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Silent Witness: Duty of Candour: Part 2 (2018)
Season 21, Episode 4
8/10
A blackmailer targets patients of a London Hospital
19 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
These comments refer to the whole two part story not just episode two.

This story opens with the discovery of a woman's body in her home. Her husband is the most likely suspect; a suspicion that rises when it emerges that she was pregnant and he wasn't the father. Soon afterwards the husband murders the man who was the father and after a brief chase jumps from a tall building and dies. At first it looks as though this is the shortest mystery in the history of the series but then it emerges that somebody had leaked news of the woman's pregnancy to the husband. It turns out there was a data breach at the hospital where she'd sought treatment and the hospital administrator had kept quiet after ignoring a blackmail demand... it would appear that after failing to get money off the hospital the blackmailer had turned his attention to the individual patients... it isn't long before a barrister who was being blackmailed because of his drug addiction is seriously injured... the police and the Lyell team must work fast is they are to stop more people being harmed. To further complicate matters Nikki has being seeing a psychiatrist at the hospital and is worried about her problems becoming public.

This was an impressive second story; I really liked how it looked as if it would be all about who killed the woman found in the opening scene but ultimately it was about something else altogether. Even after the attention has switched to the search for hacker/blackmailer there are plenty of twists and turns as further misdemeanours are exposed more people become potential suspects. When the person responsible is ultimately exposed it isn't somebody too obvious nor is it a total surprise to fans of the genre who will know to suspect anybody who doesn't look too suspicious and isn't part of the investigation! Having Nikki's treatment taking place at the hospital in question did feel a bit unnecessary but it did at least serve to get her problems into the open so hopefully she will be able to move on soon. The cast do a solid job bringing the story to life. Overall a good story that kept me guessing almost to the end.
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Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead (2005)
Season 1, Episode 3
8/10
The Doctor and Rose encounter 'ghosts' and 'zombies' in Victorian Cardiff
16 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
After a trip to the future the Doctor decides to show Rose somewhere in the past, in this case Naples in 1860... it doesn't quite go to plan as they end up in Cardiff in 1869. Inevitably they are still in for an adventure; a dead woman at a local funeral parlour has got up, left and headed to a hall where the author Charles Dickens is reading from 'A Christmas Carol'; her ghostly appearance causes a panic just as Rose and The Doctor arrive. While The Doctor searches the building Rose sees the undertaker and his assistant, Gwyneth, bundling the dead woman into their hearse; he drugs her and bundles her into the hearse. The Doctor and Dickens pursue them back to the funeral parlour. Here it emerges that the 'ghosts' are actually aliens called Gelth who claim to need help passing through a rift so they can return home. Gwyneth, who appears to have real spiritualist powers, agrees to help.

This was a rather fun episode with some genuinely spooky moments, impressive special effects and an enjoyably 'guest appearance' by an historical figure. Simon Callow does a fine job as Dickens, a role he has played so many times it would seem wrong to have anybody else play him, and Eve Myles is really good as Gwyneth... she obviously impressed the producers as she later returns as a main character in spin-off series 'Torchwood'. The Gelth are an interesting alien; it is far from clear whether they are malevolent or just trying to survive until near the end. Once again the creators don't shy away from killing off a good single-episode character who the audience have been encouraged to like; this leads to an impressive bittersweet ending to the story. Overall an impressive episode; so far this new series has given us good stories in the present, future and past.
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Doctor Who: The End of the World (2005)
Season 1, Episode 2
8/10
The Doctor takes Rose to the End of the World
15 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
After the events of the previous episode The Doctor has invited Rose to join him in the Tardis and offered to show her the future. In this case the distant future. He takes her to a space station orbiting the Earth billions of years in the future; approximately half an hour before the Earth is to be destroyed by an expanding sun. They aren't the only ones their; various very wealthy individuals are present to see the even. This includes Cassandra, the 'last human'... who thanks to extensive plastic surgery is now just a sheet of skin with a face! There are also tree people and various other aliens. One of these gives the others a 'gift' that turns out to contain robotic spiders that set about sabotaging the station. Everybody will soon be in grave danger and it will be up to The Doctor to save them.

