Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 at the Pictures!

Okey dokey, much like others round these parts I've been through and had a think about how I'd rank all the new films I've seen this year. I've rated purely on entertainment value i.e. what in a 1 v 1 I'd rather watch again, rather than "worthiness". So without further ado...

50. The Great Wall
Miscast CGI monstrosity. Avoid.

49. Live By Night
Dull, dull, dull. Argo to this? How?

48. Silence
Torturous to endure as well as in content.

47. Alien: Covenant
So disappointing. Has its' moments but no.

46. Sing!
Pleasant enough CG animation.

45. The Hitman's Bodyguard
Watch for Reynolds & Jackson, but below par.

44. Lost City of Z
Sumptuously made, but a trek.

43. Viceroy's House
A passage to Downton

42. The Snowman
So so murder mystery, Fassbender worth a watch

41. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Passable sequel that doubles down on all the faults of its predecessor.

40. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge 
A bit overlong but pleasantly more in the spirit of the original. Depp does Depp.

39. Murder on the Orient Express
Fantastic looking and well cast retread of a sadly too familiar story, but Branagh a passable Poirot with a 3 tier 'tache that has to be seen to be believed.

38. T2: Trainspotting
More than justifies itself, touching & savage re: nostalgia.

37. American Made
Cruise makes this work, but the 70s/80s drug smuggling thing is now DONE.

36. Kong: Skull Island
better than expected monster movie, helped by a great cast.

35. Fences
Oscar worthy performances. Stagey but charismaaaaaa in spades.

34. Goodbye Christopher Robin
A 'hidden gem', better than it had a right to be. Likely to be forgotten, but touching.

33. The Death of Stalin
Not up to Thick of It par, but eye-wateringly savage.

32. Their Finest
Jaunty & fresh considering the safe Britflick territory.

31. Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets
unfairly maligned probably due to de Haan, but enjoyed Besson's view of the future, & honestly worth your time for the Space Oddity opening & a genuinely affecting cameo from Rihanna, who works a minor miracle with a nothing part.

30. Lion
Superbly acted and crafted with a powerful ending, sags in the 3rd quarter a bit.

29. The Ritual
Nice creepy 'lost weekend' British horror with a strong cast.

28. Hacksaw Ridge
Hmm, Gibson. Undeniably well made though, & perhaps a career best from Andrew Garfield.

27. Split
Shyamalan back on form thanks to a powerhouse performance from McAvoy

26. The Sense of an Ending - an intricate well crafted jewel, with Jim Broadbent excellent as ever

25. Manchester By the Sea
Powerful & affecting, but grim; needs to be seen - once.

24. Moonlight
Ponderous at times, but a superb & worthy Oscar winner that cleverly uses its "three ages", and (albeit at times frustratingly) uses the unspoken pauses and hesitations to really pack its best punches.

23. Beauty and the Beast
Surprisingly excellent live action remake.

22. Lego Batman
Great fun; almost as funny as it thinks it is.

21. A Monster Calls
A modern and dark fairytale that's a cut above.

20. Detroit
Nerve shredding and timely. Poulter & Boyega immense.

19. Justice League
fun if spectacularly flawed superhero team up, far better than reported.

18. Life
The best "Alien" film for donkey's ages, with a killer ending.

17. La La Land
Joyous, with tunes that burrow into your brain, but done to death in every advert ever now. 

16. Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2
Superb on character, spectacle & soundtrack, but very thin on story if examined too closely.

15. War for the Planet of the Apes
Excellent closing chapter after an iffy middle film. Andy Serkis at the height of his mo-cap powers.

14. Spider-Man: Homecoming
Best Spidey outing since Raimi's Spider-Man 2, Holland a joy in the lead role, Keaton a fine villain. All a bit small scale, but pleasing high-school hi-jinks that brings the wallcrawler "home" to the MCU.

13. Logan
a Western not a superhero movie. Only a disappointing villain detracts from Jackman & Stewart's best performances in the X series. Dafne Keen great.

12. Atomic Blonde
Slick, stylish action thriller set in 80s Cold War Berlin. No need for a female Bond, it's this.

11. Jackie
Astounding performance from Portman in a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat with some powerful emptiness and silence.

10. Dunkirk - Possibly Nolan's best work; the 3 time frames expertly interwoven and beautifully shot. Avoids the obvious, shreds nerves.

09. Paddington 2
Charming, lovely, funny, and the perfect antidote to the utter trainwreck of 2017. We could all do with taking a page out of Aunt Lucy's book, frankly.

