Doctor Who: Heaven Sent

Now THAT was a cracker! In my opinion, Heaven Sent, written by Steven Moffat, is a great follow-up to Face the Raven, the best Doctor Who episode in a long, long time, and definitely the best episode of Series 9 so far.

It was dark, scary, moody, mindbending, intelligent – it’s just how I love Doctor Who, and is the kind of episode that we’ve seen far too little of in recent years. With the exception of Chris Eccleston’s excellent single season, Series 9 is the nearest that Doctor Who has come in tone (if not quite in quality) to the Tom Baker/Philip Hinchcliffe era, by far my favourite era in either Classic or New Doctor Who. I was glued to the screen for the entire forty-five minutes, although I’m not too sure if I like the whole “I am the hybrid” idea, at the episode’s climax. If it pans out like that, it would be just a little too silly for my liking.

Peter Capaldi has taken the role of the Doctor by the scruff of its neck and made it his own, and Clara/Jenna Coleman has grown into an excellent companion. I’ll be sorry to see her go at the end of this series. Despite the multitude of rabid Clara haters I’ve seen online (fandom makes me sick at times – there are far too many total assholes out there claiming to be fans), I’m pretty sure that future critics and fans will look back on Clara Oswald as being one of the better companions in the history of either Doctor Who series.

There’s been a certain amount of moaning and groaning on Facebook and elsewhere that, if we see many more episodes like Heaven Sent, “we’ll lose the general audience”. I disagree. Fans who have grown up with NuWho, TRUE fans, and not the “flyby brigade”, who only watch it if there’s nothing better on the other channels, will still stick to the show like glue. I do agree that there has to be a certain amount of balance between the lightness and humour vs the grimness and serious stories, to vary the pace in between the individual episodes, and give us an entire range of the spectrum between extreme the dark, scary stuff and the lightweight fluffy episodes. But this kind of story is so much more my idea of what Doctor Who should REALLY be like. Others may have their own ideas of what Doctor Who should be like, but Heaven Sent is mine.

However, I do concede that there has to be a balance. But the moaners who can’t tolerate ANY heavy, serious episodes at all really get my goat up. They should just clear off and watch airhead sitcoms or soap operas, if all they want is non-stop, upbeat nonsense. We really do need these “deep” stories occasionally, to balance out the lighter, more dumbed down, all flash and no substance single episodes, that supposedly are aimed at the “general” audience and kids (who, these days, aren’t as stupid as the marketers seem to think). Thankfully, with all the two-parters, Series 9 has seen only a couple of these single episodes, and even they were linked. A big improvement on previous years, in my opinion, and I hope that this trend in favour of two-parters continues.

The David Tennant and Matt Smith eras had FAR too many of those dumb single episodes, far too much old silliness, with the totally ridiculous romance nonsense between the Doctor and human female companions, other completely irrelevant, soap-opera-ish, non-Who-ish distractions, and simply too much bad writing. The Matt Smith era, in particular, was virtually unwatchable at times, despite the fact that he himself was an absolutely AMAZING Doctor. He carried the show most of the time, to be honest, and I continued watching it just for him. In my opinion, Capaldi’s arrival, and the complete change in tone of the series, has revitalised Doctor Who, although there are still too many dodgy stories. But hell, that’s always been true of Doctor Who. Lest the rose-tinted glasses crowd forget, the Classic series also had more than its fair share of total clunkers.

It’s not 1966 any more, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s almost 2016, and modern audiences (including kids) are far more sophisticated than they were back in the 1960s and 1970s. And the show is no longer aired at 5.15pm in the evening, but a full three hours later, sometimes not ending until after the 9pm watershed. I can no longer understand the endless obsession with forcing the show into a shoebox where it has to appeal to five year-olds as well as fifty-five year olds. That approach just doesn’t seem relevant any more.

In most cases, instead of more challenging stories, in recent years we’ve ended up with far too many middle-of-the-road, lightweight “fluff” single episodes aimed at keeping kids and general viewers who are not hardcore Doctor Who fans happy, what I refer to as the “Popcorn Who” audience. Personally, given Doctor Who’s current late timeslot, and the fact that the typical modern audience is much more varied and sophisticated than it was forty or fifty years ago, I really think the series should be written accordingly today, and aimed at a similar audience to Steven Moffat’s other excellent show, Sherlock.

I know those “popcorn” episodes are for keeping up the general audience figures, but too many of them and you lose the hardcore fans (like myself). They are just too bland and lightweight, and while I can take the odd one in between the more intelligent, serious episodes, string more than two or three of them together and I’ll give up on that season as a lost cause. Thankfully Heaven Sent was way over at the other extreme, where I prefer my Doctor Who to be. I like my Doctor Who dark, scary and serious.

I’m hoping Hell Bent lives up to the quality of Heaven Sent (and that Moffat will be able to do it two episodes in a row, as this has been a weakness of his with two-parters). If it’s even half as good, it’ll be a decent series finale. And if it’s on the same level of quality, we’re in for one of the greatest series endings in modern Doctor Who.