After the introductory episode no time is wasting in giving us an adventure featuring a variety of aliens as well as travel to a distant future. The story provides plenty of exciting moments that are scary enough without being too frightening for younger viewers. The effects were impressive; these aliens clearly weren't all people in rubber suits tile in the old days. Even those like Jabe the Tree-woman that are a person in costume look great thanks to brilliant makeup. While the story had a clear anti-racist undertone it never felt like the audience was being lectured to. Billie Piper continues to impress as Rose; nicely capturing her reaction to seeing aliens, her fear when it looks as though she is about to die and her sadness at seeing the world's end even if The Doctor can take her back. Christopher Eccleston is solid as The Doctor. Of the guest stars the most notable are Yasmin Bannerman, who did a fine job as Jabe and Zoë Wanamaker who provided the voice of Cassandra. Overall an exciting episode with just the right mix of danger and humour.
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Doctor Who: Rose (2005)
Season 1, Episode 1
8/10
Rebooting a classic
15 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
As this, the first new episode of Doctor Who for many years opens we see shop worker Rose Tyler descending to the basement of the store she works; here she is accosted by various manikins that appear to have come to life. As she flees she is rescued by a man who simply identifies himself as The Doctor. He gets her to safety before returning to the building; shortly afterwards it explodes. Rose returns home and the next day she starts researching The Doctor; she soon finds a conspiracy theorists who has evidence suggesting that The Doctor was present at many historical moments. While Rose talks to him her boyfriend Mickey is attacked by a wheelie-bin and replaced by a plastic copy! Once again she is rescued by The Doctor; he explains that they are dealing with Autons; plastic beings controlled by the Nestene Consciousness which is trying to take over Earth. Together they set off to stop them.

The main purpose of this episode was to reintroduce us to The Doctor, now played by Christopher Eccleston, and his assistant-to-be Rose, played by Billie Piper. I liked how we meet Rose first and it is only when she is in danger that The Doctor arrives. Having an enemy that was first seen in the original series of the show but not one of the iconic villains was an inspired move as it provided a link without suggesting there would be an over-reliance on Daleks and Cybermen. As well as our two protagonists we are introduced to Rose's mother and her boyfriend; while we don't see too much of them they promise to be interesting recurring characters. Eccleston does a fine job as The Doctor but it is Billie Piper who is a revelation as Rose; I recall when the series first aired people questioned giving the role to a pop-singer but here she shows she can act too. Overall this was a fine series opener that should leave viewers keen to see what happens when the duo start travelling in time and space.
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Primeval: Episode #3.10 (2009)
Season 3, Episode 10
8/10
Series three comes to a cliff-hanging conclusion
14 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Following on from the last episode the team head to the anomaly that leads to the 'predator future'. As they prepare to go through the anomaly at Christine's old facility opens; Becker and Sarah head to investigate that leaving Abby, Connor and Danny to look for Helen in the future. Becker and Sarah find themselves confronting giant insects that have come through the anomaly but that is nothing compared to the problems the others are facing. The catch up with Helen and learn of her plan; she intends to travel through the anomalies to the time early man was evolving and kill off humanity before it can even begin. They follow her to the distant past where they have a run in with a trio of young velociraptors. Connor is injured and Abby stays with him while Danny pursues Helen through another anomaly; if humanity is to be saved Helen must be stopped before she can poison our ancient ancestors.

This was a gripping series finale that wrapped up the 'Helen Cutter' plot arc but raised more questions as it finished with three characters apparently trapped in the past. Before we get to the cliff-hanger ending there are plenty of great moments; Becker and Sarah's run-in with the giant insects was exciting and it was great to finally learn exactly what Helen was planning. I liked how they caught up with her in the remains of the ARC building and her ultimate fate was satisfying. Juliet Aubrey's appearances as Helen will be missed in future seasons. Given that the series has killed off major characters and had others leave the ultimate fate of Abby, Connor and Danny is far from obvious for anybody watching for the first time. Overall this was an exciting conclusion to the season that will leave most viewers keen to discover what happens in Series Four.
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Primeval: Episode #3.9 (2009)
Season 3, Episode 9
8/10
A herd of prehistoric 'rhinos' comes through an anomaly and Danny rescues a 'woman from the future' from Christine
13 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This, the penultimate episode of the third series, sees Danny breaking into Christine's facility and rescuing Eve, the woman Christine's team had brought back from the future. She says that she must see James Lester at the ARC but first Danny must join the rest of the team who are dealing with a herd of rhinoceros like creatures that have arrived from the distant past. Once that is dealt with they head back to the ARC where Christine is waiting to arrest Danny and the truth about Eve is revealed.

