The Eaters of Light Unreview

The Ninth Legion of the Roman Empire, last seen in the Netherlands, and Bill wants the Doctor to show her what happened. So, of course, they travel over to Scotland which is over 700 miles away from the Netherlands.

What? Yes, it is true. There is no proof. archaeological or otherwise, that the Ninth Legion was destroyed in Scotland.

According to Wikipedia, that infallible source of information that is only second to the Matrix:

“Legio IX Hispana (“Spanish 9th Legion”), also Legio nona Hispana (“Spanish Ninth Legion”), was a legion of the Imperial Roman army that existed from the 1st century BC until at least AD 120. The legion fought in various provinces of the late Roman Republic and early Roman Empire. It was stationed in Britain following the Roman invasion in 43 AD. The legion disappears from surviving Roman records after c. AD 120 and there is no extant account of what happened to it.

The unknown fate of the legion has been the subject of considerable research and speculation. One theory (per historian Theodor Mommsen) was that the legion was wiped out in action in northern Britain soon after 108, the date of the latest datable inscription of the Ninth found in Britain, perhaps during a rising of northern tribes against Roman rule. This view was popularized by the 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth in which the legion is said to have marched into Caledonia (modern day Scotland), after which it was “never heard of again”.

This theory fell out of favor among some scholars as successive inscriptions of IX Hispana were found in the site of the legionary base at Nijmegen (Netherlands), suggesting that the Ninth may have been based there from c. 120, later than the legion’s supposed annihilation in Britain. The Nijmegen evidence has led to suggestions that IX Hispana was destroyed in later conflicts of the 2nd century. Suggestions include the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–5) or Marcus Aurelius’ war against Parthia (161–6) in Armenia. However, some scholars have ascribed the Nijmegen evidence to a mere detachment of IX Hispana, not the whole legion. They continue to favor the British scenario, but concede that the legion’s disaster must have happened closer to 120 than 108.”

I am a qualified archaeologist, I know what I am saying. Now let me fetch my fedora, my whip and I will continue digging out the secrets of The Eaters of Light.

Rona Munro, her wot wrote Survival and some plays not featuring Time Lords, wrote this. Yes. Are there any similarities? Besides the fight for survival, no. At least the light eaters look a lot better than the Salem Saberhagen clone. Rona is also the only writer to have worked on both the classic and revived series, bringing her grand total to two.

The story begins with a bickering pair of siblings. Judy (who calls their kids ‘Judy nowadays?) wants to listen to the music of the ancient stones. Her brother wants to go back home so they can watch the reboot of Blake’s Seven starring Zach Braff, John Goodman, Vanilla Ice, John Simm, Miranda Hart, Donald Duck and Greyfriars Bobby.

But that is boring! So we go back in time where the Doctor and Bill are arguing on whether the Ice Warriors are the ancestors of the Silurians. An argument not helped by the fact that she hasn’t heard of the Silurians so changing topic to something she does know, she asks the Doctor what happened to the Ninth Legion.

Bill claims to be an expert having read Rosemary Sutcliff’s book The Eagle of the Ninth. A book which, as mentioned above, has been proven to be inaccurate. It is much like reading Fifty Shades of Grey and claiming that you are an expert on dreadful writing.

“What about Missy?”
“Aw, crivens, Nardole! I’m sure that she is fine where she is”
“Why are you winking at me? Are you having a stroke? Why is this crow speaking in an African-American accents ”
“Nardole, all crows can speak. They disnae speak in the 21st century because they are all sulking. Sulky sassenach crows…”

Second century Scotland, with Romans and Picts hanging about, and what do they do? Yup, they separate into two groups. The Doctor and Nardole to look for dead Roman bodies, and Bill to find the alive Legio. The crow flies away singing When I See A Roman Die.

It just occurs to me that some people may think I am being racist in making the crow African as in the Jim Crow stereotype. I’m not. I’m referencing the film Dumbo.

Bill walks thought a not-spooky-at-all forest. Fangorn it ain’t. She avoids the Blair Witch, the Miliband Witch and the Corbyn Witch and comes across a grieving Pict.

She asks if the Pict girl is alright. The Pict girl picks up a sword and starts chasing her. Just think Scooby-Doo with less Great Danes and more facial tattoos and fur clothes.

With a scream of “Jinkies!”, Bill runs away as quick as she can run and falls promptly into a hole. Nice.

A Roman is there with her. Trapped also. He sees her and explains that the Ninth Legion was all wiped out.

“Them fuzzy wuzzies didn’t like the cold steel of a Roman…”
“Stop, stop! We did the naff Dad’s Army jokes last week.”
“Oh, sorry.”
“How about a ‘Allo ‘Allo parody?”
“Nah, never seen it, love.”
“So the fuzzy wuzzies – so racist, bruv, yeah – killed your lot?”
“Er, no. That would have been the monster.”

They help each other out and because who doesn’t love a Hanna-Barbera style chase sequence they are both chased by something with long black tentacles with blue stripes. And yes, that sentence was to grammar what a chicken is to an igloo, sorry.

The Roman is caught by the creature who covers him in sticky tentacles. “Good moaning, may I see your pissport? No, I will ate you instead!” And the Roman dies never knowing whether Bill survives or what TV show the beast was referring to.

Bill goes down another hole and meets some more Romans. Or at least she thinks they are Romans. They have Roman noses. How does she know they have Roman noses? They are roamin’ all over their faces (© Acme Cracker Company, 1899).

The soldiers are hiding from the blue-striped meanie which they call a “Light-eating Locust”. This thing is drawn to any light source and it will kill anyone or anything that is in its path. Why, call me stupid but I have to ask, are they hiding in an enclosed space which is brightly lit? Surely this isn’t so much a hiding place as a smörgåsbord for the Thin Blue-and-Black Line? And if it loves eating the light, why bother going after a few paltry fires when it can just eat the Sun? The big ball of fire in the sky and not the scaremongering tabloid which features headlines like:

LIGHT-EATING LOCUST COMES TO ALBION,

TAKES OUR JOBS,

CHEATS ON WIFE,

IMMIGRANT SHOCKER!

… and Boudicca on page 3, no doubt with the caption, “Our Boudicca, 27-33-40, says that Light-Eating Locusts were amazeballs when they were eating Romans but since they started eating Picts she is now opposed to their human-gobbling ways.”

For Americans and other British culture muggles, imagine that Donald Trump edited a newspaper. Yeah. Only not printed in crayon.

Above ground, the Doctor and Nardole discover the corpse of a Roman soldier and the other 5,400 odd soldiers. All blackened with rot or monster goo or something or nothing. Are they boneless or just so bone idle that they let themselves get deaded by whatever deaded them?

Say that the monster killed all the soldiers in one hour, yes? With 5,400 soldiers that would be at a rate of 90 legionaries a minute. That is one greedy monster. Unless it is monsters plural.

In any case, our dynamic duo make their way to a cairn which is being guarded by Pictish children.

“Where are the adults?”
“They were all killed wiping out the Romans. Our best warriors, Asterix and Obelix, defen…”
“Nae, nae, nae! Nae Asterix jokes, aye? It is bad enough that I am investigatin’ the disappearance of the Ninth Roman Sassenachs in Scotland when archaeological evidence proves that they were last seen years later frae now in the Netherlands but passing off Scottish Picts for Gauls? Nuh-uh, not on my watch!”
“Um…”

The Picts are waiting for the Guardian of the Gate. So are the Doctor and Nardole because swords and spears tend to make captives reluctant to leave.

The Guardian comes in, looks at the TARDIS two and says, “I am Groot!” Nah, just kidding, she comes up to them shakes their hand and asks whether they’d love a jam butty.

This is Kar, tattoos all over her face. And a teenager like the rest of the Pict survivors. Like all teenagers, sullen, miserable, likes to listen to Portishead and smokes spicy cigarettes when her parents aren’t watching. And by spicy I don’t mean paprika. I mean red peppers. Sorry, this paragraph got away from me. Much in the same way that the Doctor and Nardole get away from the Picts.

The Doctor, second-class vestal virgin, flings popcorn kernels into the fire and when they explode, they hotfoot it out. Nardole is overly pleased that he didn’t bring popping candy with him instead. That would have been anticlimactic. Tasty but anticlimactic.

The Doctor enters the cairn and approaches a wall which opens up to reveal a blue swirly light which he recalls from the Third/Fourth Doctor’s title sequence. He enters.

Nardole squeaks when the Doctor does this. And squeaks again when the Picts surround him and ask if he has any more popcorn.

This rift is a interdimensional pied-à-terre home to millions of tentacled nasties and one very lost kitten. These critters feed off light and they see this gateway as an entrance to a free lunch. The nasties not the cat. The cat just eats noodles.

When the Doctor reemerges a few seconds later, he is surprised to learn that he has actually been in the rift for two days. The Narnia Effect. Nardole has handily smoothed things with the Picts. He has gone native with facial tattoos and a woad-dyed dressing gown. Which his crow friend thinks is “so last year, dahling!”

“Do you think the monster will kill me, Mister Crow?”
“I’ve seen a Roman die. I’ve seen a Pict die. But I ain’t never seen a bald cyborg die.”

Incidentally, with that dressing gown, Nardole is bringing out his inner Arthur Dent.

Kar explains to the Doctor that once a generation, a warrior of the tribe goes into the cairn and the rift to defeat one of the eaters of the light. But Kar, being the stroppy teenager that she is, let out a light-eating locust to kill the entire Ninth Legion. Which it dead. And then it ate the Pict army as an apéritif (or do I mean digestif?).

The Doctor wags his finger at her and warns that if the creature is not put back through the rift, more creatures will come through and they will consume the Sun, the stars and your little dog too. Not good news.

Bill Potts leads the Romans through the underground where they battle a three-headed dog, a snarky skeletal ferryman and avoid paying to use the subway train which drops them off where the Picts are hanging out.

The Romans and the Picts start squaring up to one another. Because they are teenagers, they decide to have a rumble. Because the Doctor isn’t a teenager, he stops them before it all breaks out into Westside Story.

The Doctor has a plan but he doesn’t know where he can find a bucket of frogs so he makes a second plan, not involving a bucket of frogs, which consists of luring the Eater to the rift during the daylight. This will involve popping candy which Nardole found in his marsupial pouch. How lucky. Once the monster is trapped, they will taught it until the Sun drops below the horizon. One problem. Somebody needs to stay and prevent the beast from escaping.

As the humans live lives like mayflies, the Doctor volunteers himself for the job. His near immortality and regenerative abilities makes him the best candidate.

Then the story flashes forward seven thousand years, and the Doctor comes out of the rift. “Och, I am my twelfth self again. Crivens! I canae believe that I was a woman three times, black five times, Japanese once and a small furry puppy nineteen times. Pity naebody saw. Ah, well…”

This doesn’t happen. Bill whacks him on the noggin and the Romans and Picts take his place. Kar asks everyone to remember her and says, “smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!”

And they are gone.

The rift suffers indigestion because of all the people tramping through it. It burps and causes the cairn to collapse in on itself.

The Picts, the ones too scared to enter the rift, honour the memory of Kar by carving some stones, headbanging to Kid Rock songs and teaching all the crows to say her name. Which explains why all crows say “kar” to this day.

Our heroes go back to the TARDIS and discover Missy. She has been doing some housework for the Doctor. She has arranged all his Beano annuals in order of funniness, fed Cthulhu and, because she is still a bit of a bad girl, threw the Doctor’s bondage trousers out into the time vortex. Nardole is not happy. It took him days to iron all those punk trousers. Sheesh!

We see Judy again and she is listening to the music under the ground. But she doesn’t like the Sugarhill Gang, so she leaves.

Nearby is the Doctor and Nardole.

“KAR! KAR! KAR!”
“The crows are remembering!”
Crow poos on Nardole head.
“Crivens, Nardole, they remember ye tae!”

I liked the scene where Bill suddenly, ten episodes in, realises that she can understand what the Romans and Picts are saying. “Shouldn’t y’all be speaking Esperanto or Latin or something?” Oddly similar to The Fires of Pompeii when Donna finds herself speaking Celtic (Celtish?). Ironic given that Peter Capaldi was in both episodes. And that they both feature Romans.

