Sunday, April 28, 2013

Doctor Who: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Since “Let’s Kill Hitler,” Steven Moffat’s been playing around with what I believe he once referred to as “sexy” episode titles – phrases chosen to provoke instantaneous fannish excitement. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” from earlier this season was one. The upcoming season finale, “The Name of the Doctor,” is another obvious example. When the title “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” was unveiled last year, one can only imagine the myriad deafening sounds of squee that registered across the land. How big is the TARDIS, and what’s beyond the console room? The TARDIS is infinite, so even within the confines of an episode devoted to that exploration, it still feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface…but that doesn’t mean the production team didn’t do a pretty sweet job of making that scratch.

Steven Moffat said that the entire idea for the episode emerged from his feelings of childhood disappointment over the Tom Baker serial “The Invasion of Time,” which featured an extensive – albeit mostly unimpressive – journey through the TARDIS. To be fair to that serial and at the same time taking Moffat ever so slightly to task, it was the first time viewers saw the TARDIS swimming pool, so due credit must be given for that alone. That swimming pool was clearly important enough to Moffat’s imagination that he used it in “The Eleventh Hour” - in the very first moments of his era of Doctor Who, and it’s been referenced numerous times since, and it was shown once again here.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Doctor Who: Hide

Well, now we have an idea of the type of Doctor Who yarns Neil Cross is interested in spinning, since he’s delivered two scripts in a row with thematic similarities. Though “Hide” played two episodes after “The Rings of Akhaten” in the season, Cross wrote it prior to “Rings.” Apparently Steven Moffat and Co. were so happy with the first script, they offered him another. Once again, with “Hide,” we’re seeing the dissolving of a belief system, only here it’s on a smaller scale. Hopefully the Doctor won’t leave too much rampant chaos in his wake. (How did the Ahkatenians cope after the Doctor exited, just after shattering everything their culture ever believed in?) Further, both stories have contained these heavy, seemingly fate-fueled romances. Perhaps Moffat felt Cross did such a fine job of playing with those dynamics in this script, that he’d be an ideal man to breathe life into the doomed romance of Clara’s parents (which he was).

Last week the Doctor and Clara visited 1983, and now they’ve gone back yet another decade, to 1974. These journeys to recent times add a different texture to the series, by bringing a much more familiar feel than trips to the distant past. Arriving at the allegedly haunted Caliburn house, the duo encounters a pair not entirely dissimilar from themselves: Professor Alec Palmer, an ex-spy played by Dougray Scott, the man who missed out on being both James Bond and Wolverine, and his assistant, Emma Grayling (both such wonderful character names!), an empathic psychic brought to life by Jessica Raine, the star of PBS’s Call the Midwife.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Doctor Who: Cold War

"My world is dead, but now there will be a second red planet – red with the blood of humanity!" - Grand Marshal Skaldak

File my instantaneous, mad love for “Cold War” under “Didn’t See It Coming,” because I was hedging bets this episode would be a letdown, especially after the flirtation with greatness that was “The Rings of Akhaten” (an episode that’s grown on me enormously over the past week). Surely the series couldn’t produce two straight weeks of awesomeness? Also, it’s written by Mark Gatiss, whose Who scripts I’ve had issues with more often than not. But not here, not this time, not at all. He got it just right. I want to declare “Cold War” an instant classic, right here and now, and deem it one of the triumphs of the Steven Moffat era, despite the era not having ended yet. It’s everything that’s ever been great about Doctor Who, and basically none of what’s been deficient about it. If the show could be this straightforward, intelligent and unsettling more often, it’d be all the better for it.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Doctor Who: The Rings of Akhaten

It’s always potentially exciting when a new writer climbs aboard the good ship TARDIS, since there’s a possibility he sees Doctor Who in a way that nobody has before. Neil Cross is best known to Americans as the creator and writer of the Emmy-nominated, Idris Elba-starring character crime drama Luther – a series that might as well be described as the polar opposite of Doctor Who. What could a guy like this possibly bring to the table? It’s like pondering what Buck Rogers might be like as seen through the eyes of David Chase. Whatever one might have had in mind based on a familiarity with Luther, “The Rings of Akhaten” must surely be 180 degrees in yet another direction.

This tale set on a distant alien world begins much closer to home, but some years ago, in 1981. Picking up not long after last week’s episode ended (though really, with this era of Who, making guesses about the timeline feels increasingly a fool’s errand), the Doctor (Matt Smith) takes a lengthy detour through Clara’s (Jenna-Louise Coleman) past. The pre-credits sequence in a way recalls that sequence in Pixar’s Up - the one that reduces grown men to quivering heaps of tear-stained flesh.

Read the rest of this recap by clicking here and visiting Vulture.