Saturday, 30 August 2014

Into the Dalek written by Phil Ford & Steven Moffat and directed by Ben Wheatley

This story in a nutshell: The Invisible Enemy meets Resurrection of the Daleks meets Daleks meets Let's Kill Hitler...

Indefinable: Have we ever had a Doctor who is so willing to self-analyse so early in his tenure. The norm is that the Doctor regenerates, spends his first story getting used to his new body and from his second story onwards he strides off into the universe to new adventures. The New Series has been obsessed with tackling the Time Lord's psychological issues but with the ninth Doctor it was a case of slowly unpeeling the character over thirteen episodes, the tenth started out fairly happy go lucky and began to self-reflect as time went on and the eleventh Doctor tended to try and forget his past the more his time went on (pointed out in The Day of the Doctor where it all came back to him with a vengeance). The twelfth Doctor is so ready to find some kind of resolution about his character he practically sniffs out a situation where that will be determined. He's so prepared to look into his soul that you have to wonder if he will wind up a poet. Wonderfully however by the end of Into the Dalek he still manages to lack practically any definition with very few characteristics that you grab hold of and say are instinctively his. Despite muddying the waters about his morality, he is still a bit of a mystery. I like that a lot. And I especially like the opening scene where once again he refuses to make allowances for visitors to the TARDIS and make them feel at home. Like the first Doctor, he treats people like intruders and he tells them things precisely how they are rather than sugar coating it. This TARDIS scene was the highlight as far as the Doctor is concerned, a genuinely sinister moment in a noisy, busy episode. The music is wonderful, capturing the ominous tone of Stannis Boratheon's scenes in Game of Thrones. He is pondering the question of whether he is a good man, a riddle that troubles him because he has never been in any doubt before. Bathed in the blue glow of the Dalek cell, the Doctor looks as cold as ice and twice as deadly. Wonderfully the Doctor gets into a real strop when Journey hurts the Dalek from inside. I never thought he would be an advocate for protecting these creatures and I'm pleased he can still surprise me like that. If the Doctor recognises what has addled this particular Dalek's mind, isn't he a bit idiotic to correct the problem and then stand there going 'No! No! No!' afterwards? It reminds me of Peri pushing the Doctor down the hill in The Mark of the Rani and then looking highly perturbed when he trundles away into danger. What did he think would happen? Understandably the Doctor has a natural hatred for these creatures given their disturbing history and so once the Rusty looks into his mind it is consumed by his dark thoughts about his most implacable foes. Turning a Dalek into a merciless killer because of his sheer revulsion of their race, this is one dark Doctor indeed. The fact that he was convinced that he was going to hand the Dalek a soul and instead he exacerbated its homicidal nature was as much of a shock to him as it was to us. More please. Is he a good man? He tries to be that is probably the point.

Mysterious Girl: After flirting with being a real person for the entirety of Deep Breath (one of the strongest aspects of a frankly underwhelming debut story for the new era), Clara is back to being irritatingly self assured. Her insecurity was fun while it lasted. She shows no anxiety about being shrunk to the size of a grain of rice and being placed inside one of the most evil creatures that has ever lived. Clara acts like that is as natural a going down the shops for some milk. It is entirely my problem but what is the deal with constantly dropping the companions off at the end of each adventure these days? Not so much a trip of a lifetime but short sneezes of adventure before picking up their old lives. It feels as if no companions want to commit to a life with the Doctor any more. Bizarrely the only time Clara really works is when she is pondering the new Doctor's persona, existing vicariously through the troubled Time Lord rather than possessing a personality in her own right. I don't understand why it is okay for Clara to slap the Doctor around the face...frankly I think he is perfectly within his rights to slap her back (and don't get me started on this it's okay for a woman to do it to a man but not a man to a woman, sexism is sexism whatever way you approach it). The Doctor's companions are astonishingly critical of him these days but without much explanation to make the disapproval valid. I wish he had turned around and told her he didn't give a damn what she thought, I would have respected that far more than him conceding to her disapproval.

