Spoilers. You've been warned.
I should begin with the preface that I'm about as sick of writing negative reviews of Doctor Who episodes as you are of reading them. But, here we are. Again.
I should begin by saying Twice Upon a Time is not an unmitigated disaster. There are good scenes - the return of Mark Gatiss to the battlefield and the subsequent reveal was quite a touching scene, and the idea itself was a decent, if rather boring and unexplained one. David Bradley was also quite good although he never really came close to emulating Hartnell's performance, although you could legitimately argue that wasn't really the point.
Unfortunately, the stupid Moffatisms we've come to expect tore the episode apart - the 'twists' were lame and predictable, moments that had potential to be thoughtful ones turned out to be sappy and overlong, and Jenna fucking Coleman turning up infuriated me to no end, while the main plot just sort of fizzled out halfway through without any real explanation to how any of this actually happened.
In reality, it was Steven Moffat doing what Steven Moffat does best - writing stories with a few promising ideas and moments being sandwiched between the stupid, the sappy and the completely batshit insane. Thank fuck he's gone.
I'm sadder Capaldi has gone, but it was clear he had stopped caring - while he's a professional actor who maintained his performances, I think the rather poor quality of the writing in his run sapped the energy and enthusiasm out of him. I most definitely do not blame him.
I have little to say about the final scene - getting anything of Whittaker's performance from the minute or so she was on screen would be folly, and given Chibnall only wrote two words we can't deduce much from that either.
He did, however, write Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, which should tell us all we need to know.
Anyway, TL;DR I didn't like the episode, and I'm glad the Moffat era is over.
Look, I like Tarantino. A lot, actually. Some of his films rank among my very favourites, and I don't think he's ever made a bad film.
But this is a really, really, REALLY, bad idea. If it does happen (which is far from a given), I really hope I'm wrong, but I think it'll be a disaster, to put it mildly. I like Dark Star Trek - Deep Space Nine is one of my favourite TV shows of all time and it's at its best when its darkest, but there's a difference between In The Pale Moonlight and Django Unchained.
In short, I don't think it'll work. But, it's something I can write on here to show the 2 or 3 people who read my stuff that I'm not dead, so there's that. Also my usual topic of writing, Doctor Who, is about as boring as it is possible to be at the moment with a probably lackluster Christmas special and then a probably lackluster new series coming along, so I'll take what I can get.
They've written themselves into a corner. There's no way out of it without either making the whole series end on a very downer note or some stupid machina gets them through it.
Also anyone else get the feeling GOT has hit burnout?
I searched for a randomiser that would allow me to choose a random Doctor Who story to watch, and behold, Google threw up http://therandomiser.net/
What were my first three stories.
Asylum of the Daleks.
Sleep No More.
Have I mentioned how terrible my life is?
1. Whoever it is, it will be a bland, uninspired choice that will do absolutely nothing to save the show from its current decline. Sorry, but that's the truth.
2. Whoever it is, a large part of the fanbase will become very pissed off, and it will make the whole thing divided and bitter.
3. I could not care less about point 2, because I don't care about the new series and I certainly don't care about the Doctor Who fanbase.
4. Nothing is going to improve when Moffat leaves. It's Chris bloody Chinball. He wrote Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. He is not going to save Doctor Who. He could cast Timothy Dalton or he could cast Tommy Wiseau - it won't change a damn thing because he's demonstrated in his previous writing for the show that he doesn't get Doctor Who. Neither did Moffat and Davies did only to a certain extent.
5. I think the show might be in serious trouble if this pick will be as uninspired and dull as I think it will be. And I mean, 'cancellation' trouble. Because lets be honest, say what you want about the Seventh Doctor's era, it put up a bloody fight. It was a fight it lost - but it fought. If Doctor Who goes because of the last few years, it will be going out with a whimper.
6. If the show is cancelled, it will be the best thing to happen to Doctor Who since it came back in 2005. It needs something to shake up, so something new can happen. Because maybe the show's format simply can't last nearly 54 years without significant change. Maybe something needs to give.
Either way the whole thing is fucked and has been for a while. So don't get your hopes up no matter who is cast.
In other news, I watched The Space Museum again today. Not as bad as I remember it being.
