DVD Review – Doctor Who Series 10 Parts 1 and 2

DW1The 12th Doctor found his voice in Series 10.

It’s not that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor didn’t have a voice in his debut Series 8 and Series 9 that followed, but it was more often spikey in those two series. That, is perhaps, at the request of show runner Stephen Moffat to make Capaldi’s Doctor contrast with Matt Smith’s take on the Doctor across Series 5, 6 and 7.

Something happened behind the scenes on Series 10 that saw Capaldi dial back the spikiness and deliver the cheerleader for humanity that we are used to.

Off screen, I can imagine it was the result of Moffat and Capaldi colluding and giving it their all in their final year on the show. On screen it was everything to do with the Doctor’s thrill of onboarding new companion Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) to the TARDIS.  Bill approaches her adventures as you and I might, if we had never seen Doctor Who, with questions about the TARDIS and the Time Lords. Bill’s pluck contrasts nicely with the Doctor’s occasional pomposity. The result is the strongest consistent series of Doctor Who since, perhaps, Smith’s last season in the 50th anniversary year of 2013.

There aren’t any clunkers this series, and there are quite a few stand out episodes. These include Thin Ice and Oxygen, which both did something completely different with the Doctor Who format.

The Pyramid at the End of the World is great for the commentary it delivers on the human need to wage war.

Empress of Mars did something new with the Ice Warriors.

The Eaters of Light brought Rona Munro, a writer of the classic Doctor Who series, back to Doctor Who.

World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls paid more than a substantial homage to the original Mondasian Cybermen in Capaldi’s swansong stories. Plus, we’ve never seen two Masters on screen together before, even if one was Missy.

Special Features in these two DVD sets, which between them deliver Series 10 over four discs, are reasonably light. So, if value added material is your thing you might want to wait for the complete series in one package.

Each story is accompanied by an Inside Look of a couple of minutes containing soundbites on the episode from the Doctor Who production team. For the most part its Moffat and Capaldi, with occasional contribution from Mackie.

I’ve already reviewed each episode of Series 10 in depth on this blog, so what follows is the official BBC intro to each of the Series 10 episodes plus succinct quotes from the special features accompanying them.

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Episode 1, The Pilot: Two worlds collide when the Doctor meets Bill, and a chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined. But who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission on Earth?

Moffat: “Series 10 sort of begins the show again. The first episode is called mischievously The Pilot. If you’ve never seen Doctor Who at all this could be your jumping on point.”

Episode 2, Smile: The language of the future is emoji! The Doctor takes Bill to a spectacular city on a distant planet – but where are the colonists? A band of ‘cute’ droids hold the deadly answer.

Capaldi: “I think this year’s very interesting because it boils the show down to the basic elements. A mysterious stranger takes the companions to an exotic and dangerous place.”

Episode 3, Thin Ice: London, 1814. The entire city has turned out for the biggest Frost Fair in decades. But beneath the frozen Thames, revellers are disappearing, snatched through the ice. Pulled into the depths where a terrifying monster lurks. Will the Doctor and Bill stop the slaughter before they too are dragged into the icy waters?

Capaldi: “I think this is a very unusual episode based on a real historical event, which happened a number of times which is that the Thames froze. So, the fact that we’re able to recreate this real event is lovely.”

Episode 4, Knock Knock: Why do floorboards creak? When a sinister landlord shows Bill and her friends the perfect houseshare, they have no idea what lies ahead… knock knock, who’s there?

Moffat: “The memory of real primal fear, the Fear Doctor Who extrapolated and rejoices in is born in the nursery when the house was all a bit bigger and darker and noisier and freakier. The house from the point of view of a child, every house is a haunted house.”

Episode 5, Oxygen: “Space – the final frontier. Final because it wants to kill us.” Trapped on a space station with no oxygen, the Doctor, Bill and Nardole are horrified to discover the automated spacesuits keeping them alive are also trying to kill them!

Moffat: “I think Peter always comes in from the drama angle and finds the comedy and I think Matt [Lucas as Nardole] tends to come in for the comedy angle and finds the drama. They are both hugely inventive actors.”

Episode 6, Extremis: “The Veritas. The truth. Truth so true you can’t live with it. Is that looking into hell . . . or seeing the light?” Everyone who has ever read the Veritas has been found dead. In a forbidden library at the heart of the Vatican, the pope urges the Doctor to read the ancient text – but can he handle the truth?

