Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 6 – Demons of the Punjab

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 6 – Demons of the Punjab

You can’t judge a book by its cover, the old cliché goes. You can’t judge a Doctor Who episode by its title either.

Demons of the Punjab promises one thing, aliens assumed to be demons in India, but delivers so much more.

Yaz begs the Doctor to take her back in time to her grandmother’s early life in the Punjab, the Partition of India in August, 1947, to be precise. There the TARDIS team stumble upon a pair of alien invaders, Almak and Kisar, whose appearance is interpreted as a demonic curse.

The outworking of writer Vinay Patel’s title is right there, as expected, but Patel is much cleverer than all that.

Demons of the Punjab 2

Yaz’s grandmother is living with a secret in the 21st century, personal demons that are uncovered by Yaz’s trip back in time.

But the real demons of the story are not the aliens, but the differences that push Christians, Hindus and Muslims apart in India and Pakistan and lead to murder.

Like Rosa, just a few weeks ago, Demons of the Punjab passes commentary on the human condition and reminds us just how illogical it can sometimes be.

Like the Series 1 story Father’s Day, in which the ninth Doctor takes Rose back to her father’s death. Demons of the Punjab demonstrates how history sometimes has a certain inevitability to it. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic.

Every one of the TARDIS team leaves this story with anguish etched into their faces. Even the Doctor can’t interfere.

Apart from the Doctor, Graham is quickly becoming my favourite character. There’s a decency about him that reminds me of the first Doctor’s companion Ian Chesterton.

This episode is one of the triumphs of this series ending, fittingly, with a beautiful Indian inspired version of the theme.

SYNOPSIS

India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as India is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they, and what do they want?

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Nani Umbreen: Leena Dhingra

Umbreen: Amita Suman

Prem: Shane Zaza

Manish: Hamza Jeetooa

Hasna: Shaheen Khan

Najia: Shobna Gulati

Hakim: Ravin J Ganatra

Sonya: Bhavnisha Parmar

Voice of Kisar: Emma Fielding

Performance of Kisar: Nathalie Curzner

Voice of Almak: Isobel Middleton

Performance of Almak: Barbara Fadden

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Writer: Vinay Patel

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Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 5 – The Tsuranga Conundrum

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 5 – The Tsuranga Conundrum

This week’s episode of Doctor Who was about many things, but it’s overarching message was one of hope.

The Doctor and her companions find themselves aboard a hospital ship after accidentally triggering a sonic mine on a rubbish planet. That’s planet full of rubbish rather than planet that was not very good. The ship, on autopilot, comes under attack from an indestructible foe and the TARDIS team must fight for their lives.

Graham, Ryan and Yaz follows the Doctor’s lead as she comes up with a plan. They do so unflinchingly in this episode. Their adventures on screen, and in between episodes, has turned them into her apprentices. They are becoming more like her. We see that as Yaz teams up with an android to defend the ship’s engine room from a strike, and Graham and Ryan help deliver a baby during the crisis.

In short: it’s a good, old, base-under-siege type story introduced to Doctor Who in Patrick Troughton’s time. The Doctor and companions arrive at some sort of base are trapped as they come under attack from a foe. It was such a popular story device back then that it was repeated many times then and in recent years.

Throughout all of this, the overarching theme is hope and the TARDIS team deliver it to the people they encounter in spades.

The Tsuranga Conundrum 1Deciding on a favourite character, this season, is hard. The Doctor, or Doc as Graham calls her, is as Doctorish as ever. Her first female incarnation seems to have more moments of wide-eyed wonder than her predecessors, and approaches problems with a quiet confidence we haven’t quite seen since Peter Davison handed the keys to the TARDIS to Colin Baker in 1984. Jodie Whittaker is the Doctor!

Graham is turning out to be a loveable lad of a grandfather to Ryan, who in this episode espouses the merits of telling the truth at all times. His relationship with the Doctor is warn, and his constant reaching out to his (step) grandson touching.

Ryan is a complex character. More of his tragic back story is teased out in this story. It makes him relatable. It also makes him strong. The way he steps up and encourages the father of the forthcoming baby to be a Dad who is there for his child is heart-warming.

Yas, in this story anyway, feels like the glue that holds the team together. Doing her bit for Doctor and TARDIS team.

The Tsuranga Conundrum, like other episodes of Series 11, is so much more than the sum of its parts. Brilliant.

SYNOPSIS

Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s most deadly – and unusual – creatures.

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien : Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Astos: Brett Goldstein

Mabli: Lois Chimimba

Eve Cicero: Suzanne Packer

Durkas Cicero:   Ben Bailey-Smith

Ronan:  David Shields

Yoss Inkl: Jack Shalloo

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Writer:  Chris Chibnall

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 4 – Arachnids in the U.K.