The TV Movie
Written by Matthew Jacobs
1 feature length film, broadcast 12 May 1996 (Canada)/14 May 1996 (US)/27 May 1996 (UK)
Following the show's cancellation in 1989, there were numerous attempts to get Doctor Who back onto our screens. Until the successful attempt in 2005, this was the only time it got far enough to actually get onto a TV screen. And watching it, you can see why it didn't get very far.
Let's be positive. The direction is actually very good here - this movie is very nice to look out, most of the shots are framed very well and the general styling of the movie works great. Most of the casting is fantastic - Paul McGann was an inspired choice for the Doctor and through Big Finish he has proved how good he would have been had the series been picked up. The actors who play Grace and Chang are pretty good as well.
Eric Roberts as the Master is... less inspired casting, shall we say. Okay, lets stop beating around the bush. He's a total disaster. The subtle nuances of Delgado and Ainley, or even the more calm madness of Simm and Gomez are not present here, replaced by hammy scenery chewing. He's not very good.
In fact, the movie isn't very good. The biggest problem is that the plot is completely incomprehensible and stupid, and comes packaged with some unforgivable fan-insult moments. Piss off, the Doctor is not half-human. I can call that non-canon because it is non-canon. Just because it appears on screen doesn't make it canon. Is the end of The Feast of Steven canon? No. This isn't either.
The whole thing is based on a number of contrivances that end up making zero sense. Its not very good.
So its not difficult to see why this didn't get off the ground. Even without some batshit insane scheduling in the US which killed it before it even aired, I doubt audiences would have become enamoured with this. It was certainly a taste of things to come, but I don't think a series based on this movie would have been the great new Doctor Who series fans were waiting for.
And finally, an announcement
When I started Whoathon I didn't know if I even wanted to do the New Series. I haven't made my disdain for it a secret, and having to sit through some of those episodes again would be a mild torture I'd rather not undergo. I have since decided that I will in fact watch the New Series... but not yet. Consider this a hiatus. I'll be back when I can be bothered to actually watch the New Series. I could wait a month, I could wait a year. I don't know, at this point I don't really care.
Whoathon will return. Eventually.
Written by Rona Munro
3 episodes, broadcast 22 November - 6 December 1989
The final story of the classic series of Doctor Who is a solid if unspectacular affair - its a weird concept but one that actually works (unlike Munro's concept for The Eaters of Light which... doesn't shall we say) and creates an interesting story that in the end succeeds because of Anthony Ainley's glorious portrayal of the Master. He never quite lived up to Roger Delgado, but then again, who could? He was brilliant. I also like how Survival ditched any Cartmel Masterplan pretentions and just decided to tell a story. This was helpful.
So yeah. Decent. Not amazing, but decent.
Seventh Doctor Retrospective
I feel the Seventh Doctor's era is both one of remarkable creativity and one of rapidly falling production values which affected the overall feel of the stories greatly. In the end, your appetite for this era will depend greatly on your tolerance levels for fairly cheap looking eighties cheese. I don't mind that when the stories are done well - and sometimes they were and sometimes they weren't. Its difficult to say the Seventh Doctor's era is a consistent one when it contains good stuff like Remembrance of the Daleks and godawful stuff like Paradise Towers. Then again, once his first season had passed, there was nothing that was truly godawful - even the not great stuff like Silver Nemesis was just that - not great, rather than really bad. The Cartmel Masterplan was not something I was in favour in and for me it affected the story quality - something like The Curse of Fenric for instance would have worked a lot better if it wasn't intergrated with incomprehensible muck that tries to create a backstory for the Doctor that nobody really needed.
There is, however, no real denying, that something during this era finally caused the show to end - was it the inevitable end of a terminal decline, or did the show hit a brick wall that it couldn't recover from? I'd argue the former - as I said at the end of the Sixth Doctor's era, this was not a new phenomenon - the signs had been in place for a long time - I'd argue as early as the Fourth Doctor's penultimate season a good decade before the show finally snuffed it. And in the end, what started the final decline was the 1986 hiatus caused by Michael Grade's delusional hatred for the show and particularly Colin Baker - thats hardly the fault of the Seventh Doctor's era? Right?
Well the Seventh Doctor's era could have put up more of a fight. Better creative control could have been asserted for instance to improve consistency, or try and create a proper marketing system, or something. I'm afraid the incorrect decisions that eventually aided the end come at least partially down to John-Nathan Turner. He did a lot right for the show, but its difficult to argue he didn't play at least some part in its end.
