TBT – Snowpiercer (2014)

Chris Evans, films, fucking beautiful, John Hurt, post-apocalyptic, reviews, TBT, Tilda Swinton

I have a bit of a problem guys: I’m in love with a man who is completely unattainable. That man is Chris Evans. It hasn’t always been this way. No no. Back in the Fantastic Four days I couldn’t have cared less. Even the first Captain American film didn’t do anything for me… I assume it’s down to the creepy tiny Steve CGI. Yeah, I happily denied any attraction to Chris Evans for years and even presented arguments with my friend about why Robert Downey Jr. was a more attractive member of the Avengers. Then bloody Winter Solider went and got really good and suddenly Chris Evans starts to look better and better. By the time Civil War came out I was hooked. Seeing him do interviews with his Gifted co-star kind of made my ovaries explode. I don’t know what’s happening to me. It was because of my deep-seated interest in Chris Evans that I was so desperate to see Snowpiercer. I knew very little about it but had heard great things. Unfortunately, that proved difficult because the bloody thing wasn’t released in UK cinemas. Then I managed to miss it on Netflix because I’m a bloody idiot. I became invigorated after seeing Okja earlier this week so went on a hunt to find a copy of Snowpiercer.

Now I’ve watched both Captain America and Snowpiercer, it’s safe to say I won’t be getting on a train with Chris Evans any time soon. It never seems to go well for his second in command. In the first his childhood friend Bucky Barnes fell to his death after being blasted out of the train. In Bong Joon-ho’s adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Jamie Bell doesn’t exactly come out on top after saving Evans’ life. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which the vast majority of humanity were killed in a new ice age. After spreading a cooling chemical over the Earth to combat global warming went terribly wrong, a number of humans were given passage on a constantly moving train which circles the globe and keeps them safe from the cold. The passengers are split into the elites at the front and the undesirables in the final carriages. The elite are given all the luxuries that the train has to offer whilst the rear-passengers are forced to survive on the dregs.

Understandably, they are pretty pissed off at this and are eager to take over the train for their own benefit. With the help of his elderly mentor, Gilliam (John Hurt), Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) plans to lead his fellow passengers through the train to the engine. Curtis wants to stand face-to-face with the train’s creator, Minister Wilford (Ed Harris) and find out what he is up to. Gilliam expects Curtis to take over driving the train and bring peace to the rear-carriages. To do this he must first free a prisoner, Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho), who knows how to open the doors between carriages. They must fight their way through the train whilst being chased by guards. As they progress, Curtis finds out that there is more to the running of the train than meets the eye.

Snowpiercer is one of those refreshing films that takes something as pedestrian as a post-apocalyptic ice age and makes it utterly new. On the surface is sounds like something you’ve seen a thousand times: a band of disillusioned people band together to take over from their mysterious and uncaring leader. This film is so much more than that. Bong Joon-ho takes the conventions for this kind of film and uses them in ways that make them seem incredibly different. He’s had fun with the scenario and created a haunting and exciting narrative. It is the opposite of the usual big budget action movies that explode in your face without having much substance behind it. The scope is obviously fair limited because the action takes place on a train. It feels very claustrophobic and the action sequences fence you in further. Snowpiercer draws you in to its bizarre new world and presents something so completely different to anything you’ll ever have seen before. The shots that show the train travelling through a vast, snowy landscape are breathtaking and perfectly counter the dark and dingy interior of the rear-section of the train.

Like the train, the passengers are constantly moving forward but never getting anywhere. As they move further down the train we see carriages full of amazing little details. The car that has become the train’s greenhouse or the aquarium are breathtaking. This film is clever and so beautifully made that is demands multiple viewings. All I really wanted to do after I watched it was to sit down and watch it all again. It is down to the superb direction and an amazing cast that this film keeps moving. Chris Evans is a strong lead in the role and is given a greater chance to show depth than he ever was as Steve Rogers. As Curtis makes his way nearer the train we see startling revelations that Evan’s handles like a pro. Although, he comes a close second in terms of memorable performances thanks to Tilda Swinton’s turn as Minister Mason, the train’s second in command. She has the air of a smarmy politician but with the wicked streak of an out of control dictator. Swinton plays the character wonderfully and Mason becomes a spine-chilling adversary for Curtis.

