Category: TV

The growing power of the Idiot’s Lantern…

Doctor Who Series 9: Influences leave a Score to Settle

Heaven Sent Doctor Who Series 9
Doctor Who Series 9 Heaven Sent

Something tells me Rachel Talalay’s directing this one…

 

Heaven Sent broke many rules of rule-defying Doctor Who as it paved the way for the huge series finale of Gallifrey’s return. But was it such a great departure? It drew liberally from the show’s heritage, the considerable creative talent involved and the rich canvas of science fiction. Most importantly, amid the wealth of influences, it was as much a showpiece for the show’s music as it was the Doctor himself.

Trapped in a revolving door, inspired by Heaven Sent.

WHETHER IT’S THE MIDDLE PART OF A THREE PART FINALE OR A SINGLE SLICE OF ANTHOLOGY, HEAVEN SENT WILL BE LONG REMEMBERED. And apart from the evident format breaking, immediately following the departure of one of the New Series’ longest serving regulars, many strands of influences were evident in the penultimate episode of Series Nine. What’s not in doubt is that Heaven Sent is an immaculately produced piece of television thanks to those influences. And rising to the top is the mighty Murray Gold once again. In his tenth year as the show’s music director he’s once again seamlessly provided something so perfect that it’s easily overlooked. But as much as this Heaven Sent is held up as a one-hander for the Doctor, the music was with him every second of eternity.

Influences

Inherent horror

“Every 100 years a little bird comes”

The influences that comprise Heaven Sent run thick and thin. It’s a welcome return for director Rachel Talalay. Her entrance to the Who universe with the show’s first two-parter since 2011, Dark Water and Death in Heaven, made for an iconic and memorable finale in the rather downbeat Series Eight.

Heaven Sent is another adventure steeped in horror, just as Talalay’s previous episodes were. Although this time, the action moves away from crypts, the undead and body horror to a haunted house and corridors fit for a stalking veiled slasher. Heaven Sent is slasher horror in many senses of the genre. It’s strange to think of the Doctor’s nightmare as a palace of mystery with a corridor lurking monster, when it may very well have resembled a large, ornate garden in need of tending- as he takes a moment to dismiss early on.

Talalay’s worked extensively on genre television in recent years, but high on her resume is prolonged involvement in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Production duties led to her directing debut, helming 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare. That was the deep-end: not only the closing chapter and heightened meta entry of the series but filmed in 3d.

“I’m in a fully automated haunted house, a mechanical maze”

The Veil carries the hallmarks of the slasher genre in Heaven Sent. Haunting the corridors, sticking with a never changing speed akin to Michael Myers, an unknown origin like Jason Voorhees and the product of a dream world like Krueger himself. All that was missing was the slashing, but when that arrived it did so in sizzling and quite graphic quantity. Billions of years of it. Like those single-minded icons of slasher horror, the Veil was part of a code. There was no hidden morality, but its purpose was dictated by the singular aim of unlocking the Doctor’s confession. Unlike most slasher icons, this clockwork fiend never had the capacity to rise to anti-hero.

And of course, this might well have been Dracula’s Castle. It was steeped in the gothic tradition, the bizarre camera point of view that heralded the Veil’s Ghost of Christmas Future march – an update of mirrors that catch a vampire’s likeness. Or a keen reference to ScroogedContinue reading “Doctor Who Series 9: Influences leave a Score to Settle”

The Golden Age of Cybermen Part 1: From The Tenth Planet to The Moonbase

Golden age of Cybermen The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase

Golden age of Cybermen The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase

For the Doctor’s 52nd birthday, a time to look at a race of monsters who would have once understood the importance of that number. Our long removed cousins, tragic victims of universal fate. Jokerside looks at the Golden Age of the Cybermen from 1966 to 1967.

The Cyberman arrived in a barrage of firsts and barely left the screen in the years that followed as they made a fair stab at replacing their pepper pot despotic rivals who’d brought Doctor Who to international attention.


Devised from science as much as drama, they collided with the demise of the First Doctor and the arrival of the base under siege story they would become synonymous with. Within three years they were only one shy of the Daleks in terms of villainous appearances. And while the Dalek’s schemes had become ever more diabolical during the First Doctor’s tenure, the Cybermen adopted an understandably more reserved approach while they continually upgraded and altered themselves. It’s a shame that the unsettling surgical mask approach of their first appearance would soon be encased in metal. But at least we’ve not seen a New Paradigm. Arguably…

The Tenth Planet (Season 4, 1966)

“They will not return”

Doctor Who The Tenth PlanetThe first words of the Cybermen. Not malicious, not a direct effect of their actions. Just a factual statement that the two spacefaring humans in question cannot possibly survive. They are proved right.

Three things began with The Tenth Planet, a serial that together with the succeeding Power of the Daleks, form the two most important in Doctor Who’s history. Those serials would test the show’s ability to survive thanks to the brilliant innovation of regeneration. But as hardly a side-line to that, The Tenth Planet marks the first appearance of recurring rogues the Cybermen and the first of a great Who staple – the base under siege story.

The setting is effective, fulfilling the isolation required by a good base under siege story and effortlessly shows the physical superiority of the Cyber race compared to humans. A mean trick in the first cliff-hanger reveals the Cybers to us as they assault face-covered humans – each is a distortion of the other in the Antarctic blizzard. We soon find that these are creatures of necessary logic but their chief tools are physical walloping and cumbersome chest-mounted ray guns.