Rebecca Benson as Kar. She impresses. I really liked her. She plays Kar in a gutsy way. I admire her acting. Very good indeed. Sometimes when I see young actors I have horrific flashbacks to shows like Grange Hill, Byker Grove and every American sitcom involving small children. Not with Benson though, she is great as are the rest of the cast whom I can’t be bothered to mention.

Pearl Mackie in traditional companion mode. Liked her a lot. Can’t help feeling that Bill might be a little dense to that late realisation about the TARDIS translatory Babel Fish. But I still enjoyed her performance so it was all to the good.

Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez. Both were good, enjoyable to watch. Almost equals despite the amount of time Missy was on screen for, minutes! I won’t say anything but only this, that moment in the TARDIS with them silent near each other. Loved that. Probably won’t last, sigh.

So should you watch this episode. Yes, of course. If you love monsters with testicles and, um, sorry, tentacles (curses to the spellchecker!). I liked it and you might too.

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, reallife, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Empress of Mars Unreview

Who is the Empress of Mars? Is she related to the Viceroy of Venus? Why are lyrics to punk songs written upon the surface of Mars? Will all be revealed or it is all a saddening bore?

This is Mark Gatiss and this story involves Ice Warriors. He likes them icy gits he does. He thinks they are champion.

Modern day Earth and things are awry at NASA. They have sent a gadget to Mars. What this gadget does is take really detailed pictures. But there is something weird. No, not the Doctor, Bill and Nardole crashing the party but the picture of the surface of Mars.

When the pictures fly through space back to NASA HQ, a picture loads up as slow as a picture would do on a 1990s computer. Yep, they literally wait hours to see what the picture is. Words appear, bit by bit…

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN

The TARDIS trio immediately run to the bust of Neil Armstrong, lift up the head to press the red button that is there. A wall slides back to reveal three fireman poles which they slide down.

If they had waited a few hours more, they would have seen the rest of the message. Which is…

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
THE FASCIST REGIME
THEY MADE YOU A MORON
A POTENTIAL H-BOMB

And so on and so forth, etcetera etcetera…

And if they have scanned slightly to the east of the message, they would have also seen Sutekh’s pyramid, Sutekh’s patio and Sutekh’s barbecue pit with bespoke charcoal grill.

Again, so on and so forth, etcetera etcetera…

The title sequence starts. Ooh, new titles! Cartoon images of the Doctor and Bill punching Daleks, Cybermen, sentient puddles and Ice Warriors. Every time a punch lands, a weird sound effect appears in writing. ‘BOK!’ ‘KKLAK!’ ‘ECKY-THUMP!’ ‘KLOKEDA!’ ‘SPLINK!’ But the theme tune has gone downhill though. “Nananananana Doctor! Doctor! Doctor! Nananananananananananana Doctor!” Really! I ask you.

Sorry, just my small tribute to Adam West who died as I was writing this unreview.

Mars. What can I say about Mars?

Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it’s cold as hell
And there’s no one there to raise them
If you did
~ Elton John, Rocket Man

The TARDIS vworps vworps underneath the surface of Mars. A dingy red cave system. Our heroes are wearing spacesuits, not the orange ones from previous episodes, and would have a problem in seeing where they are going if it wasn’t for the flickering fire handily lighting up the caves.

Is there life on Mars? Well, yes. What with the Séroni, Mysterons, Ice Warriors, zombifying water plus Sailor Mars and the first homosexual Martians (Marvin and the Manhunter. Yes, I just outed them!), Mars is chock-a-block with life on Mars. It is, as the great David Bowie once said, “the freakiest show”.

This fire was probably lit by one of them folks I just mentioned. Not that Bill cares, no, she is too busy falling down a hole. Typical!

Nardole pops back to the TARDIS to fetch some rope and a copy of Buckaroo. And the TARDIS, flighty mare that she is, vworp vworps itself back to St Luke’s University of Boffins. Why? No idea.

The Doctor is impatiently waiting for the bald one when he hears clomping. Could this be the clomping of the Russell Thessalonian Davies Cybermen? No. It is an Ice Warrior. A battered thing. It bears down on the Doctor like a cat bearing down upon a plate of cow entrails. It is about to give him a cuddle and a kiss, I presume, when a soldier in red calls it off. Then he points his rifle at the Doctor.

Bill, lest we forget our raven-haired companion, also encounters a soldier in red. Bit more friendly than the one Old Two Hearts met.

Meanwhile, not quite meanwhile, Nardole is banging on the doors of the Vault.

“Missy! Missy! I need your help! The darn TARDIS has stranded the Doctor and whatshername on Victorian Mars! Again! What do I do?”
“Ach, ye wee [expletive deleted]. I’ll only be tae glad tae help ye, haggis-brain. Let me [expletive deleted] oot an’ I will show ye.”

Back on Mars, the Doctor and Bill are reunited. Huzzah! He is trying to keep her spirits up with stories of how him and John Carter went on a pub crawl of Barsoom. “That Yankee sassenach ended up kissin’ a coupla Ice Lairds.”

The British soldiers are in league with the rickety Ice Warrior whose name is Friday. When asked, Captain Catchlove (Or is he Godsacre?) and the soldiers explain. In song.

“Friday the Ice Warrior packed his ship
And said goodbye to the red planet
Off he went with a zoomety-zoom
Zoom, zoom, crash!

Friday the Ice Warrior was stuck in his ship
He’d said goodbye to living
Off he went freezety-freeze
Frozen, frozen, thawed!”

“And then the blighter said that if we helped it back to Mars, he would let us mine the planet for gold, silver and precious tin. Which was nice. So we did, and here we are.”

Catchlove and Colonel Godsacre are not friends. Catchlove makes orders when it is Godsacre’s job to give the order. Has the moustached Catchy got something on his superior officer? There is certainly no love lost there.

Friday is named after a character from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. But you already knew that.

“May I be excused, sir?”
“What? Why?”
“It is rather a delicate matter, sir.”
“Oh. Oh! Go on but don’t be long.”

Friday, what with him being thousands of years old, has a weak bladder. Poor sod.

The Doctor doesn’t believe that Friday’s bladder is as weak as it seems. “That Ice Laird is up tae som’thin’ bad. I reckon he is planning’ on findin’ his hive. We’re doomed. Doomed I tell ye!”

This confuses Bill as she wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as Martian bumblebees.

No sooner has she thought this than the drill, the one that Friday built, cracks through into a tomb. A tomb belonging to an Ice Lady. Or rather the Empress of Malacandra, Iraxxa Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Doctor warns them not to enter. “See that writin’ up there? It says ‘A curse for you and you and you if you enter.'”

Catchlove: Right, men. Guard the tomb. You and you, hop to it.
Godsacre: Excuse me, “Do you think that’s wise? I am the superior here. Would you kindly allow me to give the orders?
Catchlove: *glowers, falls over and adjusts askew spectacles*
Godsacre: You are most gracious. Now you and you, Vincey, guard the tomb.
Vincey: I’ll tell mum on you, Uncle Frank

So young Vincey and an older soldier guard the tomb. Vincey is worried. I blame all those war stories that he has read. The older soldier reassures him, “Them Greeny Weenies don’t like the cold steel of our British bayonets, Vincey. No, they don’t like it up ’em!”

Vincey smiles but is not persuaded. He just tightens his Aston Villa scarf. He thinks that a Martian mummy will grab him by the goolies and tear him apart. If only mumsy was there, she’d protect him.

Jackdaw, one of the more, erm, older soldiers, approaches the guards with a nice cup of rosy lee (that is tea to you American readers [hah, like they are plural, pft!]). Vincey gets none because as his fellow guard says, “Rank has its privilege.”

Rank also has privileged Mickey Finns. The tea was drugged. All part of Jackdaw’s plan which is this: steal gems from tomb, steal spaceship back to Blighty, enjoy living it large. This plan simply cannot fail. He has roped in Vincey because, well, he needs a stooge.

“Are you sure we should be doing this? Uncle Frank won’t like it.”
“Nah, it will be fine,” Jackdaw says, taking a drag on his cigarette.
“But the Doctor said the tomb was cursed!”
“Don’t listen to Taffy, Vincey. We can sell the gems on the black market, mate.”
“My mum says you are a spiv.”
“Hey, I prefer to be called a wholesales supplier, thank you very much. Now keep an eye out, eh?”

Jackdaw enters. Indiana Jones he ain’t. Dakota Smith, maybe. He looks to the left, he looks to the right,, and proceeds to the tomb. No poisoned darts fly from the walls, none of the flagstones drop down into a bottomless chasm but a stone ball does drop down but given thousands of years of erosion it is now just a pebble.

Jackdaw prises a carbuncle from the side of the tomb which is actually a cryogenic doohickey. The Ice Lady revives. Iraxxa awakens. And boy is she grumpy. Clearly not a morning person. She challenges Jackdaw to explain why he is there but all he can say is “Blimey” before she turns him into a round ball of drycleaned clothing.

Vincey screams. This brings all the boys to the yard and before somebody can make a reference to Kelis’ Milkshake, there is trouble between the pinkies and the greenies.

In the corner of the hive room, Friday wakes up. “I must have dropped off,” he says. “I was dreaming about the jam my sisters used to make thousands of years ago…” and he goes on to explain to Iraxxa Warrior Princess that she and the rest of their race have been asleep for five thousand years.

Iraxxa is aghast. She left the tap running downstairs. Then she remembers that rank has its privileges and makes a mental note to get Friday to pay the water bill.

The risk of war, a war of the worlds if you will, is close to breaking out. The Doctor asks Iraxxa to show mercy but she doesn’t know what mercy is. The Doctor show her his dictionary and tells her that the Ice Warriors can’t survive on Mars’ surface. Not with every Tom, Dick and Martian Manhunter gobbling up the real estate.

Iraxxa does something unexpected. She asks Bill for her opinion. Bill gives her consent to relent and all seems well but you know peace won’t last, not with twenty minutes to go until the show finishes.

Godsacre introduces himself and his men but Iraxxa wants him to surrender. Which is not good of her. Godsacre says no.

Iraxxa: I am making notes, Colonel Godsacre, and your name will go on the list; and when we win, you will be brought to account.
Godsacre: You can write what you like, You’re not going to beat us!
Iraxxa: Oh yes we are.
Godsacre: Oh no you’re not.
Iraxxa: Oh yes we are!
Vincey: [Singing] Whistle while you work, Iraxxa is a twerp, she’s half-barmy, so’s her army, whistle while you work!
Iraxxa: Your name will also go on the list, fleshbag! What is it?
Godsacre: Don’t tell him, Vincey!
Iraxxa: Vincey!

Then the shooting starts. The British Army is hopelessly outmatched. So they make a quick exit.

Catchlove seizes control by stripping Godsacre so that everyone can see the wounds from the hanging that he survived. “See? He is a coward. Hung for it he was. But he wasn’t well hung, he survived. Yellow coward that he is. Don’t follow him, follow me. I have a better moustache.”

Catchlove uses the mining laser to collapse the entrance to the hive. Then he has the Doctor, Bill and the Cowardly Lion locked up in the brig. Brig being military speak for prison.

I have a question, why would they have built a brig? Did Godsacre expect trouble amongst the rank ranks? Or it simply there so they can escape from it later? Spoilers: they escape from it later.

Iraxxa doesn’t bother brushing her teeth after 5,000 years of slumber. No, she is a busy girl. With a flick of her Predatoresque dreadlocks, she revives more Ice Warriors from the hive. This is less impressive than it sounds since she is just placing a Mickey Mouse alarm clock next to their kipping heads.

I like the Ice Warriors but I also like the Victorian British Army. But which is better? Only one way to find out. FIIIIIGGGHHHHTTT!!!!!

Mars attacks (see what I did there?) from below in an attack which reminded me of the way the Silurians kidnapped people in The Hungry Earth.

Vincey is killed! I liked him. He is turned into a ball of clothing, freshly laundered. Not that Catchlove cares. He just looks at the remains of Vincey and mutters, “Stupid boy.”

Friday pops up through the ground into the brig. An alliance is made between him, the Doctor and Bill. Godsacre wants none of this because of his cowardice, see?

Friday and Bill distract Iraxxa while the Doctor takes control of the mining laser.

“Step back, ye Martian sassenachs! That’s gies dooble for ye soldier boys, aye? Noo, I will use this laser tae bury ye all under the ice of Mars’ north pole. Ye knows what that’ll mean.”
“Permission to speak, sir! But won’t all that ice kill us and the greenie weenies. None of us wants cold ice up us.”
“Nae! Not the ice! Nae presents from the Martian Father Christmas!”

