Tag Archives: Billie Piper

repost: Review of “The Shadow in the North”

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With Doctor Who reappearing on the BBC last week and on BBCAmerica next Saturday [April 17th] with Matt Smith as the new Doctor, I thought it would be appropriate to repost this review.  The movie below now stars 2 DW alumni. 

title: The Shadow in the North

from: PBS Masterpiece Mystery / BBC

based on: “The Sally Lockhart Mysteries”

by Philip Pullman

length: 86 minutes

I was predisposed to enjoy this because I liked Billie Piper as Rose in “Doctor Who” and one of the supporting actors (playing Jim) is Matt Smith, who is to be Doctor # 11. This is a nice opportunity to have them both in the same production. They do, indeed, do nice enough work, though the script is quite weak for Smith’s character. I have also already seen the first film in this series: “The Ruby in the Smoke” That one was ok—reminded me rather of Dickens’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” having an strong set-up and a weak finish (yes, I am aware that Dickens never finished the manuscript, but other authors have), along with a very obvious villain. However, I liked Sally, Jim, and Fredrick enough to keep watching and to look forward to the next one. I actually looked up the novels, but my library didn’t have them.

As for “The Shadow in the North,” it gains points for having a less obvious plot and a more complex group of supporting characters (Alistair MacKinnon & Axel Bellmann, particularly) than its predecessor. Unfortunately, Sally and the other main characters suffer for it—they don’t, frankly, get much to do. Poor Fredrick is reduced to appearing in a variety of unconvincing disguises and then (spoiler music, la la la la la) being killed just as he was getting interesting. The plot moves from clear realism through to the super-natural, though I would have liked to have the final “ghost” scenes better supported. They seem to appear out of nowhere.

(ok, personal rant here, nothing to do personally with Pullman’s work, but I HATE when authors kill off the romantic partners of their strong female characters just as they were about to be happy together. Why?? Why fall back on the idea that happily married/ affianced characters can’t be interesting? Why not let them be together & then work in the relationship’s ups and downs into the story. Diane Mott Davidson has done a lovely job of that. So, why make your main character broken and fragile, especially when the main thrust of the story is not her romantic entanglement, but actually the mysteries or adventures? Edna Buchanan, Patricia Cornwall, Philip Pullman… take note and stop it, already!)

Right, back on track (pun intended)—the idea of the deadly train engine was unusual and chilling, and the final set piece with Sally, when you don’t know what she is planning, is well done.

Overall: worth the watch, but mostly for Piper’s and Smith’s fans. 

For more, see below:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/shadow/

a bit about Journey’s End

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Last night, since I don’t get BBC America yet (my brother did tape the episode for me, though), I watched “Stolen Earth” and “Journey’s End”—the last two episodes of season 4.  What follows are my notes as I watched the episodes.  I’ll post them separately.  (for “Stolen Earth” commentary, click here) They work best if you kind of read them along with the episode because that’s how I wrote them.  A sort of written commentary, if you will.  Here we go again!

 

The Doctor Donna

The Doctor Donna

Notes on “Journey’s End”

 

