“Wonder Woman” Review

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Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Lucy Davis
Plot: Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, when a pilot crashes on their shores and tells of a massive conflict raging in the outside world, Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat. Fighting alongside man in a war to end all wars, Diana will discover her full powers and her true destiny.

DC has had a very troubled time lately. After their Superhero mash up Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice received a very mixed response and Suicide Squad received an even worse one, it seemed DC’s cinematic universe was in trouble before it had even begun. Thankfully, like a miracle, help has arrived in the form of Wonder Woman. A common criticism of the current wave of superhero films is certainly the lack of female led ones. So a lot of pressure was on Wonder Woman. Not only did it have to save audience hopes for the DCEU, but also prove to a sexist film industry that female led superhero films directed by women were viable investments.

So it’s with great happiness I say that Wonder Woman is not just the best film in the DCEU by a long shot, but it’s also one of the best superhero movies of recent years. If not of all time.

Patty Jenkins brings a beautiful, inspiring and thrilling picture to the screen. Jenkins, who had previously been attached to direct Thor: The Dark World for Marvel before dropping out, proves herself to be a perfect fit for the superhero genre. Jenkins manages action spectacle with ease and yet also brings an earnestness to the picture, framing everything from the action to the quieter more emotional scenes. Jenkins also doesn’t shy away from the horrors of World War 1. While working within the constraints of a film that has to be suitable for families, Jenkins manages to showcase the horrors of the First World War, never sugar coating it. Seeing the war from the eyes of an outsider, really manages to make a comment on the human race. Diana is unable to believe we’d all be killing each other with weapons such as mustard gas of our own accord. She decides that humanity must be under the influence of an evil villain with great power and it’s the moments when she has to face that humans sometimes do just want to hurt others for no reason that are some of the film’s best.

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This is helped along by Gal Gadot. Gadot is one of the best castings in the superhero movie genre. Gadot’s performance is wonderful, no pun intended. Delivering the heroine’s action brilliantly and yet also capturing her heart perfectly, it’s hard to imagine another actress doing as good a job as Gadot in the role. Gadot’s performance is the heart of the film, playing the character with an earnestness that makes her inseparable from the character. Much like Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, this is truly one of the perfect superhero castings. It’s difficult to describe just how brilliant Gadot is as the character. Gadot brings Wonder Woman to life in such a way that she’s truly inseparable from the character on the comic book page. Gadot has defined the character on screen so well that I don’t envy whoever will have to play the character in the inevitable reboot in 30 years or so, although I would be open to Gadot playing the character as long as she possibly can.

Gadot shares wonderful chemistry with her co-star Chris Pine. Much of the movie rests on the two, and they pull it off perfectly. The performance here might be one of Pine’s best in his career with him delivering a very passionate and humorous performance. Steve Trevor would not be as charismatic or as fun with someone else in the role. But Pine also delivers the quieter and more emotional parts of the character very well, delivering some very touching scenes with dignity.

The cast is rounded out by excellent performances, with David Thewlis, Danny Huston and Elena Anaya being particular stand outs of the movie’s supporting cast. Thewlis gives a great performance for his limited screen time, while Huston and Anaya impress as the villains with Anaya giving a surprisingly complex performance as Doctor Poison. While Poison may not be the film’s main antagonist, Anaya manages to give the character a degree of complexity that makes me want to see more of the character. Maybe DC should cancel one of those many Batman spin-offs and make a Doctor Poison movie if the character doesn’t return in Wonder Woman 2?

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Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Wonder Woman is how utterly hopeful it is. Despite being set in perhaps one of the darkest periods in our history, the film somehow manages to find love and hope in the darkness. Diana is a brilliant heroine, one that audiences of all ages can look up to. Seeing her journey from a young woman eager for glory to a hero for all to aspire to is magnificent to see on screen. Wonder Woman manages to deliver a more hopeful and inspirational tone than Man of Steel and similar to Captain America: The First Avenger, the film gives us a truly inspirational hero who manages to shine a hopeful light during a dark moment in history.

A lot has to be said about how well made the film is. Visually, the film is a showcase. The mouth waters thinking of the film’s UHD release. The film features a lot of incredibly striking images which, along with some great editing, makes Wonder Woman a visual feast for the eyes. With her Lasso whipping away, shining brightly, the action scenes are truly beautiful to watch. An epic final battle on an exploding airfield has to be seen to be believed.

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Wonder Woman is also incredibly funny. While previous DC movies were criticised for either their lack of humour or trying too hard to be funny, Wonder Woman manages to find a perfect balance. The film is genuinely funny, with jokes working on multiple viewings and helped along with excellent comedic timing from the cast. Lucy Davis is a particular comedic standout as Etta Candy, getting most of the film’s biggest laughs. Gal Gadot however shines once again with excellent comedic timing and the two bounce off each other brilliantly. Once Chris Pine is added to the mix, things become even better. While the film isn’t a joke fest, it’s great to see DC no longer being afraid to actually have fun in their movies.

It’s hard to describe exactly how much I enjoyed Wonder Woman. So much so that I’m struggling to write this review. I loved the film, yet I just can’t place my finger on what exactly it was that made me love it so much. Was it Gadot’s performance? Was it an excellent script? Was it Patty Jenkins’s directing? Or was it some magical mix of the three? I’d hasten to wager that the reason the film turned out so well was simply because it was all the right elements coming together in exactly the right way to create what can only be described as an inspiring and thrilling film that restores hope for DC on film and, hopefully, paves the way for more films like it to come.

9.5/10

Doctor Who S10E08 “The Lie of the Land” Review

p054dhlkWell that was underwhelming.

Despite this Monk trilogy having got off to a flying start, the three part storyline ended with a whimper rather than a bang and left more questions than it did answers. Despite a promising start, The Lie of the Land quickly petered out into a cliché filled climax that managed to wrap up the storyline without actually resolving anything at all. And in a very unsatisfying way at that.

For the Monks, the villains of this three part tale, are still just as mysterious as they were back in Extremis (still the best episode of this trilogy). We have no idea who they are, what their goals are, why they chose Earth and what exactly they were trying to accomplish apart from the fact they have invaded multiple planets before. Infuriatingly, The Lie of the Land did not take any time at all to explain who the Monks actually are leaving them the most vague and ill-defined Doctor Who villains of recent memory. While it’s possible the Monks could return later in the series, a common fan theory is that the Monks are Cybermen without their armour, it’s still poor form to not even attempt to define exactly who the villains of the last three episodes even are. We had a much firmer grasp of the Silence at the end of their debut story despite there still being a lot of unanswered questions there. Not even attempting to answer a single question about the Monks makes this storyline seem almost pointless and certainly not worth devoting three entire episodes to a villain that is going to end up being just a vague threat rather than a developed villain. This may be forgivable if the Monks make a reappearance in the Series 10 finale, but as it stands they’re a wonderful concept for and beautifully designed villain, but are ultimately vague and forgettable antagonists.

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Now this could have been forgiven if The Lie of the Land had delivered elsewhere. Sad to say then that the episode was utterly unimaginative and dull despite getting off to a great start. The opening few scenes seeing Bill navigate a world where the Monks have seemingly been in control forever, despite only being there a few months, were excellent. A sort of dystopia, a world where people welcome their oppression with open arms. The episode seemed to be making a political point about the current rise of fascism in the world, despite us all having evidence that never turns out well. Indeed, scenes where the public cheered the Monks executing those who would question them certainly calls to mind people cheering on Donald Trump wanting to throw political rival Hilary Clinton in prison and people celebrating the Daily Mail’s headline proclaiming British Judges ensuring the Brexit process is done legally to be “enemies of the people”. The attempts to quieten any dissatisfaction also called to mind Donald Trump’s attempts to dismiss anyone who criticises him as “fake news” or liars. In fact, the Monks broadcasting “fake history” seemed to even be a comment on “fake news”, that despite those in power decrying those who oppose them as “fake news”, they are the biggest makers of it in the first place.

The Doctor actively helping the Monks was also a great touch, following on from the implication they’d brainwashed him when restoring his sight at the end of The Pyramid at the End of the World. The Doctor’s broadcasts were eerily similar to broadcasts seen in 1984 and The Hunger Games, promising all is well and feeding the populace lies to keep them placated and under control. A common tactic by many fascist regimes is to use the media to make the public love them so that was a nice touch. All this promised what looked set to be a killer of an episode. What a shame then it was all undone less than 20 minutes into the episode. Perhaps BBC has a mandate against the Doctor being evil for an extended period of time? Maybe they think there won’t be as many action figure sales…

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The scene where Bill and Nardole confronted the “evil” Doctor was the best of the episode however. Pearl Mackie delivered perhaps her best performance yet as Bill, with a very passionate and emotion filled performance as Bill had to face the “reality” that her closest friend had betrayed her. Capaldi also matched her by playing the Doctor colder and harsher than he has done before. The acting between these two was magnificent and the scene kept building and building until the emotion climaxed in Bill shooting the Doctor, causing him to regenerate.

And then it was all a lie. In perhaps the biggest tease in Doctor Who history, the Doctor revealed it was all a trick just to make sure Bill wasn’t brainwashed by the Monks. The bullets were blanked and the Doctor was faking his regeneration. Which does call into question why the Doctor would fake his regeneration since Bill has no idea what regeneration is…

While sure, the Doctor was never going to regenerate midway through the series (we know for a fact Capaldi won’t be leaving the show until the Christmas Special), but it does call into question exactly what the point of the “evil Doctor” and the fake regeneration actually was… APART from having something to put in the trailers. The Doctor’s trickery doesn’t even place a strain on his and Bill’s friendship. Previous trickery by the Twelfth Doctor put massive strain on his friendship with Clara which took most of Series 8 to repair. Instead Bill just takes it. She doesn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with the Doctor deceiving her in such an emotionally manipulative way.

