Reviews

Big Finish – Torchwood 1.1: The Conspiracy

BF TW 101 The Conspiracy

Oh yes, Jack is back! I’m a bit late catching the recently released first episode of Big Finish’s new Torchwood series, and there’s a tinge of nervousness approaching it given the high standard of other ranges – can it stand by itself with a similar level of quality?

It doesn’t take long to get an answer (if the tagline next to the BF logo wasn’t telling in itself), with a cracking evolution of the Torchwood theme by Blair Mowat that feels the same kind of natural progression as a new series – which this is of course! (more…)

The Flash 2×02 – Flash of Two Worlds

flash2x02After the early years of popularity during what became known as the Golden Age of comics; for a time, superheroes went out of fashion as many titles were cancelled, replaced on the shelves by crime and horror titles.

In the mid 50s, following claims linking those comics with child delinquency, the time was deemed right to bring back the superhero comic. However, rather than bring back the Golden Age heroes, most of the titles introduced new versions of the characters, with different origins, secret identities and even variations on their powers. In the case of the Flash, the new (Barry Allen) version chose his identity based on the Jay Garrick version he read in the comics. (more…)

The Girl Who Died, Review by Eddie McGuigan

The Girl Who Died

review by Eddie McGuigan

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Doctor Who, we know, has to be everything to everyone. It has to be a space adventure, it has to be historical drama, it has to be a romance, a horror story and it has to reflect its past with a nostalgic glow.

Of course, there are people out there, feral, skitter people who live on The Internet, who will tell you that Doctor Who better not be a bloody romance/horror story/soap opera. They’ll tell you it hasn’t been the same since Dicks/Saward/RTD left and they’ll tell you, without a doubt, that You Are Wrong. Then they’ll throw a teddy at you and stomp out.

The Girl Who Died is going to scatter these Internet Dwellers like skittles on a Friday night in France. It’s going to make others punch the air in excitement and it’s going to make others scratch their head a bit and go “Really? OK then…” (more…)

The Flash 2×01 – The Man Who Saved Central City

flashdayIn the closing moments of the season 1 finale, we saw Barry racing into the heart of the giant singularity threatening Central City in a last ditch attempt to shut it down after Eddie had sacrificed himself to remove Eobard Thawne from existence.

We rejoin the show with all that behind him – after he and Firestorm deal with Captain Cold and Heat Wave, we are reminded that Ronnie and Caitlin are now married, Professor Stein has joined the STAR Labs crew – the team is on top of its game and all is right with the world.
(more…)

Big Finish – Doctor Who Main Range 203 – Terror of the Sontarans

An alien base, deserted.  Well almost deserted. Something is giving out a distress signal and the Doctor and Mel have arrived to offer assistance.  But what is behind the cry for help is the last thing the Doctor would ever have expected. And it’s not just our heroes who are investigating. A force of Sontarans have landed, searching for survivors from their research team.  Will the Doctor and Mel last long enough against the Galaxies greatest warriors to find the mysterious cause of madness that afflicts everyone on the planet?  Sontarans don’t feel terror or worry about death…  until now!

Terror of the Sontarans (more…)

Before The Flood, review by Eddie McGuigan

 

Before The Flood

review by Eddie McGuigan

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The Doctor, O’Donnell and Bennett go back in time…

Under the Lake has to be one of the most formulaic Doctor Who adventures in a long time – and more power to it for being that way. It’s a traditional story with a traditional Doctor/Companion dynamic and throws a punch directly into the face of the viewer for being so. It is, without a doubt, superb.

As a second part of the same adventure, Before The Flood couldn’t begin more differently and, indeed, continue to push against the traditionalness of Part One. It begins with a direct to camera monologue by the Doctor – some might say this is for the fan who doesn’t understand or like temporal shenanigans or paradoxes – but it allows Capaldi to showboat and talk directly to us about the story ahead – indeed, the scene itself has no plot drivers at all – but it is nonetheless a clever conceit which leads straight into a theme tune played, it seems, by the Doctor himself.

After those titles, we are we are treated – and treated is the word – to another type of Whovian trope – the mysterious village, so ably portrayed in The Android Invasion, for instance – as the Doctor and his friends search out the truth behind the Ghosts in the Drum and their reason to exist – a search which will bring the Doctor face to face with the Fisher King and his own mortality.

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Ghost Doctor… but what’ he saying?

Whilst still giving us the action adventure of Under The Lake with echoes of Alien³, and the creepiness of not just a haunted house but a terrifyingly ghostly Doctor, we also get the backstory to the spaceship and the Trivoli undertaker, which enhances the story with rich layers of plot.

