strange_complex: (Doctor Who anniversary)
Still with the muscle aches and general tiredness. I do think it is starting to get better at base level now, but between the approach of term and me wanting to go off a lot at weekends and Do Things, I suspect I am also cancelling out a lot of the gains. So this morning, the first time for three weeks that I haven't had to set an alarm, my eyes gradually opened at around 11:30am. Which is fine, because my whole plan for today was to Do Nothing, but I clearly need a few more of those.

Anyway, by around 13:30 I had eaten some breakfast and read the internet, and was looking for something nothingy to do, when I came across the Eruditorum Press Doctor Who Poll. Perfect! I have now voted, and since I started out by writing up a short-list of stories and ranking them, I have a record of what I chose which I may as well preserve here. Votes in different categories, including brief recaps of the poll rules, under the cuts.

Best televised Doctor Who story - five points )

Nineteen other top televised Doctor Who stories - one point each )

Twenty also-rans - nul points )

Top five non-televised stories )

Five hate votes )

Best People etc. )

Polls close at the end of September, and the results will be on the Eruditorum blog over the course of October, apparently.

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strange_complex: (Cyberman from beneath)
The first half of this season of Doctor Who has been characterised by Steven Moffat either writing or co-writing all of the episodes himself, except for Robot of Sherwood, which he apparently trusted Mark Gatiss to do on his own. We now move into a second phase - a run of stories by writers who are all entirely new to the series.

I think the biggest consequence of that this week is that the sciencey plot details suddenly went from sketchy-but-good-enough to utterly hokey )

I also didn't like the way the entire story was precipitated by Courtney Woods' desperate desire for the Doctor's approval )

That said, we did get some pretty decent material as the episode unfolded )

In the end, though, that whole discussion was utterly undermined by the have it both ways ending )

Other notes - this was an episode heavy with Classic Who continuity references )

Meanwhile, Water-and-Breathing Watch was once again on the case this week )

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strange_complex: (Dracula Scars wine)
Watched this afternoon with [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, this is one of those films I should have seem bloomin' years ago, but somehow hadn't. It's an Amicus portmanteau film, featuring four stories about tenants in the same creepy, isolated old house, and starring not only Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (each in their own separate segment), but also Denholm Eliot, Ingrid Pitt and (slightly more surprisingly) Jon Pertwee. It is not, of course, to be confused with Hammer's The House That Bled to Death, which I did see many years ago, and is an episode from their Hammer House of Horror TV series featuring a house doing pretty much exactly what it says in the title.

The stand-out characteristic of this film for us was the sheer volume of meta references to the wider horror / fantasy / macabre tradition. The agent who lets out the house to each set of tenants, for example, is a Mr. A.J. Stoker of Hynde Street, Braye (this review includes a screen-cap of his to-let sign). The significance of 'Stoker' should be obvious; Bray Studios was Hammer's main base in the late '50s and early '60s, and I think Hynde is probably a reference to Anthony Hinds, one of Hammer's most prominent and prolific producers and screen-writers (though the spelling obviously also recalls Hyde of 'Jekyll and...' fame).

There is much more, though. The house boasts a fabulous library of horror-related books, both literary and academic. Just a few of the titles I can remember seeing on screen include Dracula (of course!), The Vampire: His Kith and Kin by Montague Summers, The Haunted Screen by Lotte H. Eisner, a compilation of stories by authors such as Mervyn Peake (as [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan pointed out, a portmanteau book for a portmanteau film), another book called The House Of Death, etc. Meanwhile of course the established star image of the leading cast members was milked for all it was worth. Denholm Elliott's character was tormented, Peter Cushing's a kindly gentleman, Christopher Lee's brusque and stand-offish and Ingrid Pitt's alluring and (before long) a vampire. As for Jon Pertwee, who had been playing the Third Doctor for about a year on screen by the time this was broadcast, his first appearance was in a yellow vintage car - not actually Bessie, but jolly similar-looking.

