Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 10 – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 10 – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos

Forget epic series finales, The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a very personal story for Team TARDIS.

Under previous showrunners Russell T Davies and Stephen Moffat a series always ended with an epic story often featuring the cybermen or Daleks. But Chris Chibnall is not as predictable as that. Instead he chose to write a much smaller story set in the wake of a battle.

Answering a chorus of distress calls, the Doctor and companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz discover a world which has been the site of a terrible battle. They soon find themselves going up against the alien nasty whose actions in the series opener killed Graham’s wife and Ryan’s nan Grace.

Battle 1

For the Doctor it’s all about helping others who are suffering under Tim Shaw, a nasty who steals the teeth of the people he kills, but for Graham in particular it’s an opportunity for revenge.

The dramatic tension in this episode centres around what Graham, the everyman of this TARDIS team, will do if and when he comes face to face with the alien killer. He tells the Doctor that he will pull the trigger if he comes across Tim Shaw. It’s lovely to see her take her expected stand. Pulling the trigger will make Graham as bad as the episode’s heavy, and he’s much better than that.

While Earth is threatened by Tim Shaw, we don’t see the effects of the story on our home planet. More concerning is what will Graham do?

The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos is a compelling episode that has you caring about the characters Chibnall has written.

It feels like we might have to wait for the New Year’s Special to get something epic for Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor to do.

 

SYNOPSIS

On the planet of Ranskoor Av Kolos lie the remains of a brutal battlefield. But as the Doctor, Graham, Yaz and Ryan answer nine separate distress calls, they discover the planet holds far more secrets.

Who is the mysterious commander with no memory? What lies beyond the mists? Who or what are the Ux? The answers will lead the Doctor and her friends towards a deadly reckoning.

 

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien: Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill

Andinio: Phyllis Logan

Paltraki: Mark Addy

Delph: Percelle Ascott

Umsang: Jan Lee

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Producer: Alex Mercer

Director: Jamie Childs

Executive Producer: Matt Strevens

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Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 8 – The Witchfinders

Review – Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 8 – The Witchfinders

Every once-in-a-while the Doctor is given some iconic words.

Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker was given hers by The Witchfinders writer Joy Wilkinson.

They came when the Time Lord was trussed up by King James I accused of witchcraft.

“We’re all the same,” the Doctor explains to the monarch. “We want certainty, security. To believe that people are evil, heroic. That’s not how people are.

“You want to know the secrets of existence? Start with the mysteries of the heart. I could show you everything if you stop being afraid of everything you don’t understand. If you trust me.”

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It was a wonderful moment full of truth, at the heart of an otherwise predictable episode.

Team TARDIS arrives in 17th century England in time to see a woman ducked for being a witch.

After warning her companions not to get involved in historical events, the Doctor slips off her coat and dives into the pond to try and save the accused.

Before long the TARDIS team is uncovering evidence of alien involvement, and the Doctor is lumped in with the unearthly and lined up for a ducking herself. That’s when Wilkinson’s wonderful words arrive.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils,” C. S. Lewis wrote. “One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

An excessive and unhealthy interest in the devil is precisely the trap King James I (Alan Cumming) and Lady Becka Savage (Siobhan Finneran) fall into in this story.

It’s interesting to note, however, that director Sallie Aprahamian chose to portray these two characters from opposite ends of the spectrum.

If James I is charming, Becka Savage is charmless. The King is funny, the lady of the manor to be feared. Both showed two sides of the same horrible coin.

It took eight episodes to get predictable, which is pretty good going for a show that turned 55 last Friday.

 

SYNOPSIS

In 17th-century Lancashire, the Doctor, Yaz, Ryan and Graham become embroiled in a witch trial and the arrival of King James I.

 

CREDITS

The Doctor – Jodie Whittaker

Graham O’Brien – Bradley Walsh

Ryan Sinclair – Tosin Cole

Yasmin Khan – Mandip Gill

King James – Alan Cumming

Becka Savage – Siobhan Finneran

Willa Twiston – Tilly Steele

Old Mother Twiston – Tricia Kelly

Smithy – Arthur Kay

Alfonso – Stavros Demetraki

Writer – Joy Wilkinson

Executive Producer – Matt Strevens

Executive Producer – Chris Chibnall

Series Producer – Nikki Wilson

Director – Sallie Aprahamian

Review – Doctor Who – Series 11 Episode 7 Kerblam!

Review – Doctor Who – Series 11 Episode 7 Kerblam!

Doctor Who has got simpler of late.

When the Doctor received a note asking for help with the delivery of a fez, the sender was expected to be someone who had hung out with the Doctor when he had worn a fez.

The 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) sometimes donned a fez, proclaiming “fez’s are cool”. If Doctor Who was still Stephen Moffat’s wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, show the cry from help would have come from one of the companions who traveled with him when he wore a fez. Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song, or Clara Oswald were the only contenders. Shutting your eyes and wishing really, really, hard during the Moffat era might even have delivered Smith, himself, back to the role to be rescued by the 13th Doctor. Now what a story that would have made.

But Moffat’s, predictably complicated style of story telling is out and Chris Chibnall’s much simpler show is in. Although Doctor Who turns 55 on Friday, it’s not a big anniversary year so multi-Doctor stories are also likely.

Kerblam! is a good, old fashioned, whodunit. Once you’ve figured that out it’s a simple guessing game. Simplicity is the name of the game until someone does something to give the game away.

Kerblam is an intergalactic retailer with an army of  delivery droids who can teleport to the parcels destination. Someone at Kerblam’s distribution centre is in trouble and the Doctor and her companions try to find out who by joining the workforce.

There’s no discussion around how the sender of the message knew to send a fez, Jodie Whittaker looks better in one than Matt Smith did, but one must assume that the Doctor must be a Kerblam customer.

Kerblam! is a whodunit of sorts, who sent the message and why do they need help.

The truth is chilling and more than a little sad.

 

SYNOPSIS

A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer, Kerblam.

CREDITS

The Doctor: Jodie Whittaker
Graham O’Brien : Bradley Walsh
Yasmin Khan: Mandip Gill
Ryan Sinclair: Tosin Cole
Judy Maddox: Julie Hesmondhalgh
Dan Cooper: Lee Mack
Jarva Slade: Callum Dixon
Kira Arlo: Claudia Jessie
Charlie Duffy: Leo Flanagan
Voice of Kerblam: Matthew Gravelle
Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall
Executive Producer: Matt Strevens
Series Producer : Nikki Wilson
Writer: Pete McTighe
Director: Jennifer Perrott

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

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