Thursday, 21 June 2018

Journey’s End written by Russell T Davies and directed by Graeme Harper

What's it about: The literal interpretation of everything but the kitchen sink...

Mockney Dude (times two!): Much like the story itself the treatment of the Doctor here is full of good stuff and bad stuff which leaves me kind of ambivalent. I loved his cheeky little grin when Rose tells him that she came back for him and Davros’ assertion that even when powerless he is best contained. There is a breathtaking moment where Davros reveals he is a Time Lord who has butchered millions and we get to see flashbacks of all those that have died in his name. He keeps running and never looks back for fear of shame. That’s all really good, meaty stuff. And it's about time somebody held him to account for his dangerous lifestyle, because people do seem to get caught up and suffer in his wake. I just never thought it would be the most evil man in the universe to do it, which makes it even more impactful.  But all the stuff surrounding the second Doctor is a bit hit and miss for me. I personally think it is a perfectly workable and fun idea but it's another element in an already busy script and would work much better if played entirely for laughs in a comedy episode (as proven in the delightful moment between the Doctor and Doctor when he first shows up). When it comes to repeating the beach scenes and having to spell out about the war torn ninth Doctor and all the snogging…I thought I had wandered into a really odd soap. I know a lot of people feel that way a lot during the Davies era but I think it is balanced with the science fiction elements alot better elsewhere. In Journey's End it feels like the ending of the plot is throwaway and incomprehensible so the endless love story between the Doctor and Rose can be lavished with time and attention. Good idea, bad execution. It really tips the story into farcical melodrama and that’s a shame because there is a lot of good stuff elsewhere. David Tennant is at the top of his game here, at as point where the audience is completely in love with him but even he is only as good as the material he is given.

Tempestuous Temp: I love Donna with every fibre of my being and then a little bit more! This story demonstrates everything I adore about her character and Catherine Tate’s magnificent portrayal. In my top companion stakes Donna would probably only be beaten by Sarah. That’s how much I like her. The story makes such a big deal about the timelines converging on Donna that I'm glad Davies gave her a suitably unforgettable ending. She keeps stressing that she is a nobody, just a temp from Chiswick and in a quietly powerful moment the duplicate Doctor gets inside her head and reveals that it really isn’t a lie, that it is genuinely how she sees herself. She doesn’t believe she is anything special and she shouts at the universe because nobody is listening. Donna is screamingly funny as well, I love her squeaky voiced ‘You’re naked!’ and the chemistry between her and DonnaDoctor (‘Oi watch it Earth girl!’ ‘Oi!’ ‘OIII!’ ‘Stop it!’) is priceless. A shame that we didn’t get more of that since Tennant and Tate are unstoppable magic at this point. As magnificent as Midnight and Turn Left both were, it's sad that they should have been kept apart for two episodes of their one season run. I screamed at the telly when Donna was zapped by Davros…surely she wouldn’t get such a trivial end? Thank Goodness we didn’t get super clever Donna all the time since her smug technobabble is practically unintelligible. Donna making the Daleks go for a little tea dance is probably the sort of material that everybody feared when Catherine Tate joined the series full time so it's probably a good thing that Davies left this sort of farce for after the audience had completely fallen in love with her and could practically forgive anything. ‘The universe has been waiting for me!’ Donna tossing Sarah Jane away from Jack is laugh out loud funny. The climax kills me everytime, after the extreme melodrama of Rose going off with her boy toy Doctor I never expected such a gut punch straight after. She has a great big universe packed inside her tiny human brain and things suddenly turn dark when she admits ‘there can’t be’ a Time Lord/human metacrisis. It's painful to watch when Donna begs the Doctor not to take away her incredible experiences with him, this is Davies’ writing at its most powerful and cruel. Tate’s casual ‘Yeah, see ya’ is heartbreaking. Wilf swears she was a better person with the Doctor and I have to wonder if the Doctor was a better person because of Donna. Companions haven't had an ending this heartbreaking since Jamie and Zoe. It's during these moments where Journey's End really sings. Series four was a great run, but it was given an extra layer of magic by Donna Noble.