Capaldi: “It was difficult playing a blind doctor mostly because I didn’t know what it looked like, I knew that there was a special effect going to be added. So. I didn’t know how much to do and not to do.”

Episode 7, The Pyramid at the End of the World: An “ancient” pyramid appears overnight. Every clock in the world begins counting down to the Earth’s destruction. Three opposing armies lie ready to annihilate each other. An alien race stands ready to offer humanity a deal that could save them, but also enslave them. It’s a terrifying race against time to save the world. Will the Doctor be forced to accept their help?

Moffat: “I think what [writer] Peter Harness came up with is a scenario in which you realise how close to destruction we can always be and that sadly will never not be topical.”

Episode 8, The Lie of the Land: Earth has been invaded and Bill is living alone, an isolated figure surviving in occupied Britain. The Doctor is imprisoned and appears to be on the side of the enemy, flooding the airwaves with fake news. Bill and Nardole must embark on a deadly mission to rescue the Doctor and lead the resistance against the new regime, whatever the cost.

Capaldi: “Toby [Whithouse] is a wonderful writer. His scripts were always very tight and funny very dark he’s got a great imagination. Thus, was a very interesting take that he had on a dystopian 1984-style future that was dominated by the mysterious and strange monks.

Episode 9, Empress of Mars: “God save the Queen” has been scrawled on the surface of Mars. What are Victorians doing on the home of the Ice Warriors? And what will they find beneath the Martian soil?

Capaldi: “It was delightful to go to Mars again as the Doctor and not only to deal with Ice Warriors but also to deal with Victorians, to finding them on Mars was great fun.”

Episode 10, The Eaters of Light: A hunt for the lost Ninth Roman Legion leads the Doctor, Bill and Nardole into the middle of an ancient battle that could cast humanity into the dark forever. What is inside the cairn? And how far will they have to go defeat the terrifying alien Eaters of Light?

Pearl Mackie: “I spent a lot of the day hiding in the TARDIS because it was the only thing that shielded you from the wind.”

Episode 11, World Enough and Time: A huge spaceship trapped in the gravity well of a black hole, teeming with impossible lifeforms, harbours one of the Doctor’s most feared enemies… Mondasian Cybermen.

Moffat: “I didn’t immediately have a story for the Master, I struggled with that character, right up until the idea of Michelle Gomez. From the moment I cast her I thought wouldn’t it be hilarious if John Simm turned up as well.”

Episode 12, The Doctor Falls: The Doctor makes a final stand against an army of Cybermen to protect a tiny band of humans from destruction.

Moffat: The fact that it’s Peter’s last series matters to the show. The fact that it’s my last series doesn’t matter at all.”

Buy Doctor Who Series 10 at the BBC Shop.

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Doctor Who Christmas Special Cinema Release

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Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker will debut on the big screen in Australasia with some exclusive content.

Twice Upon A Time, the 2017 Doctor Who Christmas Special, featuring 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi’s regeneration into Whittaker, will get a cinematic showing on Boxing Day. Whittaker is the first woman to play the Doctor.

It’s evident, from the last episode of Season 10 The Doctor Falls, that David Bradley will reprise the first Doctor introduced to television audiences in 1963 by William Hartnell. Actor Mark Gatiss, Doctor Who scriptwriter and Sherlock co-creator, will also appear in Twice Upon A Time.

The screening will include bonus pieces celebrating Capaldi’s three seasons as the Doctor, and departing show runner Steven Moffat who took over the show in 2010 with 11th Doctor Matt Smith.

BBC Worldwide Australia and New Zealand and Sharmill Films are behind the cinematic screening.

BBC Worldwide ANZ Live Entertainment Executive Louise Hill said: “Doctor Who fans love watching the show on the big screen and with Peter Capaldi regenerating into the first female Doctor, this promises to be an iconic episode.”

Sharmill Films Marketing Manager Jacinta Palmer said: “There’s nothing quite like the big screen experience, and we’re thrilled to give fans the opportunity to bid farewell to the fantastic Peter Capaldi in cinemas nationally, and to usher in Jodie Whittaker’s hugely anticipated debut as the 13th Doctor”.

As well as this great chance for fans to come together and watch Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time on the big screen, the episode will also be available on ABC iview immediately after the UK broadcast and will air on ABC at 7.30pm December 26th. Straight afterwards fans can join Rove and his guests for a special regeneration episode of WHOVIANS. 

