Ellis George

Dr Who S8 E7 “Kill The Moon” (BBC One)

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Contains spoilers for the episode.

If in the future anyone ever insists on describing Doctor Who as just a children’s show, sit them down to watch the first half of “Kill The Moon” and then stop the DVD, turn to them, peel the cushion off their face that they’ve been hiding behind, and ask them if they still think that.

killthemoonBecause blimey, Charlie – that first 20 minutes on the moon was quite something. Fans (myself included) who’ve wanted the show to return to the darker, grimmer, horror-inflected days of Philip Hinchcliffe-produced 1970s Who not only got what what we asked for but had even us saying ‘Whoa, wait a minute, let’s back it down a few notches here!’ It’s a good job that the show aired so late (8.30pm) – as it is, if it had had even longer to establish the incredibly creepy and threatening setting any further than it did, even the watershed mightn’t have been enough to stave off a flood of angry letters from viewers worried why their children turned out all traumatised on Sunday morning.

It’s not the first time that giant spiders have turned up on Doctor Who of course – I still have fond (if that’s the right word) memories of the antagonists of “Planet of the Spiders” who did for Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in 1974. But back then we knew that the spiders weren’t real because the FX were ever so slightly crap, which was a relief. Not the case in “Kill The Moon” however, where – thanks to some incredibly sharp and precise direction from Paul Wilmshurst – everything appeared terrifyingly real, enhanced by some of Murray Gold’s best incidental music for the show in many a long year. Also to be highly commended is the way that the show reproduced the surface of the Moon via a combination of location shooting in Lanzarote and some digital decolourisation and grading to make it suitably lunar-hued. I would honestly say I’ve never seen the Moon look better on screen in any TV show or film, even 2001. It certainly knocked that studio set they used to mock up the Apollo 11 landings into a cocked hat. (Kidding!) Read the rest of this entry »

Dr Who S8 E6 “The Caretaker” (BBC One)

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Contains some mild spoilers for the episode.

I confess, I really wasn’t looking forward to this episode of season eight of Doctor Who, mainly because it seemed it would be very much in the same vein as Gareth Roberts’ previous contributions to the show during Matt Smith’s tenure, “The Lodger” and “Closing Time.” Both of these had milked comedy from making the Doctor a fish of water in a contemporary urban setting – the first in a flat share, the latter by giving him a job in a department store. This weekend’s instalment seemed to offer a retread of much the same ground, with the Doctor this time having to assume the identity of a school caretaker, once again proving how incapable he is of going ‘undercover’ and remaining remotely inconspicuous in any normal setting.

caretakerAs a one-off concept in “The Lodger” this sort of thing worked perfectly well, giving Smith a chance to indulge in his most clownish comedy playing alongside James Corden and Daisy Haggard. While it avoided poking fun too directly at the show it was still too much Doctor Who: The Sitcom for my personal taste especially as the plot of the story was largely missing in action. The follow-up episode “Closing Time” tried to compensate for this by having a heavyweight threat in the form of the Cybermen, but that just resulted in the story going all over the place with lots of different influences pulling this way and that before a painfully mawkish and rushed ending. I was, therefore, resigned to “The Caretaker” continuing the downward trend and had little doubt that I would be writing a review that said “not my sort of thing, rather hated it, let’s hope for better next week.” Read the rest of this entry »