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Theo Robertson

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15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Replace Moffat With Mathieson Now !, 18 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I didn't have high hopes for this episode after seeing the Next Time trailer . Wall paintings representing human beings springing to life . Shades of Season twos Fear Her which is considered to be the weakest story so far in the annals of NuWho . Add to that the failing of the season where too many episodes have a same " seen it all before " quality to them and as I said I didn't have high hopes

The good news is that my low hopes were exceeded far more than reasonably expected and what we have is 45 minutes of the most involving and creepy DOCTOR WHO seen for some time . The Next Time trailer did give away a plot twist but this isn't the whole story . Watching this alone with the lights out it wasn't until the end credits rolled that I realised that unlike so many stories this year the episode managed to keep a consistent quality for the most part

I say for " the most part " because there are a few flaws to the episode which gets it getting 10/10 . I take it this is going to get a lot of full marks ? First of all the Doctor gets sidelined once again and it's up to Clara to carry the story . I'm somewhat of a traditionalist and the show is called DOCTOR WHO and the companion needs rescued rather than resolving the adventure and when the Doctor does turn up at the end it's a case of waving a magic wand to neutralise the monsters but apart from that Mathieson has written a very effective script . Nice to see the supporting characters developed well rather than being mere cyphers

Praise too for director Douglas Mackinnon who introduces some genuinely unsettling imagery . I was often reminded of the " Taxi stuck in a tunnel " scene from 28 DAYS LATER as Clara and her group are stuck in the subway . You could be uncharitable and say it's not too difficult scaring an audience in these type of circumstances but bare in mind this is often perceived as being a children's show and the director is obviously pushing boundaries as to what he can get away with

In conclusion this is one of the more satisfying episodes of NuWho which we rarely see and see rarer under the Moffat era . Considering the same writer was responsible for the previous episode I would like nothing more as a fan than to see Moffat replaced by Mathieson ASAP . I'm not claiming he'd be the new Nigel Kneale or even Terry Nation but for a new writer to television he seems to be on the same wavelength as to what the more reactionary elements of fandom want and that is to get children of all ages hiding behind the sofa . Bye bye Moffat

'71 (2014)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A Good Thriller But The Convoluted Contrived Plotting Stops It From Being An Instant Classic, 16 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

New recruit Gary Hook finds his battalion shipped to Northern Ireland in the Autumn of 1971 . Bidding farewell to his brother who is in care Gary promises him he'll stay safe . However on his first call out in Belfast he finds himself trapped in a republican ghetto . As events unfold he comes across an undercover Military Reaction Force ( MRF ) and they decide Gary might have seen too much for him to be allowed to live

Sorry if I've perhaps given away too much in that plot summary but there is something a little bit misleading about the marketing campaign of this movie . Watching the trailer I instantly had this nailed as a reworking of Anabasis by Greek writer Xenophon from a couple of thousand years ago and which Walter Hill made a career out of reworking via films like THE WARRIORS . For a segment there is an aspect of this to '71 but that's not the whole story and is effectively a conspiracy thriller rather than a straightforward one about a man trapped behind enemy lines

This is a pity because the thriller elements work superbly and my fingernails were much shorter after I left the cinema than they were when I went in . There was also a scene that literally caused me to jump out of my seat and you'll know the scene I'm talking about when you see this movie . You can see why critics and many of the comments on this page are raving about this movie . It's a low budget thriller made by a first time director Yann Demange and yet has great commercial appeal and to coin cinematic cliché had this audience member held in a vice like grip

Where the film doesn't work so well is the conspiracy line in " conspiracy thriller " . Gary you see might have seen something so the MRF unit led by Captain Browning have to get rid of him . Browning it seems has his fingers in every paramilitary pie in Belfast and uses his connections in the republican heartland to find and eliminate Gary . This is the film's major failing - we just have to accept Browning's collusion with all sides and yet there's no logic and motivation for having him to do this . Some people might say it's not beyond the realms of impossibility for military intelligence to have done this in real life but the problem with documenting the Troubles is that rumour , hearsay and myth quickly becomes if not accepted fact then a repeated meme that will never go away . There's also another fault to the plotting where Gary escapes the nationalist Falls Road , finds himself in the loyalist Shankill and because of a plot twist finds himself back in the Falls Road again . In reality there's only a distance of half a mile between the two locations but it's highly unlikely in the era it's set Gary wouldn't have bumped in to an Army or RUC patrol . The implausibility is compounded that the film draws attention to the fact that entrances to these tribal enclaves are guarded by paramilitaries