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 4 – Arachnids in the U.K.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall delivered far more than he promised with Arachnids in the UK.

From the Next Week trailer at the end of Rosa, Arachnids of the U.K. promised to be Doctor Who’s take on B movie Arachnophobia in which a species of killer spider hitches a lift to the U.S., breed and kill. Swap the U.S. for the U.K., Sheffield to be specific, and you’ve got the plot for the latest Doctor Who episode. But there’s far more going on in Arachnids in the U.K. than that.

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) has finally got Graham, Ryan and Yaz home to Sheffield, having got them lost in time and space at the end of The Woman Who Fell to Earth a whole month ago.  She’s invited around to Yaz’s folks for a farewell dinner and discovers the city is overrun with giant spiders and Yaz’s family are caught right in the middle of the infestation.

Arachnids in the UK 1

Graham heads home to his empty house, where he is haunted by the ghost of his dead wife, the woman who fell to earth and died helping the Doctor, her husband, grandson and Yaz defeat an alien hunter of humans.

It was lovely to see the 13th Doctor embrace the invitation and try to make small talk before the main plot kicked in, telegraphing this Doctor is a massive contrast to the ninth and tenth Doctors (Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant) who avoided house calls and socialising at all costs.

Doctor Who has done alien invasions to death, so Chibnall takes us in a completely unexpected direction. These spiders are in indigenous to earth but have mutated from human experimentation fed by human greed. Bad science and avarice are the bad guys here, not giant killer spiders. The Doctor emphasizes this when she tried to protect the spider queen from the gun wielding American hotel mogul.

Rather than the promised B movie, we got science fiction designed to make us think. Maybe not as deeply as last week, but think nonetheless.

Doctor Who was rife with such stories back in the 1970s, when third Doctor Jon Pertwee and fourth Doctor Tom Baker piloted the TARDIS and Chibnall was a young Doctor Who fan. Indeed, Pertwee’s Doctor met his end in the original Series 11 finale Planet of the Spiders in 1974, making the 13th Doctor’s standing up for the spider queen more extraordinary. The Doctor’s exile to Earth by the Time Lords was filled with mad scientists whose experiments threatened ecological disaster. Arachnids in the U.K. felt like a worthy successor to these stories. The twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) discovered spider like creature in hiding in 2014’s Series 8 story Kill The Moon.

There were some nice character moments in this story too.

Graham and his step-grandson Ryan got to work together, in the great spider hunt, and strengthen their bonds. But the best moment was at episode’s end when Graham, deciding he didn’t want to go back to an empty house, asked to join the Doctor on her travels. Ryan avoids going back to work in a warehouse, and Yaz escapes her family, as they head of on another adventure. “My new fam,” the Doctor calls them. “Team TARDIS.”

Arachnids in the U.K. is a team building exercise serving as a springboard for the Doctor and her team’s next adventure.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS

‘Something’s happening with the spiders in this city.’ The Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan find their way back to Yorkshire – and Yaz’s family – only to find something is stirring amidst the eight-legged arachnid population of Sheffield.

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien:               Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Robertson: Chris Noth

Najia Khan: Shobna Gulati

Dr Jade McIntyre: Tanya Fear

Hakim Khan: Ravin J Ganatra

Sonya Khan: Bhavnisha Parmar

Frankie Ellish: Jaleh Alp

Kevin: William Meredith

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Producer: Alex Mercer

Director: Sallie Aprahamian

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 3 – Rosa

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 3 – Rosa

The third episode of Series 11 showcases what both Doctor Who and science fiction do best.

When it started in 1963 Doctor Who was intended to be an educational show about historical figures and the role they played in history. The first Doctor (William Hartnell) alone got involved in adventures with Marco Polo, Richard the Lionheart, Napoleon and Robespierre.  Co-creator Sydney Newman specifically requested no bug-eyed monsters (BEMs).

The Doctor comes up against something far uglier in Rosa. Bad, even evil, out of fashion, racism.  The episode takes its name from Rosa Park, “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

The TARDIS lands in Montgomery, Alabama, on the eve of Park’s pivotal stand, actually sit-in, against institutionalized racism. On December 1, 1955, Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her bus seat to make way for a white person. Her arrest sparked a civil protest whose ramifications continue to echo down the ages.  In Rosa the Doctor discovers a force at work intent on changing history and she and her companions must work to ensure that Parks fulfills her destiny.

By spinning a yarn about historical events in living memory writers Chris Chibnall, also Doctor Who’s new executive producer, and Malorie Blackman, former Children’s Laureate, grounded the script in the here and now. Kudos to them for drawing the audience right in with the injustice of it all.

