Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 7

“It is known that the Doctor requires companions”


Right – the first season that I haven’t rewatched any of at all. Things get a bit hectic here as once again, the series got split in two, accommodating the mid-season departure of Amy and Rory and the (re-)introduction of new companion Clara Oswald, plus a pair of specials respectively marking the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and the end of Matt Smith’s tenure as Eleven. It all adds up to a bit of a bloated mess to be honest, though not without its high points.
Amy and Rory feel a little ill-served by their final five, the introduction of Mark Williams as Rory’s dad detracts from their screen-time (yet he doesn’t feature in their farewell?), though the return of the Weeping Angels gives their noirish NY-set exit episode some real heft. And though I admire Jenna Coleman’s confident take on Clara, she’s a hard companion to warm to without any contrasting humanity to go with her intelligence and intensity.
The ‘Impossible Girl’ arc didn’t really tick my box and the grandiosity of Moffatt’s writing for the finale of The Name of…, The Day of… and The Time of the Doctor doesn’t really help (I was curiously unmoved by all the fan-service second time round). Still, Gatiss knocks it out of the park with the superb Ice Warrior tale Cold War and bringing mother and daughter Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling together on screen for the first time. 

Episodes, in order of preference

Asylum of the Daleks
Cold War
Hide
The Name of the Doctor
The Power of Three
The Crimson Horror
The Angels Take Manhattan
The Snowmen
The Day of the Doctor
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The Time of the Doctor
Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
The Bells of Saint John
Nightmare in Silver
The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
The Rings of Akhaten
A Town Called Mercy

Top 5 guest spots

1 Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling – together on screen for the first time
2 There’s not much Jessica Raine does that I don’t love and she’s great in Hide
3 Liam Cunningham/David Warner
4 Riann Steele’s Nefertiti
5 Neve McIntosh/Catrin Stewart/Dan Starkey – the Paternoster Gang deserve a shoutout because they really do work well together

Saddest death

Not really any tragic demises that caught my attention – Matt Smith’s farewell speech is probably the moment that moved me the most

Most wasted guest actor

Lots of far too small guest appearances (Tessa Peake-Jones for one) but Jade Anouka’s blink-and-miss-it waitress is a real missed opportunity to utilise such a great actor.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

Either everything in this series makes complete sense or else I’ve stopped caring… Oh I know, that conference call thing. Just no.

Gay agenda rating

A – Vastra and Jenny’s relationship is proudly out in the air, David Warner hits on the Doctor, and Clara is (at least) bi-curious

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Specials 2008-2010

“Because your song is ending, sir…It is returning. It is returning through the dark. And then, Doctor? Oh, but then… He will knock four times.”

Cos he’s special, David Tennant got to spread his farewell over 4 specials from Christmas 2008 to New Year 2010, and as this also marked Russell T Davies’ departure from the show, the stories start off grand and rise to operatic scales of drama by the time we hit the megalithic The End of Time. That finale works well in its quieter moments but does suffer a little from an overabundance of plot and whatnot. The Next Doctor and Planet of the Dead are good value for money romps but it is The Waters of Mars and all its attendant darkness that stands out most, teasing all the complex arrogance of a God-figure gone wrong.

.

Episodes, in order of preference

The Waters of Mars
The End of Time
The Next Doctor
Planet of the Dead

Top 5 guest spots

1 Bernard Cribbens’ Wilf, graduating from guest appearances to fully-fledged companion for The End of Time was a masterstroke – their ruminative conversations a powerful counterpoint to all the bombast
2 As the would-be Doctor in The Next Doctor, David Morrissey’s pained eloquence was just lovely, all the more so for its initial unexpectedness

3 Lindsay Duncan’s intense Captain Adelaide Brooke and her defeat of the Time Lord Victorious and all his hubris – wow.
4 Velile Tshabalala’s Rosita – another to add to the list of companions that could have been
5 This series also saw the last appearance of Lachele Carl’s US newsreader Trinity Wells, a constant since the reboot whose brief reports were always nice to see.

Saddest death

I’m probably supposed to say Ten here but the portentousness of the farewell tour was too much even for me, so Adelaide’s demise gets the nod for being so fantastically dark 

Most wasted guest actor

Catherine Tate – given the sledgehammer of Donna’s departure, bringing her back so minimally in this way felt like a slap in the face

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

Are the Weeping Angels Gallifreyan in origin as hinted here? Or is it just me?

Gay agenda rating

F – with the focus on Tennant’s (and Davies’) departure, I think they forgot about the gays (Alonso and Jack’s implied hook-up aside)

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

 

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.
It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

 

Episodes, in order of preference

Turn Left
Silence in the Library
Forest of the Dead
Midnight
The Unicorn and the Wasp
The Stolen Earth
Journey’s End
Planet of the Ood
The Fires of Pompeii
Voyage of the Damned
Partners in Crime
The Sontaran Stratagem
The Poison Sky
The Doctor’s Daughter

Top 5 guest spots

1 Fenella Woolgar’s marvellously layered Agatha Christie
2 Ryan Sampson’s brattish teenage genius Luke Rattigan
3 Sarah Lancashire’s nanny in the stars Miss Foster
4 Lesley Sharp’s technical brilliance (along with everything else) as Sky Sylvestri
5 And serving up Winifred Bambera-style realness, Noma Dumezweni’s Captain Erisa Magambo

Saddest death

You have to admire Kylie’s gumption, not only securing a guest star role as Astrid Peth but securing her place in the annals as one of the few companions to perish in the line of duty. Special mention to the truly haunting demise of Talulah Riley’s Miss Evangelista in The Library.