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Now, I love Toby Whithouse as a writer. Being Human is one of my favourite TV shows and three of Whithouse’s prior Doctor Who scripts; School Reunion, The God Complex and A Town Called Mercy are three of my favourite episodes of the show. But the writing is where The Lie of the Land fell apart. Every fault with the episode can be traced back to the script. From the Monks being ill-defined antagonists, the “evil Doctor” plotline being pointless and having no consequences in the Doctor and Bill’s relationship to other things not quite working; one of the soldiers having their “truth audio” cut out and turn against the Doctor seemed to only happen to set up a Nardole joke. There are rumours Steven Moffat didn’t do any rewrites on this episode due to personal reasons, but I’d be incredibly surprised if Whithouse needed heavy rewrites on his scripts. So perhaps the fault lies in the story itself. Perhaps the Monk storyline just wasn’t strong enough to support three full episodes? Maybe splitting the story across three writers led to a lack of focus? The latter would certainly explain why the abilities of the Monks is so inconsistent across the three episodes and why its conclusion felt so familiar. The Doctor and his companions hijacking the airwaves to inspire humanity into driving an occupying alien species off the planet. Sound familiar? I’ll take your Silence as an agreement.

Speaking of the episode’s conclusion, I have nothing against Bill’s love for her mother saving the day. It’s heart-warming and would be a perfect moment for Bill’s character… if again this wasn’t something we had seen before in Doctor Who. Which seems to be the ultimate problem with The Lie of the Land, everything it does well was done better by episodes before it and everything it doesn’t do well was also done better by other episodes before it. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas that never quite gel together, leaving the episode an uncomfortable mess.

The episode scored points however by featuring the return of Missy, however brief as it may have been. Michelle Gomez was on fire this episode, proving once again why she is certainly the best Master since Roger Delgado. Perhaps the episode could have benefitted from a little more Missy, especially since Extremis implied the Doctor was actually going to release her from the Vault to seek her aid. Since Michelle Gomez has implied she may not return to play the Master once Capaldi and Moffat leave, it seems a shame the show isn’t taking full advantage of her when it can. As it stands, the scene with Missy might just be the episode’s second best scene (following the Bill/Doctor faceoff).

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The Lie of the Land was an underwhelming conclusion that started out so well. Extremis was clearly the peak of this three part trilogy, enough to make me wonder if it would have been better served as a standalone episode so it could be enjoyed in the future by not being attached to The Pyramid at the End of the World and The Lie of the Land. Instead, Extremis will be forever shacked to these two underwhelming episodes leaving a trilogy that probably showcased exactly why other people probably shouldn’t play with Steven Moffat’s toys once he departs, since he seems to be the only one to make magic out of them. The Lie of the Land wastes a truly unique Doctor Who villain in a messy and uncoordinated plot that has too many Doctor Who clichés and pointless plot threads for it to truly standout.

4/10

Trivia and Speculation:

The Doctor shows images from invasion attempts by the Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels that the Monks stopped. Of the clips used, only one is actually on Earth – the clip of the Weeping Angels from Blink. The clips of the Daleks and Cybermen are pulled from Into The Dalek and Nightmare in Silver, episodes that did not take place on Earth.

Missy is seen with a piano: the same piano she was playing at the end of Knock Knock.

If Missy is committed to becoming good and this isn’t a trick, could the finale in fact be Missy working with the Doctor to stop her prior incarnation that is John Simm’s Master?

“Power Rangers” – Review

 Directed by: Dean Israelite
Starring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks
Plot: Five teenagers, all outcasts and misfits, find five mysterious coins blessing them with superhuman powers. Drawn to a crashed alien ship, they are told by the mysterious Zordon (Cranston) that they are the next generation of Power Rangers; mighty warriors destined to protect the universe. The unlikely heroes must master their new powers and abilities fast however as evil sorceress Rita Repulsa (Banks) has awakened from a 65 million years long slumber seeking a mystical artefact of ultimate destruction and the Power Rangers are the only ones who can stop her.

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If you’re of a certain age, you’ve likely heard of the Power Rangers. You’ve possibly even been of the generation who would wake up religiously every Saturday morning to catch their latest exploits. The franchise has been a constant series of changes ever since with the license changing hands from studio to studio, the show undergoing various retools and reboots (24 seasons covering 20 different themes) and being a constant of children’s entertainment ever since. With the franchise fast approaching its 25th Anniversary, it seems only fitting that the series should try and make the leap to the big screen. While this wouldn’t be the super powered team’s first foray into big budget blockbuster territory, it is the first attempt to make the franchise appeal to a wider and more conventional blockbuster audience.  This latest incarnation of the Rangers then attempts  a “back to basics” approach by returning to the basic set-up and characters of the original series. The result is an above average experience.

Which isn’t to say Power Rangers is inherently a bad film, quite the opposite; the film knows what it wants to achieve and does it well. However the film just sticks a little too close to formula for it to truly standout. The film plays incredibly close to the “superhero origin movie” textbook, making the film feel incredibly familiar to most audiences; hitting all the same beats we expect such movies to take including a CGI filled prologue complete with expository dialogue of Sci-Fi nonsense. Like I Am Number Four before it, the film suffers due to its story being done before (and better) by many films before it.

The film does attempt to differentiate itself by focusing on developing each of the Rangers as characters and them bonding as a team rather than super heroics. And this works. Mostly. The characters do grow and become closer as a result, yet other characters are sacrificed in favour of more focus on specific members of the team. Zack and Trini for example receive less development than the other three Rangers making them feel very underdeveloped as a result.

But that said, the character work on the other three Rangers works quite well. Kimberly for instance works as a nice subversion of the typical “mean cheerleader” stereotype; she does something mean without thinking and upon seeing the damage it did regrets it bitterly. It makes a nice change to typical morals when the moral of Kimberly’s story is “You did a bad thing, but that doesn’t make you a bad person”.

The casting for the movie works pretty well, the five leads play their parts with enthusiasm (even if one or two of them look a bit too old to be playing teenagers). The real star of the film however is Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa. Banks is clearly having the time of her life playing the villain and hams it up with every opportunity. Her character is incredibly entertaining every time she’s on screen, enough so that you kind of start rooting for Rita to win instead of the Rangers, who feel a little bland in comparison.

Bryan Cranston is decent as giant floating head Zordon, but really doesn’t have much to do apart from being an exposition device. Bill Hader meanwhile gets a few good laughs in as the Ranger’s robotic ally Alpha 5.

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There’s been a definite attempt to “Transformersify” the franchise (given a shout out within the movie with a certain yellow Camaro making an appearance). This is a definite shame as, well, we already have Transformers (with four more movies planned at least in that franchise) so we don’t need another. This attempt not only extends to explosions galore and, at times, unintelligible action; but to the comedy as well. In the sense that the crude humour that pervades the Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (another franchise that tried to be like Transformers) films is present here. One of the first jokes in the film involves a character saying he milked a cow, only to be told to his horror that it was a male cow. Another joke later in the film sees Zordon ask the Rangers if they have morphed before, Zack jokes that he has but “only in the shower”. While these jokes are funny in the moment, it’s only afterwards that you wonder if they actually have a place in a Power Rangers movie of all places. That said however, some of the film’s comedy is brilliant; in the most ludicrous way of product placement I’ve ever seen, the mystical artefact Rita desires is buried under a “Krispy Kreme” restaurant which leads to all forms of hilarity, circling from funny to ridiculous right back to funny again.

Despite its issues however, the film is ultimately quite fun. With Lionsgate planning five sequels, here’s hoping the issues in the first film can be fixed in the sequels.

Power Rangers is not quite the disaster many anticipated. But neither is it the perfect throwback to childhood many may want it to be. Instead it’s a perfectly above average superhero flick, struggling to stand out from the crowd and sticking too close to established formula to be anything more than a very entertaining, if ultimately lacking experience ending in a climax that my inner child couldn’t help but love.

7/10

Doctor Who: Series 1 Part 2 Retrospective

Main Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness)
Recurring: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler) and Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell)

The Long Game by Russell T Davies

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From left to right: Adam (Bruno Langley), The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) investigate the dark secrets of Satellite 5. Copyright: BBC

The Doctor, Rose and Adam arrive in the year 200,000 aboard Satellite Five; the hub of all news in the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. But something isn’t right. Humanity’s development has fallen behind. Someone, or something, is purposefully keeping back Mankind’s evolution. As the Doctor and Rose attempt to discover why, Adam succumbs to the temptations that the far future offers.

The Long Game is one of those episodes that’s fine while you’re watching it but is otherwise completely forgettable. Which isn’t to say The Long Game is bad, it just suffers from being sandwiched between two of the best episodes of Series 1. There’s some great ideas presented in The Long Game, but the episode never really lingers on any of them enough to give them the proper time they deserve. A political commentary on how much the news shapes and manipulates the people is an excellent choice, but sadly it never gets enough time to breathe. It’s a great concept for a Doctor Who episode, but it’s not done justice here.

Adam’s fall into temptation meanwhile is also rushed. While it’s effective, the episode is pretty brutal in its treatment of Adam being very quick to brush him off as selfish and utterly unredeemable. While the episode makes a good point, not everyone is cut out to travel in the TARDIS, the episode never quite makes us connect with Adam; as the temptation is something a lot of us would fall into. A nice touch however is the Doctor seemingly offering Adam a second chance, by asking him to come clean, making the Doctor and Rose not entirely unsympathetic.

Simon Pegg is a delight as the Editor, bringing to life what would otherwise be a rather one note villain. It’s a shame that Pegg was cast in this episode, as his acting talents are wasted playing a one-off villain, especially one that plays second fiddle to a CGI beastie that does nothing but growl and roar.