The rest of the cast all play their own parts in making Snowpiercer so special. It’s an incredible film that should have been given a wider release. It is the antidote to every thoughtless and obnoxious action blockbuster that comes out each year. The film has been crafted by people who really care and want to make a compelling and important story. It is the kind of thing that feels so similar whilst also feeling so unusual. I’m so glad that I finally got round to seeing this but am also incredibly annoyed with myself that it took so bloody long. If you haven’t see it, then I suggest you hunt down a copy as soon as possible. You won’t regret it.


alien, book haul, books, currently reading, John Hurt, Kiefer Sutherland, love valentine's day, poetry, recently watched, Shakespeare

So I’ve only got one more day left of my holiday before I’m back at work for 6 straight days. I’m not sure I’m ready for it but I guess I have to start earning my keep again. In the last week I’ve not done as much as I wanted to but I’ve actually been quite good at getting ahead in terms of Instagram. It means I should be able to cope with the rest of this month without worrying about lighting and stuff. I won’t have many opportunities after I go back to work to get pictures taken until after dark so I’ve been planning ahead. It means some of my ideas have been a bit ropy but some of them are turning out pretty well. Now I just need to get ahead with posts and reviews so I don’t have to worry when I’m away later in the month. Turns out that after all these years, organisation is actually really useful. If only I’d thought of this sooner.

Just Finished

  • Camp Nightmare by R.L Stine

This week I hadn’t done any reading of The Plague so I decided it was time to do something else. It’s not that it’s a bad book but it just requires more attention than I have at the moment. So last night I decided to pick up this classic from my childhood and I got through it in a matter of hours. It wasn’t exactly a great read 20 years on but I enjoyed the feeling of actually completing a book. It’s hopefully inspired me to keep the pace up.

Currently Reading

  • The Plague by Albert Camus
I’m thinking of retiring this book because it’s been over a month since I started it and I feel like I’m getting nowhere. I don’t want to stop it because picking it up again later will likely be a nightmare but I want to read more than I currently am. Maybe I’ll put it on a brief hiatus and come back to it in a few days? Once I’ve read some easier stuff maybe I’ll have got back into the rhythm?

Recently Purchased
  • The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
This week has seen me embark on an adventure to read more poetry. I love poetry but, since finishing university, I have’t exactly kept up with it. I never really know how to aproach it as a past time. Do you read the book cover to cover or dip in and out when you fancy it? Which poems do you start with? It’s all so confusing. This collection has been on my radar for a while and it finally seemed like the time to buy it. It’s a collection of modern poetry that rocked the world and was highly praised by TS Eliot. When it comes to Modern poets, outside of Eliot, I’m pretty clueless. That’s the price of focusing on Romanticism folks. Still, this seems like a good place to start.   
  • Penguins Poems for Love by Laura Barber (ed.)
Its nearly Valentines day and, when I was caught up in the sentiments of the holiday, I fell in love with this book of love poetry. It’s beautiful. I probably already own books containing the poems here but it’s always useful to have a collection of romantic poems at hand. Just in case.  
  • By Heart 101: Poems To Remember by Ted Hughes (ed.)
Another collection of well known poetry that I mainly purchased in the hope that it would help with my memory for poetry. I used to be really good at remembering lines of poems but now I feel like I’ve got too much to concentrate on. My memory is focusing on other things and has no time for poetry. So I wanted to see if this books would actually help me. As well as being a collection of great poems, Ted Hughes offers instructions on how to best remember poetry in his introduction. Let’s see if it works. 
  • Shakespeare’s Love Sonnets by William Shakespeare
I have not been able to resist beautiful copies of love poems this week. I already own countless copies of Shakespeare’s Sonnets but this one is absolutely gorgeous. The poems come accompanied by illustrations by Caitlin Keegan. I love it already.
  • The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
I haven’t seen the movie Carol yet. I’m planning on watching it in the coming few days so I can write a Tuesday post about it. When I was purchasing the film I decided it was about time that I read the story it was based on. Originally published under a pseudonym, this is a completely different type of story to the Ripley novels that Highsmith is best known for. I’m excited to read this. 

Recently Watched
  • Alien
After watching Jackie for my Tuesday review I decided to revisit this sci-fi classic in my quest to honour John Hurt’s death. Needless to say it was fucking amazing. You can read more great thoughts like this here.