This is a pity because everything else about the film works brilliantly . It has a great sense of time and place and it's only going on to Wikipedia that I found out the notorious Divis flats area no longer exists . I was willing to bet my life that the pivotal heart stopping scene towards the end was shot there on location . The cast are uniformly superb especially the prolific and constantly overlooked Sean Harris as Browning . It also makes a point now long forgotten that the Official and Provisional wings of the IRA were far from allies . That said bare in mind this is still a fictional work and not a documentary

In summary this might well be the very best film to feature The Troubles , a subject that has never lent itself to satisfying cinema . It's underlying problem is that it tries to be a little bit too complex and bring in a major subplot about the murky world of army spooks when in fact the story might have actually worked better by keeping faith in the premise of a British soldier lost in West Belfast in 1971 and it's this that stops the film becoming something of an instant classic it's being heralded as from some quarters . Nevertheless I give it 8/10

Works Once But Doesn't Lend Itself To Repeat Viewing, 14 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had great memories of watching this away back in the Spring of 1981 . With the legendary duo of Robert Holmes and Douglas Camfield , both best known for their work on DOCTOR WHO in the 60s and 70s this had all the hallmarks of being " The Quatermass of the 1980s " and watching it on its initial and sole broadcast in 1981 it didn't disappoint . Well until the last 15 minutes of the final episode when it's revealed that the antagonist isn't an alien fiend with a fetish for human flesh but a deranged communist serviceman from the Soviet Union . Perhaps knowing this plot revelation spoiled much of my enjoyment watching after a gap of over 30 years ? It's not dreadful by any means but doesn't lend itself to repeat viewings

To be fair to the production team it doesn't have a Hollywood budget but the production team in general and Camfield in particular manage to bring a brooding , claustrophobic atmosphere to the proceedings . Okay it's achieved by very simple and clichéd means by smothering everything in fog and relying on monster POV shots . Indeed it's the horror aspects that work best and stick long in the memory such as the very memorable attack on the coastguard station that makes up the climax of episode three . Bare in mind also that this was broadcast pre-watershed on Friday nights so there's little gore but never the less it does show that you don't need gore to terrify an audience . The downside is that these aspects overwhelm the rest of the story , especially if you know how the story turns out and the characters come across as stock bland one dimensional cyphers

No doubt if you're on the wrong side of 40 you might have vivid memories of this show . It works very well in segments but not enough to make THE NIGHTMARE MAN a satisfying whole . If you've not seen it before you might enjoy it but if you saw it in 1981 you might be left with a nagging sense of disappointment after seeing it again

Functional Sci-Fi Horror But Not Much More Than That, 12 October 2014

With the success of THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT Hammer films immediately decided to do a sequel and this is that film but Nigel Kneale wisely decided to have nothing to do with it and was adamant the company weren't going to using his character of Bernard Quatermass to appear . I say " wisely " but X THE UNKNOWN isn't by any means a bad film but lacks that little something and one wonders if involvement by the visionary and oh so intelligent Kneale would had lifted the screenplay above being merely average and in to undisputed classic British sci-fi horror ? It's a film you may remember from years ago but upon seeing again realise it's the sum of its parts rather than a consistent whole

Directed by Leslie Norman ( Barry's dad ) the scene is set in the opening sequence with a bleak cold winters day in the Scottish Highlands and a unit of the Royal Engineers on training maneuvers . In those days Britain had a conscript army and if nothing else the film does make a point that forcing young men in to routine military duties seemed rather senseless . It also contrasts a rather mundane setting with the horrors about to come . Norman is rather effective but his job is relatively easy in using night filming , scary music and a build up of people about to be killed by a blob of radioactive mud . Let's be honest and say it's not to difficult to frighten an audience via this type of convention . May be we should also be charitable and point out the melting effect is rather well done but it's difficult to be scared by something that's just a pile of mud