Ex-Soldier: An interesting prospect, this because Danny Pink is presented as an instantly damaged character. Immediately he is more engaging than Clara because he has a lot of injury that is going on beneath the surface and that can boil up with provocation. Much more fascinating than goody two shoes, take everything in my stride Clara and frankly he would have been much more useful a character to explore in the physical conflict that this episode flaunts. He's an ex-soldier, he has done terrible things and he hasn't quite come terms with that yet. Okay so as presented here he is practically John Watson from the revived Sherlock in that respect but points for trying something completely different with a male companion. I don't think we have explored a vulnerable, broken male companion since Steven Taylor back in the shows first three years. Samuel Anderson makes an instant impression but his scenes are rather hampered by the fact that his chemistry with Clara lacks sparkle. They are saying all the right things but there is little between them that gets me excited. If the idea is to recapture the Ian/Barbara relationship then there is a long way to go yet. Something tells me that had these scenes been scripted under Russell T. Davies' tutelage it would have bounced off the page into the actors mouths. Like much of this episode, it was functional but lacked heart. I would respect Moffat far more if he would have let Clara be a good friend to Danny, to help him through his trauma without any kind of sexual connotation but he simply cannot write Doctor Who without a stirring in his trousers.

Sparkling Dialogue: 'I'm his carer' 'Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don't have to.'
'Are you out of your mind?' 'No I'm inside a Dalek!'
'Victory would have been a good Dalek.'

The Good:

* The Daleks are back to being complete bastards again. After being castrated in Victory of the Daleks, calcified in The Big Bang and had their insecurities aired in Asylum of the Daleks you could almost believe that the Doctor's most frightening opponent had suffered limp plunger syndrome. Fortunately Into the Dalek features the most Dalek action (them dashing about and murdering for sheer pleasure) since The Stolen Earth. I like my Daleks as mean badasses and that is exactly what I got here.
* This story opens in a dogfight in space. We haven't seen one of those before on Doctor Who and it was certainly an attention grabbing way of kick starting the show. The space battle itself looks wonderful, Doctor Who commands some wonderful effects these days.
* The whole good Dalek angle has barely been covered in the past is certainly worthy of examination. I'm not sure reducing it to a quirk of radiation does it justice but I appreciated the willingness to try something completely new with the creatures for a change. Ultimately the episode decides that a good Dalek is genuinely possible, a massive decision for the series to take and one that might have profound consequences for the show down the line. It sure did in Evil of the Daleks. Let's see what they do with it.
* If you are going to tell an episode where the Doctor and his assistant are shrunken down to the size of a pea then I can't think of anything much more quirky than shoving them inside a Dalek. Whoever came up with this idea, I can see why they snapped it up.

The Bad:

* The condensed time that this episode has to tell its story in means that we have to take an awful lot for granted. We have to accept a good Dalek in record time, recognise that we need to get inside its head and that there is precisely the means to do that at their disposal within about ten minutes. Two plot elements that dovetail so beautifully (the Dalek and the technology) is a massive co-incidence that you simply have to swallow to allow the episode to work.
* Once again Ben Wheatley's direction was lacking, I found. Don't get me wrong the effects were frequently wonderful, the lighting often striking and performances top notch but the way Wheatley shot the scenes meant that the story was curiously lacking in any real tension. When you compare to the previous Phil Ford/showrunner collaboration (The Waters of Mars directed by Graeme Harper at his most dynamic) and the differences in how the two directors bring a story to life are definable and not in Wheatley's favour. The Dalek in the cell, the miniaturisation process, the antibody attack...none of these moments provoked even a seconds anxiety. Maybe it is because none of the characters are reacting to any of it in a fearful way. He shoots the Daleks really well (they love the camera) so it is shame that we spend so much of the episode inside of one.
* The Moffat era lacks real heart. There I said it. His characters can talk about emotions all they want but we rarely see them experiencing them, embracing them, learning from them. More often than not his characters are plot functions first and real people second, something to trial his dazzling ideas and set pieces on. There were no definable characters in Into the Dalek, only ciphers to push the plot onwards. The soldier that lost her brother was no more distinct than Bree in Victory of the Daleks, the wartime worker who lost her husband in two brief scenes that barely thought to explore the human cost to the Second World War. The fact that Journey has lost her brother is all that is tangible about this character, she has no real personality beyond that which is a shame because Zawe Ashton gives a terrific performance. This could have been a hard hitting examination of loss when it comes to fighting the Daleks but her one character trait is skipped over in a few throwaway scenes. The characters in Phil Ford's previous Doctor Who script were instantly vivid and multi-faceted, one of the most memorable casts in the shows history and put through the physical and emotional wringer. In comparison this bunch were just Dalek fodder. Like my point about inconsistencies in continuity in my review of Deep Breath, weak characterisation is another fault of Moffat's that has to be accepted if you are to move on and continue looking for the gold in the era. It's not how I like my Who (favouring ideas over people) but it is certainly a unique approach. The downside is that you waste terrific actors like Michael Smiley.
* Why didn't the Doctor comment that 'there is something very familiar about all this?' like he did in Deep Breath. A thematic sequel to The Girl in the Fireplace followed by a thematic sequel to Dalek? They don't even try and pretend that this is anything else in the pre-titles sequence, aesthetically copying the moment when Eccleston walked into the cell and met the lone Dalek (except Joe Ahearne captured it with far more drama and atmosphere). When the Dalek comes to life and escapes its cell, attacking the base personnel it is shot in a very similar way too. Visual self plagiarism? Miniaturisation was handled far more imaginatively in The Invisible Enemy (a story, despite the giant prawn, that I admire for its ambition and pace) and the scenes inside the Dalek are visually stolen straight from Let's Kill Hitler and the Tesselecta (especially the antibodies). Down a chute into gunk is lifted from The Beast Below.
* Like most of this era you wont be able to pull Into the Dalek off the shelf and watch it as a story in its own right. It is saddled with arc material that has absolutely no relevance to the story at hand, including a five minute sequence introducing Danny Pink that hampers the overall story because that extra time was urgently needed to flesh the central narrative out.
* When is this story set? Isn't that important anymore?
* Rusty turning round twice to drive its point home before leaving. Hilariously bad. He's practically saying 'I'll be back...'

The Shallow Bit: Samuel Anderson is very easy on the eye. Clara looks like she is wearing her pyjamas throughout.

Result: Given the last collaboration between showrunner and Phil Ford produced the superlative The Waters of Mars (still my idea of the perfect Doctor Who story) I was expecting great things of Into the Dalek. It was certainly a step in the right direction after Deep Breath but unfortunately still riddled with flaws that kept it from being just above average for me. Into the Dalek wants to be a mad Fantastic Voyage style adventure, a gripping Dalek massacre and a psychological examination of both the Doctor and the Dalek and simply doesn't have the time to do justice to all three and so much of the material is rushed. It performs all three adequately (visually it works a treat) but I would say that The Invisible Enemy, The Parting of the Ways and Dalek tackle these three individual elements in a much more effective way because they have the time to explore them. Squishing them all together means there is barely a moment to breathe and in some cases the genres are fighting each other (Honey I Shrunk the Kids style running about inside a Dalek and a psychological face off between the Doctor and the Daleks are hardly the most complimentary of concepts). This so desperately wants to be Capaldi's Dalek but it isn't as hard-hitting or as intimate and he simply isn't scared enough of the creatures for it to have the same impact. Dalek was so raw it was practically bleeding, this discusses emotions and feelings but it doesn't show the characters experiencing them and there is a massive difference between the two approaches. Whilst it doesn't engage me psychologically, I have long awaited the time when the Daleks were behaving like total bastards again after being slowly castrated throughout the Moffat era and here they get to do what they do best, kill indiscriminately. The scenes of them storming the base and massacring the crew are a highlight. I found this entertaining, occasionally quite profound but this desperately needed an extra 15 minutes to add extra depth to the characters, detail to the setting and to allow the plot some time to breathe. Into the Dalek is packaged in such a mechanical way that it pretty much guts the story of any real tension. Kudos for the action content though and I can't wait to see a lighter side of Capaldi next week: 7/10


Tyrionhalfman said...

