Doctor Who: Series 7 Part 2 (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros give you a mini-review of the recent latter half of series seven...
The golden anniversary year of Doctor Who kicked off with the resumption of series seven - the first half of which was broadcast last year - and introduced new enemies, reintroduced some old enemies and even ushered in a face of The Doctor that had not been seen before...
Depressed after the departure of Amy and Rory, The Doctor (Matt Smith) is hiding out in Victorian London and discovers that his old nemesis, The Great Intelligence, is at large and also finds out that Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman) seemingly escaped her fate at the hands of the Daleks and is now calling herself Clara...
What's good: The new title sequence, which incorporates the image of the actor playing The Doctor for the first time since 1989. Having Ian McKellen voicing the titular characters really adds a touch of class to the whole thing, and his gravelly, resonant tones add a level of menace that few other thesps can match. The Beeb always does period drama so well and The Snowmen is no exception, with sumptuous costumes and sets everywhere you look.
What's bad: Nothing much to complain about with this one, when we watched it, The Snowmen was great festive fun and a considerable improvement over the previous Christmas special, the truly atrocious The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe.
The Bells of St John:
After spending time in a monastery, The Doctor is called back into action and finds another incarnation of Clara in the early 21st century. The Great Intelligence has ordered a technological organisation to upload the souls of the human race via wi-fi and only The Doctor and Clara can save the day...
What's good: The chemistry between Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman is undeniably good, as they rattle off dialogue with the rapidity of machine-gun fire.
The whole riding on a motorcycle up the outside of The Shard was fucking ridiculous, with a silly premise and pretty poor CGI execution. Still, you could look upon including The Shard as a tip of the hat to sixites Doctor Who, when the Post Office Tower was included as hi-tech base of evil operations in The War Machines.
The Rings of Akhaten:
The Doctor takes Clara out on her first visit to an alien world, where Clara fights to save the life of a young girl who is due to be sacrificed in the Festival of Offerings to appease the Old God, who is not all he seems...
What's good: Can't think of anything - for us, this episode truly was the pits, and as bad as New-Who gets. Think of it as being the New-Who equivalent of Timelash or Time and the Rani.
What's bad: How long have you got? The claustrophobic-yet-expansive sets, the tiresome singing sequences by the Welsh Male Voice Choir, the lousy CGI pumpkin bad guy, The Doctor's derivative speech that was clearly "inspired" by Rutger Hauer's "tears in rain" soliloquy from Blade Runner; we could go on, but we've made our point.
Earth, 1983 and the Tardis materialises inside a Russian nuclear submarine, but an old adversary in the form of Ice Warrior Grand Marshall Skaldak is also aboard and intends to raise the temperature of the Cold War by launching a nuclear missile from the submarine...
What's good: David Warner's performance is fabulous and fairly atypical of his usual sci-fi turns (a genre he has previously confessed to disliking). The redesign of the Ice Warriors is pretty good, staying faithful to the original look, but not messing with it TOO badly. The premise of the story is great, with the idea of a hulking adversary running around in the cramped confines of a submarine being very cool indeed, but...
What's bad:The thing starts to come apart about half way through, when Skaldak suddenly decided to take off his armour and reveals himself to be some silly-looking CGI creation. Since when the hell was the exterior of an Ice Warrior armour? We have always taken their exterior to be organic matter similar to that of an armadillo. Oh and why is that that a late 20th century period Doctor Who story has to have pop music from the period in order to establish that it is set in the past, even if such stuff is not appropriate within the context of the story? David Warner's excellent performance gets off to a shaky start when he is seen listening to Ultravox's Vienna on a Sony Walkman, but this soon passes.
It's also inexcusable that this story is essentially a rehash of Rob Shearman's excellent Jubilee/Dalek, as a new companion - unaware of the dangerous nature of The Doctor's foe - attempts to understand and empathise with it, even physically exposing itself in the process.
The Doctor and Clara arrive in 1974 to seek the help of psychic Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) with Clara's mysterious past, but they find themselves dragged into the investigation of psychic phenomena that have been occuring at the foreboding Caliburn Mansion...
What's good: It's great to see the man who should have been Wolverine, Dougray Scott, on screen and putting in a impressive performance as Professor Alec Palmer. Though it's set in the seventies, there is still a period feel that holds your attention and the eerie atmosphere that is established early on in the episode makes for compelling viewing.
What's bad: There is barely an original idea in the episode, coming across an magpie-like amalgamation of Poltergeist, The Haunting and the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation regarding the love story aspect of the climax.
Journey to the Centre of the Tardis:
An intergalactic salvage crew picks up the Tardis and Clara is plunged into the very heart of the machine and The Doctor has just 30 minutes to rescue her before the self-destruct mechanism goes off...
What's good: The interior of The Doctor's time and space machine is finally seen in great detail and even the fabled swimming pool is seen, if only for one shot.
What's bad: The guys who play the salvage crew put in pretty poor performances, which detract from the potency of the drama. The reinforcing of the notion that the Eye of Harmony is in the Tardis, first established in the Paul McGann film, rubs us up the wrong way - they'll be saying that he's half-human next...