This was a really good episode with many interesting elements. Danny's rescue of Eve was fun even if it did seem a little too easy. The prehistoric rhinos were impressive; dangerous because of their size and desire to protect a baby rather than wanting to harm people. The creatures are well designed and animated; if one didn't know such creatures didn't exist one might believe they were real. This part of the story provided some good laughs as a man on his stag do is cornered by the creatures while wearing only his underwear then mistakes Abby for a stripper! Just as it looks as if the story is over we return to the ARC and there are some surprising revelations before a cliff-hanger ending that sees the team preparing to return to the future where they encountered the predators. Overall a really good episode that left me keen to see what happens next.
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Silent Witness: Moment of Surrender: Part 2 (2018)
Season 21, Episode 2
7/10
Nikki returns to work but is she ready?
12 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
These comments refer to the whole two part story not just episode two.

This story opens sixteen years ago as a young couple are attacked by three masked individuals. After this prologue we return to the present and Nikki is still affected by what happened to her in Mexico and discusses it with her friend Sally, who works at another forensics lab. Shortly afterwards Sally goes missing and the police suspect her business partner David as they had recently argued. They ask Nikki to help investigate him by getting him a position working alongside her at the Lyell Centre. Soon the team are called out when the body of a man is discovered; at first it looks as if he may have committed suicide but inevitably it isn’t long before it becomes clear that he was murdered. As the story progresses we learn that the dead man was involved in the events we saw in the prologue and it starts to look as though David does indeed have something to hide.

This was a solid return for this long running series. I liked how there was an intriguing prologue that wasn’t referred to again for some time. One could guess that it would be connected to the later cases but how wasn’t too obvious. The question of who killed the dead man and why was interesting but was overshadowed by what happened to Nikki’s friend and what David’s involvement with that was. Julian Rhind Tutt did an impressive job as David; he kept the character nicely ambiguous so it is far from obvious whether he is involved in Sally’s disappearance till the very end when all is revealed. The rest of the cast is also on good form; most notably Emelia Fox who does a fine job as the still troubled Nikki. Overall a good story that left me looking forward to the rest of the series.
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Les oubliées (2007– )
9/10
Forgotten Girls
11 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Captain Christian Janvier has been investigating the disappearance of six girls in northern France for many years; at first he had a team but now it is just him. He demands some help and eventually Olivier Ducourt is appointed to his department. Then another girl goes missing and evidence suggests that it may be the same person behind it; his superiors certainly think it is although Janvier thinks there are inconsistences that point to a copycat who knew details of the earlier crimes. When a man is arrested and the girl's body is discovered in his garden it looks as though all the cases will be considered closed. However the more Janvier investigates the man the more convinced he is that this man knows the original killer but despite his confessions isn't responsible for the others. To make matters worse for Janvier he is having blackouts after which he has no idea what he did at the time; he has consulted doctors but they have no explanation other than fatigue.

I was really gripped by this series. At only six episodes in length it never drags while still not feeling rushed. The central mystery is intriguing and various suspects come and go before the final episode. As much as this is about the 'Forgotten' it is about their effect on Janvier; he is clearly haunted by them but equally they give his life purpose meaning both those around him and the viewer may wonder just how far he will go to stop the case being closed. Jacques Gamblin does a great job as Janvier making the viewer feel his frustration and exhaustion; he is ably supported by Fabien Aïssa Busetta, who does a fine job as Ducourt, and Priscilla Attal-Sfez, who impresses as Janvier's daughter Caroline; who inevitably fits the profile of the missing girls. The story manages to play with genre chilchés without becoming too cliché itself and the finale is far from obvious. I'd definitely recommend this to anybody looking for a short mystery series that is about character rather than action or trying to solve the case while watching the show.

These comments are based on watching the series in French with English subtitles.
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Primeval: Episode #3.8 (2009)
Season 3, Episode 8
8/10
Abby's brother noses around and finds himself lost in a dangerous future
10 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This episode sees the team finding an anomaly through which a giant ant-like creature has emerged. The creature is killed and the anomaly sealed but that isn't the end of the matter. Abby's brother, Jack, has found her anomaly detector and uses it to head to the anomaly, hoping to find more about what his sister does at work. By the time he gets there it emerges that there was a second creature, which has killed the two people guarding the anomaly. Jack gets in a car and knocks the device that locked the anomaly; he then drives through it and finds himself in a future where as well as the giant insects there are numerous predators. After getting out of the car he falls down a hole and in injured. Becker thinks they should wait before going through but Abby is determined to rescue her brother. She, Connor, Becker and Danny head through the anomaly and quickly realise they are in extreme danger and it is quite possible that they won't all get back.