The Others: Well I wasn’t going to have a category for the entire menagerie of companions in this story or you would be reading this review until the cows come home. Everyone gets a nice little moment and this where they will be listed. Jack is exterminated again , which is probably the most hard hitting death of his many deaths because it takes him back to the first. In what other show would you write that kind of nonsense? Gita Kapoor makes her second appearance in Doctor Who (Dimensions in time being the first) and this time it catalogues her death. I wonder where Sanjay was. I really like that Martha has learnt from the Doctor to give the Daleks a choice to surrender before she scuppers their plans. Martha impresses Rose, a small but defining moment between the two characters who have never met before. Although why anybody would want to impress such a self centred mare is beyond me. Mickey is a joke these days, butch muscle and little else. A shame because Noel Clarke has a lot of cheeky personality that could be tapped. Nice ‘good to see you again’ moment between Sarah and Rose. No bitch fight this time. I miss Jack’s cheeky humour; he wants a foursome with the two tenth Doctors and DoctorDonna! Honestly, when did this show get so damn horny? Martha grinning at the audience is a lovely touch and one of my favourite moments of the story. Sarah screams with joy when she sees Luke again. Being a mother really is one of her defining characteristics these days. Who didn’t cry out with joy when K.9 appears? ‘Maybe there’s something else you could be doing?’ Jack says to Martha, which has never been followed up on. Hang on if this Doctor is infected with Noble personality does that mean Rose is kind of snogging Donna? Wilf’s tears are agonising to watch and he tells the Doctor that every night he will look up at the stars on Donna’s behalf and think of the Doctor. Bernard Cribbins breaks my heart a little too often for my liking, he's a dangerous man to be around if you're feeling delicate. The Doctor condemning Sylvia for her treatment of Donna is deliciously tense. I wish there could have been an episode where they could have had their differences out. I think it would have been explosive.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The last child of Gallifrey is powerless…’
‘They are the playthings of Davros now…’
‘I was wrong about your warriors, Doctor. They are pathetic.’
‘Don’t just stand there you skinny boys in suits…get to work!’
‘I was gonna be with you forever…’

The Good Stuff: The German Daleks are very cool. In fact the German sequences in general open out the question as to why we don't get more scenes in subtitles that allow the expression of other languages rather than turning every nation into English speakers. It's a pretty unique story in that respect. I love being able to see a fully-fledged Dalek Empire at its height with the budget to make it look as awesome as you would imagine. It's not the case of cutting to hundreds of Louis Marks models in ice tunnels or shoving cardboard cut outs in the back of scenes. Whilst I admire the attempts of the directors to swell the numbers of the Daleks with the resources they have, Journey's End is pure Hollywood and needed to look expensive in order to pull of its ambition. Donna in the exploding TARDIS is gripping, roundels detonating, fire raging and Ms Noble screaming in desperation. It's rare that the TARDIS is treated as a place of danger like this, its usually our sanctuary. Should Davros have been characterised as a pathetic little man, living in the basement as the Daleks' pet? It's interesting how powerful he seems despite that. If you're looking for innovation, Dalek Caan is your man. With his excitable, icky tentacles raging and his childish, angry temperament, we've never seen a Dalek quite like this before. When you think of the scale and immensity of the Reality Bomb it makes the mind boggle…27 planets in alignment creating z neutrino energy and compressing reality into nothing. As Davros’ parting gift to the universe it is pretty much perfect. Destroying everything that isn't something he created is pretty much everything he stands for. When Davros recognises Sarah I get a chill of nostalgia that almost makes all this madness worthwhile. One of my favourite scenes in NuWho is Julian Bleach's 'Detonate the Reality Bomb!' sequence. It's a beautifully paced sequence where Davies dialogue (always a strength) absolutely sparkles. How Bleach grabs his head as though Davros is experiencing too much pleasure at the thought of wiping every living creature that he is in pain is ultimate indication of madness. There's something rather satisfying about the Daleks being destroyed by one of their own kind with a conscience. Who would have thought it possible? I love the ‘guess which planet is left’ gag…would it ever have been anything other than Earth? It's nice that I can still be surprised by things I thought I knew everything about such as the six operators in the TARDIS.