The Crimson Horror:
Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) are investigating strange happenings at Sweetville, where Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg) is working with the enigmatic Mr Sweet in a bid to "preserve" the human race in a manner that few would appreciate...
What's good: Mark Gatiss makes up for several missteps over Cold War with this love-letter to Victoriana and the bygone days of northern chocolate-based industrial communities, presenting an almost satirical look at the early days of Bournville that is as thinly-disguised as the honeycomb under the chocolate on a Crunchie.
What's bad: Nothing much, really - it's a very enjoyable episode.
Nightmare in Silver:
The Doctor takes Clara and her charges, Arte and Angie, to Hedgewicks' World of Wonders, where they discover that upgraded versions of the Cyberman are unleashing themselves upon the universe, and only the quartet, along with a small army unit of misfits and a diminuitive man named Porridge (Warwick Davis) can stop them...
What's good: Warwick Davis puts in quite possible the finest performance of his career; dwarf actors who can act are rare (the late, great David Rappaport was the finest diminuitive thesp), and Davis' abilities really impress here, playing someone to whom there is more than meets the eye. The redesign of the Cybermen is impressive, making them sleeker and they have also largely scrapped the campy stomping in unison that was introduced during the Russell T Davies era. It's equally refreshing to see that the annoying "delete, delete" catchphrase has been scrapped in favour of the slightly less irksome "upgrade" one.
What's bad: Having young children as companions in Doctor Who has never been a good idea - Roberta Tovey was cute but somewhat irritatingly precocious in the Peter Cushing films and the sixties annuals with John and Gillian reinforced this. Arte and Angie are a couple of annoying little sods, who serve little purpose in this story - they were probably included as part of the numerous alterations that Neil Gaiman's original script underwent.
The Name of the Doctor:
The Doctor is forced to go where he should never venture - to his own burial place on Trenzalore. There, The Great Intelligence (Richard E Grant) plans to open The Doctor's Tomb and corrupt his timeline. The Doctor also faces a past incarnation that he prefers not to think about...
What's good: There is an epic feeling to this story, as though everything in this series (or at least this half-series) has been building toward; the production values on the planet of Trenzalore are most impressive, which only add to the epic, climactic feeling this episode positively radiates. It's great to see footage of most of the other Doctors included, and the interaction between Clara and the First Doctor (William Hartnell) is wonderful to see.
What's bad: The lack of footage of Paul McGann (there was probably some sort of rights issue) and some of the CGI integration of the previous Doctors was a bit ropey. The Whispermen turned out to be a bit of a dud, what with their singsong speak and silly look. They should have just reused The Silence - it would have made more sense.
Presented in 1.78:1, the standard definition image looks pretty good, close to - if not better than - the non-HD broadcast on television. Colours are bold, with the blues used in the period stories helping to set the mood. Image detail is pretty good, but not razor-sharp.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack mamkes good use of the surround channels to create an enveloping atmosphere in several of the stories included here. There's also a fair amount of heft to the bass at times, which is no bad thing.
Clara's White Christmas: This is a three-and-a-half minute puff-piece, with Jenna Louise Coleman and members of the crew recounting the challenge of shooting on location whilst surrounded by fake snow and hoards of enthusiastic Doctor Who fans. What is most interesting about this is that it has an interview with recently-departed producer Caroline Skinner, who allegedly fell afoul of Steven Moffat, who was supposed to have screamed at her "you are erased from Doctor Who!" during a BBC public function.
Vastra InvestigatesThe sapphic interspecial Victorian pair and their Sontaron butler wrap up another investigation; this serves as another prelude to The Snowmen and this little vignette serves to reinforce the nature of Madam Vastra and Jenny.
The Great Detective: This Children in Need special is a prequel to The Snowmen and sees The Doctor trying to be lured out of retirement by Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax; this is predominantly played for laughs, but manages to get serious at the end in order to demonstrate the resolute nature of The Doctor at this particular point in his life.
The Bells of Saint John - A Prequel: This prelude to the first episode of the second part of series seven of Doctor Who sees The Doctor speaking to a young girl in a playground about Clara, unaware of the identity of the girl to whom he is speaking. This is great stuff, and the reveal at the end is perfectly written and executed - it's almost certainly the best of the all of the promotional ephemera.
Doctor Who Series Seven Part 2 has very much been a mixed-bag, with a hit-to-miss ratio that is tipped in favour of the latter. The first half of series seven was more satisfying overall, but The Name of the Doctor went quite some way toward papering over some of the less successful episodes. Matt Smith and Jenna Louise Coleman have the sort of chemistry that most television shows would kill to have in their lead performers, and each episode in this series is handsomely mounted. The final story gives Classic Doctor Who fans hope that Steven Moffat is going to pull something out of the bag in November that will have them ecstatic with pleasure.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 27th May 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Clara's White Christmas, Vastra Investigates, BBC Children In Need Special: The Great Detective, The Bells of Saint John: A Prequel
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Matt Smith, Jenna Louise Coleman, John Hurt
Length: 410 minutes
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