08. It
Creepy, chilling and gripping from start to finish with standout performances & effects.

07. Baby Driver
Peak Edgar Wright, in the best way. Don't let Spacey win, let everyone else involved with this super cool flick win by taking it for a spin.

06. Wonder Woman
Evokes the heroic spirit of Superman '78 in considerable style, with heart and integrity.

05. Free Fire
Preposterously fun action comedy from a cast firing on all cylinders.

04. Get Out
The cleverest psychological horror film for an absolute age boasts several wrongfooting twists & a superb lead turn from Daniel Kaluuya.

03. Thor: Ragnarok
Someone at Marvel realized Hemsworth can do comedy & had the brainwave to let Taika Waititi out-Guardians GotG. With the Hulk. And PEAK Goldblum. And badass Tessa Thompson. And Cate bleedin' Blanchett as a top villain. Hilarious & a new high for Marvel.

02. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Burns down all your expectations and gives old characters and new daring, edge of your seat, unpredictability. In fact the only predictable thing was the fanboy pants-wetting that followed, which proved it did its' job and then some.

01. Blade Runner: 2049
An outstanding achievement in every department. Not perfect by any means but a sequel that more than earns its place by pushing the themes of the original, and putting an existential chasm at the heart of a futuristic detective action thriller. 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Movie Review: Justice League

Justice League is fun, it's a film I'd happily watch again - but the mooted issues *are* there (story's very thin, villain indeed sub-par, pacing odd in the middle). In fact, there's so much wrong with it, it's a minor miracle that this has turned out a perfectly serviceable popcorn blockbuster. All of the League are top drawer, it's very enjoyable, and they (finally) do Superman, ahem, justice.

It has quite a few big problems that make it quite messy overall, and lots of little niggly problems, but it is fun, it is very entertaining, disappointing opening weekend aside, it could be a great springboard for the WB/DC films to really build from.

They must do MUCH better, but with both Superman and Batman substantially shifted away from the frankly horrible Snyder/Frank Miller takes we've been saddled with up to now, there's reason to believe that will come automatically.

The much-reported 'big' problems are very much there: Steppenwolf is pretty poor, the plot is waffer thin, and being cut to fit a round 2 hours is both a blessing and a curse.

Steppenwolf is quite badly botched, forgettable and generic, mostly because (1) he doesn't need to be CGI at all, and (2) he's never properly connected to Darkseid and Apokolips, his 'plan' is very vague and he acquires the mother boxes far too easily.

You have to suspect that this is in part due to the original plan being for this to be a two-part film, with Darkseid the villain in the 2nd half, maybe he would've popped up at the end of part 1 as the cliffhanger.

They were clearly teasing Darkseid in Batman vs Superman, but here they abandon all that. Steppenwolf utters Darkseid's name once, not in front of the League. When Wonder Woman tells the legend of Steppenwolf's 1st attack, no mention of Darkseid. When Steppenwolf is defeated... zilch.

This badly undermines what the threat is and what the deal with the motherboxes is, hence Steppenwolf himself never really stands a chance. The reason this isn't *such* a big problem, though should be reasonably obvious.

This isn't a film where a well developed villain is necessarily needed or even wanted. The focus - quite rightly - is on the League getting together. And here, so much extra work is needed than in Marvel's first Avengers movie.

This is a problem of DC/WB's own making; they shat the bed, and now they have to lie in it - so they have to introduce 3 new heroes, and bring one back from the dead. No way could they possibly have got Darkseid right in the film this had to be.

Don't forget, they've spent 2 pretty poor and unrewarding films, and 4 years, making us wait for Superman as the finished article. So a plus point: FINALLY we get to see the "true" version of him that you've read in comics and seen in other media.

Once he's back from the dead & recovered, Superman is a straight up hero who doesn't hesitate to roll up his sleeves and do some proper superhero-ing. It helps just that his suit is that much more colourful, and of course use of the Williams theme is punch the air stuff.

This is definitely a realignment; if this is how he's going to be from now on: smiling, decisive, a team player, with a suit that's properly blue not "priest-socks" blue, with boyscout lines just the right side of cheesy, then yes, consider Superman fixed.

Time will tell if the good will they pissed away on MoS & BvS can ever be regained, though. That kind of character arc works on TV or a couple of issues of a comic. It's completely inappropriate for movies.

The fact that Snyder, and WB, thought they could get away with punishing audiences for 2 films/4 years before serving this character correctly has been a monumental mis-step in my book. YMMV, of course.