This threat stops the fighting but it does rather allow Catchlove to hold Iraxxa at knifepoint. “Right, I think not. You can all bally well stay here. My moustache and I require this girly to pilot us back to Blighty where I will grow rich on the proceeds of exhibiting her in a freakshow. Now I would continue to tell you my plans but something seems rum…”

Catchlove falls to the ground. Dead. Godsacre, who got some courage from the Wizard of Oz, has killed him.

Iraxxa? That don’t impress her much. So Godsacre begs her to kill him. He explains about his cowardice, his hanging, and.. Hold on! Would someone, who was sentenced to be killed, allowed to continue active service in the British Army?

In any case, Iraxxa decides that she will call off the attack if Godsacre will pledge allegiance to the Ice Warriors. He accepts.

All that is left is for the Doctor to send an email and for a certain character to reappear after decades. Alpha Centauri! Cyclops in penile form! Loved this cameo and it is even played by the original actress, Ysanne Churchman. Which nicely sets up the Ice Warriors for their rols in the Peladon stories of the Pertwee era. Good old Mark Gatiss.

The Doctor and Bill help leave the message that NASA will find. And before you can say, deus ex machina, Nardole appears with the TARDIS. And Missy.

Missy, meek and mild, simply says she will go back into the Vault and then she asks about the Doctor’s health. Which is weird.

As they vworp away, the Ice Warriors sing their National Anthem…

God save the queen
She’s not a human being
and There’s a good future
And Mars’ awakening!

And that is it. There is no more. Nothing to see here, sir, please move on to some scathing critiques of the actors and other parts of the show.

Did anyone else note that the portrait of Queen Victoria showed Pauline Collins who has played her in Tooth and Claw. Very good nod to the past. As was the Ysanne Churchman cameo at which I punched the air. And Iraxxa’s command to “sleep no more”? Cheeky reference to the previous story that Mark Gatiss wrote for the show.

This is what the Greybeard Whovians would call a traditional episode, I guess. As such, the acting requires no frills. The acting is largely great but there are no real emotional scenes. Although Anthony Calf’s Godsacre deserves a special mention for the sheer quality of his performance.

Peter Capaldi is good. He always is. But I think that any Doctor could have been used in this story to no ill effect. The Doctor is written as generic Doctor. Good but, well, generic. Capaldi does his best and he does a wonderful job.

Pearl Mackie has less to do here than she has done in previous episodes. But this is all to the good. You always want to leave the audience wanting more. And I want more. Mischief managed, eh?

Matt Lucas is here and then gone and then here again. His only real role is to get Missy into the TARDIS and to have that odd confrontation with the Doctor. Again, mischief managed.

Michelle Gomez is… She was… She plays Missy as being almost humane. You wouldn’t know her to be the Master if you were unaware of her character’s history. I can’t wait to see how Missy will get her evil back.

A mention to Ferdinand Kingsley who is an utter git in this. Also, that moustache! I should like one like that.

Is Empress of Mars a great story. Um, not great but exceedingly good. If the Doctor had been a bit less generic than it would be a classic. In my eyes.

Should you watch it? Yes. It has Ice Warriors and a phallus with a huge eyeball. What more do you want? Dancing flamingos?

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The Lie of the Land Unreview

The Monks are the rulers of Earth. They are meddling with history. None are Peter Butterworth. And the clocks are striking thirteen. What could this all mean? Don’t ask me, I ain’t got a scooby, guv.

Welcome, Whovians and muggles, to The Lie of the Land written by Toby Whithouse. Yes, him wot wrote School Onion, The Werewolves of Woking, The Dog Complex, A Town Called Malice and the double episode story Under the Lake/Before the Emerson and Palmer.

Last week, Bill swapped the Doctor’s blindness for some magic beans. Now the Monks control the planet.

They have been here with us for squillions of years. When the first amphibian squelched onto land, it was the Monks who advised evolutionising themselves some feet. When the first humans invented the wheel, it was the Monks who suggested that a roundness might be a better idea than triangular wheels. And when fire was discovered, it was the Monks who were quietly ushering the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara out of the cave of skulls.

Yes, the Monks have aided us. They even stopped the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Daleks again and the Sycorax from invading our lovely planet. Every invasion has been thwarted, well, except for the Vardan invasion of 1975 which nobody noticed because the Vardans are basically a collection of floating tin foil.

Bill and some others people know that the Monks have only been on Earth for six months instead of the millennia that they claim they’ve been here. Anyone who voices this view is imprisoned for ‘memory crimes’ and sent to Room 101 without passing Go and collecting their £200. Dissidents become unpeople. Bill is very careful to avoid facecrime lest the thought police pick her up and clap her in chains.

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink'”
George Orwell

The Doctor appears on the televisions of the whole populace of the world, urging them to avoid “bein’ ungood sassenachs”, thoughtcrime, and telling them that “The Monks are doubleplusgood” while grinning wider than the Cheshire Cat in a milk bottling plant.

On every wall are the jagged symbol of the Monks. This translates as “The Monks Are Watching You.” There are massive statues of the Monks all over the world. This translates as “We fully support the arts.”

“Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you”
George Orwell

Doubleungood.

Bill tries to keep herself to herself, confiding in nobody but herself and her dead mother. No, she hasn’t been hit on the gulliver too hard, she is imagining that her mother is talking to her. All her images of her are taken from the photographs that the Doctor gave her in The Pilot. I’m not going to risk spoilers but keep what I just said in mind, eh?

But where is our lovable Nardole? Our Bill seeks him here, she seeks him there, she seeks that elusive Nardole everywhere but he is nowhere to be found.

During one of Bill’s chit-chats with Ersatz Mummy (played by Rosie Jane), Bill hears someone trying to get into her hovel – yeah, under the Monks, we all live in slums now – she picks up a tin of Uncle Monk’s Soylent Green and proceeds to wallop the intruder when Nardole walks in. Bill quickly unproceeds to throw the tin and gives him a doubleplusgood huggle.

Nardole reveals to Bill how he was stuck for a few weeks in the TARDIS having caught a friendly bacterium off the lab in the previous episode. So friendly in fact that the bacterium, Shaggy, invited Nardole to go glamping with him in the Hebrides. Such fun. Nardole then spent the following five months changing all the Nandos signs to Nardoles signs and winning the 2017 Tiddlywinks World Cup. Oh, and a couple of hours locating the Doctor who is apparently on a prison hulk.

Bill and Nardole go off to find him, pausing only to stop off in a churchyard and help an orphan bash in the brains of an escaped convict. The orphan is so happy that he invites them home to enjoy pie and brandy. Major yums. Nardole flirts with the boy’s sister. And a few nights later, they leave them.

“Erm, Pip. Who were those strangers?”
“I know not, Joe. But the bald one resembled Miss Havisham quite strongly.”
“Aye, lad.”

Our heroes wrangle themselves aboard the supply ship, showing papers to toothless sailors and swabbing the decks. And finally make it to the prison hulk, the SS Great Expectorations where they face killer wasps, wasps with machine guns, wasps riding wasps and a kitten who bats the wasps out of the air thus making all the wasps inadequate for guarding purposes.

When Bill and The Nardole get to where the Doctor is, he doesn’t seem too pleased to see them. In fact he has learned to love Big Brother…ahem…the Monks. Yes, the Doctor is on the side of the Monks. Ooh, big twist!

“What the glob, Doc? Why are you helping the Monks?”
“Because they will look after ye better than I could. They are so awfully braw. And ye whiny humans are acting like sassenachs with haggis doon their troosers. Why should I help ye pudden-heids anymoo?”

Or something to that effect. As always I paraphrase.

Just had a thought. What if Bill is the Doctor’s granddaughter or great-granddaughter? Or maybe she is the Doctor with a dose of amnesia? Probably she isn’t any of these things but I just wanted to state my theories so that, if right, I can brag.

Bill is upset. She thought she was rescuing the Doctor but he has Stockholm Syndrome. She isn’t happy that the Doctor is now spouting fake news. She gets all Trump on his Time Lord butt and berates him. So he calls for some gun-toting meatheads. They all come in, aiming guns at Nardole and Bill.

“Dinnae fash, Bill lass. Ye are sheeple and t’Monks ar’ ye Shepherds. So what if they kill ye. Sheep need tae be culled. So put up wi’ it or ye’ll be eaten wi’ mint sauce!”

Bill, not liking the thought of being covered in mint sauce, whips a pistol from the holster of one of the goons and shoots the Doctor. Bang Bang!

The Doctor staggers. His hand starts to glow. Could this be it? Is he respawning? Er, no. It is just a trick. He laughs, along with the goons, at Bill. He wasn’t really regenerating, he had just eaten his Ready-Brek.

“April Fools!”
“Doc, it is november.”
“Oh crivens, that is unlucky for me.”

The Doctor explains how all this, the searching and finding and apparent traitorness, was part of a plan to make sure that Bill was not having her strings pulled by the Monks. She punches them all.

“But I shot you!”
“Ach, yeah, but only silver bullets can kill a Time Laird. Or am I thinkin’ o’ werewolfies?”

The Doctor had to make sure that Bill was safe. He had spent the last few months deprogramming the commandos of all their Monk thoughts.

To cut a short story shorter, our heroes stroll down to St Luke’s University for People Who Failed To Get Into Oxford but the place is surrounded by a Monk. A very big Monk. There is also a statue of a Monk holding a scroll and a bottle of cheap cider, how appropriate.

Our heroes, however, are not going to the TARDIS. They are going to the Vault instead. Which they enter. To talk to Missy.

The TARDIS is not seen in this story. Thus making it one of nine that similarly didn’t feature the TARDIS. I’d faced with a firing squad by Whovian Greybeards if I didn’t mention them, so here goes…

Mission to the Unknown
Doctor Who and the Silurians
The Mind of Evil
The Dæmons
The Sea Devils
The Sontaran Experiment
Genesis of the Daleks
Midnight

…and The Pie of the Bland where Missy, our favourite villainous Time Lord/Lady, has a nice pad. A bit sparse, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen would have words to say about how boring it all is. Please note that four of the nine non-TARDIS episodes have the Master in them. This probably doesn’t mean a thing.

For Americans and other brain spawns, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen is an English interior designer who looks like the Eighth Doctor crossed with Lord Byron crossed with a 17th century fop crossed with a roll of flowery wallpaper. And while I am at it, Ready-Brek is a porridge-type breakfast thing whose commercials had people eating the paste and starting to glow.

Missy is put out by the six months since she last had a visitor. So out that she won’t stop singing “Shake’n’vac, it puts the freshness back…” until the Doctor apologises.

incidentally, is the Vault dimensionally transcendental?

The Doctor and Bill, but not Nardole, have a chit chat with Missy. She is irked because she is bored silly. Sillier. To ease this boredom she asks the Doctor for “a particle accelerator, a 3D printer and a [expletive deleted] pony” with which she intends to make herself a sandwich. Also, “why havnae ye got me the [expletives deleted] One Ring? ‘Tis the one I need to rule them all! I wan’ me [expletive deleted] precious!”

The subject changes to the of the Monks. Missy casually mentions how she has met them before. She gives the skinny, as Bill might say (see how down with the kids I am?) and confirms the Doctor’s theory about how they go about taking over planets.

The Monks arrive on a planet. They scan it and make holographic copies of it which they run on their Commodore 64s. When they have got the simulations to load (this involves turning the computers on, popping down the shop for some coffee, coming back, eating dinner, and then returning to their bedrooms to see if the program has loaded) eliminated any possible defeats, they land their space pyramids and start asking for consent to help the population from being destroyed by floods, bacterium, plagues of frogs, rivers of blood, locusts, rivers of chocolate (RIP Augustus Gloop) and giant kittens like in that Kitten Kong episode of The Goodies.

The reason why they need consent is, not just because of the insurance involved in rescuing gullible races, but because it creates a psychic link which enables them to broadcast fake news, piggy-backing via the statues, all over the planet and rewriting the memories so that the Monks seem to have been on Earth since humanity arose from the primordial gazpacho soup.

Simples!