It would be interesting to know whether the script for Rosa was written before the new TARDIS team was cast, or whether Tosin Cole’s and Mandip Gill’s casting as companions Ryan Sinclair and Yasmin Khan informed the script. Either way, having the Doctor travelling with presumably Africa and Asian English companions seems inspired here. The companions in Doctor Who are always analogues for the audience, and in this story Ryan particularly gets a rough deal based solely on the colour of his skin.

In many ways Rosa feels more like an early episode of the classic Star Trek television series which aired 1966-69. Gene Roddenberry created his science fiction show to sneak morality tales past the censors who objected to him passing social commentary on the state of America and the world at the time. One wonders how an episode so blatantly about the stupidity of racism as Season 3’s Let That Be Your Last Battlefield got past the censors. Millions of viewers got what Roddenberry was up to, including Martin Luther King Jr who supports Rosa in this Doctor Who story and persuaded Nichelle Nichols (Lt Uhura) not to quit Star Trek. (For more science fiction on the theme of racism check out the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 6 episode Far Beyond The Stars and Quantum Leap Season 1 episode The Color of Truth.)

As an episode of Doctor Who Rosa is pregnant to bursting with such social commentary, and the enemy is just about as ugly as it gets, making this episode the most stand out one of the series so far. Rosa is not only great Doctor Who, it’s fantastic science fiction, because it takes real issues encountered in real life and tackles them head on.

This episode made me laugh at the absurdity of racism and cry at its injustice. Like Star Trek before it, Doctor Who makes me proud to be a fan. Rosa is the stuff awards are made of.

The music was pretty spectacular too, with a wonderful cinematic feel.

Rosa 2SYNOPSIS

Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder whether someone is attempting to change history.

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Rosa Parks: Vinette Robinson

Krasko  Joshua Bowman

James Blake: Trevor White

Mr Steele: Richard Lothian

Waitress: Jessica Claire Preddy

Police Officer Mason: Gareth Marks

Raymond Parks: David Rubin

Martin Luther King: Ray Sesay

Fred Gray: Aki Omoshaybi

Elias Griffin Jr: David Dukas

Arthur: Morgan Deare

Writer: Malorie Blackman

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Mark Tonderai

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

 

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 2 – The Ghost Monument

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 2 –  The Ghost Monument

The Ghost Monument

 

It was like going back in time.

Doctor Who’s new opening titles came crashing in without a pre-titles teaser segment.

It felt like the good, old fashioned, days of the Doctor Who I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s, were back.

Fourth Doctor Tom Baker and fifth Doctor Peter Davison never needed pre-titles teasers, even at the beginning of a story. As the story progressed the titles led straight into the last moments of the previous episode’s cliff hanger.

That’s exactly what we got with Series 11, Episode 2, The Ghost Monument.

The show’s new titles felt deeply grounded in Doctor Who’s 55-year past. Series 11’s theme music, presumably arranged by Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus Segun Akinola, felt like an amalgamation of several previous eras. The visuals were definitely anchored in the eras of the first two Doctors, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton.

When we last saw the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole) and Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), they were floating in space about to die of asphyxiation.

The Ghost Moment picks up from that point, subtly suggesting that the whole of Series 1, Episode 1, The Woman Who Fell To Earth was, in fact, an hour long teaser.

Whittaker’s Doctor stood up against an alien menace to be counted last week, just as any newly generated Doctor should, but this week executive producer and writer Chris Chibnall allowed the 13th incarnation of the Time Lord (Lady?) to find her voice.

Whittaker’s Doctor is less alien than previous incarnations of the character, which makes her more grounded. Hyper intelligent, as always, but less showy, and confident to a tee.

Chibnall delivers another edge of your seater, making you wonder what’s going to happen next.

Angstrom (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley) feel like two side of the same space coin.

The Doctor’s reunion with her beloved TARDIS is heart-warming. While being new and fresh, the interior echoes many aspects of the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth Doctor’s TARDIS.

Two episodes in to Series 11 and we’re one fifth of the way through the series.

SYNOPSIS

Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo?

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Angstrom: Susan Lynch

Epzo: Shaun Dooley

Ilin: Art Malik

Voice of the Remnants: Ian Gelder

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Series Producer: Nikki Wilson

Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

 

Review – Quantum Leap The Complete Series

Quantum Leap Complete CollectionQuantum Leap is billed as a science-fiction show. It began in 1989 and ran for five seasons. Its main stars were Scott Bakula, who went on to star in Star Trek Enterprise and CSI, and Dean Stockwell, who appeared in the re imagined Battlestar Galactica.