The cast are okay but nothing more than that . Reminding ourselves this was originally supposed to be a QUATERMASS film Brian Donlevy's much maligned performance would have probably been an improvement than Dean Jagger's rather flat substitute role . At least Donlevy would have been a bit more brusque and arrogant and a scene where the father of a dead child condemns the men of science might have had a bigger impact . That said the characters throughout the film are rather non descript and lack a spark to them

X THE UNKNOWN works well enough as a science fiction horror film . It's a good idea on paper and does contain a few scenes that are more than efficient but you're left with the nagging suspicion that more could have been done with the premise , characters and perhaps most of all the big bad monster . Sometimes you wish Nigel Kneale could have written a few more QUATERMASS teleplays

18 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
" Are You My Mummy ? " Where Have I Heard That Before ?, 11 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A space train called " The Orient Express " and based upon its Earth counterpart makes a journey across the Stars . The Doctor and Clara materialise upon it and find that a woman has died at the hands of a mythological creature similar to the mummified corpses of ancient Egypt . As it turns out the woman won't be the first to die

One of the most frustrating things about NuWho is that it never seems able to sustain a consistent pace . An RTD episode would constantly veer all over the place and the Steven Moffat era has often been worse . Take last week which saw twenty minutes of the scariest television ever then proceeded to blow everything with a plot turn featuring a giant chicken ! For clucks sake get a grip . I didn't have high hopes for this episode which gives away its premise in the title and conjures up all sorts of juvenile shenanigans . Perhaps low expectations helped because I thoroughly enjoyed this for the most part

Capaldi's interpretation of the Doctor has thankfully settled down . I've always had the impression that he's trying to play it as a hybrid between Tom Baker and Christopher Ecccleston and here he really nails the persona of the 12th Doctor . Perhaps not as dark as he was in the Dalek episode but infinitely better than he has been in the rest of the season where the writers have been using him as a plot device and where his personality has been shoehorned in to mirroring the tone of the episode which unfortunately killed a lot of the potential of previous episodes . Here's hoping tonight sees the concrete foundations of the 12th Doctor laid . Likewise let's hope that it's the Doctor that resolves the plot rather than the companion

As good as Jamie Mathieson's script is at mixing intrigue , horror and drama in to a satisfying mix that gels there is one slight problem that I feel stops the episode from achieving undisputed classic status and that is the revelation as to what the Mummy is . We saw the same type of reveal in The Doctor Dances from the Eccleston series and later in Smith's The Curse Of The Black Pearl and despite the great build up to the end the final pay off is something of an anti-climax

Not to be too critical Mummy On The Orient Express is one of the more enjoyable episodes of NuWho in general and of the Moffat era in particular , It's interesting that it's written by a new comer to the show and one wonders if this might be down to more than coincidence ? Regardless of this it does show that DOCTOR WHO works best when it's trying to be science fiction horror fantasy

25 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
We're Off To Button Moon With Clara And Doctor Spoon . Button Moon, 4 October 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Doctor takes Clara and Courtney to the Moon in 2049 and find a Earth mission carrying hundreds of nuclear bombs . As it turns out the potential menace of the nuclear bombs is nothing compared to the very real horrors menacing the expedition and ultimately humanity itself

This really is one of the most schizophrenic pieces of television ever produced . For 25 minutes the audience are treated to some of the most shockingly brilliant pieces of DOCTOR WHO ever . right up there with The Web Of Fear and The Seeds Of Doom . This middle aged , jaded and oh so bitter, cynical viewer is not ashamed to say that he genuinely jumped out of his seat at a couple of scenes . What drama . What horror . What suspense . What a great television show DOCTOR WHO is to have terrified children of all ages over the generations . Whoever said this is a show for children can shut up for ever

Oh hold on a minute what's happening here ? Out go the giant spider bacteria thingies and in comes plot turns that are more fitting in a juvenile children's fantasy . The Moon is really an egg ! Hmmm well I don't believe in life on other planets but DOCTOR WHO is my all time favourite show so I suppose I'll have to suspend some disbelief but the script makes that very difficult indeed and throws a very large spanner in the works by having a public vote which doesn't really make sense . Everyone has to turn their lights out ? Hmmm so who gets to turn out the street lights and the ones in office blocks etc etc ? Surely not everyone would have been watching the broadcast anyway etc etc Cue also lots of teeth gnashing and moral debating which is manipulative and not nearly as half as sophisticated as it thinks it is

