Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 10

The adventure concludes!

March 12, 2011, 2.21 pm. It’s been one evening and one morning of ploughing through season 5 of Doctor Who, with a night’s sleep halfway through. Thinking about it, if I’d planned it better I could have started the previous morning and finished the same day. But no, it was all very impromptu, and I might have given up before this if not for the remote participation, via Facebook, of friends of mine from Arizona to Ireland, from Australia to Wales, from Banbury to… well, you get the idea.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

It’s the end – has the moment been prepared for? Find out as we rejoin Mr Moffat and his creations for one last dance:

Season 5, Episode 12: The Pandorica Opens

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A precredits sequence gathers together most of the guest cast we’ve seen this year to send an impossibly convoluted message to the Doctor:

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River’s back too, but as more than a cameo. Dealing with the conniving Dorium Maldovar (the excellent Simon Fisher-Becker), she employs a plan she must have learned by being a film buff:

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The message having led the Doctor, Amy and River to Roman occupied Britain, they start poking about under Stonehenge. At which point they encounter an amazingly tenacious ‘dead’ Cyberman:

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River is elucidating on the legendary being imprisoned within the Hellraiser-style Pandorica. Something about this seems a little obvious:

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Outside, aliens of all kinds are converging on Stonehenge, seemingly intent on gaining the legendary Pandorica. Sadly, more are mentioned than are seen, but Dan has an interesting casting idea:

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(Would she be a Drahvin or a Zygon?)

There’s a dodgy looking Roman soldier hanging around. But for some reason, the director won’t let us see his face:

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Having not quite reattached its head, the knackered Cyberman is still gamely trying to convert Amy:

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But – just in time – she’s saved! But… by who?

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River has been dispatched to the present day, to search Amy’s bedroom for clues. At least that’s what the Doctor told her.

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Having failed to find anything of interest in Amy’s bedroom (unlike my friends), River has got back in the TARDIS. Which promptly explodes. Followed, not too long after, by what appears to be the rest of the universe. Whoops.

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And it IS a great cliffhanger. The problem being that in future seasons, it’s impossible to top the destruction of the entire universe, and modern Who just has to keep trying to outdo itself each successive year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Speaking of which, it’s the timey wimey conclusion:

Season 5, Episode 13: The Big Bang

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Despite the universe going phoom, Earth is still there, and we’re back to Amy’s childhood. But things aren’t the same:

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The Doctor faces up to plastic Rory as he patronisingly explains that there’s a bigger picture, receiving a thump for his pains. Brett and I approve:

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Back (or is it forward?) in the 21st century, Amy has just let Amy out of the Pandorica using a sonic screwdriver that only exists in a time paradox? Confused? So was I, but not by that:

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With the last remnants of the universe about to collapse, the Doctor comes up with  perhaps the most obvious solution ever:

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By an even more convoluted twisty turny plot, the Doctor died along with the universe, but Amy brought him back. Giving Moffat the ultimate licence that John Nathan-Turner could only have dreamed of:

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Making a triumphant reappearance at Amy and Rory’s wedding, the Doctor wastes no time in kidnapping the happy couple for a trip in the TARDIS. But where to go for a honeymoon? The Doctor has an idea, but unfortunately we’ll never see it:

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When my head stops reeling and I apply a bit of analysis, it’s time for the verdict on the finale:

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And finally, on the whole of season 5. That provoked a bit of discussion:

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And so it ended. A day and a half (ish) of me in a house by myself doing a sort of online live feed from a solo Doctor Who marathon. Unusual, but it felt social – Facebook gets (rightly) criticised for a lot of things, but it’s kept me in instant touch with friends from far away in a way that would never have been possible previously. For that, I have to thank it – and all the friends who put up with/joined in my strange exploit. I’ll give the last word to me of last year. And some of my friends:

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Until the next time…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 9

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 1.31 pm. After the undoubted beauty of Vincent and the Doctor, it’s time for another self-contained standalone episode. But this one is quite different in tone…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

We’ve had sci fi, we’ve had horror, we’ve had heartbreaking emotional drama. Now it’s time for something rather different, courtesy of writer Gareth Roberts – sitcom!

Season 5, Episode 11: The Lodger

Starting this episode involves inserting the next disc of the box set. I now know exactly how long this takes.