  • Strong summary of previous episode.
  • Again with everyone in the world in the credits
  • Ok, that was just a cheat on us with the anti-regeneration!  I am kind of happy to finally see them do something with the ever-present hand, though.
  • Cool frozen bullets/ force-field/ time-lock; however, it does render Ianto and Gwen useless for the rest of the episode.  They were suffering from “too many companions” syndrome.
  • I really like the reunion b/w Doc & Rose.  “I’m still me.”
  • What the hell is up with the temporal prison? Where did Daleks get this bit of useful technology?
  • Hooray for Mickey the Idiot! (yeah, ok, and Jackie, too)
  • I like that he kisses his gun.
  • Daleks sound perfect in German as they stroll through the Black Forest
  • I like Rose, but the team of Rose and her teeth is a bit distracting here.
  • Oh, shut up Dalek! 
  • Everyone was Brilliant.  Blimey!
  • Cool-looking horde of Daleks.
  • Well, actually, she IS safer in there, Doctor.
  • They DO love their bottomless pits on this show.
  • Again with the fire in the Tardis.
  • Ah, “last child of Gallifrey”—nice phrase.
  • Enough with the exploding roundels already!
  • Lovely music.
  • I love the Doctor feeling the Tardis die.
  • Cool special effects with the new Doctor—naked!  Stupid plot, but don’t care!
  • My, the Dalek is awfully nosey about everyone’s feelings.  He deserves to be shot!
  • Poor Jack.
  • How did Blue Doc repair things so quickly?  Is his silent running mode like the Cyberman’s silent leg setting?
  • Oi!  I love his imitation of Donna!  It really should have had a bit of the creepy overtones from Midnight (although, now that I’ve said that, neither of these characters know about that adventure, just the audience, so I guess not.)
  • I like the strands pulling together idea… but I’m not sure they quite pulled it off.
  • Who is the crazy German woman?  Why is she cluttering up my screen?
  • Oh so cleverly hidden door there.  No one will EVER find that door.
  • Poor woman making the most of her cameo.
  • Ok, throwing the Tardis in the furnace worked SO well the first time, so we’ll try again with Jack.
  • You tell him, Rose. 
  • Again with the loony tunes Dalek Caan.  Caanned Fruitcake, if you ask me.
  • “Children of Time”—nice phrase, nice idea.
  • I really like the by-play of the Doctor and Davros here.  We see the rage that we so rarely see from Tennant, that we saw in Eccleston.
  • Why do no Daleks notice that they are all fleeing out of the line? 
  • Bravo on use of “apotheosis” there, Davros.
  • Cool cold-flaming planet sequence.
  • Oh, I like Mickey the Idiot, but his recharging thing is awfully convenient.
  • Poor dusty people—again cool effect.
  • Umm, what’s up the lone Dalek in 70’s style set?
  • Let the taunting commence…
  • Davros does enjoy his ranting, doesn’t he.
  • There go the same 3 Daleks, again.
  • Cool, yet goofy, Dalek ships
  • Huzzah for “Captain Cheesecake”—let’s see Mickey on Torchwood, please.
  • Ok, I wouldn’t wander around with warp star in my pocket, would you?  Sounds a bit dangerous to me.
  • Techno-babble…
  • Again—it’s United Nations, and you know it, young Martha.
  • How in the name of all that is sci-fi is Davros supposed to know what the Osterwatzits key is??
  • I like Rose’s admiration for Martha.
  • “Where did YOU get a warp star?!” [emphasis mine.]
  • You tell him, Sarah!  I like the recognition b/w her and Davros.
  • Poor, discouraged Doctor who then has to be taunted—a la Christ-figure.
  • I like that Doctor doesn’t find out about Harriet’s redemption until here, along with all of the others who have suffered on his behalf.  It would have been nice, though, to see some from classic series [would take far too long, but would have been nice].
  • Way to keep circumvent all of the nice character acting happening there, red Dalek.
  • Why do they need a ridiculously long countdown EVERY time?
  • Nice job on the maniacal laughter there, Davros.
  • Huzzah and Hoorah!  Cool lights on interior of Tardis.
  • Doctor really shouldn’t be carrying a gun, though.  There we go, Donna w/ gun, much better.
  • Lightening cool.  More techno-babble, not so much.
  • Again with the count-down. 
  • Arruauh??? – [Scooby-Doo-style sound of disbelief and confusion]
  • Love the lovely Donna here!  Get ‘em!
  • She does look beautiful as Doctor Donna, although why Ood would know this???
  • Dance Dalek—call back to when old Who Doc made them playful.
  • Go butch boys w/ guns!
  • I love the shouts of triumph and the 200-miles-a-minute dialogue. 
  • Poor Donna, though. 
  • Jack is jealous—and he doesn’t think that the Doctor’s mind is his best part.
  • Ah, the wacky hijinks of Dalek Caan.
  • Kablooey.  Dalek au flambé!
  • Ummm… if YOU were a Dalek, would you make just one, small switch that would blow up every member of your race?
  • Run, Run, everyone in the world, Run!
  • He’s got to give him the choice. 
  • Davros, um.. you don’t have any business calling foul on him—though the flames are neat!
  • Nice touch with the Gwen/ Gwenneth bit.
  • I like Sarah’s joyous laugh there when she finds out Luke is ok.
  • Yea!  Huzzah for K-9!
  • I do like the idea that the Tardis is supposed to have 9 navigators (doesn’t make a lick of sense) but nice.  Whole family together in Tardis.
  • Wonderful music!  Goofy idea… just don’t think about it much, and you’ll want to cheer!  Never mind about silly gravity.
  • Donna just supervises.  Jack gets a bit of a flirt in.
  • I like the group celebration.  We don’t get much of this in our new show.
  • Love Cribbins and his mini soccer ball!
  • Church bells are a nice touch.
  • “You’ve got the biggest family on Earth!”  I like that Sarah got to say this line.  I bet he dropped her off in Scotland again.
  • Jack is just taking the piss with his salute—Martha, I’ll believe.
  • Ah, Mickey the Idiot… hope we see more of you.
  • I’m not altogether certain that I like this ending with Rose.  It does mess up the other Bad Wolf ending.  The idea that Blue Doc was born in blood and fire, and therefore has to be gotten rid of I’ll buy—that Rose would settle for him, questionable.
  • Ah, lovely Tardis. 
  • He really is second-best; I’m not sure that is flattering on Rose or on Blue Doc.
  • “Does it need saying?” Yes, yes, it does.
  • She has wanted to kiss him forever.  Probably doesn’t remember the last time, as she was dying and all.
  • Notice, again, by running after the original, she shows that Blue Doc is by far a second choice.
  • So lovely and so painful—the breaking apart of Donna’s mind.
  • Just heart-rending.  She’s sooo good. ”Don’t make me go back.”  We don’t want her to go back, either!
  • His wiping away everything that she has become is crushing!
  • The Doctor has never before sat down and explained to her parents how he had to hurt a companion.
  • You tell her, Doc!  Stupid, rotten mum!
  • Who wouldn’t want him delivering an obituary about you like this?
  • It’s so tragic to see her back to the Runaway Bride girl again!
  • Ok—saddest scene EVER b/w Wilfred and Doctor.  They both look about 200 years old.  Such a delicate, noble little gesture.  Best salute in the episode.  Perhaps this is why Doc doesn’t want others saluting him– it reminds him of Wilf?
  • I like the taking off of the jacket—baring himself—and going on alone again.  Ah. The Lonely Doctor.

