Tom Riley

Doctor Who S8 E3 “Robot of Sherwood” (BBC One)

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Contains some spoilers for the aired episode.

Apologies, I’m a little tardy with my thoughts on this week’s episode of Doctor Who. And while I’d like to say this is down to having been really busy and not having had the time to put pen-to-paper/fingers-to-keyboard, the truth is more along the lines that I’ve been stuck for words and unsure exactly what to say about “Robot of Sherwood.”

arrowThe thing is, these sort of out-of-character, over-the-top, thigh-slapping high camp ‘romps’ injected into runs of otherwise series dramas make my teeth itch. You may have noticed this from my reviews in the past, where I took against stories such as “The Curse of the Black Spot” and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” for example. And while you might think that my delight in 2012’s “The Crimson Horror” by Mark Gatiss (who also wrote this week’s story) is therefore an anachronism, the fact is that story was a deliciously black comedy of the darkest hue in which everything was still taken with deadly seriousness despite the laughs that ensued.

It’s not that I think Doctor Who shouldn’t be funny – of course it should. And nor do I object to the show’s unique diversity which enables it to go in quick succession from all-out science fiction action thriller to historical pastiche comedy to chilling ghost story (as apparently next week’s “Listen” will be). I don’t even mind when they do one just for the kids as “Dinosaurs” very much was – it’s a family show after all, and I don’t begrudge the fact that there will be some stories that just aren’t really aimed at me and that I’m not going to like so much. It’s just that this leaves me a little stuck when it comes to attempting to write a fair and balanced review of an episode that, at the end of the day, simply didn’t really click with me. Read the rest of this entry »

Da Vinci’s Demons S2 E1 “The Blood of Man” (Fox)

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I watched and indeed reviewed the first season of David S Goyer’s fantasy adventure series about the early life and times of Leonardo da Vinci and found it a handsomely mounted, fast moving but ultimately frustrating show. It did at least build to a satisfying big climax depicting the Pazzi conspiracy, a Rome-backed uprising in the city of Florence resulting in a decent season cliffhanger, but I was left somewhat nonplussed by the thing as a whole and wondered I’d bother sticking with it for a second series, the first part of which aired last weekend.

I gave it a go, and have to admit that I found the opening episode of the sophomore season hugely enjoyable. It carried on directly from the events of the uprising in one long, sustained, breathless chase through the streets and sewers of the strife-racked city as da Vinci (Tom Riley) seeks to save the life of the gravely wounded city ruler Lorenzo de Medici (Elliot Cowan) whose family is meanwhile under siege by a bloodthirsty mob in the family home, and at the same time da Vinci’s friends Zoroaster and Nicos (Gregg Chillin and Eros Vlahos) flee the city only to fall into the hands of da Vinci’s mortal foe Count Girolamo Riario (Blake Ritson), the nephew of the Pope (James Faulkner). By the end of this first episode, everyone is in such overwhelming mortal peril that if anything it makes for a better season finale than the episode before it. Read the rest of this entry »

Da Vinci’s Demons S1 E1-3 (Fox)

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I’ve been meaning to post something about Fox channel’s new historical action fantasy show Da Vinci’s Demons for a couple of weeks now; the problem is, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it, or even how exactly to describe and categorise it.

It’s a frustrating show, sometimes flirting with greatness and at other times just a bit of a mess. Some weeks I enjoy its irreverent modernist fiction (based on the early life of the Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci) and at other times it simply grates on me. There’s no rhyme or reason to it; my response to the show is as up and down and erratic as the show itself seems to be in tone.

It’s best when it’s having some all-out fun with its concept, such as when it presents the young ‘Leo’ da Vinci as a wild eccentric with a swaggering ego and an eye for the women (and the men at times, it’s hinted) together with a great line in high-handed barbs and witticisms with which to put down the likes of the dimwitted Giulino Medici. The little moments when the show does innovative graphical visualisations of the inspirations connecting to da Vinci’s greatest scientific breakthroughs are also particular highlights. Read the rest of this entry »