TV Review: Doctor Who – Eve of the Daleks

As we hurtle towards 13’s incoming regeneration, the Doctor gets stuck in a time loop with Aisling Bea, Adjani Salmon and some Daleks in the entertainingly done Eve of the Daleks

“Is it a toxic, hazardous or radioactive board game?”

The first of three Doctor Who specials to take us up to Jodie Whittaker and Chris Chibnall’s departure from the show, Eve of the Daleks proved to be one of my favourite festive specials of recent times. Mainly, it has to be said, because there wasn’t anything particularly festive shoehorned into the story, it was just a tightly scripted (mostly) standalone episode that didn’t let itself get too bogged down in series lore or seasonal schmaltz.

Ironically, at the end of Flux I was sure I wanted a proper investigation of the consequences of so much of the universe having been destroyed but apparently I could do just fine without it. Instead, this almost-bottle episode made a virtue of the Covid restrictions it was clearly filmed under by minimising cast and locations and digging into some fairly deep emotional stuff. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who – Eve of the Daleks”

TV Review: Doctor Who Flux (Series 13)

Opting for a miniseries for Series 13 of Doctor Who certainly changes up the pace well, as Flux comes to a breathless end with some great work by Jodie Whittaker

“Do you think running will help?”

And so the end begins for Jodie Whittaker, and for Chris Chibnall. The 13th Doctor and her showrunner had a three-series-and-out deal which they are honouring and so this final season – a miniseries called Flux and three specials – will take us up to the centenary of the BBC in late 2022 and the regeneration of the Time Lord into…well, whoever the returning Russell T Davies decides.

One might have thought opting for the ostensibly more focused notion of a miniseries, of one overarching story stripped over six episodes, would have made Flux a simpler affair than the last few series of Doctor Who but Chibnall clearly had other plans. But having reached the end, I’d say that it was a good deal more fun than anticipated, a full-on caper merely teasing traumatic revelations about the Doctor’s selves rather diving full on into the morass of series lore. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Flux (Series 13)”

TV Review: Doctor Who Flux Episode 1

The end begins… Jodie Whittaker’s final full season as Doctor Who starts with ‘The Halloween Apocalypse’, episode 1 of Flux

“Synchronize watches. Forget that: I’m not wearing a watch”

There’s perhaps something a little awry when news of a show’s new showrunner overtakes the show itself but such is the way of the Doctor Who discourse. Russell T Davies coming back to the show is undoubtedly a huge development but it does feel a bit of a shame that this was announced before Jodie Whittaker at least got to start her final series in the TARDIS. But whaddya gonna do?

For Series 13, Chris Chibnall has opted to shake up the model and so we’re being given Flux, a six-part single story ahead of a handful of specials next year which will lead to Whittaker’s departure. This era has been, not necessarily hit and miss for me but something less than essential, though I think that it is perhaps as much me growing apart from Doctor Who a touch, something that actually started in the Capaldi era. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Flux Episode 1”

Review: Doctor Who – Time Fracture

It’s the end of the universe – so of course Doctor Who – Time Fracture is utterly chaotic. It is also rather good fun.

“The gateway is active”

Time Fracture isn’t the first time Doctor Who has ventured into the world of immersive theatre. Punchdrunk’s The Crash of the Elysium was a triumph a decade ago so it’s about time (and relative dimension in space) that we got another and fresh from the success of their Gatsby experience, Immersive Everywhere have launched this huge new immersive endeavour. A time bomb has been dropped in 1940s London but its cataclysmic explosion is only due in the near future. Only us – a team of volunteers recruited by the Doctor – can save the day – sonic screwdrivers at the ready.

The need for #spoilers means that I can’t give too much away but the show takes full advantage of the cracks in time caused by the bomb falling to offer up vignettes that involve major historical figures, explore far-future technological innovation and nod to the rich and varied legacy of Doctor Who and its iconic characters. I can safely say I had two properly wish-I-could-hide-behind-the-sofa moments – one of which is ingeniously staged late on – and two hairs-on-end moments, one of which reconfirming just how brilliant Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor is. Continue reading “Review: Doctor Who – Time Fracture”

TV Review: Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks

Teed up as the big farewell for two companions, Revolution of the Daleks was still a treat as Doctor Who returned to the festive schedule

“Sometimes we get a bit scared cos new can be a bit scary, right?”