  • 24
I’m currently about halfway through season 3 and it’s been great going back. Season 1 was too familiar to really enjoy and Season 2 is still super shit but it feels kind of relevant these days. Season 3 is my favourite series. Mainly because I fucking love Chloe but it’s also the series I’ve watched the most times. I think the narrative works best for this series. The whole structure feels less awkward. It doesn’t feel like the writers are purposefully stalling for time but actually telling a coherent story. The other seasons sometimes tend to push the subplots too far in order to fill the 24 episodes. Just look at basically all of Kim’s stories and you’ll see what I mean.

TBT – Alien (1979)

alien, classic, films, fucking beautiful, fucking creepy, fucking scary, John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, TBT

On 25th January this year, legendary British actor John Hurt died. He was the kind of actor that never really fit into the role of leading man but would have been familiar to a whole host of people thanks to his supporting roles. As I’ve talked about multiple times since his death, John Hurt was the kind of actor that could turn his hand to anything and had a great deal of skill to bring all sorts of people to life on screen. My review on Tuesday looked at one of Hurt’s final films before he died where he made a great impression in the small role of a Catholic priest who Jackie Kennedy talked to after her husband’s death. His role has been made all the more poignant following his death as the character discusses death and the prospect of what follows. The film is definitely emotional but it was watching Hurt’s performance that really got to me. So I wanted to use my TBT post to revisit of his classic films. There are plenty of great ones to pick from and, normally, I should have watched something like The Elephant Man. There are so many great performances to decide between that it becomes impossible to pick just one. Instead, because I’ll take any chance to watch it, I picked Alien. John Hurt may not be in it for very long but his role in the film was certainly one of the most memorable moments in movie history. John Hurt is iconic in this role.

Alien is one of the greatest films of all time and, after watching it again the other day, I can honestly still say that it is still fucking scary. It’s a masterpiece of suspense and horror set in space. The casting is fantastic and the design is great. However, it wasn’t always considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. On it’s first release, several eminent film critics declared it to be nothing more than a mass of effects and little else. Oh how the table have turned. Alien is the film that changed its genre and became the template for so many films that followed it. In the 70s science-fiction was becoming more popular but was staying in the fairly family friendly realm. Alien reinvented space with a hideous Hitchcockian twist. And it’s fucking fantastic.

The premise is super simple and it really doesn’t matter. The small crew of a commercial towing vessel are woken from stasis early. Their ship brought them out of sleep to answer a distress call coming from a nearby ship. Upon investigating they discover the crew were killed and the ship has become a breeding ground for some mysterious being. Whilst taking a closer look at one of the creepy eggs on board, one of the creatures attaches itself to a crew member, Kane’s (John Hurt), face.
When the creature eventually becomes unattached and dies, it appears that Kane is unharmed. Until a fucking tiny alien creature bursts from his chest. The rest of the crew then face the bigger issue of a fully grown and deadly monster chasing them around the corridors of their ship and picking them off one by one.

When it comes down to it, Alien isn’t a success because of it’s narrative or it’s script. It’s a mixture of elements taken from so many science-fiction or horror films before it. Writer Dan O’Bannon freely admits that he took inspiration from multiple sources to create a familiar but workable story. What elevates the film is it’s design. O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott were inspired by the artwork of H.R. Giger and it was his paintings that inspired the final look for the film’s fearsome creature. Scott hired Giger to work on the whole of the film and it is down to him that we have such amazing visuals. Those images of the inside of the crashed ship and the egg chamber are all down to his dark vision and it is the making of the film. And it is not just Giger. Every aspect of the film’s design comes together perfectly to create this materpiece. At the time, it was a special effects dream. Everything was done by a skilled team who made some incredibly complicated set pieces come to life. The chest bursting scene is one of the most infamous moments ever seen on screen and has been parodied an infinite number of times by now.

That scene is a feast of blood, gore, and jump scares but Alien is so much more than jut a mindless horror show. The film carefully builds up tension as it goes along and is designed in such a careful way to ensure that the audiences experience is just as terrifying as the crew’s. The film doesn’t rush and takes a perverse pleasure in slowing down the pace as much as possible. It’s all about the suspense because, when it comes down to it, that’s what we want. Shots are held a little longer than necessary to suggest something is about to happen. The lighting and sound helping to create that sense of claustrophobia. Ridley Scott and co. came together to create something that has stood the test of time and is, to this day, one of the most terrifying films ever created. It’s simple and full of cliches but it’s so well crafted that it doesn’t matter. It is the film that started the trend and only goes to prove that you can’t beat the original. I still have to sit through certain scenes with my hands over my eyes. But I’ll always go back for another watch.