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Steaming mug of tea in hand, I settle down to watch the Doctor arrive somewhere surprisingly average, and reveal an unexpected knowledge of stationery supplies:

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Across town, beaten down everybloke Craig (James Corden playing it straight for once) is pining after his best friend. She, typically, doesn’t know anything of this:

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Stranded and unable to find the TARDIS, the Doctor decides to move into Craig’s spare room. Thus ensues a scene establishing Smith and Corden as a comedy double act to watch out for, including what must be an intentionally risque reference to a senior clergyman:

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I was quite enthusiastic about the comedy, but others saw it differently. And to be fair, I know Corden gets a fair bit of stick too:

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Never one to pass up an opportunity to lust after a scantily clad young man, I was happy to see the Doctor’s shower scene. Happier than I would have been if he’d still been William Hartnell anyway:

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At which point Steve directed me to a picture he’d found, much to several people’s delight:

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Much to Craig’s alarm, the Doctor decides to help out on his pub football team, showing the level of football knowledge achieved by most Who fans:

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For my part, I’ve found my attention drawn to part of Craig’s decor – intentionally on the director’s part, it seems:

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(Corden did return as Craig, but nothing ever came of the mysteriously prominent picture. Or the duck pond. Yet)

The Doctor discovers that the top floor of Craig’s house is actually a spacecraft that looks oddly familiar:

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(Yes, the spacecraft control room was featured in season 6, as the buried Silence ship in Day of the Moon. Significant, or just a cheap reuse of an existing set?)

And the verdict:

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Yes, the end draws near! Two more episodes, one more story, with Mr Moffat back on writing duties for the first time since episode 5. Coming up in a moment…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 8

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 12.38 pm. After cleaning my brain from the previous story, it’s a relief to have another self-contained, non-epic, intimate story about people. And strange invisible beasties.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

Having tried one guest writer, it’s time for Moffat to wheel out the big guns. Step forward, writer of the excellent Blackadder and romcoms that I can’t stand – it’s Richard Curtis with:

Season 5, Episode 10: Vincent and the Doctor

Taking Amy’s mind off Rory’s recent death (which she doesn’t remember anyway), the Doctor takes her to a Van Gogh exhibition, giving him the chance to wax lyrical in the established new series style about how bloomin’ marvellous a historical figure is. Backing him up is a surprise cameo from a beloved Brit actor whose own name was linked to the role of the Doctor a few times:

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The Doctor has spotted something ‘evil’ in a Van Gogh painting, so it’s off to 1890 Provence for a word with the man himself. They find him getting drunk in a French cafe with some rather odd accents:

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Van Gogh is being played (quite brilliantly) by well-known Scot Tony Curran. I cast my mind back to my earliest acquaintance with his work:

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Our heroes track down the mysterious alien, only to discover it’s a wounded creature that doesn’t mean any harm. Ben spots the hammer-subtle parallel with Van Gogh himself:

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Meanwhile, I’m luxuriating in the director’s skill with a camera:

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Amy and the Doctor try to see the sky through the Doctor’s eyes, resulting in a magical cross fade into one of the man’s best known paintings – the one Don McLean kept going on about:

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Having dealt with the alien, the Doctor tries (unwisely, as it turns out) to deal with Van Gogh’s depression. This is achieved via a trip to the future, where the tortured artist can listen to Bill Nighy unwittingly describe his genius while a mopey Athlete song plays in the background:

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Still, despite the transparent emotional manipulation, I still really enjoy the story. To judge by comments throughout, I’m not the only one:

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An atypical story then, but a hugely rewarding one, Curtis’ sensitive writing ably assisted by Curran’s excellent performance. I’m forced to agree with Stuart’s comment from a few episodes ago – the hit rate in this second half of the season is much more consistent!

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 7

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 10.56 am. Amy’s Choice was as enjoyable as the first time, but now it was time to face up to my bete noire of Who writers – Chris Chibnall. Thankfully, my Facebook friends were becoming more numerous in their comments to help me through it. And as before, I’m counting this two-parter as one story, so I’ll cover both episodes here…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

Oh, the dilemma – one of my favourite ‘aliens’ done by my least favourite writer. Can Malcolm Hulke’s legacy survive Chris Chibnall as we delve into:

Season 5, Episode 8: The Hungry Earth

Watching this episode involves slipping the next disc of the box set into the PS3 and waiting for the menu to pop up. This takes some time.

