Eddie McGuigan

Series Nine Preview, by Eddie McGuigan

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Regenerations have hung heavily over Doctor Who for a while now it seems. Ever since the Doctor was warned about Trenzalore we’ve head multiple Doctors, his death – more than once – secret incarnations, the end of a regeneration cycle and, spectacularly, the beginning of another. But that wasn’t the end of the story. This new regeneration harks back to the “classic” archetype; alien, difficult, rude, grumpy and, well, old. And just when the Doctor himself is getting used to being less matinee idol and more renaissance man, his best enemy goes and shows up in a skirt and his best friend is reincarnated as a zombie cyborg.

 

Identity and the perception of it has been a theme for a long, long time in the series, so much so that now it’s almost a trope, a signature of Moffat’s Second Age, and Series 9 – BBC1, 19th September – continues these themes and plays with those perceptions.

 

There are lots of returns in the new series. Returning old enemies – some you know about, some you don’t. Returns to places as well. Returning friends – both old and new. Return of the roundels as the console room gets a tweak! Return of the crazy hair as Peter Capaldi is finally allowed to express his Doctor without being shoehorned into “as far from Matt as possible”. Return of the two parter and therefore the return of the cliffhanger. And, of course, the return of the Master.

 

Episodes one and two hark back to many classic Who episodes – many, many Who episodes – in which the Doctor and Clara face threats from many sides – but perhaps not one side you’d automatically think they would – and explanations are forthcoming about the Master’s survival – both from s8 and perhaps before. He’s not become a She randomly.

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Identity and perception are again important in Ep 3 – prepare for a surprise, one of many this season –  and writer Toby Whithouse gets his teeth into a meaty 2 parter. But even your perception of two parters will be stretched this year. This series should really be seen as a 12 parter – the episodes mostly all link, and themes and events resonate across the series in a much more insidious way than the usual “Bad Wolf”esque arc.

 

No clearer is this shown in the “two parter” The Girl Who Died/The Woman Who Lived – whilst these are indeed two parts of the same story, they are written by different writers and have very, very different feels. And both include a character the Doctor will have a very significant history with!

 

Much more traditionally a two parter is the Zygon story Invasion of the Zygons/Inversion of the Zygons by Peter Harness. This is an action adventure far more in tune with old school Who, or indeed, RTD’s era, in which the Doctor and UNIT battle a worldwide Zygon invasion. Again, though, identity and perception are important, as the Zygons epitomise this series main conceit. Don’t let the familiarity box you in though!

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The last third of the series is much more experimental. Mark Gatiss gets to go spooky and scary and all out horror, at last, with a very clever, if by now not new, twist on the series which might even not have credits! A brilliant Halloween Special, this could be Mark’s best to date.

 

Episode Ten is a divisive one which will probably blow fandom apart, and has cleverly snuck itself under the radar until now. Well done Episode Ten!

 

The two part finale falls into this “no it really is a two parter!” style with two very distinctively different episodes, one of which had Peter Capaldi exhausted! Alone he may be, but, as always with the Doctor, he’s never really alone, is he?

 

I’ll leave ep 12 hanging in the air, I think, as the “returns” trope is turned to 11 and we’ll be left with our heads whirling with events and locations.

 

I am very much looking forward to s9, and I’m loving the way it’s subverting what we know and trying different things. I can’t wait to get into reviewing it! Stay tuned!

eddie mcguigan

Jonathan Maitland Interview

An Audience With Jimmy Savile

Interview With Jonathan Maitland

by Eddie McGuigan

Jonathan Maitland is known to television viewers in Britain primarily as a journalist of note. He’s worked and presented programmes such as Watchdog and Tonight along with the BAFTA nominated series House of Horrors for ITV. But he’s also a fiction writer of some acclaim too, writing comedy sketches with and for Chris Morris and Rory Bremner along the critically successful play Dead Sheep, about the Geoffrey Howe speech which ultimately led to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s downfall. It’s with former collaborator and impressionist Alistair McGowan who he teams up with now for his latest work, a highly controversial play entitled An Audience With Jimmy Savile, charting how, whilst the glitterati of Britain lauded and knighted Savile, he was getting away with the most heinous of crimes right under the establishment’s nose. With Savile’s tenuous connection to Doctor Who with his frequent forays into its publicity in his show Jim’ll Fix It, I thought Who fans might be interested in the motivation behind this play, so spoke to Jonathan about what I believe is an important and worthy piece of writing:

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The Skaro Review: Last Christmas, by Eddie McGuigan

Last Christmas

reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

 

The Doctor Who Christmas Special is now as big a part of the festivities as any BBC series has ever been. There is a generation of children who have never known it not to the case.

 

I know for us gnarled old veterans of the Dark Times it’s difficult to believe that the Special is still not a new fangled phenomena, but it’s not, it’s now as Christmas as The Top of the Pops Special or The Queen’s Speech.

