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Doctor Who: Journey's End (2008)
A perfect end to a great series
What an ending. I'd actually call this the best finale so far, better than even Doomsday. This episode lived up to all its hype - it was epic, but without being difficult to work out; unlike Last of the Time Lords, everything was explained and fitted together perfectly. It was full of twists and turns and dips and ducks, it all keeps you on your toes, keeps you guessing all the way through.
Obivously I can't reveal any plot details here, so I'll keep this short. All of the acting is amazing - Catherine Tate being the star of the show in my opinion, and with good reason.
Russell T Davies has pulled off an amazing swansong here, pulling together his entire Doctor Who universe into this episode - everything is relevant. It's like he's written the entire 4 series to build up to this finale, because it's all brought together so seamlessly. The only consolation in him leaving after this is the excellent Steven Moffat taking his place.
If I was completely honest, I'd say you have to watch the entirety of the revived Doctor Who to understand this episode inside out, but it's so worth it.
Here's looking forward to Christmas and the returning Cybermen.
Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth (2008)
Very, very, very good
Wow. What a set-up for what looks like being a storming finale. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole of this episode, right up until the enormous shock at the end and its subsequent cliffhanger. Quite often the plots of the finale are quite hard to keep up with, but that's certainly not the case here.
Russell T Davies, with his script for this episode, has somehow managed to intertwine his entire "Whoniverse" together. Not just with the characters - all the favourites are back (Jack, Martha, Sarah Jane, and of course, Rose - and even Harriet Jones makes an important cameo) along with the two spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures (with Gwen and Ianto from the former and Luke from the latter playing large parts), but also, just like with The Sound of Drums last year, all the seemingly insignificant events from earlier episodes that you dismissed as part of those story lines alone have become massive plot developments. It's obvious just how much careful planning Davies has put into this entire series on the first watch of this. On top of this, we finally discover what the Medusa Cascade and the Shadow Proclamation (complete with random Judoon cameo) are - things that have been talked about ever since Christopher Eccleston's first episode.
Even things that I would normally criticise serve this episode very well. The main thing being Murray Gold's repetitive music - he's borrowed music from all over the rest of the series for this episode and yet it still works really well.
As for the acting, I don't think there was a single bad performance. John Barrowman and Elisabeth Sladen in particular are on top form, Tennant is excellent as always, and Julian Bleach's Davros is frighteningly reminiscent of Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine. And from the trailer that has just appeared on the BBC website, it's only going to get better.
Again, what an amazing setup for next week's finale, and a very convincing episode in its own right. And so begins the anticipation...
Silent Hill (2006)
Now, before I start, I just want to make something clear - I do have the game. I love it. It's frightening in a way that no Resident Evil game has ever managed. Instead of just making you jump every now and then, it taps into your darkest fears, and from experience, the whole series of games has the ability to reduce even the most hardened horror gamers to quivering wrecks. The movie, however, is a little bit of a wet sponge in comparison.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I didn't like it. In fact, I did quite enjoy it. But there was no point in it where I can honestly say I was scared. In a way, it felt like more of a very gory episode of Doctor Who. In fact, there's a few episodes of the revived Doctor Who that have scared me more than this did. For me, it was more like fascination and curiosity. Although, before anyone reads this and then watches the movie expecting to not get scared, don't. I can see very well how people would be disturbed to their very core by this. It just didn't do that for me.
Aside from that, the positives. All of the performances are fantastic. It's very well scripted, and in particular, the different characters from the game work well - I have to agree with another reviewer who said that Harry wouldn't have worked in this. Even better, it's not a direct rip-off from the game, so watching this still won't give you all the answers for getting through the game - in fact, I'd go so far as to say it's almost completely different apart from the concept. As you'd expect, most of the deaths are brilliantly gruesome as well - one, in fact, may actually be my new favourite movie death of all time, even surpassing Erin from Final Destination 3. All I'll say is think of Robbie William's "Rock DJ" video.
So anyway, all things considered, it is a good movie, and definitely worthy of being based on the game. But I think it could easily have been better.
Doctor Who: Midnight (2008)
Oh. My. Word.
To put it short, this episode is astounding. It's a classic tense horror story with a Doctor Who spin squeezed into 45 minutes. As far as scariness goes, Midnight ranks right up there with Blink and The Impossible Planet, but at the same time it's stunningly well written, brilliantly acted, and flawlessly produced.
The best thing about it is that it plays on everyone's fear of the unknown - there's SOMETHING knocking on the wall, but no-one's got any idea what, not even the Doctor. The tension starts about 10 minutes in and doesn't let up until 2 or 3 minutes from the end. While it might not have the flawless intricate detail of a Steven Moffat story, Midnight is so simple and so effective that it doesn't really matter, because it's so superb as it is that you're just transported to a world of fear where details don't matter.