Tuesday’s Review: Jackie (2016)

America, films, fucking beautiful, fucking tragic, history, John Hurt, natalie portman, president, real life, review

I have to be honest, if it hadn’t been for John Hurt’s death last month I probably wasn’t ever going to see this film. It wasn’t that I thought it would be bad but it discussed a prominent American figure that, really, I didn’t know a great deal about. I mean I know enough about Jackie Kennedy but, when it comes down to it, my knowledge of American history is pretty limited. It’s probably something I should rectify but my historical education really just focused on the United Kingdom. Although, I guess everyone knows about JFK, Jackie, and the assassination. However, the name Jackie Kennedy only really brought images of pink Chanel suits and pillbox hats to my mind so I didn’t really see much need in seeing Natalie Portman playing her on screen. Then, we heard the tragic news about John Hurt’s death in January. Jackie was one of his final films before his death so I decided it was a good reason to see the film. John Hurt was one of the finest actor’s around and could turn his hand to any part. Yes, he wasn’t a traditional leading man but he has been a significant part of some great films. I can think of worse reasons to want to watch something.

I was worried when Jackie started and I first heard Natalie Portman speak. I had the horrible feeling that her attempt to emulate Jackie Kennedy’s soft spoken and breathy accent was quickly going to descend into a terrible parody. Thankfully, the actor manages to keep a hole on her mimicry and keeps the vocals situated in something resembling reality. It all adds to the character of Jackie Kennedy that director Pablo Larraín is attempting to capture. A woman who, having already been catapulted into the spotlight, suddenly finds herself having to deal with the ultimate tragedy whilst the whole world watches her. The wife of the President of the United States who is caught between a state of mourning, helplessness, and desperation to preserve her husband’s legacy. To prove me extra wrong, Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie is absolutely brilliant.

The film’s narrative is framed by an interview Jackie gave to Life magazine reporter Theodore H White (Billy Crudup). As the interview takes place Kennedy makes it clear that she will have ultimate control over what is printed and she wants her husband to be remembered the way she thinks he should be. She is a woman who is perfectly in control. Until she relives the horrific moment when her husband was shot twice as he sat next to her. She breaks down as she remembers trying to keep the contents of his head from spilling over her lap. This, obviously, is the kind of thing that she does not give approval to be printed. Jackie takes the public figure that everyone things they know and show the emotionally lost person underneath.

The story flits back and forth between Jackie’s life before and after the assassination. We see her conduct a television tour of the White House and it is a different image of the First Lady. She is unsure of herself and self-conscious. She attempts to justify her redecoration of her new home in order to bring a sense of history. She wants to surround herself with beautiful and significant things. Something that her husband and potentially the American people just don’t understand. She wants to present her husband and his presidency as she thinks it needs to be remembered. This is the age where television gives everyone an eyewitness account of every moment so she understands the importance of her performance.

The narrative then jumps around between the days after the President was killed, whilst Jackie tried to arrange a funeral on the same level as Lincoln, and in the future when Jackie speaks with a Priest (John Hurt) about her fears and doubts. Really, these different narrative aren’t necessary as the most important and stand-out sections occur in the aftermath of JFK’s death and Jackie’s desperate attempts to get her own way with the funeral. The time when she has to wrestle with the public image of a grieving wife, the statesmen like role of the First Lady, and lost woman who has no idea what her life will become now her husband is dead. The woman who has become synonymous with her looks is unable to find order within her wardrobe. In fact, the most memorable scene is the one in which a numb Jackie peels off the infamous pink Chanel suit and tights that are covered in her husband’s blood. It is a devastating and poignant scene.

