The Weekly Checkup: Doctor Who/Torchwood News and Views – September 3, 2011

Doctor Who came back last week, and we got a lot of news about that, including my review (which I actually wrote while watching the episode, much to my wife’s annoyance). Plus, who’s sexier: David Tennant, Matt Smith, or John Barrowman? What about Billie Piper or Karen Gillan? The answers to these important questions can be found in The Weekly Checkup!


Let’s Kill Hitler Ratings

According to Doctor Who News, 6.2 million Brits tuned in to watch Doctor Who’s mid-season premiere. The program had a share of 28.7% of the total TV audience and was the most watched program of the day on BBC One. The total included 1.02 million viewers who were watching on BBC One HD. The X Factor on ITV 1 won the day with 10.6 million watching.

Doctor Who’s audience was steady throughout the episode, with an initial figure of 6.2 million rising to a peak of 6.3 million. With one day to come, Doctor Who currently stands at 17th for the week. Final figures, which will be released in 8 days time, should see the final total rise considerably, when those who record the episode and watch it later are factored in.

Skitch Commentary: Doctor Who continues to be Britain’s most popular show that is not a soap opera or reality show. The only time Doctor Who has finished outside the top twenty since it returned was when it was directly up against a big soccer match or when ITV aired 12 episodes of Britain’s Got Talent in one week. No, that is not an exaggeration. And people think America is reality show obsessed? We’ve got nothing on our friends across the pond.

These are real solid numbers, and since Doctor Who tends to be Britain’s most recorded show, these numbers should go up significantly. Add in the massive amount of money they make selling Doctor Who toys, T-shirts, TARDIS coffee mugs, etc, and it’s pretty obvious why BBC loves Doctor Who so much.

And anecdotally, it seems to be doing very well in America too. I had a lot of friends call, text, and email to tell me they watched and really liked Let’s Kill Hitler. They definitely picked a good episode to give it a try, but more on that in my review below.


Let’s Kill Hitler Press Wrap-up

I typically don’t take press reviews all that seriously, but Doctor Who News put together this collection of press clippings, so I thought I would share them.

– Writing for the Telegraph, Michael Hogan commented, “The show is fond of dropping in historical figures these days. Shakespeare, Dickens, Van Gogh, Queen Victoria, Louis XV, Nixon and Churchill have all popped up since the series was rebooted six years ago. It’s a device which allows the writers to give viewers a playful history lesson, while offering extraterrestrial explanations for past events. Inform, educate and entertain… Lord Reith would approve, although he’d probably be baffled by this plot.”

The script contained nods to several films: Nazi motorbikes were stolen like The Great Escape, Kingston purred a Mrs Robinson-ish “Hello, Benjamin”, some of the CGI sci-fi tricks recalled Men in Black and The Terminator. “Whopremo” Steven Moffat has compared his complex plotting to Inception, and he does tend towards the tricksy. This was jam-packed full of ideas, twists, turns and wibbly-wobbly time-bending stuff. Giddily thrilling entertainment, albeit rather exhausting. I don’t know how the Doctor does it at his age (a sprightly 909 at last count) but I wouldn’t mind being him when I grow up, either.”

– The Telegraph’s Doctor Who expert Gavin Fuller wonders if it was a wasted opportunity, “Packing plenty into an episode is all very well, but there is a fine line to be walked between over-egging the style and allowing plots to breathe, and this episode wasn’t totally successful in that count. Although it was enjoyable enough, and we certainly learnt a lot of the back story of Amy, Rory and River, I was left feeling that much more could have been done with the setting. Indeed, much of the story could have been set anywhere and any time, which is a waste of using such a resonant historical period as the backdrop.”

– Dan Martin of the Guardian said, “For all that, to me Let’s Kill Hitler was far more successful as a season opener than A Good Man Goes To War was as a finale. Here was an energetic, timey-wimey tour de force with with gags and flourishes like the car and the crop circles that still maintained a strong sense of what it was about. Most fabulously of all, it was all about Doctor Song. … If you could keep up, we were given a lot more answers than we might have dared to expect. Yes she did have regenerative powers, but in saving the Doctor she also sealed her fate to that ultimate ‘death’ in the Library. We learn where she got the Tardis diary. But we still have to deal with the mystery of who she is to the Doctor. Perhaps most brilliantly of all, we solve the continuity niggle of Alex Kingston’s reverse ageing: “I might take the age down a little, just gradually, just to freak people out.”