Each story segment was individually very good. They are all the work of Robert Bloch, and contain twists which make it almost impossible to discuss them without being spoilery. But anyone who enjoys British horror films of this era will definitely like them. They are very nicely directed indeed by Peter Duffell, who explains some of his aims and techniques in a 20-minute featurette included on the DVD - like coloured lighting, and good dramatic use of a large staircase and gallery, at the top of which characters can appear, looming above / behind others down below. The location settings are excellent, too - obviously the house itself above all, but also some nice scenes on the streets of a local small town in Peter Cushing's segment.

Of the four segments, though, we felt that although the fourth was very good in itself, it was a bit out of place alongside the other three. The film is full of meta-references, as I've noted above, but this one tips into playing them overtly for laughs, and that felt a bit jarring after the atmosphere of disquiet carefully created in the three previous stories. The fourth story is Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt's, and I've already mentioned its opening scene with him in a pseudo-Bessie above. Things continue from there. He is a horror film actor - perhaps a role which might better have been given to Cushing or Lee, but then again it is played so meta and hammishly that it might have seemed over-kill hanging on their shoulders. He declares that he grew up with the great classic horror films, including Dracula, but carefully specifies that he means the one with Bela Lugosi, "not this new fellow" - the new fellow whom we had just seen in the previous segment, of course. Then he buys a vampire's cloak from the elderly proprietor of a costume shop, played by Geoffrey Bayldon - then famous as Catweazle, but, as [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan realised, made up and costumed to resemble Dr Pretorius from Universal's Bride of Frankenstein (1935). And then the full-on vampire stuff with Ingrid Pitt begins, and it is all very silly and great in and of itself - but just not quite right after a series of tense psychological horror thrillers.

Other than that, though, a real classic, and one which certainly delivered the goods as a Christopher Lee film. He wears The Jacket (fans will know the one I mean) in some scenes, but also a very nice finely-tailored dark suit in others, speaks in the clipped, authoritative manner that his Dracula uses when he gets the chance (beginning of Dracula (1958), several scenes in Scars), and stands around being tall and looking down his nose at people quite a lot. We also get a good range of cold politeness, violent anger, suppressed fear and some excellent painful roars and contortions. I'm fairly sure [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan would express the same satisfaction with Mr. Cushing's contribution to the work, and can certainly report that she made some very approving comments about his wearing of cravats.

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strange_complex: (Adric Ugg boots)
Yay! For the first time this season I was able to watch Doctor Who live on broadcast, it was a good episode, and I have time to write up my thoughts this evening! Happy times.

I am so glad that the Jenny, Vastra and Strax Show is becoming a regular feature, and even more so that we haven't had a weak episode with them in it yet. I wouldn't call this episode mind-blowing, but it definitely qualified as a really good romp, and because it didn't try to position itself as anything more it left me well satisfied. The running jokes around Strax's battle plans and Mr. Thursday repeatedly fainting, the proper mad-scientist-style steaming coloured liquids in conical flasks, and the brilliantly groan-worthy satnav urchin all helped to seal the silliness deal. Meanwhile, Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling both entirely lived up to their promise, were done great justice by the script, and delivered the proper character-driven drama which I craved and missed in Cold War and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.

We have seen the 'crazed villain tries to enslave humanity with the help of an alien parasite' plot a quazillion times before on Doctor Who of course, but by framing it as a Jenny, Vastra and Strax story, keeping the Doctor off-screen for the first ten minutes and even then revealing him as helpless and paralysed, it felt fresh enough to capture the attention. I loved the flashback scenes in which the Doctor explained how he and Clara had arrived in Yorkshire, too, with their fake 'old film' look - a classic device. That said, I wasn't too sold on the magical machine which could undo the effects of the red poison, which felt like a rather easy cop-out - although I suppose it could reasonably be explained as the end result of the experiments which Mrs. Gillyflower performed on Ada. I also wasn't sure what we were supposed to make of the Doctor kissing Jenny, followed by the rather teenage joke involving his sonic screwdriver when she stripped down to her leathers. Matt Smith's Doctor has reacted uncomfortably in the face of previous romantic advances from both Amy and governess!Clara, and has shown no interest (that I can remember) in Jenny before, so it seems oddly inconsistent to have him suddenly going all Benny Hill over her.