Silver chic

“You will be wondering what has happened”

The design of the Cybermen is phenomenal. Bulky and inhuman. Their only appearance without metal face plating allows the simplified distortion of the human body to shine through. The eyes, holes, the mouth opening perpetually during their effective monotone, distorted speech. The face that resembles a surgical mask. The identical nature and similar voices that link all Cybermen is very effective in positing their threat and holding up a warped mirror to f humanity. In hindsight it’s touching that we see this early phase of Cybermen, where they still retain individual designations – something writer Marc Platt has developed with great success in Big Finish audios Spare Parts and The Silver Turk. And In the nicest way, this iteration of the cyber race, the Cyber Mondasians, wear their Achilles heels on their… Well, heads and stomachs. The lumbersome lamps on their heads serve to draw power from their planet, an excellently engineered short range and long range system if you think about it. And below the bulky chest unit that we’re told replaces their heart and lungs, and undoubtedly every other major organ in the torso, a large two handled weapon that are as effective when turned against them as they are plowing down humans. And their hands, their horribly human hands… Continue reading “The Golden Age of Cybermen Part 1: From The Tenth Planet to The Moonbase”

Doctor Who Series 9: Companion Closure – What’s in a Series?

Doctor Who Face the Raven
Doctor Who Face the Raven

I think your work is EXCELLENT!

Doctor Who’s seasons and series have waxed and waned for over five decades. Face the Raven set a new bar, with a companion departure seemingly setting up a maybe-two part finale. Choosing statistics over grief, this essay looks at the show’s changing approach to confounding expectation and compounding the drama.

Taking 45 minutes out, inspired by Face the Raven.

THE CLOSING SCENES OF FACE THE RAVEN WEREN’T EXACTLY UNEXPECTED, BUT FEW WOULD DOUBT THAT CLARA’S INFLUENCE WILL STRETCH TO THE END OF SERIES NINE AND PROBABLY BEYOND. EVEN ADRIC MADE AN APPEARANCE AT HIS FINAL DOCTOR’S REGENERATION. AND HE WASN’T AN IMPOSSIBLE GIRL. That precocious mathematician wasn’t even the first of the Doctor’s companions to perish, it’s safe to assume that honour went to Sara Kingdom, adventuring for all too brief a time alongside the First Doctor during The Dalek’s Masterplan. But Adric’s was the most laboured and ill thought out demise. Sleep No More may have bodged the opening title replacement the week before, but it’s impossible to imagine the sapping horror if Face the Raven had rolled silent closing credits. But if the intervening 33 years between Adric and Clara’s departure have taught us anything about loss and companionship in Doctor Who, it’s that there are many fates worse than death.

Always a show of commendable contrariness, Doctor Who often celebrates what other shows consider a misfortune. The loss of a lead or many lead actors may sink other dramas, but for Doctor Who it’s very much the life juice of its longevity. Not just the most imaginative programme on the box, but one with an unquenchable thirst for change. We’ve seen huge events in the fabric of the show tie in with major occasions many times before, but somehow Face the Raven decided to fly in the face of convention and rob the New Series of its longest serving companion two episodes from the series’ end, during what might in most series form the two-part finale. That doesn’t look so strange in the eclectic structures that the New Series has adopted since 2010, especially considering Clara’s three unconventional entrances. But back to that change piece, Series Nine sees things greatly changed from not just the Classic Series years, but even the format adopted when the show returned in 2005.

And within these structures, borrowed and sometimes blue like the TARDIS, sub-even trends wax and wane, like the much coveted episode 10 rule set by Blink that burned out brightly and quickly within a few years. There’s lots to consider when plotting out the structure of a series as reliant on change as it beholden to its heritage.

The rise and fall of the Classic Series

Built on quantity as much as anything else…

Doctor Who was built on quantity as much as anything else. The first three seasons covered three quarters of the year each, back in the glorious days when almost every individual episode warranted its own title. That makes naming something like The Daleks with any accuracy particularly fraught. The seasons then simplified, but still ran from autumn through to the following summer all the way to the arrival of colour. With the appearance of the Third Doctor in 1970, the show dispensed with Christmas and ran six months from January to June until the Fourth Doctor’s arrival soon saw it tilt back to December through May and then even further to autumn through spring (with the honourable exception of the disrupted Season 17). That was a broadcasting structure that stuck until the show’s hiatus in 1985. Splattered in between were repeats, particularly during the 20th anniversary year and notably the November broadcast of The Five Doctors in 1983 – 32 years ago this week. Continue reading “Doctor Who Series 9: Companion Closure – What’s in a Series?”

Doctor Who: Which Doctor Are You? #DoctorWho

Which Doctor Who are you?

Find out which Doctor Who you are

It’s very almost the Doctor’s 52nd birthday! And that means it’s time to present the definitive guide to finding out… Which Doctor Are You?

Two year’s ago, the Golden 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was hijacked by a few gremlins. But if Doctor Who teaches us anything it’s that time can be changed! For the 52nd anniversary, here’s a recap, with a  fully functional and updated way to work out which incarnation of the Doctor you are – No time traveller should be without it!

Follow the guide to find your Doctor and then check the Doctor descriptions down below

Which Doctor Who are you?

Original version published at: Mirror.co.uk

Which Doctor are you? Incarnation descriptions…

Continue reading “Doctor Who: Which Doctor Are You? #DoctorWho”

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