Benedict Cumberbatch, books, currently reading, Jim Carrey, Mark Gatiss, Neil Patrick Harris, Netflix, Sherlock Holmes, Steven Moffat

This is such a late post because I’ve been unusually active today. I spent my Sunday off visiting a friend of mine so have been out most of the day. It means I’ve done none of my usual day off lounging and watching Netflix, which is good, but it also means I’ve done no reading. So you win some and you lose some. January has been a difficult month for my family so I think I’m just a little preoccupied to anything that taxing. Reading just seems too much whilst I’m in the emotional space that I’m currently residing. So I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. Something that is much harder to do when you’re as neurotic about insignificant things as I am.

Currently Reading

  • The Plague by Albert Camus
I really love this book but it’s so intense that I can’t read it at night and I keep forgetting to take it to work with me. The writing is fantastic but the chapters are lengths that are conducive to a quick pre-bed read. I doubt I’ll finish this by the end of the month which means there isn’t a forecast for 2017 to end with an improvement on the number of books I read last year.  

  • Ball by Tara Ison

Because I was so upset at the prospect of not finishing a single book this month I decided to take a break from The Plague and read something a little easier. So I picked up this short story collection that I’ve had for a while. So far it’s been a charming and fairly quick read which makes a change from Camus. I just need something simpler to get me back into reading before I’m ready to tackle that again. This could be the thing to do that.

Recently Purchased

I’ve been really good this week and not bought a single new book. Something that I would call a victory if I had successfully managed to read more. At least then it would feel as though my TBR pile were getting smaller. Instead it’s just staying at it’s now standard huge length. 
Recently Watched
  • Sherlock series 4 again
I was having mixed feelings about the latest series so decided I needed to watch all 3 epsiodes again. I still kind of like the first episode. I mean it’s not the greatest but there have been much worse ones. I liked the second episode more than I did the first time but still felt bored. I love Sherlock and John’s relationship but this episode pushed it too far. The final episode? I still think it was possibly the second worst episode in the show’s history… and that’s only because ‘The Blind Banker’ is the biggest load of shit I’ve ever seen. I don’t know. There were good moments and I think all three actors were great. I mean I was in tears as Mycroft willingly sacrificed himself. But it just felt too much like a parody. It was all over the place and didn’t make sense. I want there to be another series so we can improve on this one but it also feels as though Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have kind of lost their way. 
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)
I wasn’t sure that I was going to watch this new Netflix adaptation of the Lemony Snicket books but on my day off on Monday I decided to give it a go. I loved it. I mean it’s not perfect and, despite my absolute love of him and think he’s great in the role, I think NPH has been given a bit too much free reign. I mean that theme tune is just wrong for the show. Still, it improves dramatically on the 2004 film. Patrick Warburton is amazing as Lemony Snicket and the supporting cast have been sensational so far. It could be improved but is certainly worth a watch.  
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (Film)
Decided to rewatch this after I started the television show. You can read my thoughts in the previous post.


Benedict Cumberbatch, books, currently reading, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Penguin Books, recently watched, Sherlock Holmes, Steven Moffat

I’ll be honest with you, this week has fucking sucked and I’m super glad it’s over. It’s been a shit week for my family and, really, I haven’t felt in the mood to do anything. Other than shop. That’s the one thing I can rely on at all times. So this week’s rundown isn’t exactly inspiring. I have read some things but I’m only getting through one chapter a night because I’m so tired. Still, it’s hopeful and tomorrow is the start of a new week. It can only get better.. or I hope so because any worse and I’d have to give everything up.

Currently Reading

  • The Plague by Albert Camus
This is slow going, I’m not going to lie but I am getting into it. I love the writing and it’s a super interesting study of humanity in a difficult time. I’ve had this on my TBR for ages so I’m hoping I get more inspired soon. I just need to watch less Netflix and spend less time on the internet. 