This was an impressive episode; it must be admitted that Jack is a bit of a moron and quite irritating so he hardly the most sympathetic character. Robert Lowe does a solid job making the character seem believably obnoxious! While many viewers might not care what happens to him there is genuine tension when the others turn up hoping to rescue him; especially when it looks as if one of the team has sacrificed himself to save the others. For the most part this is a standalone episode but it later becomes apparent that Christine is somehow connected to this future time period and Lester believes she has an anomaly linked to it. The regular cast are on good form and the creature effects are impressive. Overall a fine episode with plenty of tension, some laughs and even a little romance.
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Professor T.: Cuberdon (2016)
Season 2, Episode 1
9/10
Professor T and Daan return to work
10 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Six months have passed since the end of the first series and Professor T believes that he is ready to leave the psychiatric facility and return to work, even if his doctor isn't so sure and insists he sees her regularly. Inspector Daan De Winter also returns to work; he is now in a wheelchair and there is no prospect that he will walk again. It isn't long before the police are investigating a series of deaths that initially appear natural. There is no obvious connection between the victims; only the numbers make it seem suspicious. It is discovered that each had consumed chocolate that had been adulterated with ethylene glycol so Annelies and Daan go to talk to the manufacturers, one of who was one of the victims. Chief Inspector Paul Rabet calls in Professor T to help. Back at the university it is clear that Professor T's replacement doesn't have the respect of the students.

I really enjoyed season one of Professor T so was pleased that we didn't have to wait too long before season two became available. Things get off to a fine start in this episode; it is clear that Professor T is the same as ever despite claiming to be more empathetic now; we see him telling a fellow patient that given his limited intelligence and lack of good looks he was right to attempt suicide! Koen De Bouw is on great form in the title role. The central case is interesting enough although this episode is more about establishing where the characters are now and how they have changed due to the tragic events at the end of series one. We see Daan's frustrations that he obviously can't do what he did before and Annelies's feeling of guilt for what happened to him. Not all the character changes are negative; Paul seems to be successfully dealing with his alcoholism. Professor T is still having strange visions, this time involving a parrot which was pretty funny. Overall this was a really fun episode that provided plenty of laughs, a decent central mystery and solid character development.

These comments are based on watching the episode in Dutch with English subtitles.
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Primeval: Episode #3.7 (2009)
Season 3, Episode 7
8/10
What will the team do when a knight turns up intent on slaying a dragon?
7 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This episode opens many centuries in the past; a 'dragon' is terrifying the people of a town so a knight is sent to slay it. Back in the present day an anomaly opens in a scrap yard and a creature emerges. The team from the ARC attempt to drive it back but as they do so the knight emerges from the anomaly. Now they have two problems; they must catch the 'dragon' (actually a harmless herbivore) and return the knight to his own time period; something that will be rather harder as he is convinced that he must be in Hell and the people he meets are all demons! Danny and Connor go after the knight while Abby and Becker try to catch the injured creature. Meanwhile Sarah decides to find out more about the knight by making an unsanctioned visit through the anomaly. Away from the action it emerges that Rex has been put up for auction on the internet; Connor is determined to get him back before Abby finds out what her brother did.

This episode was a lot of fun; there are no real antagonists; the dinosaur is fairly harmless and the knight is just confused about what is happening; that doesn't mean he isn't potentially dangerous though... almost all the ARC members are threatened by him at some point as well as some tough-looking bikers in a pub. There are plenty of great scenes; I especially liked the juxtaposition of the 'dragon' and the machines in the scrap yard. There are some decent laughs as the knight goes through modern London; slaying a motorbike and mistaking a biker for Satan (actually he was named Brian). The regular cast did a solid job and Tony Curran impressed as the knight. The subplot involving Rex might seem a little superfluous but it did show how Connor was keen to help Abby without her knowing she even needed his help. Overall this was a fun standalone episode.
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9/10
There are more questions than answers in this intriguing anime
7 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Lain Iwakura is a fairly ordinary, if rather quiet, middle school girl whose life is about to change. After a girl from her school commits suicide pupils start receiving emails from her. Not being particularly interested in 'The Wired', their version of the internet, she doesn't immediately realise that she has been sent one too. She soon starts to take an interest and her father gets her a new computer; it isn't long before she has customised it. Soon things get rather strange; people claim that they have met another Lain in the Wired and two men are seen watching her house. Then the nature of reality starts to be doubted as events in the real world and the wired become hard for Lain to distinguish.

