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Steven Moffat.

When the Doctor arrives in Victorian London, he finds a dinosaur rampant in the Thames and a spate of deadly spontaneous combustions. Who is the new Doctor and will Clara’s friendship survive as they embark on a terrifying mission into the heart of an alien conspiracy? The Doctor has changed. It’s time you knew him. A lively, if familiar, adventure with large doses of Moffat’s trademark humorous dialogue and manic energy interspersed with occasional moments of atmosphere and tension.

2  INTO THE DALEK (45m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Zawe Ashton (Journey Blue), Michael Smiley (Colonel Morgan Blue), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Laura Dos Santos (Gretchen Allison Carlysle), Ben Crompton (Ross), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Michelle Morris (School Secretary), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek [Rusty]), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of Battered Dalek), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]).
      Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Phil Ford & Steven Moffat.

A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship, and only the Doctor can help them now… with the Doctor facing his greatest enemy, he needs Clara by his side. Confronted with a decision that could change the Daleks forever he is forced to examine his conscience. Will he find the answer to the question, am I a good man?  An interesting mix of elements from the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage and Series 1’s Dalek episode. This gives Capaldi more room to establish himself as possibly the best Doctor of the new run and certainly the most alien.

3  ROBOT OF SHERWOOD (47m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Tom Riley (Robin Hood [Robert, Earl of Loxley]), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Quayle), Sabrina Bartlett (Quayle’s Ward [Marian]), Ben Miller (The Sheriff of Nottingham), Ian Hallard (Alan-a-Dale), Trevor Cooper (Friar Tuck), Rusty Goffe (Little John), Joseph Kennedy (Will Scarlett), Adam Jones (Walter), David Benson (Herald), David Langham (Guard), Tim Baggaley (Knight), Richard Elfyn (Voice of the Knights).
      Director: Paul Murphy; Writer: Mark Gatiss.

In a sun-dappled Sherwood Forest, the Doctor discovers an evil plan from beyond the stars and strikes up an unlikely alliance with Robin Hood. With all of Nottingham at stake, the Doctor must decide who is real and who is fake. Can impossible heroes really exist? One of two lighter episodes (The Caretaker being the other) that harks back to the Matt Smith era. Capaldi handles the comedy well, but the whole thing feels a little too lightweight.

4  LISTEN (48m) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink / Orson Pink), Remi Gooding (Rupert Pink), Robert Goodman (Reg), Kiran Shah (Figure), John Hurt (The War Doctor).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Steven Moffat.

When ghosts of past and future crowd into their lives, the Doctor and Clara are thrown into an adventure that takes them to the very end of the universe. What happens when the Doctor is alone? And what scares the grand old man of Time and Space? Listen! The first classic of the Capaldi era is a chilling evocation of bedtime nightmares and proves Moffat still has it in him to produce the scares in a lower budget episode, even if he is once again mining the child psyche to produce them.

5  TIME HEIST (46m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Keeley Hawes (Ms Delphox), Jonathan Bailey (Psi), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Saibra), Mark Ebulue (Guard), Trevor Sellers (Mr Porrima), Junior Laniyan (Suited Customer), Ross Mullan (The Teller).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Steve Thompson & Steven Moffat.

The Doctor turns bank robber when he is given a task he cannot refuse – to steal from the most dangerous bank in the cosmos. With the help of a beautiful shape-shifter and cyber-augmented gamer, the Doctor and Clara must fight their way past deadly security and come face to face with the fearsome Teller: a creature of terrifying power that can detect guilt. Who’s version for a heist movie is well-played by a game cast, with The Teller a memorable monster creation. Whilst the story doesn’t really go anywhere it has its share of entertaining moments.

6  THE CARETAKER (46m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Edward Harrison (Adrian), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Andy Gillies (CSO Matthew), Nanya Campbell (Noah), Joshua Warner-Campbell (Yashe), Oliver Barry-Brook(Kelvin), Ramone Morgan(Tobias), Winston Ellis (Mr Woods), Gracy Goldman (Mrs Woods), Diana Katis (Mrs Christopholou), Jimmy Vee (Skovox Blitzer), Chris Addison (Seb), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]).
      Director: Paul Murphy; Writer: Gareth Roberts.

The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity – but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet. When terrifying events threaten Coal Hill School, the Doctor decides to go undercover. The better of the two comedic stories in the series. Capaldi really enjoys his undercover role and there is much fun to be had with Vee’s monster.

