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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/21/17 5:10 pm
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The found footage format has been used in many films since its success with the Blair Witch Project. Some have been successful but most tend to disappoint. It was inevitable that one day Doctor Who would attempt it.

It works incredibly well with Doctor Who too. One of my favourite things about my love for the show is how effortless it is at creating a world around wherever the TARDIS happens to land. This is no more evident than here. The found footage style allows you to feel like you're actually on a space station that feels like a real space station; the environment has its own rules and behaviour that allows it to feel convincing, such as an onboard computer that was reprogammed during a party by the space station crew so that you have to sing Mr Sandman to progress through the door. That is something that you can imagine real people doing in real life, especially if they were extremely drunk at the time.

Another thing Sleep No More cleverly does with the found footage style is explain why the camera is still rolling whilst all the bad stuff is happening. The explanation? Because there are no cameras; instead the sleep dust that make up this episode's monsters act as visual receptors that have been hacked by Doctor Rassmussen (more on him later). Everything we see, therefore, is more or less from the corner of the eyes of a character's point of view. It's a very intelligent way to bypass 'Why don't they just stop recording?'; a problem that many often have with found footage.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I haven't even explained the story yet. Well, basically a rescue crew have been sent to space station Le Verrier to save Doctor Rassmussen (Reece Shearsmith), where not only do they find the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) but also the revelation that he's the only crew member there. Rassmussen invented the sleep deprivation machines Morpheus, which due to getting rid of our need to sleep and wipe the sleep dust from our eyes has allowed the sleep dust to gather and create a monster - the Sandmen. Sleep No More is a classic style of Doctor Who known as the Base-Under-Siege story. There's something about the Base-Under-Seige that really works as a format for the show. Maybe it's the fact that the characters feel trapped, therefore conveying a feeling of claustrophobia? Or maybe it's because of it's simplicity - monster takes over base, monster chases Doctor and companion down a corridor, characters try to stop it getting in...? Whatever the reason, it clearly makes for an appealing format for the show and it was a wise choice to use it for a found footage episode. It emphasises that claustrophobic feeling well and feels unique to the show's other base-under-seige stories.

Whilst the Sandmen are unlikely to become iconic Doctor Who monsters, the villain of the story Doctor Rassmussen is fantastic and brilliantly played by Reece Shearsmith. He is definitely the most convincing 'human' villain the new series has seen as of current; it's brilliant how at first he seems somewhat vulnerable but hidden underneath is a cunning and devious side. There's a great twist at the end that you definitely don't see coming concerning the Sandmen and Rassmussen's real species; it's also a great idea that Rassmussen was compiling all the footage together to keep us watching and transmit a signal that will turn us all into Sandmen.

Which leads me onto another thing I love about Sleep No More: the Doctor doesn't win. Isn't it great when the Doctor doesn't win? I like to see the Doctor lose because it shows he isn't the hero who always saves the day. Of course, I wouldn't want to see the Doctor lose in every episode but it is always refreshing to see it happen so long as it stays to a minimum. It's also nice set-up for a proposed Sleep No More sequel, as the Doctor clearly has unfinished business here.

Of course, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are both brilliant as always here. The rescue crew are kind of average and nothing very special but Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman really shine as usual, especially during their exchange about putting 'Space' in front of everything. As Clara points out when the Doctor says placing the word 'space' in front of things doesn't happen, spacesuits are called 'spacesuits' and not something else suits. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman had so much chemistry together; I think they will always be one of the best Doctor-companion partnerships. It would take a lot for the Doctor and Bill to be as good as them.

Overall, Sleep No More is a brilliant episode that fantastically utilises the found-footage style to its advantage and even improves on it by explaining why they don't just stop filming. Doctor Rassmussen is the best human villain the new series has seen and it's great to see the Doctor lose. Here's hoping the proposed sequel to Sleep No More happens in series 10.
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/21/17 4:58 pm
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With director Ed Bazalgette announced for this year's Doctor Who Christmas Special, I thought I'd take a look at the first episode he directed: The Girl Who Died. Much of the disappointment many have of this episode stems from the poor marketing of Series 9: Maisie Williams' character was hyped up to ridiculous proportions in the Series 9 trailer that many expected her to be an important character from the series' past mythology.