As with all of these types of biopics, you won’t rid yourself of the sense that the reality on show still isn’t being completely truthful. However, the narrative opens up the figure of Jackie Kennedy beyond what was on show during her public life. It gives you the chance to view her from a perspective that you may not have considered and, thanks to the great performance by Natalie Portman, presents her in a measured and understanding way. The film is a stark look into an important and difficult time for both the Kennedy family and America. With a great supporting cast, including a short but memorable turn from the late John Hurt, and an incredibly haunting score from Mica Levi, Jackie is a film that I’m so grateful I took the time to watch. It would have been a shame to have missed such a wonderful film.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

fucking beautiful, Jim Jarmusch, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska, review, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston

I like the idea of vampires. Not romantic and sappy Twilight vampires but back to basics vampires. I’m thinking those who build on the foundations laid out by John Polidori (let us not forget the true father of the literary vampire) and Bram Stoker: basically Lord Byron but with a bigger appetite for blood. So vampires: tick. As you probably also know, I really like Tom Hiddleston (I’m talking worry proportions here). Therefore, after finding myself alone on Valentine’s Day, I made the best of the situation by watching a preview showing of Jim Jarmusch’s vampire love story with friends. I ask you, dear reader, if you can think of a better Valentine’s companion, than sexy vampire Hiddleston. No, thought not.

In the nineties painfully hip director Jim Jarmusch experimented with genres and gave the world his indie versions of the classic western, Dead Man, and the samurai movie, Ghost Dog: the Way of the Samurai. As we all know, these days there are very few things quite as popular as vampires so it was only a matter of time until Jarmusch tackled this in his usual ‘too cool for school’ style.

Taking back vampires to the original Byronic hero style, Jarmusch’s tale follows undead married couple Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). The pair has been together for centuries but now find themselves apart. Eve meanders around Tangier enjoying the music and literature it has to offer her. She has a lust for the after-life and enjoys her time with friends, including the famous Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who also happens to be her supplier of clean blood.
Across the globe in Detroit, Adam is a reclusive rock star who is lamenting the stench of humanity that has infected the world around him. Viewing all of mankind as culture destroying “zombies”, Adam has grown tired of his immortal existence and divides his time between making melancholic music with his vast array of musical equipment and contemplating firing a wooden bullet through his chest. Worrying about her long-distance love, Eve packs up her belongings and travels to her husband’s side.
We have come to expect certain things from Jarmusch’s films and Only Lovers is no different, despite being one of his most accessible films for a few years. The director’s focus has never been on narrative and story but on style, characters and mood. The film looks amazing thanks to the work of cinematographer, Yorick le Saux, and production designer, Marco Bittner Rosser. Thanks to the crumbling backdrop of modern Detroit, the film-makers have created a dark and luscious world full of hypnotic images that sum up Adam and Eve’s strange, night-time world. Most notably those gorgeous slow-motion scenes in which the camera circles over the couple.
Only Lovers is a technically wonderful film and visually stunning but, don’t go into this expecting great drama and complicated story. It is minimalistic and slow-paced, giving itself room to be self-indulgent and arty. Nevertheless, thanks to the fantastic performances from the main cast you never feel less than engrossed by the limited action on screen. Tilda Swinton makes an elegant and beautiful vampire and, if it is even possible, gives the film its humanity and sympathy. She treats Adam with a motherly tenderness and attempts to remind him of the joys the world has to offer. Swinton is the strongest member of the cast and is utterly mesmerising.

Her husband Adam is a much less agreeable character thanks to his incessant dark mood. Adam’s condemnation of the majority of the human race endows him with some amusing deadpan evaluations but Adam occasionally comes across as just another annoying hipster moaning about modern culture and lamenting the loss of the old ways. Due to Hiddleston’s inherent likeability and his relationship with Eve, Adam is prevented from falling over into full on emo-ness and becomes someone you care about.
Thankfully for the audience, we have a brief respite from Adam’s negativity with the arrival of Eve’s younger sister Ava, or at least the vampire equivalent of a sibling. Played by the joyful Mia Wasikowska, the screen lights up every time Ava appears. Acting like the playful toddler getting in the way of the pairs romance, Wasikowska is a scene-stealer and, though I never thought it would be possible, grabs the attention away from Tom Hiddleston’s remarkable cheekbones.
The main characters are aided by notable supporting roles from John Hurt as Marlowe, Anton Yelchin as Adam’s loyal errand boy, and Jeffrey Wright as an opportunistic doctor who supplies Adam with his supply of blood. They are all allowed to have a bit more fun than either Swinton or Hiddleston and bring some light-hearted relief to the potential melodrama of the central relationship.