7  KILL THE MOON (47m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Ellis George (Courtney), Hermione Norris (Lundvik), Tony Osoba (Duke), Phil Nice (Henry), Christopher Dane (McKean).
      Director: Paul Wilmhurst; Writer: Peter Harness.

In the near future, the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a space shuttle making a suicide mission to the Moon. Crash-landing on the lunar surface, they find a mining base full of corpses, vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack, and a terrible dilemma. When Clara turns to the Doctor for help, she gets the shock of her life. Beautifully filmed episode that wracks up the tension through its claustrophobic setting. The spider creatures are truly terrifying, but the pay-off solution stretches credulity. However the coda between Capaldi and Coleman packs an emotional wallop.

8  MUMMY ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (47m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Frank Skinner (Perkins), David Bamber (Captain Quell), John Sessions (Gus), Daisy Beaumont (Maisie Pitt), Janet Henfrey (Mrs Pitt), Christopher Villiers (Professor Emil Moorhouse), Foxes (Singer), Jamie Hill (Foretold).
      Director: Paul Wilmhurst; Writer: Jamie Mathieson.

The Doctor and Clara are on the most beautiful train in history, speeding among the stars of the future – but they are unaware that a deadly creature is stalking the passengers. Once you see the horrifying Mummy you only have 66 seconds to live. No exceptions, no reprieve. As the Doctor races against the clock Clara sees him at his deadliest and most ruthless. Will he work out how to defeat the Mummy? Start the clock! Another race against the clock scenario (previously done in 42) but made with such style, grace and wit you can forgive its contrivances. The mummy creature is a brilliantly realised effect.

9  FLATLINE (44m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), John Cummins (Roscoe), Jessica Hayles (PC Forrest), Joivan Wade (Rigsy), Christopher Fairbank (Fenton), Matt Bardock (Al), Raj Bajaj (George), James Quinn (Bill), Michelle Gomez (Missy).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Jamie Mathieson.

Separated from the Doctor, Clara discovers a new menace from another dimension. But how do you hide when even the walls are no protection? With people to save and the Doctor trapped, Clara comes up against an enemy that exists beyond human perception. Brilliantly conceived and executed with some chilling moments and some fun with the Doctor trapped in a shrunken TARDIS. Again an example of the series working best when the budgets are limited.

10  IN THE FOREST OF THE NIGHT (46m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Abigail Eames (Maebh), Jaydon Harris-Wallace (Samson Jaydon Harris-Wallace), Ashley Foster (Bradley), Harley Bird (Ruby), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Siwan Morris (Maebh’s Mum), Harry Dickman (George), James Weber Brown (Minister), Michelle Asante (Neighbour), Curtis Flowers (Emergency Service Officer), Jenny Hill (Herself), Kate Tydman (Paris Reporter), Nana Amoo-Gottfried (Accra Reporter), William Wright-Neblett (Little Boy), Eloise Barnes (Annabel).
      Director: Sheree Folkson; Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce.

One morning, in every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to face the most surprising invasion yet. Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown overnight and taken back the Earth. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to discover that the final days of humanity have arrived. A story where its ambitions outweigh its resources. There are some good moments here too, despite the over-reaching concept and Capaldi has settled nicely into his stride.

11/12  DARK WATER / DEATH IN HEAVEN (104m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Lethbridge-Stewart), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Colonel Ahmed),  Chris Addison (Seb), Andrew Leung (Doctor Chang), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Antonio Bourouphael (Boy), Joan Blackham (Woman), Sheila Reid (Gran), Jeremiah Krage (Cyberman), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Shane Keogh-Grenade (Teenage Boy), Katie Bignell (Teenage Girl), James Pearse (Graham), Nick Frost (Santa Claus).
      Director: Rachel Talalay; Writer: Steven Moffat.

In the mysterious world of the Nethersphere, plans have been drawn up. Missy is about to come face to face with the Doctor, and an impossible choice is looming. “Death is not an end” promises the sinister organisation known only as 3W – but, as the Doctor and Clara discover, you might wish it was. The set up in Dark Water is intriguing and echoes Revelation of the Daleks’ black humour. The cliffhanger reveal is not a surprise, however, and the final episode is overblown, contrived and confusing. There are too many convenient plot resolutions for comfort here, but the final scene between Capaldi and Coleman is perfectly judged.