Russell T Davies’s script is fine functionally and the episode is at the very least entertaining. However I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something that just didn’t quite click with The Long Game. Did it try to do too much? Was its CGI antagonist just not threatening enough? Is it the fact the episode is mainly set up for the two part finale, thus not allowing it to carve out an identity of its own? Whatever it was, it makes The Long Game leave a sour taste in the mouth and emerge as the weakest episode of Series 1.

5/10

Father’s Day by Paul Cornell

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The Doctor attempts to save Rose from a Reaper. Copyright: BBC

Rose asks the Doctor to take her back in time to the day her father died, allowing her to meet the man she never met and be with him at his death. However, Rose changes her mind and instead saves her father’s life creating a massive paradox and a wound in time. As monstrous creatures known as Reapers arrive to sterilise the wound; by devouring everyone and everything, the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Can the Doctor and Rose save the world and her father?

Father’s Day is just a fantastic episode. The first episode of the New Series to really focus on the consequences and temptations of time travel, after touching on them with Adam in the previous episode, Father’s Day is perhaps the most emotionally touching episode of the entire series. Who wouldn’t go back and spend just a few more minutes with a dearly departed loved one if they had a time machine? Rose’s motives are incredibly sympathetic in this episode and it’s the scenes following her decision to save her father, where Rose discovers that her father doesn’t quite live up to the one she created in her mind, that emerge as some of the best of the episode. Rose’s anger upon learning her Dad may have had an affair is wonderful to see, with this episode perhaps having Billie Piper’s strongest performance of the series. Guest star Shaun Dingwall, playing Rose’s father Pete, puts in a brilliant performance as well and it’s the scenes with the two of them together that really make this episode shine. The two are completely believable as father and daughter and Cornell crafts some wonderful dialogue for the two. The episode is worth watching for these two alone.

The Reapers are an amazing creation; utterly chilling and threatening, they are one of the more ingenious Doctor Who monsters. It’s a shame they haven’t been revisited because they are great antagonists, despite being apparently mindless beasts. This episode has to be commended for its high body count; possibly one of the largest in a single episode as the Reapers apparently devour everyone on Earth. While this is reversed at the end of the episode, it is still a terrifying thought when one thinks of these creatures swooping in and eating everyone in sight.

Father’s Day also excels in dealing with the consequences of time travel and teaching Rose, and the audience, a valuable lesson; time can’t be changed on a whim. The death of Rose’s father is apparently a fixed point in time; because his death defines Rose’s life. He has to die so Rose can become the woman she is. It’s nice for a Doctor Who episode to deal with a matter like this; that sometimes bad things have to happen so something good can happen.

Father’s Day is an excellent episode and in any other series would be the standout episode. As it is, Father’s Day emerges as one of the best episodes of the series, but not quite the best. But only because the competition is incredibly fierce.

10/10

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances by Steven Moffat

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The Doctor and Rose encounter Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) Copyright: BBC

Following a crashing object through time and space, the Doctor and Rose arrive in 1941; the height of the Blitz. Encountering the Rogue Time Agent Jack Harkness, the Doctor and Rose discover that the streets of London are under threat by not just Nazi bombs. For a young boy in a gas mask prowls the streets, asking for his mummy…

Steven Moffat, who would go on to write more episodes of Doctor Who than any other writer before him, makes his Doctor Who debut with an utterly terrifying but beautiful story. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances perfectly encapsulates everything that is so great about Moffat’s writing. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s exciting yet it’s also incredibly heart-warming and emotional. I’ve long stood by the opinion that Moffat is one of the best writers to ever write for the show and this story is complete proof of that.

The episode’s scares are truly terrifying. The lone child in a gasmask calling for his mummy remains one of Doctor Who’s most memorable, and most terrifying, creations; still striking fear into the hearts of children across the world. It’s such an atmospheric idea. Moffat has always had an eye for creating terrifying Doctor Who villains, and the Empty Child is up there with the best of them.

This episode also introduces us to Captain Jack Harkness; an iconic figure in the Doctor Who universe. At once Barrowman is a blast on screen, fitting easily into the TARDIS team. It’s a shame that this is the only time Moffat wrote for Jack, as Moffat’s dialogue and Barrowman’s acting goes hand in hand.

For that’s another thing about this story, despite its scares it’s also incredibly funny, with a throwaway gag of the Doctor destroying a weapons factory and planting a banana grove in its place is a favourite of mine. Moffat has a unique talent to make Doctor Who both terrifying and hilarious at the same time and its here that it really shines. From one minute the Doctor and co can be running for their life and the next they can be laughing and joking. Moffat’s trademark risqué humour is also at full force here; including the surprising joke of a married man sleeping with a local butcher for extra rations.

This story is also incredibly heart-warming, with the late game twist that the story is of a young mother in wartime Britain, it makes the conclusion incredibly beautiful; especially as it allows the Doctor to have a victory this series that he rarely has: to win without anyone dying. For as the Doctor says; “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once! Everybody lives!”

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances is an excellent story and perhaps one of Doctor Who’s first true masterpieces in the modern era.

10/10

Boom Town by Russell T Davies

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Margaret Blaine/Slitheen (Annette Badland) details her plan to Rose. Copyright: BBC

The Doctor, Rose and Jack arrive in present day Cardiff and reunite with Mickey. They soon make a shocking discovery; Margaret Blaine, the last of the Slitheen, has survived. Quickly capturing her, the team plan to take her back to her home planet. Upon the reveal that she will be executed as soon as she arrives, tensions begin to rise in the TARDIS. Rose and Mickey’s relationship is put to its ultimate test while the Doctor is forced to consider if he can really be judge, jury and executioner.

Boom Town may seem like a passable episode on the surface and may not be an award winner, but it emerges as one of my favourite episodes of the series. While it may just be a filler comedy episode at first glance, the episode contains some excellent character development.

Rose and Mickey’s relationship is placed in full focus, with the strain her travelling with the Doctor puts on them being brought to attention. As Mickey and Rose start out having a pleasant enough evening only for the night to quickly dissolve into a mess is a little saddening to see; proving once and for all that as long as the Doctor is around, Rose and Mickey will never work. As Rose is unable to stop talking about the Doctor and Mickey admits he’s been seeing someone else, Billie Piper and Noel Clarke perfectly portray a young couple breaking down.

Christopher Eccleston is also excellent in this episode, as the Doctor is forced to confront a foe he’s willing to escort to her death. The dinner scene between the Doctor and Margaret Slitheen is the best scene of the episode, ranging from being utterly hilarious (as Margaret attempts to kill the Doctor multiple times) to emotional and touching as Margaret pleads for her life. This is one of the many episodes in Series 1 where the Doctor is forced to confront what sort of man the Time War made him into; and try and decide if that’s the sort of man he wants to be. Christopher Eccleston and guest star Annette Badland do a fantastic job in this episode and emerge as the highlights.

Another thing to be mentioned is how hilarious Boom Town is. I’d go down and say that this is probably one of Russell T Davies’s funniest scripts for the show. There are laughs galore; the entire sequence where Margaret attempts to escape from the Doctor manages to make me laugh every time.

Boom Town may not be a fantastic episode, but it’s still a great one. Funny and filled with some very funny moments, it’s a must watch for Series 1. Especially seeing as it’s the perfect breather before the finale.

8/10

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways by Russell T Davies

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The Doctor confronts the Daleks. Copyright: BBC

The Doctor, Rose and Jack find themselves kidnapped and forced to compete in high stakes reality TV shows where the only rule is win; or die. As the Doctor attempts to unravel exactly what’s going on, an old enemy stirs in the shadows, manipulating events from afar. Earth faces total annihilation, Jack prepares to fight off the threat and the Doctor prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice while Rose faces her destiny. Whatever happens, this is the end and not everyone will make it out alive.

The series 1 finale is a masterpiece plain and simple. Starting off with a brilliant loving parody to Britain’s obsession with reality TV shows; seeing the Doctor trapped in the Big Brother house, Rose on the Weakest Link and Jack on What Not To Wear is excellent stuff and absolutely hilarious. At least until the games turn killer.

The Doctor and Rose are separated throughout most of the two parter, which works in the story’s favour. The Doctor meanwhile is partnered up with Lynda for most of the first part with Lynda filling the part of companion very well. Keeping the Doctor and Rose apart is an excellent choice as it makes their reunion all the better.

The way the first part of the story builds up the dread of something unseen in the shadows is excellent. If their presence hadn’t already been spoiled by the trailer at the end of Boom Town, the reveal that the Daleks are the masterminds would have been utterly mind-blowing. This leads to the strongest scene of the two parter; the cliffhanger to part 1 which I’m just going to leave here.

If Bad Wolf is fantastic, then Parting of the Ways is even more so. A remarkable thing is just how hopeless this finale feels. The Daleks have the upper hand, there’s very little hope for the Doctor and his friends to survive. The closest thing to a victory achieved for most of this episode is the Doctor sending Rose home in order to save her. This leads to one of the most heart-breaking scenes of the episode, as Rose desperately begs the TARDIS to take her home and a recording of the Doctor, beautifully played by Eccleston, implores Rose that the best way to honour his memory is to live a fantastic life. It’s such a wonderful scene.

This is followed by the sheer brutality of the Dalek’s assault on the Game Station, with pretty much the entire supporting cast being killed by them; including Jack. This is intercut with the Doctor conversing with the Dalek Emperor, who has gone mad and has proclaimed himself the god of all Daleks for bringing the Daleks back from extinction. This scenes are some of the best of the episode, as the Dalek Emperor questions the Doctor’s morality, questioning that if he is god the “bringer of life”, then perhaps that makes the Doctor the devil. This is followed by one of the most powerful moments in the entire series as the Dalek Emperor dares the Doctor to activate the Delta Wave (which will kill not just the Daleks but all humans on Earth); asking him to decide if he’s a coward or killer. The Doctor, after a few moments agonising over the decision, decides not to activate the wave and says “Coward. Always”. This is a defining moment for the Doctor’s character; not only is this the moment the Doctor finally decides what kind of man he wants to be in the wake of the Time War, but the moment that settles once and for all that the Doctor absolutely couldn’t have destroyed Gallifrey. It’s just not in his character, which inadvertently sets up the reveal he didn’t in The Day of the Doctor.