So thats it. Best story was probably Rememberance of the Daleks, worst was the entire of his first season apart from Dragonfire, which was at least funny bad unlike the others which were tragic bad.
Obviously the Seventh Doctor will return but I can hardly do a Seventh Doctor retrospective in the middle of the TV Movie post. Speaking of which...
Classic Series Retrospective
The TV Movie is not the Classic Series. Its not the New Series either. Its sort of a middling series and thats why I won't put it in either category. So Survival, for me, is the end of the classic series.
I don't think I'll be surprising anyone when I say think Classic Who is leagues above New Who. Classic Who certainly had its ups and downs, and you could argue that Doctor Who in 1989 was just as different to Doctor Who in 1963 as it was to Doctor Who in 2005. But then again, it never lost what it meant to be Doctor Who. It was always story driven. Sometimes those stories were good, sometimes they were bad. But they always concentrated on telling the stories as best as possible. They would sometimes be memorable, sometimes be thought-provoking, sometimes be bad. But they were always Doctor Who, whatever the story. The fatal mistake of New Who is that they tried to make a modern action drama series with the Doctor in it. This was NEVER what Classic Who was about. It never tried to be anything else - it never tried to emulate Star Trek in the late 60s, it never tried to emulate Star Wars in the late 70s, it never tried to emulate... well I guess Star Trek again in the late 80s. And that is why I love it. Even Black Orchid has a place in my heart as Classic Doctor Who - designed not to win TV awards, or to provide a good source for Tumblr posts, or to break the record for most crappy CGI used in one 45 minute television epsiode - just to tell stories.
And it always did.
The Curse of Fenric
Written by Ian Briggs
4 episodes, broadcast 25 October - 15 November 1989
Why The Curse of Fenric works when it really shouldn't is because it is honestly just a blast to watch. Its fun without being silly, and that means it can overcome pesky problems like a clumsy plot and more Cartmel Masterplan rubbish. Having said that the fourth episode does tie the first three together fairly well, so I'd wait until you've actually finished watching it to judge. Also, the stuff with Ace is really good, even if it is very Cartmel Masterplany, which I don't like.
Have I mentioned I don't like the Cartmel Masterplan?
Written by Marc Platt
3 episodes, broadcast 4 - 18 October 1989
I have no idea what happened in this story.
Like, at all. Help? Please? Someone?
Written by Ben Aaronovitch
4 episodes, broadcast 6 - 27 September 1989
This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in my life.
Not bad necessarily, just... stupid.
Seeing the Brigadier back is great, the villains are memorable and its just genuinely a fun story to watch so I'm not going to hate on it at all... but fucking hell is it stupid.
There be spoilers ahead.
Righty o then.
World Enough and Time
World Enough and Time is a great episode. It succeeds in making the Cybermen creepy in a way that has never been done before, and the concept itself is a smart one. The Doctor failing to save a companion from the Cybermen harks back to the best parts of Earthshock. The problem however, is that it must be taken in the context of The Doctor Falls which is... a problem.
The Doctor Falls
The problem with The Doctor Falls is that its probably going to need to be taken in the context of the Christmas Special. But I'm going to try.
The Master's (both of them) presence in the story is unfortunately rather pointless for the time being - take them out and nothing really changes in terms of the story progressing. Nice speeches are nice, but I'd rather something actually happen regarding them.
The portrayal of Cyber-Bill is clever and works well enough. In fact the overall story is good enough - especially with the way it (probably) wraps up Nardole's story.
Bill's story is wrapped up... less well. And this is where it falls apart.
As it turns out I object to 'Tears saving the day' on a fundamental level in any kind of context, and this is no different. I didn't like The Pilot and trying to shove in the silly element that made no sense from that episode and tack it on like that is pure Moffat. Why on earth do I have to remember the ending of an episode I didn't like for this one to make the slightest bit of sense, particularly when such ending has not been alluded to at all. "But the tears were foreshadowing it!!!!!" No they weren't, because as I've already mentioned, everyone fucking forgot The Pilot. If I, a dedicated Doctor Who fan who's been painstakingly watching every episode (usually against his better judgment), have forgotten it, why on earth is the viewing public going to remember it.