Doctor Who: The Zygon Inversion

In less than an hour, at 8pm, The Zygon Inversion, the eighth episode of Doctor Who, Series 9, will air on BBC1, with the second half of what looks to be a very good two-parter, which had a very interesting start last week with The Zygon Invasion.

The Zygon Invasion was definitely a step up in pace from the previous four episodes, and on last week’s showing, this story has the potential to become my second-favourite story of Series 9, behind the excellent series opening two-parter, The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar. There were some potentially interesting plot thingies laid down in The Zygon Invasion last week, so here’s hoping The Zygon Inversion can follow through and deliver the goods tonight. I particularly liked the evil Zygon Clara, with Jenna Coleman getting her teeth into playing a nasty villain for a change, rather than her usual nice-girl companion role. With all the rumours floating around about Clara leaving the series, I’ll be watching what happens to her with interest.

The CapaldiDoc seems to be in a pretty tight squeeze right at the end of last week’s cliffhanger, but he’ll save the day, of course. I’m also wondering how Kate Lethbridge-Stewart came through her encounter with the Zygon last week, although I strongly suspect it was her who survived (again, obvious really). The Zygons seem to be pretty vulnerable in those 5-10 seconds that they take to transform from their human form back into Zygon. That’s five or ten seconds when any trained UNIT member with fast reflexes would fill said Zygon full of holes long before it would complete the transformation.

Anyway, roll on 8pm on BBC 1, and The Zygon Inversion.

Doctor Who: The Zygon Invasion

The Zygon Invasion, the seventh episode of Doctor Who, Series 9, has just started on BBC1. It moves us into the second half of this series’ block of stories, with the beginning of what looks to be a very good two-parter, finishing off next week with The Zygon Inversion.

Great start so far. The Doctor, Clara, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT face off against the Zygons. LOTS of Zygons. It’s pretty much a sequel to the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, with a heckuva lot more Zygons. Of course, there’s a lot of people getting killed and duplicated, and half the time, we don’t know who the hell is whom. But at least we’ve found out now how Osgood can still be alive even though she was killed by Missy in the last series.

A bit obvious, really, when you think of it. 🙂

Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived

This week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Woman Who Lived, which aired on BBC1 at 8.20pm last night, marks the half-way mark of Series 9. It’s a direct follow-on from last week’s episode, The Girl Who Died, and they form two self-contained stories in a prequel/sequel format, as opposed to the first two Series 9 stories, which were genuine two-part stories. The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived are two different stories, set in different time periods, but both featuring Maisie Williams playing the same character. It seems like Steven Moffat is concentrating on writing in two-story blocks this series, a trend which will continue for the rest of Series 9. That’s okay by me, as I believe two-parters are inherently much stronger than single episodes.

The Girl Who Died was of interest to me mostly because it is written by Jamie Mathieson, the same guy who wrote Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express, two of my favourite episodes from the last Series (I make a point of looking out for anything written by this guy now). The fact that the story featured Maisie Williams (playing Ashildr) helping the Doctor and Clara fight off an alien (the Mire – not exactly the greatest alien threat in the series’ long history) attack on a Viking village meant that this had the potential to be a good one, and it certainly wasn’t terrible. However The Girl Who Died was only a fair-to-middling story, far from earth-shatteringly brilliant. But compared to the extremely high quality of Jamie Mathieson’s previous two stories, it was a bit of a let-down for me.

Last night’s follow-up episode, The Woman Who Lived, written by Catherine Tregenna, was a stronger story, very well written, with some excellent characterisation and dialogue, and quite a bit of heavy and fascinating morality lens material. The story was also notable in that Clara didn’t appear in it at all until right at the end, making it a Doctor/Ashildr adventure as opposed to a normal Doctor/Clara one. It was interesting on this level because of all the rumours surrounding Jenna Coleman’s impending departure from the series, and there were more than a few rumours floating around hinting at Ashildr becoming the new companion, but that didn’t happen. However, it’ll still be interesting to see if Maisie Williams’ character becomes a recurring one in Doctor Who, as she’s definitely one of the more interesting characters that NuWho has produced in recent years.

I suppose after the incredible series-opening two-parter The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar, it was bound to be difficult for the rest of the series to live up to the first adventure. But, that said, none of the other stories have been terrible so far. The Under the Lake/Before the Flood two-parter wasn’t bad, very moody and atmospheric, and The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived certainly weren’t bad stories either, but they certainly suffer by comparison with such a classic series opener. I mean, that story had the Daleks, Davros, AND Missy/The Master. It’s certainly hard to top that, although the upcoming Zygons two-parter also promises to be a good one.

I think the problem with the past three stories is that they’ve been fairly strong character pieces, but the aliens seem to be a bit of an afterthought, in comparison to the first story’s roster of classic villains. However, Peter Capaldi has really grown into the role of the Doctor, and the Doctor and Clara are an excellent team now. I consider them to be one of the better Doctor/Companion pairings of the New Series.

Here’s looking forward to next week’s episode, The Zygon Invasion, the first of a two-part Zygon adventure.

Doctor Who: The Woman Who Lived

The Woman Who Lived (written by Catherine Tregenna), this week’s episode of Doctor Who, will be starting shortly on BBC1, marking the half-way mark of Series 9.