Just a quickie for this perennial favourite. Doctor Who was quite lucky in that they got their Christmas episode in the can in good time pre-pandemic, it was actually filmed back in 2019 when Covid was but a Chinese whisper. And the way of these things as they are these days, we already knew that Revolution of the Daleks would mark the end of the TARDIS journeys for two of her current companions – would we get an Adric-style death to take us into 2021?

Spoiler alert, of course not. Ryan and Graham got to go back to Sheffield no problem, complete with psychic paper mementos, and even Sharon D Clarke’s Grace came back to welcome them home, well her ghost did at least. Dramatically it might not have been the punchiest way to go but in the end, it felt like the right thing to do , reflecting the relative normality of the ‘fam’ and their inter-relationships. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who – Revolution of the Daleks”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12 Episode 1

Doctor Who returns for its twelfth series with a rollicking spy caper in Spyfall and a masterful twist at the end

“Don’t be ridiculous, the Doctor is a man
‘I’ve had an upgrade'”

Just a quickie as the latest series of Doctor Who starts with a real bang, neatly killing off Stephen Fry in short order before he got too annoying, making Lenny Henry a Zuckerberg-esque tech villain and introducing Sacha Dhawan into the cast where he looks set to be a genius addition.

Borrowing liberally from a range of spy capers, I enjoyed this widescreen take on the Doctor, splashing a fair bit of the budget on some strong location work, the effects team keeping the threat of the shadowy aliens ominously vague, and the returning team settling nicely into their established dynamic. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12 Episode 1”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11

Series 11 of Doctor Who comes to an end and it’s a big yes from me – a hugely successful refresh for this beloved series

“I have to lay down the rules if someone’s new”

From the opening episode, I knew that Series 11 of Doctor Who was going to do it for me. New head writer and executive producer Chris Chibnall’s reset was most obvious in the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor but it was his other changes – namely a real widening of the pool of writers and a pronounced shift in tone – that really defined the shape of this new Doctor Who.

For all its sci-fi nature, that shape was decidedly human. The tragic death of Sharon D Clarke’s Grace was a defining moment in that opening episode, providing the trigger for this TARDIS crew to come together. And rather beautifully, the series really allowed for a full exploration of everyone’s different grief at her passing, culminating in the brutal power of Ed Hime’s ninth episode It Takes You Away.

And pivoting away from the oft-times densely packed complexity of the show’s mythology, the storytelling pointed less at grand alien threats but rather to the foibles of human nature – the enemy within. The racism of Rosa, written by Malorie Blackman with Chibnall, Vinay Patel’s exploration of the British colonial legacy around Partition in Demons of the Punjab, this was science-fiction as its most powerful, commenting powerfully on contemporary society (and naturally provoking the kind of outrage you’d expect). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 1 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth

Jodie Whittaker more than lives up to expectations as Doctor Who in Series 11 Episode 1 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth – plus Bradley Walsh may well make you cry

“Half an hour ago I was a white haired Scotsman”

“Change my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon”. From the mouth of the Sixth Doctor himself, the very nature of Doctor Who (both the programme and the Time Lord) has always been its infinite variety. So it’s about bloody time that we now have the first female in the role – the excellent Jodie Whittaker – as new show-runner Chris Chibnall makes his definitive mark on the BBC serial.

And on the evidence of this first episode (and, let’s face it, to anyone with common sense), the Doctor’s gender is of little consequence. The ability to act as if you have two hearts knows no bounds, who knew, and the hints of Whittaker’s Doctor that were allowed to peek through the regenerative funk suggest we’re in for something of a real treat with an effervescent sense of personality shining through. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 11 Episode 1 – The Woman Who Fell to Earth”