I used to like your reviews and respect your opinion even if it differed from my own, but to be honest all I can see now is bias and pining for an old era. If you hate the Moffat era for the way it treats characters then you may as well just give 1/10 to 95% of all the Classic Who stories. Whilst I will concede that Clara was weaker in Series 7 she is blooming as a character in the latest episodes and for once in the Moffat era (with the exception of Missy) I didn't feel like we were as tied down to a story arc. It took the Daleks to new levels, which to be honest they should have done a long time ago as they are an inherent cliche at this point, and had the Phil Ford magic in a new and inventive way. Whilst I agree that the Waters of Mars is one of the ultimate Who stories this is a great Dalek story and it doesn't suffer from Terry Nation-itis. Clara actually acts like a real person for once and you still complain, if you hate the Moffat era for no good reason so much then just stop watching it and join your friends who send death threats to actors who defend him. Don't believe me then look it up. Your review gives no good reason why the episode is worthy of 6/10, this episode was 100% better than the Girl Who Waited which has the exact same rating. For once Doctor Who feels like Doctor Who again, imaginative, vibrant and funny, and even now the series is bringing in elements of social realism again, not to the same extent as RTD but still good. Just admit that you don't like the Moffat era and stop being so nitpicky of the good episodes. You seem to persecute Big Finish for not doing original Dalek stories, but yet when the tv series does one you slate it. There's just no pleasing some people.

Pink!Dalek said...

Sadly (because I love Doctor Who), I totally and wholeheartly agree with Joe about the Moffat era lacking real heart.

I don't wanna appear as an arse licker (I don't know him personally), but I thoroughly enjoy Joe's reviews and I don't think its very polite to suggest that he stops watching Doctor Who or starts sendind death threats to actors. I haven't always agreed with some of his reviews but I understand that every reviewer has his/her own point of view. This doesn't mean that they should stop watching a show they love

Best wishes

Joe Ford said...

A typical overreaction from a fan who cannot handle the fact that somebody else holds a different opinion than them. Suggesting that I send death threats when I don't enjoy an episode? Get away from the typewriter before you do yourself some mischief. My writing is reasoned debate, your writing is reactionary nonsense. I can't believe people take the show quite this seriously - get a grip.

Anonymous said...

Into the SHIT-lek.

Michael said...

Joe.... I really appreciate your love of Doctor Who and sci-fi in general. This site represents a huge amount of work in watching/listening/reading and then writing up your thoughts and analysis. I am truly staggered by how much material you have covered, and as someone who has not to this point enjoyed the Big Finish audios, and stopped reading DW books 20 yrs ago, your reviews inspire me to seek them out and dive in.

That being said, the reviews you post immediately following a new DW episode, do tend to lean heavily towards the negative. You made a good point in the Deep Breath comments in response to a person's complaint of your negativity = that you had awarded the show 5/10 as you ultimately were divided in your opinion. This was helpful for me to read, because after absorbing your review it was the negativity which lingered and not any sense that it was anything but torture for you to watch the show.

In comparison, your recent reviews of season 6 and 7 episodes, posted a year or two after broadcast, feel a bit more generously worded.

I have actually taken to scrolling to the bottom and seeing the rating before reading the review so I can brace myself... If it is less than 8/10 then I know your feelings towards the bad will overshadow your feelings towards the good in your review.

In the review above for example, you devote 3 times as much space to expounding on the bad over the good, and then reiterate and expand upon these points in "the result". The effect being that by the end, the good you remark upon earlier is washed away and no matter the final rating, the negative is what lingers.

I am not trying to discount to change your opinion here. I am just pointing out that the presentation may be what is contributing to some readers, including myself, to come away feeling that your negative feelings towards the episode, and the Moffat era, overshadow all else.