The Girl Who Died was an okay story, although not earth-shatteringly brilliant. I suppose after the incredible series-opening two-parter, it was bound to be downhill the rest of the series. At least none of the other stories have been terrible so far. And the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) are really getting along well as a team now, and I consider them to be one of the better Doctor/Companion pairings of the New Series.

We were wondering whether or not Steven Moffat was giving us another two-parter. Well, he is and he isn’t. The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived are two different stories, set in different time periods, but both featuring Maisie Williams playing the same Ashildr character. They are basically a prequel/sequel. It’ll be interesting to see if Maisie’s character will become a recurring one.

Coming Up Soon – Doctor Who: The Girl Who Died

This week’s episode of Doctor Who, The Girl Who Died, is starting in just over twenty minutes on BBC1. We’re almost half way through Series 9 already. It only seems like a week or two since it started!

The Girl Who Died is of interest to me because it is written by Jamie Mathieson, the same guy who wrote Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express, two of my favourite episodes from the last Series. I make a point of looking out for anything written by this guy now. The fact that the story features Maisie Williams (playing Ashildr) of Game of Thrones fame is good enough, but the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) get to fight some nasty aliens alongside Vikings. Yes, Vikings! Should be fun. 🙂

There’s some confusion over whether or not this story is the first part of another two-parter. The title of next week’s episode – The Woman Who Lived – definitely implies some connection. Time will tell. It always does. 🙂

ADDENDUM: So, it’s a two-parter without actually being a two-parter. Two self-contained stories in a prequel/sequel format. Sneaky one, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Before the Flood Starting Soon!

Only a few minutes left before the start of Before the Flood, the second part of last week’s opener, Under the Lake. I can’t believe we’re at episode four of Season 9 already!

Under the Lake was a pretty good start, a nice homage to the classic Doctor Who “base under siege” theme. Hopefully Before the Flood won’t let us down as a climax to the story. We all know that the Doctor/Peter Capaldi won’t really get killed, but let’s see you wriggle your way out of this one with good storytelling, not sonic sunglasses pseudononsense.

Come on guys, let’s give us a first in NuWho – not one, but TWO good two-parters in a row!

Doctor Who: Under the Lake Starting Soon!

Under the Lake, the third episode of of Series 9 of Doctor Who will be airing on BBC1 in about ten minutes, at 8.25pm. I know nothing about the story (I’ve been avoiding spoilers like the plague) other than what I’ve seen in the trailer, which looks suitably spooky.

Under the Lake has a lot to live up to, following on the heels of the cracking two-part opening story. I’m really looking forward to it, but after such a great start, I hope it’s not a matter of “the only way is down”. Here’s hoping that Moffat & co. can keep the momentum going for the rest of Season 9.

ADDENDUM: Now THAT was a surprise. I was never expecting another two-parter right on the heels of the first one. It looks like Steven Moffat has been taking on board comments from fans wanting longer, better-developed stories, which has always been my main beef with the modern series. I definitely approve.

This was a nice, creepy one, another classic “base under siege” Doctor Who story. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are on fine form as the Doctor and Clara, and, in my opinion, are really clicking together as a fine Doctor-companion team. Capaldi is becoming a very fine Doctor indeed, just as I knew he would.

Here’s hoping that next week’s Part Two is as good as the first one.

Doctor Who: The Witch’s Familiar is On TV Tonight!

The Witch’s Familiar, Part Two of the Doctor Who season opening double-parter, airs on BBC One at 7.45pm tonight. It’ll be interesting to see how things turn out for Clara (Jenna Coleman) and Missy (Michelle Gomez), and how the complex relationship between the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Davros (Julian Bleach) may or may not have begun. And the Daleks. Oh, yes, let’s not forget the Daleks! 🙂

Given how good Part One, The Magician’s Apprentice was, I’m really looking forward to tonight’s episode, while hoping that it lives up to the potential of the first one. In general, I greatly prefer two and three-parters to single episodes, as they are less rushed and give a lot more scope for story and character development. However, an unfortunate tendency of the Moffat-era two-parters is that they have great first parts, but slightly disappointing second parts, which almost always fail to live up to promise of the first episode.

Here’s hoping that The Witch’s Familiar does not fall into that trap, and turns out to be a cracker.

Doctor Who Series 9 Episodes Listing

Saturday past gave us the first episode of the new Series 9 of Doctor Who, The Magician’s Apprentice, and a cracking start it was too. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman reprise their roles as the Doctor and companion Clara Oswald, and this first episode alone gave us a cracking story and a whole bunch of guest stars, including Missy (played by Michelle Gomez), Davros (Julian Bleach), and Daleks. Lots of Daleks. How’s that for a great start?

In the spirit of avoiding spoilers, I’ll leave a more detailed analysis of the story until a later date. I’ll say only that it was the first episode of a two-parter (unusual in itself, as two-parters are almost always season-enders – I don’t recall any season ever beginning with one), and to say that I’m REALLY looking forward to Part Two is putting it mildly. I hope that it lives up to the first episode, as these two-parters have an unfortunate tendency to start off brilliant in the first episode, but fade away disappointingly in the second.

