TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE RETURN OF DOCTOR MYSTERIO (2016)

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Image result for the return of doctor mysterioSeason: X15 Story: 1 (107) | 1 x 60m | Production Code: 10.1
Broadcast: 25 December 2016
Rating: ∗∗∗

Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin
Producer: Peter Bennett

Script Editor: Nick Lambon; Director of Photography: Ashley Rowe; Music: Murray Gold; Production Designer: Michael Pickwoad; Editor: Adam Green; Costumes: Hayle Nebauer; Visual Effects: MILK; Special Effects: Real SFX; Prosthetics: Millennium FX

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Justin Chatwin (Grant), Charity Wakefield (Lucy), Tomiwa Edun (Mr Brock), Aleksandar Jovanovic (Doctor Sim), Logan Huffman (Young Grant), Daniel Lorente (Teen Grant), Sandra Tees (Reporter), Tanroh Ishida (Operator), Vaughn Johseph (U.N.I.T. Soldier).

Synopsis: The Doctor spends Christmas in New York, but this time he is not the only hero in town. A deadly alien menace is poised to attack the city, and the Time Lord will need all the help he can get to stop it. Fortunately, Manhattan has its own protector in the form of a mysterious masked superhero.

Comment: Moffat riffs on the current saturation of comic book heroes in our multiplexes with middling results. The positives are Capaldi’s increasing comfort in the title role – his charisma and energy light up the screen – and the surprisingly effective Lucas as his companion.  The alien invasion plot, however, is a little weak as is Chatwin as Grant/The Ghost. Some nice in-jokes for comic book fans help make this an entertaining, if slight episode.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE HUSBANDS OF RIVER SONG

THE HUSBANDS OF RIVER SONG
1 episode / 56m / 25 December 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Douglas Mackinnon
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Alex Kingston (River Song), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Greg Davies (King Hydroflax), Rowan Polonski (Flemming), Robert Curtis (Scratch), Chris Lew Kum Hoi (Alphonse), Phillip Rhys (Ramone), Anthony Cozens (Concierge), Nicolle Smartt (Receptionist), Liam Cook (King Hydroflax’s body), Nonso Anozie (Voice of Hydroflax).
Plot: It’s Christmas Day on a remote human colony and the Doctor is hiding from Christmas Carols and Comedy Antlers. But when a crashed spaceship calls upon the Doctor for help, he finds himself recruited into River Song’s squad and hurled into a fast and frantic chase across the galaxy. King Hydroflax (Greg Davies) is furious, and his giant Robot bodyguard is out of control and coming for them all! Will Nardole (Matt Lucas) survive? And when will River Song work out who the Doctor is? All will be revealed on a starliner full of galactic super-villains and a destination the Doctor has been avoiding for a very long time.
Comment: Christmas specials have been a hit-and-miss affairs over the years and this particular episode demonstrates the inconsistency perfectly. Obviously written as a fun romp with a seasonal theme it is often amusing, but seldom challenging. That is probably the point. Who wants heavy drama on Christmas Day other than fans of Eastenders? This episode, therefore, is not meant to be a serious addition to the series, merely an entertaining diversion. As such it provides contrast when compared with the majority of series 9 through the lightness of its approach. Capaldi demonstrates his true range by being as adept at comedy as he is at drama. The plot really isn’t worth scrutinising and the whole episode is merely contrived to re-introduce Alex Kingston’s River Song. Her return is welcome, but her seeming inability to recognise the new Doctor even when presented with his TARDIS seems inappropriately dim. Their scenes together, however, demonstrate a strong chemistry given the high level of association the character has with the Matt Smith era. In all this is an enjoyable, if light, addition to the annual Christmas Day outings.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – HEAVEN SENT / HELL BENT