So the story is split in two parts – inside the Drum and before the flood – and each intertwine with themselves as the stasis chamber discovered in Under The Lake slowly begins to open.

It’s fair to say that whilst the Drum sequences allow Clara more space to take charge, she’s not entirely separated from the Doctor thanks to some timey wimey skyping, whose presence is felt in both the past and the presence as Capaldi continues to dominate this story with aplomb. The base under siege story is continued whilst the mystery behind it unfolds in a time travelling paradox cleverly realised by Whithouse’s intelligent use of the device. It’s a little bit Sapphire and Steel and a little bit Bill And Ted. To say more would ruin the surprises.

Guest star wise, Paul Kaye channels David Walliams as the now alive Trivoli undertaker and does a great if fleeting job. Sophie Stone as Cass is impressive too, and the fact that she is deaf isn’t ignored either. It’s great that her deafness isn’t seen as a disability at all, but used to great effect in this episode in a creepy scene which will have everyone on the edge of their seats. Morven Christie continues to audition for the role of companion with a great turn as the likeable, somewhat cooky O’Donnell for the most part, with Arsher Ali’s Bennett being the other stand out, scared but unafraid to call out the Doctor when required. Peter Serafinowicz is creepy as the confident Fisher King as well, and, as its body, Neil Fingleton is terrifying.

Again though it’s Capaldi’s Doctor who dominates this episode in everything that he does – as his ghost in the present or the rebel Time Lord in the past. He controls every scene he’s in as he scampers through the adventure – ably scored it has to be said by Murray Gold, who’s now less melodic than before but has begun to channel the operatic of Hans Zimmer – and is capable of showing a traditional Doctor but one still capable of seeing the bigger picture, and making alien decisions for the greater good, again an echo of Mummy on the Orient Express.

I can’t fault this episode – although I do think its more divisive than Under The Lake and perhaps less traditional – but I loved it, and would have Doctor Who like this two parter all the time. Again, there were no arcs, no old enemies, nothing to link it along, but with fan pleasing nods and plenty of comedy to counteract the drama and horror, this is exactly what Who should be.

Bravo, Toby, bravo.

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just before the flood…

 

Doctor Who Series 9 Review: Under the Lake, by Eddie McGuigan

 

UNDER THE LAKE

Review by Eddie McGuigan

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The Doctor is fascinated by something..

In the olden days, when the Universe was half its present size, Doctor Who used to start like this:

It was autumn, getting dark, maybe a little windy and cold outside. Curtains were drawn, tea had, everyone on the couch. The haunting melody would drag that old blue box down a swirling tunnel and open up to some plucky guest stars with some pretty distinct characteristics in a claustrophobic base set slightly in the future. There’d be a leader, brusque but true, a scientist, a creepy and slightly untrustworthy specialist, and a few immediately likeable characters who you could envisage as companions to the Doctor. Just as we’re getting to know them, something will happen – a likeable character will be killed, a monster will appear…

…and elsewhere in the base, tucked away in a cupboard or utility area there’ll be a strange, wheezing, groaning sound and an old blue Police Box will materialise out of thin air. It’ll sit for a second, as if gathering its thoughts, then an eccentric man will spring from the creaking door, sniffing the air, followed by a pretty, plucky companion, eyes wide with excitement at the start of a new adventure. Before long, the man – known only as the Doctor – will be embroiled in the situation, with his companion a loyal sidekick, and he’ll take control of the group meeting various levels of resistance, from suspicion, aggression to immediate new friendships.

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The Doctor takes control

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…but what’s he up to?

This is how Doctor Who used to start. It didn’t start with grumpy some-time companions working elsewhere, or with a domestic drama. It didn’t start with a convoluted backstory or a timey wimey arc. It started, it ran. And it ran.

Luckily, writer Toby Whithouse remembers those autumn nights, and how important those first few minutes were, and, to my absolute pleasure, he has recreated that perfectly here with Under The Lake. It is without a doubt the most traditional Doctor Who episode in quite some time, echoing tropes and conceits last seen in Mummy on the Orient Express, with much the same result. You get, in 42 minutes, true, undiluted, distilled and pure Doctor Who.

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Haunted corridors

Whithouse also knows Doctor Who should be scary. Weeping Angels scary. The Flood scary. Osirian Mummy scary. Weng-Chiang scary. So he makes the “Ghosts” scary too – he even manages to make the Tivoli scary, with the help of guest star Paul Kaye.

The Base Under Siege trope in Who has been around since Davis and Lloyd went “aaahhhh” in the 1960s, and it never fails. Under the Lake has echoes of The Ark In Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. It has shadows of The Seeds of Death and Waters of Mars. It also apes other sci-horror stalwarts like Buffy The Vampire Slayer – the Ghosts are very reminiscent of Hush’s “The Gentlemen” with their slip/slidey approach, terrifying look and incessant whispering.

