Frank Skinner

QuickTakes: BBC: The Secret Files, My Life in Squares, Taskmaster, All Aboard! The Canal Trip

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I’ve been tidying my desk ahead of the August summer recess (more of which later) and thought I’d use the opportunity to add some very brief reviews of some programmes that aired this week – BBC: The Secret Files, My Life in Squares, Taskmaster, and All Aboard! The Canal Trip – that I ordinarily wouldn’t have got around to covering but which I think and hope may prove to be worth a moment or two of your time. Read the rest of this entry »

Dr Who S8 E8 “Mummy on the Orient Express” (BBC One)

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Contains spoilers for the aired episode.

It’s been fascinating to see just how divided reaction has been so far to the new season of Doctor Who and indeed to the new incarnation of the Doctor. Many people love it and think it’s the best the show has been in years, but there’s also been a lot of very negative criticism even from long-standing hardcore fans who are just not liking what they’re seeing. In many ways I can understand what they’re going through, because I myself grew increasingly frustrated and restive with the stop-start, wildly variable season 7; however I’ve found season 8 a substantial return to form and one of the most consistently strong series of the show for many a year – and Peter Capaldi is wonderful.

drwho-mummyHarder for me to understand is the criticism I’ve seen for this week’s story, the indulgently-titled “Mummy on the Orient Express”. How could any Who fans really take against this one, given all its lovely grace notes to the series’ past? From the start, there’s Capaldi adopting garb very reminiscent of outfits memorably worn by both William Hartnell and Jon Pertwee back in their respective days; and he gets to channel his very best Tom Baker impression in a lovely interior monologue scene before going on to proffer jelly babies sublimely presented as delicacies laid out in their very own gold cigarette case. There’s also a fun ‘mystery shopper’ misfire for the psychic paper, which really hasn’t been seen enough of late. Overall the entire main storyline is intentionally suffused on many different levels with the spirit of one of the very best of the classic Who serials, “Pyramids of Mars,” even down to a very familiar-looking Sarcophagus in the boxcar. It also gives us Capaldi’s best performance yet as the Doctor, commanding and brilliant and clearly racked with self-doubt, yet also for once really quite charming.

Best of all, the titular Mummy was by no means the jokey presence that the punning title might have led us to believe. Instead it was properly scary both in its basic appearance and choreographed movement, and in the way the episode detailed its unstoppable attacks on the train passengers and crew. Rather like a ticking time bomb, the way that the stop-clock appeared on screen from its initial reappearance to count down to the victim’s inevitable death never failed to be scarily effective even with five repetitions, thanks to subtle new details of the attack being added each time – the most effective of which being when the Mummy walks right through a corporeal Doctor in its relentless pursuit of its intended prey. Read the rest of this entry »