HEAVEN SENT / HELL BENT
2 episodes / 119m / 28 November & 5 December 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Rachel Talalay
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jeanna Coleman (Clara), Donald Sumpter (The President [Rassilon]), Ken Bones (The General), Maisy Williams (Ashildr [Me]), T’Nia Miller (Female General), Malachi Kirby (Gastron), Clare Higgins (Ohila), Linda Broughton (The Woman), Martin T Sherman (Man), Jami Reid-Quarrel (Wraith), Nick Ash (Wraith), Ross Mullen (Wraith), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Dalek), Jami Reid-Quarrell (The Veil).
Plot: Trapped in a world unlike any other he has seen, the Doctor faces the greatest challenge of his many lives. One final test. And he must face it alone. Pursued by the fearsome creature known only as the Veil, he must attempt the impossible. If he makes it through, Gallifrey is waiting… Returning to Gallifrey, the Doctor faces the Time Lords in a struggle that will take him to the end of time itself. Who is the Hybrid? And what is the Doctor’s confession?Comment: Heaven Sent is an experimental episode in that it is practically a single-hander for Capaldi set in a Matrix-like world from which he is looking for an escape. The most impressive aspect of this story is that Capaldi holds the attention throughout with a tour-de-force performance and the direction and photography conjure up nightmarish visuals. When, in Hell Bent, we finally move to Gallifrey, the scale increases and the focus turns toward the Doctor’s attempts to rescue Clara from her fate in Face the Raven. In doing so he also tries to unravel the mystery of the Hybrid. Many options are touted for the identity of the latter and this is left pretty much open-ended. There are some moments that will have long-term fans cheering and others that will have them fuming. This closing two-parter is nothing if not challenging. On the whole it delivers a conclusion that should satisfy most.  Series 9 has been a strong one, but one in which Moffat’s high level concepts and sometimes confusing narrative may have left some of the show’s broader audience cold. I for one would like to see the balance tip back toward simpler, plot-led sci-fi mysteries with the occasional high concept story next year.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – FACE THE RAVEN

FACE THE RAVEN
1 episode / 47m / 21 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Sarah Dollard
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Jovian Wade (Rigsy), Maisie Williams (Me [Ashildr]), Simon Manyonda (Kabel), Simon Paisley Day (Rump), Letitia Wright (Anahson), Robin Soans (Chronolock Guy), Angela Clerkin (Alien Woman), Caroline Boulton (Habrian Woman), Jenny Lee (Elderly Woman).
Plot: The Doctor and Clara are reunited with Rigsy, the `pudding brained’ grafitti artist who gained the Time Lord’s respect by helping him face off an invasion by inter-dimensional beings known as the Boneless in Bristol. Together the trio investigate a strange alien world hidden on a street in the heart of London. They soon discover this unusual road is sheltering some of the most fearsome creatures in the universe – including the immortal Viking Ashildr, who the Time Lord last encountered in the 17th century in the guise of noblewoman-turned-brigand `Lady Me’.
Comment: Well-paced and intriguing episode with its primary purpose being to set up the exit of Clara and lead into the two-part season finale. The hidden street in the centre of London is a neat idea and eerily gothic with the tension kept high through atmospheric camera work and the idea of a countdown tattoo. Capaldi is again in top form and he and Jenna Coleman play Clara’s exit scene with nice understatement. Williams makes her third appearance of the series and it is likely we will see more of her before the two-parter finale is done as the episode ends on a cliffhanger with the Doctor being teleported out to who knows where.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – SLEEP NO MORE

SLEEP NO MORE
1 episode / 45m / 14 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Reece Shearsmith (Gagan Rassmussen), Elaine Tan (Nagata), Neet Mohan (Chopra), Bethany Black (474), Paul Courtenay Hyu (Deep-Ando), Zina Badran (Morpheus Presenter), Natasha Patel (Hologram Singer), Elizabeth Chong (Hologram Singer), Nikkita Chadha (Hologram Singer), Gracie Lai (Hologram Singer).
Plot: Video recovered from the wreckage of Le Verrier Space Station details how the Doctor and Clara became entangled in a rescue mission. As the footage plays out, a horrifying secret is uncovered, one that might threaten the life, sanity and species of anyone who watches. Comment: Experimental episode using the popular found-footage horror genre as the basis for a confusing monster takes over space station story where the viewer is never sure if what they are seeing is real, fabricated or imagined. The sandmen are a creepy design and the inter-cutting between shifting viewpoints helps keep the tension high. Capaldi is looking increasingly at home as the Doctor now, having settled down his characterisation. I’m not really sure I got the whole thing and will probably need to re-watch to dig out some of the subtexts, but I did enjoy this episode for its willingness to bring a new twist to a more traditional Who plot, which it executed pretty well..