I really enjoyed this series but feel it would benefit from viewing a second time as I was a bit confused, in a good way, at times. From the start there is a good sense of mystery; and that only increases as the series progresses. The series looks good with character designs that suit the darker tone of the show; Lain has a distinctly sorrowful look. The backgrounds are also impressive with the omnipresent power cables that remind us of The Wired. Given that this is almost twenty years old now and is effectively about an alternate version of the internet if feels surprisingly fresh while other early films about the internet often feel very dated. Overall I'd say this certainly won't be for everybody but I'd certainly recommend trying it if you are looking for something a little different.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Le mystère du lac (2015– )
8/10
Vanished by the Lake
6 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This six part French series is set in a small town where teenager Chloe has gone missing fifteen years after two girls of a similar age disappeared without trace. Detective Lise Stocker, who is stationed in Paris, returns home as she was very close friends with the two missing girls. It quickly becomes apparent that Chloe had been investigating the earlier disappearances; not only that she had contacted the man jailed for their killing who had recently been released from jail. He is obviously the prime suspect but claims to be innocent of everything he has been accused of. Inevitably more suspects emerge over the course of the series; including some rather close to home for Lise. To add to the tension we learn that Chloe is alive but trapped in a remote ravine.

I rather enjoyed this mystery even though it did get a little melodramatic towards the end as the finger of suspicion points at one character then another... apart from Lise just about everybody fell under suspicion at one point or another. The cast did a solid job although the real star of the show is the magnificent French scenery. By the end we know who did what but that doesn't mean all questions get answered; some viewers may be disappointed by this but I felt it echoed real life where not all questions are answered. It is of course possible that some of these questions will be answered in the follow-up series 'Le tueur du lac', even though from what I have read it is set in a different lakeside location. Overall this might not be perfect but I still really enjoyed it.

These comments are made after watching the series in French with English subtitles.
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6/10
Love is Like a Cocktail
2 January 2018
This series of three minute shorts follows Chisato Mizusawa a quiet woman who works in an office. When she gets home her husband Sora whips up a delicious cocktail and then she becomes more lively. Each episode features a different cocktail; most, but not all contain alcohol.

Given the length of each episode one can't expect much in the way of plot but even when compared to other short series this lacks plot... there really isn't any it is just Chisato returning home and having a drink. It is still pleasant enough though; Chisato is a cute lead character and Sora is likeable too. Overall I'd say it is enjoyable enough; if you like the sound of it watch a few episodes as a taster; if you don't like it you won't be wasting much time and if you do like it watch the rest.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Anime-Gataris (2017– )
7/10
Will the anime club be shut down?
1 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Minoa Asagaya has just started attending the Sakaneko Private High School when she finds herself pressganged into the school anime club by classmate Alice Kamiigusa despite knowing little about anime. The club members quickly introduce Minoa to the various genres of anime and she gradually becomes a fan. The club is threatened though; for some reason the school council is determined that the anime club must be shut down. Minoa and her new friends must do everything they can to save their clubs from each of the council's plans to shut them down. Later things get weird... very weird.

At first this looks like a typical slice of life comedy about high school students sharing an interest as part of a school club. Early on it is indeed grounded in reality but as time passes things get more extreme than would have initially expected. This might irritate some viewers but others may enjoy its silliness/weirdness. The final two episodes confounded every expectation I had about the series up to then. The characters are fun and typical of the genre and the animation is decent. Overall this wasn't a must see series but it passed the time nicely and certainly managed to surprise me.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Blend S (2017– )
8/10
Maika is a friendly girl but for some reason everybody thinks she is a sadist!
1 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Maika Sakuranomiya is a seemingly ordinary high school girl; she has one problem though; when she smiles it looks more scary than friendly. She manages to but this to her advantage though as a friend gets her a job at Café Stile; an establishment where each of the staff has a distinct personality... she is the 'sadist'. She tries being nice to customers but they feel see is being insulting and treating them like dirt... and they love it! The other staff include the blond Italian manager, Dino, who has a crush on the oblivious Maika; Mafuyu, who plays the 'younger sister despite being 21; Miu, the older sister; Hideri, a boy who dresses as a female idol; and Koyo, the chef.