Recently Purchased
  • The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer
I wasn’t supposed to be buying books this week. I was doing so well… until I saw that Pocket Penguin editions come in fucking pink. I know barely anything about this book but as soon as I knew it existed I bought it. I’ve seen bright pink Penguin editions all over Instagram and have always been jealous. Now I have my own and my life feels more full.
  • The Great Science Fiction by H.G. Wells
Another that I don’t need because it contains copies of books I already own multiple copies of. However, this collection of Wells’ stories is beautiful. I’ve never needed a better reason to buy a book in the past so it’ll do me now.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated Edition) by J.K Rowling
This is another of those books that I’ve coveted for ages but haven’t felt like I could justify. Until I decided to just say “fuck it” and bought it. It’s a beautiful edition and has already come in handy on my Instagram. I’d say it was a great investment. 
Recently Watched
  • Sherlock series 4 episode 3
I’ve pretty much just finished watching this as I write and I’m not sure how I feel about it. This whole series has been weird. I liked the first episode but it wasn’t anyway near the best. I hated the second but loved the ending. This one felt… disappointing. It was emotional, certainly, but I feel like they’re forever moving Sherlock more into the realms of the Steven Moffat era Dr Who. He’s like a completely different character to the one from the beginning and I just don’t buy it as much. It’s too far removed from the books and it’s an unprecedented change. I’m kind of hoping we don’t get much more because it’ll be a fucking rom-com in no time. It’s less about the solving of crimes and more about Sherlock’s emotions. It’s as awkward and annoying as the moment The Big Bang Theory started making Sheldon a more emotional person. It just didn’t work with the character development they’d already started. I’ll have to watch this again.
  • The Girl on the Train
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this film considering my feelings on the book. But I kind of wanted to see how it worked out. And I do fucking love Emily Blunt. So, what did I think? Find out Tuesday.


books, Christmas, currently reading, doctor, Dr Who, Peter Capaldi, recently watched, Roald Dahl, Steven Moffat

It’s Christmas Day and I’m full of food and festive cheer. It’s been a quiet day as we’re not really celebrating Christmas until 27th December when the whole family is back together. So, at the moment I’ve barely opened any presents. It, therefore, remains to be seen just how well I’ve done book wise this year. My family tend to avoid buying novels for each other but I do quite often get something book related. Still, it’s been a lovely day and I’m looking forward to another day of rest before I’m back at work on Tuesday morning. I want to try and be productive but I’ll probably just spend all day in bed, eating and watching TV. But isn’t that what Christmas is really all about?

Currently Reading

  • Losing It by Emma Rathbone
I’ve read about 3 pages of this in the last week. I partly blame Christmas and partly blame the book. It’s just not doing it for me. It’s painfully obvious where we’re heading and any empowering message is just being lost in the same old tired, teen movie cliches. I’m not even sure I’ll finish this one.

Recently Purchased
  • Nothing
All bookish purchases the past week have been solely for gift giving purposes. I bought my two sisters a book each and one for my parents. All just silly little jokey gifts rather than novels. I find it too stressful buying proper books for people unless they’ve given me a list of titles. What I consider readable is not necessarily what someone else will enjoy. I’ve made that mistake when it comes to lending books. I’m constantly trying to convince my friends that Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria is just as exciting as all of their chick-lit. They remain dubious. I guess not everyone in the world can love Wollstonecraft as much as I do.

Recently Received
  • Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker
A present from a friend of mine. I love little miscellaneous books like this and have loads littering my shelves. I used to be obsessed with the rare books page of Abe books and would browse to find random titles. This new book features glorious but depressing animal facts and is beautifully illustrated. As the only present I’ve opened so far it’s my sole book related present and, even if it’s my only one, I’m pretty chuffed about it.

Recently Watched
  • The BFG again
We bought this for my mother’s birthday back in November and she watched it for the first time today. I admit that I probably fell asleep for part of it but I managed to get the best bits. Mark Rylance is still amazing as the Big Friendly Giant. It’s the best casting of all time. 
  • Dr Who
The Christmas special was just glorious wasn’t it? Mainly because it’s been so long since we’ve seen an episode. Last Christmas’ The Husbands of River Song was, obviously, sad but still one of the better festive specials. This year was all about fun after such a tough goodbye. It’s also a must see for any comic book fans and shows that there is definite promise for the coming season. I’m excited to see more of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. 

Mondays Are For Moaning – Episode 1: The Fan-tom Menace

Dr Who, George Lucas, JJ Abrams, rant, Star Wars, Steven Moffat

So before Christmas I finally got around to watching The Force Awakens and, after months of trying not to get myself too worked up about it, I was super fucking excited. My heart nearly burst out of my chest the second the opening titles started. It was all so familiar and fun. I mean I had some problems with it but, as a whole, it was Star Wars done as we all wanted it to be done. However, I decided not to review the film in my traditional way. The problem with picking something like this apart is that you run the risk of ruining it. So what does it matter that there are narrative issues and underdeveloped characters? It didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment. The film didn’t need to be best ever film: it just needed to be a better Star Wars film than Attack of the Clones. It was. It isn’t perfect but, we have to be honest, neither are the originals… even before Lucas edited them again. The deeper you look at something the more problems you find and that’s okay. Some films don’t need to be flawless to be great. If you came out of the cinema feeling like a kid again then Abrams did his job brilliantly.