A special mention must go, of course, to Lesley Sharp, for a truly unbelievable performance. This episode wouldn't have been half as scary without her acting the way that she does - you'll understand why once you've seen it. It's by far the best and the scariest "human villain" perfformance since Harry Lloyd in The Family of Blood last year.
It's episodes like this that make you a little sad that Russell T Davies is standing down, because this, along with Doomsday, is probably the best episode he's written. But at least he's being taken over by Steven Moffat. If the Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead double header hadn't been as good as it was, this would easily be the best episode of the series.
Not quite as good as "Doomsday" but...
Still well worth watching if you ask me. As a three-part episode (of which, Utopia was by far the best) it was overall a brilliant end to what has been without doubt the best series of the three series since the show was revived. Don't get me wrong, this episode did have faults, but on the whole, it was very well done.
First, the gripes. Captain Jack is criminally underused in this episode. After his brief appearance at the start where he gets killed (again), he doesn't say another word until just before the Master's downfall. For probably the best semi-regular character in the show, this was a great shame. Similarly, the femme fatale that was Lucy barely got a look in. Off the top of my head, the only words I can think of her saying are describing when the Master took her to the end of the universe. Obviously she did have an integral part in the plot, but I think she could have said a bit more, rather than spending the episode essentially as the trophy wife. Also, I found the Doctor's eventual "resurrection" was a little hard to get my head around, and there was no possible way that Martha could've worked out exactly what the spend the next year doing just from the three words that the Doctor whispered in her ear.
Now, the pros. As if everyone didn't already know, John Simm has once again shown himself to be an absolute diamond. His performance as the brilliantly psychotic Master is sheer perfection, no actor on the planet could have pulled it off better than him, and his casting was nothing short of inspired. Freema Agyeman's performance is also heroic as she takes centre stage for once, as it's obvious how hardened she's become by the events of "the year that never was". Also, once he gets back to normal, David Tennant comes right back into it as if he'd never been reduced to a 100 year old man in a wheelchair. The revelation behind the Toclafane and the Tardis/Paradox Machine was brilliantly thought out and flawlessly written. And on a lighter note, the use of the Scissor Sisters' "I Can't Decide" when the Master is dancing around on the deck of the Valiant is a Midas touch when you listen to the lyrics, they fit the situation like salt and pepper.
Overall, a good finale to the series. Here's looking forward to Voyage of the Damned at Christmas, and, of course, the already well-publicised guest appearance of Kylie Minogue...
Doctor Who: Blink (2007)
This is, without doubt, the cleverest episode of Doctor Who since it was revived. It's also a contender for the scariest, giving a very definite challenge to last years The Impossible Planet. When I saw that Steven Moffat was writing this one, I knew we were in for a treat, since he wrote arguably the best episodes of the previous two series. But I never thought for a second it'd be this good.
I had already been blown away by the trailer for this episode alone (which is here if you want to see it - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHoxfE0Kj80) but seriously, that gives no justice to how good the actual episode is. There's one part where the main character Sally (played outstandingly by Carey Mulligan - let's see more of her in the future!) appears to be talking to the Doctor through a DVD, and that actually had me genuinely wondering how. There's so much of this episode that really grabs you and pulls you in, and you just can't pull yourself away from it. And the final 15 minutes - especially the Doctors incredibly frightening "Don't blink!" speech, is just mesmerising.
Again, hats must be doffed to the writing genius that is Steven Moffat. The BBC MUST hang on to him at all costs.
Doctor Who: The Family of Blood (2007)
A showcase of acting brilliance
Well well, Paul Cornell has cooked up another stonker here. This two-parter, and this episode in particular, is probably one of the best yet, second only, in my opinion, to the previous two season finales, and on a par with The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit. Of this series, only 42 has engrossed me more.
The main point of this episode is, of course, the Doctor becoming a slightly idiotic human to avoid the eponymous Family of Blood, Martha's struggle to make him realise who he really is again, and the importance of the watch that the Doctor stored himself inside. I won't say any more than that for the sake of spoiling what is truly a fantastic story. Every part of it is brilliantly executed - the script, the direction, the effects, and the aftermath.
Special mentions in this episode though, go to two people. Firstly, David Tennant, whose portrayal of the ordinary man struggling to come to terms with who he might be and what he has to do with everything is fantastic. Secondly, to Harry Lloyd, who plays Jeremy Baines, the ringleader of the Family. While he is relatively unknown as an actor - his only major role to date has been as Will Scarlet in the BBC's retake of Robin Hood - I can't think of any world-famous actor who would've fitted the part better than him. His performance is absolutely astonishing, he plays the mad eyes, frightening smile, and all round scariness of his character to utter perfection. He's probably been the scariest and most believable human-looking villain since the show was resurrected, with the possible exception of Roger Lloyd-Pack's John Lumic from last year. Maybe it's in the surname.
This is, without doubt, one of the best story lines seen in Doctor Who so far. And next week's 'Blink' looks like a cracker as well. Series 3 is storming towards being the best series yet, if it isn't already.