Director Daniel O’Hara knows the score too. An impressive set is moodily lit and cleverly shot. There’s only so many ways to shoot the same corridor, but this director has nice camera angles and long shots coupled with some claustrophobic close ups and the filters give an underwater, cramped feel to the base. Before long we all know the geography of the place, and fear what’s behind each corner.

Guest star wise Morven Christie is the stand out, and her character O’Donnell would make a fabulous companion. A former UNIT operative, she knows the Doctor very well, and he takes to her pretty quickly, it seems. The rest of the cast, especially Paul Kaye who has little to do than look menacing, are comfortable and very adequate in their roles, and the ensemble – a much larger troupe than in the previous two episodes – is very believable as the weary gang stuck under the water.

This episode, though belongs to Peter Capaldi who bounces off of Jenna Coleman’s much more likeable Clara like a Tom off a Lis. This is without a doubt the most comfortable Peter has been in the role. A couple of years ago, I spoke to Tom Baker about the role of the Doctor, and he told me this: “You don’t act the Doctor, really… that’s doomed to failure. You’re with him too long to try and pretend. You have to let him inhabit you, and before long he’s more you than you know. I was the Doctor before I was given the scarf, and I will always be him”. In Series 8 it seemed perhaps Peter was “acting” the Doctor, but, like all the actors, his second season is a lot more relaxed. His scenes here are testament to this, as he takes command of the room, eyes up potential allies and enemies and insults and charms in equal measures. He is, more than ever, the Doctor. His “card” routine with Clara is fantastic.

I can’t fault this episode. It’s a step up from the previous two, which were fab, and a return to proper, old school, scary Doctor Who, something it’s 8.25 start time reflects. It really is time to hide behind the sofa again with a proper, genuine and unique Doctor.

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Run you clever boy…

 

The Witch’s Familiar. Review by Eddie McGuigan

 

The Witch’s Familiar

Review by Eddie McGuigan

Davros! I can say “Davros”! Look “Davros”!

You’ve no idea how hard it’s been for me not to mention something that happens right at the start of The Magician’s Apprentice, and now I have the same trouble with episode two!

Let’s get it out the way at the start – The Witch’s Familiar is superb – it is, as promised by Steven Moffat, a perfect companion piece to Episode One, but the tone and pace of the episode is very different from its earlier brother. In this episode we get some very Big Finishesque exchanges by an old and dying Davros and a guilt ridden Doctor. Guilt, and of course, grief ridden Doctor, as he comes to terms again with the fact that the Daleks have exterminated his two best friends and destroyed his ship.

There is much to recommend about this episode and much to talk about, but, unfortunately, lots are just big old spoilers, and far be it from me to ruin it for the millions who haven’t seen it.

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Capaldi and Bleach crackle against each other in this episode, two thesps at the top of their game given no quarter and asking for none either, and both breath new light into the old dynamic, and more Doctor cameos thrill the fanboy. Davros’s plan is a masterpiece, something different again, and it takes all the Doctor’s guile to come up with a way out. But don’t think this Doctor is completely the victim. Capaldi shows more depth than ever before as the Doctor, and chews the scenery up around the very still Bleach. A Doctor confronting the Daleks is always something to relish, and THIS Doctor does this with a brand new, never before seen approach.

This episode will step on some pedants’ toes, it’s fair to say. Things are done in this episode which will be fan favourites and also enrage some. My pal Paul Simpson over at Sci Fi Bulletin pointed out to me that there is indeed a lovely channelling of Curse of the Fatal Death too and the denoument of the episode is not what you’d think, it’s almost Sherlock in its cleverness. Like the use of the Daleks of many types – behold a Special Weapons Dalek crying EXTERMINATE! – Hettie MacDonald uses fantastic sets, colouring and camera angles to portray both old school and new styles. It’s a lovely mishmash.

As well as the sparkling dialogue, and the clever ending, and, indeed, some comical moments (but not as many as last week), there are some truly horrible – and I mean horrible – fates in this and it has some awfully dark conceits, but it’s fair to say that all the characters are played out exactly as you would expect them to be, despite actions it would seem to the contrary. Again, this season is about identity, and nowhere is this more evident in how the main characters act in this episode.

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For me, both these stories have been the strongest start since The Eleventh Hour. That’ll either excite you or scare you. This is very much a new way of approaching Doctor Who but in many ways it’s the no holds barred devil-may-care approach we’ve all wanted. In being so however, it doesn’t particularly bother with what people will think, assuming people will think it’s great. And it is.