What follows is pure brilliance as Rose, finding the hidden message in the Bad Wolf meme, absorbs the heart of the TARDIS and returns; using the power of the vortex to destroy the Emperor and the Daleks and to resurrect Jack. However this power is beginning to kill Rose, so the Doctor absorbs the energy from her and the two take off in the TARDIS.

Eccleston then delivers a fantastic performance for his closing moments, as he says farewell to Rose (and the show) in an incredibly touching scene before he regenerates.

Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways is an utter masterpiece. It’s utterly flawless and is one of the pinnacles of what Doctor Who can achieve in the modern era.

10/10

Doctor Who Series 1 Part 2 Average Score:  8.6/10

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The Doctor in the TARDIS. Copyright: BBC

And it is with the conclusion of Series 1 that we bid farewell to Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. During this rewatch I gained a newfound love for Eccleston’s Doctor. Truly undervalued, Eccleston was utterly fantastic in the role and it’s a shame that we never got more episodes with him. Eccleston and Piper’s chemistry was fantastic and it’s a shame this wonderful TARDIS team only got one series to shine. Here’s hoping for lots of Big Finish with the two in the future.

Game of Thrones S07E05 “Eastwatch” Review

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Daenerys (Emila Clarke) and Jon (Kit Harington) grow closer. Copyright: HBO. 

Things are really beginning to heat up in Westeros now. With multiple character reunions, several plot advancements, a major plot reveal and the teasing of a major confrontation on the way, there’s a lot to unravel here.

 

This episode saw multiple character reunions; with Jaime and Tyrion being the major one. The last time Jaime and Tyrion saw each other was in the Season 4 finale The Children; just before Tyrion murdered Tywin Lannister. That’s a whole 25 episodes ago, believe it or not. Tyrion attempted to explain to Jaime exactly why he killed Tywin. Tyrion and Jaime didn’t exactly work through all of their issues in this scene however, despite Tyrion’s pleadings that Tywin always wanted Tyrion dead because of who he was and not what he did. Hopefully Jaime and Tyrion get another scene together this season were they can fully work through all their issues (perhaps during the planned meeting between Jon, Daenerys and Cersei). Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau gave wonderful performances during this scene, with Dinklage in particular being the standout; reminding us just why he’s a fan-favourite character (Tyrion has been a very passive character since Season 4).

Daenerys was reunited with Jorah, but sadly the episode didn’t find time to linger on this reunion too much. A nice touch was Daenerys showing how much she trusts Jorah’s word that he’s been cured of Greyscale by hugging him. Hopefully the two get more chance to interact soon.

And the third and final reunion this episode was between Davos and Gendry; Robert Baratheon’s bastard son who hasn’t been seen since Season 3 Episode 10 Mhysa. Gendry’s return felt a little rushed however, after a small joke about Davos thinking he was “Still rowing”. Perhaps Gendry should have returned in Season 6, being brought in to join Jon’s army, which would have allowed Gendry’s return to be a little less rushed and giving us time for Jon and Gendry to get to know each other. At the moment it feels like the two have become instant best friends. Not to say the scenes with Gendry weren’t good; it just feels a little rushed to bring him back into the fray now.

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Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) reunite. Copyright: HBO

Eastwatch saw a major plot reveal however with Gilly discovering a hidden record revealing Rhaegar, Jon’s father, secretly had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled and married a “woman in Dorne”, who could be no one other than Lyanna Stark, Jon’s mother. This reveal was subtly done, but no doubt paves the way for Sam to realise what it means later. For this reveal is perhaps the biggest reveal since the revelation that Jon’s parents were not Ned Stark and a woman called “Wylla”. The reveal Rhaegar and Lyanna were married means one thing; Jon Snow is not a bastard and is the true heir to the throne (with Jon’s claim as Rhaegar’s son overtaking Daenerys’s claim as Rhaegar’s sister). Exactly when Jon will learn his true identity is unknown, but it’s likely going to cause some friction in his burgeoning relationship with Daenerys. Especially with the whole incest thing.

Up in Winterfell, Littlefinger is clearly trying to play Arya and Sansa off each other. Secretly meeting with several Lords, knowing Arya is following him, it was quite clear Littlefinger wants to build a rift between the two sisters. As Arya is already distrustful of Sansa, believing Sansa means to take Jon’s throne out from under him, this wasn’t exactly hard to do. Allowing Arya to find the letter from Sansa imploring Robb to bend the knee to Joffrey was also another stage of this plan. Could this lay the seeds of doubt in Arya’s mind that Sansa has the North’s best interests in mind? Will Sansa’s defence that the letter was written under duress (Cersei bullied Sansa into writing the letter, using Ned’s life as leverage) be enough to convince Arya? Why doesn’t Bran, who apparently sees all, warn his sisters that Littlefinger is trying to turn them against each other? Regardless of what occurs, it’s excellent to see Littlefinger actually scheming again and being the slimy scoundrel we all know him to be.

Eastwatch also had the next phase of the plot kick into gear; with Daenerys and Jon both agreeing to abandon the war with Cersei and focus on the White Walker threat with their goal now being to convince Cersei of the threat. This plan involves Jon attempting to capture a Wight to use as proof at a parlay with Cersei. This required Jon assembling a team to undertake an impossible mission of which there was very little chance of survival. Hmm… Wight One: A Game of Thrones Story and Suicide Squad parodies incoming. The White Walkers have been largely off-screen this season so far, and it looks like next episode will see things truly kick off up north. Considering the Walkers have been all over this season’s marketing, it’s about time they showed up.

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Jorah (Iain Glen) bids farewell to Daenerys. Copyright: HBO. 

Eastwatch was filled with great moments and acting. As well as the before mentioned moments, there were some wonderful character building moments as well. Cersei revealing to Jaime that she’s pregnant and she’s aware of his secret meeting with Tyrion was a great scene. Lena Heady managed to show both the softer side of Cersei and the colder, scheming side that we all know and love all in one scene. I can’t help but feel though that Cersei is using her pregnancy as a weapon to try and keep Jaime on her side. And it’s always possible this could backfire majorly on her; with Cersei not keeping it a secret she’s sleeping with Jaime and now being pregnant, it would confirm the rumours among the people (and what we know to be the truth) that Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella were Jaime’s bastards and not Robert Baratheon’s trueborn children. How will the people of King’s Landing react upon learning that their last two kings were illegitimate and their Queen is pregnant with her brother’s bastard? I doubt they’ll take it well.

Another great moment came from Jon and Daenerys. Jon, showing no fear, slowly approached Drogon and Drogon, sensing something in Jon (perhaps his parentage) allowed Jon to pet him. This sparked something in Daenerys, as her attitude to Jon changes after this moment. Perhaps Daenerys has become to develop feelings for Jon? Maybe she on some level senses their bond and mistakes this familial bond for romantic feelings? Or perhaps she has actually fallen in love with him? Either way, Daenerys is clearly having feelings for him as she seemed desperate to keep Jon at her side and not allow him to go on his dangerous mission. Jon also seemed to have some feelings for Daenerys, with their farewell having a tinge of awkwardness about it, like there was something the two of them both wanted to say but found themselves unable to. It’s telling that Daenerys seemed more torn up about Jon going on the suicide mission than Jorah, her oldest friend and the closest thing to a father she has. Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke have natural chemistry and the two are a joy to see together on screen, so whatever direction their relationship takes I am eager to see.

However, after Daenerys’s brutal killing of Randall and Dickon Tarly, it could seem that Daenerys is set on a bloodthirsty path. With Tyrion and Varys worried that she won’t listen to reason, could it fall on Jon to level out Daenerys’s more strict tactics for conquering Westeros?

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Jon, Jorah, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju), Sandor (Rory McCann), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), Beric (Richard Dormer) and Thoros (Paul Kaye) venture beyond the Wall. Copyright: HBO 

Eastwatch was another fine entry in what is shaping up to be the show’s strongest season yet. Significant plot advancements, the return of beloved characters, long awaited reunions, the teasing of a major White Walker conflict and the teases of a romance between the show’s two leads all made Eastwatch fantastic television. The long wait for the next episode begins for, as the marketing for next week’s episode stresses, Winter is finally here…

8/10

Doctor Who: Series 1 Part 1 Retrospective

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The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Copyright: BBC

With a long wait until Christmas when incumbent Doctor Peter Capaldi will depart and new Doctor Jodie Whittaker will debut, I thought it high time to revisit the past of Doctor Who, with a rewatch of the new series starting with Series 1 (or Series 27 if you’re getting technical); starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler.

The first half of Series 1 gets off to a very strong start. Showrunner Russell T Davies writes four of these six episodes so without further ado let’s get underway.

Main Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler)
Recurring: Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), and Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell)

 Rose by Russell T Davies

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The Doctor and Rose hunt for the Nestene’s lair. Copyright: BBC

Staying late at work one night, shop worker Rose Tyler is attacked by living plastic dummies and rescued by a mysterious man called the Doctor. As Rose continues to bump into the Doctor and his continuing battles against the living plastic, she attempts to find out more about him but is soon sucked into the Doctor’s dangerous world and finds an adventure she will never forget.

