The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Tag: stephen moffat

Doctor Who: Tenacity, Alcohol, Rollicks: In Summary

So, two days ago, Doctor Who came to an end (till FUCKING NOVEMBER ), with a stonker of an episode from the Machiavellian mind of Moffat. It’s difficult to sum up the episode in a few sentences (although I will admit that the first thing I remember from the episode was the title and the writers credit coming up and exclaiming, horrified, “JESUS, I’VE BEEN SPELLING HIS NAME WRONG ALL THIS TIME!”), because it so satisfyingly brought the first Clara arc to an end, let us spend some more time in the presence of the imitable Richard E. Grant, and delight in the lesbians-and-potato men sidekicks which shouldn’t work but do.

I will spoil nothing for no man, but here are the best things about The Name of The Doctor in ascending order: the increasingly hilarious Strax (“Surrender your women and intellectuals!”), the almost total absence of the kids from last week, the classic Moffat mind-bending plot, Matt Smith writing a formal and very convincing letter to the BAFTA committee to split the awards between him and SteVen next year, Jenna Louise-Coleman proving she’s the best choice of assistant since Sarah-Jane, a beautiful, truly touching and almost redeeming apparition of River Song, Vastra and Jenny having more girl-on-girl eroticism than me and half an hour with my Special Drawer, an appearance by a very lovely British veteran that had me almost spewing with glee, and an ending so superb you’ll want to watch it twelve times in a row with your eyes pressed to the screen till every frame is seared onto your brain forever.

It’s tempting to go for a big, wanky summary looking back over the last couple of months of episode, but I’ve had a better idea. Hop on iPlayer, get all the episodes set up, get some sort of vaguely classy spirits on the go, and get prepared to get pissed with my patented Doctor Who Drinking Game (I was going to try for a pun on Tardis, but I’ve done NOTHING BUT GIVE to you people on that front for weeks and I’m tired. I have a headache, alright? Stop jabbing it into the small of my back.),

1. Take one shot for every time the Tardis is shown in flight, crash-landing, or not liking one of the Doctors lady friends because she’s a Jeremy-Kyle level possessive bitch.

2. Take a drink every time Matt Smith delivers a line with reaLLY WIErd emPHASIS.

3. Take a drink every time a British institution appears onscreen.

4. Take a drink for every episode Clara is wearing a very short skirt of some description.

5. Take a drink for every secondary character actor you’ve seen in another British television show.

6. Take a drink for every time the Doctor is really touchy with someone he probably hasn’t even shagged yet.

7. Take a drink for every time the villain/alien is revealed for the first time in an episode.

8. Take  a drink for every time Matt Smith thinks he’s David Tennant.

9. Take a drink for every time the adventure music starts playing.

10. Drink continually till November 23rd when we get the blessed show back.

 

So now you’ve turned my brain inside out, fustrated me, delighted me, and ruined my liver. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

2.

The New Doctor

Well, it’s time. Me. I’ve decided to bloody sort out Stephen Moffat. Not in an Robert de Niro way, you understand; no, I’m going to help the wonderful bastard. Yes, I’m going to give you my well-considered and positively not a result of drinking seminal ideas about who should take on the mantle of Doctor Who.

1. Sue Perkins

Everyone’s favourite lesbian. It’s Doctor Who, not Doctor Him, and this eccentrically coiffed and comedically bespectacled British institution would be delightful at the helm of the Tardis. She’s got the manic energy of Matt Smith, and I reckon she could pull out the dark side if we needed-just really watch her make another somehow classy innuendo on The Great British Bake Off. You can see the thesp within. In this scenario, Sandi Toksvig would be the assistant, because I want to see them in an enclosed space  together for a long time. It’s the closest thing Radio 4 will ever come to hardcore lesbian pornography.

2. Will Smith

Throw him a bone. He’s a solid actor, and something Doctor Who has been missing of late is the genuine cool factor-yes, Matt Smith gave us bumbling charm, David Tennant gave us goggle-eyed presence, Christopher Ecclestone gave us glowering angst-but genuine, all-out cool? Will Smith could pull that off. Go on. Give him some gravitas. You’d just have to keep reminding him the sonic screwdriver wasn’t his mind-wiping gadget from MIB.

3. Barry Lydon

He’s sarcastic, he’s horrifyingly intelligent, desperately funny and he’d bring something very, very new to the show. Have an old, tired, pissed-off Doctor, sick of the endless rotation of foreign planets and cheap whores (Catherine Tate excepted, because she’d probably gank me). I’d really love to see this happen, purely because it’s a pet theory and I’ve grown up with his brandy-swilling brand of warm cynicism for as long as I can remember. Do it.