So tears un-Cyber Bill and she goes off with that girl who was kind of hot but had a rubbish actor and no personality from the first episode. Bye Bill. Fine. Not ideal, but in the end, its the departure of a companion, there has been worse. Just ask Vicki. Or Leela. Or Romana. Or Nyssa.
But then the 'Hope-Tears' save the Doctor and begin his regeneration. This would be borderline offensive to me as a fan if it wasn't actually offensive to me as a fan because of the usual 'Companions Saying Doctor' routine which conveniently ignores the first 42 years of the programs history. As fucking usual.
And then the Doctor goes off on a 'I DON'T WANT TO REGENERATE' tirade which made no sense in The End of Time and makes no sense here. In the end, he's the same person. None of the earlier Doctors bitched and moaned about getting a way out of death, because in the end, they're still alive, even if they have different hair, or a different face, or in this particular case, probably tits. Yeah, the Second Doctor bitched and moaned about it, but that was more down to the fact that he was being exiled than actually regenerating. Imagine if the Third Doctor had been like 'I want do die from radiation poisoning' or the Fourth Doctor was like 'I want all the bones in my body to remain broken from the fall' or the First Doctor being like.... oh wait.
Yeah, and then there's the ending. David Bradley now plays the First Doctor which isn't exactly a bad choice - obviously he played William Hartnell in the brilliant An Adventure in Space and Time, but I think there's the general understanding these days that you don't really recast parts like that and expect nobody to tell the difference. They just about got away with in The Five Doctors because a) It was 1983 not 2017 and b) Richard Hurndall looked a lot like William Hartnell and nobody knew who the fuck he was. Seriously, you wouldn't think 'Oh look Richard Hurndall' you'd think 'Oh look a guy playing the First Doctor'. That was in a day before home video was commonly available and nobody would have seen any First Doctor stories for years. Now, we have all the ones that exist on DVD, and everyone has seen him in montages and on the internet a million times, and that's of course before you think 'Oh look its David Bradley' because you will think that, because it is David Bradley.
In any case, the First Doctor being worried about regenerating makes way more sense than the Twelfth Doctor, because the First Doctor hadn't regenerated thirteen times before. Its just stupid.
So I was not a fan. And obviously all the NewWho Tumblr fangirls were, because a quick glance on Twitter shows how they were 'crying when all the companions showed up'. So general appreciation is high enough because of that.
So we await Christmas, for the sad end of the Peter Capaldi era, and the very very happy end of the Steven Moffat era.
What a shame the next showrunner is the guy who wrote Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.
The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
Written by Stephen Wyatt
4 episodes, broadcast 14 December 1988 - 4 January 1989
Yeah this pretty good. Notwithstanding some annoying scenes, and the thinking that the three episode format might have worked a bit better with this story (and the four episodes with Silver Nemesis), it has a very clever premise and a good performance from the central cast.
Notice how I'm going back to the 'yeah this is good' posts after a while of actually trying to make this even the slightest bit interesting to read. I won't bother trying an excuse.
Written by Kevin Clarke
3 episodes, broadcast 23 November - 7 December 1988
Watching Silver Nemesis in the same week as World Enough and Time invites comparisons that are not particularly helpful for the earlier serial, at least when it comes to the Cybermen themselves. In Nemesis the Cybermen are a bit pathetic - they easily get killed off from the slightest bit of gold and then get duped by the Doctor in spectacularly easy fashion which makes you wonder if the Doctor had even meant for it to be quite that easy. In Time they are creepy bordering on terrifying, with exceptionally dark body horror involved in a story about the Cybermen for probably the first ever time - what it did was establish the Cybermen as genuinely disturbing in a way that you never really thought of them before.
I am painfully aware all of this is going to look ridiculous on Saturday when the usual Moffat finale treatment (i.e second episode that makes no sense and retcons everything that made the first bit good) is given, but I think what this shows is that maybe Classic Who was finally exhausted by the end. I'm not exactly famous for being pro-NuWho - in fact most of it is pretty rubbish, but with WEaT they took a gigantic risk. I don't know if it paid off or not because the second episode hasn't aired, but creatively the show felt the most fresh it has in years. Consider the fact that the viewing figures from late-80s Who and contemporary Who are similarly low (ignoring that overnight figures obviously mean far less than they did in the 80s and probably than they did even a few years ago), Modern Who seems to be trying to reinvent itself, even if its only for one episode a season.