Bakula plays scientist Sam Beckett in charge of a time-travel project. When funding is threatened he enters the time stream and finds himself leaping from body to body where he has to put something right before he can leap out again. He is assisted by a rather lecherous hologram, Al, who only Sam can see and gives Sam needed information through Ziggy, a super-computer. Sam can end up in the body of someone at any point in his own time-line.

This all sounds very science-fiction but this aspect of the show is fairly light. Sam is a kind of Doctor Who travelling through time without a TARDIS. However, it is more a series of human interest stories than anything else. The quantum leap is a vehicle to get Sam from one story to the next. In that respect it is like The Fugitive for those who know about the 60s television series. Richard Kimble traveled from place to place helping people. Finding the one-armed killer of his wife to clear his name only happened at the end when the series was wrapped up.

Quantum Leap is like this and it does risk not having enough science-fiction in it for hard core sci-fi fans or too much for those only partial to human interest stories. But this format gives scope for a wide variety of stories and most possible angles are explored.

There is a natural comedy to being suddenly pitched into someone else, which is the show’s signature, giving it a cliff-hanger in every story. This concept allows genre crossover which Quantum Leap takes full advantage of. So it might be a detective story, thriller, horror, comedy, war story, weird Kafkaesque farce, or something else. Or a combination of genres, as at times it poses as one type of story before a twist makes it another.

Sam can be any age, colour or gender which is useful for social issue stories. Once he was a pregnant teenager about to give birth with arguments about whether he could actually do that and where the baby really was, dished up with a great hilarity.

Sam occasionally meets historical figures so it’s a bit like Young Indiana Jones and alters time-lines only on a personal level, not in major ways. In reality Sam would quickly have a complete breakdown, would go outside the US, and people would notice how different the person had suddenly become. But the show doesn’t take itself too seriously and fans should accept it for the mostly light-hearted fun it is.

So Quantum Leap is hugely entertaining for a wide audience and those who remember seeing it back in the day will be pleasantly surprised how good it still is.

All five seasons now come in a boxed set.

In the very short first season the series was finding its feet which shows, and the pilot episode lacks an ‘origin’ story. The graphics were noticeably upgraded in the second season and the writing improved with each season.

Some popular episodes were recycled so watching them in a boxed set means they are out of sequence or discontinuous which is slightly confusing and annoying. Nothing is missing though and, as you go on, it just gets better and better. For old fans or those who would like to become fans, it’s worth having and I rate it 8 out of 10.

– Reviewed by Dave Calderwood

Rocket man launches Rocket Lab

Rocket man launches Rocket Lab

It takes a rocket man to launch a rocket lab.

William Shatner, known to millions as Star Trek’s original Captain James T. Kirk, opened Rocket Lab’s new high-volume production facility in Mt Wellington, Auckland, today. (October 12, 2018) The legendary actor was watched by invited guests including myself and Company-X director David Hallett.

William, who performed Elton John’s pop hit Rocket Man at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards, was joined at the opening ceremony of the Levene Place, Mt Wellington, facility by Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck.

Rocket Lab’s new production facility and expands the company’s global footprint.

The new 7,500 sq/m (80,700 sq/ft) rocket development and production facility adds to Rocket Lab’s existing production facility and headquarters in Huntington Beach, California. The new facility rethinks the way orbital rockets are built and brings Rocket Lab’s manufacturing footprint to more than 4.5 acres and enables the company to build an Electron rocket every week.

“Every detail of the Rocket Lab launch system has been designed to provide small satellites with rapid and reliable access to space. This requires the ability to manufacture launch vehicles at an unprecedented rate, so we’ve expanded our global production capability to build and launch an Electron rocket to orbit every week,” Peter says.

“We have the team, the industry-leading launch vehicle, the global production facilities and the launch sites to liberate the small satellite market. Rocket Lab has opened access to orbit.”

Electron launch vehicles undergo final assembly at the new Auckland facility, where all parts go through a streamlined process for testing and integration into the rocket before launch from Rocket Lab’s private orbital launch pad, Launch Complex 1, on the Māhia Peninsula in Hawke’s Bay.

All Electron launches, including the upcoming It’s Business Time launch in November, will be commanded from the new Mission Control at the Auckland facility. This Mission Control will serve launches from Launch Complex 1 in Māhia, as well as Rocket Lab’s US launch site, which is currently undergoing final selection. The new production facility will house more than 200 of Rocket Lab’s growing team of 330 people. Rocket Lab is actively recruiting for an additional 180 roles across New Zealand and the United States to support monthly launches in 2019, scaling to weekly launches by the end of 2020.

The design of Rocket Lab’s new Auckland facility, including the custom-built Mission Control, was designed by Auckland architects Designgroup Stapleton Elliott, with building and installation carried out by Format.