4.  Alan Davies

He can do the adorable puppy thing beautifully, but in Johnathan Creek he pulled out a very nice brand of thin-lipped humour which would make a perfect Doctor, but a new one. He’d could bring the bouncing-off-the-walls thing and the bang-on comic timing with ease, then go all Black Ops on their asses just as convincingly. And he’s fascinatingly, terrifyingly, somehow unfairly ageless. Clearly in this scenario, it’s a toss-up between Caroline Quentin and Stephen Fry as the assistant.

5. Stephen Moffat

Because anyone who gets involved in Doctor Who on any level secretly wants to be the Doctor. You’re fooling no-one, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Tin Aliens Rile Davis In Space

I was not looking forward to this weeks episode of Doctor Who. Firstly, there were children, who would undoubtedly stink up the Tardis with childish glee and the smell of yoghurt (all children smell like yoghurt. They do). And then there were cybermen. Stephen. Now, Stephen. Didn’t we discuss this? I SPECIFICALLY VETOED  recycling of villains before the series began, and yet you continue to defy me. And while I’m on the subject, why the cybermen? Big, mechanised dullards with the face of a very specific fetish doll. Boo. BOO.

But. BUT. This episode? Actually, it wasn’t too bad. At all. Neil Gaiman was at the helm of the story, patently wazzed off his spunk on something I’d like to get my hands on, and rolling about in Matt Smith’s acting talent like a pig in space-shit. The cybermen were gratifyingly played with a little, with the episode splitting itself between Clara leading the traditional Who misfit soldiers (including the adorable Will Merrick, who played Alo in Skins) against an army of the metal monsters and the Doctor playing a high-stakes game of chess. The prize? HIS OWN MIND. The kids were annoying- Christ, and how- to the point of eliciting an enthusiastic middle finger from my viewing companion every time that bratty little girl one rolled her eyes like a fucking pinball machine. But, to the credit of the episode, they were essentially muted by some sort of cyberman brain slug thing at the end of the first act. Good shout, Gaiman.

Matt Smith simply went mad with this episode; playing both the normal Doctor and the part of him that was being taken over by some sort of Cyberman ubermensch. Most of this psychological battle took place in a floating low-res galaxy, which was pointless but very fun, and seeing the good Doctor playing against the more nasty Doctor in one episode was so very wrong that it became completely excellent. Seeing Clara being a bit ballsy and Doctor-free was a nice change, but Jenna-Louise, honey? That chemistry is a massive, nationwide cock tease. Somebody fuck somebody. On another note, Warwick Davis cropped up to bring some class to the episode, even in a comedy aviator hat (his performance very nearly wiped the taste of Life is Short out of my mind’s mouth), and, like every guest star, looked delighted just to be anywhere near a Tardis.

To be honest, the reason I enjoyed this episode so much was because my standards were so low. But Nightmare in Silver went somewhere I didn’t expect it to go, and with the balls-to-the-wall silliness and Gaiman’s glorious verbosity, it went to the right place. But was that River Song’s name I spotted in the promo for next week? I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Terror and Rather Delightful Inherent Sapphicity

So, last week, I was printing out some tosh or other (actually, it was a Betjeman poem that I wanted in hard copy to put on my wall, but that stays between us) when I idly pulled back the curtains of the print room to look at the mossy bank beyond. There, barely a foot from me, was a mother duck scrambling about with about twelve, teeny, fluffy, snuggly ducklings. I mean, glee doesn’t cover my reaction. I was standing there with a lopsided, beatific grin that looked like I’d found out I’d been cast in the Saw reboot. I was happy happy. But even tiny avian womb-hummers didn’t come close to making me as smack-facedly joyful as Doctor Who this Saturday. This weeks episode, The Crimson Horror, comes to us from The North (requiring Matt Smith to do a frankly erogenous Yorkshire accent), following the tale of the creepy Winifred Gilliflower and the strange goings-on in her institute. 

Now, I really, really dug this episode. It was the 100th episode broadcast since the revival in 2005, and it saw the centenary in with style; it was a proper rollick, allowing us another three-quarters of an hour with the lesbian lizard, her girlfriend, and the potato-head war machine from the Christmas special. The story was a prime example of how tight the writing can be on DW- oneliner after oneliner (“Oh, God, attack of the supermodels…”) and ridiculous throwaway sequences wrapped around what was, at it’s heart, a creepy and compelling story. The chemistry of the extracurricular trio with Clara and the Doctor was superb, as ever, because the writers haven’t quite cottoned on to it yet; as soon as they do they’ll be overused to hell and I want them to be a highlight instead of a third (, fourth and fifth) wheel. 