Still, it was great to have a story set in Yorkshire, and some fab northern jokes to go with it as well (Bradford - "All a-swarm with the wretched ruins of humanity"). 'Sweetville' wasn't just riffing off local industrial magnate Titus Salt's planned workers' village Saltaire. It used the design of the factory there directly, with even the concept drawing unveiled at the talk which Jenny attended clearly based on the real equivalent for Saltaire. Apparently the actual filming happened in Bute Town, though, which would explain why the stonework on close-up shots of the cottages looked wrong. People were very into regularly-laid square-cut stone in Victorian Yorkshire, but the cottages of Sweetville have irregular stone.

Finally, sure enough, as I predicted earlier in the week, we had a prominent reference to the Fifth Doctor era, in the form of the line about struggling to get a 'gobby Australian' (i.e. Tegan) back to Heathrow. But, as you'd expect with a series that has as much back-catalogue to draw on as Doctor Who, and a writer who knows that catalogue as well as Mark Gatiss, there were other nods and winks for the knowing as well. The gramophones playing fake factory noises in particular reminded me of the Meddling Monk's recordings of Gregorian chants in The Time Meddler, while the line about the red leech growing fat on the filth in the rivers recalled the eco-warrior stories of the Pertwee era - and especially The Green Death, which seems to have inspired the structure of the title as well.

I feel much better for that episode, and am actively looking forwards to next week's now. Having actual children in the TARDIS promises to be interesting, and certainly something which I don't believe has ever happened before outside of the two films made with Peter Cushing. I wonder if it is in part a reaction to the fact that The Sarah Jane Adventures sadly cannot continue any longer, with the format of the spin-off being folded back into the main show? Anyway, it is certainly something new for new Who, and I hope it makes for interesting new story-telling possibilities as a result.

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strange_complex: (Eleven dude)
I am horribly behind with Doctor Who reviews, partly because I was in New York when this (half-)season started, and partly because I didn't find the first few episodes very inspirational anyway. This is an attempt to catch up.

7.7 The Bells of Saint John )

7.8 The Rings of Akhaten )

7.9 Cold War )

7.10 Hide )

7.11 Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS )

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strange_complex: (One walking)
I’ve been slack on the Classic Who front for a fair old time – I blame the BBC for making too many new shows that I’ve wanted to write about instead! But a weekend at home has given me the chance to fill in another slot in my viewing of the Hartnell era.

The setting for this story makes it very clear that change is in the air. We’ve seen almost nothing of 1960s London since An Unearthly Child: only Barbara and Ian’s return there at the end of The Chase, and a passing visit during The Dalek’s Master Plan. But now here we have it in all its glory – the programme’s first full contemporary-Earth story since 1963.

In fact, The War Machines falls into a particular sub-category of contemporary Earth stories, in that there is no alien menace in it )

Other fore-shadowings of later stories )

Swinging Sixties London )

Dumping Dodo )

Picking up Polly )

Bouncing off Ben )

Class tensions )

DOK-TORRR WHOOO ISSS RE-QUIRED! )

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strange_complex: (Amelia Rumford archaeologist)
I couldn't post this last night, because I just could not get onto LJ at any point after Doctor Who ended. So what follows was actually written in Yahoo! Notepad yesterday evening, and lightly edited this morning in order to get the tenses right.

Gosh, well. I think I can only possibly start writing about this with the end first )

So where the hell does this go now? )

Anyway, as for the rest of the story, yes, it did play out much like Three's encounters with our reptilian cousins )

The Doctor and Ambrose )

Nasreen Chaudhry )

So, Chris Chibnall may not be the most highly-regarded of Doctor Who writers, and it may well be that without the shock ending (which must surely have been largely Steven Moffat's work), this would have ended up as another largely predictable and forgettable story. But, as it was, it worked for me. Looking forward to yet more historical action next week.

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strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
I've entered the Sixth Doctor era. This would appear to mean unusual verbosity, even for me. Sue me: there is Classical receptions and meta-commentary, and I have Stuff to Say about both of them. You have been warned.