There is only one way of stopping the Monks from hacking people’s gooey thoughty lumps. Kill the person with the psychic link. The psychic link can be passed down from parent to child. This is how Missy beat the Monks in an adventure I would have called Missy and the Fake News of Death.

Will Bill be killed to save the Earth? What do you think. Quite.

Could the link be broken if the Doctor took her back in time? Or off planet? A moot point since he can’t get to his TARDIS. Meh…

But we all know that Goody Two-Hearts won’t entertain the thought of Bill being sacrificed, so he, Nardole, Bill and the squaddie commandos (led by Captain Abel Magwitch, sir!) pop out for a dekko at the Monk’s headquarters which is a pyramid. In the middle of London. If nothing else, their rent must be astronomical.

The Doctor’s plan is this: get into the pyramid, find where the Monks are beaming out their psychic fake news, stop their infernal plans, go back to the university for crumpets and tea. The problems are that the Monks are a little reluctant to have their new world snatched away from them. Also, the closer the infiltrators get to the source of the fake news beam, the more they believe that the Monks are their saviours, all hail the Monks. Oh, and the shops have run out of crumpets.

In the Think Tank (not the actual name but I couldn’t resist calling it that since it was that or the Trumpium), the Doctor tries to pull a Spock but the Monk, who is wired into the psychic beam machine, isn’t having it. The Monks do not like mind melds. And it doesn’t work anyway judging by the way the shock sends the Doctor flying across the room.

The Monk sniggers.

Bill, being the plucky girl we know and love, links her mind to the Monk. The Doctor cries out for her to stop but she isn’t listening. This could wipe her mind clean.

Instead of Monk fake new/history, everyone on Earth sees pictures of Bill’s deceased mother.

These memories are strong in Bill’s mind, well, the photos of her mother are. And the love she has for her mother is a powerful engine. It wakes up the human race from their Monk-induced sheepness. Yeah, baby. the humans are back!

The Doctor, Bill and Nardole (who spent most of the time inside the pyramid looking for a kettle) hotfoot it out of the triangular alien construct before it blasts up into the sky and lowering the surrounding property values.

Later, the Doctor shows to Bill that nobody remembers the Monks. They, apparently, have deleted their presence from most of humanity’s so-called brains.

Normally this would be the end, but there is a coda of sorts still to come. The Doctor and Missy are in the Vault. She expresses sadness for all those that she shrunk, sliced, diced, marinated and pushed into a pit of vipers.

Boom! End of story…

Peter Capaldi is great as usual. Nothing to fault him on here. That grin that he has, when he is broadcasting to the world, is so damn creepy though.

Nardole is relegated back to comedy stooge but he has some nice lines. Matt Lucas impresses when he gets to be on the screen.

Pearl Mackie is phenomenal here. The scenes with her imaginary mother are great, sad and poignant. I like it when the companion takes more of a lead in the adventures. In my mind, the companion role is just as important as the Doctor’s. Mackie is outshining some of the previous well-loved companions by a long way.

Rosie Jane as Bill’s mother. Yes, small part with big consequences. Loved her incredibly brief scenes. Possibly much helped by her being gorgeous. Yes, I am shallow.

Michelle Gomez! The Master or Mistress or Missy or Snugglemonkey as the Rani calls her. Great to see the character being played with humanity. This performance continues on from her previous episode. This is a more humane Master without all the beard stroking and chuckling. Long may it continue (I know it won’t but it might).

Should you all watch The Lie of the Land? Well…

There are definite shades of the Martha Jones wandering the Master-controlled Earth here. Black companion in black survivalish gear, yep. Companion spending lots of months before rescuing the Doctor, yep. Giant statues of the invader, yep. Master, yep. Humanity saved by ridding their brains of the alien signal controlling them, yep.

Does it matter? No, all Doctor Who stories are influenced by previous stories. As long as the story is well told, which it is, then fair play.

The answer to the question is yeah, of course you should watch it. It is a pleasure to watch a story well-told, well-acted and who doesn’t like an Egyptian pyramid in the middle of London? This story is doubleplusgood.

Be seeing you!

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

The Pyramid at the End of the World Unreview

His name is Peter S. Harness Esquire and his name is Steven ‘Theodore’ Moffat and together they are Wyld Stallions! Oh, and when they aren’t on tour, they wrote this episode which is part two of what the fans are calling the Monks Trilogy.

Yes, that reference was duff but I have been dying to use it for months and I’ll be damned if I don’t use it now.

The Doctor and Bill take a trip to the year 5.5/apple/26 and watches, from a floating pyramid in space, the Earth be eaten by the sun. With them are devious monks who repeat the word ‘meme’.

OK, OK, barring the five words in the title and the creepy monks, this and The End of the World have nothing much in common.

Now trivia fans, The Pyramid at the End of the World has the biggest word count for a televised Doctor Who story. Although if you are counting characters instead, then that would go to The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe which has 32 over the 28 of The Pyramid at the End of the World. What this all means is that the word count of this unreview might be astronomical unless I call this story TPATEOFW.

Before any Whovian Greybeards say it, yes, I know that the spin-off series Class had that episode entitled The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did but given that it may be gently ignored and hidden into the outer reaches of canon, along with Dimensions in Time and The Doctor and Peri Go Bananas, I’ll ignore this 42 character behemoth. For the same reason I am also ignoring the New Adventure written by Gareth Roberts entitled Ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-ra-rasputin Goes to Zamper and featuring Boney M, his much maligned sequel to the perennial favourite Zamper.

Previously on Doctor Who… The Doctor is blind, Bill is not blind, rot-faced monks have been running a simulation of the Earth which they call Sim City: Earth. They aren’t blind either. Now the story continues…

Bill is on a date with a girl called Penny (Ronke Adekolouejo) whom we saw in the Shadow World. After the Doctor told her to ask her out, she has now done so. Being rather stupid, Bill is telling her date all about their previous date in a hologrammatic world.

“The Pope?”
“Yep, in his black cocktail dress.”
“Epic fail!”

Penny does not seem fazed by this. She has dated crazy people before. She thinks that Bill may be cuckoo for cocoa puffs but what the hell!

Back at Bill’s place. Not so awkward as before. No Pope. They are getting on like a house on fire when the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a bunch of gun-toting SAS squaddies pile into the room and tell her to “quit all that Sappho behaviour and lead us to the President!”

But Bill didn’t vote for the President because,

a) She isn’t American
b He is orange
c) He is a numpty

Not that President but the President of the World, a title given to our titular hero in the episode Death in Heaven. Yes, that happened.

The Doctor doesn’t want to help. He won’t even leave the TARDIS. No worries. The TARDIS has been taken out of St Luke’s University for the Bewildered and plonked onto an aeroplane. Checkmate, Doctor.

“Ach! A’right, I’ll cave. Wha’ is goin’ on?” he asks. The answer surprises him. A five-thousand year old pyramid has appeared in a disputed part of the world called Turmezistan (this country first appeared in the recent Zygon episodes) which is sandwiched between five powerful countries, Latveria, Ooo, Borduria, Elbonia and the ancestral home of the orange President, Loompa Land. The three global powers America, Russia and China are in Turmezistan, their armies massed around the place.

The Pyramid is as old as it looks but, actually no, how do people know that the pyramid is exactly that old? They can’t carbon test the building because the stone would be much older than a mere few thousand years. Meh, nevermind. Anyway, the pyramid is ‘ancient’ but it wasn’t there the day before. Kinda similar to parts of XXXX in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.

The Doctor, with the help of his sonic sunglasses and Nardole who is communicating with him via a coms device, approaches the pyramid. A Monk pops out and places an empty milk bottle beside their ‘Please Wipe Your Tentacles’ doormat.

“Are you a Jehovah’s Witness? If so, they came round yesterday. We pretended not to be in. So would you mind leaving?”
“Why ar’ ye here? And no, crivens, I am nae Jehovah’s Witness although if ye wish tae change ya religious provider, I can connect ye tae Buddhism which has excellent wireless service.”
“Oh, that! No, no, we are just here to save the world. Your little planet is about to become extinct. Yes, so give us consent to rescue you and we will. No win, no fee.”
“This wouldnae be a pyramid scheme, would it?”
“No, of course not. We just want to take over this planet honestly without the hassle of turning you all into mindless puppets. So passé, ducky.”
“Oh, that’s braw.”
“Yes, we thought so.”
“Ye ken that I will stop ye nasty plans, right?”
“Yes, we get the picture.”

The Doctor walks back to Bill, Nardole and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Oh, did I mention that he picked up the military leaders of the three armies? Yeah, he did that.

In the U.N. H.Q., all their watches, clocks and sundials suddenly change to the countdown which scientists call the Doomsday Clock.

Doomsday Clock? This is what Wikipedia says…

‘The Doomsday Clock is a symbol which represents the likelihood of a human-caused global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, the Clock represents an analogy for the threat of global nuclear war. Since 2007, it has also reflected climate change and new developments in the life sciences and technology that could inflict irrevocable harm to humanity. The Clock represents the hypothetical global catastrophe as “midnight” and The Bulletin’s opinion on how close the world is to a global catastrophe as a number of “minutes” to midnight. Its original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight. It has been set backward and forward 22 times since then, the smallest ever number of minutes to midnight being two (in 1953) and the largest seventeen (in 1991). As of January 2017, the Clock is set at two and a half minutes to midnight, due to a “rise of ‘strident nationalism’ worldwide, United States President Donald Trump’s comments over North Korea, Russia, nuclear weapons, and the disbelief in the scientific consensus over climate change by the Trump Administration.” This setting is the Clock’s second closest approach to midnight since its introduction.’

So yeah, all very scary, Um. No, it is more unsettling than scary but what does it mean?

The Doctor, being a man of peace, convinces the military leaders to use coordinated attacks on the pyramid. The ghosts beneath Wenley Moor roll in their graves. Doesn’t work. The plane is hijacked, the submarine is taken out of the water and embedded in the ground, and the Russian’s ice-cream van hits a pothole and spills all the lollies onto the ground..

The three military leaders (and the Secretary-General of the United Nations) want to negotiate with the corpses in red robes. The Doctor thinks this is not the greatest of ideas. Beware of corpses bearing pyramids and all that. But some people won’t be warned, so they troop off to the pyramid which is almost certainly going to result in some deaths. Bill, who was catching up with CSI: Fraggle Rock, shrugs her shoulders and follows them. Nardole is in the toilet.

Inside the pyramid, the Earth delegation are shown computer simulations of how the planet will look like in a year’s time. The Monks show them this by asking them to grab a handful of glowing spaghetti. They see ruined cities, destruction, dead bodies, Orville the Duck falling off an emu, grime etc. A lifeless Earth with cockroaches taking over.

“Ach, ye liars,” shouts the Doctor. “That is jus’ historical footage o’ the German’s Blitzkrieg in World War Two.”
“No, no,” says a Monk, holding its talons up. “This is what will happen unless you give us consent to save you.”
“Why do ye need consent?”
“Saves on paperwork, old chap. Plus it is an insurance liability if we just help you without asking.”

The computer simulations which the Monks were running in the last episode, that is what they are using to predict this armageddon. But the simulations were flawed, weren’t they? The real world doesn’t have the Veritas, so therefore things will be slightly different. Or so I would imagine.

This ‘consent’ could have bad side effects. The Doctor warns them but all they can see is the destruction of the planet. “Jings, I’ll save it. I always save it, dinnae I?” The American leader coughs into his fist, “coughharoldsaxoncough!”

The Secretary-General goes, “Alright. If you need consent, I give it. Go on, save us.” The Monks test him via a white light that hits him, scans him and turns him into bite-sized chunks. Why? Because he gave consent out of fear rather than love. Why do the Monks need love? Are they needy?

The Doctor, at the eleventh hour (or rather the eleventh minute), thinks that the Monks are misdirecting them. “Oldest trick in the book. The ol’ pyramid switcheroo”.

He and Nardole, fresh from the toilet, use the interwebs to find all the laboratories that are doing work which could cause an apococylapse. They rule out the usual suspects and come up with the labs doing biological work. The Doctor hedges his bet on the bacteria-dealing labs and gets Nardole to use his Mr Robot skills to hack their security cameras and turn them off.

This is a cunning plan. Turn off all the cameras, wait for the Monks to turn the camera on at the lab they are looking at, and bingo! “Wee suckers,” crows the Doctor as he takes the TARDIS and badass Nardole to the lab at the centre of the Monk’s attention.

