Tag Archives: Steven Moffat

Looks Like I’ll Have to Watch Children in Need

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So after getting Doctor Who fans watching two years ago with the special post-regeneration episode, Children in Need are doing it again this year with another mini-episode called Time Crash. It also confirms the rumours floating around that Peter Davison would be appearing, which the announcement that the Fifth Doctor will be appearing alongside the Tenth – as shown by the official publicity shots released today.

Details of the episode are fairly slim so far, aside from the news that Steven Moffat has written it. He’s not without experience at this sort of thing either, as he also penned the Comic Relief special, The Curse of Fatal Death.

So the interesting question (for the fans at least) are whether this will actually fit in with the official stories. The previous special slotted in quite neatly, following directly on from Parting of the Ways and leading straight into the Christmas Invasion. Since the last episode left the action with what appeared to be a straight lead in to Voyage of the Damned it might be more difficult to slot it in. Having said that, it won’t have to try too hard to fit in compared to the first Children in Need special, Dimensions in Time which probably wouldn’t have made sense even if it hadn’t had about two minutes of the final episode cut…

Anyway, whether it is canonical or not, with Steven Moffat writing it should hopefully be pretty entertaining. Definitely looking forward to it.

Jekyll

Yesterday we watched the last part of the Steven Moffat modern reworking of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, called simply Jekyll.

Rather than going for a costume drama (although there are elements of this in flashback) or a modern updating, Moffat wrote a new story that, on the basis that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about a real person, explores what happens to a modern day descendant, Tom Jackman.

The structure of the storyline is in places non-linear, so at the beginning of the series Jackman has already discovered that he is transforming, and we initially see how he and Mr Hyde cope. It is only later that we see in flashback firstly how he first became Mr Hyde, and later how Mr Hyde was created – or more precisely how he wasn’t created. It isn’t until the final episode that the pieces slot into place, and indeed it isn’t until the big twist in the final scene that everything is resolved.

The series is really at it’s best in the final three episodes. The earlier episodes to some extent are putting the pieces in place. Episode two is probably the weakest of the series, but even then it is not ever really bad – the series is consistently entertaining.

If you missed it, it is certainly worth a look, and is worth picking up, now it is out on DVD.

Doctor Who – Jumping the Shark?

So after a disappointing finale, and a couple of major announcements about the series, a number of fans can hear the sounds of Fonzie readying a pair of water ski’s… All of this is more amazing following on mere weeks from the triumphs that were Human Nature, Family of Blood and Blink.

So what has brought the turnaround? Firstly there was the finale of the series. As I said at the time, Utopia was about one thing, bringing back the Master, and once it got to that point it was pretty gripping. The following two episodes The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords were successively more disappointing with Last of the Time Lords being the first to poll more people being dissatisfied with the episode than liking it in the Behind the Sofa poll – looking at the table you can see Human Nature, Family of Blood and Blink polling 94%, 95% and 97% respectively.

Towards the end of this blog posting condensing the plot of the three series so far, there is a comment that sums things up well:

R. T. Davies: Hello. I am R. T. Davies and I am excellent. I apologise for the interruption, but I have run out of ideas on how to finish this storyline. Instead, I shall steal elements from Greek mythology, Superman, Douglas Adams, Batman, the Carry On films and …err… Flash Gordon and hope nobody notices the complete dog’s dinner I’ve made of what was, until I got my hands on it, a rather excellent series. Sorry. All sorted. Happy ending. I’ll be off now.

Certainly the big reset button resolution can work, although it is always seen as a bit of a disappointing cop out – the Star Trek Voyager episodes Year of Hell being a good example, however as has been pointed out numerous times on Behind the Sofa, things didn’t reset – time rolled back to the point where the billions of Toclofane appeared, but totally forgot the four that were there already. Alongside this, the whole Face of Boe/Jack thing doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of watching the previous appearances of the Face of Boe in The End of the World in particular.

Following on from this we had confirmation of the casting of Kylie Minogue in the upcoming Christmas special Voyage of the Damned. This produced some light-hearted puns in news stories based on Kylie’s hits, but nothing too negative – fans seemed to be used to a bit of celebrity casting at Christmas. However all of that was obliterated by the massive negative reaction to the news that last years bit of celebrity Christmas casting, Catherine Tate who played Donna, is to be introduced as a full time companion next year. The reaction seems to be almost universal – you only need to listen to this news item take a look through the angry comments on Have Your Say to establish that. A point raised by many of the comments is that in terms of recent guest stars there is another, much better possibility for a new companion in the form of Carey Mulligan and the character Sally Sparrow that she played in Blink.