Personally, I enjoyed the episode. Nowadays storytelling is faster, and I don't mind the shorthand employed to get us into the story faster. Yes it was reminiscent of Dalek, and that episode is superior, but it was also had a different job to do. Most of all I liked the Doctor, his dialogue anyhow he interacted with those around him. And yes, it is great to have the Daleks acting threatening and homicidal again. I too am intrigued by the idea of this Dalek-hating Dalek and meeting him again in the future, or discovering the effects of this encounter in some other way.

(Continued below....)

Michael said...

Last week, like many, I was underwhelmed by Deep Breath on first viewing, but I watched it again 6 days later and found it to be faster paced and more enjoyable. I think this is because our initial viewings are colored by our expectations, and our trying to process and analyse what we are seeing, rather than just let it unfold. I always have a more positive second viewing no matter what I thought after the first one. I dare to think that this too might be the reason your reviews of season 6 and 7 shows are worded a bit more generously, no matter the rating, compared to ones posted within 24 hrs of broadcast.

Ultimately, I am a lifelong Doctor Who fan. I started watching in 1981 and stuck with it right to the lonely end in 1989. So my tolerance and threshold for what is a good or bad story is definitely compromised. I could never assign a rating to episodes - it feels too much lie, trying to pick a favourite sibling or offspring!

I just love the show, in all of its incarnations and eras. Last year, I rewatched the Paul McGann TV Movie for the first time since I called it "an abortion" after viewing it in 1996, and surprised myself by finding it more enjoyable than I remembered.

It feeds my nostalgia chip, and justifies why I still maintain memory banks filled with Who minutae and mythos.

I know you are a passionate DW fan too, Joe, and that many readers are drawn to the site because if this. Your thoughts about Amy Pond, the Moffat era, and all of its quirks and obsessions are well recorded, and are all valid observations... So perhaps you don't need to reiterate them every single time, but acknowledge the critique, point new readers to a past review for an expansion on that point, and move on.... Just a thought.

This is just my two cents.... I am not going to stop reading your new reviews, or the wealth of older material covered your site... so, much like the current showrunner, I am sure you will continue to do whatever you like, whatever you love to do, and the rest of us can put up.... Or be compelled to start our own exhaustive review of this beloved, battered, 51 yr old series. (Hmmmm.... Not any time soon!)

Anonymous said...

I am not suggesting you send death threats, I was referencing an actual incident. Of course you can have a different opinion I don't care.

Pol Ni Shiurtain said...

You would presumably prefer a return to the sub BBC soap opera character development which strangled the Jones family at birth and which led to the crass sight of Martha (now with dreds) marrying Mickey. A liberal fantasy of ethnicity, with professional black women and deadbeat men, but one which ultimately collapsed into clumsy conservatism in which black characters had to marry each other. Is that the type of 'heart' you are looking for? I'm afraid you have allowed your obvious dislike of Moffat to blind you to his actual merits and RTD's flaws. Attempting to re-watch some episodes of series one is almost impossible because of the woeful dialogue. RTD attempting to 'do' politics is painful to behold and resembles the work of a sixth former or a third-rate undergraduate. Moffat has at least avoided school boy politics and gendered, racial and class-based stereotypes. There never was a golden age, but your dislike of Moffat has rendered you incapable of rational analysis. That is a genuine shame because you are not devoid of some ability.

Joe Ford said...