Shape-shifting robots and miniaturisation rays in Doctor Who are to be encouraged. But is there an argument, somewhere, that having River/Melody perceived by the people in the Tessalator as a worse war criminal than Hitler maybe, possibly, a little bit dodgy?”

– Kevin O’Sullivan of the Mirror says, “Doctor Who… the usual ball of nerdy confusion as the Doctor and his time-travelling chums hurtled into 1939 Berlin and locked Hitler in the cupboard. Hee hee. A few amusing one-liners, superior special effects… and guest star Alex Kingston’s spirited portrayal of Amy Pond’s demonic daughter Melody. But what was it all about? Don’t ask me. Roll on The Silence.”

– Neela Debnath wrote in the Independent on Sunday, “Given the dark and depressing tone of A Good Man Goes To War, this episode lifted the mood and made things feel a lot lighter, possibly to create a balance. There were some great slapstick moments when River and the Doctor are trying to second-guess one another. River ends up pointing a banana in the Doctor’s face rather than a gun. Also, the Rory death count has begun and it is only a matter of time before it happens.”

– Richard Edwards of the Sci-Fi magazine SFX said, “Moffat’s script takes pleasure in wrongfooting you from the start, packing the episode with never-saw-that-coming moments and ingenious reveals. When that red sports car skids up to the TARDIS before the credits, it seems logical that River Song should step out, but no, it’s Mel… Who later turns out to be River Song anyway. Then there’s the Nazi officer-impersonating robot that turns out to be a vessel packed with hundreds of tiny people – very Men In Black – who travel around time and space dishing out justice to war criminals. An ingenious idea, brilliantly delivered – the morphing effects are Hollywood good.

Indeed, this has to rank among the cleverest Who episodes Moffat has ever written. After the intensity of “A Good Man Goes To War”, we needed something lighter – which “Let’s Kill Hitler” is – yet Moffat manages to mix the gags and silliness with genuine emotion, and some important additions to the season’s arc plot. Like the “birth” of River Song.”

– Simon Brew of Den of Geek says, “The omission of sorts from the episode was actually Adolf Hitler. He was basically the MacGuffin here, in much the same way that the cybermen were teased in A Good Man Goes To War, and then blown up inside five minutes. In the case of Hitler, he had a few (good) jokes made at his expense, and then got locked in the cupboard. And left there. Let’s Kill Hitler, instead, was far more interested in complicating the relationship between its central characters, which it did terrifically well. Coupled with some of the snappiest dialogue of the show this series, it packed plenty into its near-fifty minute running time. It offered a stark reminder, too, that “the Doctor lies”. As if we didn’t know.”

– And back to America for Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly, “Doctor Who got off to a marvelously energetic, funny, clever, noble mid-season start on Saturday night with the episode titled “Let’s Kill Hitler.” Resolving the cliffhanger of the seventh episode by, with devilish perversity, raising more questions and introducing more plot lines — shaggy-dog story-telling being part of the series’ enduring charm — Doctor Who jumped across time and space in Steven Moffat’s witty script. … As usual, Smith, Gillan, and Darvill played their roles with dash, while the show grounds them in some authentic emotion. As much fun as it was to see the morphing of River Song, it does leave Amy and Rory childless, doesn’t it? While the Teselecta got under the skin of various people, the series itself gets under the skin of its main characters, and its audience, in a unique manner that continues to play out.”


Night Terrors Preview

When I saw this trailer, I said “Looks like it’s time to hide behind the couch for next week’s episode.” Amusing, my sister texted me saying the exact same thing when she saw it. I love, love, love the scary episodes of Doctor Who, so I am really looking forward to this one. Those freaky doll-headed looking look incredible!  I just hope they are used better than the Smilers in last season’s “The Beast Below.”


BBC’s Press Release for The God Complex

The BBC have released a synopsis of The God Complex, the eleventh episode of the current series of Doctor Who:

The TARDIS lands in what looks like an ordinary hotel, as the time-travelling drama continues.

But the walls move, corridors twist and rooms vanish. There is a room for every visitor that contains their deepest, darkest fears. Fears that will kill them.

What lies in the Doctor’s room? And when his turn comes, will he welcome death like all the rest?

Skitch Commentary: Another horror episode!  See my comments about Night Terror so I don’t have to be redundant.

Just a silly observation: When I see that image, I can’t help but think of Harry Potter hanging out with Sloth from Goonies. That might just be me though.


Doctor Who…in 3D???