The Bad Stuff: This was the most anticipated Doctor Who episode ever with the highest ever placing in the charts and it begins with the most crushingly disappointing cliffhanger resolution in the history of the show. It becomes a bit of a joke when Mickey and Jackie show up as gun toting gangsters. Whereas The Stolen Earth got the balance just about perfect, it feels at this point that there are too many extraneous characters at the party with nothing to do. Jackie has absolutely no characterisation beyond ‘Where’s Rose?’ That's a huge oversight because she was one of the defining characters in the series return to the screen in 2005. The Doctor pauses to tell all his companions that they were brilliant before stepping out to face the Daleks…oh fuck off and get out there! Its  Davies slapping all of his characters on the back for being amazing before things get nasty. I find it very odd that there should be a final devastation option where the entire Earth can be blown up if it looks like the planet will fall completely into alien hands. Why didn't they use it during the Dalek Invasion of Earth? Well, both of them. It suggests the death of hope, which goes against everything Doctor Who stands for. How could I go without mentioning the astonishing twee and scientifically ludicrous idea of the the TARDIS towing the Earth back to it's correct orbit. There's a reason this wasn't done during the Trial of a Time Lord season where the planet befell a similar fate of being dragged away and renamed...because it's a bit shit. Davies is generally at his worst when he is drowning in celebratory syrup like this and this kind of hero worship (the music swells to ridiculous 'we're all wonderful characters doing an amazing thing for the people of the Earth' proportions) just makes me want to vomit. Just have the characters behave honourably and do good things. Stop giving them such a spectacular round of applause. It's telling us that they are wonderful rather than showing us. There are more goodbyes in this episode than there was in The Return of the King. Davies cannot bear for his treasured companions to have an unhappy ending so the death that was promised isn't really delivered. Doomsday had an unforgettably dramatic ending and yet Rose’s end here is sickly and indigestible. Both were soapy but it's clear to see when you compare the two how far Doctor Who can push that. Doomsday went for pure character drama and it worked a treat, Journey's End throws in weird science fiction doppelgangers and it's all a bit tasteless and unbelievable.

The Shallow Bit: Jack looks as hot as ever and I have bad thoughts when he hugs Mickey. Is it my imagination or is Catherine Tate the best looking female companion in this story? Maybe she's just naturally radiant.

Result: I watched this episode with a non-fan and at the end she turned to me and asked, ‘What was that all about?’ Journey’s End finishes off (in my eyes) the most successful year of NuWho in chaotic style; it’s a noisy, busy, jumbled mess with the occasional brutally thoughtful moment thrown in. It looks fantastic throughout and Graeme Harper’s direction is as strong as usual but he is fighting a losing battle with a script that is overloaded with elements screaming for more attention and a number stomach turning moments of melodrama. Davros doesn’t get nearly enough screen time considering he is the most interesting thing here and that is a crying shame given how much effort everybody has put into making him as ghoulish as possible. The duplicate Doctor thread doesn’t work for me and Rose’s fate is like swallowing a bitter pill. Rose is a bit of an anchor in the series at this point that the show needs to move on from, especially when the elements that have been introduced since her first departure have been so successful. The final 15 minutes sum up this story well; some cringeworthy moments (towing the Earth back into it's correct position) and some treasurable moments (Sarah Jane's goodbye, Wilf's tears). Once all the noise and bluster is over we are handed one of the most achingly poignant companion departures ever, a scene that left me screaming at the screen at the injustice of it all. It's a brutal end to a gorgeous companion which almost makes up for a lot of the nonsense that came before: 6/10

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Mouthless Dead written by John Pritchard and directed by Lisa Bowerman

What’s it About: The TARDIS arrives in 1920s England, the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly finding themselves in a wintry dusk beside a railway line. The station nearby appears deserted, but there are figures watching from the shadows, all of them waiting for a dead man’s train...

Oh My Giddy Aunt: Human technology impresses him. There is an element of him playing about with very simple toys but he genuinely admires the intricacies of alien mechanisms. The Doctor mentions not having lost anybody in this war, which matches the sort of cryptic comments he used to make about his background in the first six years of the show.

Lovely Lashes: It might seem terribly sexist to leave Polly to chat away and empathise with the only other female character in the story but she’s such a personable young lady and has an ability to get close and help people that it can only be considered a strength of her character.

Able Seaman: Sailing is in the Jackson family line, and Ben is well aware of the dangers of the sea thanks to his father’s tales.

Young Scot: Jamie is still confused by the whole nature of the TARDIS and how it travels, it’s early days for him. His just as confused about trains, but he’s very willing to learn. He’s seen the kind of grief war leaves behind and when you march off to fight it’s impossible to think about how your loved ones will react if you didn’t come back. Jamie is taught about the Second World War, thus ticking the box of Doctor Who educating its audience. We were just on the tail end of that in the early Troughton days before the historicals were written off completely.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I saw it coming out of the tunnel. A massive iron beastie snorting smoke…’
‘As someone wise once pointed out…only the dead have seen the end of war.’