For more information see: www.sharmillfilms.com.au/allfilms/doctor-who-xmas

As well as the Doctor Who films of the 1960s, starring Peter Cushing, Doctor Who has enjoyed a handful of cinematic outings. The 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor, was shown in November 2013. Capaldi’s debut, Deep Breath, also showed on the big screen as well as the 2016 Christmas Special: Return of Doctor Mysterio.

 

Toruk – The First Flight (Cirque du Soleil) at the Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand

Toruk – The First Flight (Cirque du Soleil) at the Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand

Cirque du Soleil set itself an ambitious target when it decided to attempt a show based on James Cameron’s science fiction epic Avatar. But Toruk – The First Flight took off in so many ways.

The show tells the story of the first blue skinned na’vi of the planet Pandora to ride a killer Toruk bird, an event probably as momentous as the invention of the wheel in our own history.

Before the climactic flight Toruk’s rider, and his friends, must go on a quest as they collect artefacts from five tribes living in five quite different environments on the almost untamed planet.

One of the many highlights of the performance is the evolving of the laser projected sets as they change from one environment to the other. During one transition cliffs appear, water cascades down them and pool on the ground where rocky outcrops remain dry as the characters on the quest traverse the landscape. It was close to photo real, and amazing to behold.

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Avatar – The First Flight is the classic hero’s journey identified by mythologist Joseph Campbell, more comparable to the 1978 Doctor Who story The Key to Time than The Lord of the Rings or the original Star Wars trilogy.

But the hero’s journey in Toruk – The First Flight will change the world as much as Luke Skywalker’s or Frodo Baggins’s quest to topple the Empire and defeat Sauron. All that said, The First Flight is a simple story told through a little narration in English as every word uttered on stage by the performers is in the Na’vi tongue.

Because this is also a Cirque du Soleil show the journey is infused with death defying feats including breath taking aerial rope work, well choreographed native dance and a plethora of other indescribable na’vi antics.

The story is at the forefront at times, particularly at the beginning of the show during the set up, but most of the time it is about the physical feats of the performers.

But they are mostly worked into the story in such a way that they feel natural to the na’vi.

Complaints of the show being too much about Avatar are, frankly, bonkers. This is an Avatar prequel, true and blue, which happens to be put on by Cirque du Soleil. And James Cameron is, evidently, proud.

DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

DVD Review – The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years (Koch Media)

The recent death of Deborah Watling, who played companion Victoria Waterfield alongside the late Pat Troughton’s Second Doctor, gives this DVD release an extra poignancy.

Watling died on July 21, aged 69, as I worked my way through the six documentaries in this excellent two disk set comprising a new introduction and six previously released Myth Makers documentaries. Sadly, Watling’s death means half of the actors featuring in this set are no longer with us.

Troughton died in 1987 and Michael Craze, who played companion Ben Jackson, in 1998. This DVD set features them in their own documentaries on Disc 1 alongside Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly. Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury, who played companions Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot, feature in their own documentaries on Disc 2 alongside Watling.

The set is rounded off with a new introduction from interviewer Nicholas Briggs and Producer Keith Barnfather.


Briggs and Barnfather, which sounds like an august legal firm, are absolutely delightful as they introduce this set filmed in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of these features were filmed before Doctor Who sadly left British screens in 1989, or before it returned bigger and better in 2005. It’s obvious from watching and listening to what they have to say that these are two very good friends united in their love for Doctor Who many moons ago.

“Patrick, unfortunately, we never interviewed for Myth Makers,” Barnfather reveals.

Briggs, probably better known for his work with Big Finish Productions and as the voice of the Daleks and other nasties in new era Doctor Who, fesses up to loving Troughton’s Doctor the most.

“He was the one who established, sort of, the character of the Doctor we know today,” Briggs opines. “Patrick Troughton was the prototype for every other Doctor that’s come since him.”

As well as being the name of the missing second story in the third series of original Doctor Who, Myth Makers was a series of documentaries celebrating the first seven Doctors and their companions. Each documentary featured Briggs interviewing one of the cast about their time on the show, and their career before and after it.

The Troughton documentary in this set, then, is the original Myth Makers documentary grabbed from footage of an interview conducted in Brighton in 1985 at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society convention. But this documentary is far more sophisticated than pointing the camera at the stage for 50 minutes focussed on the actor. The piece is balanced with interviews from other Doctor Who cast and crew, starting with former head of BBC TV Drama Shaun Sutton who had known Troughton before World War II.