 

But as it becomes so, so the expectations on it become greater. They can’t just churn out any old nonsense; they have to balance something that is Christmassy enough to be, well, Christmassy, Doctor Who enough to be, well, Doctor Who, and generic enough to keep the attention of Granny Muchy and Great Aunt Matilda as they sit farting discretely and digesting their turkey. Now, it’s fair to say, they probably get it as much as the breathless explanation little Johny gave earlier of Grand Theft Auto, but nonetheless it has to at least aim at that particular snowman.

 

It’s fair to say that in the past it’s been a little hit and miss. The Runaway Bride with its filmed-in-a-heatwave-but-here-are-some-baubles paid nothing more than lip service to the concept and The End of Time may have had a Christmas tree or two in the background, but the story itself was more important. That’s not to say these were bad episodes, not at all, but since Steven Moffat became showrunner he’s drenched the Christmas Special with Christmassiness by the bucket load, aping, with absolutely no shame such Christmassy tropes as The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Victorian chocolate box Christmases and even that standard, A Christmas Carol. Last year’s offering went so far as to set the whole thing in a town called Christmas. The Moff definitely lets you know it’s Christmas.

 

Last Christmas is no different. It is, without a doubt, the most Christmassy Christmas Special of them all. It’s set at Christmas, in the snow, is all about wishes and dreams, has our old friend Merry Christmas Everyone not only take pride of place but danced too, with Noddy Holder crying out in dolby stereo, and has as its guest star none other than Santa Claus.

 

And make no mistake, this is Santa Claus. The hero of Christmas. With a sleigh and flying reindeers and elf helpers. Far from worried parents having to field questions about how Santa is an alien from Fla’Chant’Ra 5, Nick Frost cheekily fields questions about the absurdity of his character with verve and class, answering some of the curve balls parents have no doubt had to field this year. On flying reindeers: “Of course reindeers can’t fly, it’s a physical impossibility!” And, after a beat of superb comic timing: “That’s why I feed them magic carrots!” Frost is superb. He’s cocky, cheeky, clever, absurd and funny as well as heroic, kind and relevant. He’s more than a cipher and more than a caricature. We get a fully rounded Christmas spirit filled real man. The real Santa.

 

The rest of the crew on the polar base Clara and the Doctor find themselves on – that’s a long story, by the way – are likeable and believable. None are too precious but neither are they particularly stand out, but they don’t need to be, as the big characters are what this episode is about. Most underwritten is, surprisingly Michael Troughton’s Professor Albert, who, when we first meet him, is absolutely doing a vocal impression of his dad.

The story of this episode is difficult to explain without giving too much away. And it’s a long story… Santa crashes on Clara’s roof, the Doctor appears, takes her to a Polar Base under attack by something called Dream Crabs, which latch onto people’s faces and slowly digest them whilst psychically inducing a dream state to subdue their victims. But is everything as it seems? When all seems lost, Santa pops in to save the day, but, again… that’s a long story.

 

The main thing about this episode is the relationship between Clara and the Doctor. It’s been… well, “some time” since they last met, but both have missed the other, and they fall back into their old team with little effort. Clara still takes no nonsense from the Doctor, who himself is a lot more open and less abrasive. In fact, this is Peter Capaldi’s most accessible and likeable turn as the Time Lord. Both regulars have tempered their performances and there is a love and warmth between the two characters that, whilst hinted at a lot over s8 was never properly explored. But oh how it is here.

 

One thing Steven Moffat is often criticised for is being more a concepts man than an emotion man – it’s a common perception that RTD did the emotion and the Moff does the plots – but here Steven out RTDs RTD with a superb study in friendship, love and second chances. There are some achingly beautiful scenes in this episode, and again, like the rest of s8, it doesn’t skirt the awfulness and horror of some of the situations they find themselves in or they remember from times gone by.

 

Also in keeping with the rest of the season (and make no mistake, Last Christmas, more than any other Christmas Special is very much episode 13 of s8 and shirks none of the tropes and themes from that here) is the development of the Doctor, despite his best efforts, he’s a lot more cheerful here, but also willing to walk away and forget the humans when he thinks the job is done.

 

Capaldi and Coleman are superb in this episode. I’d go so far as to say this is Capaldi’s best performance as the Doctor and (possibly) Jenna’s as Clara. Both are likeable, heroic, rounded and eminently watchable.

 

For continuity hounds, big questions left hanging in Death In Heaven are answered, including Clara’s fate – and then some! There is also a continuity thread from the main season in the derivative moments which ape old episodes or movies – Time of the Doctor is heartbreakingly mirrored here in a beautifully touching scene, and films from The Thing, Alien and A Nightmare on Elm Street are referenced, some even in the dialogue.

 

Director Paul Wilmshurst continues his fine work from Mummy on the Orient Express by balancing comedy, drama and horror whilst dousing the lot with liberal sprinkles of Christmas spirit and Murray Gold does a wonderful job helping all the winks and references be underlined with a subtle and heartwarming score.

I honestly can’t fault this episode. It’s as good as the best Capaldi episodes to date (Flatline and Mummy FYI) and the best Christmas episode ever. It manages to be a Special whilst also being a clever episode of Who that compliments its audience with intelligence and attention.