Michael I could kiss you for your reasoned and intelligent response. That is the most persuasive and enjoyable critique of my scribblings I have read in quite some time. I do enjoy a passionate debate about a difference of opinion but only when the points are made in a respectful way. Too many Doctor Who fans are so invested in the show that they will read something that completely rivals their own opinion that it throws their world out of orbit and hit their keyboards with such impoliteness that it practically voids their own argument because of it. Suggesting that the Vastra/Jenny relationship is akin to bestiality for one example or by simply criticising the Russell T. Davies era (an era I openly admit I am more fond of) in reaction to my criticism rather than commenting on and offering an alternative take on the points I have raised. What I hate are the 'you are wrong because our opinions are different' approach which a few posters have the erroneous impression of (Estro for example). Your analysis was not only fascinating reading but it has also made me understand that I am focussing more on the negative rather than the positive at the moment...and I think that is because something is not clicking between myself and the show lately and the extra time spent on the 'bad' section is me trying to figure out why. If the impression is that I completely hated Into the Dalek then I have written of an episode I rather enjoyed...but all my points about the material and the era in general do and will stand even after repeated viewings. Moffat does get some things right - he's a great ideas man, he can often write great dialogue and when he has the right amount of time and energy his plots are second to none - but I do think his era lacks heart and definable characters and that is something I require to truly embrace a story. If I have been re-iterating those points ad nauseum it is because I am trying to come to terms with the fact that the show in its current state is passable but not stand out television for me. And it does bug me that that should b the case because this is my favourite TV show. This is not a blinding revelation, many people are of the same opinion - episodes like Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Nightmare in Silver and The Time of the Doctor divided opinion like no other. What fascinates me is that the site has been receiving a record amount of reads in the past couple of weeks so either people are enjoying what they are reading and coming back for more...or they are drawn to the twisted thoughts of this dissatisfied Doctor Who fan. What I have taken away from your comments (thank you) is that perhaps my opinion of the era and its style is perverting my tone of the review of each individual story, which I have always tried to not be the case. I like to take each story on its own merits and I will make a concerted effort to get back to that next week. As a result I am not going to change anything I have written about Into the Dalek because I think it stands as a fascinating crossroads on my own journey with the era and sees me reaching some conclusions in order to move on and enjoy it as much as I can.

Thank you again for taking the time to write such a lengthy and fascinating response.

Joe Ford said...

Pol Ni - your overblown and irrational reaction to the review was exactly what I was talking about and I wont condescend to give you more of a response than this.

Pol Ni Shiurtain said...

Intellectual cowardice. You are a dilettante at best, unwilling to defend your position.

Joe Ford said...

A dilettante with some ability, I can live with that ;-)

Kory Stephens said...

Yo, Pol Ni!

I have my own peeves with RTD's era (and now Moffat's) as much as the next guy/gal but there's no need to come off hostile towards Joe.

Michael said...

Thanks Joe for such a great response to my comment. Yes, you are bang on, I do believe your feelings towards the style and current era are affecting your take on each episode. I'm looking forward to seeing how you deal with that in the future.... And of course I would not expect you to change or in any way disavow what you have written this far.

I don't often comment because I don't have the time, energy, or battery life to write something that adequately explains my point in a way that does justice to the work you put into each review.... And I hate leaving a handful of sentences that just add up to "you're wrong and you're stupid" because that is never how I truly feel.

Hopefully other commentators might see this exchange and be inspired to write more thoughtfully in response to your reviews..... Then again this is still the internet :-)

Also, I think alongside the possibility of genuine enjoyment or being drawn to your twisted thoughts, there is the fact that DW has been getting record coverage at the start of this season which may be contributing to increased readership too.

I'm sorry that you are feeling estranged from the show at the moment. It is quite painful to hear that actually. While I accept there have been less than stellar episodes since 2005, what keeps me going is my gratitude to RTD, SM, Mark Gatiss et all, for bothering to put the energy into bringing it back and keeping it going at all.

Plus, the watermark I tend to employ for each episode is did it entertain me, and did I learn something new about the Doctor, companion, or mythos of DW. As well as did it affect me emotionally. My high point episodes are the ones where I am moved, sometimes to tears by the acting and writing... With other episodes it is enough that I was entertained, or laughed, or was engaged the whole way through.

Sadly, your desire for more heart may not be realized anytime soon. Some of the juiciest bits for me in this weeks show were when the Doctor was heartless about the brothers death, and the other male soldier later on.... Juicy, as they revealed a bit more of the character of this new incarnation.

All the talk leading up to this season has been of a slower pace (which this week certainly was not), and a colder, more alien Doctor... Your love of the Sixth Doctor era is well documented on this site, so I am looking forward to what you think of this NuWho take on the concept of a less-likable lead character, as the season unfolds.