 

Overall—lovely work on the part of all of the actors, especially Doctor, Donna, and Davros.  Plot… meh… but I don’t care much.  Most of it was so glorious and fun and lovely that I’m willing to overlook all of the foolishness.  Heart-breaking ending.  Yes, indeedy, good stuff.

comments on “The Unquiet Dead”

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The Unquiet Dead

 

I haven’t watched this episode in a long time—probably since right after the season one (yes, SEASON ONE) DVDs came out.  Having re-watched it this Tuesday, here are my thoughts as I watched the episode.  These comments will probably appear elsewhere in an edited format.

 

1- I forgot how great the theme was for this season.  I remember turning on the tv for the first time to watch the new show and then jumping up and down with joy when I heard the theme.  It was just so fabulous to have the show back and to hear the theme song!

 

2-Love the eye-acting in the teaser—both the dead grandma & the undertaker.  The scream is great, especially as it leads straight into the theme.

 

4- So many of the ideas established in this episode were built upon later.  It’s become quite an important episode.

 

5- Of course, costume drama is one of the things BBC does best. I really like these historical dramas.  Dickens & Shakespeare are two of my favorite “guest stars” from these new episodes. What this episode does need, though, is a clever Robert Holmesian double-act. Since this is the first time in the past for the audience & for Rose, it gets treated with great reverence—and so it should.

 

6. I like The Doctor as a Dickensian fan-boy!  It mirrors the Tennant/ Davidson scene in Time Crash very nicely.

 

7. Ok—“a feeling like a shadow passing over your soul”—a hint that these, perhaps, are not nice, friendly aliens they claim to be.