It was another good episode for a very smoochy Matt Smith, playing the fun Doctor for the first time in your ages, smashing things with chairs and getting a very nicely pitched scene with Rachael Stirling towards the end of the episode that provided emotional closure without souring the mood at all. Diana Rigg, who awoke every pubescent sexuality in the country, was great as the kind of demure psycho bitch Doctor Who specializes in, reveling in the grandeur of the setting and getting to do a funny accent on top of it. But this wasn’t an episode of performances, or monsters, or special effects; it was an episode of attitude, that attitude being “fuck it, let’s have fun”. More, please.

Not so good, though? Both the promise of the Cybermen AND child actors next week. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Tedium and Really Dark Industrial Scenes

Doctor Who this week continues a theme from early last season; the exploration, both physical, emotional and borderline sexual (I’m sorry, but there are far too many protuberant knobs and far too many lonely nights) of the Tardis. In this episode, Clara ends up trundling around lost inside the Tardis with the Doctor pretty much impotent (let’s call it a “usefulness semi”) to help her after yet another crash landing. AND this episode comes from the heaven-blessed quill of Sherlock scribe Stephen Thompson.

Without a doubt, the stellar circular plot was stronger than last weeks, but, sadly, the periphery characters-a three-brother salvage team in space-didn’t prove as likeable as Dougray and Jessica. Though the introduction of a straight-up android was pretty cool, I couldn’t get the image of Kryten of Red Dwarf out of my head. Luckily, Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman (looking very fetching in a dress I decided relatively quickly I couldn’t pull off) just get better and better as the series goes on, especially Coleman who has to carry the brunt of her scenes alone. And the slightly abrupt advancement of the Clara/Doctor plot was actually pretty decent, Matt Smith gratefully flexing his dark-Doctor muscles once again. The episode was gorgeously filmed, too-lots of balletic cameras up corridors and off-kilter shots creating that sense of the vastness and history of the Tardis that we’ve never really been physically privy to before.

This is a proper madman-with-a-box episode -the Doctor goes all kamikaze in his quest to recover Clara, ostensibly setting the Tardis to self-destruct and then hurtling around scolding the angsty Chuckle Triplets for the rest of the episode. My tone may belay my disappointment here, and I won’t apologize for it- yeah, the interior of the Tardis lived up to expectations spectacularly and the Silent-Hill-esque monsters were really cool, but there was lots of “OOOOOOH the Tardis has FEEEEEELINGS” and “OOOOOOH don’t annoy the TARDIIIIIS” which we knew already. Gives us some motivation-why? What drove her to it? And, by the way, “The Timelords were clever” won’t do. Maybe they’re setting it up for an even longer plot strand later in the series, but this was a prime bloody episode to advance it and they just kept it as-really- a perfectly serviceable adventure romp. It’s my own fault for expecting something more, but-hang on- a rift in space and time? Sounds familiar. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Timeholes and Romantic Developments Involving Spirits

I love ghost stories. Oh, I bloody love ’em. I have never been as scared as I was reading Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad, the masterclass in tension by MR James. Something about ghosts freaks the bollocks off of me, and this week Doctor Who offered up its first proper ghost story in yonks in the form of Hide. And it was top.

Right off the bat, the episode set itself up as a classic, haunted-house story-the muted colour pallette, whirly-crackly ghosthunting equipment, the constantly flickering candlelight- a media student’s wet dream in terms of production. There’s a lot to be said for an ever-expanding Doctor Whoniverse, but if you are going to fall back on an old faithful, at least make it a good one. One that does not involve the Ood and instead involves a ghostbusting duo made up of a charmingly awkward Dougray Scott, a ballsily vulnerable Jessica Raine and a shoveload of crackling chemistry, for example. Chuck in a nice little reference to The Haunting of Hill House, and I’ve got a massive Who-on.

First and foremost, there’s a thumpingly good plot at the heart of this episode-the Doctor and Clara arrive at a creepy old mansion to aid a couple of supernatrual investigators in sorting out their witch problem (no, don’t worry, they haven’t brought back River Song). Of course there’s more of a sci-fi spin on it, but screw that: HAUNTED HOUSE!

But there’s a lot more going on; including a brilliant speech from Clara about the nature of the assistant in the show, the deeply enjoyable humanizing of the Tardis like a big, blue HAL, and the continuing questioning of the Doctor as the be-all, end-all hero. In the last few series, there have been various hints at the Doctor’s fallibility; it’s a brave choice for such an iconic leading man, but it’s one I like very much.

