Saturday, 20 April 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.07 - The Rings of Akhaten

Say hello to the most divisive episode of series 7 yet.

Bombast. If I could write all of these reviews in single-word and still receive the same amount of accomplishment and lovely reception afterwards, that would be the word I would use to describe the second episodic instalment in series 7's concluding eight, a Neil Cross penned 42 minutes titled The Rings of Akhaten. Why bombast? Aliens, and lots of 'em; but surprisingly more prominently, epic dramatic monologues are quite the stand-out in this episode, taking place towards the end of a script struggling to carry the weight of such heavy heaps of dialogue. The Rings of Akhaten, admittedly, is a flawed episode. There's not a whole lot wrong with it, but Cross' debut tale is somewhat thin when it comes to plot, and if anything was proven by my review of last year's A Town called Mercy, it's that an episode lacking in a quality plot can't quite be saved by fantastic production values, superb direction and inspiring acting. Funnily enough, Akhaten packs all three of these, it just doesn't have a solid, complex enough tale to back-up the inclusion of such heady assets.

Comparisons to A Town called Mercy most definitely won't inspire confidence in this episode, but fear not; Akhaten happens to be of a fairly superior quality to that particular flop, at least in most of the aspects that Mercy dropped the ball. Now, Akhaten doesn't necessarily drop the ball, but it incautiously clings onto a ball so abnormally thin that, no matter how much it offers the viewer in the form of high-quality production, writing and set design amongst other things, it leaves a lot to be desired by the time those ending credits roll, at least in terms of story.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who 7.06 - The Bells of Saint John

I hope you're using a safe wireless connection to read this, otherwise you're in deep- ┓┏ 凵 =╱⊿┌┬┐

After yet another relatively lengthy hiatus, Britain's most beloved sci-fi drama is back on the box and along with it so ends my prolonged absence from the publishing of any actual articles here on the blog. From now onwards, you can expect reviews of new Doctor Who episodes published a fortnight after their original airing date at the very latest. All I can say is what a story to start with; Steven Moffat's modern-day London-based 'proper' introduction to the enigmatic Clara Oswald, titled The Bells of Saint John, is a thoroughly enjoyable, thrilling tale of mysterious goings-on in the commonplace near-necessity that we call Wi-Fi, complete with action-packed set-pieces, a solid cast of characters old and new and most importantly, a near-flawless script. That last asset is something that bodes well for Steven Moffat, who's been receiving a fair bit of stick for some of his recent mishaps. I've always considered the Moff to be a much better writer when he's penning stories that fit under the horror genre, so to give you an idea of The Bells of Saint John's greatness, this is easily one of his best non-horror scripts to date.

A good way to sum up the plot of Bells would be 'Doctor Who does Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, spliced with a modern Bond or Bourne flick in London'. Steven Moffat and indeed the show as a whole have done the 'take an everyday object or image and make it scary' concept many a time before with statues, gas masks, plungers and the like, but it's never been applied to something we take for granted to such an extent that it (probably) almost comes second to oxygen and water. In the 21st century, Wi-Fi is everywhere and so is the temptation to join an unknown, open network. We've all tried it, and even though it almost never works, we continue to do so in hope that it will. It's because of this crazy temptation that Bells absolutely nails the tried and tested Doctor Who trope of taking something so commonplace and making it deadly, something that the previous episode, Christmas fiasco The Snowmen, failed to succeed in, creepy Richard D. James-ish grins plastered on Snowmen or no.