Maybe I shouldn't too scathing because when this episode was good it bordered on brilliant and I was more than ready to give the episode ten out of ten but suddenly things lost their momentum and I felt like the cast had suddenly walked in to something broadcast on the CBBC channel . I certainly prefer the show with Capaldi more than I did with Smith but can't remember the last time an episode grabbed me from the opening scene and compelled me totally till the end credits . This episode came close but not close enough

38 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
More Care Should Have Been Taken In Thinking Up A Plot, 27 September 2014

One problem with getting used to NuWho is comparing it to the classic series . With NuWho the story lines are streamlined and compared to the 21st Century the old show is somewhat plodding and lacking in shape . The six part stories in the 1970s especially suffer badly from this . In their defence the episodes weren't meant to be watched consecutively one after another and quite often they disguised their short comings by being atmospheric and dramatic . A one part 45 episode from 2014 should have no padding . What's worse it can have no excuses for padding but that's what we got tonight from Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat

Right chap lets have a monster . What type of monster ? I know a robotic monster . Didn't we have robotic enemies in the first three weeks of this series ? Yes we did but we've gone two weeks without a robotic monster so lets bring one back and give it an incredibly silly name . And no one loses their memory this week so the audience can't claim there's a lack of variety . Aren't we clever ?

I bet these DOCTOR WHO script meetings are very entertaining . And very short too . Shocking to think this episode was broadcast at 8.30 pm very close to the watershed where British television is allowed to be risqué and cutting edge . Any hope that this episode will push out the boundaries of the show's perimeters are soon dashed . what we sadly have is something similar to THE SARAH JANE SMITH ADVENTURES as interpreted by Steven Moffat . Lots of quips , one liners , quips , zaniness , quips , one liners and quips . Oh and there's a robot with a silly name that appears for about two minutes , then disappears . Then more quips , more one liners , more zany stuff more quips and more one liners . Oh here's the robot again for two minutes . The end

I'm really starting to get frustrated . Capaldi still remains to have the potential as the greatest Doctor in the history of the show but he's constantly hamstrung by Moffat's scripting . If you're wondering why Moffat has so many co-scripting credits this year that's because the scripts were written in a generic manner by the other writers without the 12th Doctors persona being established so Moffat has had to rewrite the stories to bring in a more rooted 12th Doctor . Again Moffat has made a bad job of it and Capaldi seems to be playing a different character every week in stories that have a sameness to them . In the classic series it was the Doctor who remained the same week in week out with the stories having variety . Mind you that was produced under a succession of different producers who all brought their own vision to the show then moved on when they had enough . Some of us have had more than enough of Moffat a long time ago

19 out of 33 people found the following review useful:
Listen It's Disjointed And Been Done Before As Far Back As Last Week, 20 September 2014

The Doctor invites Clara to another journey in the Tardis and within moments they find they have lost their memory

" Hey wait a minute Theo. Haven't we seen this type of plot before ? If I remember correctly we had the same opening in last weeks episode ? "

Pathetic isn't it ? In a week where Alex Salmond came close to creating a new independent Scotland the fate of the world's most flexible TV drama lies in the hands of two other Scotsmen - one behind the camera and in front of the camera and it's the one behind the camera who is letting down the one in front of it . Love him or loathe him at least Salmond took the independence debate and stood down as party leader when he'd ultimately taken his party as far as it could go . Not so with Moffat who seems to have installed himself as some sort of television equivalent of a banana republic president for life type dictator

That said Time Heist isn't a dreadful episode but personifies the description of mid season runaround . There's nothing painfully embarrassing about it but by the same token nothing compelling that will have you gasping for breath and discussing it with all your friends the next day

What is rather problematic for the story it feels like a story that was originally planned as two episodes at an early draft stage then somewhere along the line the production suddenly got turned in to a single episode . Elements such as The Teller are just touched upon and never really developed in to something bigger and better . There's also the constant need for characters to run around explaining the plot mechanics which from a storytelling point of view must be seen as something of a failure . Without this exposition we'd be watching nothing more than a convoluted mess and the story never escapes from this disjointed feel

Not to be too negative try and imagine how much worse this would have been with Smith running about in full blown shouting mode . Capaldi is very good indeed but unfortunately he's the one carrying the show and being a new incarnation of the Doctor it disguises the fact that plots and concepts are being constantly reincarnated by Moffat . Much the first half of the season has been done before , especially the Dalek episode . A wise man once said " History repeats itself , first as tragedy then as farce " . I'm afraid we reached the farcical stage some time ago and looks like continuing in to the future