“Even in those days Patrick had those same deep lines on his face, he had the look of a thousand-year-old leprechaun,” Sutton offers.

“He was just a great fun person,” informs Hines. “Everything could be turned into a joke.”

Anneke Wills’ Myth Makers opens to a Mark Knopfleresque guitar solo set against an idyllic Norfolk countryside, where Wills admits to being her happiest. It’s 1993 and Wills has returned to England after years overseas, including time in a spiritual community in India. She tells Briggs her story from the comfort of a living room, the ruins of a church left behind after its parish was devastated by the Black Death, from the sand dunes on the beach at Cromer, and from the flower garden.
It’s an intimate interview, and Wills is warm and wistful.

Craze is interviewed in 1985, at the Otter Bar in the Norfolk hotel he managed, and again in the Myth Makers studio surrounded by a Dalek, Cyberman and war machine, in 1996.

“We didn’t really quite know how they were going to do it,” Crave reveals of the first regeneration from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton. “All I remember is it took a long time and in those old-fashioned days they literally superimposed the two heads on black backgrounds . . . It took a long time.”

Briggs does a Through The Keyhole intro to the Hines documentary, filmed at Hines’ home/horse stud in Yorkshire in 1994. This is probably the most relaxed of the Myth Makers interviews in this set, so it’s no surprise to learn in the introduction that Hines and Briggs are now great friends, and it’s nice to see a little of Hines’ horse stud in operation.

But the highlight is some behind the scenes footage of The Abominable Snowmen shot on location, in colour, at Snowdonia National Park.

Briggs turns to This Is Your Life for the inspiration for the opening of Watling’s Myth Makers interviews. They were conducted at Monster Con in Liverpool in 1986 on concrete pavers, with additional material shot in 1995.

“I didn’t want her to be soppy and silly and wimpy,” Watling says as she reveals she played against the script.” Of course, the girls in those days, they did tend to be like that . . . Purely because Jamie and the Doctor had to come and rescue them.”

Padbury is treading the boards with the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee at the New Theatre, Cardiff, in Superted And The Comet Of The Spoons in 1986, when Briggs catches up with her for Myth Makers. The interview is augmented with a more recent studio chat in which Padbury confirms her favourite story is The Mind Robber.

“I don’t think there was anything superficial about Pat and Frazer and I,” she says of the dream TARDIS team. “The friendship grew and working together became easier.”

The Doctors: The Pat Troughton Years is, in the best possible way, like two DVDs full of top quality extras. Except there’s so many of them that there’s no room for the main feature. It’s the first time that I had seen any of this material, and it made me feel nostalgic for an era of Doctor Who that aired before I was born in 1972.

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

Review – Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls

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What would you die for?

That’s the question the 12th Doctor confronts rival Time Lord the Master and Missy with as he goes up against an army of Cybermen in the hope that he might save a settlement of insignificant humans.

It would have been a beautiful moment had any of the previous Doctors issued the challenge, but it was made all the more wonderful coming from the lips of Doctor Number 12.

When Peter Capaldi was handed the role by Matt Smith in 2013’s Christmas Special, The Time of the Doctor, we got a grumpier, pricklier version of the character who described his companion. Clara, as his carer. “She cares, so I don’t have to.” Show runner Steven Moffat was emphasising the alienness of our hero, showing how hard it is for him to sometimes empathise with lower humans.

But in tonight’s Series 10 finale, The Doctor Falls, we saw the 12th Doctor continue his softening as he announced he was willing to die doing the right thing, being kind, as he put it. Oh what a journey Capaldi’s Doctor has been on these last few years. Was this part of Moffatt’s master plan, or is Capaldi finishing his time as the Doctor in this way by pure coincidence?

Moffat’s penultimate script (assuming he is on writing duty for the next Christmas special) might just be the best series finale in a long, long time.

This action packed story picked up after last week’s The World Enough and Time, in which companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) was converted into a Cyberman. It was laden with danger, horror and tragedy, not to mention the Master/Missy double bill, a marriage made in hell which ended, somewhat, predictably although you can guarantee we haven’t seen the last of the character(s).

Capaldi really shone as the Doctor, perhaps delivering his most powerful performance yet. This meant that the rest of the cast brought their A game to the table, particularly Mackie and Matt Lucas who, as Nardole, had some wonderful moments. You can’t help wondering if his story is at an end.