Having said that, lets not forget that this isn’t the first negative reaction to a casting decision, nor accusation of celebrity casting. The choice of Billie Piper raise a few eyebrows back in 2005, and more notably there was a similar outcry to what has happened this week when Bonnie Langford was cast as Melanie Bush in the series back in 1986.

So is the show about to Jump the Shark? Although the last couple of episodes were disappointing, and the casting of Catherine Tate has come as somewhat of a shock I think not. Over the past three years it has become clear that although Russell T Davies should certainly get the credit for spearheading the return of the series, he is not the best of the writers. Perhaps because he does write the majority of the episodes, and despite the fact that he has produced some relatively good episodes in the past, he does seem to have been responsible for the majority of the absolute clunkers. Other writers such as Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat are the ones who have won the awards, but it is worth remembering that they are only contributing one or two episodes compared to the four or five that Davies produces. Rumour has it that Davies (along perhaps with David Tennant) will leave the series at the end of season 4.

The thing to bear in mind is that the programme has by many peoples definition already Jumpped the Shark and recovered. Although there is debate over the later Sylvester McCoy stories most people seem to think that the programme hit a low patch during the eighties, similarly shown by the falling ratings and ultimate axing of the show. Even before that there have been points where due to falling ratings it was in danger and radical changes were made, a prime example being in 1969 when amidst falling ratings and an unhappy star, Derrick Sherwin took the decision to make the next season earth-bound and brought in the characters and massive change of style of the UNIT era. Currently ratings look strong, and it remains to be seen whether the initial opposition this week translates into falling ratings next year. Even if that happens, the BBC have certainly discovered what a massive money-spinner a well funded Doctor Who can be, so I don’t doubt that if that happens the series will transform again, and like other era’s we’ll be looking back on the Russell T Davies era and looking forward to something else…

Steven Moffat Take a Bow

After the excellent Jekyll on Saturday night (of which more later), we got evidence that Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who episode from last week, Blink is going to be single handedly responsible for the nightmares of a generation… Up at Church last night, one of the children after the service runs up and grabs hold of her Mum’s hand saying “Mummy, I’ve seen a weeping angel.” – “Well make sure you don’t blink!” comes the answer…

Blink and You’ll Miss It

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Blink was this years ‘Doctor Lite’ episode. Essentially due to the tightness of the shooting schedule for Doctor Who much of the shooting on multiple stories is done in parallel. By having an episode that has little involvement from the main characters almost the entire episode can be filmed at the same time as other episodes are being shot. It also of course gives the writers a chance to do something a bit different.

Last year, the ‘Doctor Lite’ episode was Love and Monsters, which although it didn’t feature the Doctor and Rose, gave Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler a chance for a bit more screen time. However this time Steven Moffat had no regular characters at all aside from a few brief scenes with the Doctor and Martha. The story instead focuses around Sally Sparrow played by Carey Mulligan, a girl who at the start seems to have wandered into events quite by chance when she explores an old abandoned house. However strangely she then finds a message written to her by name, from the Doctor, but written in 1969…

The house is occupied by four alien creatures who look like stone angel statues. Whenever people can see them or are looking at them, the angels are frozen like stone – they can only move when they are not seen, like in the blink of an eye. They live by feeding on time energy, obtained from people they touch – the act of touching them sending the people back into time. They have trapped the Doctor and sent him back to 1969, and the Doctor now needs Sally to locate the TARDIS and send it back in time to rescue him. However alongside the message on the wall, the Doctor has also turned up in hidden messages on DVD’s – strangely the same seventeen DVD’s that Sally owns. More than that, when Sally watches the DVD’s it’s like the Doctor is having a conversation with her.

As a episode that didn’t feature the Doctor much it worked a good deal better than Love and Monsters. In Love and Monsters, the Doctor effectively popped up at the beginning, and at the end to defeat the monster, and whilst the plot was a group of people looking for the Doctor it didn’t really involve him. This time around the Doctor was part of the plot, and although not on screen much was apparently driving events in order to guide Sally towards the TARDIS. However once she’s done that, we still don’t quite know how the Doctor knows about Sally. As with other Steven Moffat stories, the payoff comes right in the final scene where we see Sally a year later who has collected together everything about her adventure and then a year in the future by chance meets the Doctor – but the Doctor in his past, and hands him the file, causing a predestination and ontological paradox.