The problem with something like Star Wars is the pressure that the fanbase put upon everything. It is a series that has, quite rightly, meant a great deal to a fuckload of people. So much so that they start to mistakenly believe they are the rightful owners of the franchise. That they have final say over decisions made to the series. We, the fans, don’t own shit. George Lucas recently gave an interview on Charlie Rose. A lot has been made of his “white slavers” comment which has meant most of the sentiment has been ignored. Yes, Lucas was a fucking idiot to compare selling his company to Disney with selling his “children… to the white slavers” but the underlying emotions got me thinking. In fact, it left me feeling a little bit sorry for the director I’ve bemoaned so many times of the years.

We all know that Lucas has faced a lot of criticism because of the underwhelming prequels but what has been forgotten in all of this is that Lucas has as much riding on those films as the rest of us. The franchise is like his child and he has spent such a large portion of his life developing it and watching it grow. Just like any other excited parent, Lucas loved his child in a way that only a parent could and had specific ideas about what he wanted it to be when it grew up. Whilst fans wanted the new films to taken them back to their childhood, George wanted them to move people forwards. Deep down, he’s an artist (of sorts). He wanted to push the boundaries and experiment with technology.

Now imagine, for a second, that you’ve spent such a large amount of time creating a piece of art that you love with only to be turned into a demon. As hard as it might be to imagine, Lucas wasn’t making Star Wars for the fans or at least he wasn’t just making it for the fans. He wanted to tell a story and he wanted to do it in his way. The fact that other people liked it too was just an added extra. That’s why he hasn’t seemed to give a shit about fan opinion in the last few years and why he won’t release a Blu Ray version of the theatrical release of the original trilogies. Whether we like it or not, the way Star Wars was before Episode VII was exactly the way George Lucas wanted it to be and he’s in charge. If other people don’t like your parenting style are you really going to turn around and say “oh yes you’re right. I am a shit father. Let me do things your way”? Fuck no,

So imagine again, that you’ve spent time and money nurturing your child, give it up for adoption and find that the new parent is much better at it than you are. Now maybe it’s just me but I feel bad for George Lucas. He was trying to perfect Star Wars and keep it fresh and new. Whenever a new technology came around he got overexcited and wanted to play with it. We can all understand that. Parents are forever showering their little bundles of joy with fucking new toys and clothes and shit. He thought he was doing the right thing. He was following his instincts as an artist, which you have to give him some respect for.

So, JJ Abrams and Disney comes along and take the franchise back to the beginning. Good news for the fans but stab in the heart to the man who was trying to keep it modern. There has been fan backing for this as soon as Abrams was announced to direct and Lucas has had to keep jovial and happy throughout it all. I mean, essentially, all it took for the fans to love the film was a few references to the original, a few new (real) faces and a retro filter. To keep flogging this dead horse of an analogy, it’s like a father telling their child to study programming instead of art because that’s where there’s more security. Then, years later, the father has to look on as his artist child is beloved by everyone and he looks like a fucking fool.

I guess what I’m saying is, George Lucas is King Lear. He’s made all the wrong decision but he was doing it for the right reasons. He was blind to what really mattered. Although, so were the fans. With fandoms becoming so much stronger and crazier these days, it’s hard to remember that we’re not in charge. Yes, films need fans to make money so our opinion matters. However, just because we pay for a cinema ticket or watch a series doesn’t mean we should have ultimate creative control. Now if you’ve read enough of my rants you’ll be ready to accuse me of being hypocritical. You’d be right. I’ve spent enough time ranting about how Steven Moffat has ruined Doctor Who with his awful plot lines and characters. I stick by my opinion on a personal level. It’s not the way I’d have it. However, I have to try and be understanding from a creative level.