Great Ideas: A train strikes the TARDIS a glancing blow as it materialised and the Ship requires time to heal itself from the wound. I really like this idea, although it does contradict other times when the TARDIS has come under much greater assaults and come out beaming. But then the abilities and weaknesses of the craft have always been made up as they go along so this is entirely consistent. The stories of trains colliding with one another are told in the form of creepy horror tales. It shows just how dangerous a job it could be in the early days. How many people would have thought that the unknown soldier was their brother/husband/father? Standing as a symbol for all the men anonymously lost to conflict, it must have been an enticing symbol of what people had lost. How many people visited that monument and wondered ‘what if it is…?’ England has been ravaged by the worst war in its history and there are soldiers being mourned in every home. Minds are focused on the journey of the train bringing the unknown soldier home. On everything that he represents. The TARDIS is right there in the middle of all this with all those thought waves pouring in and it has given them some kind of substance. The TARDISes telepathic circuits were damaged when the train hit her, it took the memories that people had associated with war and projected them onto the creatures approaching. That’s why Jamie sees Redcoats but Ben sees a very different sort of walking dead army. They’ve coalesced into the real world, representing a universe of loss. Touching them will destroy your utterly, a blast of overwhelming grief. If the science is a little shaky (like Hitler was a little naughty), it is at least a reasonable technobabble excuse to capitalise on the emotional impact of the war. This story really does drive home the collective tragedy of all those lives lost.

Audio Landscape: Big Finish excels at this kind of unnerving horror. It’s very Sapphire and Steel in tone how it utilises unpredictable but recognisable sound effects to make your skin crawl. Bells sounding, breathing in the darkness, the hissing of a steam train.

Standout Scene: It was very Doctor Who to have a first episode that generated atmosphere and suspense rather than pushing the plot. The Mouthless Dead really goes for that approach to the point where the first episode is practically plotless but it is generating a sense of unease by talking about previous horror tales surrounding trains only serves to whet the appetite for the approaching horrors to come. So, when the train finally makes an appearance and the dead soldiers lumber out of the tunnel at the cliff-hanger it is a truly gripping moment.

Result: ‘Any man who fell can represent them all…’ An effective chiller, standout because so many Troughton tales ignore the fruits of exploring history. I really appreciate it when the companion chronicles take the second Doctor back in time (Resistance was another striking piece) and The Mouthless Dead doesn’t want to dash into a shallow action piece like so much of season four, it takes its time to build up an atmosphere of disquiet. Mind you, this is much more like a full cast audio than a regular companion chronicles, it lacks the intimacy that I associate with the range at its best featuring just one regular telling the tale. Instead the story confines itself to one location, which traps all four of the regulars and has more than a little touch of Assignment Two of Sapphire and Steel. Jamie and Ben both have their own tales of work in the forces, and Polly puts her charms to good use. Just a few years previously Doctor Who was all about educating its audience and so the use of the Unknown Soldier adds a little real historical colour and the line ‘any man who fell can represent them all’ from Polly really drives home what he meant to a lot of people. To add a dash of science fiction to the mix the TARDIS gets to display some intriguing regenerative qualities, which gives a good reason to strand the TARDIS crewmembers. I’d prefer Chapman to narrate more of these as he has slipped into these season four stories effortlessly, but you know you’re in for a skilful reading with Wills and Hines at the reins and all three performers give emotive performances that draw you in. My one serious complaint about this creepy adventure is that it shares the setting and tone of The End of the Line from the Sixth Doctor Last Adventure set and isn’t quite as in your face scary as that one. But if my only real downer is that one of best releases of recent years was superior, that still leaves The Mouthless Dead as a superior Companion Chronicle and one that I suggest you listen to in bed with the lights off before you shut your eyes. If the story gets a little bogged down in the mechanics of the plot in part two, it remembers to ground the story in personal moments. If there was one overriding thought that I took from this story it is that is better to remember the bravery and the heroic deeds of those who don’t make it back from combat, rather than dwell on the fact that they won’t be returning home. The Doctor’s suggestion that he would love to find out who the unknown soldier was would be missing the point. The best ‘classic’ range of Big Finish adventures hits with a striking tale: 8/10

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe written by Steven Moffat and directed by Farren Blackburn

This story in a nutshell: Lemonade on tap, presents to another world and a man following a star home to Christmas with his kids. It’s the Doctor Who Christmas Special! 

