Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who Review: Fear Her

"Fingers on lips!"

Easily the funniest moment in the episode (if not the series so far). 'Fear Her' is a low-key Who episode in all respects. A small budget affair, based in a single suburban street, and with minimal effects. The result is a solid adventure in its own right but ultimately an episode which comes across as being a bit of a 'filler' before the epic two-part finale. In fact, it seems as though the finale has taken the budget of both this episode and last week's 'Love and Monsters'! Whilst I enjoyed 'Fear Her' I was actually more excited by the sixty-second preview of next week's 'Army of Ghosts' - and I wasn't disappointed. That single shot of Rose standing on some colourless beach, looking so sad, so lonely, added with the voice-over "This is the story of war on earth...This is the last story I will tell..." Ooh, I got goosebumps I did. Like most fans of this series, this is what I've been waiting for. We all know now that Rose 'leaves'. What the BBC have expertly managed to keep a secret is exactly how she leaves. Can't wait for Saturday.

Egads! What am I going to do when the series finishes?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Who Review: Love and Monsters

Something of a curio this week for Doctor Who: an episode which is heavy on the comic side and in which the Doctor and Rose barely appear. On initial viewing I found it amusing and it definitely kept my interest, but did I really enjoy it? Not sure. I enjoyed Peter Kay's performance as the Abzorbaloff and I thought Mark Warren as nice guy Elton did a good job of playing, well, a nice guy, which, for an actor who is used to playing edgy, psychopathic characters, was actually quite a stretch. Considered seriously as an episode of Doctor Who, however, I thought it was very hit and miss. But taken on its own merits, I don't think it did any harm to have a bit of fun (the viewing figures actually went back up with this episode). Although I found it entertaining in its own way, I wouldn't want to see another episode in this mould. I look at it like an intermission, a pause for light relief before we get into the really dark stuff that will lead us into Billie Piper's recently announced (and much-speculated) exit. Yes, she's on her way out. The BBC are still refusing to say if she'll actually be killed off in episode 13 (Doomsday), but she is definitely leaving the series. I think Piper was absolutely right for the part of Rose, whose job was not only to introduce a new generation to the Doctor through her eyes, but to also change the dynamic of the Doctor and his assistant forever. She did a fantastic job, but now it's absolutely right for her to go. As I said earlier in this blog, I felt like her character had run its course.
Exciting questions now spring to mind: how will the Doctor cope with her departure? And who will be the new companion, making their first adventure in the Christmas special? Only time will tell...

Friday, June 16, 2006

In this haze of green and gold...

What a gorgeous June. The sun is shining. England are still in the World Cup. I have a fantastic new job. Doctor Who is still running. And I have a handful of my favourite stories scheduled for publication in the next few months:

'Groghol's Staff' will appear in Scifantastic issue five (Aug)
'The Midnight Men' will appear in Dark Recesses issue four (July)
'Death's Head' will appear in Twisted Tongue issue three (August)
'The Man Who Ate Planets' will appear in Revelation 4:1 (Sept)
'Guardian' and 'The View From the Bridge' will appear in future issues of From the Asylum.
'Pleasure Units' is set to appear in anthology Tabloid Purposes III in August.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Who Review: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit

I deliberately waited until I’d seen both episodes of this two-parter before making any comments here, mainly because the first part was so good, so promising, that I was a little scared the second part would be a colossal let-down. I needn’t have worried. In fact, this two-parter has been so enjoyable it has actually made me look back at the earlier episodes with a somewhat critical eye. Looking back at my Who Reviews, I’ve been exceedingly positive about the series (apart from New Earth which still rankles), but compared to this adventure, even the better episodes look like pale, sickly cousins to the real thing. In short: this adventure is everything I imagined Doctor Who to be.
Quick story synopsis for the uninitiated: The Tardis arrives on a Sanctuary base on a remote planet which - impossibly - is suspended beneath a black hole which is sucking in everything around it but the planet. “How could this be?” the Doctor wonders. “That’s impossible!” Quite. But there it is, being all impossible. We quickly learn that there is a strange energy source emanating from below the planet’s surface - an energy source powerful enough to stop a planet being sucked into oblivion. Before the Doctor and Rose can say, “Oh well, let us know how it turns out, guys, we’re off,” the Tardis gets lost - pulled down into a giant chasm after an earthquake - leaving our duo stranded and contemplating a future without time travel, a future with shared accommodation and (gulp!) a mortgage! There’s nothing for it but to venture down into the pit and find out what the heck is going on down there. What the Doctor finds deep down in the bowels of this planet appears to be the Devil, or at least a creature which insists it has existed since “before time” (the Doctor quite rightly asks what the hell that means, “before time”) and is therefore the original idea which sparked the notion of The Devil in our universe. It’s a very interesting concept and one which is never completely resolved - even the Doctor is unable to fathom the truth here. Naturally, the Beast is trying to escape from its eternal imprisonment, but the Doctor (with a convenient but joyful reunion with the lost Tardis) saves the day, almost sacrificing Rose in the process, but not quite.
The episodes together are a satisfying whole and I hope the new Doctor ventures to more alien worlds (instead of hanging around that bloody London estate all the time!) This Doctor Who story has raised the bar higher than ever and I hope the two-part season finale is able to live up to this standard. One important point to mention, though: the Beast character said that Rose would “die in battle”, which she became naturally every concerned about. At the end, the Doctor dismissed it as a lie by the Beast (she didn’t die in this battle) but I have a strong feeling this is an omen pointing to a (very near) future battle. There is a growing sense of tragedy about the climax to this series, and if I were Rose Tyler, the next time I popped home to see dear old Mum on the estate, I’d start looking at some life insurance policies. Seriously.