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION

THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION
2 episodes / 93m / 31 October & 7 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Peter Harness & Steven Moffat
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Nicholas Asbury (Etoine), Cleopatra Dickens (Claudette), Sasha Dickens (Jemima), Rebecca Front (Colonel Walsh), Abhishek Singh (Little Boy [Sandeep]), Samila Kularatne (Little Boy’s Mum), Todd Kramer (Hitchley), Jill Winternitz (Lisa [Drone Op]), Gretchen Egolf (Norlander), Karen Mann (Hitchley’s Mom), James Bailey (Walsh’s Son), Aidan Cook (Zygon), Tom Wilton (Zygon).
Plot: The Zygons, a race of shape-shifting aliens, have been living in secret amongst us on Earth, unknown and unseen – until now! When Osgood is kidnapped by a rogue gang of Zygons, the Doctor, Clara and UNIT must scatter across the world in a bid to set her free. But will they reach her in time, and can they stop an uprising before it is too late?
Comment: A somewhat heavy-handed political allegory enlivened by some atmospheric visuals and a towering performance from Capaldi, who has really grown into the role of the Doctor. Jenna Coleman is also excellent in her dual-role as Clara and Zygon duplicate and Ingrid Oliver is again appealing as Osgood. The Zygons are an effective classic monster and the plot concerning a faction group looking to break the peace treaty brokered at the close of Day of the Doctor is involving. The story occasionally suffers from some over elaborate ideas, which lack follow-through such as the UNIT jet being shot down and no-one seemingly blinking an eyelid. I’m also not sure I still get the whole dual-Osgood scenario, but it did set up a splendid finale which gave Capaldi the opportunity to deliver one of the most passionate speeches in the series’ history. Capaldi’s performance is reminiscent of Tom Baker at this best as The Doctor argues ethics and values with the Zygons and Jemma Redgrave’s UNIT commander in an attempt to restore the treaty. Stirring stuff then in a story that ultimately satisfies despite its none-too-subtle political messaging.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE GIRL WHO DIED / THE WOMAN WHO LIVED

THE GIRL WHO DIED / THE WOMAN WHO LIVED
2 episodes / 92m / 17 & 24 October 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: (1) Jamie Mathieson, Steven Moffat & (2) Catherine Tregenna
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Cast: (1 & 2) Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Maisie Williams (Ashildr/The Knightmare). (1) David Schofield (Odin), Simon Lipkin (Nollarr), Ian Conningham (Chuckles), Tom Stourton (Lofty), Alastair Parker (Limpy), Murray McArthur (Hasten), Barnaby Kay (Heidi). (2) Rufus Hound (Sam Swift), Gareth Berliner (Coachman), Elisabeth Hopper (Lucie Fanshawe), John Voce (Mr Fanshawe), Struan Rodger (Clayton), Gruffudd Glyn (Pikeman Lloyd Llewelyn), Reuben Johnson (Pikeman William Stout), Ariyon Bakare (Leandro), Ariyon Bakare (Leandro), Daniel Fearn (Crowd 1), Karen Seacombe (Crowd 2), John Hales (Hangman).
Plot: (1) Captured by Vikings, the Doctor and Clara must help protect their village from space warriors from the future, the Mire. Outnumbered and outgunned, their fate seems inevitable. So why is the Doctor preoccupied with a single Viking girl? (2) England, 1651. Deadly highwayman ‘the Knightmare’ and his sidekick stalk the dark streets of London. But when they find loot that is not of this world, they come face to face with the Doctor. Who is theKnightmare in league with? And can the Doctor avoid the hangman’s noose and protect the Earth from a devilish betrayal?
Comment: A two-parter with each episode having distinct plots but an overarching theme concerning Williams’ Ashildr and how the Doctor impacts her life. Both stories are historical based with fantasy/alien elements incorporated and both are entertaining if slight. The Viking story is the more enjoyable of the two with a simpler plot, but occasionally it descends into childish humour. The highway bandit story is a more serious affair dealing with the aftermath of the Doctor’s decision from the first story. Clara is absent for most of the episode leaving the story to delve deeper into the cause and effect of the Doctor’s decision – notably its impact on Williams’ character. The resolution is a little disappointing for a series steeped in plot twists and unexpected turns, but may potentially be evidence that Moffat has scaled back on the big concept shock tactics and opted for more concise character-based stories – not necessarily a bad thing.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – UNDER THE LAKE / BEFORE THE FLOOD