The Skaro Review Death In Heaven Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

The Skaro Review

Death In Heaven

Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

 BEWARE: SLIGHT SPOILERS

 Death in Heaven

In part one of the finale, the theme was death and the afterlife, and this is taken to the nth degree here with the Master’s evil machinations in full flight… although her actual motives are not what you think. A CyberArmy is released on the world… and the world takes selfies. “We have to warn everyone!” UNIT cries “The world just went weee…,” the Doctor informs it.

 

So with the dead rising in newly upgraded bodies, much to Seb’s glee, and the Master’s plan unfolding, we find out more about the afterlife in general and the beliefs in it through out Man’s history. “She’s a Time Lord. She must have a TARDIS somewhere… so a LONG time…” the Doctor tells Kate. (more…)

Lovarzi Products Update

Lovarzi Products
From the folks who brought you the original Tom Baker scarf along with his burgundy upgrade and the perfect replica of Sylvester McCoy’s question marked sweater, comes some new products for you fashionistas out there. Check out the updated Baker scarf along with a pretty snazzy Peter Davison sweater!

The Skaro Review: Dark Water, Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

Dark Water

Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

Clara needs the Doctor, but the Doctor is busy. When they DO meet, it’s Volcano Day!

Doctor & Missy

Dark Water is a sprawling, epic, head spinning finale episode that starts to pull in all the parts of the series to date and, more than anything takes a Doctor and a companion and gets them adventuring.

It’s very good to see the Doctor and Clara in a situation like this, landing the TARDIS with no control and investigating. It doesn’t happen near enough.

But there is much more to this episode than that. It begins with the most gritty, realistic piece of drama you will ever have seen in Doctor Who and it will jar you as much with its eyewatering reality as any magical forest did with its fairytale nonsense. This realism continues with some crystal clear flashbacks to Danny Pink’s time in the army and the realisation of what exactly he did when he was there. And it continues further with Clara’s reaction to events which are raw, real, desperate and sore. (more…)

The Skaro Review: In the Forest of the Night, by Eddie McGuigan

In The Forest of the Night

 

Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

 In the Forest of the Night

 

If you go down to the woods today…

 

…you’re sure for a big surprise. Because London – and, indeed, The World™, has been transformed into the Planet of the Bushes as, overnight (in a world where no one works nightshift or goes out after bed time it seems), a forest has sprung up globally. What the hey!? I hear you ask. For lots of reasons.

 

If you go down to the woods today…

 

…you’ll never believe your eyes. Because the Doctor just happens to be in Trafalgar Square just as Clara and Danny are having a museum sleepover five minutes away with a bunch of bratty first years, one of whom has managed to sneak away, whilst no one notices, out of the museum and across the forest strewn terrain when, ten minutes later, Danny has to force his way out because the door is covered in foliage. So what the hey!? I hear you ask. For lots of reasons. (more…)

The Skaro Review: Flatline, by Eddie McGuigan

The Skaro Review
Flatline
Reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

 Doctor Who Flatline

The problem with Flatline is that it is SO much. It’s a study in what it means to be the Doctor, on what his life is like in a mirror. It’s a conceit about the companion, where they go when they’re with the Doctor, psychologically speaking, and what being with him changes them into. It’s an urban mystery. It’s a gritty horror. It’s the most terrifying Doctor Who episode I can actually remember. It’s funny, clever, thought provoking, honest, punch the air superb and look away horrible.

 

Yep, all at half eight on a Saturday night.

 

Whether Jamie Mathieson, the new saviour of Doctor Who, knew this episode was going out later than is normal for Who, I don’t know, but there’s no getting away with the fact that the episode benefits from less nervous censorship than it no doubt would have suffered if it had gone out two hours earlier. (more…)

The Skaro Review: Mummy on the Orient Express: reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

The Skaro Review

Mummy on the Orient Express

Review by Eddie McGuigan

 Mummy on the Orient Express

Yes!

Yes! Yes!! YES!!!

 

I’ll cut to the chase. Mummy on the Orient Express is superb. It is, easily, without a doubt, head and shoulders above anything this season has offered so far.

 

Now, caveats… I’ve got a big spoiler Ninja watching me from the shadows, so I have to be careful what I say here.

 

The story… the Doctor visits the Orient Express in space in the aftermath of his and Clara’s falling out, but, as usual, it’s not just a casual visit, and he’s soon up to his eyes in death. People are dying. The lights flicker, they, and only they, see a scary Hollywood Mummy lurch towards them and, 66 seconds later, they’re dead. (more…)

The Skaro Review: Kill The Moon, reviewed by Eddie McGuigan

Kill The Moon

Review by Eddie McGuigan

 There is a train of thought, it has to be said, that Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner, compared with any others, particularly Russell T Davies, doesn’t have the same uniformity. It can be argued that Moffat allows his writers a much more loose creative atmosphere in which to work, and, as a result, there’s not the same absolute feel to the stories than there has been in the past.

Kill The Moon

Web of Fear?

It’s true that, by its very nature, Doctor Who is a programme that thrives on change and differences, that relies on each week or so being different from the one before, and that the only constants are, for a time, the Doctor and that old blue box. (more…)

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