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We’re back on contemporary Earth, in a setting any Jon Pertwee fan will instantly recognise – the standard Big Scientific Project as visited in almost every story of his first season. However, the rather limited budget for sets immediately makes this look a bit more low-rent:

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Informed of her location, Amy tries out her keen observational skills:

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The casting of comedienne Meera Syal as the project’s director raises a few eyebrows, but the celebrity guest Who of the 80s had its odd moments too:

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By this point I’ve noticed that the village where the project is located seems curiously underpopulated. My Irish and Welsh friends hasten to inform me that this is entirely accurate:

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And since we’re in Wales, not even advanced technology can keep the weather out:

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A Silurian appears (well, whatever they’re called now, anyway). She has some pretty cool make up, but I miss the quivering rubber of the Pertwee years:

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The Doctor makes a stab at telling the Silurian when she’s from. And gets it wrong, like every other time they’ve appeared:

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With this two-parter, I was pleasantly surprised enough by rewatching part one to offer a verdict on ‘the story so far’:

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But like football, it’s a game of two halves, Brian. And the second half would make me wish that Malcolm Hulke was till around to substitute for Mr Chibnall:

 

Season 5, Episode 9: Cold Blood

The second part reveals another Silurian warrior. She looks identical to the first one apart from some red patches on her scales. This raises an interesting question:

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Channelling Jon Pertwee in the first Silurian story (as does most of the script), Chibnall gets the Doctor to moralise a bit:

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Meanwhile, the scary Silurian scientist has been revealed to be a nice bloke after all. So we’re supposed to just forget that he dissected that first guy while he was conscious:

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The Silurian warriors are now itching for a fight with the ‘apes’, and it’s all a bit one-sided:

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Peace having proved elusive, the Doctor places the burden of both species’ future co-existence onto one little boy (despite UNIT and therefore the UN being well aware of the Silurians). His advice, while well-meaning, doesn’t seem to have been thought through:

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The wise old Silurian leader decides to go to sleep for another thousand years, reckoning humanity will be mature enough to deal with the situation then. But there’s something rather significant the Doctor isn’t telling him:

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But Restac is vengeful, and shoots Rory, who promptly tumbles into Amy’s crack and dies. Again. This causes heartache and confusion:

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Having run out of story, Chibnall blows up the project:

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Leaving us free to cogitate on the quality (or lack thereof) of the story, and indeed of the season so far:

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So, no consensus as to how good/bad the season is (though everyone seems on board with this particular story being rubbish). But thankfully, a civilised level of debate rather than the insane vitriol and mud slinging of most online Doctor Who forums!

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 6

The adventure continues.

March 12, 2011, 9.56 am. Having tired myself out with incessant Doctor Who and a lot of gin, I’d gone to bed after The Vampires of Venice, but woke up fresh the next day to continue the marathon in the morning. Now I think on it, I’d done a mid-season break before Steven Moffat had! Thankfully, many of the usual suspects were still online to keep the chat going…

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

Next up, the first iteration of one of Steven Moffat’s better ideas – getting established, big-name authors new to the show itself to write Who. First out of the gate was Men Behaving Badly scribe Simon Nye, giving us a most atypical episode that was one of the wittiest – and most meta – of the season:

Season 5, Episode 7: Amy’s Choice

I got up, yawned, stretched and had a cup of tea (9.56 am being a little early for gin):

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Somehow, Amy and Rory are back in Leadworth village, and the Doctor’s popped in for a visit. It makes a nice change after Russell’s era for the Earth people not to live in a grimy London housing estate:

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The Doctor’s having trouble with the TARDIS, but he’s ‘misplaced’ the Haynes manual:

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Surprisingly to everyone, the impish Toby Jones pops up wearing a suspiciously familiar costume. His first act is to utterly demolish the tropes that make up the Doctor’s character:

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Trapped in what might (or might not) be a fake reality, the Doctor and co are chased by a marauding army of the elderly, angrier even than when George Osborne froze their pension increases:

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The script continues to play with and subvert the tropes of the show in both ‘realities’:

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And then, shockingly, the first appearance of a new trope that would become all too familiar over the next couple of years. The bemulleted Rory is unexpectedly turned to dust, disintegrating in Amy’s arms, the first of many, many deaths:

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By the end of the episode, it’s become clear that neither ‘reality’ was real, and neither was the Dream Lord. I remembered having heard gripes about the mechanism that allowed all this to happen, when the method was so much less important than the psychological exploration it caused:

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And the conclusion:

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Yes, the intervening hours of sleep had at this point lessened the number of friends chiming in on the comments. But like sand people, they’d soon be back, and in greater numbers…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 5

The adventure continues.