Rose had a massive task to fulfil. Not only did the episode mark the return of the series to screens for the first time in 16 years (9 years if you count the movie starring Paul McGann), but it also had to appeal to classic series watchers and to people who had never seen Doctor Who before. In this manner it succeeds, in various levels. Which isn’t to say Rose is bad in any form, it’s just not exactly a very good way of selling exactly what the show excels at. But that said, Rose is still a very strong start to the series. Much like many companion introduction episodes, the Doctor himself appears in a reduced capacity in this episode; being kept mostly off-screen until the back half of the episode. Billie Piper however shows strong acting talent and is able to carry the episode herself until the Doctor steps in to take over. We aren’t given much chance to get to know Eccleston’s Doctor in this episode; with lines indicating that he has only recently regenerated allowing us to see the Ninth Doctor at the beginning of his life; oddly not showing the “regeneration sickness” his later incarnations would show (which usually amounts to a great deal of confusion as the Doctor’s mind adjusts to his new body). Eccleston manages to make an impression though and he and Piper share a wonderful chemistry that is a joy to watch on screen.

The episode itself has a rather simple plot, seeing the Doctor dealing with an attempted invasion by the Nestene Consciousness and Rose getting caught up in the middle of it. This is one of those episodes where it doesn’t really matter who the monster is; they’re here just to provide some form of threat for the Doctor and Rose to overcome and seal their friendship. But what shines through in this script is Russell T Davies’s absolute love for Doctor Who; the conspiracy theorist Clive is a loving nod to the fans, the TARDIS is treated with almost reverence within the script, the Doctor’s personality is like a “best of” of previous Doctors and the script is filled with small nods that fans can pick up on. While Rose may not be RTD’s strongest script, it’s one that serves its purposes well and is still very entertaining to watch; in spite of it being rather forgettable overall.

7/10

The End of the World by Russell T Davies

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The Doctor and Rose prepare to witness the Earth’s destruction. Copyright: BBC

For her first trip in the TARDIS, the Doctor takes Rose to a space platform in the far future where the rich and powerful have all gathered to witness the end of the world itself. But one of the guests has a killer ulterior motive and soon it’s a race against time to save everyone on board before they are all destroyed along with the Earth.

In what has now become Doctor Who tradition, The End of the World takes new companion Rose to the far future for one of her first trips in the TARDIS and confronting a dark truth about the human race; with no humans doing anything to stop the destruction of the Earth and the implication that none of them even care. The episode also sees Rose come face to face with an eventual future of the human race; while other humans have mingled with other species so to speak, the Lady Cassandra has resorted to surgery in order to keep herself “pure”; now being nothing more than “skin with lipstick” as Rose puts it nicely. The fears of “plastic surgery gone mad” are still very relevant today, so to see the show make its first major attempt at social commentary was nice to see.

This episode also saw the debut of some wonderful alien designs and concepts; most of which were never seen again after this episode. It would have been nice if some of these alien characters could have gone on to become recurring characters, but the team did a fantastic job with the costumes. Eccleston is again fantastic in the role, but the episode makes the poor choice of keeping the Doctor and Rose apart for most of the episode; when allowing the Doctor and Rose’s relationship to grow would have been a smarter move. The plot of the episode then isn’t exactly great. It’s functional, but it’s nothing really memorable; a very “safe” episode of Doctor Who. As the show was still trying to establish itself, this was perhaps a smart idea even if it makes the episode a little forgettable overall and really only memorable for a few specific moments. The episode’s guest cast fare a little better with Zoe Wannamaker being a delight as Cassandra while Yasmin Bannerman really impresses as Jabe of the Forest of Cheem. There’s also a handful of rather hilarious jokes; of note is Cassandra wheeling out a jukebox and proclaiming it to be an “IPod”. The End of the World is an entertaining enough second outing for Eccleston’s Doctor, but really isn’t one fans will find themselves revisiting all that often.

7/10

The Unquiet Dead by Mark Gatiss

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The Gelth appear via a psychic link with Gwyneth (Eve Myles). Copyright: BBC

Arriving in 1869 Cardiff on Christmas, the Doctor and Rose encounter Charles Dickens. A nearby Undertakers though has a problem; the dead just won’t stay dead. With the help of Dickens and a young maid with a peculiar ability, the Doctor and Rose discover the cause of the “undead”. Can these mysterious beings be trusted?

The “unofficial Christmas Special”, The Unquiet Dead is not only the first Doctor Who script by Mark Gatiss nor the first script not written by Russell T Davies in the new series, but it’s also the New Series’ first attempt at a “celebrity historical” and a horror episode. A “celebrity historical” is a term used to describe when an episode focuses on the Doctor meeting an iconic figure from history, in this case Charles Dickens, played marvellously by Simon Callow. Callow’s Dickens is perhaps the highlight of the episode and delivers some of the episode’s best lines (“What the Shakespeare?!”). Incidentally, the episode started the trend of having a famous writer from history encounter what they were famous for writing; with Dickens encountering ghosts and, in later episodes, Shakespeare encountering witches (The Shakespeare Code) and Agatha Christie being involved in a murder mystery (The Unicorn and the Wasp).

This episode is a chilling experience to watch, perhaps the first truly scary episode of the show. The antagonists, the Gelth, are a macabre idea and truly one that could only have come from the mind of Mark Gatiss. This episode is incredibly dark and gothic, yet also has that tinge of humour that Gatiss is known for. The Unquiet Dead is a fantastic script and perhaps one of the best in this first batch of episodes. It’s also bolstered by a fantastic guest cast; with a pre-Torchwood Eve Myles being of particular note. The Unquiet Dead is an episode I often find myself drawn to watching and that is perhaps it’s an utterly unique episode; there hasn’t been an episode quite like it since.

8.5/10

Aliens of London/World War Three by Russell T Davies

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The Slitheen plot in Downing Street. Copyright: BBC

The Doctor takes Rose home to visit her mother, only for him to accidentally bring her home one year after she left where in the time since, Rose has been missing presumed dead. But that’s not all, an alien spacecraft crashes into the Thames and with the Prime Minister nowhere to be found, an acting Prime Minister is named and the Earth’s greatest alien experts (along with the Doctor) are called in to help. But this is all a sinister trap and the Doctor must soon make a difficult choice.

The first two-parter in the new series also sees the debut of one of the most iconic new series monsters; the Slitheen. Despite it’s, at times, immature humour; there’s a well written script here in a (very) thinly veiled criticism of Tony Blair’s government with many high ranking government officials revealed to be Slitheen in disguise. While most may remember this story for “farting aliens”, there’s a bit more to it than that. This was the first story to really examine the effect on the people left behind when the Doctor takes his companion away. Specifically; we see Rose’s family and friends searching for her and suspecting she’s been murdered by her boyfriend Mickey, due to the Doctor getting the dates wrong and taking Rose home 12 months later and not 12 hours. Seeing the effect this has on Jackie is almost heart-breaking. Camille Coduri delivers a fantastic performance across this two parter, being able to make us laugh and cry at the drop of a hat.

This two parter is where Series 1 really begins to hit its stride; with the personalities and dynamic between the Doctor and Rose fully established; allowing Eccleston and Piper to fully let loose with the roles. Penelope Wilton does a fantastic job as Harriet Jones, with her emerging as one of the episode’s strongest points – an MP that actually wants to help people.

The reveal that most high ranking officials are actually giant green aliens in skinsuits is the stuff conspiracy theorists dream of and the Slitheen are certainly memorable antagonists, mainly because unlike other Doctor Who villains, the Slitheen just want to make a profit, not invade. Many may deride them for the running fart jokes, but considering Doctor Who is primarily a family show it has to be a little silly at times. Especially since it leads to one of Eccleston’s best lines in the entire show; “Do you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?” The Slitheen are a truly fantastic monster design, despite very obvious changes from the costume to the CGI version. This storyline is a particularly great one; the entire climax featuring the Doctor having to choose between Rose and the world is great stuff. I feel this two parter often gets forgotten or pushed to the wayside for its perceived immaturity, for even though the episode is littered with fart jokes galore it helps hide a rather great story focusing on first contact between humans and aliens; and makes us wonder how much we can actually trust that those in power aren’t just aliens in skinsuits wanting to sell the Earth off to the highest bidder (one wonders what fun RTD could have had with Theresa May’s government). The story also has a great heart, focusing on just what effects running off to see the universe has on the family you leave behind. Aliens of London/World War Three is highly recommended. Oh, and keep a look out for an early appearance by Torchwood character Toshiko Sato.

Aliens of London – 8/10
World War Three – 8.5/10

Dalek by Robert Shearman

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Rose encounters the “last” Dalek. Copyright: BBC

Answering a distress call, the Doctor and Rose arrive in an underground museum devoted to aliens and alien artefacts owned by billionaire Henry van Statten. As Rose forms a close bond with one of van Statten’s employees; young genius Adam, the Doctor discovers the source of the distress call. For deep within van Statten’s base lies his prize exhibit… one of the Doctor’s oldest and deadliest enemies.

And here we are at last; the long-awaited new series debut of the Doctor’s most iconic foes. Dalek is a fantastic episode, easily one of the better episodes in Series 1 as a whole and the best in this first batch of episodes. This is the first episode to truly focus on the Time War and the sequence where the Doctor and the Dalek discuss being the only survivors (or so they thought at the time) of the Time War is a fantastic sequence. This episode features perhaps Eccleston’s finest performance as the Doctor, within this first half of the series anyway. The pain visible on the Doctor’s face as he discusses the Time Lords being all but gone is clear to see and Eccleston manages to convey a complex set of emotions all at once; regret, anger and sorrow.

But perhaps what this episode is best remembered for is the Dalek itself; and boy does it deliver. The Dalek is truly terrifying as it slowly makes its way through Van Statten’s base floor by floor killing everyone it encounters (over 200 people according to one character). This is one of the few times the Daleks have been utterly terrifying and it’s amazing. The episode brings the Doctor’s iconic foe back to life in the best way it could.

What’s most interesting is Rose and her interactions with the Dalek. With the Dalek having absorbed Rose’s DNA to restore itself, the Dalek finds itself changing and Rose begins to see parallels between the Doctor and the Dalek. And we the audience do too; for Rose not only healed the Doctor (metaphorically) but she also healed the Dalek.