During all this monky (ooh aah ahh eek okk!) excitement, the story has been also showing the workday of a girl scientist called Erica and Brian from My Parents Are Aliens AKA Douglas. Both work for Agrofuel Research Operations. Given where they work I am guessing that they will create a Triffid or a Krynoid, something like that.

This is a biological lab and they are eating? Really? Are they trying to be fired? What next, smoking a cigarette as they spin around on their chairs? Erica and Douglas are very much the Homer Simpsons of the agricultural research world.

Douglas is feeling under the weather. His eyesight is blurry, his is not looking too healthy. He is hung over. Typical scientist behaviour. Will he make a mistake? Of course he will. Suffice to say, this won’t end well. A super-bacterium is created, capable of jumping over tall building, singing all the songs of David Bowie. Oh, and rendering living matter into slushy compost.

This deadly bacteria is at risk of being vented into the atmosphere. Uh-oh!

The TARDIS arrives. The Doctor jumps out, flips the bird at the sercurity cameras, and tells Nardole to stay in the TARDIS because his lungs were purchased from a dodgy organ dealer, a street physician called Billy Ten-Bellies. “Typical,” snorts Nardole. “I bet he got my kidneys off the black market too. They feel so itchy when I am jogging.”

Nardole’s grumbling is cut short when he keels over in the TARDIS. The bacterium has nobbled him but he seems to not be compost. Yet.

In the pyramid, Bill and the military leaders are hanging out, having fun, trying to copy the dance moves from Madonna’s Vogue music video. The leaders are not very good at dancing. After they gain their breaths back, they all give consent to rotting Monks. Bill, still in communication with the Doctor, goes, “Yikes!”

All three leaders are toast because their consent was given because it was a strategic move rather than one motivated by love.

Labwise, the Doctor and Erica (plucky scientist girl whose character is begging, silently, to be a companion) have a plan. They will blow up the lab. Er, yeah? What is with the Doctor and explosions today? Them Wenley Moor Silurian corpses must be going whirr whirr as they spin in their graves. But the plan isn’t as unsubtle as it sounds. Bombs equal fire and fire sterilises.

The plan works. Ish. Erica is safe, thank goodness, so she can still become a companion in the future. The Doctor? Not so safe. He is stuck with the makeshift bomb. He is stymied by the combination lock which looks like a glorified bicycle lock. Really? Really? The sonic screwdriver can figure out the combination but it won’t move the cogs? Seems unlikely.

Nardole is nobbled by the bacteria in the TARDIS. Erica can’t help from where she is. And so the Doctor finally admits to Bill that he is blind.

Bill goes up to the least rottenest Monk and, representing the Doctor’s authority (that he screams down the coms that he “disnae gives, ye sassenach’), she asks them to restore the Doctor’s eyesight. Which they do. Her consent was out of love for the Doctor.

The Doctor regains his eyesight, realises his fashion faux pas and berates Bill for allowing the Monks to put their feet up on the furniture. “Crivens, ye’ve done it now, lassie.” And she has. The Monks rule the Earth. Pshaw and you thought Trump was bad enough.

Onto the nuts and bolts of the episode…

The scene where a light beam streams up from the tip of the pyramid reminds me of similar scenes in the Terry Pratchett book Pyramids. Also a little of the film poster for the first Stargate movie where I am almost sure they used the same effect.

The Doctor’s sonic sunglasses give him stats of the people he looks at. I only mention it because according to the sunglasses, Nardole is 237 years old. Looking good on it, isn’t he?

Peter Capaldi is brilliant in this. At his most Doctorly. May I say how well he works with Erica? Or have I overstated my wish for her to be the new companion?

Pearl Mackie is a bit more in charge here. Bill gets to make a decision which will affect the show for at least until the next episode. Ms Mackie is great in this. Gets better all the time. Some people think she is wooden but I have to disagree. She is not wooden. Not even woodish.

Matt Lucas, after the last episode, is not as strongly featured in this one. Yes, he gets to strut his stuff but the focus is not so much on him this time. He does no wrong in my eyes. I hope that he gets a bit more material in the next episode. Unless he is still unconscious.

Any other actors that I need mention?

YES!

Rachel Denning! Love love love her. This may be bad of me but when we first see her character I immediately thought that she was the Paralympian Ellie Simmonds. But no. She isn’t, clearly. Great acting and a sure candidate for a future companion role. I wish.

All the other actors are very good too, I’m sure. Hah, kidding! They are great. I don’t mean to be dismissive.

Should you watch The Pyramid at the End of the World? Given my track record of recommending every single episode, what do you think I am going to say? Yep. Watch it! I did enjoy this episode. Great set-pieces, nice acting.

Roll on, part three of the Monks trilogy! Yee-ha!

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, reallife, review, terrypratchett, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Extremis Unreview

Rot-faced monks, Catholic conspiracies, hidden knowledge centuries old. You may be thinking that this is Steven Moffat’s version of The DaVinci Codswallop but you couldn’t be any more wrong because unlike Dan Brown, Stevie can string whole sentences together that make actual sense. Plus none of his scripts read like they were written by the poor chimps who write jokes for Christmas crackers. No grammar/plot challenged authors here *winks at the Moffat haters and blows raspberry*

Extremis is the name, and monsters are very much the game.

Yes, I said monsters! Proper aliens with dubious motives. No misguided humans here, no sir. We have our Big Bad at last. Oh, and we get to see who is in the Vault. Probably.

This episode is technically two stories which are told at the same time. But for the reasons of keeping a key plot point secret, I won’t reveal all until towards the end. Even though you all know what happened.

The Doctor is mooching by the Vault when he receives an email on his sonic sunglasses. Bill still doesn’t know he is blind, she just thinks he is obsessing on Lou Reed or Neil Gaiman. This email, which must enter his brain without the use of his optical peepseers, has one word, or rather the email has the word ‘Extremis’ in the subject line.

If you note carefully, the email is also CCed to Dr Who, Dr What, Dr Why and Dr This Joke Is So Old That It Is Not Funny Anymore.

We crash into the titles sequence, very pretty per usual, and then we crash back into an empty lecture hall where the Doctor is standing at the podium wondering why it is so quiet today. “Ach, these students ar’ awfully quiet taedae.”

On his sunglasses he sees life signs entering. Students? In university? Shouldn’t they be out on the streets vomiting colourful alcopops onto the cobbles or picking up dodgy gaseous sex monsters?

No, not students. Catholic priests and the Big Cheese of the Vatican, the Pope!

You may recognize the actor who plays the Pope from previous episodes such as Turn Left, Turn Around and You Spin Me Right Round Baby Right Round Like a Record Baby Round Round Round Round. This is Joseph Long who previously played Rocco Colasanto. I like to believe that he is playing this reality’s version of the character. Hasn’t he done well? Give him a round of applause.

The Pope speaks in Italian to the Doctor. About a book at the Vatican called Veritas and the translators who read it and then killed themselves.

A lot of confused Whovians, mainly Rookies, were confused as to why the Pope spoke actual Italian when the TARDIS normally translates. Also why is the book not called Truth? Firstly, the Doctor can already speak Italian so he doesn’t need it translated. Also, everything sounds better in Italian. Secondly the book’s title is not translated for the same reason Gallifreyan is almost never translated which is this: it sounds better in the original language. Plus the word ‘Veritas’ is probably understood by the majority of humans so yeah, does that sound plausible? You might as well ask why the TARDIS is called the TARDIS when English isn’t the language spoken on Gallifrey.

Back in the real world, Bill has taken a date home. A girl called Penny (played by Ronke Adekoluejo whom my spellchecker insists should be called Rorke Adenoid Lovejoy). Penny is a rookie lesbian or wants to be. She has tasted the cherry chapstick and wants more and Bill is all too willing to oblige.

But Bill’s foster mother is home.

“What have I told you about bringing boys home, Billie?”
“Soooooooooo not a problem, momma.”

She leaves the sheepish Bill and the anxious Penny alone. Any thoughts of romance is ruined when the TARDIS arrives in her bedroom…..vworp vworp bang! Bill blames the sound on the pipes. Reasonable. But the Pope leaves her bedroom, looks at her and looks disapprovingly at them. Explain your way out of this, missy. Awkward! Penny runs away. A shame for Bill who was 87% sure that this one wasn’t a sentient puddle.

The TARDIS takes our heroes and the Pope and his band of merry men back to the Vatican. The Pope allows Father Angelo to escort the TARDIS trio into the secret library of the Vatican., the Haereticum. Or as the Pope might say, if he hadn’t scurried off to catch up on Lucifer on Netflix, “La biblioteca della blasfemia, l’Haereticum“. See? Things DO sound better in the original language.

The Haereticum is the repository for all the books that the Vatican deems heretical. As Father Angelo takes them deep into the depths which I swear is the same location that they used for the TARDIS’ library in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. They go past shelves of the Parseltongue translations of the Harry Potter series, the three wings dedicated to the works of Enid Blyton and a small cabinet containing the skull of Dodo Chaplet. Yep, she is as dead as her proverbial avian namesake.

Bill is impressed by the Haereticum but more so that it has wifi. To which the Doctor says, “Crivens, Bill! ‘Tis a library. O’ course it has wifi. It even has,” he points at a slumbering figure, “homeless sassenachs sleeping wi’ wee little books o’er their faces.”

The Doctor explains to Bill about this dodgy book which compels whoever reads it to commit suicide. No, not The DaVinci Code. This is Veritas, a book written by some dead dude who found out a great truth centuries ago. No, I said it wasn’t The DaVinci Code! Look, can you see an albino assassin? No? Well then! Lets hear no more of this Dan Brown dreck, eh?

The book was recently translated by the Catholic priests responsible for the Necronomicon and the Buster Annual of 1475. Now, call me Mr Silly but why would they translate a book that kills whoever reads it? Are these priests the type of guys who stick their hand into a bonfire despite knowing it will burn?

Suicide is a mortal sin according to the Catholics, so why would priests willingly kill themselves? Suicide leads straight to hell, do not collect £200 and prepare for a bunch of horned red guys with tridents, which means that whatever they found out, it was better to risk Hell than to continue living. Maybe Veritas is the new Dan Brown novel?

“Doc, if this book kills people, shouldn’t it be called Digitas?” asks Bill.
“Ach, dinnae be stupid, lass.”

They get to the cage containing the book. “Ha’ everyone died who read this thing?” “No, well, maybe. One of the priests may be alive, we haven’t found him”, which leads to the one surviving translating man popping up when Angelo goes off to investigate a sound. “Mamma mia, not the bloody bookworms again!” Angelo fans, be warned, he gets killed by a rot-faced monk.

The surviving translator? After he pops up like Pop-Up Pirate, he mumbles, dribbles and runs away. And commits suicide.The Doctor sends Bill and Nardole off to find him, despite his sonic sunglasses telling him that priestboy is dead.

Inside the Veritas cage, the Doctor discovers a laptop. The priest’s laptop. Checking his email history, our Time Lord friend checks the sent emails folder. The priest has sent online copies of the Veritas to CERN, the White House and the Pentagon. Because misery loves company, right?

CERN is a particle physics laboratory. The largest in the Solar System and, what? OK, OK, the world! No idea what the White House or the Pentagon is, I think they do takeaways.

Bill, babydoll, and Nardole, secret badass, wander through the corridors of the Catholic Hogwarts. In search of the dead priest who is dead. Instead of tripping over his body, they see a bright light. Is it the second coming? Is Jesus checking out the Vatican’s copy of The Famous Five Sacrifice Timmy to Beezlebub? Uh, no. Just a portal.

They step through the portal. Of course they do. Why wouldn’t they? Instead of being gnashed to death by sabre-toothed goblincats as they might have been, they find themselves in the safe environment of a white voidy room. Portals arrayed in a circle. White monoliths in the centre around a black small void. Are the monoliths projecting the doors? Are they the Ogri’s smarter, well-dressed cousins?

No matter. Bill and Nardole go through one of the portals and find themselves in Dilbertville, a cubicle farm. This is no ordinary office though. It is the office of the Pentagon. It isn’t a curry house, it is the place where secrets happen. Our heroes are in Virginia. In one of the most secure places on Earth. They make their excuses and leave.