I’m not such a terrible person that I can’t see the good in something I don’t like. Just look at my justification for the prequels if you don’t believe me. I still respect Doctor Who and Sherlock as being well-made television series with great moments. Yes, I’m a melodramatic twat sometimes but, deep down, I understand that Moffat hasn’t ruined Doctor Who at all. He’s ruined my vision for what Doctor Who should be but the show remains in tact. Similarly, I really love less than half of the episodes in Sherlock’s history but I still see that it is a beautifully crafted show. I still respect it; I just don’t like it all the time. Ultimately, I’m just one fan and nobody gives a shit about my views.

Fans have been demanding too much of their creators for fucking ages. I mean Arthur Conan Doyle was sick of his great detective so killed the fucker off. He was forced to bring him back from the dead thanks to the endless petitions from his fans. Forcing a man to continue writing a character he resented? Am I the only one who sees that as fucking selfish? Then we have the modern example of George RR Martin. The poor man was writing a series of books for a dedicated group of fans before HBO came along. Then the fandom exploded. Instead of his loyal fans who were willing to wait 5 years between books, Martin was now faced with impatient TV fans who wanted the writer to hurry the fuck up. Give the guy a fucking break. He wants everything to be perfect but that’s not good enough for his so-called fans.

We all just need to calm the fuck down. You’re a fan. We are being given something wonderful by hard-working and creative people. They have their vision and it doesn’t alway fit in with ours. That’s okay. It doesn’t mean your childhood is ruined. It just means life sometimes sucks. Get over it. The next time you’re about to tell someone how much better The Force Awakens is compared to the prequels, think about George Lucas. Think about him staggering around on a misty moor going slowly mad. Think about what he once gave you and give him some fucking credit for a change. If Star Wars really means that much to you then you owe George Lucas a lot more than you’re giving him now.

With great power comes short attention span.

Dr Who, meh, Steven Moffat, television
I know most of my Doctor Whorelated posts mainly seem to revolve around my hatred of Steven Moffat for turning a beloved show into a steaming pile of shit. However, I’m about to turn this around. We’re only three episodes into this latest series but I can honestly say it’s my favouritesince Moffat took over. Peter Capaldi’s first season was pretty good but I didn’t think he got the opportunity to be as great as he could be. There was a major highlight towards the end of the series when the Danny Pink love story (yeah, more like love bore-y ) ended and Missy proved that a female version of a male character is actually the best fucking idea ever. Does anyone know if Helen Mirren is still up for playing the Doctor? I think it’s time.

Although, Capaldi is doing a fucking great job so far. I loved his entrance in the premiere and sonic sunglasses is by far the greatest idea I’ve ever seen. Even Clara is less annoying this season now she’s not in the middle of the worlds most ridiculous love triangle. I also can’t fault her wardrobe… boy that girl knows the best outfits to wear when trying to save the universe. You know what, I couldn’t even fault the Dalek heavy opener. Far from being the desperate display their last appearance had been, I actually found it pretty enjoyable. Steven Moffat, I doff my cap to you sir. Let me just finish eating my words.

However, I’m still me and I do have one minor issue with this series. It’s the fucking double part episodes. I know it harks back to the original series where stories were constantly split into multiple episodes. I also understand that the concept is to create episodes with more scope and have a greater potential for drama. The narratives have seen a major improvement by simply doubling in size and I have no doubt it’s played a major part in my growing love of the show. Just look at the first two episodes; Missy wouldn’t have got a look in had this been a normal stand alone episode. She was the best thing about the entire fucking thing. So I’m a big fan of the concept at work here.
That doesn’t change the fact that I’m one of those people who has become so used to the Netflix way of life that I find it difficult having to wait. My attention span is so fucking small these days than in the 7 days between episodes I’ve probably forgotten everything that happened. I watch such a small amount of real television these days that I’ve almost forgotten that you generally have to wait a week between installments. It’s like being in the fucking Stone Age.
As much as I hate it, the ability to marathon series in a matter of days has slowly started to ruin my life. I demand instant gratification from all my entertainment outlets. These days if I have to wait more than a couple of seconds before the next episode then I’m probably not going to give a shit. I partly blame my work-induced exhaustion but there can little doubt that my viewing habits are slowly going down the pan. The only shows I religiously watch these days are Don’t Tell the Bride, Bake Off and Made in Chelsea (although even that obsession has been dwindling in recent years).
Watching less TV would obviously be a good thing if I were actually doing something productive with my time. I’m not though. I’m not even catching up on all of the great shows I’ve still not seen. I would rather rewatch an endless stream of episodes I’ve already seen than discover a new and exciting show. The amount of times I’ve meant to start Orange is the New Blackonly to decide that watching Red Dwarffor the hundredth time is a much better option. I’ve still not seen Breaking Bad for fuck’s sake and I stopped watching House of Cardstowards the end of the second season. I’ve become such a lazy watcher. If any amount of effort or concentration is required then I’m out.
This general attitude is also having an adverse affect on my reading habits. The amount I’ve read in the past few months is pretty shameful and it’s because I’m finding more solace in YouTube and Netflix. At my current post-work energy levels, I’m just finding the idea of picking up a book and concentrating on the narrative is just too much. To be fair, before my promotion, I never really read a lot at home anyway but it has taken away my key reading time: my lunch break. I’ve got an ever increasing TBR list and an ever diminishing amount of time to read. If this is adult life, then I don’t want it. I’ll relive as many of my cripplingly embarrassing teenage escapades as I need to if it gives me more fucking time to read.
So, to return to the original point. I’m loving that Steven Moffat has managed to prove me wrong. Doctor Whois genuinely thrilling to watch and, so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with each episode. However, I wish he could stop reminding me of my short attention span and immense laziness with his double episodes… the dick.

