I’ve always said that IKEA is a “fun day out for all of the family”. The model rooms, the restaurant the robot bum that sits on a chair all day; what is there not to love? But after reading Horrorstör, it has become a thing of terror.
Last month, British history could have changed dramatically by coming to a sudden end. Scottish independence would have put to rest an act of union which not only survived more than 300 years, but also created one of the most effective, and arguably greatest, states known to man. Here I will be arguing why that would have been a good thing.
I really enjoyed this week’s episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures. Wait, hold on… that was Doctor Who.
Don’t take this badly, there is nothing actually wrong with that. I enjoyed SJA when it was on, but it didn’t hold a candle to the show it was spinning off. This week’s episode was certainly a filler with a forgettable villain and story. In fact this is true of most of this series so-far. Nothing really stands out as amazing. Yes, Hide was good, but it wasn’t Midnight. It’s odd that so far I don’t think we’ve had an episode I’ll look back on and think “God that was a brilliant episode” this series, but hopefully that is still to come. (Next week’s looks like a cool base-under siege/Alien-esque, tense episode. So maybe that’ll be it.)
This episode follows Clara as she tries to figure out why the Doctor is pretending to be a caretaker in Coal Hill School, while also trying to avoid letting Danny know that she’s a time traveler. Naturally, this all goes wrong and Danny ends up finding out, while also simultaneously ruining the Doctor’s plans to defeat a robot soldier. The actual robot is almost not important to the plot in any way. It gives the Doctor a reason to be there, and mostly is a background plot. The story of this episode is certainly Clara trying to get Danny and the Doctor (great name for an episode guys. I’ll write it if nobody else wants to) to actually like each other.
The Doctor, who hates soldiers suddenly. Doesn’t like Danny… because he’s a soldier. (There is also a not at all funny running gag about the Doctor thinking he teaches PE not Maths. Yay, stereotypes!) And Danny mistrusts the Doctor because he’s worried that he’ll get Clara hurt. When will this problem resolve!? Well, it doesn’t. But I’m sure we’ll see more of these two arguing. I rather liked the scene in the TARDIS where Pink is telling the Doctor that he’s just an officer. It’s lovely to see Capaldi getting angry, but despite the later time-slot, still no fucks.
I would like to draw attention to the Twelfth Doctor’s (I refuse to call him anything but) apparent hatred for soldiers. Like, I know the Doctor has changes of personality, but suddenly hating all soldiers is just ridiculous. He has not been a fan of soldiers in the past of course, but he recognizes that these are people and not all mindless killing machines or PE teachers. (See: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Ross from the Sontaran Stratagem, the Roman soldiers in Big Bang Two etc…) It just feels like his hatred is a little forced in order to create conflict between him and Danny.
I am also really disappointed with the Doctor’s complete disregard for the school. It’s Coal Hill! And yet this episode has no mention of Ian, Barbara, or Susan. Not a faint glint of recognition that he once fought off two opposing factions of Daleks on those very school grounds. Nothing. It just seems like such an odd thing to leave out considering the significant location.
Other than that, there was nothing really wrong with the episode. It was just an episode, it happened. I will forget about it. Will you? Tell me what you thought of the episode in the comments or on twitter @24hoursayear.
Three days ago, Jonathan Coulton announced that he will be releasing a new “live album with band.” I got very excited, but expected to have to wait a few weeks to get a hold of it. But today, he released the album digitally and is accepting pre-orders of the physical CDs over on JoCoLive.com. So naturally I bought it as soon as I saw it. (I considered getting the CD, but figured that the CD comes with a download link anyway, and all I would do is put it on my shelf as I consume all of my music on my iPod Classic.) Now that I’ve listened to it I’ve decided to give you a track-by-track review (from the order listed on JoCoLive.com/terms as my download put them in alphabetical order. This review also doesn’t count the tracks that are only cheering and talking.). Here’s what I thought:
It’s the fifth episode of series eight and you’d think that by now, after a streak of reasonably good episodes, that Doctor Who would be getting back into the swing of having pretty consistent quality in terms of episodes. Nope. We’re presented with this mid-series turd.
The premise of this episode is simple and exciting enough, “Doctor Who robs a bank” what could be more exciting? (Incidentally, anyone who feels like commenting “It’s The Doctor not Doctor Who” should go take a look at themselves in the mirror and see what you’ve become.) But it was so poorly executed. They set up this bank as the hardest place to break into in the entire Verse, so why is it that they went though a couple of vents and popped out in the main vault? Seriously, why do all these wealthy people trust this bank? The only thing I saw in the bank that may have hindered robbers is the corridors all looking identical. (I thought Doctor Who had a bigger budget than that these days?)