The Doctor, safely tucked up in the Haereticum, prepares to read the book. Because he is blind, he uses a Time Lord device to restore his eyesight. But how? Well, constant reader, this gadget will borrow eyesight from his future self. It comes with a drastic drawback though, the Doctor may not be able to respawn (Can I hear the sound of Greybeard Whovians grinding their teeth is silent fury?), he may have a time head, become a goat, his future regenerations may be blind, or, and this is most unlikely, become a woman. He does it anyway but before he can read more than the title, rotting monks appear with their large gnarled hands. They want the Veritas more than cats want cheeseburgers.

Bill and Nardole, in the wheel of places, choose another portal. They don’t know where they are at first but a tipsy scientist informs them that they are at CERN. Nardole is happy though because he wants to have a ride on the Large Hadron Collider. Sadly he can’t because he has to be a certain height before he can go on the particle accelerator. Muttering about how he never gets to have fun, he follows Bill and the scientist into a large room full of scientists who are getting drunk, drunker or who are already drunk.

The scientist goes up to a huge display with numbers counting down to zero. He asks Nardole and Bill to give him a random number. They try. They give the same number. “Sixty-nine, dude!” They do it again and again, each time they both come up with the same number as each other. The rest of the scientists join in. Never has numbers been so unsettling. Maybe Adric was a secret badass too? Nah!

Bill and Nardole see comedy explosives underneath the tables. Sticks of dynamite, really? Acme must be laughing all the way to the bank. They look at the countdown again. They look at each other and play patty-cake before fleeing. As they jump through the portal, they hear the scientist shouting, “This mass suicide has been brought to you by the letters T, N and T. Goodnight, Vienna!”

In the void between places, Nardole thinks that the white monoliths are actually projecting reality, that the portals are merely holograms. He compares them to the holodecks in the Star Trek franchise. This does not bode well. How many times did the holodecks break down? Practically every time the Enterprise hits a speed bump.

This raises the question of whether Bill or Nardole are real. They came through one of the portals so are they hologrammatic too? Nardole tests his theory by reaching his hand out into the black void behind the monoliths. It pixilates into nothing and the rest of his body goes with it.

Bill is overcome with sadness. She didn’t sign on for this. Not the death of friends. She is distracted by spots of blood leading into another portal. Whose blood? The Doctor’s blood? She follows…

…and enters the Oval Offices of the White House. Again, not a curry house but rather the place where the President of America resides. Aforementioned President on the floor, dead by his own hands. Before you ask, no it isn’t Trump. Too thin, young and he has his own hair.

The Doctor is in the President’s chair, spinning around and shouting, “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

When he has stopped spinning, he explains to Bill how Veritas is all about a demon call Bob who possesses human beings, and how the brave knight Sir Dale of Cooper travelled to Twin Peaks to slay the… Sigh, no, of course not. It is about a demon but it is more of an alien with a taste for invading the Earth. It makes dummy-runs by faking up huge hologrammatic simulations, Shadow Worlds, and running them so it/they can find the best way to nobble the humans. Oh my glob, are the Monks really the Kraals? No.

The Doctor goes on to say that the Shadow People can discover their fakeness by coming up with pseudo-random numbers which proves that their reality is being run by a computer.

I could try and faff my way around making the explanation of this Shadow World funny (‘try’ being the operative word) but me so lazy. So here are the relevant quotes from Wikipedia, this universe’s version of the Veritas book. Here comes the science bit.

“A pseudorandom process is a process that appears to be random but is not. Pseudorandom sequences typically exhibit statistical randomness while being generated by an entirely deterministic causal process. Such a process is easier to produce than a genuinely random one, and has the benefit that it can be used again and again to produce exactly the same numbers, which is useful for testing and fixing software. To generate truly random numbers would require precise, accurate, and repeatable system measurements of absolutely non-deterministic processes. Linux uses, for example, various system timings (like user keystrokes, I/O, or least-significant digit voltage measurements) to produce a pool of random numbers. It attempts to constantly replenish the pool, depending on the level of importance, and so will issue a random number. This system is an example, and similar to those of dedicated hardware random number generators.”

“Epistemologically, it is not impossible to tell whether we are living in a simulation. For example, Bostrom suggests that a window could pop up saying: “You are living in a simulation. Click here for more information.” However, imperfections in a simulated environment might be difficult for the native inhabitants to identify, and for purposes of authenticity, even the simulated memory of a blatant revelation might be purged programmatically. Nonetheless, should any evidence come to light, either for or against the skeptical hypothesis, it would radically alter the aforementioned probability.”

This raises a valid point about the nature of the Shadow World.  If people became aware that they were basically no different from Super Mario, would the Monks allow them to know? Would they not purge the Veritas knowledge out of the video game characters? Unless they don’t give a hoot about the lifestock finding out. Mind you, the Monks do seem keen on getting their hands on the Veritas although why didn’t they grab it when the book was first written? Given that everything is a huge hologram, why bother grabbing it when they could just get one of their tech savvy rot-faced nerd Monks to delete it?

Now, if none of you have died of boredom, I’ll continue…

When people discover that they are not real, they commit suicide so that they can escape the Shadow World. This is the most unlikely part of the story (what, really?). Would people really kill themselves if they thought they weren’t real? Yeah, I’d admit that some might and that others who are suicide risks might be more likely to kill themselves but mass suicide of reasonably rational human beings? Nuh-uh. Not buying that.

The only difference between the Real World and the Shadow World is that the Real World doesn’t have Veritas (it has Wikipedia instead) and Rocco Colasanto isn’t the Pope.

A Monk appears from under a table. Only pausing to stretch his back, it turns Bill into digital flotsam and Bill is no more. Goodbye HoloBill.

The alien is about to kill the Doctor but he has a cunning. He pulls out his sonic turnip (shaped like a thingie) and boasts that he has recorded everything that he has seen and experienced via the veg. One click and he emails the whole kit and caboodle to…

…the real Doctor who is mooching by the Vault when he receives an email on his sonic sunglasses from the digital Doctor. This email has one word, or rather the email has the word ‘Extremis’ in the subject line. And a brief message:

Dear Doctor,
Are you doing well? I’m doing fine.
Love the sunglasses.
Oh, and view this attachment.
Love to Bill and Nardole and Pete.
The Doctor x

PS. Don’t forget to order some milk. You know how grouchy we get without our cow juice in the morning.
PSPS. Yes, I don’t write with a Scottish accent. Deal with it!

So the Doctor didn’t fight any monsters whatsoever? It was a JR-in-the-shower moment?  Am I right in thinking that this is the first time since Black Orchid that the Doctor hasn’t battled an alien threat?

Remember how I mentioned that Extremis was really two stories? Here comes the second one. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short.

Alien world. Blokes in robes. Medievalish architecture, beautiful landscape. The planet Carnathon. Just think Game of Thrones with less nudity and no dragons.

The Doctor has been asked, nay commanded, to execute another Time Lord. Missy by the Fatality Index (the guys in robes). That bad girl has done something so bad that she needs executing. And as the only other Time Lord about, the Doctor is on death duty. Only a Time Lord can kill another Time Lord according to the Fatality Index. When it is done, her body will be stuck into a vault (it has yet to gain the big V) and the Doctor has to watch over it in case she comes back to life. Like that is going to happen!

Missy begs. Discomforting to see that. The Master has a habit of doing this, begging the Doctor, and then stabbing him in the back. The Doctor won’t fall for it.

The Doctor falls for it.

A monk, not one of the rot-faced, red-robed gits, approaches and wants to talk to the Doctor. I could have sworn that it sounded like John Simm. But no, it is the Master. He reads from a very familiar book, the diary of Moll Flanders AKA River Song. She has sent him to make sure that her husband doesn’t take any extreme actions or as they say in ancient Rome, extremis.

A disturbingly amount of Rookie Whovians questioned how Nardole has the book when they saw it left behind at the Library where River snuffed it. Do these fans not understand how time travel works? Meh.

The Doctor executes Missy but she isn’t dead! He tampered with the controls! She still has to go in the Vault though. That thousand years will pass quickly not.

Back to life, back to reality and the Doctor has finished remembering and watching. He bangs on the Vault and asks Missy for her help in fighting the Monks.

Now, call me cynical but I reckon that Missy isn’t in the Vault anymore. She’ll be an android copy or something. Or maybe she really is Missy?

Second theory: Nardole is the John Simm Master in disguise. Seems unlikely but who knows?

Peter Capaldi, excellent as usual. Good to see him still blind as it seems as if he is playing the character slightly more subdued. Might just be my imagination. Seems more vulnerable than he normally is. Like normal, I love his performance here.

Pearl Mackie is brilliant but less well acted here. Just a smidge though. Still great. The early scenes with her as HoloBill being embarrassed by HoloFostermother and HoloPope while she is on a date with HoloPenny (who exists in Bill’s reality, go for it, tiger!). Her reaction to Nardole’s death is sad, true and an important thing for her character even if it isn’t really Bill. Again likewise when she talks to the Doctor later on. Loved her.

Michelle Gomez appears infrequently during the episode via flashbacks. But when she was pleading for her life, even I felt sorry. So good to see Missy played in an understandably normal fashion. More of this, please! Oh, and the usual craziness too, cheers!

Matt Lucas as the man who has permission to kick the Doctor’s arse. I am starting to appreciate him more and more as this series goes on. Largely comedic but there is a purpose to Nardole and we get to see more of it here. Again, loved him. More please!

Corrado Invernizzi as Angelo, liked him too. I could have done with more of him but hey ho…

Anymore to say about the other characters? Hmmm for the sake of brevity, no. But all performances were spot on.

Now, the important question. Should you watch this story? Yes, of course. Yeah, yeah, it is basically man watched film for forty minutes while remembering the past but it is so much more than that. It is cool, it is clever, it is a delight to watch.

So watch it! If nothing else, it beats being killed by an ancient tome. Just ask my Aunt Janice, a copy of War and Peace fell on her head and killed her stone dead. Do you want to be like my Aunt Janice? No. So watch Extremis!

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, fandom, memories, opinion, questions, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Oxygen Unreview

First episode, misguided sentient puddle.
Second episode, misguided robots.
Third episode, misguided human with access to huge river serpent.
Fourth episode, misguided human with wooden mother.
Fifth episode? Misguided humans.

Can you see a pattern? I think I should call spoilers on what I am about to say: no alien Big Bad in Oxygen. No monsters except for those of the human kind.

“Space. The final frontier. Final because it wants tae kill us. Frontier because it is full o’ cowboys an’ injuns. Dinnae worry.”

So what is the engine that drives this story?

“Fear keeps ye fast. Fast is good.”

So says the Doctor in Oxygen. But this story isn’t just about fear. It is also about capitalist greed. This is the pump that primes the story. It is also about oxygen but given that this is also the title of the episode, you’ll won’t have needed me to have told you that. Also, fear causes you to breath faster so…

The episode starts off at St Luke’s University with the Doctor telling his students how you can die in space. Which is all very well but he is meant to be lecturing about crop rotation and the role of EmojiBots in colony farming.

He explains all about how one can die when exposed to the vacuum of space and how the boiling point of water is much lower so you’ll go blind and your bladder will pop off like a rabbit that has suddenly remembered that it left the gas on at home.

The only thing you can hope for is a quick death or that a passing Vogon constructor fleet will pick you up as you drift in space.

This is one of the ways that Jamie Mathieson touches on Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. On purpose? Accidentally?

Anyhoo, the Doctor and Bill, in the next scene, are in the TARDIS. The Doctor has itchy feet. This isn’t a verucca though. He wants to go off-Earth. So he does. But Nardole is also on board, having not been fooled into travelling to Birmingham for a packet of crisps. He had got all the way to Perivale before he realised that crisps can be purchased anywhere in England in a variety of flavours (I like marsh minnow crisps, yum) and that his satnav was seriously malfunctioning. Perivale indeed! Tut-tut…

Bill want to go to Butlins InterGalactic but the Doctor mutters something about Macra and decides to take them somewhere interesting instead. This somewhere being a place that is giving out a distress call.

Distress calls are the Doctor’s theme tune or so he says. But this can’t be true because the alarm isn’t going “dum-diddly-dum-diddly-dum”.

“Ye only see tha true face o’ tha universe when it’s asking for y’help, Nardole mon,” being his explanation for answering The Klaxons of Awooga (which is also the name of an unmade Pertwee-era serial). Nardole is not fooling for this.