 

Funko Pop Toys: Doctor Who, by Eddie McGuigan

 

Doctor Who Funko Pop Toys

reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

There is one word that springs to mind when looking at the Doctor Who Pop toy range from Funko – supplied by Underground Toys – and that is “cute”! They are just totally adorable.

Of course some Doctors lend themselves to adorability more than others. The Matt Smith 11th Doctor figure is true to his early incarnation and is complete without eyebrows, a little nod and in joke to both Who fans and Matt himself who makes an issue of his lack of eye framing!

David Tennant’s 10th Doctor is resplendent in his long brown jacket – his “hero” jacket he likes to call it – and again lends itself to the “cute” description as David is, in many fangirls eyes, totally that!

The Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor version is equally as cute, with his huge brown eyes and little nose, but is very much still the Doctor we all know, with his attack eyebrows proudly in place and his outfit faithfully recreated, along with the obligatory sonic screwdriver and swoop of the jacket, showing his famous red lining.

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There was a time when the Pop version of Doctor Who characters would not have been welcome by collectors of Who merchandise because of their fabulous cuteness. Old, curmudgeonly Whovians would have poo-pooed their huge eyes, cartoon heads and adorability, but, luckily, things have changed. Everyone I showed these figures to say “Awwww, my goodness! How cute!” and immediately tried to beg one from me. As a range, they are very collectable, and, seeing as how the Doctor Who range is just one of many, I can see people wanting to collect the cute Avengers, cute Walking Dead zombies (really, they’re so huggable!) and cute Star Trek crews.

Durability is another plus feature of these toys, and because of this they could be knocked about by rowdy kids as well as sat neatly on a collector’s shelf. Kids can have multi-Doctor stories with 12 meeting 4, or extra-franchise crossovers – Hulk vs The Weeping Angels anyone?

I’d recommend these figures to any Doctor Who fan – at first glance of course they’re not the very serious 5” collectors range, but they have a collectability of their own, and I have a feeling my own small sample will grow and grow… I NEED a Rick Grimes now, I really do!!!

 

Doctor Who: The Complete History #1 by Eddie McGuigan

 

Doctor Who: The Complete History

review by Eddie McGuigan

A new partwork is on the market for the Doctor Who fans who really need to know the nitty gritty of the series. Unlike some new merchandise, this series of publications revels in the history of the whole series, and looks at the minutae of how the programme itself was made.

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When I was young there was a hallowed book called The Making of Doctor Who by Terrance Dicks. It was the Bible for Who fans, and Doctor Who: The Complete History is this and then some. Drawing inspiration from Doctor Who Magazine’s many detailed examinations of individual adventures this series goes into each story indepth. Not so much an Encyclopedia Britannica as an Encyclopedia Whotannica. It’s a catch all, go to, all encompassing know-all guide to the series from An Unearthly Child to Series 9 and beyond.

Eventually this will be in chronological order and sit on a shelf in your house with a nice jigsawed spine detail, but volume one – at a bargain price of £1.99 – concentrates, probably tactically, on one of the more popular modern day Doctors – David Tennant – and features his arch enemies, again, no doubt tactically, the Daleks.

In this issue we get five adventures – Gridlock, The Daleks Take Manhatten, Evolution of the Daleks, The Lazarus Experiment and 42. It might be argued that quality wise these stories are not the more popular, but that doesn’t stop contributor and editor John Ainsworth giving them the deference each story is going to get in this range.

For each tale we get an Introduction, the story, preproduction notes, the production, post production, publicity, broadcast, merchandise, cast and credits and a profile. Along with this we have sumptuous pictures and photos and some very, very impressive artwork, along with the occasional piece of conceptual art, and little vignettes, for instance box outs about “connections to Bad Wolf” and other pieces of trivia information.

From a boy who was brought up on The Making of Doctor Who and who devoured any reference material he possibly could on the series, this is an incredible piece of work – both in individual volumes and what no doubt will be an incredible complete series. Of course, there is always a chance future stories will change the canon of previous ones, but this series cleverly allows for that, and embraces the whole series – even the front cover design utilises Jon Pertwee’s logo and the old Target design along with the hexagonal livery known for the new series.

One thing that is being fed back to me by fans is the price – most issues are going to cost £9.99 a shot, meaning this is a pretty expensive piece of merchandise, but I’d urge that to have everything in one place like this, at easy reach, is something that I for one would not be without and the cost in itself is relative to the work that’s put in each volume. It’s a monumental job completed with love, care and affection. These sturdy issues are very much value for money.

Issue one is available now at a cut price of £1.99 and is very much worth looking at!

 

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