Ed Bazalgette

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio (BBC One)

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mysterio1It’s been exactly a year since Doctor Who‘s most recent new adventure, and so the anticipation ahead of the 2016 Christmas special was sky high. When “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” finally arrived on Christmas Day, it quickly turned out that – not for the first time – the show has wrong-footed us and that it isn’t the episode we might have thought that we had been expecting and in some cases dreading: Doctor Who has moved on. And that’s a good thing.

In the past, showrunner Steven Moffat has delivered some of the most Christmassy of Christmas specials imaginable, from 2010’s “A Christmas Carol” to 2011’s “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, 2012’s “The Snowmen” and 2014’s “Last Christmas”. By comparison, last year’s “The Husbands of River Song” was somewhat light on the Christmas trappings, and this year’s story goes even further with only a brief prologue at the start being set on Christmas Eve. Even then it’s only so that eight-year-old Grant Gordon (Logan Huffman) can understandably mistake the ‘old guy’ hanging upside down outside his New York apartment block window 60 floors up in the air for Santa Claus. After that however you’ll look in vain for any festive feels. Read the rest of this entry »

Class S1: End of term review (BBC3)

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Contains some mild spoilers for the series, although there shouldn’t be anything too explicit.

classIt feels odd to me that anyone should make a show for a streaming service but then decide to dole out the episodes once a week on what is effectively a conventional TV network broadcast schedule. But that’s what the BBC has done with Doctor Who spin-off Class and it’s also what Amazon Prime are doing with their nothing-at-all-like-Top Gear new series The Grand Tour, so what do I know?

Saturday saw the final episode of the first season of Class land on the BBC’s iPlayer, which means that we’re now able to look at the whole run of eight stories in context. From what I’ve seen up to this point, the reaction of Who fans has been somewhat mixed to say the least, and not even the theme song has escaped criticism. Moreover, the strategy of making it an online exclusive has likely limited the show’s reach outside that base of Whovians: as much as the BBC might wish it so, people simply don’t currently see iPlayer as a Netflix-like service for new online material, but rather mainly as a catch-up facility.

That’s a shame because Class deserves a rather more love than it’s currently getting. It’s not perfect – far from it, it has many annoying swings in tone and approach. However the production quality of the finished episodes has been consistently high throughout with excellent acting, direction, photography and FX work across the board. It’s certainly better than you might reasonably expect for a brand new show, unlike for example the wildly variable start to fellow ‘grown-up’ Who spin-off series Torchwood in 2006 which really did take a long time to find its feet and work out the kinks, and which had some really terrible moments during its first season. Read the rest of this entry »

Class S1E1 “For Tonight We Might Die” [BBC3]

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classThe long gap between seasons nine and ten of Doctor Who has been filled with this latest spin-off from the 21st century parent show: after Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures comes Class, which débuted last weekend on BBC3 which is now an online-only streaming channel, the Corporation’s attempt to produce a Netflix-type service for a young audience while also cutting overall costs.

Fortunately the cost-cutting facet isn’t particularly evident in the first episode of Class which is handsomely mounted and stylish with some impressive special effects – although one sequence ostensibly set on an alien world is a notable example of how to creatively cut corners where possible without harming the whole. Otherwise it’s mainly set in the hallways and classrooms of Coal School Academy (formerly Coal Hill School, which has a long history in Doctor Who), but the supposedly everyday normal setting is emphatically upended by alien invaders even before the Who-influenced opening credits kick in. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor Who S9E6 “The Woman Who Lived”

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Contains Spoilers

woman-who-died-1There was someone odd, almost off-kilter about this week’s episode of Doctor Who right from the start. As soon as the Doctor’s head poked out of the Tardis door and wasn’t immediately followed by any sign of Clara, it was clear that was something fundamentally different about “The Woman Who Lived.”

Of course the show strives to be different almost every week – it’s why I end up doing a review of every episode while virtually every other show on TV can be sufficiently covered in a single post. That variation has been particularly apparent under showrunner Steven Moffatt who delights in confounding expectations and coming up with new things with which to tease and titillate the viewers, whether it’s new variations on old themes like “Under the Lake” or ostentatiously radical reinventions like “In The Forest Of The Night”. Some work and some don’t, but it’s never dull or boring and the same was true of the entirely off-the-beaten-track diversion this week. Read the rest of this entry »

Doctor Who S9E5 “The Girl Who Died”

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Contains spoilers for the aired episode.

girl-who-died-1I admit, I didn’t have high hopes coming into this episode. From the previews it looked like Doctor Who’s latest attempt to switch into historical romp mode after the pair of pretty heavy and intense two-parters opening season nine. As long-time readers of Taking The Short View will probably recall, I pretty much hate such diversions as my loathing for last year’s “Robots of Sherwood” will attest. Generally speaking, it’s been my unwavering view that the show during Steven Moffat’s tenure has struggled badly when it comes to striving to do light-hearted fare, with a very few notable exceptions, and that it shows just how hard it can be to do comedy satisfyingly in a show which is at heart an action-adventure drama.

Moffat did at least pull out all the stops and try his absolute best with this latest offering, mainly by putting his top writing team on the job – one of whom, inevitably, is Moffat himself. It’s a measure of how fast and high Jamie Mathieson’s Who stock has risen since his début scripts for “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” last year that he’s the other name on the script. Surely if anyone could have pulled off an entertaining historical romp without making my teeth itch and my toes curl it would have been Moffat and Mathieson? Read the rest of this entry »