The picture above is from the following episode The Woman Who Lived however without context it suggested the character is someone we should already have been familiar with. You can imagine then that many were upset when it turned out she was just an ordinary viking girl called Ashildr who happens to become important later on. This was one of a few problems I had with the same trailer - my other notable complaint is that to advertise it as the 'Same old, same old' (as 12 says in the trailer) was a silly mistake as it suggested to audiences that there was nothing new about this series of Doctor Who.



It's a shame that the marketing spoilt the enjoyment of certain episodes as The Girl Who Died in particular is an episode that deserves a higher level of appreciation.



The Girl Who Died sees the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) arrive in a viking village, where they are confronted by vikings who subsequently destroy the Doctor's Sonic Shades. Much to the Doctor's surprise, Odin (David Schofield) is very much 'real' in this village and invites the viking warriors to the majestic hall Valhalla on Asgard. Clara and Ashildr (Maisie Williams) are taken with them and they find themselves onboard a spaceship, where Ashildr declares war on Odin and the advanced warrior race known as the Mire. With the warriors killed, the Doctor decides to train the farmers and local traders left to fight but it seems like his work is cut out when they appear to be completely useless.

The idea of the Doctor teaching the Viking traders/farmers how to fight is a very funny one given that it subverts the image you usually see on television of the Vikings all being fighters. In real life of course there would have been sections of the Viking community whose job was to sell livestock and plant crops; in fact, the warriors people are most familiar with were probably a very small part of who the vikings were. It is hugely entertaining therefore to see vikings who are unfamiliar with how to wield a sword become the warriors they rely on. It is The comedy is very well-directed by David Schofield and has a Dad's Army feel about it, where the Doctor assumes the role of Captain Mainwaring (a very fun performance by Peter Capaldi) and the vikings are 'stupid boy' Private Pike. There's a very British idea to the concept too, in that we are willing to see the underdogs overcome the threat and emerge triumphant over those who are much more likely to win. It possibly wouldn't have been as much fun with the viking warriors taking on Odin and the Mire but by giving the viking community what seems like a very thin chance of success the episode is undeniably a product of this country and not, say, America (who through BBC America co-produced Series 9 with the BBC).



The Girl Who Died is possibly an episode that has a lot in common with the Key to Time serial The Pirate Planet. Odin is a character who reminds me a lot of the Pirate Captain from that serial: he has a very similar look and larger-than-life presence to the Captain and you have to wonder if Jamie Matheson was inspired by the serial when he wrote this story. The Girl Who Died doesn't quite reach the heights of The Pirate Planet but Odin is a very fun character that suits an episode like this aiming for a very light and comedic tone. I don't think he's a character with potential to return but as a one-off character he is huge fun to watch; it's a shame that Brian Blessed couldn't play the part as originally planned as this feels like the perfect character for him. I can see why they wanted Brian Blessed for the role:





Unfortunately his alien army aren't quite as memorable. The Mire are just your generic 'Monster of the week' villains and display too many similarities to past Doctor Who monsters such as the Sontarans and the Draconians. I can't imagine the Mire will catch on the same way as, say, the Sontarans have since their first appearance in The Time Warrior and I can't even imagine Big Finish using them in their audio dramas. It doesn't feel like there's a lot that could be done with The Mire; their characterisation is pretty much non-existent and despite being an alien 'species' they have a more robotic feel to the way they move and interact. You never quite get the sense they are this big warrior race we're told they are either; they feel more like background monsters than anything else.