Most wasted guest actor

O-T Fagbenle’s Other Dave, I just love him too much to be satisfied with anything less than a lead role.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

THE REALITY BOMB – yet another all-powerful weapon that no-one else has tried to use

Gay agenda rating

B – loving the casual references to characters’ sexualities (ie Sky in Midnight) and the pointed recognition of the contemporary difficulties – of the flirting boys in The Unicorn and the Wasp

 

Winners of the 2017 Olivier Awards

Here are the winners for the 2017 Olivier Awards – it will come as little surprise that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child carried the night, sweeping a record 9 trophies from its record 11 nominations. And on the musical side of things, there was a pleasing spread of awards (although fans of Half A Sixpence will undoubtedly be miffed). There’s a temptation to be slightly cynical (who doesn’t love a bit of a snark…)  in that Cursed Child winning so many was an easy way to grab headlines – spreading the love better reflects the diversity of the industry, insofar as these awards reflect it at all. And  Groundhog Day winning Best New Musical just before it opens in New York and rumoured to return to London in the coming months feels a tad convenient but hey ho, whatcha gonna do.

I didn’t do too badly with my predictions –  I got 6 out of 8 winners right in the acting categories. Full list under the cut.


Best actor in a supporting role in a musical

Ian Bartholomew for Half a Sixpence at Noël Coward theatre
Adam J Bernard for Dreamgirls at Savoy theatre – WINNER
Ben Hunter for The Girls at Phoenix theatre
Andrew Langtree for Groundhog Day at the Old Vic
 
Best actress in a supporting role in a musical
Haydn Gwynne for The Threepenny Opera at National Theatre – Olivier
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt for Murder Ballad at Arts theatre
Rebecca Trehearn for Show Boat at New London theatre – WINNER
Emma Williams for Half a Sixpence at Noël Coward theatre

Continue reading “Winners of the 2017 Olivier Awards”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 2


“Some things are worth getting your heart broken for”

David Tennant’s opening season took the template of the opening series and ran with it, Russell T Davies’ vision finding its ideal mate in the Scottish actor. The typically adventurous sweep was tempered with a more tender vision, which considerably upped our emotional investment (previous companions returning, romantic connections whether past or present).


Bringing back the Cybermen was an interesting move, as was the introduction of the notion of parallel worlds (and how important that became…). And if the series-long motif of Torchwood didn’t really pay off, especially not when one considers what Torchwood the show became, the finale to Doomsday is pretty close to perfection.


Episodes, in order of preference

The Girl in the Fireplace
Doomsday
Army of Ghosts
School Reunion
New Earth
The Christmas Invasion
Tooth and Claw
The Impossible Planet
Rise of the Cybermen
The Satan Pit
The Age of Steel
The Idiot’s Lantern
Love & Monsters
Fear Her

Top 5 guest spots

1 School Reunion is a bit of a shonky villain-of-the-week episode all told, but it is completely redeemed by its parallel plot of the show revisiting past companions and the effect travelling with the Doctor has on those left behind. Lis Sladen’s return as Sarah-Jane Smith was simply spectacular and perfect in its emotional nuance.
2 Just as heartbreaking but in a completely different way, Sophia Myles’ Madame de Pompadour makes The Girl in the Fireplace a stirring high-point for Doctor Who in its entirety
3 Andrew Hayden-Smith’s Jake with his excised gay agenda (see below) still manages to come across as a better companion than Mickey with a fraction of the screen time
5 Only a short appearance in The Idiot’s Lantern but Sam Cox’s resigned detective is still top notch

Saddest death

Helen Griffin’s redoubtable Welshwoman Mrs Moore was a standout in the resistance fighters of Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

Most wasted guest actor

Personally it’s the 5 seconds of Cathy Murphy (Tilly from the amazeballs The House of Eliott) in The Christmas Invasion that annoyed me most, but there’s something a little odd about the way Maureen Lipman’s Wire in The Idiot’s Lantern is portrayed that doesn’t make anywhere near the most of her.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

Anyone who cracks the Skasis Paradigm (also known as the God Maker or the Universal Theory) would be able to control the very building blocks of the universe. So its a wonder that only the Krillitanes of School Reunion have ever tried it.

Gay agenda rating

D – hardly any gayness in this one, indeed references to a gay coupling between Jake and Ricky in Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel was removed into the world of deleted scenes.

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 1

“Do not blaspheme! Do not blaspheme!”

To mark Series 10 of Doctor Who starting on BBC1 next week (Saturday 15th April0, I’ve been counting down the weeks with a rewatch of all 9 of the previous series of new Who. And now we’re within touching distance, I’m counting down the days talking about each one. For once though, I’m going to keep these posts (relatively) short and sweet, following the below format.