This was a really enjoyable series with plenty of really funny moments and some great characters. Maiku is a good protagonist with an accidentally hilarious character. Over the course of the series Maiku and her friends provide plenty of laughs while the characters still seem real. I like that the characters are more than just the stereotypes they play at the café; away from work they usually see each other as the people they are rather than the parts they play... although Maiku's 'sadistic' smile does sometimes fool them in an amusing way. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of slice of life comedies with an interesting but not too unusual setting.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Twocar (2017– )
7/10
Sidecar racing girls
31 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This anime series is set on the island of Miyakejima where pairs of school aged girls compete in sidecar races. The most notable pair are Miyata Yuri and Meguro Megumi; two local girls but throughout the series we get to know other girls in the races; these include a pair of twins that are almost impossible to tell apart and another were the there is a definite master and servant relationship between rider and passenger. Over the course of the series we see the teams working together and occasionally having accidents as they work towards the final race; the winner of which will earn the right to compete in the world famous Isle of Man TT. To complicate matters Yuri and Megumi both have feelings for their former coach who has left for the Isle of Man and they hope to see again if they win... then he returns to Japan with some surprising news.

This is an enjoyably series with some really exciting race scenes and there a good variety of characters. The sport is explained well; most notably the relationship between the person controlling the motorbike and her passenger who must constantly move to keep their machine balanced. It is a relationship that demands trust as an accident could very well kill them both. On the down side it does feel a bit repetitive at times, the subplot involving the coach was a bit superfluous and the ending wasn't much of a surprise. The animation was good; particularly in the racing scenes and the character designs were distinctive enough so apart from the twins one is unlikely to confuse who is who. Overall though this was a decent enough series if not a must see.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Kino no tabi (2017– )
10/10
Kino's Journey - The Beautiful World
29 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This anime series follows Kino, a traveller who's gender isn't clear till the penultimate episode and his/her talking motorbike, Hermes, as they visit various very different countries. Kino never stays more than three days in any country irrespective of whether it is a friendly country or somewhere oppressive. On her travels Kino crosses paths fellow traveller Shizu and his talking dog Riku. While most episodes are centred on Kino and Hermes there are some where they barely appear. These include one where Shizu and Riku are joined by a young girl named Ti and one that features a girl who is being kept as a slave. It later emerges that the episodes aren't in chronological order; most notably the one which shows how Kino became a traveller in the first place.

Having loved the original 2003 series I was a little unsure about this... would it be a sequel or a reboot. It turns out it isn't really either. Some episodes do cover stories that were previously shown but most are new, but very much in the spirit of the original. I liked how Kino's gender is ambiguous until the penultimate episode, which is effectively a remake of the fourth episode of the original series, where Kino starts travelling. Anybody not seeing the original may think the idea of a traveller and a talking motorbike might be rather twee but in fact it is quite dark at times; it doesn't shy away from tragedy and we see that Kino's two pistols aren't just for show. The animation is good and the character designs are impressive; the characters are easily recognisable as those from the original without being identical. Overall I heartily recommend this to fans of the original and new viewers.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Konohana Kitan (2017– )
8/10
Slice of life at a hotel staffed by fox-girls
28 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This anime series is set at the Konohanatei hotel. It isn't like other hotels though; its clients are from the spirit world and it is staffed by fox-girls. We are introduced to the establishment as Yuzu joins the staff and gets to know her co-workers Satsuki, Natsume, and Ren who will train her. Over the course of the series we see them dealing with various guests and the introduction of another member of staff; a sentient porcelain doll named Okiku.