“You cannot leave because I has the mercury link and stuff, innit,” says Nardole.

“Yeah, that willnae stop me,” says the Doctor with his trademark wolfish grin.

The TARDIS vworp vworps into the not-at-all-similar-to-DeepSpaceNine space station called Chasm Forge. This is a place where ore miners (Yes, DS9 was originally an ore processing plant but that isn’t exactly the same… [[Um, if you say so]) process the things they mine [soooooo exactly like DS9 then?(shut up, shuttitty shut the shut up!)].

There doesn’t seem to be any invisible breathing gas so the Doctor allows his TARDIS to empty out some of its, as our scientist friends call it, oxygen into Chasm Forge. The TARDIS troika can breathe. Ah, air just like momma used to make. Lovely.

Chasm Forge is a bit of a dump. Nardole and the Doctor argue about whether space doors should have proper airlocks with hinges and wheels or whether they should go ‘swish’ like on that Star Trek show. The Doctor hates swishy doors. By the by, the doors on DS9 go ‘sh-shunk’ so make of that what you will.

Our heroes enter a room and find somebody in a spacesuit. A dead somebody. Standing up. Series ten is full of spookiness. Love it!

Flashback to the teaser at the beginning of Oxygen

Man and a woman, not much air left in their spacesuits, woman wanting to have baby with man, walking on the outside of the station. I cannot stress how cool this scene is. Not the plot bits but the beautiful way the production team has managed to shoot/make the scene. Did I mention how much I loved it?

The two are being chased, slowly, by people in unhelmeted spacesuits. Surely not? Wouldn’t they die? Wouldn’t their eyes and saliva boil away? Yes. These chasers are not alive. Is it the Vashta Nerada? No. Remember there are no alien Big Bads in this epIsode. These are just the spacewalking dead.

One of them grabs hold of the woman and quicker than you can say “Hey, who turned out all the lights”, the zombinauts do a thing to her and she, against her will, takes her space helmet off to suck in the heady vacuum of the interstellar void. She dies, her skin frosting over, her eyes going white, twin pops as her bladder explodes. The man is horrified but finds that all this reminds him of that Wallace and Gromit film The Wrong Trousers.

Aaaaannnnnnd back in the room with the Doctor, Bill, Nardole and a corpse in a spacesuit.

This astrocorpse doesn’t seem to be all grabby or animate. It gives Bill the willies which is justifiable. I’d like to see anyone remain calm with a dead body mooching about.

The Doctor quite likes the spacesuit. It has all the bells and whistles like magnetic boots, Bebo and MySpace access, go faster stripes, a force field to keep in the air and oxygen tanks. Apparently the suit, and the other suits seen earlier, were given a command to deactivate organic components and to log out of MySpace.

The suits are pay-as-you-go. You need to stick money in so you can breath. In the future, they use spacegroats. One coin will buy you five puffs of oxygen. There is a standing fee of six spacegroats per hour just for using the spacesuit. By the end of this episode I reckon the Doctor will be blinded by bankruptcy.

There are also other spacesuits hanging off the wall. Not very snazzy. I much prefer the orange ones from past episodes.These ones are faulty but not faulty in the sense that the corpse-filled ones are.

Chasm Forge’s computers has detected all the free oxygen flowing out of the TARDIS. This must not be alllowed. It empties all the air out of the wheel in space, alongside the body of Zoe Heriot and presumably the TARDIS too, into the inky dark.

Our heroes have no other choice but to get into the spacesuits and update their Bebo accounts. In space, nobody can hear you post funny cat photos on social media.

The survivors of the undead contact the Doctor via Bebo and ask to become his friend. He consents and they tell him to get the hell out of where he is. So they do and a short while later, and I am conflating the plot here to avoid boring bits and that scene involving the ferret down Nardole’s trousers, and meet up with the no-point-mentioning-their-names-because-they-will-probably-all-die-horribly crew members of Chasm Forge.

Ooh, special note to Dahh-ren (played by Peter Caulfield who tweeted his name as Dahh’ren but other sources say his name has the hyphen so who knows?) who is blue. In skin colour and in mood. And underwear.

Bill is shocked by the blueness. Dahh-ren takes it badly and accuses her of racism. Which is, I think, not quite the right term. On Earth (hello, earthlings) racism is when one group of humans hates/hurts another group of humans because they are under the assumption that the second group of humans is in some way inferior to the first group of humans despite the second group beating the first group in quite a number of sports. So is it right to call someone racist if they are alien? Well, yes, technically. But I prefer the term ‘xenophobic’ which seems more apt to me.

Having just said all that, is Dahh-ren an alien? In Gridlock we saw red and white humans. Maybe the blue is a form of body bepple (hello, New Adventures fans) or the human race now comes in rainbow colours.

Oh, and Dahh-ren isn’t the alien Big Bad either. He is just the Big Sarcasm.

Our heroes and survivors don physical helmets because the forcefields, while nifty, cannot handle vacuum. I was quite peeved that we did not get to see Bill try to fit her helmet over her afro. We woz robbed!

Bill is concerned about vomiting into her helmet. She needn’t be. In space, nobody can hear you chunder the technicolour snake. But this reminds me of another Douglas Adams thing…

There is a short story called Young Zaphod Plays It Safe. I won’t go over the plot but in the story there are spacesuits which can walk by themselves and even take, I think, the unconcious Zaphod walking. Beeblebrox even vomits inside his spacesuit at one point. Is the writer riffing off this short story or is it just coincidence?

They flee the zombienauts, some fall to the electrifying touch of the undead. They make it to an airlock but Bill’s suit is malfunctioning. “Oh cripes!” as Nardole doesn’t say. Don’t you think that Nardole is Penfold to the Doctor’s Dangermouse? In fact, try singing the words ‘Doctor Who’ to the theme tune of Dangermouse, it so works!

The Doctor saves Bill by giving her his helmet. As a Time Lord, he can survive vacuum longer than mere humans. There is an exciting scene from the point of view of Bill, great to watch, slightly difficult to figure out exactly what is happening. The long and short of it is that when back indoors, the Doctor has gone blind. I didn’t see that coming.

There is hope for the Doctor though. He can get his peepers fixed in the TARDIS or, failing that, replace them with reptile eyes. I am hoping that he uses K9 as his guide dog.

The suits find them again. Worst game of Hide and Seek ever! Bill’s suit goes haywire and won’t move. The Doctor tells her that she is perfectly safe but unless his dictionary definition is severely wrong, he is lying. The suits grab her, electrify her, and Bill is no more. She is an ex-Bill, pushing up the daisies etc etc…

Oh, and blue boy is also killed. Boo hoo.

The Doctor tells the survivors that their company, Ganymede Systems, told the suits to disengage their fleshy passengers to save oxygen. Oxygen equals money. And if the miners aren’t mining much minerals, then the company is losing money via the oxygen. Killing Chasm Forge’s crew is just Sil-like logic. As some famous short actor said, “greed is good.”

No doubt the directors of the board (Sil, Tobias Vaughn, Josiah W. Dogbolter and the disembodied head of Donald Trump) of Ganymede Systems are laughing all the way to the spacebank and eating their marsh minnows crisps.

The Doctor has a plan! A plan you say? Yes, a plan! He starts hacking into the computer system.

Nardole thinks that his plan is to produce more oxygen for five minutes before they expire. Well, they “could boil the hell out of an egg” in the five minutes they would gain via electrolysis (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen). But no, his plan is to blow the hell out of Chasm Forge and rob Ganymede Systems of all their lovely oxygen riches.

The two survivors don’t think this is a great plan but is it any better than being turned into a corpse by the bodies of your friends and loved ones? They agree with the Doctor. Nardole puts his head between his legs and prepares to kiss his robotic butt goodbye.

Hold on! Isn’t Nardole a robot now? Or is he a cyborg? If he requires air, then he must be a cyborg unless he is just trying to fit in with everyone else? No matter.

This threat of profit loss is enough to make all the suits freeze where they are shambling. They have AI which is, roughly, as intelligent as a stunned kitten but even the suits realise that the explosion would shred Ganymede’s profits into tatters.

The only options of the zombinauts is to keep the living living. They hand them their own oxygen, hey it isn’t as if corpses need air, right?

Bill and the baby-wanting lady are there amongst the suited cadavers. Poor Bill. Poor Doctor. Poor bit part actors…

But things are looking up, Bill isn’t really dead! The Doctor revives her. “Ach, ’tis simples. Dinnae fash y’sel’, Nardole. Her suit dinnae ha’ enough zappiness tae kill her deid.” Being knocked out, she used less oxygen just in case you were wondering.

Back in the TARDIS, skipping the scene where the Doctor faffs about trying to retrieve it, Nardole seemingly repairs the Doctor’s eyes. No lizard eyes? Meh!

The survivors are dropped off to the Ganymede Systems’ Head Office with their placards – “Down with this sort of thing”, “Gany-greed More Like” – which they immediately put to good use by knocking the

GANYMEDE SYSTEMS
LONDON, NEW YORK, PECKHAM, GANYMEDE

sign down. Boo! Capitalism sucks!

In the Doctor’s office, he mentions to Bill that there was a successful rebellion six months later, which is good. But a month after that, there was a successful Dalek invasion lasting squillions of years, which was bad. But the Doctor got rid of the Daleks, which is good. But then the Vardans invaded, which was neither good or bad really because nobody noticed.

After Bill leaves to go the disco and shake her groove thang, as the cool kids say, Nardole threatens the Doctor with the naughty step if he leaves the Earth again.

Oh, and the Doctor is still blind! Dur-dur-DUR! Cue credits, cue teaser! That’s your lot! Now scat. scat!

Peter Capaldi plays a blinder here (ba-boom-tish). His acting chops are in plain sight here. And if I make any more eye-related puns, I think he’ll track me down and beat me up. Anyway…he is still at the top of his game. I would say that he makes acting choices that the other Doctors, not including Tom Baker, wouldn’t make. His Doctor is very much unique, a mixture of the First and the Fourth with an sprinkling of the Third’s sartorial flair. Love it. Can’t wait to see how the Doctor copes with blindness. Such a pity that his Doctor will soon be respawning.

Dear Whovian rookies. If you wish to annoy the Greybeards, refer to regeneration as respawning. Works every time.

Dear Greybeard Whovians. If you wish to annoy the Rookies, tell them when “all this used to be cardboard and the Daleks squeaked when they moved”. Works every time.

Pearl Mackie, what can I say about her? She continues to be great. I continue to be impressed. Nuff said.

Matt Lucas? A lot of people thought he was going to be another Adric but, yeah, I really do like him. Nardole is growing on me and once I connected him with Penfold in my mind, I really started to like him. So far he is bordering between being great and being Alzarian

Kieran Bew, Justin Salinger, Peter Caulfield, Mimi Ndiweni and Katie Brayben play the survivors until they are killed, then they play the corpses of the survivors or unsurvivors as I like to call them. Erm. Not that they all die. They all perform wonderfully but kudos go to Caulfield, Bew, Ndiweni and Brayben in order of how much I bought into their performance. Any actors who didn’t make the cut, you were good too but no kudos for you. Caulfield only made it to first place because who doesn’t like a blue meanie? Besides the Beatles that is…

So, the six million mazuma question. Should you watch Oxygen? Of course. It has slight flavours of the film Gravity with a bit of Alien and Das Boot thrown in for good measure but the story works. I loved it. You might love it too.

I can’t wait for next week’s episode. As the monks might say, “Veritas odit moras“.

Posted in BekHobbes, doctorwho, douglasadams, humour, memories, opinion, questions, review, unreview, whovian, whovians | Leave a comment

Knock Knock Unreview

Fans of Scooby Doo, rejoice! Doctor Who is in Hanna-Barbera country for this episode.

This is Knock Knock, fourth episode, and our heroes are on Earth for a traditional adventure.

Is it fair to say that Knock Knock was highly anticipated?

Indeed. So anticipated, in fact, that it was broadcast as Ghost Light in the late 1980s. Kidding! But there are a few similarities which I won’t bang on about. Maybe.

The real reasons for it being highly anticipated were David Suchet and Mike Bartlett. Yes, Hercule Poirot and that bloke wot wrote that Doctor Foster.

If Billy the Exterminator couldn’t deal with Cthulhu in the previous story, he might have more luck with the bugs that infest Bill’s student digs in this one. Yeah, right!