Film Review – THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974)

THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974, Morningside Productions, Inc., UK/Spain/USA, 105 mins, Colour, 1.66:1, Mono, Cert: U, Fantasy Adventure) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: John Phillip Law (Sinbad), Caroline Munro (Margiana), Tom Baker (Koura), Douglas Wilmer (Vizier), Martin Shaw (Rachid), Grégoire Aslan (Hakim), Kurt Christian (Haroun), Takis Emmanuel (Achmed), David Garfield (Abdul), Aldo Sambrell (Omar).
      Producer: Charles H. Schneer, Ray Harryhausen; Director: Gordon Hessler; Writer: Brian Clemens (from a story by Clemens and Harryhausen); Director of Photography: Ted Moore; Music: Miklos Rozsa; Film Editor: Roy Watts; Product ion Designer: John Stoll; Art Director: Fernando Gonzalez; Set Decorator: Julian Mateos; Special Visual Effects: Ray Harryhausen.

golden_voyage_of_sinbadA throwback to the adventures of the late fifties and early sixties that at the time of its release was a welcome departure from the urban thrillers dominating early 1970s cinema. Here, Sinbad (Law) and his crew intercept a homunculus carrying a golden tablet. Koura (a pre-Doctor Who Baker), the homunculus’ creator and practitioner of evil magic, wants the tablet back and pursues Sinbad. Meanwhile Sinbad meets the Vizier (Wilmer) who has another part of the interlocking golden map, and they mount a quest across the seas to solve the riddle of the map, accompanied by a slave girl (Munro) with a mysterious tattoo of an eye on her palm. They encounter strange beasts, tempests, and the dark interference of Koura along the way.

Whilst the effects may seem quaint compared to the modern-day CGI approach, they also give this tale its charm and the creatures carry more personality as a result of Harryhausen’s legendary stop-motion approach to animation. The pace improves as the story progresses with good action scenes centred around battles with mythological creatures pumped along by a strong score from Rozsa. The quest plot is a familiar hook for fans of the genre and whilst the film does not match the heights of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS or even THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. This is still pleasingly entertaining escapism for kids of all ages.

Robert Shaw had pitched for the role of Sinbad but settled for an uncredited role as the Oracle, for which his face was heavily swathed in make-up and his voice electronically altered by a sound engineer. Followed by SINBAD AND THE EYE OF THE TIGER in 1977.

TV Review: DOCTOR WHO: Deep Breath (2014)

DOCTOR WHO: DEEP BREATH (2014, BBC, UK, 76 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: PG, Sci-Fi/Adventure) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Dan Starkey (Strax), Peter Ferdinando (Half-Face Man), Paul Hickey (Inspector Gregson), Tony Way (Alf), Maggie Service (Elsie), Brian Miller (Barney), Ellis George (Courtney).
      Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin; Producer: Nikki Wilson; Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Steven Moffat; Script Editor: Derek Ritchie; Director of Photography: Magni Agustsson; Music: Murray Gold; Film Editor: William Oswald; Production Designer: Michael Pickwoad; Costume Designer: Howard Burden; Special Effects: MILK, BBC Wales Visual Effects, Real SFX, Millennium FX.

DW8_Landscape_Aug24_sPeter Capaldi’s debut as the ever-popular Time Lord has been hotly anticipated since it was announced he would be taking over the role a year ago. Casting an older actor (Capaldi is 56) after the extremely popular Matt Smith, who was half Capaldi’s age was a bold move by Moffat, who has signalled a desire to introduce more gravity into the part and into the plots.

Deep Breath only hints at these changes, being a lively adventure with large doses of Moffat’s trademark humorous dialogue and manic energy interspersed with occasional moments of atmosphere and tension. There are nods to the classic series in a dinosaur roaming London (Invasion of the Dinosaurs) and residents of Victorian London being exploited for their flesh (The Talons of Weng-Chiang). Moffat also looks to his own earlier work – the clockwork men are taken from The Girl in the Fireplace and the Doctor’s instruction “don’t breathe” top avoid detection by the clockwork men is reminiscent of “don’t blink” from Blink.

The Vastra-Jenny-Strax trio is starting to wear a bit thin, however, recycling much of the banter from earlier appearances. It may have been felt that there was a need to surround the new Doctor with familiar elements in order to gain acceptance. This is nothing new – even Tom Baker had to go through a debut story obviously styled around his predecessor before very quickly finding his own feet one story later. It is to be hoped Moffat has remained true to his word in creating a more challenging and thoughtful Doctor. There is certainly a hint here that once Capaldi settles into the role we will have a strong Doctor and a more serious tone. The series needs to restore a sense of tension and jeopardy, so it was refreshing to see the seemingly infinitely adaptable sonic screwdriver used less frequently.

A good, but not great, start to a new era. Next week it’s Into the Dalek.