I’ve been going out of my way to avoid seeing any spoilers on the internet, on TV or in magazines, which can be incredibly hard to do, especially when you spend as much time online and read as many magazines each month (including Doctor Who Magazine) as I do. I’ve been trying to come to the new series knowing absolutely nothing in advance, for maximum impact and surprise. Until I saw it on television, I knew absolutely nothing about the first episode, other than it had the Doctor, Clara, Missy and the Daleks. I don’t want to know the storylines or synopses in advance. So I’m trying to avoid anything like that like the plague.

Anyway, here’s a listing of the episode titles for Series 9, with zero spoilers.

Episodes:

  • 01. The Magician’s Apprentice
  • 02. The Witch’s Familiar
  • 03. Under the Lake
  • 04. Before the Flood
  • 05. The Girl Who Died
  • 06. The Woman Who Lived
  • 07. The Zygon Invasion
  • 08. The Zygon Inversion
  • 09. Sleep No More
  • 10. Face the Raven
  • 11. Heaven Sent
  • 12. Hell Bent

Roll on Saturday and The Witch’s Familiar!

Doctor Who Series 9 Starts Today!

I’m looking forward to the rest of this evening, just sitting here, eagerly awaiting the start of The Magician’s Apprentice, the very first episode of the new Series 9 of Doctor Who, which begins very shortly, at 7:40pm, on BBC1.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman return as the Doctor and Clara, and I won’t give away much, other than to say that this one features both the Daleks AND Missy/The Master, and the Doctor goes missing, leaving Clara forced to do the almost unthinkable – team up with Missy to find him! So it should be pretty interesting, to say the least.

Roll on 7:40! 🙂

Doctor Who (New): Series 8 DVD Box Set (Part One)

Doctor Who - The Complete Series 8

I‘ve just recently gotten my hands on the Series 8 DVD Box Set of the new Doctor Who, and I’m about to give it the once over. I’ll be posting my opinions here, quick, general impressions first, followed by more in depth thoughts on each episode as I watch them.

I’ve only ever seen these episodes once, back in 2014, when they originally aired on BBC One here in the UK. I recall being quite impressed with the performances of Peter Capaldi in his first season as the Doctor, and companion Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman. I also remember liking most of the the twelve stories (although some more than others), with the exception of The Caretaker, which I didn’t see at all first time around for some reason or another. It’ll be interesting to watch The Caretaker for the very first time, and. I wonder if my opinions of any of the other eleven episodes will change on viewing them second time around.

I’ll be making comments on individual episodes in a follow-up post, but here is a listing of the total contents of the box set.

Episodes:

  1. Deep Breath
  2. Into the Dalek
  3. Robot of Sherwood
  4. Listen
  5. Time Heist
  6. The Caretaker
  7. Kill the Moon
  8. Mummy on the Orient Express
  9. Flatline
  10. In the Forest of the Night
  11. Dark Water
  12. Death in Heaven

Special Features:

There are two long featurettes, and a number of shorter ones. Obviously, I haven’t seen any of these before, so at least that’s some more new material for me to watch. Starting off with the two longer featurettes, followed by the other shorter featurettes :

Doctor Who – The Ultimate Timelord
Doctor Who – The Ultimate Companion
Inside the New Tardis
Casting Peter Capaldi
Writing the New Series
What Is Doctor Who?
Why Watch Season 8?
Music video of Foxes performing Don’t Stop Me Now

There are five discs in all, which should provide a lot of good viewing for several evenings at least. Further comments will be coming soon, as I actually watch the contents.

Doctor Who New Series 8 DVD Box Set (Part One)

Doctor Who - The Complete Series 8

I’ve just recently gotten my hands on the Series 8 DVD Box Set of the new Doctor Who, and I’m about to give it the once over. I’ll be posting my opinions here, quick, general impressions first, followed by more in depth thoughts on each episode as I watch them.

I’ve only ever seen these episodes once, back in 2014, when they originally aired on BBC One here in the UK. I recall being quite impressed with the performances of Peter Capaldi in his first season as the Doctor, and companion Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman. I also remember liking most of the the twelve stories (although some more than others), with the exception of The Caretaker, which I didn’t see at all first time around for some reason or another. It’ll be interesting to watch The Caretaker for the very first time, and. I wonder if my opinions of any of the other eleven episodes will change on viewing them second time around.

I’ll be making comments on individual episodes in a follow-up post, but here is a listing of the total contents of the box set.

Episodes:

  • 01. Deep Breath
  • 02. Into the Dalek
  • 03. Robot of Sherwood
  • 04. Listen
  • 05. Time Heist
  • 06. The Caretaker
  • 07. Kill the Moon
  • 08. Mummy on the Orient Express
  • 09. Flatline
  • 10. In the Forest of the Night
  • 11. Dark Water
  • 12. Death in Heaven

Special Features:

There are two long featurettes, and a number of shorter ones. Obviously, I haven’t seen any of these before, so at least that’s some more new material for me to watch. Starting off with the two longer featurettes, followed by the other shorter featurettes :

Doctor Who – The Ultimate Timelord
Doctor Who – The Ultimate Companion
Inside the New Tardis
Casting Peter Capaldi
Writing the New Series
What Is Doctor Who?
Why Watch Season 8?
Music video of Foxes performing Don’t Stop Me Now

There are five discs in all, which should provide a lot of good viewing for several evenings at least. Further comments will be coming soon, as I actually watch the contents.