The way they are defeated is extremely clever though. The 'fire in the water' pay-off
View SpoilersWARNING: spoilers below
with electric eels
is hugely satisfying after the build-up to the Mire fight and sees the Doctor use his vast intellect instead of just waving his Sonic Screwdriver around. In any other episode the other part of the solution with
View SpoilersWARNING: spoilers below
Odin terrified by a giant wooden puppet by Ashildr and Clara threatening to upload footage of the incident recorded on a mobile phone to a galactic video-sharing network
wouldn't really work but in an episode like this that's clearly not intended to be taken seriously it is a strong conclusion to what is a very fun episode to watch. I like the use of the Benny Hill theme for example, even if it's a joke that you see coming before it happens.



What surprised me was how early the revelation of why the 12th Doctor has the same face as Caelicius was explained. At the time of broadcast it felt way too soon for it to be revealed in episode five of Series 9 and in hindsight I still believe it should have been kept back for Hell Bent. It's such a pivotal moment for this Doctor as it leads to him saving someone who goes on to inadvertently cause Clara's two exits (yes, she doesn't just have one exit but two - in the previous series counting the Christmas Special she left three times then came back). This time her last exit is permanent but it doesn't happen until the very last episode Hell Bent. It's disappointingly never explained why 12 also shares the same face as Frobisher from Torchwood: Children of Earth:



...although the best time for that to be explored would be for John Barrowman to return as Captain Jack.

Now onto the revelation of Ashildr: a moment that was built up to before the first episode of Series 9 even aired. Whilst Maisie Williams is amazing in the role of Ashildr, the revelation that she's just some random viking girl
View SpoilersWARNING: spoilers below
who is made immortal by the Doctor

is ultimately disappointing thanks to the unnecessary hype surrounding the mystery of her character. I would much rather she had turned out to be a newly-regenerated Susan or Romana rather than a random girl from the past. It's a very unsatisfying reveal - the complete opposite of, for example, Missy as the Master in Dark Water/Death In Heaven the previous year - and I wish they hadn't hyped Maisie Williams' in Doctor Who up so much purely because of the Game of Thrones connection. If there's nothing we should know about the character, then don't make a big deal over her. Ashildr turns out to be a very intriguing character anyway and Maisie Williams has so much chemistry with Jenna Coleman (who is also brilliant in this episode) but there's no way her character should have been undermined by a fake mystery.

Overall, The Girl Who Died is a fun episode with some great comedy moments from Peter Capaldi and a viking community unfamiliar with sword-fighting. There's clear inspiration from The Pirate Planet; like the Pirate Captain in that serial Odin is a very fun antagonist who adds to one of the show's most light-hearted comedy episodes. It's nice to see the Doctor use his brains rather than a Sonic Screwdriver or Sonic Shades for once too; the conclusion with electric eels is very clever and one of the new series' best episode resolutions. Unfortunately the Mire is a very generic threat and the mystery surrounding Ashildr ultimately leads to a disappointing reveal that doesn't mean a great deal until later episodes in the series. The Girl Who Died is a very funny episode though that perfectly uses Peter Capaldi's comedy talent and features a pivotal moment for the Doctor where he discovers why he has the same face as Caelicius from The Fires of Pompeii (a moment that really should have been in the Series 9 finale Hell Bent).
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/20/17 5:26 pm
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With The Mirror reporting that Peter Capaldi will appear in the first episode of Class, I thought it would be fun to review the episode where the Doctor got a job at Coal Hill School: The Caretaker. I am usually a fan of Gareth Roberts' writing for Doctor Who as he usually brings a great sense of wit and humour to the show, however I was a little disappointed with his episode for Doctor Who's eighth series. It was a good idea to make the Doctor the caretaker of the school that has been such a big part of his life but the episode features so much wasted potential. I'll get onto that in a bit - but first: a quick synopsis.

In The Caretaker, the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is hired as Coal Hill School's new caretaker. He decides to use the school as a trap for the Skovox Blitzer - a war robot with weaponry that can destroy an entire planet. When Clara's boyfriend Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) accidentally turns off the chronodyne generators the Doctor has used in the school to trap the Skovox Blitzer in the time vortex, the robot is let loose in the school and the Doctor, Clara and Danny must work together to trap it back in the time vortex before it destroys the Earth.