This is one of those gentle series that isn't full of action or non-stop gags but is just a joy to watch. The animation and character designs are good and the characters are likeable. Yuzu is a good protagonists and her new friends are varied and interesting. Given the nature of the series one might not expect any twists but the final episode features one that is a real surprise and provides a more than satisfactory conclusion without entirely ruling out further episodes. Overall this series might not be a must see but it is a lot of fun.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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Primeval: Episode #3.6 (2009)
Season 3, Episode 6
8/10
Christine takes over the ARC while Connor, Abby, Sarah and Danny are attacked by giant prehistoric birds
27 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As this episode opens Connor, Abby, Sarah and Danny are in a remote building dressed as though for a 1930's party; Danny does outside and finds himself face to face with a giant birdlike creature. After this prologue we jump back some time; Danny is testing the ARC's security while Connor and Sarah try to figure out how to use the artefact... nobody knows that Christine Johnson is watching their every move with hidden cameras. Danny spots one of the cameras just after Connor activates the artefact; immediately they are ordered to take the artefact to a safe house. They get out moments before Christine arrives and takes control of the ARC. Not surprisingly the safe house is the building we saw in the opening scene. The four find various things including the fancy party clothes; the soon after an anomaly opens and the birds start to attack them. With no weapons it will be a struggle to survive. Meanwhile Abby's brother has invited friends round to play poker and as he loses he puts Rex on the table.

This was an enjoyable episode. The prologue was intriguing and the main story provided plenty of excitement and some great moments. Christine is a good antagonist so it was a lot of fun when she is ultimately thwarted by her own arrogance. Belinda Stewart-Wilson does a fine job in the role; Ben Miller is equally impressive as James Lester, they have some great scenes together. Just as impressive are the scenes in the woods where Connor, Abby, Sarah and Danny are dealing with the birds. These scenes are very tense with some genuinely scary moments... even if we must suspend disbelief as they deliberately run into an old mine field and can spot all of the mines! The scenes involving Abby's brother didn't add much to the story but will inevitably have repercussions later. Overall another fine episode with good scares and an interesting story.
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The Mentalist: Red John's Footsteps (2009)
Season 1, Episode 23
9/10
Red John strikes again
27 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When a woman's body is discovered it looks like the work of serial killer Red John. There is no sign of his signature face but as the CBI examine the scene they look up to see a plane drawing the picture in the sky. Jane is sure that Red John wants him on the case. It turns out that the dead girl was a twin and her sister is missing. The team investigate who paid for the sky-writer and this ultimately leads them to the blind woman he was involved with... she is convinced that he couldn't be Red John but his 'face' has been painted above her bed. Another lead points to a remote property; Jane is determined to go straight away but Lisbon insists on getting a warrant first. While she goes to get the warrant Jane heads there with the local sheriff; a potentially dangerous move.

After not being mentioned for some time it was good to see Red John back again playing Moriarty to Jane's Holmes. The nature of the Red John storyline means we can't expect a final resolution but there is still the satisfaction of seeing one of his acolytes exposed. The story moves along at a good pace with one clue leading to another. The cast is on fine form; Tim Kang and Owain Yeoman are a lot of fun as Cho and Rigsby but it is Simon Baker and Robin Tunney who stand out as Jane and Lisbon; while they may appear to be bickering we good some impressive character development as Jane saves Lisbon, eliminating a possible lead to Red John, shortly after saying he'd give his own life for such a lead. The guest cast are impressive too; most notably Alicia Witt who plays the blind pianist who was involved with a man who may have been Red John. Overall this was an impressive season finale which didn't end with a cliff-hanger.
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Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (2017)
Season 11, Episode 0
8/10
Farewell to Peter Capaldi
26 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
As this episode opens we flashback to the time the very first Doctor is about to regenerate at the South Pole; he doesn't want to regenerate though. It is also time for Peter Capaldi's Doctor to regenerate and he doesn't want to either... he is also at the South Pole and the two Doctor's meet. Their actions are having an effect on time; two soldiers, one English the other German are aiming their pistols at each other in a First World War bomb crater then time seems to stop but not for the English officer. He wanders round the battlefield then suddenly finds himself catapulted through time and space to the two Doctors. Not long afterwards they are joined by what appears to be Bill Potts. There isn't much time for talking though as a spaceship captures the Tardis and the four people. Their captors state that they are 'Testimony' and they travel through time to the moment each person dies for reasons that aren't immediately obvious. Our quartet manage to escape before trying to discover what Testimony is. Things need to be put right and that includes the small matter of The Doctor's regeneration.