 

8. I like the scene between Rose & Gwen—similar to her scene with the blue mechanic girl in “End of the World.”    Both of them serve nicely to humanize the girls and make their death scenes so much more poignant.  I think that this is also the most powerful Bad Wolf mention. Though, I should mention, that a good Catholic girl should NOT hold a séance.  Creepy Gelf/ Troglafane cross-over w/ the voices.  I like how the Doctor believes in this plan, especially when Rose is reluctant for “decency/ morality” reasons.  He gives her a high-minded lecture, then she turns out to be right.

 

9. I did notice the exact moment that Gwen dies this time (I missed it before)—when Rose is thrust away.  It is a well-played and distinct bit of acting.

 

10.  Great scary fangs on the bad Gelf!  Poor terrifying Undertaker!

 

11.  Ok, zombies pounding on the gate is creepy, but kind of dumb.  They are a bit useless.

 

12.  Go, Chuck!  Way to figure out obvious clues!

 

13.  I like this Doctor and Rose clasping hands.  It’s touching here—not like in the following season.

 

14.  The Dead/ Undead Gwen is frightening and sad.  Apparently, though, her sacrifice only delayed the rift’s opening, as it is clearly there in Boom Town, although the Doctor here claims that she closed it.

 

15.  There is a stunning lack of crowd attention to an exploding house in Cardiff’s Christmas streets in the middle of the night.  Perhaps they’ve just had a giant goofy robot overhead—no, wait, that was London, wasn’t it.

 

16.  Frankly, any ending that doesn’t make the uncle the villain in Edwin Drood would be welcome—he’s just too obvious a suspect.

 

17.  The Doctor seems, just for a moment, to regret that he can’t tell Dickens who he really is.

 

18.  The snow falling is such a nice detail as the Tardis vanishes.

 

19.  I must say that I’m quite pleased about the absolute lack of running randomly down corridors in this episode.

 

20.  Overall, one of my favorite New Who episodes, still.

piper in the shadows

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title: The Shadow in the North

from: PBS Masterpiece Mystery / BBC

based on: “The Sally Lockhart Mysteries”

by Philip Pullman

length: 86 minutes

I was predisposed to enjoy this because I liked Billie Piper as Rose in “Doctor Who” and one of the supporting actors (playing Jim) is Matt Smith, who is to be Doctor # 11. This is a nice opportunity to have them both in the same production. They do, indeed, do nice enough work, though the script is quite weak for Smith’s character. I have also already seen the first film in this series: “The Ruby in the Smoke” That one was ok—reminded me rather of Dickens’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” having an strong set-up and a weak finish (yes, I am aware that Dickens never finished the manuscript, but other authors have), along with a very obvious villain. However, I liked Sally, Jim, and Fredrick enough to keep watching and to look forward to the next one. I actually looked up the novels, but my library didn’t have them.

As for “The Shadow in the North,” it gains points for having a less obvious plot and a more complex group of supporting characters (Alistair MacKinnon & Axel Bellmann, particularly) than its predecessor. Unfortunately, Sally and the other main characters suffer for it—they don’t, frankly, get much to do. Poor Fredrick is reduced to appearing in a variety of unconvincing disguises and then (spoiler music, la la la la la) being killed just as he was getting interesting. The plot moves from clear realism through to the super-natural, though I would have liked to have the final “ghost” scenes better supported. They seem to appear out of nowhere.

(ok, personal rant here, nothing to do personally with Pullman’s work, but I HATE when authors kill off the romantic partners of their strong female characters just as they were about to be happy together. Why?? Why fall back on the idea that happily married/ affianced characters can’t be interesting? Why not let them be together & then work in the relationship’s ups and downs into the story. Diane Mott Davidson has done a lovely job of that. So, why make your main character broken and fragile, especially when the main thrust of the story is not her romantic entanglement, but actually the mysteries or adventures? Edna Buchanan, Patricia Cornwall, Philip Pullman… take note and stop it, already!)

Right, back on track (pun intended)—the idea of the deadly train engine was unusual and chilling, and the final set piece with Sally, when you don’t know what she is planning, is well done.

Overall: worth the watch, but mostly for Piper’s and Smith’s fans. 

For more, see below:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/shadow/

by the way: the PBS website mentions that David Tennant will be the new host of Masterpiece Contemporary beginning in October.  Hooray!