BBC’s blog is reporting that Matt Smith has a request for the upcoming 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who: he wants it to be filmed in 3D: “I love making Doctor Who and I get to be part of that 50th year which they’ll do something mental for,” he tells Bang Showbiz “You know it will be brilliant. I’m interested in all the 3D stuff…If it could be filmed for 3D TV that would be fun, especially with Doctor Who, but it’s very expensive. I don’t know how they’d do it.”

Skitch Commentary: This will only work if David Tennant comes back and wears his 3D specs. Because 3D Specs are cool.

I honestly doubt we’ll see Doctor Who in 3D any time soon. They already stretch the budget every chance they could, and I can’t see them spending it all on something gimmicky. Actually, one of the trailers for Season 5 of Doctor Who was in 3D, and it didn’t look all that great, though it was a fun trailer (here’s the non-3D version):


Who’s Sexier Than the Doctor?

Doctor Who News is reporting on SyFy’s “sexiest sci-fi hunk” poll. Doctor Who managed to land three actors in the top ten. David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor…pictured above with the 3D glasses) came in second place, just narrowly edging out John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness). Matt Smith came in a respectable tenth place. The top spot went to Hugh Jackman (pictured on the left)…not really sure I would call him a sci-fi actor, but I can’t deny he’s one sexy bastard.

As for the ladies, current companion Karen Gillan came in third, just ahead of Billie Piper. I didn’t see Freema Agyeman (pictured on the right) listed, which is a real shame. I always thought Martha Jones was the sexiest of Tennant’s companions.

Just FYI.  The number one spot went to Sarah Michelle Gellar. She would not be in my top ten. Sorry, Buffy.


Doctor Who: Series 6, Episode 8 – “Let’s Kill Hitler” Review

Summary: (thanks to Wikipedia): The episode starts with Amy and Rory creating a crop circle in order to get the Doctor’s attention. They are joined by an old friend of Amy named “Mels.” We get a quick flashback sequence that shows us that Amy and Mels have been friends for years, and she has always been curious about Amy’s invisible friend, The Doctor.

We also discover that Mels is a bit of a troublemaker, and she ends up taking Amy, Rory, and the Doctor hostage to get away from the police. She says, “Since I have a time machine, let’s go kill Hitler!”

Meanwhile, in pre-World War II Germany, we are introduced to the crew of Justice Vehicle 6019. Turns out this Justice Vehicle is a human-sized shape-shifting time machine that is piloted by a crew of miniaturized humans. The crew of this “Teselcta” are dedicated to tracking down war criminals who escaped punishment in life and making them suffer. They have disguised themselves as a Nazi to get close to Hitler. The TARDIS arrives, which causes Hitler to freak out and open fire. He ends up shooting Mels, who regenerates into the woman The Doctor knows as River Song (though she still calls herself Melody). Rory punches Hitler and locks him in a closet.

Melody immediately tries to kill the Doctor, who manages to spoil her every effort in a great sequence of physical comedy. River kisses him and takes off. Before they can chase her, the Doctor realizes that she poisoned him. The poison will kill him in about an hour, and will prevent his regeneration. It clearly was “Deus Ex Poisona.”

The Doctor gives Amy and Rory his Sonic Screwdriver and heads into the TARDIS to see if he can find a cure. He uses the TARDIS’s visual interface, and gets to see Rose, Martha, and Donna. He feels guilt over ruining their lives. He tells the TARDIS to take the appearance of someone he hasn’t hurt, and she appears as young Amelia Pond.

The Teselecta have decided that Melody is a bigger threat than Hitler, since she will kill The Doctor and they take off after her as well. Amy and Rory are shrunk down and brought aboard the Teselecta. It catches up to Melody, though The Doctor shows up in the TARDIS to stop them from torturing her.

The Captain of the Teselecta tells the Doctor that Melody was trained by the Silence to kill him. We find out that the Silence is more than just the creepy guys from the first two episodes of the season. It’s a religious order that believes that when the oldest question is asked, silence will fall across the universe. Yeah, I am not all that sure what that means either. I assume the answer is 42.

When the Teselecta continues to try attacking Melody, Amy uses the sonic screwdriver to make the ship’s security system target the crew. The crew teleports off, and Amy and Rory find themselves being chased by the security system.

The Doctor finds himself too weak from the poison’s effects to rescue his friends. Melody is inspired by the Doctor’s sympathy, and finds herself guided by the TARDIS itself to pilot the ship, and rescues Amy and Rory in time. The Doctor keeps insisting on calling her River Song before he collapses.