I enjoyed this Christmas special. The story was rather fun and it was easy to accept David Bradley as the First Doctor; he does a fine job of playing William Hartnell playing The Doctor. There are plenty of treats for fans including the return of somebody who appears to be Bill Potts and even the brief cameo from Clara and Nardole... although to my mind the latter to appearances were a bit unnecessary. Far better was the identity of the captain whose identity wasn't revealed till the end. There was also an interesting hint to the identity of the German soldier; so subtle I wonder if I was seeing something that wasn't intended... but seeing him sketching certainly made me think of a future German leader who also dabbled in art. Testimony was an interesting antagonist as it was ultimately shown to be benevolent; a refreshing change from the usual series of antagonists. Doctor Who can get a bit PC at times and here it is made clear that the first Doctor's '60s attitudes are out of date; thankfully this is done in an amusing way and does provide a decent number of laughs. The final scene, were the Doctor regenerates was good even if it was really just a teaser for the next series... it was just a pity that the BBC seems to revel in spoiling the surprise by making a big fuss about the new Doctor months before the episode airs rather than surprising the audience. Overall though I'd say this was a fun episode for fans that would probably confuse anybody new to Doctor Who as it features so many references to past events and characters.
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The Mentalist: Blood Brothers (2009)
Season 1, Episode 22
9/10
The tale of Zachariah
24 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When the body of a teenaged boy is discovered at Bright Arch, a small private school based in the woods, the CBI are called in. It quickly becomes obvious that he was murdered, it is also very apparent that Asher MacLean, the man who runs the school, does not see eye to eye with the local police. As the team investigate they discover that a small group of students, who call themselves the 'Z-Krew' have been tormenting a local recluse; they also learn the local ghost story involving Zachariah, a miner who had killed his colleagues before being burnt alive by locals over a century ago.

I really enjoyed this episode; the remote woodland setting added to the atmosphere and the central mystery was interesting. There are a good variety of suspects, one of whom turns out to be innocent of murder but guilty of another serious crime. The legend of Zachariah was rather fun; I liked that we never learn if the events in the story actually happened or it is just part of local mythology. The finale where Jane uses the legend to elicit a confession may have been a little farfetched but it was well handled and could cause some viewers to jump. As one would expect Simon Baker is on fine form as Jane; he provides plenty of laughs as he questions suspects in his own inimitable style. Overall a really good episode even by the standards of this fun series.
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The Mentalist: Miss Red (2009)
Season 1, Episode 21
8/10
Do all doctors have unreadable writing?!
23 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
When multimillionaire businessman Jim Gulbrand is murdered on his yacht the CBI are called in. As the investigation proceeds it emerges that Gulbrand had removed ten million dollars from his bank account and there is no sign that he spent it or invested elsewhere. If somebody knew about the money it would provide a powerful motive. Obvious suspects include his ex-wife who clearly wants every single cent she thinks she is owed and his and his fiancée, Dr Brooke Harper, who Jane quickly suspects isn't who she claims to be. There is also the question of the key found round Gulbrand's neck.

This episode was a lot of fun with an interesting central mystery and plenty of funny moments; I particularly liked how Jane decided that Dr Harper is a fraud based on the fact that her writing is legible... the stereotype about doctor's with unreadable writing is clearly widespread! It isn't the first time Jane has come up against somebody not that dissimilar to his former self; that isn't a problem as the scenes between Simon Baker's Jane and Lisa Sheridan's 'Dr Harper' were rather fun. The ending features a nice twist; I certainly didn't see it coming. Overall another enjoyable episode.
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Netojuu no susume (2017– )
8/10
Recovery of an MMO Junkie
23 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Series protagonist Moriko Morioka had a successful career but now, aged thirty, she has quit... she is now a NEET who spends her time playing 'Fruits de Mer'. This is a video game where she plays as male character 'Hayashi'. Here she makes friends and joins their guild. In particular she gets close to a girl named Lilly who she often sits and chats with. She doesn't tell Lilly she is actually a girl; and certainly doesn't suspect that Lilly might not be. Away from the game she starts to get close to Yuta Sakurai, a handsome young businessman... inevitably it turns out she also knows him in the game but it takes a while before she realises this.

There are plenty of anime series that largely take place within a video game; this one is rather different though; these people aren't trapped in the game and even though we hear the game character's talking it is made clear that what they say is just what the players type... this means it makes sense that they don't realise the genders of their in-game companions. Moriko is also an interesting protagonist; older than most anime protagonists and not the greatest player in the game. It was fun that ultimately what happened in the game wasn't what really mattered it was the friendships formed in real life and the realisation that characters have discussed certain matters in the game not knowing that they actually knew the person in real life. The animation is good and character designs are effective; I particularly liked how the characters in real life have a different, more realistic, style to those in the game. Overall I found this series to be enjoyable and more original than I expected.

These comments are based on watching the series in Japanese with English subtitles.
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