Well there is The Teller, which is some wonderful creature design, proper weird, even if it is a little Admiral Akbar-ish. I loved the slo-mo shot of it walking into the hall, chained and bound. Almost like an old Western. (Oddly enough though, the creature looked far better in its straight jacket than it’s naked form at the end, which just made it look a little naff.) Despite this, I feel that the creature’s ark was just copied and pasted from last series’ Hide (which incidentally was also awful).
But don’t worry! The monster is just a monster, we have a villain too! Played by Keeley Hawes! This is fantastic! But alas, no. Both her characters feel like stock “rich-baddies” and her acting talents are woefully under-used. (A thing that Doctor Who has an annoying habit of doing actually. I would love to see more Simon Pegg in Doctor Who, but no, he was The Editor for about four minutes in the first revived series.)
As a result of the seemingly non-existent security and weak antagonists this episode feels entirely risk-free, suspense-free and fun-free. Poor show from Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat. Poor show. (In addition, do you think we have another Moffat trope on our hands? That is: memory. This episode is full of people losing memories, or having them read. When the Doctor invites the Teller to take his mind and many memories I am reminded of a similar scene in Rings of Akhaten. And let’s not forget about the Silence, a memory based monster. Also Oswin/Clara wiping the Dalek’s memory of the Doctor in Asylum of the Daleks. It would seem the Moffat era is teaming with not only re-writing the past, but re-writing or destroying memories.)
Though the writers are not entirely to blame for how bad the episode is, it was also put together rather poorly, which I suspect is a joint venture between the writers and the director Douglas Mackinnon (who did so well on last week’s Listen). Here it was poor, from attempts to make the scenes more dramatic than was possible (see: the four characters walking in slo-mo, a la Hustle) or dumb, stock transitions in a poor attempt to convey the passage of time, while the viewer sits and thinks “why don’t you just do a normal, jump cut?”
You may have noticed by now that I have not yet mentioned the two supporting characters introduced in this episode: Psi and Saibra (I had to google their names). That’s because there’s nothing to talk about. I don’t feel sympathetic towards these people, I don’t want to know them, I don’t care who they are, if they die, they are just there seemingly to save the Doctor and Clara in that one scene. Otherwise they seem almost pointless.
Overall, I did not enjoy this episode and I hope to god that next week’s is better.
Who is George Marsden? I hear nobody ask.
I asked the public, here’s what they said:
“A messy disruption” – Oliver Townsend
“Hard to put into a sentence” – Jasmin Thompson
“Dangerous at the best of times” a Cub-Scout
“Knobzilla” – Owen Bevan
“Distinct notes of disappointment” – Sting
“Don’t bother with him, he’s a twat” – his sister
“He is curly celery” – Hannah Williams
“Cyrliog” – Welshspeaking hoodie in Porthmadog
He is a new essayist (ha!) on 24hoursayear, who will be posting his thoughts on the world and the wider universe. Except Saturn. Fuck Saturn.
Posts coming soon.
Listen was an odd one for me. I don’t know quite what to say. But in typical Josh fashion, I’ll certainly say something.
A definite improvement on last week’s episode Robot of Sherwood, Listen explores the irrational fear of the dark and monsters beneath your bed. Capaldi, once more puts in a brilliant performance as the Doctor, dark, disturbed, and obsessed to the point of insanity. However the stand-out performance in this episode is definitely Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald. From her awkward date, to comforting Rupert, to her final “Listen…” speech. In fact, I think this is the most I’ve ever liked Clara in an episode. (Though a special shout out to Remi Gooding who played Rupert Pink is also in order. Great performance, very believable, very genuine.)
A lot of things did and did not happen in this episode, we never find out if there are monsters, which is often something held against Steven Moffat (not resolving things) but in this case, I think it worked. The mystery remains, and it does leave us feeling unsafe. Like we’re still under threat because the Doctor hasn’t saved us, similar to the dark ending of Moffat’s best episode Blink. This episode certainly having the same creepy tone. It seems to be the story that Steven Moffat likes to write, the things that are universally scary, monsters under the bed (see: Girl in the Fireplace, Listen) young children (see: The Empty Child, the Doctor Dances) and shadows (see: Silence in the Library, Forest of the Dead). These also seem to be the stories that he writes the best.
On the whole I enjoyed this episode, but it did definitely feel like it’s setting up for something bigger. Danny Pink, landing on what can only be assumed to be Gallifrey, it all feels like part one of something. A filler episode if you will, but nevertheless important (remember that Blink was simply a filler). That said, this is definitely the best thing Steven Moffat has written for a long time, I would go as far as saying the best since he took over as showrunner and I hope this good writing continues.
What did you think of Listen? Did you enjoy it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Leave me a comment or contact me via twitter @24hoursayear.