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.

Dr Who and the blog post of doom.

Dr Who, sci-fi, space, Steven Moffat, television

You can tell that I’m supposed to be something important because I’m writing a new post. One thing you can say about Murdocal is that the height of her motivation comes when she has a big deadline approaching. Anyway, here I am and I’m not going to be able to achieve my goal until I get this out of my system. Tonight is the BBC 1 premiere of the second half of Season 7 of Dr Who. This starts the journey to the end of Steven Moffat’s third series as head writer of the popular science-fiction show and, if recent reports are anything to go by, perhaps the journey to the end of his reign. I would personally relish this decision as I’m one of the ever-growing group of people who are becoming tired of Moffat living out his boyhood fantasy and creating a show his younger self would love. 

Now I would consider myself something of a fan of Dr Who but I freely admit that I’m not the greatest of Whovians (I don’t really understand the show’s obsessive fandom and it scares me that some of these people exist). However, the last few series (mainly the ones since Moffat took over but I’ll include the four David Tennant specials) have left me bored and slightly jaded. I can’t see anything in the majority of episodes being produced lately that made the show so special. Aside from ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ and ‘Amy’s Choice’ none have really stood out from the crowd. I think there is a great deal of quality lacking from the writing and, thanks to a bigger budget, more focus is being put on they way the story is told rather than the story itself.

Having just seen the newest episode it serves as a good explanation for what I think the show has become. Dr Who has become primarily about spectacle rather than about quality. The story revolves around the modern world and the importance of the internet in an obvious and, frankly, unoriginal attempt to build on the existing fear of cyber crime and identity theft. The plot is nothing to shout about and I couldn’t really find myself getting too caught up in the fear as the threat wasn’t very prominent. The only person we were concerned about was Clara and, as we know by now, even if she dies it doesn’t matter much. There was no real effort in creating the ‘monster’.

What I did enjoy about this episode were the lovely little moments between the Doctor and Clara. They are both interesting characters and I think both Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman are fantastic performers. Take a look at the scene where the Doctor changes his outfit (paying special attention to his adorable bow-tie chest) and when the two take off on a motorbike for some breakfast. Amazing. It’s these moments of real humanity when we get a deeper look into these two figures that create the most excitement. For all his flaws, Russell T Davies was a writer whose major concern was his characters and the effect his storylines had on their lives. You really cared about the main characters and, as he was more concerned with the characters than the science-fiction, you cared about the people who the Doctor was destined to save. 

Moffat tries to make you care about his supporting cast but he constantly ruins the more down-to-earth moments by doing things like placing the pair in a bad CGI plane. The larger budgets should have made an already great show even better and more polished. Instead, like so many Hollywood movies, Moffat and co. have become distracted by the almost endless possibilities that technology can bring them. This wouldn’t be a problem if it hadn’t come at the expense of the writing. After all, some of the finest episodes of Dr Who are the ones with the simplest set up but a really clever plot. 