Mad Professor: If there was ever proof that Matt Smith went off the boil as the Doctor during his rein then you need look no further than this Christmas special that sees him handed a script that sees him reduced to a series of cute quirks rather than the complex character that he was handed in his first season. It’s such a dumbing down of the central role it is one of the few times where I would say that the Doctor is a little embarrassing to be around, and that is a very rare occurrence (The Underwater Menace, Nightmare of Eden, Mindwarp, Paradise Towers and The Happiness Patrol have their moments too). It’s the ultimate example of portraying him as a completely child friendly gimp, all hand waving, sonic madness and toothy grins. There’s no substance to his portrayal, no way of engaging with such a goofy sonofabitch. He’s wearing his impact suit backwards so gawp at the Doctor walking in a funny way all back to front because that would simply be hilarious. Note the sarcasm. Maybe the Doctor shouldn’t be companionless at Christmas because it rarely ends well for the quality of the story being told (The Next Doctor, The End of Time Part One, this abomination, Twice Upon a Time). The Doctor is then presented as the supreme fun time caretaker who skips about an old house pouring lemonade from taps, tearing doors of hinges and ripping off Narnia wardrobes with giant presents. Oh my, what happened to this character? It’s just a bit of fun, Joe, I hear you cry. Only this isn’t fun. This is Mary Poppins as told by a socially awkward, self-knowing geek. And in the most knowing winks at the audience Matt Smith grins at the camera and says ‘I know!’ as if he’s telling us THIS IS FUN! When the Doctor starts itemising the super fun things in kid’s rooms (‘The Magna Carta!’) I wanted to reach into the screen and strangle him with my bare hands just to shut him up. Should I ever want to do that? Even when he was trying to kill Peri I was kind of on the fence because she was so whiny. I’m so so so so fun! I’m the funnest fun Time Lord ever! Oh fuck off, Moffat. Also, the eleventh Doctor looks so tailored these days whereas he looked such a wonderful old scruff in his first year. Smith has gone Hollywood, Doctor Who style. What The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe tells us is that with Moffat at the reins, Matt Smith had shown us everything he could do with the Doctor at this point. There isn’t anything that we see here that he hasn’t done smarter/funnier/more commanding elsewhere. Another season of hand waving and he’ll be gone.

Dreadful Dialogue: I could put the majority of the script in this section but here are a few examples of the agonising self-parody…
‘Is it fairyland?’ ‘Fairyland! Oh grow up, Lily! Fairyland looks completely different!’ Don’t rise to it, Joe…
‘I have mother issues, sir. It’s all on file.’
‘Aliens made of wood! This was always going to happen, you know!’
‘What have I told you about opening your presents early?’ Really?
‘Mother Christmas!’
‘It’s Christmas Day, my love! Where else would you be?’
‘Humany wumany.’

The Good: I’m not sure if this belongs in the ‘bad’ section but the opening few seconds which depicts (another) attempted attack on the Earth by alien interlopers is by far the most interested I was in this story. Before long the Doctor is spat from the impressive looking spaceship and treading water in the atmosphere as he screams towards the Earth and goofing about on the streets at Christmas but for five seconds or so I got a Christmas Invasion type vibe about the story that looked as though we were going to get something much more gripping than we actually do. Never let your audience take a peek at a story that is much more sophisticated looking than the one you are actually going to show them. Amy and the water pistol ready to squirt carol singers. Worthy of the one point I gave this story.