All of this, of course, is counter-argued by the Cartmel Masterplan which really begins to show itself in Silver Nemesis. Again, I'm on record as being against that particular development, but they were trying something new and interested - the difference being that everything around it feels rushed and dated. Surely even in the 80s it must have felt pretty bloody cheap - the reason for that is obviously that the BBC didn't give two fucks about Doctor Who by 1988, while in 2017 its still one of the BBC's most valuable properties - even with low viewing figures cancellation is not even a remote possibility.
I'm aware of the irony of someone as anti-NuWho as me (Indeed, I've spent the last ten weeks shitting on the rest of Series 10, and yeah, it was awful, and I'm not going to let one really good episode change that) talk about its surviving a low point better than Classic Who, and its not the only reason Classic Who felt the chop while NuWho certainly won't. But simply put, World Enough and Time was a bold attempt to add to Doctor Who's mythos in a genuinely shocking way, while Silver Nemesis was a flat attempt to add to Doctor Who's mythos in a confusing and oblique way.
My thoughts on the rest of WEaT and The Doctor Falls will be in a separate post after the latter airs. After the whole Heaven Sent fiasco I'm not trusting Moffat to not fuck it up.
Silver Nemesis isn't great. Why they decided to have Nazis show up in a Cyberman story but not a Dalek story is beyond me.
The Happiness Patrol
Written by Graeme Curry
3 episodes, broadcast 2 - 16 November 1988
I feel I've reached the point in Whoathan where I've run out of things to say about stories like this. It was inevitable and depressingly so.
So see if you can make your own judgement:
Its a story about a world where people are killed for being sad by being drowned in strawberries, theres a robot made of sweets and the TARDIS gets painted pink.
I think thats all you need to know.
Remembrance of the Daleks
Written by Ben Aaronovitch
4 episodes, broadcast 5 - 26 October 1988
I'm about to piss off a lot of people.
I should begin with a clarification that I like this story. Like, a lot. Its certainly the best story in a very long while and proof that Doctor Who could still be entertaining. But one of the best stories of all time? Er, no. Sorry.
The main problem is that its Fan Service: The Story. A lot of people like fan service. I can like fan service. But its basically the entire story, which is a problem, given I like smaller, less important things like, story, character and plot focus.
To say Remembrance doesn't have any of these things is obviously wrong - the story isn't bad and the Doctor's characterisation is actually pretty strong for instance, but whenever you're thinking 'Oh, that's actually pretty good,' suddenly you get an awkward fan service moment. The Daleks climbing the stairs? Okay, thats pretty awesome. Davros turning up? Uh, okay, I mean the story didn't really need it but alright. Daleks fighting each other? If you must. That fucking moment with the 'new science fiction series'? Fuck off. The whole thing being set near a school for the sole purpose of referencing An Unearthly Child? Fuck off.
Another annoying thing is the social commentary - its more subtle than New Who Series 10 but that doesn't take a lot. Fascists are bad - thanks Doctor Who, I really couldn't have worked that one out for myself. The parallels between Daleks and fascists have always been painfully obvious and having them team up is really not a great idea because it shows precisely that the Daleks are based off our own human heaviour - thus robbing them of part of their alien nature. This wouldn't be a problem if it was something cool like Daleks teaming up with Nazis (which for the record I genuinely can't believe they haven't done yet), but 'a school headmaster and one of the military guys' does not really count. It distracts. If it was more subtle, or didn't really involve the Daleks at all, I think it would work a lot better.
HOWEVER, there is just as much that is good about Remembrance. The Doctor's characterisation is excellent - this is the first time he's seemed genuinely powerful in a while for instance, and while I'd like it to be put on the record I'm about as against the Cartmel Masterplan as it is possible to be, if you can look past that stuff its a lot of fun.
Most of the characters are pretty decent, the story isn't too bad and the Daleks are pretty cool. Again, I do really like Remembrance of the Daleks, but I very highly doubt it would be a top 20 story for me. It simply lacks the ethics of Genesis of the Daleks, or the nature of The Caves of Androzani, or the fascinating historical exploration of Black Orchid.
Hahaha. Just kidding. Fuck Black Orchid.
Separate names with a comma.