These days we’re just given plots that have the most aesthetic potential. It’s almost as if buzz words are thrown into the ring and they attempt to place the ideas in a Who setting: we haven’t done dinosaurs and kids loves dinosaurs; POTC is popular, we’ll do pirates; and vampires, they’re pretty ‘in’ right now aren’t they. It’s all a bit clichéd and lazy. I mean take the first episode of this current season for evidence of just how little Moffat and his team think of their audience. We have an episode that basically just exists so they could reference past incarnations of the Daleks (and for Moffat to once again show off about how much of a fanboy he is) and, again, there is no real sense of danger. We know the Doctor isn’t going to let Amy turn into a Dalek and the idea that the magic air that does so will also work on the Doctor is unlikely going in. And where did this Asylum of the Daleks come from anyway? If the Doctor knew there was a building where the Daleks that other Daleks fear are kept wouldn’t he have destroyed it just in case? Plus, where the fuck did the Dalek parliament come from? Are we expected to believe that during the Time War the Timelords rounded up all the Daleks in the universe except their politicians? I don’t think so. 

But I don’t want to get too into the numerous plot holes in this and many other episodes as all the series of Dr Who so far have pushed the edges of the canon as far as they can. No, the reason I pick this episode over any others is simply the ending. Moffat has reached the stage where he clearly thinks his audience are so idiotic that the only thing they need to deem an episode a triumph is 5 minutes of Daleks shouting “Dr who?” repeatedly. Fuck that. Despite what the BBC may believe, the people who watch Dr Who aren’t the inmates in the mental hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. And any argument that starts “it’s a kids show” can fuck off too. That doesn’t mean the plots have to be so simplistic and overly reliant on blowing shit up that you could genuinely believe a child wrote it.

Now, I’m not a hater of Steven Moffat in particular but there is no denying that he did a better job as a writer of solo episodes. He has singlehandedly written some of the most terrifying and wonderful episodes in the modern show’s history. The man can write. What he can’t seem to do as well is handle the series wide story-arc. Again, one thing in favour of Russell T was his ability to create intriguing hints about the series finale. Who didn’t watch the last episode of series 1 and not get an insane amount of joy from the whole “I scatter the words through space and time” thing that brought together all of the little references throughout past episodes? There is an argument to say that he pushed this formula to the limit but, regardless of this criticism, I can probably reenact every series final of the Russell T era. Ask me anything about the last few episodes of the Moffat reign and I’m left a little helpless. I know there was a massive box and a Roman Rory-bot. Oh and River Song kept turning up all the fucking time. Now there is someone who really outstayed her welcome. I wouldn’t mind so much but the major plot twists surrounding her character stood out a mile away. She had so much potential when she first turned up but it all just became an annoyance. She was obviously Amy’s daughter, she was obviously the one meant to kill the Doctor and she was, most obviously, not going to do it. 

I don’t think I would mind her so much if Amy and Rory were interesting enough characters to warrant adding to their family. They are, in my mind, the worst companions to date (yes even worse than Martha) because they don’t go on any real journey. Week after week they get themselves into dangerous situations because of their own stupidity but never learn anything. The only type of journey they go on revolves around whether Amy/Rory is really in love with Rory/Amy. It’s dull. At least all of the other companions changed for the better. Rose and Mickey both became more confident and badass thanks to the Doctor. Martha travelled the world to save Earth from the Master and is a fucking solider/qualified Doctor. Donna gained much more purpose and confidence. Amy? Well she got a husband, a baby and a new house in London. Yay, personal growth!

Anyway, I’m rambling now. I don’t want to end this without clarifying that I’m not saying Dr Who is all bad. I’m not just saying this because I don’t like change or because I’m too familiar with the old days. I think shows like this need to change every so often to keep it fresh and I love Matt Smith as the Doctor. He brings a naive excitement to the role and I think he’s totally filled and reshaped the hole David Tennant left. (Let’s be honest, Tennat was only the favourite Dr because he was the one who had done it for longest in the modern series. He’s great but he isn’t the definitive Doctor.) As for the old episodes, I grew up watching some of the old series but I was too young to have a great attachment to it. The thing I remember most about Dr Who before Russell T revised it was the creepy closing credits with Jon Pertwee’s face underneath. I also don’t follow some of the arguments out there that has become too dark, too sexy and that there is too much of a focus on romance. It may be a bit darker but so is everything these days. As for being sexy, we have to be honest and say that Dr Who has always been a bit sexy. Look at the some of the past companions and suddenly Amy Pond’s quite normal denim mini-skirt doesn’t seem that crazy. 