River asks Amy who River Song is; Amy uses the Teselecta to show Melody that she will become River. Melody decides to save the Doctor’s life, which ends up burning out the rest of her regenerations. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory take her to a hospital in the far future, leaving the TARDIS-shaped diary as a gift by her bedside. Later, River is shown becoming an archaeologist so she can find the Doctor herself.

Aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor has discovered the date and place of his death from records he took from the Teselecta, but does not reveal this knowledge to Amy or Rory.

Commentary: I don’t know if they showed it on BBC, but BBC America had a nice animated sequence of a scene they could not afford to shoot. It showed an extended motorcycle chase scene through Germany. It was actually a really cool scene, and I am real glad that they took the time to show what it would have looked like.

The Teselecta was a really clever idea. At first I was worried that they were stealing the plot of a bad Eddie Murphy movie, but they really made it work. It was a bit of a stretch to try and shoehorn Hitler into the story (he basically had a glorified cameo, and trying to compare River to Hitler seems like a huge stretch), but I really think they made great use of the setting.

River telling Nazis, “I was on my way to a gay, gypsy Bar Mitzvah for the disabled” might just be my all time favorite line in Doctor Who. You can tell that Alex Kingston was having so much fun playing River in her first days. And the running “Graduate” jokes are a nice touch. It actually took me a few minutes to catch on why they kept calling the Doctor Benjamin.

Arthur Darvill got so many great moments in this episode, knocking out Nazis including the head Nazi himself. Rory really is becoming a big action hero, and this is a great role for him. When Rory was made a regular, I was not sure how well that would work, but he’s definitely become a constant highlight of the series.

I thought that Mels being River Song was a little obvious, but that was a real minor gripe, as it was pulled off perfectly. The Doctor’s “fight” with River had a very old school and very fun feel to it. Actually, it sort of reminded me of “Curse of Fatal Death” which was also written by Stephen Moffat.

My favorite scene in the episode was when Amelia Pond’s hologram kept telling the Doctor that he would be dead in 32 minutes. Is it just me or do kids make everything creepier?  I also love that in the end the Doctor finds out when and where he is going to die, a secret his friends had been keeping from him.  I definitely want to see how that plays out.

One thing I have heard a lot of Moffat’s run in Doctor Who is that people find it confusing. I disagree entirely. While there are a lot of complex story threads running, Moffat does a brilliant job of keeping things very clear. I actually am thrilled that Doctor Who never feels dumbed down. If I wanted that, I could watch…well…pretty much anything else on TV.

It does look like the show will be slowing down the pace down for the next few episode, and this is a very good thing. As much as Moffat’s epic stories are brilliant, they truly are emotionally exhausting. I could definitely use a few “Monster of the Week” episodes to recharge before the season finale, which you know is going to be another insane one. I do think the whole “oldest question in the universe” came across as a bit cliche, but if anyone can make it awesome, it’s Steven Moffat.


Unfortunately, I am weeks behind on my Torchwood watching, so there is good chance I will be doing a massive review later to finish those up.   Sorry to any Torchwood fans who I am disappointing.

I am wrapping up this week with a non-Doctor Who letter I received. Some of you might have noticed I posted up a quick article on my first impressions about DC Relaunch. I got a really cool email from a Matt Rapier which said:

My name is Matt and I’ve been a DC fan since age 6 with Superman being the character to attract me to comics in general. I’ll be turning 26 this year so its sort of fitting that my birth year was DCs relaunch type with Crisis on Infinite Earths and now at the end of my 25th year we get a new take on these characters. I can’t find anything in your article that I disagree with to be honest. It’s good to see some more people responding positively to this relaunch rather than being afraid of change. I hope DC steers this in the right direction because it has so much potential to revitalize the company and will be nice to one day talk with a younger generation about the day when DC launched a company wide makeover. Keep up the good work on your articles.

Matt

Matt,

Thanks for the email. It’s always nice to hear from fans who are as positive as I am. DC Relaunch seems like it’s going to be real good for getting me back into reading comics like I used to. And digital definitely helps. I have no where near enough space to store comics anymore. Same with books. My Kindle (and hopefully soon, my tablet) are lifesavers.

I totally agree about getting the younger generation involved. I have three young children, and my five year old daughter is really getting in to superheroes (she even made up her own song for Captain America). I am hoping to take her to her first con, but NYCC wants me to pay 50 bucks to bring her with me on Saturday. Nice way to help get kids interested in the industry 😉

Mike


See you all next time!

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