The Doctor Falls surely evoked tears, but the beauty of Doctor Who means that anything is possible. Where there are tears there is hope.

Review – Doctor Who – The World Enough and Time

DW11.1In The World Enough and Time, clever, old, Steven Moffat has delivered both a sequel and a prequel to the first ever Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet.

At the end of that first Cyberman story, which aired in October, 1966, first Doctor William Hartnell regenerated into Patrick Troughton. The World Enough and Time is a prequel, because it shows the genesis of the Cybermen, while being a sequel, because the 12th Doctor is there to witness it.

Who, except for clever old show runner Steven Moffat who wrote this episode, could ever have imagined that the 12th Doctor, and his companions, could ever have played such an integral part in their creation? It’s 1975’s Genesis of the Daleks, ala Tom Baker, all over again!

We’ve known Series 10 would be Capaldi’s last for a long time, so including what appears to be his regeneration ahead of the title sequence this week only serves to remind us of this Doctor’s walk to the gallows. Now it’s coming, every moment with 12 seems bittersweet. One wonders whether we’ll see the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerated at the end of this story, or whether we’ll have to wait until the 2017 Christmas Special.

Moffat’s script, under the skilful direction of Rachel Talalay, hooked the viewer from its opening moments, exploring the narrative like a TARDIS that has jumped a time track.

The TARDIS crew, and Missy (Michelle Gomez), arrive on a mysterious generational spaceship stuck on the event horizon of a black hole. Bill (Peal Mackie) is seemingly killed on the top deck of the ship, before we flash back further to a conversation between her and the Doctor in which he cannot guarantee her safety.

It was lovely to hear reimagined strains of composer Murray Gold’s This is Gallifrey strike up as the Doctor describes the Master/Missy as the person most like him in the universe. After all, they were young Time Lords together. Here, we learn, the Doctor wishes to discover if Missy is truly reformed by sending her on a mission of his choosing with Bill and Nardole (Matt Lucas).

Back to the generational ship, and Bill has been taken below decks by mysteriously bandaged humanoids serving a battle axe of a nurse and a skittish, yet familiar, little man. They’ve repaired Bill, and revived her, after inserting a mechanical heart, but she must stay within the confines of the hospital if she is to survive.

It’s pretty clear, at this point, that there’s more to the skittish man than meets the eye, and all will soon be revealed. Bill, as predicted, is well on her way to becoming a Mondassian cyberman or woman.

The penultimate episode of Doctor Who: Series 10 is an instant classic and next week’s episode looks set to be heart breaking.

 

 

 

Review – Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light

Review – Doctor Who – The Eaters of Light

EatersThis week’s Doctor Who episode achieved a first.

It’s the first time, since Doctor Who returned to television screens in 2005, that the reimagined show has really felt like what is now known as the classic show it was based on.  For the most part that’s down to this script being written by Rona Munro, the Scottish writer credited with the last Doctor Who story of the classic era.

For a good portion of this story team TARDIS find themselves on different sides of the war for Roman Scotland, a story which could just as easily been told in the classic era. In fact Munro calls back to the First Doctor (William Hartnell) story The Romans early on in the script.

Bill (Pearl Mackie) is trying to impress the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) by finding the legendary ninth legion, which vanished from history. The TARDIS crew separates as she heads one way, and the Doctor and Nardole another. As Bill stumbles across what remains of the legion the Doctor and Nardole are captured by Pictish warriors. But there’s something far more sinister going on than human battles, there’s a killer alien monster on the loose, and the future of humankind depends on what happens next.

The Doctor must unite the two sides, at the satisfying climax of the story, if the world is to be saved.

The Eaters of the Light is a clever script, it’s fun who it uses the lore of Doctor Who to explain Scottish folk tales of music coming from below the ground as heard in the opening and closing scenes in modern Scotland.

But there’s another, broader, story going on here, as the TARDIS crew discover Missy (Michelle Gomze) waiting for them in the Doctor’s space-time ship upon their return. The scenes between the Doctor and Missy are just so watchable, as he (and we) are led to believe that she is a reformed character, and not the megalomaniac Time Lord the Master/Missy has always been.

This dance of the Time Lords, which really shone through this week, isn’t a stone’s throw from the relationship between Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and The Master’s originator Roger Delgardo.

Next week looks promising, with a return of John Simm’s Master and the Mondasian Cybermen first glimpsed in the Hartnell story The Tenth Planet. Doctor, what the heck?