Gareth Roberts wrote a very funny story in The Lodger but sadly none of that humour is present here. There's a great gag with the Doctor assuming Clara's boyfriend is a teacher with remarkable similarities to the 11th Doctor but aside from that there isn't anything particularly memorable compared to scenes in The Lodger (such as the Doctor's football match). It would have been nice to have seen more fish-out-of-water comedy with the Doctor as a caretaker but unfortunately the episode is too obsessed with Clara's love life. There's also no character equivalent to James Corden's Craig Owens, who was a big reason as to why The Lodger and to a lesser extent Closing Time worked. None of the teachers are particularly remarkable and the headteacher Mr Armitage (Nigel Betts), who first appeared in Into The Dalek, appears a little bland so it is baffling that he has been given his own spinoff in Class.

Thank God, then, for Ellis George as Courtney Woods. Courtney is one of the show's most three-dimensional child characters and is an absolute joy to watch. Ellis George has unbelievable chemistry with Peter Capaldi, just as Matt Smith did with Caitlin Blackwood as Young Amelia. The two bounce off each other really well and it was a wise decision by Steven Moffat to have her brought back as a temporary companion in the following episode Kill The Moon. The line 'End of the world for me tonight, whatever you do. Parents' evening.' is I'm sure something many kids - and those of us who were kids once upon a time - can relate to given the dread you would often experience when going to a parents' evening of 'Oh God, what's my teacher going to say about me?' and Ellis George says it perfectly. She really does give one of the best child actor performances of the show and is a character I think will be looked back on with fondness in years to come.

Whilst Ellis George as Courtney Woods is great, it is without a doubt a major disappointment that Ian Chesterton didn't appear in this episode. The Caretaker would have been the perfect opportunity for Ian to return given that it was set entirely in Coal Hill School and (as revealed in Day of the Doctor) Ian is currently the chairman of the board of governors. The fact that the BBC didn't bother to get William Russell to make a quick cameo is a huge let-down and possibly one of the show's biggest missed opportunities. William Russell isn't getting any younger and I would like to see him return as Ian before his time is up. The Doctor catching up with Ian would have allowed for a lovely bittersweet moment and in my opinion improved the episode considerably. Hopefully the BBC will do the right thing by casting William Russell in a cameo for Class (although I wouldn't be surprised if they don't).

The parents' evening scene is a return to form for Gareth Roberts though and feature the typical Gareth Roberts humour missing in most of the episode. It is genuinely funny seeing Clara and Danny talking to Courtney's parents about her progress before having to make a hasty excuse to leave when the Doctor requires their help. It is brilliantly played by Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson and shows the kind of potential the episode could have had if Gareth Roberts had been on his usual form. I wouldn't mind seeing Gareth Roberts given another chance with the Coal Hill School setting for a light-hearted episode of Class although I wouldn't particularly want to see the return of the Skovox Blitzer outside of a Big Finish audio drama.

Whilst the Skovox Blitzer is extremely well-designed by Christopher Goodman it is not a particularly memorable monster. It feels more comparable to the fifth Doctor's companion Kamelion than, say, the awesome K1 Robot. The Skovox Blitzer is more in-line of a generic one-off Doctor Who monster for the Doctor to defeat and save the day than a monster like the Clockwork Droids that lend themselves to return appearances. I can imagine Big Finish doing a good job with the character however should their license be extended to include the Twelfth Doctor Era once Peter Capaldi leaves the show. Perhaps the eighth Doctor VS the Skovox Blitzer could work quite well?