The Bad: Doctor Who has a very bad grasp of understanding of how the vacuum of space works. Don’t get me wrong this is science fiction (emphasis on the fiction) but it is still quite a stretch to fundamentally change how the laws of science work. The effects of the Doctor dancing with the spacesuit are desperately unconvincing – you never had that trouble with Jon Pertwee in Frontier in Space! Is there anything more annoying than a child in a Steven Moffat show ran episode? Let’s take a look at the evidence; Angie and Artie (kill me now), George (wimpy), Mels (so smug), young Kazran (pure as the driven snow), young Danny Pink (insufferably cute), all the children from In the Forest of the Night (literally the most agonising cast of children every to be committed to film)…the only exception is Young Amelia who thanks to a engaging performance manages to actually warm the heart a little. Otherwise it is like the creche from hell and Cyril and Holly are no exception. They never manage to emerge from their roles as cute as a button kiddiewinks and as such I just want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty fork every time they are on screen. Whoever chose to put Cyril in this thick rimmed specs that give him the additional hindrance of looking completely gormless too deserves shooting. The scenes of Reg flying his damaged plane over the Channel lack any sense of danger whatsoever. Partly because we haven’t spent any time with this character and haven’t been given any reason to care about his death and partly because the scenes are filmed in a dreamy, fairy-tale kind of way that plagued the Matt Smith era and reduced some potentially gripping scenes to cartoonish nonsense. There’s no real drama surrounding Reg not coming home to his kids because it is presented in the most unimaginably twee was possible, with cute as a button one dimensional characters hanging around waiting for him at Christmas. Is this really the same writer who wrote stories as dark as The Empty Child and Heaven Sent? Remember when Moffat stated in The Girl in the Fireplace that you have to keep throwing in visual curveballs to keep the audience interested (some people might say that is the job of an engaging story but I digress)…well overscheduling his talents has clearly exhausted his imagination. Huge Christmas baubles! Living trees! Presents that are a gateway to another world! Just saying that characters have come from Androzani isn’t enough to impress me…it’s a throwaway reference to a far, far superior story (you know, when Doctor Who used to good) and the characters are so aesthetically different from anything in The Caves of Androzani that I can’t make the visual link anyway. Like so much of this story, it’s a misguided attempt to impress in the wrong way. The dialogue between the three characters from Androzani is like some terrible old sitcom version of Doctor Who where everybody talks in a hideously self-knowing way. Monsters that barely have any dialogue, child characters I don’t give a damn about and a bunch of trees that are under threat of acid rain…why should I give a damn about any of this? People said that the Cyber King from The Next Doctor was absurd…how about Madge getting into a piece of futuristic hardware and riding successfully through the forest? The ending is a loathsome metaphor for Mother Earth (Madge being able to save the day because she is a woman and has the strength of a mother’s love…or something) and a parody of the stars lighting the way for the Wise Men (Madge providing a star for her husband to follow to get home for Christmas for his children…or something). It’s a conclusion that uses sentiment as logic and abandons reason and intelligence. It’s an ending in a self-knowing Christmas special that knows it has to have a happy ending…and so it does just because. It’s the laziest ending to a Doctor Who story that I can remember. Everything’s alright…because it should be. Oh vomit.

Result: ‘This Christmas is going to be the best Christmas ever!’ You need to be careful when you scripting words like that. A fatigued writer, trying to out-Christmas his previous year and ending up dousing the series in syrup and producing one of the least effective scripts in the shows long history. Some people will give this episode a pass because it is a Christmas special (and you know, they’re never supposed to be very good…until they are like The Christmas Invasion and Last Christmas) but there is no point where Doctor Who should be this unengaging, this lethargic in its attempts to impress, this reduced to cliché and sentimentality and this lacking in incident, relatable characters and memorable moments. I know Russell T Davies hates this word when it comes to describing writers, but this script is just so lazy. None dimensional characters (I include the Doctor in that) trapped in a dreary alien landscape, monsters that fail to raise an eyebrow (even visually), and a score that beats you to death with how golly gosh fun this is all supposed to be. This is the story that reduces the grief of losing somebody to something chokingly twee, offbeat and repairable. Yeah, that’s a message you should be promoting at Christmas, Doctor Who. I lost count of how many times I wanted to kill myself during this rewatch and I recall falling asleep long before the credits when I first watched it…something that has never happened before or since. This could be held up as the cure for insomnia or the piece of television to be studied by those who are entering into the medium to warn them of how not to make a seasonal spectacular. I hate how horribly self-knowing the show was during this period too (‘we’ve gone through a dimensional portal little girl from the Second World War’), taking everything for granted and refusing to present anything as fresh and original. Oh wait, that’s because nothing here is fresh or original. It’s a hackneyed piece of old SF tat, the visual equivalent of watching paint atrophy over a millennium and about as creative as a lecture entitled the future of plumbing. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe has all the key ingredients of Christmas but it is being put together by somebody who fundamentally doesn’t quite know how to pull off the festivities. Imagine going to a family Christmas where everything is present and correct but it winds up being a funless bore. That’s this story. And to waste Claire Skinner, Alexander Armstrong, Arabella Weir and Bill Bailey in one story is nothing short of indecent. How Moffat recovered (and survived) from this obscenity I will never know: 1/10