Composer Murray Gold also debuts his iconic Dalek theme in this episode and it’s still just as bone chilling 12 years on. The episode’s guest cast is fine but not particularly memorable. Bruno Langley does fine as Adam and paves the way for a bigger role in the next episode. Nicholas Briggs meanwhile manages to bring the Dalek’s screechy voice to life and takes it to the next level, giving us a voice that will haunt nightmares for years to come.

All this would be lost without some truly fantastic directing by Joe Ahearne and a marvellous script by Robert Shearman (it’s a crime that he has yet to return to the show). Dalek is one of those Doctor Who episodes where everything comes together perfectly delivering an absolute masterpiece. Dalek is supreme. All hail Dalek.

10/10

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The Doctor and Rose. Copyright: BBC. 

This first crop of episodes are a great start to Series 1, with not one weak link amongst them. Russell T Davies did the impossible here; he brought Doctor Who back and make it sleeker and bigger than ever without losing the show’s magic touch and charm. The only real flaw in this bunch is the budget; CGI has not aged well and the mastering on the episodes has equally not aged well; the episodes just don’t look as shiny or sleek on flat screen 4K TVs – perhaps indicating BBC should consider a full remaster of the episodes in years to come. But aside from that, the show looks fantastic for its time and this run of episodes is a fantastic way to start the series. Check back next week for retrospectives on the next 7 episodes of Series 1! And check back weekly for new Doctor Who retrospectives all the way until Christmas.

Doctor Who Series 1 Part 1 Average Score: 8.1/10

Game of Thrones S07E04 “The Spoils of War” Review

mv5bodblzmvmy2itn2uxyy00ztjhlthlnwetnta3yzewzdbhmza4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_The Spoils of War saw perhaps the most significant advancements in Game of Thrones yet. That may be a common saying going forward. This episode saw not just Jon and Daenerys’s relationship begin to grow, it also saw the reunion of the three surviving trueborn Stark children and the first major confrontation between Jaime and Daenerys; and our first proper battle sequence of the Season. Despite its relatively short running time compared to other episodes, Spoils of War was perhaps the best episode of the Season so far giving us time to check in with every plot line; bar Sam, the Hound, the Wall and the White Walkers. So much happened in this episode that it’s hard to condense it all into one review. The first confrontation between Jaime and Daenerys (and likely not to be the last) was fantastic to see, really hammering home that the series is coming to its end; and that there’s actually a war going on. At Winterfell, seeing the reunion of the Stark children at last was beautiful to see. Sansa, Arya and Bran have not been together since the first ever episode, so to finally see them reunited was a sense of victory in a way. They’ve gone through so much so for the family to be together again is incredibly cathartic for viewers.

Littlefinger seems to be growing more desperate to find someone to manipulate, with Sansa showing resistance to his advances and Bran clearly not being interested in politics; his parroting of Littlefinger’s saying “Chaos is a ladder” certainly seemed to put Littlefinger on edge. With Littlefinger’s uncertainty at seeing Arya; perhaps remembering her as Tywin’s cupbearer and thus knowing he helped Tywin plot the downfall of House Stark, will perhaps push him into making a move sooner rather than later. Exactly what that move will be is unknown, but it’s likely to be his last.

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The real shining star of this episode was Jerome Flynn as Bronn. With the show taking the approach of following Bronn through the battle (with occasional cutaways to Daenerys, Tyrion and Jaime), it allowed a very unique perspective on the battle. Much like Season 6’s Battle of the Bastards, following one man through a battle gives the audience a much deeper emotional connection to the stakes, with the main priority being just rooting for Bronn to survive. As Bronn had already showcased the signs any character about to be killed off would show; being in focus, getting a few endearing moments, mentions of their aspirations, that when the battle started I assumed Bronn was done for, but I was hoping he’d make it. Framing the battle around Bronn was an excellent choice, especially when Bronn showed significant character development; abandoning his gold in favour of trying to kill Drogon. Whatever he might say, Bronn is now a Lannister man through and through.

The Spoils of War also showed excellent character work for Jon and Daenerys, with the two being given significant time to bond. While the two aren’t seeing exactly eye to eye just yet, they are much closer now and it seems they are both beginning to see things from the other’s point of view. With Davos hinting that Jon may have a slight crush on Daenerys (“She has a good heart” “Yes, I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart”) and Daenerys making it clear she will not help Jon with the White Walker threat until he bends the knee but also valuing his opinion and input on what she should do, is it possible that the two could decide to unite their kingdoms through marriage, thus removing their main obstacle (Jon not wanting to surrender his Kingdom and Daenerys not wanting the North to be an independent kingdom)? Would Jon’s caution be a good match for Dany’s recklessness? And exactly how long will Bran just sit on the information that Jon is chilling with his aunt? Does the “Three-Eyed-Raven” not write letters?

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Speaking of Bran, it was rather alarming to see how coldly he dismissed Meera’s departure. This is a far cry from the Bran we saw at the end of Season 6. How much further can Bran’s coldness go? Is he even Bran anymore? Bran’s arc has been one of the most interesting of the series and seeing Bran struggle with the amount of information uploaded into his head by the Three-Eyed-Raven has been heart-breaking to see. Where will Bran end up? Is there any of the old Bran left?

Huge props to director Matt Shakman, making his Game of Thrones debut. The Spoils of War was fantastically directed, with each scene being wonderfully shot (bar some poor editing decisions during Arya and Brienne’s fight). The battle at the end of this episode might just be one of the best battle sequence in the show’s history, overtaking the battle of Blackwater Bay in Blackwater, the battle of the Wall in Watchers on the Wall and being on par with the attack of the White Walkers in Hardhome and the battle of Winterfell in The Battle of the Bastards. Featuring fantastic CGI with Drogon, who truly looked like he’d flown out of a Hollywood movie, amazing visual effects and being absolutely thrilling; I can say without a doubt the entire sequence kept me gripped throughout. It’s one of the few times that the series has almost made me break out in a sweat with tension, with the afore-mentioned Hardhome and Battle of the Bastards being the other times. Shakman did a truly fantastic job with The Spoils of War and I eagerly anticipate seeing what he does with next week’s episode; Eastwatch. Hopefully Shakman is invited back to direct one of the six episodes for the show’s final season.

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The Spoils of War was a truly gripping and amazing piece of television. Every so often, Game of Thrones comes along with an episode that truly knocks the socks off the competition and reminds everyone why it’s the most popular television show on the planet. And The Spoils of War was one such episode. The Spoils of War was up there with the best of the show’s entire run and will certainly go on to become one of the show’s most memorable episodes. And this was merely the first of many battles to come.

10/10

Game of Thrones S07E03 “The Queen’s Justice” Review

mv5bodvhztfhnmytzwq2nc00nde5lwexzjgtmge5nzu0mzlmzmflxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_sy1000_cr0014151000_al_Game of Thrones finally delivered the one thing fans have been anticipating for years, decades even if you started with the books: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen finally meeting. The two have been the de-facto protagonists of the show for quite a while now and their meeting is the one thing the entire series has been building up to; the bringing together of “Ice” and “Fire” in A Song of Ice and Fire (the overall name of George RR Martin’s book series upon which the show is based). But this iconic moment was not the only draw of the episode. The Queen’s Justice delivered plenty of memorable and fantastic scenes in an outstanding episode.

But onto the main attraction itself. Jon and Daenerys’s first meeting did not go as well as some would have expected. In fact it’s hard to see how it could have gone worse. The two clashed almost immediately; but not exactly in the worst way possible. With Tyrion and Davos trying to be the voices of reason in the conversation, we saw Jon and Dany clashing not over policies or ideological differences, but over priorities. While Dany was a bit sceptical over Jon’s claims of an army of the dead, she never exactly indicated she was unwilling to help either. She had set her priorities on the enemy she knows; Cersei whereas Jon has done the same with the Night King. The two clashed over this simple thing; Jon was adamant there was no time to deal with Cersei and the Night King should be the priority while Dany was adamant that Cersei must be dealt with first and expected Jon to honour an ancient vow of fealty to the Targaryens sworn by the Starks long ago.

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Later in the episode, Tyrion rightfully pointed out the flaws in both parties; Jon expected Dany to drop everything to go fight an enemy she had no proof existed while Dany expected to get Jon’s loyalty without offering anything immediate in return. Tyrion’s conversations with the two alone indicated he’s trying to do his best to get the two to do what everyone must do in negotiations; compromise. Neither is going to get exactly what they want so they must talk and settle on something they’re both happy with. At Tyrion’s urging, Dany allowed Jon to mine the Dragonglass on Dragonstone. As Tyrion pointed out; it’s something worthless to Dany so she doesn’t lose anything but it’s something of value to Jon and opens up a path to further compromises and deals down the line. The scene where Jon and Dany talked alone seemed to indicate that there is a spark between them and the two, likely, could become very close allies down the line if both are willing to compromise. Now could this spark be the two feeling they should trust the other, perhaps sensing on a subconscious level their connection currently unknown to them? Don’t forget Dany is Jon’s Aunt; thanks to the reveal last season that Jon Snow’s parents are Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s brother).

In King’s Landing, we got perhaps one of Cersei’s most evil acts in the series to date. With Euron delivering the captive Ellaria and Tyene to her, Cersei finally enacted her revenge for Myrcella’s death in perhaps the cruellest way possible. While there is no doubt Ellaria deserves to suffer some form of justice for her murders of Myrcella, Doran and Trystane, I’d find it hard to say she exactly deserved the fate Cersei has given her; being forced to watch Tyene die of the same poison used to kill Myrcella and then to watch Tyene’s corpse slowly rot for the rest of her days. This act was beyond justice. It was evil. Pure and simple. And the fact doing this apparently made Cersei horny is even more disturbing still.