Plaything of Sutekh #4 Is Now Available

Plaything of Sutekh 4 montage

As a follow-up to my last post, I’m now happy to report that Plaything of Sutekh #4 is now available, after what seems like an eternity since the last issue. 🙂

As the details on the Plaything of Sutekh blog state, the new issue features articles on:-

  • Pacifism in Doctor Who – a look at how The Daleks and The Dominators gave turning the other cheek the thumbs down.
  • The Ark vs The Ark in Space – David Rolinson looks at the similarities between these two stories.
  • RTD & Religion – Sean Alexander examines a key aspect of the series under Russell T’s tenure.
  • E-Space – Jez Strickley spies a dystopian slant in this Season 18 trilogy.
  • Secret Who – we look at two underrated stories The Claws of Axos and The Time Monster
  • Changing Times – a look back at Peter Capaldi’s first season.
  • Doc Top Ten – one writer looks at his favourite Who comic strips.
  • Gateway Drug – Stephen Wood confesses how it all started with him and Who…

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Plaything of Sutekh is a professionally produced, traditional A5 print Doctor Who fanzine – yes, a real paper zine, not an electronic download, a website or a blog. It is brought to you by Richard Farrell, John Connors and their Merry crew – Richard also edits the very excellent Gerry Anderson fanzine Andersonic. Both zines are among the best fanzines currently available, especially considering that the traditional print fanzine is an endangered species in the increasingly electronic and online modern era.

Issue 4 is 36 pages, fully illustrated with colour covers and black & white interiors. It only costs a mere £2.20, which also includes free postage within the UK (check the blog for postage outside the UK).

To find out more details or order the zine, either go to the Plaything of Sutekh blog, or simply send a Paypal payment directly to playthingofsutekh@mail.com – with your address in the ‘notes’ section. You can also pay by cheque, please email for the payee details.

Issue 3 is also still in print. All self-respecting Doctor Who fans should run along sharpish to the Plaything of Sutekh blog and buy these two issues before they’re sold out.

Plaything of Sutekh #4 Is Now Available

Plaything of Sutekh 4 montage

As a follow-up to my last post, I’m now happy to report that Plaything of Sutekh #4 is now available, after what seems like an eternity since the last issue. 🙂

As the details on the Plaything of Sutekh blog state, the new issue features articles on:-

  • Pacifism in Doctor Who – a look at how The Daleks and The Dominators gave turning the other cheek the thumbs down.
  • The Ark vs The Ark in Space – David Rolinson looks at the similarities between these two stories.
  • RTD & Religion – Sean Alexander examines a key aspect of the series under Russell T’s tenure.
  • E-Space – Jez Strickley spies a dystopian slant in this Season 18 trilogy.
  • Secret Who – we look at two underrated stories The Claws of Axos and The Time Monster
  • Changing Times – a look back at Peter Capaldi’s first season.
  • Doc Top Ten – one writer looks at his favourite Who comic strips.
  • Gateway Drug – Stephen Wood confesses how it all started with him and Who…

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Plaything of Sutekh is a professionally produced, traditional A5 print Doctor Who fanzine – yes, a real paper zine, not an electronic download, a website or a blog. It is brought to you by Richard Farrell, John Connors and their Merry crew – Richard also edits the very excellent Gerry Anderson fanzine Andersonic. Both zines are among the best fanzines currently available, especially considering that the traditional print fanzine is an endangered species in the increasingly electronic and online modern era.

Issue 4 is 36 pages, fully illustrated with colour covers and black & white interiors. It only costs a mere £2.20, which also includes free postage within the UK (check the blog for postage outside the UK).

To find out more details or order the zine, either go to the Plaything of Sutekh blog, or simply send a Paypal payment directly to playthingofsutekh@mail.com – with your address in the ‘notes’ section. You can also pay by cheque, please email for the payee details.

Issue 3 is also still in print. All self-respecting Doctor Who fans should run along sharpish to the Plaything of Sutekh blog and buy these two issues before they’re sold out.

Some New Doctor Who Books (Part Two)

Back at the end of January, I made a start on listing some of the Doctor Who related books that I’ve been picking up over recent months. Here are a few more, focusing specifically on the excellent fan-oriented publications of Mad Norwegian Press:

  • ABOUT TIME: THE UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO DOCTOR WHO – BOOK 7, 2005 – 2006 SERIES 1 & 2
  • TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 1: LANCE PARKIN
  • TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 2: WRITINGS ON THE CLASSIC SERIES
  • TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 3: WRITINGS ON THE NEW SERIES

I was an obsessive collector of Doctor Who fanzines way back in the 1980’s and early-1990’s, the era often fondly referred to as the “Golden Age of Doctor Who Fanzines”. In many ways, I still am today, although there are a lot fewer print/paper fanzines around these days than there were back in the 80’s and 90’s. So these four Mad Norwegian Press books are an absolute goldmine of DW reference material, and of great interest to someone like me, particularly the three TIME UNINCORPORATED books, which collect a host of fanzine and fan-related writing.