UNDER THE LAKE / BEFORE THE FLOOD
2 episodes / 86m / 3 & 10 October 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Director: Daniel O’Hara
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Colin McFarlane (Moran), Sophie Stone (Cass), Zaqi Ismail (Lunn), Morven Christie (O’Donnell), Arsher Ali (Bennett), Steven Robertson (Pritchard), Paul Kaye (Prentis), Peter Serafinowicz (Voice of Fisher King), Corey Taylor (Voice of Fisher King).
Plot: Under a lake, in the dripping gloom of an underwater base, stands a gleaming black space ship, recovered from the lake bed. Nothing is inside – but when the base crew start dying, they make a terrible discovery: ghosts are real! And their friends are refusing to stay dead! The Doctor and Clara arrive to find a base under siege from beyond the grave. But how can the dead be walking? What has brought them back? When the Doctor discovers the truth, it is more terrifying than any simple ghost story.Comment: A traditional Who story in many ways as it features many elements that have worked well throughout the show’s history – the isolated base under siege, the use of different time zones for the Doctor to influence events, etc. The first episode is set entirely in the underwater base and leaves the Doctor, Clara and the crew to untangle the mystery of the messages left in an abandoned spacecraft and the seeming ghosts that are beginning to kill them off one by one. The second episode sees the Doctor and two members of the crew travel back to 1980 and before the valley was flooded, where he ultimately finds the source of the message. The Fisher King is an imposing monster and the story neatly wraps up the mystery. Along the way there are some creepy and atmospheric scenes, even if there is a little bit too much chasing through corridors (another Who staple). Capaldi and Coleman are in top form, but the guest cast is a mixed bag with only Sophie Stone’s deaf/mute Cass and Paul Kaye’s alien undertaker standing out. The two-part format again works well allowing the plot room to develop and this is a good solid story – the type of which the series continues to do well. Not sure about the specs as a replacement for the sonic screwdriver though.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE / THE WITCH’S FAMILIAR

THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE / THE WITCH’S FAMILIAR
2 episodes / 95m / 19 & 26 September 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗½
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Hettie MacDonald
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Julian Bleach (Davros), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Harki Bhambra (Mike), Daniel Hoffmann-Gill (Bors), Joey Price (Young Davros),
Benjamin Cawley (Kanzo),  Aaron Neil (Mr Dunlop), Clare Higgins (Ohila), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Kelly Hunter (Shadow Architect), India Ria Amarteifio (Alison), Dasharn Anderson (Ryan), Stefan Adegbola, Shin-Fei Chen, Lucy Newman- Williams (Newreaders), Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg (Daleks), Jonathon Ojinnaka (Soldier).
Plot: Capaldi returns as the Doctor for another series of time-travelling exploits. However, as this first adventure begins, it seems the Time Lord has gone missing – which is bad news for Earth, as a mysterious alien force has frozen the skies. Clara needs to find her friend – but where is he and what is he hiding from? Things soon become clear with the appearance of a familiar old enemy with a black hat and Scottish accent.
Comment: Confident two-part series opener. The plot takes the concept from the powerful scene from 1975’s GENESIS OF THE DALEKS – in which Tom Baker’s Doctor and Michael Wisher’s Davros debated genocidal ethics – and stretches it over a full story. Capaldi’s scenes with Bleach are enthralling and their interplay is the highlight of what is a stylish production. The story also pairs off Gomez’s Missy and Coleman’s Clara and their exchanges are lively and witty. It is also great to see the Daleks in most of their various liveries from over the years. Great ideas abound – including Hand Mines reaching out from the mud and a sewerage system on Skaro that is literally alive with waste. In recent series Moffat has taken an increasingly scattergun approach to his writing, cramming so many ideas that the stories can sometimes lose focus for the sake of a witty or wacky scene, but here he stretches them over two-episodes allowing the story room to breathe. The result is a visual treat combined with an emotive plot, creating a very satisfying whole.

Doctor Who Retrospective – 1.11 BOOM TOWN

BOOM TOWN
1 episode / 44m / 4 June 2005
Rating: ∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), William Thomas (Mr Cleaver), Annette Badland (Margaret), John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Noel Clarke (Mickey), Mali Harries (Cathy), Aled Pedrick (Idris Hopper), Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen).
Plot: The TARDIS crew take a holiday, but the Doctor encounters an enemy he thought long since dead. A plan to build a nuclear power station in Cardiff City disguises an alien plot to rip the world apart. And when the Doctor dines with monsters, he discovers traps within traps.
Comment: The Slitheen (or rather one of them), first seen in the earlier Aliens of London/World War Three, return in this uneven episode, which mixes juvenile humour, in the entrapment of Annette Badland’s alien, with commentary on the Doctor’s unwillingness to face the effects of the changes he instigates. The episode is best when tackling the latter issues packaged around a restaurant dinner in which Badland’s Slitheen prods and pokes at the Doctor’s conscience. There is also the reuniting of Piper’s Rose with Clarke’s Mickey and Clarke manages to at last add some depth to his character. Barrowman continues to impress as Captain Jack, but in more of a support role here. The finale adds a little spectacle to the proceedings and the denouement is fairly neat. But overall the episode is another struggling to find the balance between the serious and the silly. In retrospect it is easy to understand Davies’ broad brush approach during this first season, with him being keen to attract a wide enough audience back to the series after its lengthy absence. Fortunately he would get it right in the season’s finale.