Doctor Who: 42 (2007)
As fast and intense as Doctor Who gets
I'm going to cut to the chase here - this episode left me absolutely breathless. The action and suspense kicks off right at the start and just does not let up until a couple of minutes before the end.
Where do I start? It has twists and turns all over the place. David Tennant and Freema Agyeman are both particularly magnificent in this episode, both of them instantly fitting in to the surroundings they find themselves in, and once again, I hate to admit it, but Agyeman is already outshining Billie Piper in the assistant's role. Tennant is also especially brilliant in the final 10 minutes or so, as the source of this episodes menacing enemy takes its effect on him. Ex-EastEnder Michelle Collins is an inspired choice to play the ships captain Kath McDonnell, as she plays the role of the strong female leader to perfection. There's also a completely unexpected cameo by delightful former Hollyoaks girl Elize du Toit, and a sinister turn from Martha's mother, played ridiculously well by Adjoa Andoh. Let's just say Jackie never hated the Doctor this much...
The biggest doffing of the cap, however, has to go to Chris Chibnall for a truly brilliant script. The plot line and the twists in it are unbelievable, it keeps you guessing all the way through, and the revelation 10 minutes from the end when the Doctor finally realises what's going on left me gasping. As an episode it's slightly reminiscent of The Impossible Planet from the last series, although this episode is ten times faster while still being nearly as scary and unnerving.
All in all, a must-see. This series is turning out to be the best yet - halfway through and there hasn't been a single poor episode yet.
Doctor Who: Daleks in Manhattan (2007)
Since its revival, Doctor Who has had some incredibly strange story lines. The ones that you simply cannot figure out where they're going, and how, when presented with a certain situation, it's going to resolve itself. I think so far, season one's The Empty Child ranked as the biggest case in point. However, Daleks in Manhattan has completely blown that away in terms of its sheer unpredictability. Even after the trailer for next weeks second part, Evolution of the Daleks, I have absolutely no idea how it's going to turn out.
The beauty of this revived series is that it's got stupid comedy, all-out scary and deeply emotional rolled into one. Not always all three in the same episode, mind you. And some episodes are designed to be just one - last years Love and Monsters springs to mind in the comedy stakes - in this case, this episode, and I expect next weeks conclusion, follow the road of last years The Impossible Planet/Satan Pit double header in being intensely dark and deeply sinister.
Don't get me wrong. It's a beautiful episode, and everything slots together perfectly. The four remaining Daleks somehow seem perfectly in place in 1930's New York, Helen Raynor's script is absolutely brilliant, and the Daleks pigmen slaves are somehow genuinely disturbing.
This new season seems to have made a habit of really rolling out the guest stars, and after Andree "Hollyoaks" Bernard's and the delightful Christina "Hex" Cole's unexpected showings in The Shakespeare Code, and then Ardal "Father Ted" O'Hanlon and Lenora "Sugar Rush" Crichlow's appearances in Gridlock, this episode rolls out no less than three of the best TV actors in England. This time we get the fantastic Hugh "Holby City" Quarshie, Andrew "last seen being dumped by a lesbian in Sugar Rush" Garfield, and Miranda "Spooks" Raison, and all of them excel in their roles (although I do have one small gripe - how does a black man get any sort of respect in 30s New York, one of the most racist periods in history?).
All of this adds up to one thing - this series is shaping up to be the best yet.
Doctor Who: Smith and Jones (2007)
Well well well!
Well indeed, what a gem the Doctor Who team have dug up here. In the space of 45 minutes, Freema Agyeman has already proved she's not just got what it takes, but she's got it in spades. Her debut episode is an absolute stormer, and for an actress who was probably unheard of before she was announced as David Tennant's new companion, it's pure brilliance. If I'm honest, I already like her more than I did Billie Piper after the whole first series.
Martha Jones, a medical student, is instantly likable. From the very second the moon crisis hits the hospital where she works, she is still perfectly calm, collected, and trying to work out the reasoning behind what's going on and why things are happening the way they are, showing no fear to anyone. Her brief exchange with the Doctor about going outside ("We might die" the Doctor says. "We might not" she retorts), her point blank refusal to call him Doctor ("As far as I'm concerned you've gotta earn that title") and the sheer attitude she shows, along with the lack of fear she lets on to anything, and how quickly she seems to get her head around things, give indications that she'll become a Doctor Who favourite before long.
Although the episode itself was always going to be mainly about Freema's debut, it's actually a pretty good episode to boot. The plot is a cracker, the detail is perfect (the Doctor's proof to Martha that he can, in fact, travel in time is brilliant), and the dialogue was fantastic. The Judoon are brilliant as, in the end, both good and bad guys, David Tennant is quality as always (the best Doctor ever? We'll see), and all in all it was very well played.
Hopefully the standard will stay this high, and hopefully rise even further, over the whole series. Time will tell.