What I appreciate about Moffat is that he did something different, he didn't just follow the template established by RTD. I like the timey-wimey nature of the plotting, I feel he is the first showrunner to really explore the fact that time can be elastic for our hero, rather than just show up somewhere different each week. Yes, it has gotten a bit over the top in S06 and not every story needs a whiz bang trip thru time and space at the top of the episode, but Moffat has expanded the range of what is Doctor Who and how stories can be expressed.

For better or worse I also appreciate that Moffat is actually listening to feedback. Too much timey wimey, okay we'll tell more straightforward stories in S07.... People think the two-parters suck, okay we'll do stand alone episodes... People hate River, okay more River Song and we'll make her even more annoying.... Okay, so not always listening... But I do appreciate that he is trying to parse some coherent feedback out of all the noise and vitriol that gets flung at him.

I also appreciate that the show is aimed at a wide audience. I was 7 when I started watching DW, and I watched the 1989 season with my 6 yr old baby brother. I the past few years I have really enjoyed the youtube posts of the 4-6 yr old girl recapping the episodes as it serves to remind me that this beloved show that has lived in my heart and soul for so many years is not just for me.

Keep up the great work!

Jonathan Burt said...

Joe, I think your site is the best review site by some distance. I share a lot of your views on first viewing of the episodes but (rather like you have found with Simon), sometimes my wife who is not a fan will watch it with me and provide a much more balanced verdict on the episode. Therefore you could wait a week and watch the episode again to see if your views settled down in the meantime but otherwise as I say I generally find you spot on.

My wife and my four year old son enjoyed Into the Dalek. It was the first time the little boy had sat through a complete episode and he was a little bit scared but very interested in it. I enjoyed it too albeit my "fan brain" was clicking away on similar lines to yours! However the fact that it was successful with my family members (my mother in law watched Deep Breath and said she enjoyed it) does provide a counterweight to my initial thinking.

Overall I do think that the series is showing some signs of running low on creativity despite the introduction of a new Doctor. The first couple of episodes have been retreads of a lot of ideas which have been played out already in the new series. Personally I would like Moffat to bow out and for Capaldi to work with a new "showrunner"; just as I always regretted that Davison, Colin Baker and McCoy only worked with JNT, Tennant with RTD and Smith with Moffat. I do think that it would be very interesting to see someone come forward with new ideas and a new approach. Mind you I think the same for the Big Finish Main Range and fourth Doctor Adventures both of which need a new shot in the arm; that is not to say the work to date has not been good but I do think that the injection of new talent can help (see the Eighth Doctor Novels when Steve Cole stepped down in favour of Justin Richards).

Joe Ford said...

I think you have hit the nail on the head for me, Jonathan. I have been watching the last seasons worth of episodes with Simon and whereas I am always looking at things analytically, he rarely does because he just likes to enjoy something for what it is. He loved the first six series of Doctor Who for the most part but I have found him really struggling with series seven (and the two episodes of series eight). When Simon starts actively criticising an episode on an intellectual level then there must be something fundamentally flawed with it - he simply is not wired that way. When my own thoughts are backed up by my other half (I also gauge the non fan reaction from my mother and good friend Emma, neither of which would give the classic series the time of day...and they are both watching out of sufferance at the moment, hoping it will go back to a style that they once enjoyed very much). Until this point I hadn't realised just how many people that I know that used to love the show are now merely suffering it. I can completely understand why fanboys are falling in love with the show all over again - it is more classic Who than ever before (and that is not a bad thing...I just wish they could marry the two approaches more successfully).

I take your point about waiting to review an episode, perhaps watching it a few times. I'm away in London this weekend and not back until Tuesday that will simply have to be the case. Let's see if it makes any kind of difference. I will still say what I see and if what I see I don't like I will elucidate those points, but I am going to stop harping on about what has been and try and focus on what is.

I'm enjoying this little journey into my own review processes...thank you for taking the time to comment, Jonathan.