Sixth Doctor: The Twin Dilemma )

Sixth Doctor: Vengeance on Varos  )

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strange_complex: (Adric Ugg boots)
Just bringing myself up to date with my Who reviews here, before I move on to an overall review of the books, films and cult TV I have been gorging myself on for the past twelve months...

Fifth Doctor: The Visitation )

Fifth Doctor: Black Orchid )

Fifth Doctor: Four to Doomsday )

And, as happened previously for the Third Doctor, I have now seen all of the Fifth Doctor stories currently available on DVD. So it's on to Sixie (OMG what am I letting myself in for? ;-p @ [livejournal.com profile] miss_s_b) forthwith.

In the meantime, here are some common points which struck me about the Fifth Doctor era:
  • It's notably more Earth-focussed than the Fourth Doctor era – enough, in fact, for it to be acknowledged in the script at the beginning of Black Orchid, when the Doctor asks the TARDIS, “What’s the matter old girl? Why this compunction for planet Earth?” As for so many things from this period, knowing this helps make more sense of the similar approach of New Who. It also means more [pseudo-]historicals than in the Baker era, as the production team try to vary the precise character of the Earth setting a little.
  • Cliff-hangers in this period are also notably different from earlier eras. For Pertwee or Baker, they tend to be terrible things being about to happen to companions and / or big reveals of monsters or terrifying alien devices. For Davison, though, they are much more focussed on him: generally close-ups of his face registering horror, resignation, dismay etc.
  • The stories almost always start out well, but all too often a faint sense of ludicrousness begins to overlay the proceedings (usually at around the same time that the main monster is revealed), soon followed by pointlessness.
  • While the DVD extras of the Pertwee and Baker eras are full of people expressing admiration for each other and remembering what a great time they had, these ones largely consist of people politely trying not to be too rude about Jonathan Nathan Turner. I can't blame them.

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strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
I'm pretty slow writing these at the moment, but still watching avidly, and writing when I can manage to.

Multiple Doctors: The Five Doctors )

Multiple Doctors: Dimensions in Time )

A digression on Tom Baker )

Third Doctor: The Curse of Peladon )

And that's me done with Three for the time being, since I have now seen all of his stories that are available on DVD. At some point I'll go back in fill in the rest via Other Means - but for the moment, I'm well into the Five era instead. Write-ups of that will appear... eventually...

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strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
Well, while I have a relatively normal weekend on my hands, I am going to get caught up with some unwritten reviews. I have spent most of the day on the sofa with my laptop writing this, while the TV burbled away in the background. It's what makes me happy.

Multiple Doctors: The Three Doctors )

Third Doctor: Carnival of Monsters )

Third Doctor: The Green Death )

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strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
Third Doctor: Spearhead from Space )

In summary: a good story, but heading in a direction I'm not wildly keen about.

Third Doctor: Inferno )

Overall, then: a very refreshing break-out from the usual constraints of this era. May not be perfect, but its strengths definitely outweigh its weaknesses.

And that? That would be me bang up to date with my write-ups. A good feeling, I can tell you. :-)

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strange_complex: (Cities condor in flight)
The three stories below are the first fruits of my new Lovefilm subscription. Apparently realising I'd been immersed in the Pertwee era anyway of late, they started me off with Beneath the Surface boxed set: two Pertwee stories and a Davison one, all about the related races of the Silurians and the Sea Devils.

Third Doctor: The Silurians )

In summary: a good story, with plenty of interesting ideas and characterisation. But Liz Shaw is something of a disappointment, as is the portrayal of women generally, and matters would be greatly improved by inserting a little humour and personal warmth into the relationship between Liz and the Doctor.

Third Doctor: The Sea Devils )

Overall: much on a par with The Silurians, but for me I think the insertion of the Master, the lighter dialogue and the warmer companion make this one slightly preferable - even if we've lost a small degree of poignancy in the process.

Fifth Doctor: Warriors of the Deep )

Final analysis: a pretty poor showing next to the previous two stories, but Five acquits himself well, I'm intrigued by Turlough, and I'm pleased to have finally pinned down some more floating scraps of childhood memories.

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strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
Right - now that Life is all up to date and I have some free time, I can continue with my Who reviews. I return here to the sequential viewing of Sarah Jane's stories with the Third Doctor which I started last month.