With just the one series to judge him on, and that series being the very first when everyone was still finding their feet, Christopher Eccleston’s Nine often gets a bit of a raw deal. And some of his zany moments are undoubtedly really quite awkward to watch but for me, they’re easily outweighed by the emotional weight of his more serious work, especially when hinting at the considerable darkness of the events of his recent past that had left him so haunted. A solid re-entry back into the televisual world.

Episodes, in order of preference

Dalek
The Parting of the Ways
Father’s Day
The Empty Child
The Doctor Dances
The End of the World
Bad Wolf
Boom Town
The Unquiet Dead
Rose
The Long Game
Aliens of London
World War Three

Top 5 guest spots

Zoë Wanamaker’s hugely entertaining Lady Cassandra O’Brien.Δ17
Penelope Wilton’s Harriet Jones, deepened endlessly by the knowledge of what’s to come
As Pete Tyler, Shaun Dingwall really rather moved me in Father’s Day

Annette Badland as Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen / Margaret Blaine is lumbered with awfulness in her opening Slitheen 2-parter but it is for her much more subtle work in Boom Town that I rate her here
You might have missed this one but Jenna Russell makes an appearance as the floor manager in Bad Wolf

Saddest death

A tie between Yasmin Bannerman’s Jabe, the first of many to give their life in service of the Doctor’s plans in The End of the World and Jo Joyner’s Lynda, most-definitely-with-a-Y, whose dreams of travel in the TARDIS are really quite brutally snuffed out in The Parting of the Ways.

Most wasted guest actor

Tamsin Greig’s turn as the Nurse in The Long Game is suitably sinister but all too brief.

Most important thing that is never mentioned again

Given the amount of temporal paradoxes that most episodes of Doctor Who seem to usher in even by their very existence (don’t @ me), it is a surprise that the Reapers (from Father’s Day) haven’t been seen again.

Gay agenda rating

A+ – even the Doctor gets in on the sexual adventurousness

2017 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Palace
Elegy – Donmar Warehouse
The Flick – National Theatre Dorfman
One Night in Miami – Donmar Warehouse

Best New Musical
Groundhog Day – The Old Vic
Dreamgirls – Savoy
The Girls – Phoenix
School of Rock – New London

Best Revival 
Yerma – Young Vic
The Glass Menagerie – Duke of York’s
This House – Garrick
Travesties – Apollo Continue reading “2017 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)

The National Theatre last night hosted its biennial fundraising gala, Up Next, raising over a million pounds to support access to the arts for children and young people across the country. I think they forgot to invite me though… 😜

 

Performances commissioned especially for the event included a new piece by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, alongside performances by Sir Lenny Henry, Anne-Marie Duff and hundreds of talented young people from across London.

Continue reading “News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)”

The 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards winners in full

Here’s the full list of the 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards winners. No real surprises here, there rarely is with these awards voted for by the public but it is nice to see a real spread across the musicals categories rather than one show dominating as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does with the plays. And we’ll just ignore the leniency with the deadlines that meant Dreamgirls was able to sneak in despite having only played a handful of previews by the time nominations closed…congrats to all the winners and nominees.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Radisson Blu Edwardian
Ian Hallard for The Boys in the Band
Ian McKellen for No Man’s Land
Jamie Parker for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child WINNER
Kenneth Branagh for The Entertainer
Ralph Fiennes for Richard III

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Live at Zédel 
Billie Piper for Yerma WINNER 
Helen McCrory for The Deep Blue Sea
Lily James for Romeo and Juliet
Michelle Terry for Henry V
Pixie Lott for Breakfast at Tiffany’s Continue reading “The 17th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards winners in full”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2016: the winners in full

 

Even without trying, I end up being contrary! The Critics’ Circle Awards have announced their winners for 2016 and as I cast my eyes down the list, I was amused to see that their best new play and best musical were shows that I did not hugely enjoy (The Flick and Groundhog Day) and their best actor pick – Stephen Dillane – was another that did not register with me at all.
After that, things chime a little better with me, with Billie Piper’s excoriating work in Yerma, which is returning this summer, and Glenda Jackson’s extraordinary Lear (whatever you thought of the production, her production was a stonking return to the stage) both being recognised. And deservedly, the creatives behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gain just as much recognition, if not more, as its cast. Lovely to see Charlene James getting a nod too for  Cuttin’ It as most promising playwright.
 
Best new play:

The Flick by Annie Baker
 
Best musical [new or revival]: 
Groundhog Day

Best actor: 
Stephen Dillane in Faith Healer

Best actress:
Billie Piper in Yerma
 
Best Shakespearean performance:
Glenda Jackson in King Lear
 
Best director:
John Tiffany for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best designer:
Christine Jones for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Most promising playwright:
Charlene James for Cuttin’ It

Most promising newcomer: 
Anthony Boyle in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

 

Anthony Boyle & John Tiffany (c) Peter Jones

 

Anthony Pins, Billie Piper, Stephen Dillane, Paul Taiano (c) Peter Jones

 

Tim Firth & Joanna Riding (c) Peter Jones