Spoiler: there are bugs in this episode. No, not the Gravis.

Spoiler: there is no elephant.

Spoiler: David Suchet rocks.

Bugs, elephants and David Suchet’s rockability aside, this story starts off with Bill and her friends buddying up together to find themselves a student house. Très Hollyoaks.

Her student friends are, in order of most likely to be killed violently by Nimon sausagehounds, Felicity, Pavel, Shireen, Harry and Paul.

For American muggles, this is a short cut-out-and-keep guide to how English students are like…

LAGER
LAGER
LAGER
LAGER
LAGER
LAGER
LAGER
Pot Noodle.

Being students, they have no money due to their lager and Pot Noodle debts. So they trawl around all the student slums that are in their price bracket (six shillings and a shirt button) with ever-decreasing prospects of finding digs. It is a truth universally known that students in search of a place to live are also in search of somewhere that is cheap, roomy, not underwater or not owned by a landlord that likes to collect the hair stuck in the plughole. This is a common problem for students all the world over.

Luck is in their future though because a random elderly man offers them, total strangers to him, room in his large mansion. Because none of the students have ever watched a 1980s horror film, they gladly accept. Creepy coffin dodger who offers them a room in his rickety-rackety old house, what is remotely suspicious about that?

Oh, and the house, which isn’t haunted by the way, may seem familiar to y’all. I will tell you why after these next few paragraphs.

Bill is home inside her bedroom, boxes of stuff in the middle of it. The TARDIS appears like an asthmatic fax machine around the boxes. The Doctor opens the doors, the boxes are inside and somewhere nearby a man with a van weeps into his energy drink. The TARDIS takes a quick spatial hop to Bill’s new gaff.

The Doctor gets out, takes one look at the house and screams at Bill to “Dinnae blink! Blink and ye will be deid! This hoose is fulla Weepin’ Angel beasties!” before he realises that this isn’t Wester Drumlins.

This house, whose real name is Field’s House, has been seen before on the show. No Weeping Angels squatters but there is, what appears at first to be, a wooden Weeping Angel. Spoilers: it isn’t a wooden Weepy Angel.

The Doctor senses something strange. Not just the massively expensive house for six pennyless students but something alien… So he invites himself in, with a box of Bill’s belongings. Not impressed with the wood-lined everything of the place. So much wood. A small forest must have been gutted to make this place.

The Landlord, after the students coo and grin because of their opulent surroundings, gets them all to sign the contract. In blood! Or ink, whatever is easiest for them. They all choose ink.

The Doctor gets a little confrontational with the Landlord but he merely smiles gently, his eyes twinkling like black bowling bowls, and tells them that they cannot enter the tower (yes, the property has a tower) on pain of pain to quote The Princess Bride.

It is human nature that if you tell somebody not to do something or go somewhere, the first thing they will do is do that certain something or go to that certain somewhere. This is why the Doctor’s companions never do as he says.

The Doctor is more interested in the aural qualities of the house. Old houses creak but this house is creaking more than the plot to Dimensions in Time. Yeah, I said it.

You’ll know, if you’ve seen the episode, that I have not mentioned something important. Pavel’s tragedy near the beginning of the story. Don’t fret, I’ll mention it in a second. Distract yourself with images of teacup kitties raining down upon Venom Grubs.

Pavel is in his room, with his music equipment, and he is getting set to listen to something which, to my mind, has all the tuneful ability of the Deathtrees of Souta Four. Actually it is, deep breath, Back: Sonata #1 by Itzhak Perlman playing in G Minor for Solo Violin, I think. But each to their own tastes, yes? All you really need to know is that he screams as something unseen gobbles him up.

One minor flaw here. The house has no modern plugs, yes? So how does Pavel with his modern record player, complete with USB port, manage to turn it on, hmmmm?

Nighttime and the students get freaked out by the house creaking, Bill’s secret love of Little Mix, and the Doctor boring them all with stories of how Adric was caught using a calculator. Good times.

As the night goes on, the doors and windows are barred by shutters and obstinate doorframes. The students start getting nobbled by things unseen. Felicity manages to escape past the hungry shutters and out into the garden. She tries her phone but before she can call the police, something gets her. She screams. Exit stage left for Ms Felicity.

The Doctor discovers weird woodlouse thingies. He calls them Dryads but these are not the sexy tree nymphs we might be used to. Could they be the Big Bad? Maybe Billy the Exterminator could deal with this threat.

Odd coincidence but a newborn cockroach is known as a nymph. Could the Dryads be immature Venom Grubs? Is this the return of the Zarbi? By the Tin Vagabond, I hope so!

Downstairs the Doctor and Harry are by themselves and playing Twister. Harry losing five games to seven.

Upstairs Bill and Shireen. What, where is Paul? Well, after a clumsy attempt at chatting up a lesbian, he retreated into his room. He had been mocking their fright by making moany yelping noises. Of course, the ersatz calls become real but just like the little boy who cried “woodlouse”, he is ignored until it is too late. Exit stage right for Mr Paul.

Two down, three more to go. Pavel? Oh, no, Pavel is still alive. Sort of. Bill and Shireen break into Pavel’s room and they find our poor Russian (?) friend half-consumed by the wall. Not only that but he seems to have Edward Scissorhand’s hairstyle. Oh the humanity!

The Landlord does his Batman impression, turning up out of nowhere and taps the wall with a tuning fork. Nothing happens. He tries a tuning spoon and the wooden walls eat Pavel up in a single gulp. This does not go down well with Shareen and Bill who run screaming out of the room, up and down corridors, chased by the Landlord and his cockroaches of death. Just think of all those Scooby Doo chase scenes.

Is the Doctor the equilvalent of Scrappy Doo? Should I make a tedious joke involving Woody Woodpecker? Nah!

In the, thankfully, woodless basement, the Doctor and Harry finds boxes and boxes of belongings. Have other student rented out this place before them? If only there was some handy means of proof, oh, look! Some careless murderous person has left contracts on top of the boxes. How handy. Lets take a look, shall we? Yes, do lets!

The contracts are dated 1997, 1987, 1977 and I think you may be picking up a pattern here, yeah? The Landlord has been killing students every twenty years but for how long? Since he retired from being a detective in Belgium?

The Landlord appears…

LANDLORD: Yes, it was me all this time!
DOCTOR & HARRY: Yes, we know.
LANDLORD: Oh, erm, right. Sorry.

The Landlord reveals to him that…. Actually I will hold off telling you for a little while longer.

Bill and Shireen make it into the tower. After the Landlord told them not to. To all those people who joked that the students wouldn’t get their deposit back, in all seriousness, they wouldn’t get their money back anyway since they broke the contract. Entering the tower breaks their contract, tut-tut.

Our female students find a bedroom, quite sparse. Just a bed, a wooden room divider, copies of What WoodNymph cluttering the floor. They hear a voice and from behind the room divider comes a wooden woman. She can’t be the Big Bad surely? She seems so nice and polite.

The Doctor enters, followed by the Landlord, and the sorry tale of the Landlord and his woody woman is explained. Cue spooky harp sounds, wobbly picture, and a return to older-than-Super-8 footage…

The Landlord finds weird dark rocks near a tree. He takes them up to his daughter who seems to be quite ill. She, as all teenagers (?) do with things their parents find, feigns interest.

That night, as the woman sleeps, the rocks hatch. Dryads! (Are we really calling them that?) They enter her body like they are incorporeal. Could they be inter-dimensional? Anyway, the next morning, Daddy Landlord enters his girl’s bedroom to find her arms all woodified.

“Ah-ha!” our heroes go. Not Shireen though. She stood on a Dryad earlier and was gobbled up. Exit through the stage trapdoor, Ms Shireen.

But no. Something is not quite right. Duh, you might say, but something more subtle than that. The Doctor doesn’t buy this story of a father and his illness-stricken daughter.

The Doctor realises that if the wood woman was the Landlord’s daughter, then her bedroom would have posters of the Beatles given that she would have been just the right age (nearly). There are no posters. She can’t be his daughter. She must, therefore, be his mother (must she?)!

What? She is his mother?!? Proof is given via the contract that the Doctor and Harry (yeah, he was gobbled up by beetles earlier) found. Under the name of the property owner is the Landlord’s real name: Oedipus Rex! No, not quite. If it had have been, this story would have been dark in a different type of way.

In case you were wondering, the Doctor scanned the Landlord with his sonic screwdriver. He knows that the Landlord is seventy. And human. But most importantly that, given the decades involved, he couldn’t possibly be her father.

Wood Mummy doesn’t remember who she was but the memories flood back. They are essentially the same as the story that the Landlord told them but the roles are reversed.

The Dryads have been using the student to somehow keep Wood Mama alive. But how? Why does she require student sacrifices every twenty years? Dry rot?

Wood Mama is innocent of these sacrifices though. She had no idea of the price involved in keeping her alive. Her blurry memory suggests that less of the Landlord’s mother exists than he would care to admit.

The Landlord, blinded by ill-placed devotion to his mother, commands the Dryads to attack. He is deluded enough to think that his mother would go along with this but no. His mother may look like a monster but she isn’t.

Wood Mama takes her son into her arms for the first time in decades. He cries as the Dryads, under her control and not his, consume them both.

She is a good person though. She brings Shireen back, the Dryads comically vomiting her up with her last act as she removes herself and her bad little boy from existence.

Bill’s mates are also restored presumably because they were still, how shall I put this, undigested. The other victims must be completely eatenm because they do not come back.

The Doctor and Bill and the uneaten students leg it out of the building before it collapses on itself. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Last scene now. Nardole is in the Vault, talking to himself but also to something inside it. The Doctor arrives with takeaway and offers to take over guarding the Vault. Nardole is only too happy to go. He has The Real Housewives of Middle-Earth on Netflix waiting for him.

Piano music can be heard inside the Vault. Whatever it is, it has hands. It also communicates via music. Weird. The Doctor enters for a meal with the whatever-it-is. The end!

Peter Capaldi isn’t the focus of this story. His character is more in the background than normal. A sensible move since this episode has so many main cast members until they are bumped off.

Pearl Mackie’s role is stronger than Capaldi’s. She is doing the usual Doctorish things that he can’t do (because he isn’t with her). Lovely early scenes when she calls him her grandfather in front of the other students. “I dinnae look old enough, lass,” he says. Um. Passing on…

Can I just say how good it is to see David Suchet walking normally? Not that he does much walking. He just appears and vanishes like a Batman wannabe. As Poirot he always walked like he had a coin wedged between the cheeks of his buttocks.

Buttocks aside, David Suchet plays the Landlord really well, of course he would. Makes him more human than the script initially suggests. Spooky, creepy but still human. Loved it everytime he was on screen.

The actors playing the students? Meh. No, they are good but their characters are barely sketched in. None does a bad job but despite their main roles they are not really the focus of this story per se.

A lot of fans, greybeards and rookies, got excited about one detail that they discovered days before the episode aired: young Harry, grandson of Harry Sullivan or he would have been if that scene hadn’t been cut from the ep. Not the gay grandfather that is mentioned by the way. So is it still canon? Yes and no. No and yes. Canon is whatever you, the fan, chooses to be true until the show explicitly says otherwise…except in the case of the Doctor being half-human, for some fans this is a major I’m-not-listening-fingers-in-ears-la-la-la-la-la bugbear. Us fans be crazy. I am choosing to believe Harry is related to Harry since I really do adore Ian Marter.

The other reason for Harry Sullivan’s possible grandson not being included was the thought that rookie fans might not remember a companion from forty years ago. This is the same reason why Sarah-Jane Smith and K9 didn’t appeared in School Reunion… *Make up your own sarcastic retort here*

The Knock Knock joke was invented, according to Wikipedia, in 1929. Around the time the Landlord’s mother was a child. Not that this nugget of information matters but I thought it was interesting.

Oh, you may be wondering about the title of this story. There is a lot of knocking in this episode. Spoilers!

Should you watch this story? Of course. I loved this story. It is perhaps not going to be a classic story but it is certainly strong enough to ruffles the feathers of stories like The Silurians or Logopolis. What are you waiting for? Go watch it right now!

 

KNOCK KNOCK

WHO’S THERE?

NOT YOU BECAUSE THIS UNREVIEW HAS NOW ENDED. BYE!

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