Probably the most memorable scene of this episode is Danny Pink confronting the Doctor in the TARDIS. His take-down of the Doctor's hatred of the soldiers by comparing him to an officer is brilliant. He is absolutely right that 'Time Lord' sounds pompous and his salute as though taking orders like a soldier from the Doctor shows the character up for how ridiculous is hatred for soldiers really is. It's always great to see the Doctor taken down a peg or two, especially when we know the Doctor was a soldier himself before - as the War Doctor. The Doctor may hold certain values but really he is one gigantic hypocrite and scenes in the show where this is pointed out to us tend to work really well.

Overall, The Caretaker is perhaps Gareth Robert's weakest episode. It doesn't contain the great sense of wit you expect from his episodes (bar the excellent Parents' Evening scene) and bar Courtney Woods the characters are bland and forgettable. It is far from the worst Doctor Who episode however. The TARDIS scene where Danny Pink confronts the Doctor after being found using the Doctor's invisibility watch is fantastic and the Skovox Blitzer is a very well-designed monster. Ellis George is one of the show's best child actors and the Parents' Evening scene is extremely well-acted by Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson. It is hugely disappointing though that William Russell wasn't given a cameo scene as Ian Chesterton as I believe it would have felt like a natural fit for the story. The Caretaker is very much an average episode of the show: not terrible but not great either. It falls somewhere in the middle - 'just good' - which is a shame as the idea of the Doctor as a school caretaker has a lot of potential.
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Reviewed By: DalekbusterScreen5ReviewsReview Date: 4/20/17 5:16 pm
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The third Doctor Who TV movie so far, Deep Breath saw Peter Capaldi's debut as the Doctor in the show and like Day of the Doctor was released in cinemas as well as broadcast on TV. Unlike Day of the Doctor, it also served as the first episode of series 8; a strong series for the show which saw a number of the new series' best episodes.

Deep Breath is the story of Clara struggling to come to terms with this new Doctor as he recovers from post-regeneration trauma. Meanwhile, a group of Clockwork Droids from the SS Madam De Pompadour's sister ship the SS Marie Antoinette are trying to find their way to the 'promised land' and using a restaurant as their base to harvest people so they can use them as spare parts to replace any they are using that are currently rotting. This is arguably one of the darkest episodes of Doctor Who as it sees a ship made out of human skin and the film's main clockwork enemy Half-Face Man impaled on a spire. It is nice to see the show explore such dark themes with the Clockwork Droids even if their return was surprising given their last appearance before Deep Breath was eight years ago in The Girl In The Fireplace. This reviewer hopes to see them return again as they are among the most intriguing of the new series' creations but whether they will or won't is anybody's guess.

The writing is up to Steven Moffat's brilliant standards, however it never reaches the highs of Day of the Doctor. It is also a little too slowly paced and doesn't quite have the same cinematic feel of the TV Movie and Day of the Doctor. Director Ben Wheatley does a great job however (as he does in the next episode Into The Dalek) and we can only hope he returns to direct another episode of the show at some point. Maybe Steven Moffat's final episode?

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are brilliant as the Doctor and Clara; Jenna Coleman in particular giving a very believable and engaging performance as someone who no longer knows who her friend is (although it can be argued that her response to regeneration is out of character for Clara because she has seen every regeneration of the Doctor up to 11 and therefore should expect that he changes his face once in a while anyway). The Paternoster Gang are also on top form; I will admit that I wasn't sure on them in their first appearance in A Good Man Goes To War but they have grown on me, especially Dan Starkey, who is absolutely hilarious as Strax. It's a shame that they haven't returned since during Peter Capaldi's era as I think they work well as supporting characters.

Oh, and I can't write a review about any episode of series 8 without mentioning the music. Murray Gold's music here is on par with what he produced for the Specials: absolutely incredible. Every piece is stunning and whilst there's no track to beat Vale Decem, it is easily Murray Gold's best music produced for Steven Moffat's era.

Overall, Deep Breath is a brilliant introductory TV movie for Peter Capaldi's Doctor unfortunately let down by a slow pace and not enough of a cinematic feel for something that was shown in cinemas.

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