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At Winterfell, Sansa seems to have settled into the role of ruling in Jon’s stead, making many reasonable decisions. Littlefinger’s slight look at Maester Wolkan upon learning Maester Luwin kept records of every letter sent to Winterfell is one to keep an eye on. If Luwin kept a record of the letter sent by Lysa Arryn to Catelyn Stark blaming the Lannister’s for Jon Arryn’s death, when Sansa knows Littlefinger manipulated Lysa into killing Jon Arryn, things wouldn’t end well for Littlefinger. Such a record would expose Littlefinger as the mastermind that started the War of Five Kings and expose how he led Ned to his death and is responsible for the chain of events that kickstarted the entire series and in turn responsible for all of Sansa’s suffering; including the deaths of almost her entire family. If such a record were to exist and be revealed, Sansa wouldn’t be too happy to say the least which would certainly scupper Littlefinger’s plans to rule the Seven Kingdoms with Sansa as his queen. Knowing such records exist, expect Littlefinger to act sooner rather than later. Perhaps a record doesn’t even exist and Littlefinger’s actions to hide his treachery will ultimately lead to it being exposed?

We also saw the reunion between Sansa and Bran, but what should have been a sweet moment quickly turned cold when Bran revealed his gift to Sansa; by telling her exact details about the night she was married to (and subsequently raped by) Ramsay. This scene managed to portray exactly how much Bran has changed over the years. His two years of isolation from human contact besides Meera and Hodor (jury’s still out on whenever the Three Eyed Raven was technically human anymore due to presumably being hundreds to thousands of years old) has certainly affected him as well as the effects of what can only be described as a “transfer” of knowledge from the Three Eyed Raven before his death last season, which now makes Bran the Three Eyed Raven (confused? Don’t worry, Sansa is too). However, you could see that Bran was at least trying to show sympathy for Sansa, even if it seems that sort of thing is beyond him now. In the scene prior, Littlefinger revealed he lives every version of events at once in order to never be surprised. That outlook is Bran’s reality; Bran has seen everything that has happened and everything that could or will happen (Bran briefly saw Cersei’s destruction of the Sept in an early episode last season). Having all that running through your head must make it incredibly difficult for one to engage with the present, so the fact Bran is even trying is commendable even if the result leaves Sansa terrified. But there is no doubt now that anything Bran tells her in the future she will believe without question, which is perhaps why it was worth scaring her in this way.

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We briefly saw Sam and the now healed Jorah, with Jorah setting out to find Daenerys. Sam meanwhile was praised for saving Jorah’s life and was “rewarded” by being given a bunch of scrolls and books to read and copy. But I’m willing to bet Sam will stumble upon some essential information in those dusty old tomes.

In the episode we saw the return of Mark Gatiss as Braavosi banker Tycho Nestoris, who Cersei was attempting to make a deal with. Of course Cersei went about this completely the wrong way, once again proving that even though she may think she’s Tywin, she’s really not. Cersei of course mentioned Daenerys freeing slaves as a reason why the Iron Bank of Braavos should not support her. Except the city of Braavos was founded by self-freed slaves. Oops. Critical lack of research on Cersei’s part. It’s important to note Tycho did not acknowledge that the collapse of the Slave Trade had hurt the Iron Bank, only acknowledging that the Slave Trade was in trouble. I’m willing to bet this huge mistake will come to bite Cersei in the future. Regardless, Cersei was able to negotiate two weeks to pay off the Crown’s debts in full.

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This led to the two major battles of this episode; the battle of Casterly Rock and the battle of Highgarden. In a moment of tactical genius, Jaime withdrew Lannister troops from Casterly Rock, allowing it to easily fall to the Unsullied in order for the Lannister army to take Highgarden; home of the Tyrells, with ease. With the Unsullied now ambushed by Euron and the Tyrells wiped out, Daenerys has now lost all of her advantages apart from the Dothraki and her Dragons. Which might just be enough to push her to compromise with a certain King in the North…

And this all led to the episode’s best scene; the Olenna Tyrell’s final confrontation with Jaime. Olenna showcased the snark and snappiness we’ve come to know and love as well as delivering some incredibly memorable lines (“He really was a c—t” she says when talking about Joffrey). Diana Rigg has been fantastic as the character and has contributed so much to the show. While losing such a prominent character is a sacrifice of the story moving towards it’s end, it’s such a shame that Olenna has to be one of the first losses. Diana Rigg has been such a joy on screen as the character and she will be sorely missed, especially after she delivered the Game of Thrones equivalent of a mic drop.

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The Queen’s Justice was a fantastic episode and easily the strongest episode of the season so far. With massive advancements in the story, the death of a beloved character, a long awaited reunion, an equally long awaited first meeting, along with some excellent character work and writing. While The Queen’s Justice may not have been an action heavy episode, it more than made up for it with excellent character work and story development.

9/10

Useless trivia:

With the death of Olenna Tyrell, House Tyrell is the fifth Great House to be wiped out over the course of the show; following House Martell in The Red Woman, House Bolton in Battle of the Bastards, House Baratheon in Mother’s Mercy, the Royal House of Baratheon in The Winds of Winter and House Frey in Dragonstone, although technically House Tyrell had already been wiped out in The Winds of Winter with the deaths of Mace, Margery and Loras Tyrell; since Olenna does not have any other children or grandchildren. Her death marks the end of House Tyrell.

Other great houses in danger of extinction are; House Lannister (Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, unknown Lannister cousins), House Greyjoy (Euron, Yara, Theon), House Arryn (Robyn), House Stark (Sansa, Bran, Arya, Benjen) and House Targaryen (Daenerys, Jon).

The title of this episode, The Queen’s Justice, can refer to both Cersei’s revenge on Ellaria and on Olenna, often nicknamed “The Queen of Thorns”, taunting Jaime that she killed Joffrey and asking him to deliver that message to Cersei with her dying breath.

Game of Thrones S07E02 “Stormborn” Review

mv5bmtu0zwm2mjmtmjlmnc00mwuzlwjinmitytkzodbhnwvlymqyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_sy1000_cr0015021000_al_With only 12 episodes of the show left, it was down to Stormborn to set the wheels in motion for the final chapter of the story. And boy did it do that.

Daenerys is quickly moving forward with her conquest of Westeros. After confronting Varys’s treacheries against previous rulers in one of the episode’s most powerful moments, Daenerys was alerted that she had a visitor. This visitor turned out to be Melisandre. This was a huge moment for the show, as not only was this the first official convergence between the “Ice” and “Fire” storylines (or the “Jon” and “Daenerys” storylines in simpler terms), but it also provided a hint at things to come; with Melisandre hinting that Daenerys might be the prophesised “Prince who was Promised” that will save Westeros from the White Walkers (with “Prince” being a gender neutral term according to Missandei). Melisandre however did hint there might be more to it than that, telling Daenerys she “has a part to play, as does another” which might be a nod to the long running fan theory that Daenerys and Jon Snow together are the “Prince who was Promised”. This scene was an excellent way to start the episode, with Emilia Clarke, Conleth Hill and Carice Van Houten all delivering great performances as well as introducing Daenerys to the wider arc of the White Walkers. It also saw Daenerys, with Tyrion and Melisandre’s urging, contacting Jon Snow promising the two meeting very soon.

Later in the episode, Tyrion revealed the strategy for Daenerys’s conquest of Westeros. Rightly predicting that Cersei would use the fear of Dany’s army of foreigners to unite the Lords of Westeros, Tyrion announced that only the Westeros armies allied with Dany would lay siege to King’s Landing so the Lords of Westeros would see it’s not just foreign invaders they’re fighting while Daenerys’s army of Unsullied would take Casterly Rock; the Lannister’s ancestral home and the seat of their power. An excellent plan, in theory. But what made this scene stand out was what happened after, with Daenerys having a small scene with Olenna Tyrell. Olenna warned Daenerys not to rely on Tyrion’s advice all the time and that she might be better suited ignoring him and following her own ideas. Olenna has always been one of the show’s best characters so it was wonderful to see two of the most powerful women in the show finally interact.

And finally we saw Grey Worm and Missandei consummate their relationship before Grey Worm heads out to attack Casterly Rock. The interaction between the two was sweet, as the relationship has always been rather cute. Grey Worm’s comments about fear however make me worried. Is it possible Grey Worm will die during the assault on Casterly Rock?

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At Winterfell, things began to heat up. Well not literally but you get the idea. Jon received Daenerys’s summons, and upon learning Tyrion was her Hand was tempted to accept, hoping Tyrion could help convince Daenerys to join them. And upon receiving Sam’s letter about the Dragonglass mine on Dragonstone, Jon was even more determined to go. However, this seemed to have cost him some support among the Northern Lords, many of whom argued Daenerys’s summons could be a trap and that the North needs the King of the North IN the North. Jon however was adamant that they need allies to fight the White Walkers. They need Dany’s army, her dragons and the Dragonglass. Jon managed to win some support back by leaving Sansa in charge. I can’t help but wonder though if Jon might be risking dividing the North in his attempts to unite Westeros.

We also saw Jon and Littlefinger speak in the Winterfell crypts. Even though it appeared Littlefinger came off the worse here, I can’t help but feel that Jon just proved to Littlefinger that he’s not someone Littlefinger can control. And as has been proven in the past, this is not a good position to be in. With Jon gone, it’s possible Littlefinger could work his way back into Sansa’s head and manipulate her into seizing control and usurping Jon while he’s away. But perhaps Sansa has grown smarter than that? Either way, the ice is melting under Littlefinger’s feet and he’s sure to make one last desperate bid for power sooner rather than later.