Third Doctor: The Monster of Peladon )

Third Doctor: Planet of the Spiders )

And with that, I have seen all of Sarah Jane's mainstream Doctor Who stories, including The Five Doctors and Dimensions in Time (though in those cases not within the lifespan of this journal, so I shall be revisiting them in these pages at some point). There's a fair number of audio adventures still out there for me, not to mention her K-9 and Company appearance (now on my Lovefilm wishlist), and a bizarre straight-to-video outing I've only just found out about called Downtime from the mid-'90s. But as regards the central core of stories which feature interaction between her and the Doctor, I am fully up to speed now. With her warmth, her sparkle, her independence and yet also her sense of wide-eyed innocence, she remains definitively my favourite Doctor Who companion by a long chalk - though it's been great to see so many of the same qualities re-appearing in Donna more recently. Three cheers, then, for The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the new series of it which is coming in the autumn.

strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
The Tom Baker era may be over for me, but there's a whole world of other Doctors out there still waiting to be discovered. As already stated, I'm starting my post-Baker viewing by catching up on Sarah Jane's adventures with the Third Doctor, because Sarah is the only person in the entire Whoniverse who can cheer me up in the absence of Four. In fact, in so doing, I'm picking up a thread I began in February with The Time Warrior, because even by then I loved her so much that I wanted to see where she had started out.

Third Doctor: Invasion of the Dinosaurs )

Third Doctor: Death to the Daleks )

strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
Fourth Doctor: Pyramids of Mars )

Fourth Doctor: The Android Invasion )

Third Doctor: The Time Warrior )

And tell me, Penny, why did you evidently start writing this entry five minutes after Torchwood had started - especially given that it is actually really pretty good nowadays? Well, gentle reader, the answer is that my Sky signal is suffering intermittent interference on any channels with 'BBC' or 'ITV' in their name - particularly BBC2 and ITV1 - to the extent that they are frequently unwatchable. And I don't really have time to do anything about it just now, especially since I suspect that 'doing something about it' will ultimately involve me having to pay money to Sky to fix or replace my dish. So I'm getting by with iPlayer at the moment. But it's pretty bloody annoying, especially when you've been looking forward to a programme all day. :-( ETA: and especially when everyone on your friends list suddenly starts posting about a very exciting spoiler, and you have not seen it yet, and scream, pout, *stamps foot*.

strange_complex: (Cathica spike)
OMG, why am I reading an article which contains sentences like this:
"Sahlins' argument is thus for a dialectical relationship between externally generated events and localized actions"
when I could be doing this Who meme taken from [livejournal.com profile] snapesbabe?

Who's game? )

OK, I'm working now...

strange_complex: (Invader Zim globe)
Fourth Doctor: Planet of Evil )

Third Doctor: The Claws of Axos )

I will watch more Pertwee episodes at some point, but it will be for the sake of understanding the series as a whole, and particularly the build-up to Tom Baker's era and the character of the Master, rather than for his portrayal of the Doctor. In fact, I've already equipped myself with a copy of The Time Warrior - but only so that I can see the origins of Sarah Jane. Other than for that sort of reason, Pertwee is low priority, and the only other Doctor I can think of over whom I'd give him precedence is Six. Given the vast number of stories I still have to watch before that kind of play-off becomes an issue, I don't see him featuring all that much in my Who-watching any time soon.

strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
It's probably a bit of a cheat to include a comic book in this year's book blog. But it's a sheaf of papers between two covers which I read, so I'm just jolly well going to.

I'm not normally much of a comic reader, although I have read and enjoyed a few in my time. And I think that meant I struggled to follow this at some points, where someone more practised with the genre wouldn't have done. Quite often the setting switched abruptly from one place / character to another, and while I have no problem at all following that sort of transition in televised Buffy, in this comic I found I often wasn't getting enough in the way of visual cues to tell me where the hell we now were, and what was going on. So I spent quite a lot of time having to flick back through the pages to pick up previous threads and work it out. Some spoilers now )

So, I've satisfied my curiosity by finding out what this was like. But I'm not a convert.

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