28 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
Well Made Though A Little Bit Empty, 13 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Doctor discusses evolution with himself but can't recall writing " Listen " on the Tardis blackboard . Meanwhile Clara's date with Danny isn't going well

A BBC show featuring adults creeping in to children's bedrooms ! Insert your own punch lines but it says something about DOCTOR WHO that it's the only TV show that can get away with this . In every way possible it's a unique show which is why it is guaranteed immortality . It can be anything from one week to the next , one week you're watching a full blown horror story and the next week you're watching a meta-fictional black romantic comedy

There might a downside to this . Last week we were watching some light hearted fluff featuring Robin Hood and his merry men with a not so merry android in ye days of olde . The problem with that was that The Doctor/s personality was shoehorned to fit the story and was a bit too zany and frivolous to take seriously , and was a direct contrast to what we saw in the two previous stories . Here he's back to a more dark brooding Doctor that suits the story , but there's not a lot of consistency to the 12th Doctor and seems to be a different character every week . Likewise Clara who I've never taken to is nothing more than a plot device and quite often is written as a surrogate Doctor character

Not to be too negative - I liked this episode , no honestly I did - it's vey well made and revolves around the human psyche of being terrified of something under the bed . Some people might claim it was DOCTOR WHO itself that started this cultural meme , until you read DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS written in 1951 where the narrator tells of his fear lying in a hospital bed recounting a childhood fear of sticking his foot out from beneath the bedclothes and someone or something grabbing it . It's fairly safe to say humanity has always feared what's under the bed

There a couple of slight letdowns to the episode . I had the mysterious monster definitely nailed as being the Silence from the Smith era so it's something of an anti-climax that this goes totally unresolved , though it might be built upon later in the season . Last week's trailer gave away an important plot twist where it's revealed it's the Pink character wearing the spacesuit rather than the audiences expectation that it's the Doctor . Please BBC think out what you're putting in the Next Time trailer And as for Danny nice to see the BBC showing a character who is ex-military in a positive light . Hopefully we'll see the show continue in a similar vein with a slight more bite to the episodes

36 out of 59 people found the following review useful:
Does What It Says On The Tin , But Not Very Well, 6 September 2014

Watching NuWho I often find myself comparing it to how a story from the classic series would have structured the narrative . With Robot Of Sherwood by Mark Gatiss it's very easy to see how this story would have ended up if made from 1963-89

Episode 1 ) Introduces most of the major characters

Episode 2 ) More development of the story

Episode 3 ) Revelation of most of the mystery of the story and the villain's plan

Episode 4 ) Resolution of plot . Goodbyes are said

Here in a 45 minute episode the format constricts the story in to something unsatisfying . It's not a brevity of storytelling but a rather deeper problem . It's a somewhat frivolous episode which is something to be expected via the title , camp adventure with Robin Hood and his men but is there any need for the Doctor to join in the fun ? I loved Capaldi's performance from the last two episodes but here I wasn't impressed mainly due to the writing , and did we need a story featuring robots so soon after the droids from the season opener ? Get some new ideas Mr Moffat or change the running order of the season

Being 45 minutes it's the same format as a two episode story from the old show but again one can't feel in those days the production team would have developed the story better with dramatic pauses . Here however much of the so called drama is relegated to bickering dialogue between the Doctor and Robin . If you've got 45 minutes to play with concentrate on plot and don't waste it by having disposable scenes in dungeons . I did notice Gatiss trying to bring in a Marxist subtext with some of the dialogue and paint Robin Hood as a communist freedom fighter but it's hardly DOCTOR WHO at its most thought provoking and cerebral . The episode is almost ruined by some of the laziest resolution seen in an episode which leads you think if Gatiss had 30 seconds to resolve the story

In summary this is one of those episodes that you know in advance is nothing more than light disposable fun but you're still left with a nagging disappointment after seeing it . It's not quirky or funny enough to be genuinely amusing and it's not dramatic enough to be entirely serious enough . Perhaps worst of all it's not good enough to suspend your disbelief and comes across as 45 minutes of very disposable television

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