Joe Ford said...

And BTW..damn our fan brains. Oh to be four again.

Jonathan Burt said...

I keep on telling my four year old to make the most of it. I was four when I first saw Doctor Who, my first memory of it was Robot episode two when the Robot attacks the Doctor!

It may be worth observing that my wife thought nothing of series 7B. She really lost interest and it became a chore for her to watch the episodes. She did not like Clara, and found a lot of the episodes uninteresting or dull. That was when I knew that series 7B was well off track!

Matt Smith said...

I definitely get the impression you are more favourable towards the RTD era, which I feel is a great shame but I do understand where you are coming from. And even as heavily justified as it is, I just feel like I know you will give less than favourable reviews to certain stories because it’s part of Moffat’s era. Actually wait you’ve already addressed this, forgive me.

I must compliment the speed and quality of your reviews however, the amount of reviews that get posted (and mostly at a considerable length), makes this probably one of the most up-to-date review sites I’ve been on.

I think it’s good to promote discussion, and I think the criticism can only be a good thing because it shows that these reviews have the ability to promote passionate responses. My god how boring it would be if everyone replied saying “Yup 100% agree”.

Audrey the Leviathan Vampire Girl said...

I love reading your reviews simply because you tell it like it is without sugar coating. I only hope you don't start censoring yourself in order to pacify a few irate fanboys.

Anonymous said...

Joe whilst I enjoy your reviews I do agree that you are biased towards the RTD era. Now there's nothing wrong with that but you cannot expect this era to be like RTD's so constantly comparing this to the previous era doesn't help.

Joe Ford said...

Self censorship Audrey? Never! But I am going to adopt a new approach, to stop dwelling on my issues with the era and focus solely on the episode at hand. Weirdly enough I get the feeling that fandom will loathe this weeks episode and I will live it. We'll see.

Carl R said...

I suspect Moffat is at least sometimes indulging in some 'Greatest Show' fan-trollery, we have Osgood, firstly, and then secondly, we have developments in the script which are designed to make those looking closely catch their breath, such as the Victorian dinosaur, the lesbian lizard with a taste for humans or the Doctor consigning allies to their fate. There are some downsides to this approach, but it is very consistent with various incarnations in the classic series, and the old stuff about "oh, you humans!" never struck a chord with my own cynicism. And yet, and yet... DW shouldn't be entirely cynical. It needs characters who are in their own way affirming - as Donna became. I guess this is part of the issue you refer to...

frakesy said...

The first thing I thought of when they got inside the Dalek was "Carnival of Monsters", making the Dalek's interior seem very much like big silly hallways yet recalling the glorious design of that old serial. I rather enjoyed the throwback, though it got ridiculous when Clara climbed up the Jeffries tube to wrestle with dryer vent tubing to save the day. And yes there were a lot of similarities to "Dalek" with Eccleston. And I totally agree with you on them having the Doctor be so inward-looking so early on. Why go there yet?

But I too am watching with my other half, who doesn't have the long history with the show or worry too much about story arcs. He enjoyed the ride, liked the Doctor's brusqueness and demeanor, and the whole "Doctor is like a Dalek" and "Doctor has hate in his heart" was new for him.

So overall I thought this was a good fun ride for the new Doctor, even if not a lot of new ideas in it at all. I find Clara totally boring and wish he would have taken soldier-girl on as a companion.

Tango said...

You should "review rewrite" this episode, you were very hard on this and Clare and Danny sadly was not the "wild sex storm" that you paranoically expect.

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David Pirtle said...

I think that, given everything Clara's already been through at this point, being shrunken down and stuck inside a Dalek really is something she should be taking in her stride, but I did start to see what you meant when she was even more casual than the Doctor about finding herself in the Dalek's "stomache," covered in liquefied corpses. Of course series 9 runs with the idea that Clara is too Doctor-y for her own good, which was an interesting bit of meta-fiction. Unlike you I instantly liked her scenes with Danny, and unlike most of the fandom I ended up really liking Danny throughout this series.