March 11, 2011, 10.44 pm. After the intense excitement of the Angels’ two parter, it’s time for a little light relief. Well, light insofar as alien fish people pretending to be vampires in 16th century Venice can be. This one’s so much fun that I barely posted anything on Facebook, so this’ll be a short entry.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

After a Moffat-heavy first half of the season, it’s over to writer of Being Human Toby Whithouse for a gripping little standalone effort that reintroduces the magnificent Rory Williams:

Season 5, Episode 6: The Vampires of Venice

I love Toby Whithouse, so this one I can go into with confidence, despite the title’s resemblance to Klaus Kinski Nosferatu faux-sequel Vampire in Venice:

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Straight away we’re at the stag party of one Rory Williams, Amy’s intended, and the Doctor’s bursting out of a cake in place of the expected stripper. Eleanor, Arnold and I all love him, though I suspect for different reasons:

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The Doctor attempts to bluff his way around using that old faithful standby, the psychic paper. Yes, it’s a narrative shortcut, but heck, it’s even worse than the sonic screwdriver for “in one bound they were free” plot contrivance. And it’s been a little overused in the last six years:

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Having sneaked into the Calvieri Academy for the betterment of young ladies, the Doctor appears to have wandered into a scene from a 1960s Hammer film by mistake:

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Rory’s attempts at blending in are (comically) less successful than seasoned time travellers like the Doctor and Amy, making him automatically more realistic and less of a smug git:

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And that’s all that came up in the Facebook discussion. Alcohol-influenced I may have been by this point, but I recall I was enjoying watching the story too much to spend much time gabbing about it online. Time for the verdict:

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Yes, in a trend that seems to be the norm since Matt Smith took the helm of the TARDIS, I was finding that the standalone episodes were more satisfying to watch than the big ‘arc’ ones, even though those still kept me interested. Still, kudos to Mr Moffat with his showrunner’s hat on for giving a good mix of the two, at least in this season. Next up would be another one, and the first in a series of episodes written by top notch writers who’d never written Who before…

Doctor Who Season 5–the Facebook Marathon: Part 4

The adventure continues.

March 11, 2011, 9.06 pm. With friends from various corners of the globe now chiming in on the Facebook discussion, it’s time to embark on the first two parter of Doctor Who season 5 in my marathon viewing. For the purposes of these posts, a two parter counts as one story, so both episodes are covered here.

NB – as before, if your name or image is on these screenshots and you’d rather it wasn’t, PM me on Facebook and I’ll edit the image. Thanks!

After only one episode away, that man Moffat is back, and he’s brought his most popular baddies with him…

Season 5, Episode 4: The Time of Angels

Somehow, my Facebook typing remains mostly accurate despite my increasing consumption of that most British of beverages, gin and tonic:

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River Song is back, and she’s trying to escape from a futuristic prison that looks suspiciously like a maintenance tunnel in Cardiff. But I’m more preoccupied with the oddly familiar young man she’s entrancing with her hypno-lipstick:

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At this point, I hadn’t become as jaded with River’s constant reappearances as I was later to become. This leads me to question the bleeding obvious:

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At this point, some ire is directed toward the then-new showrunner:

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The dialogue is channelling Frankie Howerd:

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As an Angel looms out of a TV monitor to reach for Amy, Steve sees it differently:

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As ever, I’ve discovered that one of the cast is quite an attractive young man; thankfully this trope hasn’t ended with the departure of Russell T Davies:

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As this is the second time I’ve seen it (the broadcast being the first), hindsight enables me to pick out some inconsistencies that I missed the first time:

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Ever the Robert Holmes wannabe, Moffat is ratcheting up the terror:

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The first episode reaches an exciting climax, but I’ve noticed something different from the original transmission:

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After a fag (no, a cigarette, not the other kind), it’s straight back for part 2:

Season 5, Episode 5: Flesh and Stone

Even more than the first part, Mr Moffat is letting his influences show:

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Like Tom Baker, Matt Smith has an excellent habit of counterpointing the scary bits with humour that doesn’t undermine them:

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The Doctor tricks the Angels into revealing their difference from the Spanish Inquisition:

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Being a little tipsy now, I decide to ruminate on the ongoing plot arc by quoting Leonard Cohen. Amy (not that one) chimes in:

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Contradicting what we’d previously been told, the Angels can be fooled into freezing by making them think you can see them. I may be tipsy, but my fanboy nitpicking head is still functioning perfectly. Steve comes up with the only possible explanation:

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As the terrifying set piece of Amy picking her way, blinded, through the artificial forest unfolds, I’m more preoccupied with her shoes:

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The Angels are defeated by hurling them into Amy’s crack, erasing them from ever having existed. Not for the last time, my nitpicking power enables me to spot that Mr Moffat’s timey-wimey narratives don’t always add up:

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With the excitement over, it’s time to (re)assess the story as a whole:

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So, opinion was more divided on this one, and even I had to concede it wasn’t as good as I said in my initial review. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, it’s worth noting that I write my reviews as soon as possible after watching, to capture the impressions I have at that precise moment. It’s actually not that unusual for me to become more critical of a story after I’ve given it glowing praise, it’s a habit I’m trying to combat!