A few solid performances from guestars Scott and Raines cement and sell the story-did anyone else finally feel like they were looking at all the Doctor Who ships for the next four months every moment they shared the screen?- and a kick-arsingly creepy monster turns into teatime television at it’s best. Hide was a very, very good episode; advancing a few themes without  letting it get in the way of the plot having a rollicking good time of it. Oooh, and you see next week? I got me the tingles I did.

But don’t think I didn’t notice how obviously you’re  setting up Clara and the Doctor for a bit o’ romance later in the series, though-I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Tension And Rubbish Skaldak In Submarine

So I was wrong. And I was gutted. I wanted the Sea Devils so much that it cast a shadow over an otherwise very decent episode. Ice Warriors? Pfffffffft. I-sorry-iors more like.

Spewed forth from the genius pen of Mark Gatiss (incidentally, for anyone who hasn’t seen League of Gentlemen and incidentally has a very strong stomach for very dark comedy, I’d recommend it heartily), this episode was set against the wonderfully claustrophobic of a nuclear submarine-think Das Boot meets The Thing but in British teatime television format. It was, with no doubt, the weakest episode of the series so far-a complete damn cop-out of a third act saw to that-but that’s not to say Cold War didn’t have it’s warmer moments.

Game of Thrones alumni Liam Cunningham really got his ‘tache around the role of a u-boat captain with a deadly cargo. Another one of those real thesps who just seem to fall into roles in Doctor Who, the part isn’t particularly subtle or nuanced, but doesn’t need to be- he’s got the appropriate gravitas and urgency for the role, and that’s fine. Matt Smith continues the performance in a slightly darker vein- I couldn’t help but notice the lighting this week, often casting him half in shadow, half in light- I am a media student bastard so I desperately want this to mean something, but it probably doesn’t. Whatever, Smith did himself proud against the adversity of the questionable script, and Clara-facing her first real alien- also continued her streak of being both rather good and especially pretty.

Gatiss is a passionate horror fan, and this is palpable throughout his forty minutes-the whole John Carpenter fellatio aside, this episode had a lot of genuinely tense moments. The choice not to show the Ice Warrior (Skaldak, by the way)  till the third act was a good one, especially considering it looked like a scaly turd with teeth and it was a whole lot less scary once you’d clapped eyes on it. Seriously. They must have blown all their special effects and prosthetic budget last week, and it bloody well showed.

But then-BAM!-the third act turned the  whole thing on it’s head, just when it was reaching a wonderful emotional crescendo. This isn’t League of Gentlemen, Gatiss; you can’t just have outsiders turn up and make everything better. That said, I can’t wait-and I mean, can’t wait- for next week. No sea devils, but definitely ghosts. Hurrah! On a side note, the way the Tardis in the opening credits opened up onto the first scene was fucking awful. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

Doctor Who: Terrifying Aliens Reasonably Discuss Infant Sacrifice

Several things have filled me with joy in recent days. Picking flowers after lectures like a bollocks Jane Austen character, wearing my hipster-vacumn-inducing pinstriped trousers that make me feel like a Sultan in public, eating crisps in bed. But none have filled me with more joy than Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who.

As I mentioned previously, these first few episodes are  about establishing the role of the assistant. Rose was the Doctor’s moral compass, Donna was his mother figure, Amy was the girl who waited (to start acting), and Martha was….well, moderately attractive, I guess. And in The Rings of Unspellable, Clara set herself up as all of the above and more; Jenna Louise-Coleman (who I find myself falling further and further in love with every time she’s on screen) power-acted her way through being charmingly guileless, kick-arsingly ballsy, tenderly maternal and bloody gorgeous within the space of forty minutes. I am sold on her, and I like it.

There was a lot to recommend this episode- the wonderful prosthetics,  the song that the plot hinged on, the special effects good enough wiping every memory of the Tardis pulling what was essentially a poo vaguely shaped like the Titanic through space- and all this was enough to negate the rather flimsy plot. But Matt Smit out acted- well, everyone on television, I’d wager. His climatic scene-facing off against a God who feasted on stories-featured one of the most jaw-droppingly audacious and powerful scenes I’ve scene on Doctor Who in years. It could easily have been cheesy or cheap or childish, but Matt Smith nailed it- and I mean, he nailed it. We’re so used to him being the kiddy, slapstick  Doctor, but here he transformed completely, lines on his face standing out, replacing his mid-twenties charm with year upon year of bitterness and loss and betrayal. Backed by the breathtaking climax of the Murray Gold score, it really was a joy to behold.