On top of that, there have been some great episodes and the show does have some of the best writers at its disposal. Neil Gaiman’s episode was both clever and exciting and I can’t wait for his second one this series. Mark Gatiss always brings something interesting to the table. (He has also written the only episode of Sherlock that I believe warrants the spectacular respect that the show has gained. I like the show but again it’s all very meh. Without the two leads that show would be nothing. There I’ve said it.) What I don’t see is any kind of consistency. We are celebrating the shows 50th anniversary this year but what are we really celebrating? The slow decline of a once clever and different show into an all too familiar Michael Bay style science-fiction show. The series, the loyal audience and the great cast just aren’t getting the kind of material that they deserve. It’s not fair to the people out there who have stayed with this show since their childhood. How can it be that they are expected to get the same amount of excitement they once got at the sight of a dustbin with a plunger attached to it whilst listening to the title repeated for half an hour?

Then again, if you can’t beat them, join them. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)

Andy Serkis, comedy, family, motion capture, Nick Frost, Peter Jackson, review, Simon Pegg, Steven Moffat, Steven Spielberg

I have fond memories of Tintin but certainly would not presume to position myself anywhere near the level of fandom that many possess. Although I do think the original stories are wonderful  and eagerly watched the television series as a child. Tintin is a much loved fictional character so it is safe to say that there was an awful lot riding on the much anticipated big screen debut of Hergé’s infamous journalist and his faithful dog. 

The film itself has clearly divided opinion in a dramatic fashion. Like the much overused example of marmite, it has either completely captivated its audience or thoroughly offended them. It is easy to see why there is such a split in the reaction to Spielberg’s attempt to bring the character to life. On the one hand, the plot contains plenty of excitement and fun that many would associate with the original material but, at the same time, the film lacks the passion and soul that is associated with Hergé’s characters.

Spielberg’s decision to use motion capture is one of the major culprits for this important lack of heart. There is a great deal of emotion and heart tied up within the original artwork which has not been brought to life using this modern technique. It is, arguably, only the motion capture veteran Andy Serkis who is able to bring any amount of feeling to his animated portrayal of Captain Haddock. Serkis may be forced to spout several trite and painfully sentimental speeches about “breaking through walls” but he does so with the perfect balance of feeling and downright ham.

For the most part, the rest of the cast (each brilliant actors in their own right) seem to flounder when faced with this method of filming. We just need to look at the final showdown between Haddock and his archenemy Sakharine (played by Daniel Craig) to the see the stark contrast. This supposedly villainous counterpart to Haddock is decidedly flat. Craig shuffles through the role as if he were simply providing a voiceover. There is never any real show of passion that explains his hate-fuelled mission.

The plot, written by three British screenwriting legends Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, is made up of the plots of three separate Tintin stories. The titular Secret of the Unicorn, The Crab with the Golden Claws and Red Rackham’s Treasure. This results in a fairly mismatched adventure that is fairly clumsily put together. The rushed subplot of the pickpocket, whilst interesting in its own right, is included mainly for convenience and could perhaps have been replaced in order to better set up the main narrative of the film.

The script itself often seems clumsy and awkward. The obvious and almost out of place speeches where characters are forced to state exactly what is happening and why are far more frequent than should perhaps be necessary. Although, there are some outstanding moments and one-liners (mostly courtesy of Captain Haddock) and more than enough double entendres to keep the older viewers satisfied.

This being said, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the film. From the gorgeous opening titles and the tremendous introduction of our hero (briefly uniting the Tintin of old and this modern reincarnation) the film captured my imagination. The action never slows and it is constantly apparent that, despite taking the long way round, the plot is always moving forward.  Yes this fast paced approach may be at odds with the more laidback feel of the books but it was a necessary evolution for the move to film. As much as I may hate to admit it, we live in a modern age where the Tintin Hergé created no longer fits. It was a necessity that his adventures captured the imagination of a modern audience, even if this was perhaps at the expense of the true fans.

Yes, Tintin may not be exactly as we all remember him but this is to be expected. He fights his way out of tricky situations in a manner that would have impressed the likes of James Bond. Modernising the hero was something that was bound to happen and should have been embraced as openly as the recent reincarnations of Sherlock Holmes. He is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but he is good enough. If I may quote Commissioner Gordon here, Hergé’s Tintin may be “the hero we deserve, but he is not the one we need right now”.