After the fantastic two-parter we’ve just had, Blink wasn’t bad, and it’s interesting to note that we’ve now had three episodes on the trot without much of the Doctor, so it might well be a bit of a shock when he is back on screen for a lot more next week! The story benefited from the good Steven Moffat script, and good acting from Carey Mulligan left to carry the episode. Then just to really freak the kids out, the episode closes with a series of shots implying that whilst the four angels have been trapped, there are others still out there…

Standing By for a Fan Backlash?

Now after Doctor Who tonight, I’m half expecting a bit of a fan backlash. It happened for the same reason with the Paul McGann movie, as tonight the Doctor has somewhat of a romantic entanglement, indeed he is even willing to trap himself more than 3000 years in the past, leaving his two companions just as stranded in order to save the woman in question.

Having said that, the script writer for the episode tonight was Steven Moffat, who made a joke of the movie backlash in his Comic Relief Doctor Who Spoof, and did the same in an interview in Doctor Who Confidential tonight. Tonight he said that he was sure that there would be a number of Madame de Pompadour fans who would object to the canonicity of the episode because there was no documentary evidence of Madame de Pompadour ever having had an affair with an alien.

Putting aside the potential complaints, what did I think of the episode? After the high point last week, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this week. Whilst Moffat produced one of the best regarded episodes of the last season with the Empty Child, there had already been a bit of lowering of expectations in pre-season interviews from Moffat, him saying to expect something a bit different. Certainly, placed as it was between the return of Sarah Jane Smith, and the equally eagerly awaited return of the Cybermen, it wasn’t an episode that attracted that much attention.

Something different is what we got. The story opens in the court of Louis XV of France with the court being chased by strange robotic creatures, their faces hidden behind masks. However, the camera moves to a woman who is staring expectantly at a fireplace, saying that she is expecting a visit from the Doctor, who has promised to protect her. Following the opening credits, we then see the Doctor and his companions land on a deserted spaceship 3000 years, and millions of miles away from the first scene.

As the time travellers explore the spaceship, we then start to see the connection, as they discover an identical fireplace looking rather out of place in the ship, more than that, the Doctor is even able to have a conversation with a young girl, who can be seen in the fireplace, hence the title of the episode, The Girl in the Fireplace.

As an episode, it again explored the themes of the Doctor’s loneliness that were explored last week in School Reunion, but in a different way. As the time travellers discover other portals in addition to the fireplace, the Doctor makes regular appearances in the woman’s life, as it transpires that she is Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV of France. However quite why the maintenance robots have gone to the trouble of creating the portals, and are so specific in their requirement to kidnap Madame de Pompadour is a mystery, the solution to which is not revealed until the final scene.

The trigger to the relationship between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour comes midway through the episode. In an earlier encounter, she has been decidedly forward, grabbing the Doctor for a passionate embrace – but at that point, she still only knows him as the man from the fireplace. However in order to try and find out what the robots want, the Doctor mind links with Madame de Pompadour, however in doing so, she then finds out a lot more about the Doctor – referring to him as ‘my lonely Doctor’ – and the two make a connection.

This ultimately leads to the the Doctor being willing to trap himself in the past, and leave his companions and the TARDIS on the spaceship in order to save her, leading to a touching and tragic conclusion, where again the Doctor is treated as a real character with real emotion – much more than the character was ever allowed to show in the past.

For very different reasons to last week, we thoroughly enjoyed this episode. Again Steven Moffat has produced a brilliant episode, mixing an original idea, good plot, with great writing. The bizarre idea of the clockwork robots opening portals into the past isn’t forgotten, and although it primarily is a vehicle to bring the Doctor into the life of Madame de Pompadour over a number of time periods, with the neat and believable conclusion to the mystery, certainly doesn’t feel like it is purely a plot device. Also the relationship between the Doctor and Madame de Pompadour is well handled, with the knowledge she gains about the Doctor – which of course we as the audience are left to guess – being the thing that brings them together. Certainly, having watched this mornings ‘classic’ episode on UK Gold, the comparison of ‘classic’ Doctor Who in decline, with the new series becomes more and more stark with every episode. Finally Doctor Who seems to be becoming a series that can compete with some of the best TV sci-fi from across the pond, whilst still retaining the elements that made it unique in the first place.

Hopefully the series will be able to keep up the pace with next weeks much anticipated Rise of the Cybermen.