Jarmusch’s script is littered with humour and self-awareness. This is not a vampire film but a Jim Jarmusch film containing vampires. It is arty, unconventional and ever so delightfully pretentious. There are few allusions to traditional vampiric law and instead the couple make numerous references to the historic figures that they have met over their vast lifetime. Those not accustomed to Jarmusch’s work will no doubt find this grating and smug but there is something lovely and alluring about its unashamed superiority. 
This certainly isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. If you are looking for a complex and drama-filled story then this may not be the film for you. However, if you appreciate stylish films, with an interesting script and intriguing, well-drawn characters I insist you give this a chance.   

The Day of the Doctor (2013)

anniversary, David Tennant, Dr Who, John Hurt, review, space, Steven Moffat, television

To quote, River Song “Spoilers”.

I’ve made no real secret of the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of Steven Moffat’s time as head writer on Dr Who. I think the quality of the writing has decreased and the focus has become spectacle and viewing figures instead of good characters and well-executed narratives. Plus, his last 3 seasons have included far more complete duds than the Russell T era was ever guilty of and, in my opinion, the vast majority of great episodes come from the first 4.5 series of the rebooted show. However, I was just as excited as the vast majority of the world about last night’s 50th anniversary special and sat in front of my TV praying Moffat would pull it off.

The Day of the Doctor is to Dr Who what Skyfall was for James Bond: namely a completely geeky celebration of the classic science-fiction show. It starts from the get-go with subtle and slightly less subtle references to the episodes of the past. We have the classic Who opening titles, the opening scene, a returning enemy and more than a few familiar faces. It’s an action packed adventure that sets out to reinvent the show as we now know it.
Unfortunately, right off the bat, I find my first hint of disappointment thanks to the unnecessary, just writing it so we can use a lot of green-screen, scene which sees the Doctor hanging out of the Tardis as it lands in Trafalgar Square. Just because we have a bigger budget doesn’t mean we need to use every bit of it, guys. Less is, as they say, more. However, it was great to have UNIT back and the reappearance of Kate (Jemma Redgrave), who made an amazing first impression in the otherwise forgettable Power of Three. Also worthy of a mention is the bescarfed and asthma suffering Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) who I definitely hope to see her return at some point. She’s pretty much your typical fangirl (complete with Tom Baker inspired accessory) and, from the looks of it, has been a hit with Whovians the world over.
UNIT need the Doctor and Clara to help them solve a mystery surrounding something new: Time Lord art. Our introduction to this new section of Time Lord society was wonderful and not only served as a large part of the following narrative but offered breathtaking visuals. Featuring traditional ‘bigger on the inside’ Time Lord technology, the painting on show contains a single moment in history. A very important moment in history as it turns out: The Moment. The last seven seasons of Dr Whohave been leading to this point where we finally come face-to-face with the exact point that this supposedly good man made the decision to destroy his people in order to save existence. Before he pushes the big red button he has to justify his actions so, thanks to a weapon of mass destruction that handily has a conscience, the War Doctor (John Hurt) gets the chance to meet his future self.
Thanks to another flashback we get a glimpse of Number 10 (David Tennant) enjoying some down-time with Elizabeth I (Joanna Page) in 1562 and trying to prevent an invasion by the Fourth Doctors old enemy the Zygons. Our current doctor (Matt Smith) is eventually transported to the same time and the stage is finally set for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Matt Smith and David Tennant work really well together on screen. They both have a similar way of approaching the character and it is great to watch their dialogue. The two over-grown children are initially wary of each other but, ultimately, have a great deal of respect for their different selves. The pair has a great back and forth and the little bitchy lines are a welcome break in moments of heavy plot development.
Smith plays his Doctor with the same relish and skill that we have come to expect since he took over for series 5. I think he’s done an admirable job and his over-excited child-like nature is infectious and easy to embrace. However, this episode was all about the return of Tennant who, despite a 3 year gap, fits back into the old suit perfectly. It’s always lovely to see an actor to return to a key role in their career and you can tell he had a lot of fun doing it.
That is something that The Day of the Doctor does well. Moffat is at his best when he is writing on a very personal and close level because he can play with language, drama and comedy. In terms of his writing, this episode has to be one of his finest Who episodes to date. Anyone who makes the brave decision to mock large aspects of your own work is alright by me. The Day of the Doctor is self-aware and tongue-in-cheek despite all of the dark themes on show. It is out together very cleverly and, despite all of the jumps through time, it is easy to keep up with the action. Unlike a lot of Moffat’s recent episodes, there is no sense that the drama just peters out towards the end. The action and the emotions are running high from the opening to ending credits. Most importantly of all, because he was preoccupied with something more important, he didn’t make the mistake of going too big. The moments when this episode really flies are in the quieter scenes starring our main three men.
After a brief glimpse at the end of series 7, John Hurt finally gets the chance to show us what he is made of as the War Doctor works up the courage to make the ultimate choice. He is a weary and defeated man who can see no other way out. However, it is only after he comes face-to-face with his youthful future that the sparks really fly. Hurt gets some utterly amazing lines to throw about and fits wonderfully in the role of the disapproving parent. I’d describe Tennant and Smith’s approach to the Doctor as one full of eagerness and
glee. Hurt is calm, collected and totally badass. The younger men hold their screwdrivers aloft in the same manner that a Shakespearean actor would hold a sword whilst Hurt stands alongside and gets straight to the point. It’s an attention-grabbing and completely engrossing performance.