Most excitingly, though-and this is purely speculation, but I’m calling it now- it looks like the Sea Devils might possibly be back next week. The fucking sea devils! Do you know how long I’ve waited? Those vaguely flatulent aquatic footsteps have haunted my nightmares for years. For years. Please, PLEASE. Either way, the twisted mind of the delicious Mark Gatiss spewed forth next week’s offerings, so I’ll be there with bells-and rings-on.

Talent and Relative Decency In Space

I’m angry just now. This is mostly due to the fact I slept in the most comfortable bed in the world last night: not only did it have the consistency of a cloud wrapped in a condom of love, but it had enough room to fit both me and one other full-sized human in it without one of them, say, waking up to find her boyfriend has rolled completely on top of her in his sleep and all unconscious six-five of him is now planking on her. Just hypothetically. And by the end of the night I had become quite emotionally attached to the bed; we weren’t thinking long long term but I had invited it to move in at the end of April. When I was made aware that I couldn’t live here till I died fat and happy years down the line, I was not best pleased. And now I’m back home, in my bed, feeling like I’m nipple-deep in dirty needles and Aberdonians. And furious.

I feel very similar  in fact, to the way I felt at the start of the last few Doctor Who seasons. I thought Freema Aygeman was a disgrace, Matt Smith was far too young to play the Doctor, and David Tennant wasn’t (swoon) Christopher Ecclestone. Something just wasn’t right. But, hand-on-heart, I loved this seasons rollicking opener, The Bells of Saint John.

Introducing the new assistant Clara Osmond, played by sexy Bambi Jenna-Louise Coleman, this episode focuses on something dodgy in the Wi-Fi  in a Black-Mirror-style techno kiddy thriller. I mean none of that in the disparaging sense; I found, for the first time in years, a few scenes to be genuinely tense, mostly due to a fabulously pinched Celia Imrie basking in the delight of a classically villainous Milf-from-hell role. And I’ve never liked any assistant straight off the bat except Billie Piper, but Coleman was surprisingly inoffensive  which is exactly what she needs to be right now. Let the Doctor do his thing and show off while the assistant gasps away and is alternately maternal and spunky-plenty of time to characterize  her later.

Shout out to a supremely entertaining script from Stephen Moffat aided by some cracking direction from Colm McCarthy-this episode set a gold standard that, with two episodes penned by Mark Gatiss and one by legendary Neil Gaiman coming up in the next few weeks, looks set to be continued. But tonight wasn’t about what was to come in the rest of the series; it was tea-time self-contained adventure that was all nicely resolved in forty-eight minutes- clapping-my-hands-together-and bouncing-up-and-down throwaway reference to U.N.I.T the icing of the Tardis . It was, in short, Doctor Who at it’s best. Apart from their continuing bastardization of the theme song. I’ll have you yet, Moffat.

This Week: Stephen Moffat in Drugs Shock

I believe that I may finally have proof. My long-held belief that the proliferation of distractatory cocaine use within the BBC has begun to affect the programming. And last night, hunched in front of iPlayer, underlit, with a glass of wine, I saw the results played out before my eyes.

Popular-with-late-teen-bastards-but-really-a-kid’s-show Doctor Who this week played the episode “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, a merry romp featuring the voices of Mitchell and Webb and the actual corporeal form of Mark Williams. It was an intellectually challenging as listening to Tommy Wiseau read The Cat in the Hat, but, as many people seem to forget, Doctor Who is a children’s teatime show. And as that, it was thunderingly good- exciting and silly and fun and in space.  But, increasingly, the show descended into situations so blisteringly outrageous and finally, finally I have proof. Below are a list of the top moments of the episode (or Exhibit A, as I like to call them).

Dinosaurs in Space, in a spaceship, flying about. Mr Weasely/Him Out of the Fast Show riding a triceratops. Rory looking increasingly like a squawking     wallaby with eyes the size of palms. A poor replacement for Captain Jack waving his metaphorical dick in an ancient Queen’s face. A large Mech voiced by Robert Webb replying to the exclamation “They’ve stolen the dinosaurs!” (delivered by a large Mech voiced by David Mitchell) with a tetchy “I know”.  Mr Weasely/Him Out of the Fast Show making a joke about his bollocks. David Bradley bringing the Jigsaw killer to teatime television. And, most stunningly of all, Amy being completely bearable for forty minutes.  It’s…..SATURDAY NIGHT!