The ABOUT TIME: THE UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO DOCTOR WHO – BOOK 7, 2005 – 2006 SERIES 1 & 2 by Tat Wood and Dorothy Ail (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2013, ISBN: 978-1935234159), is the first book in the ABOUT TIME series that I’ve bought, and about time (if you’ll pardon the pun). It’s not as though I could hold off forever from buying a series of books which describes itself as “A history of the Doctor Who continuum”. Tat Wood is a name that I definitely remember well from my days collecting zines back in the 80’s and 90’s, and this book is extremely dense and full of fantastic information. This volume is the first in the series focusing on NuWho, covering the first two seasons of the new series, 2005-2006. As I’m an even bigger fan of the classic series than I am of the new (although I do like the new series), I really should get around to tracking down the first six ABOUT TIME books.

TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 1: LANCE PARKIN by Lance Parkin (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-935234012), is the first of a projected multi-volume series collecting “selected treasures” from many of the best pieces of fanzine writing of the past. This particular volume focuses on a single writer – Lance Parkin – and collects fifteen years worth of his fanzine scribblings. Back in the early-1990’s, I was a big follower of the publications put out by Seventh Door Fanzines, and soon became a fan of Lance Parkin’s writing, long before he ever hit it big in the world of Doctor Who publishing. I still have a pristine condition copy of his original 1994 The Doctor Who Chronology, which for years served as one of my favourite Doctor Who reference books. That has now been superceded as a reference source by its immense descendant AHISTORY, although the original still occasionally comes out of its box just for the sheer nostalgia kick that reading those old zine publications gives me. These books are fantastic, but there’s nothing like holding the originals in your hands.

TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 2: WRITINGS ON THE CLASSIC SERIES edited by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-935234029), continues where the previous volume left off, except this time focusing on the fanzine and other fan-related writings of a much wider group of authors, relating to the classic series from 1963-1989, and including the 1996 FOX TV movie. There are nearly seventy-five essays here, and quite a few names here that I recognize, but also quite a few that I do not.

TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 3: WRITINGS ON THE NEW SERIES edited by Robert Shearman, Graeme Burk and Robert Smith (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-935234036), is more of the same kind of thing that we got in Vol. 2, except this time concentrating on the new series, up until 2010. Nearly sixty-five essays, again by a wide range of authors, many of whom I recognize, and many of whom I do not. This one is billed as “the third and final volume of this series”, and it finishes at the end of Matt Smith’s first year in the role of The Doctor. C’mon Mad Norwegian Press guys! You can’t leave it hanging there! This series is really crying out for a Volume 4, to cover Matt Smith’s second and third seasons, and the start of Peter Capaldi’s run on the show. As a matter of fact, as long
as the new series continues to run, there should be more and more new volumes to cover it!

Anyway, that’s it for now. More new Doctor Who book listings coming up soon.

New Doctor Who Books (Part Two)

Back at the end of January, I made a start on listing some of the Doctor Who related books that I’ve been picking up over recent months. Here are a few more, focusing specifically on the excellent fan-oriented publications of Mad Norwegian Press:

  • ABOUT TIME: THE UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO DOCTOR WHO – BOOK 7, 2005 – 2006 SERIES 1 & 2
  • TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 1: LANCE PARKIN
  • TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 2: WRITINGS ON THE CLASSIC SERIES
  • TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 3: WRITINGS ON THE NEW SERIES

I was an obsessive collector of Doctor Who fanzines way back in the 1980’s and early-1990’s, the era often fondly referred to as the “Golden Age of Doctor Who Fanzines”. In many ways, I still am today, although there are a lot fewer print/paper fanzines around these days than there were back in the 80’s and 90’s. So these four Mad Norwegian Press books are an absolute goldmine of DW reference material, and of great interest to someone like me, particularly the three TIME UNINCORPORATED books, which collect a host of fanzine and fan-related writing.

The ABOUT TIME: THE UNAUTHORIZED GUIDE TO DOCTOR WHO – BOOK 7, 2005 – 2006 SERIES 1 & 2 by Tat Wood and Dorothy Ail (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2013, ISBN: 978-1935234159), is the first book in the ABOUT TIME series that I’ve bought, and about time (if you’ll pardon the pun). It’s not as though I could hold off forever from buying a series of books which describes itself as “A history of the Doctor Who continuum”. Tat Wood is a name that I definitely remember well from my days collecting zines back in the 80’s and 90’s, and this book is extremely dense and full of fantastic information. This volume is the first in the series focusing on NuWho, covering the first two seasons of the new series, 2005-2006. As I’m an even bigger fan of the classic series than I am of the new (although I do like the new series), I really should get around to tracking down the first six ABOUT TIME books.

TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 1: LANCE PARKIN by Lance Parkin (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-935234012), is the first of a projected multi-volume series collecting “selected treasures” from many of the best pieces of fanzine writing of the past. This particular volume focuses on a single writer – Lance Parkin – and collects fifteen years worth of his fanzine scribblings. Back in the early-1990’s, I was a big follower of the publications put out by Seventh Door Fanzines, and soon became a fan of Lance Parkin’s writing, long before he ever hit it big in the world of Doctor Who publishing. I still have a pristine condition copy of his original 1994 The Doctor Who Chronology, which for years served as one of my favourite Doctor Who reference books. That has now been superceded as a reference source by its immense descendant AHISTORY, although the original still occasionally comes out of its box just for the sheer nostalgia kick that reading those old zine publications give me. These books are fantastic, but there’s nothing like holding the originals in your hands.

TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 2: WRITINGS ON THE CLASSIC SERIES edited by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2010, ISBN: 978-1-935234029), continues where the previous volume left off, except this time focusing on the fanzine and other fan-related writings of a much wider group of authors, relating to the classic series from 1963-1989, and including the 1996 FOX TV movie. There are nearly seventy-five essays here, and quite a few names here that I recognize, but also quite a few that I do not.

TIME UNINCORPORATED: THE DOCTOR WHO FANZINE ARCHIVES, VOL 3: WRITINGS ON THE NEW SERIES edited by Robert Shearman, Graeme Burk and Robert Smith (trade paperback, Mad Norwegian Press, US, 2011, ISBN: 978-1-935234036), is more of the same kind of thing that we got in Vol. 2, except this time concentrating on the new series, up until 2010. Nearly sixty-five essays, again by a wide range of authors, many of whom I recognize, and many of whom I do not. This one is billed as “the third and final volume of this series”, and it finishes at the end of Matt Smith’s first year in the role of The Doctor. C’mon Mad Norwegian Press guys! You can’t leave it hanging there! This series is really crying out for a Volume 4, to cover Matt Smith’s second and third seasons, and the start of Peter Capaldi’s run on the show. As a matter of fact, as long
as the new series continues to run, there should be more and more new volumes to cover it!

Anyway, that’s it for now. More new Doctor Who book listings coming up soon.

Doctor Who: “Last Christmas”

I watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special earlier this evening. Verdict? Mmmm… not bad, actually.

I must admit that when I first heard that the title of the Christmas Special was going to be Last Christmas, and saw the trailer with Santa Claus in it, I let out a huge groan, fearing the worst. Oh please, not another piece of silly, irrelevant Christmas fluff! I had images of a soppy, saccharine, Christmas-sy pile of old tosh, with Santa and strains of Wham! permeating the background music. The very thought of it filled me with dread.

Thankfully my worst fears didn’t materialize. There was a perfectly good and logical reason for Santa, and a reasonably intelligent story, which was even pretty dark and ominous in parts. Most unChristmas-sy. 🙂 Even the aliens were pretty good, and although derivative, Moffat managed to work a joking reference into the script as an acknowledgement of the original source. I won’t say anything more, in case I give away spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

It was nice to see Clara’s place confirmed as continuing companion in the series, after all the speculation about “will she or won’t she?” (stay or leave). I know that the character has taken a lot of criticism from fans, but I think that she has come into her own during Season 8, after an initial beginning as more of a plot device than a real character. In my opinion, she is fitting in better now with Peter Capaldi than she ever did during Matt Smith’s era. Jenna Coleman is a good little actress, so I’m quite glad that she’s staying with the show for a while yet.

Overall, Steven Moffat has produced a reasonably good Christmas Special for 2014. Sure, it may not have been the best Doctor Who episode of all time, but it was definitely worth an hour of my time.

Doctor Who, Season 8 – “Deep Breath”

I know it’s hard to believe, but we’re already half-way through the new season of Doctor Who. So I thought that it’s about time that I started posting a few brief opinions on each episode, hoping that I’ll be able to catch up before we get to the end of the season.

The season opener, Deep Breath, was a longer than usual 75-minute episode. It’s a typical regeneration debut story, much more about introducing the new Doctor than anything else, and, as such, it did that very well. Here are what I regarded as the plus and negative points:

The Good Stuff:
The most important thing first. I loved the new Doctor. Peter Capaldi is a fine actor, and I think he’s going to be excellent in the role. He’s totally different to the previous incarnation, and that’s how it should be. He’s a grumpy, sarcastic Scotsman (and very funny, in a totally different way to the manic Matt Smith), with a strong streak of “alienness”, which any good Doctor needs to offset his humanity. He pushed all the right buttons for me in his debut story, and I’m looking forward to watching him grow into the role.

I also really liked seeing Lady Vastra, Jenny and Strax again. I always enjoy the appearances of the Paternoster Gang, and I think that Strax is absolutely hilarious. Lots of humourous moments and good character scenes in this story.

The Bad Stuff:
The story itself was okay but wasn’t exactly amazing either. The plot was a bit on the thin side, and if you take out Peter Capaldi and the Paternoster Gang, the episode would barely have rated a C. Also, Steven Moffat’s seeming obsession with having the Doctor constantly revisit the Victorian era is starting to wear a bit thin, as much as I might like the Victorian era.

