While I'm about it, for those curious to see what I thought of Steven Moffat's first Doctor Who Christmas special, my review from not long after broadcast is still online at This Way Up.
sir_guinglain: (ClaraEleven)
( Jun. 2nd, 2013 12:56 am)
He's off, then, after all, just when I had expected that he would be doing the 2014 series. If, as some sources suggest, this is part of a general relaunch which will try to restore momentum for the series after three years of reduced episode counts and allegedly troubled production, then good luck to it; though increasingly globalised television production, and the relatively small sums available in British television, have exposed Matt Smith to opportunities to develop his career away from the madman in a box.

Years and years ago, Steven Moffat pointed out that had Tom Baker played the Doctor in the television environment of 1999 or 2000, one would have been lucky to get three years out of him as the offers would have poured in and he would have been spirited away to a new project. Happily, Doctor Who is not a television backwater now, and let's hope it never is again; but it might mean that we are unlikely to see a run of more than three series for any future Doctor, even if more money can be found (and experience in arranging co-productions was an essential or desirable factor, I recall, in the recent recruitment procedure which led to Brian Minchin being appointed as the new non-writing executive producer).

The production office change what the Doctor looks like without consulting fans or the press; as ever, whatever Steven Moffat says about there being someone out there, unknowing, ends in Doctor Who are moments that have been prepared for. Change and renewal is more important than just going on living. It's far from being all over, so keep warm while the ancient ritual of new Doctor-speculation unfolds.
This is as far as I got with a review of last week's episode...

If the Doctor Who of the mid-1980s gluttonously consumed set menus of its history without really understanding what it devoured, its fifty-year-old self has a more delicate palate. Hide selected from a carefully-prepared buffet of vintage images and words which had been matured in the oak barrels of professional reflection rather than the plastic tumblers of nostalgic adolescents. Hide owed much to the broad Doctor Who gothic of the mid-1970s and advertised this, but despite an initial heady bouquet resulting from the careful grafting of time-honoured vines, its roots were firmly planted in the bed of contemporary television.

Though usually associated most with the first three Tom Baker seasons and the influence of producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes, the trappings of gothic horror had been borrowed by earlier stories in the 1970s including The Daemons and more relevantly for Hide, Day of the Daleks. The country house setting and the ghost who is not a ghost, together with the military associations of Professor Palmer, suggest that this is more of a third Doctor gothic story than a fourth Doctor one. The use of the Metebelis crystal in a lash-up reminiscent of that which helped finish off poor Professor - Mister Clegg in Planet of the Spiders only confirms it.

----
Other points would have been the rainstorms - Universal horror films via The Brain of Morbius; acknowledgements to Nigel Kneale and The Stone Tape (although Hide has a happier ending); remote kinship with Primeval and its anomalies and monsters, perhaps, in the shape of the Crooked Man; the continued sense that the Doctor is journeying through a projection of his own past and memories, with Clara as a kind of lodestone. Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott play their love story well, though Matt Smith in particular seems rather at odds with them, though this is also true of the Doctor. After being apparently neglected in Cold War the mystery of Clara returns - and Clara has a different perception of the Doctor's relationship to mortals to the one the series seems to have embraced up until now. It's not that everyone to the Doctor is alive at once, it's that they are dead... but is it not that all time travellers are ghosts?
No long-form review for another site from me this week, but instead a few words of praise for Mark Gatiss's best script for the programme since The Unquiet Dead, Douglas Mackinnon's best episode as director full stop, and a claustrophobic set which nevertheless allowed cast and camera to move around. The lighting was a character in itself, cold and blue, green and red and Martian by turns. There was of course a huge amount of programme-literacy and fan literacy, from the reference to the HADS (we all knew what had caused the TARDIS to disappear straightaway, I'm sure) to the expansion of Martian lore building on the little stated on screen in their four previous appearances. Mark Gatiss surely knew, too, of the expectations of fans back in 1983 that the impending Warriors of the Deep would feature the Ice Warriors, and now that the Cold War can't be projected into the distant future of the twenty-first century, here it is as a historical backdrop which efficiently gives form to the deftly-stroked but broad-brushed characters and gives fans of a certain vintage the reunion which they had longed for. Taking the armoured turtle shape of the Ice Warrior and deconstructing it to reveal (though not entirely) the fast, spindly Martian inside made minor acknowledgement to the Quatermass and the Pit Martians, but a greater debt to Alien. There was a clear debt to The Ice Warriors too; at war with the elements and the West, the submarine was besieged by ice and by its opposing power bloc and by the present temptation to bring destruction on the world.

The forty-five minute slot remains a minor problem; a few more minutes of reflection, development and tension would not have come amiss, though they were not missed as much as they were last week. Materialising the Doctor and Clara more in media res than is usual was an effective storytelling device; the Doctor explains and vindicates himself not by words or the rehearsal of actions but by his deeds even more urgently than before. As for the future, do Earth and humanity remain forfeit to the (former) inhabitants of Mars? Like its kin-story Dalek eight years ago, the demonstration of the capabilities of a single Ice Warrior argues the case for reacquaintance with the species as a whole in Doctor Who.
Still no new icon...

...but my review of The Rings of Akhaten should be up at the reviews section of the Doctor Who News Page soon.

edited to add: It's now up, and here's the direct link.
Officers and cars respond to urgent calls; or all calls, depending on how the TARDIS is feeling.

Anyway, my thoughts on the story will be appearing at the Doctor Who News Page reviews section, I hope, in the not-too-distant future. They are generally positive.

ETA: Here's the review: apologies for the lack of formatting and the use of 'St John' rather than the canonical 'Saint John'.
The official announcement of Caroline Skinner's departure as executive producer:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/doctorwho/articles/Doctor-Who-Executive-Producer-Moves-On

An odd half-story suggesting disagreements between the two executive producers but not adding any details (ETA: Other sources suggesting it's rubbish):
http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/03/13/doctor-whos-executive-producer-steps-down-with-immediate-effect/
I'd noticed how recent publicity for the new series of Doctor Who has emphasised its historical settings, with leaks from the set over the last few months revealing that the nineteenth century seems to be visited several times. Just as Doctor Who in 2005 had borrowed imagery and themes from the contemporary aspirational working-class drama genre, in 2012/13 it was borrowing the clothes of the new strand of historical series. Now the blog of The Journal of Victorian Culture, no less, has weighed in with a look at The Snowmen as an item of current neo-Victorianism. Definitely worth a look.
My review is up at Doctor Who Reviews. I'm tempted to write a second piece dealing with the Doctor's character - and I didn't pick up on the issue of the Doctor carrying a gun at all (which has outraged Stuart Ian Burns), though should have noted that there was something vaguely disturbing about the Doctor's last finger-pistol fight with Dockery. Dalek nanogenes? Compromised by the Angels? Cynical characterisation? Hm.
I presume that I have the 3.30am BST slot again at Doctor Who Reviews, so expect an update then...

EDIT: Warning - it's somewhat OTT, if it does appear.
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