Elsewhere in the North we saw Arya reunited with Hot Pie, her old friend and upon learning that Jon is King in the North, she abandoned her quest to kill Cersei and headed back North. And here we got perhaps the most powerful scene of the episode. Arya was reunited with her Direwolf; Nymeria. In the years since the events of Season 1 where Arya forced Nymeria to run away out of fear she would be killed by Cersei, Nymeria has become the leader of a great wolf pack. As Arya pleads for Nymeria to come home with her, Nymeria simply turns away. Arya smiles and says “No. That’s not you.” Cementing that both she and Nymeria are not the same girl and wolf who left Winterfell. Just as Arya is trying to find her new place in the world, Nymeria has found hers. They have both changed and will not just adapt back to normal life; perhaps indicating a happy ending for Arya, at least ones fans expect anyway, probably isn’t on the cards.

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At the Citadel, we were very brief. Archmaester Ebrose is seen examining Jorah’s fast spreading greyscale. Ebrose remarks there is nothing more that can be done for Jorah and he will soon lose his mind to madness. He gives Jorah one day to do as he pleases before he will be sent to Valyria to live out his days with the Stone Men, heavily implying Jorah should kill himself. Ebrose remains insistent Jorah cannot be treated despite Sam being desperate to try. This leads Sam to try a highly experimental, and dangerous, treatment on Jorah in secret out of respect for Jorah’s father; Jeor Mormont, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. This “treatment” was perhaps the most disgusting scene Game of Thrones has done in a long while. It was incredibly difficult to watch. I applaud the show for making me feel so squeamish while watching this scene, especially the cutaway to someone eating; tricking us that the knife cutting into the food was actually the operation on Jorah.

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A brief check in at King’s Landing saw Cersei appeal to Tyrell bannermen that Daenerys’s army poses a terrible threat to all of Westeros and that their true duty is to the throne; not Olenna Tyrell. Later, Jaime appeals to Randall Tarly (Sam’s father) and Dickon Tarly (with Merlin actor Tom Hopper replacing Freddie Stroma who played the character in Season 6). We also saw Qyburn reveal his latest creation to Cersei; an anti-Dragon ballista that fires spears powerful enough to pierce a Dragon’s bone (someone’s been watching The Hobbit). With Tyrell bannermen coming to her side and the Dragon ballista, the game slowly tips in Cersei’s favour. Will one of Daenerys’s dragons meet its death at the hands of Cersei’s ballista later this season?

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And finally, this episode concluded on the sea with Yara, Theon, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes on their way to Dorne to collect the Martell army and lay siege to King’s Landing. With some fun character moments here; including Obara and Nymeria (not that one) making fun of Tyene and Ellaria and Yara flirting with each other. This was all cut short however with a surprise attack by Euron and his fleet. What followed was a horrifically brutal battle, with Euron’s men quickly gaining the upper hand and butchering Yara’s men. Euron himself joined in on the fighting and murdered Obara and Nymeria (not that one) with their own weapons. Ellaria and Tyene were captured and after a short fight, Euron overpowered Yara. Euron taunted Theon to try and rescue Yara, but as Theon watched all around him at the bloodshed and seeing Yara’s men getting mutilated; Theon disappeared and Reek returned (note Theon’s flinch beginning to return) in a wonderful piece of acting by Alfie Allen. Gemma Whelan also managed to convey some wonderful emotion as Yara sheds a few tears, knowing what is happening to her brother, knowing it’s not his fault and knowing she can’t do anything to help him. Theon then fled, terrified and Euron left with Yara, Ellaria and Tyene as his captives and in one move utterly robbing Daenerys of a major advantage; the Ironborn fleet and her alliance with Dorne. It’s clear now that the gift Euron promised Cersei was Ellaria and Tyene; the two responsible for killing Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. I’m willing to bet Cersei will greatly enjoy the opportunity to kill, or threaten to kill, Tyene in front of her mother Ellaria.

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Stormborn was a massive improvement over Dragonstone in every way. While Dragonstone wasn’t bad by any means, it was certainly devoid of any meaningful events occurring apart from Daenerys’s arrival in Westeros. Stormborn meanwhile had many significant plot advancements and moved at a breakneck pace, exactly what I expected from a Game of Thrones season with less episodes. Stormborn had some wonderful character moments, some great action and contained several moments fans have been waiting for and also showed how the wide circle of the show is slowly closing and soon every storyline will be joined. If the rest of Season 7 is up to this quality, then we’re in for a good one.

8/10

Useless trivia: This is the second episode in a row to have a title relevant to Daenerys; with Dragonstone being the place of her birth and where she finally arrives in Westeros and Stormborn being one of her titles; Daenerys Stormborn due to her being born during a vicious storm.

“Dunkirk” Review

maxresdefaultDirected by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy
Plot: Trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk with their backs to the sea, thousands of British and Allied troops face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.

In a summer dominated by superheroes, giant robots, minions and pirates, it’s rather surprising to say that the summer’s strongest picture (and perhaps the strongest picture of the year so far) is Dunkirk.

Based on the real events from 1940, Dunkirk is a beast of a film; showcasing not just the heroic evacuation, but the terrifying horrors of the war itself. Splitting itself into three chapters told non-linearly, Dunkirk focuses on three parts of the famous evacuation; The Mole focusing on the land, The Sea focusing on the boats coming to help and The Air focusing on the RAF with each chapter following a different group of characters. This is an excellent approach, as it allows the film to cover the widest range of the story it’s telling with three very different groups of characters; a small group of British soldiers desperately trying to survive, a Mariner, his son and his son’s friend sailing a small boat to aid in the evacuation and two RAF pilots desperately trying to hold off the German bombers to give the evacuation time. For this reason, no character really emerges as the main character of the film. This is truly an ensemble piece.

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Perhaps the easiest way to describe Dunkirk is that it’s three interconnecting short films presented non-linearly. Those expecting a more conventional narrative may be disappointed.

Time plays a very big role within the film itself, from the ticking clock that is ever present within the film’s soundtrack, signifying how little time there is to evacuate, to Farrier (Hardy) using time to estimate how much fuel he has left in his plane after his fuel gauge is damaged all the way to the film telling us how much time each chapter covers (The Mole covering a week, The Sea covering a day and The Air covering an hour). This in turn creates a massive sense of urgency within the film; relentless pacing really makes the audience uneasy and anxious at all times, with moments that should feel safe instead leaving us fearing the next inevitable strike by the Germans.

By far the strongest of the film’s three chapters however is The Sea; which very easily could have been its own film. The Sea is carried by strong performances by Mark Rylance as a Mariner trying to aid the evacuation and Cillian Murphy as a rescued shell-shocked soldier desperate not to go back to Dunkirk, at any cost. The Sea is a fantastic piece of filmmaking in its own right and will likely go on to be one of the most memorable parts of the film for most audiences.

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The Mole meanwhile is relentless in its showcasing of the horrors of war. Following three soldiers; Tommy (Whitehead), Alex (Styles) and the mute Gibson (Barnard) desperately trying to find a way out of Dunkirk and back to England as soon as possible, The Mole almost feels like a horror movie at times. The German forces, ever present, are never actually seen instead only identified as sudden gunshots and flying bombers. This makes the Germans feel like an almost supernatural force, constantly hunting the trio. The Mole is bolstered by some of the film’s most tense sequences and some wonderful performances from young actors Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard. Barnard in particular impresses due to having no lines of dialogue. Styles also impresses with a strong performance, perhaps indicating he could have a big career outside the music industry. Whitehead is also great and manages to carry The Mole very well as a very easy to root for protagonist.

The Air is home to most of the film’s action sequences, namely highflying (and lowflying) dogfights above the beaches of Dunkirk. Mostly carried by two actors; Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden, this story is the shortest of the three but is home to some of the more memorable moments. The dogfights have to be seen to be believed and are utterly thrilling to watch. If you can, definitely seek out a large format screen to watch the movie in, either IMAX or Dolby Cinema, as these sequences are worth watching on the biggest screen possible. Hardy and Lowden do excellently enough and Hardy in particular stands out very well, delivering a great performance despite nearly all of his scenes being confined to a small cockpit.

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One of the more surprising things about Dunkirk is how it doesn’t glorify the events taking place. Unlike other war movies which are often more sentimental and patriotic, Dunkirk never shies away from just how horrifying the events were. For there is no denying the events at Dunkirk were a disaster. And that is perhaps a more fitting genre for the movie. It’s not a war movie. It’s a disaster movie that just happens to focus on a disaster that occurred during wartime. While this does not mean the movie doesn’t have its patriotic moments, which it does, the movie just chooses to focus more on the horror, disaster and tragedy of Dunkirk than anything else. Which works just right for the movie.

On a technical level, Dunkirk is a masterpiece of filmmaking. Nolan has gone on record saying that the film used as little CGI as possible and it shows. This is a grand scale production the likes of which is rarely seen today. The film is awe inspiring to see and helped along by actually filming at the locations where the events happened. The cinematography, costumes, props, everything looks so real and raw that it’s almost difficult to tell yourself “It’s just a movie” at times. Helped along by Nolan choosing to film on 70mm film and IMAX cameras, as well as a Dolby Vision pass (which sadly can currently only be seen in select cinemas capable of displaying it until the film’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray release) all of which makes Dunkirk a visual feast for the eyes.

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Dunkirk’s sound mix is also fantastic. Despite Director Christopher Nolan showing an aversion to sound mixes higher than 5.1 (meaning Dunkirk has no 7.1 or Dolby Atmos mix as is typical for most movies nowadays), Dunkirk still sounds amazing. Bullets suddenly spring out of nowhere, bombers and spitfires fly overhead, explosions are heard all around. There’s no doubt about it, this is Nolan’s best sounding movie.

There are many words I could use to describe Dunkirk, but I think only one encapsulates everything I could say about the film; masterpiece. Dunkirk is a feat of filmmaking and easily one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, perhaps even better than The Dark Knight. Nolan has proven himself a master of filmmaking once again and one of the best living directors working today. Dunkirk is a relentless, raw, horrific and pulse-racing experience; one that will thrill, shock and grip audiences worldwide. Dunkirk is not just the greatest film of the summer, but the greatest film of 2017 so far – and it is unlikely to be topped.

10/10