I also had a couple of major plot and character quibbles with this story:

Number One is Clara’s totally out of character reaction to the new Doctor. Yes, I know that Steven Moffat was using it as a strong dig at the type of fan who was reacting negatively to Matt Smith leaving, and all of the stupid, irrational hating on Peter Capaldi before they’d even seen him in the role. But it was a completely wrong reboot of Clara’s character. Any other companion reacting like this, yes, maybe, just maybe it might’ve been a bit more realistic, but not the Impossible Girl.

She’s met all of the Doctors, and a new one shouldn’t even phase her, older or not. Hell, she’s even been in an adventure with three different Doctors, Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt, in The Day of the Doctor, so she’s pretty familiar with regeneration and other Doctors. I know that some people are of the opinion that Clara doesn’t remember any of her other lives (or the Doctor’s she met), but I’m firmly in the “yes she does” camp. But even if she doesn’t, she would never, EVER have reacted in this way.

Her overly-negative, almost hysterical overreaction to the Peter Capaldi Doctor being “older” is also way out of character, and totally immature and unrealistic. She’s already met an older Doctor (Hurt), and got on really well with him. The Clara that we all know simply would NOT have behaved like this towards the new Doctor.

Number Two is a major plot/continuity cock-up by Moffat: the phone call from the Matt Smith Doctor on Trenzalore to Clara. He says to Clara that the time is getting close, and “it’s going to be a real whopper” (obviously referring to the upcoming regeneration). This scene was quite poignant and well-acted, until you actually stop and remember back to what happened at the end of The Time of the Doctor. The Doctor, as far as he was concerned for the ENTIRE episode, wasn’t going to regenerate. He was going to die.

That was the whole damned point of the story. He’d run out of regenerations, and, right up until the climax of the episode, when the Time Lords popped up and gave the Doctor a new cycle of regenerations (after Clara pleading with them, of course), he was resigned to meeting his end while fighting to save the people of Trenzalore from the Daleks. He didn’t know he was going to regenerate UNTIL IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. So Matt Smith’s Doctor wouldn’t/couldn’t have made that phone call to Clara. As beautiful and emotional as the scene undoubtedly was, it was also a stupid continuity error and very sloppy writing on Moffat’s part.

So overall, a couple of major issues, and a fairly average, unremarkable story. That said, there were quite a few nice character pieces, sad bits, and slices of humour. The performances of Lady Vastra, Strax and Jenny were excellent, as usual. And Peter Capaldi’s performance (which is, after all, the most important thing) as the new Doctor was A-rated. So Deep Breath was a success, both as a regeneration story and an introduction to the new Doctor.

Doctor Who Back on UK Television!

Like every other Doctor Who fan on the planet, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the start of the new season, and most of all the first full appearance of the new Doctor, Peter Capaldi. Now at last, Doctor Who returns to UK television tomorrow, Saturday, 23rd August, at 7.50pm, in a 75-minute feature-length episode.

The first episode of twelve in the new Season 8 (or Season 34, if you prefer to include the classic series, as I do), is Deep Breath. Here’s a list of the twelve episodes of the new season:

  1. Deep Breath
  2. Into the Dalek
  3. Robot of Sherwood
  4. Listen
  5. Time Heist
  6. The Caretaker
  7. Kill the Moon
  8. Mummy on the Orient Express
  9. Flatline
  10. In the Forest of the Night
  11. Dark Water
  12. Death in Heaven

The last two episodes are the two-part Season Finale. I’ve deliberately avoided giving any spoilers. Indeed, I’ve actively avoided encountering any spoilers myself, and I know absolutely nothing about the episodes other than their titles. I’ve become royally fed up, every single year, having each new season ruined by spoilers all over the internet, on TV and in the magazines, so this year it’s been me dodging any kind of spoilers as nimbly as I can. Fingers crossed I can make it to Saturday, and woe betide anyone who ruins things for me. 🙂

I’ve always been a huge fan of Matt Smith and his portrayal of the Doctor. Starting off as a relative unknown, he took to the role like a duck to water, and he has been, without a doubt, a huge success as the 11th Doctor. He brought us a zany, eccentric, manic, and often truly alien version of the Doctor that reminded me most of Tom Baker (on speed), which can never be a bad thing as far as I’m concerned, as TomDoc has always been my favourite Doctor of all.

By adopting some of the best elements of not only Tom Baker, but also other previous Doctors (there’s a lot of Patrick Troughton in there as well), combined with his own natural hi-energy craziness, Smith created a new persona which really appealed to me in a “he was born for the role” kind of way. I absolutely loved him, which came as a big surprise to me as I was really apprehensive back when he first took over from David Tennant. Even in the less notable episodes, he lights up the screen and he makes even the worst stories watchable, even if only to enjoy Smith doing his thing.

So Peter Capaldi has a lot to live up to, although I’m sure he’ll be more than up to the job. He’s an accomplished actor, and has been around for a long, long time. He’s also a lifetime Doctor Who fan, and has been since he was a young child. Or at least he was an obsessive fan of the classic series (I’ve no idea what he thinks of the new series), from the beginning with William Hartnell, right on through to the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. So this bodes well for the show, in my opinion.

I’m actually looking forward to this older, darker Doctor, and to seeing how he works with the current companion, Clara (Jenna Coleman). Roll on Saturday evening, 7.50pm!