As is the supporting role played by Billie Piper. Thankfully, Moffat decided against attempting to bring back Rose Tyler once again but used her image, or more specifically Bad Wolf Rose, as the interface of The Moment. Piper has some great moments whilst guiding the War Doctor to his ultimate decision and she plays her role with a great deal of subtlety and skill. Considering part of me was dreading her arrival, I found myself rejoicing that she could make it back to mark the occasion.

Rose Tyler may have recently been voted the greatest Doctor Who companion ever by a BBC3 poll but there can be no denying that Clara is well on her way to proving herself. Having spent much of her first series just moving the story along, it was nice to see her make more of a mark here. Unlike Amy (who, as you may remember, I couldn’t stand), she is clever, independent and strong. Jenna Louise Colman is a fine actress and, provided she is given the correct material, she should continue to flourish under Peter Capaldi’s guidance. Just look back at that phenomenal moment where she stood up to all three Doctors and managed to change the course of history.
That is, after all, what Moffat wanted to do with this episode. The narrative of the Zygon invasion is just your run-of-the-mill Who story: shape-shifting aliens, confusion about who is real, confrontation and eventual resolution. Whilst it has some important and clever components to it, the plot is, ultimately, inconsequential and the story is never even fully resolved for the audience. This is about the Doctor and the  choice he made. A decision that has haunted him since well before 2005’s Rose. It never really seemed to fit that the Doctor, as we know him, would accept that there was no other way to stopping the war. He has faced a great many foes and has always failed to accept defeat. The Doctor deserved a second chance and that is exactly what Moffat gave him.
A second chance that led to one of the most extraordinary sequences in television history and the moment that Peter Capaldi’s eyebrows almost broke the internet: all of Doctors to date coming together to save their planet from destruction. I defy anyone to sit through it without feeling like a child again. Any viewer who didn’t watch as all of the familiar faces of the past (and one from the future) flooded our screens and didn’t jump for joy had no right watching the show at all. Similarly, if anyone watched that final scene, where all of the Doctors line up side-by-side, without shedding just a little tear has no heart.
Even the slightly shameful and cringey Tom Baker cameo was forgivable and the conversation between him and Matt Smith was a wonder. He was the man who defined the Doctor for such a long time and it wouldn’t have felt right without some sort of appearance. Plus, the idea that regenerations can backtrack in some way is an interesting one that will of course leave a lot of fangirls hoping David Tennant and his great hair will fall on hard times and find his way back.
There is simply too much to say in praise of this episode and far too many references and moments to discuss that I could write forever. Of course, there were flaws here but the positives more than outweigh them. Even the use of CGI and special effects worked in this setting. If I’m completely honest, the opening shots of the Time War felt a little bit like the flat and lifeless CGI of the Star Wars prequels but there were some scenes where it really worked. Can anything compete with the visual of three slow-mo Doctors facing off against a Dalek in the middle of the Time War before crashing through a painting into the tower of London? No? Didn’t think so.
Ultimately, this episode gave a great deal of closure to a terrible part of the Doctor’s past, it celebrated who he was, allowed him to come to terms with his actions and left him with a new direction. Whatever happens in Matt Smith’s final outing at Christmas, we all know where Peter Capaldi is heading: home.