There are a few negatives on Superman, and his supporting characters, though. The biggie is the CGI'd-out 'tache. OMG that is ropey a.f., who on Earth signed off on that? Someone thought they could just get away with using the smudge tool and then an anime style mouth on top?

For those that didn't know - After initial shooting, Cavill left to join production of Mission Impossible 6, for which he wears this 'tache.

When WB needed him back for reshoots, Paramount only agreed on condition the 'tache stayed, WB cockily announced they'd just CGI it out. I'm completely with Paramount on this - just not their problem, why should JL reshoots delay production of MI:6? Of course, after this, Tom Cruise knackered his knee and MI:6 has been delayed anyway!

It's in more key scenes than you would expect, too, like virtually *all* of Cavill's scenes, so that, with at least 3 isolated character scenes that are clearly Whedon inserts, means WB's claims that the reshoots weren't *that* extensive are absolute bull.

This leads me to wonder if Snyder did in fact shoot Superman's resurrection with the famous black suit, as Cavill had teased - because it ain't in the finished film at all, sadly. This is one of the "open goals" I mentioned as being missed.

You can see why it's not there, though. It wouldn't fit with the method of resurrection used in the film, so the only time to do it is while he's in recovery, needing to absorb solar radiation to power up.

The trouble is, there isn't enough room in the story for that to happen without shoving in another half hour to delay the finale, and bloody hell you wouldn't have wanted this to have become the slog that BvS was.

Justice League's first third zips along in a way that probably buys the last two thirds enough good will to offset the weaker and messier bits they contain, with scenes noticeably kept very tight.

There's a clumsy cross-fade between scenes of Bruce Wayne travelling in Iceland where you can practically hear WB bosses screaming "get on with it, faster, faster!"

So once this section of the film is done, and it comes time to bring Superman back, the film almost grinds to a halt before having to sluggishly heave itself into the CGI battle of the last third.

So in quite a fundamental way, DC/WB gave themselves a mountain to climb by locking the return of Superman into Justice League. It does Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg no favours coming in without solo films behind them either. They do succeed despite this, but are underserved.

The whole DCEU's been crocked from the start cos WB were so desperate to catch up with Marvel, they skipped putting the work in. Justice League hasn't been earned as Avengers was, and they f*cked up their Cap (Superman) and shoehorned their Iron Man into his sequel.

Wonder Woman, whilst not without some relatively small flaws (CGI denouement, WWI Germans ≠Nazis) was mostly brilliant, and seems to have led to some big shifts, some public, some not so public, behind the scenes and on screen.

But Justice League is not a continuation from Wonder Woman, it's a sequel to BvS. It's much - MUCH- better than BvS, but a lot of what was great about WW is missing. We're back with Snyder, so the plot is wank, and most female characters - WW included - suffer as a result.

Gal Gadot is once again terrific as Wonder Woman, but right from her first scene, half the shots are up her skirt or creepily centred on her leather-trousered backside.

In some scenes she's reduced to a "shit, how do you write a woman" maternal role, geeing up Cyborg or tutting at the "children... I work with children". (BTW that's almost certainly Whedon, not Snyder - that's straight out of Buffy).

Wonder Woman now has her own "BvS course correction". Snyder rowed back on the destruction of MoS by retconning it as the reason Batman thinks Superman is a problem. WW has to weasel out of the stuff in BvS re: 'walking away from humanity' as the character would never have done.

By the end of Justice League, she's back in the public eye, inspiring people once again. Basically where she was at the end of her own movie. Again, we can move forward from here. But those scenes are there because an error needed fixing, not because they serve this film.

Probably the oddest course correction we see in the film is Bruce Wayne's insistence that "Superman was a beacon of hope". He clearly wasn't watching the same version of Batman vs Superman that I saw. He *should* be right, and that's why that line is in Justice League, but it flies in the face of what we've been presented with previously.

Of the other women in the film, Mera fares well, toughing out Steppenwolf in an action scene and bollocking Aquaman in a scene that seems to (probably quite correctly) pitch Atlantis in the same territory as Branagh's Shakespearean Asgard.

I've read a fair bit of early 2000s and New 52 Aquaman comics, and have to say Amber Heard was exactly how I always imagined Mera - but yes, this could have been meaningless to others. No doubt she just comes over as "Aquaman's girlfriend". Ugh.

Unfortunately it ends up a bit daft as it's the same scene where Aquaman has his rapid change of heart after having told Bruce Wayne to naff off just a few scenes back. He's just seen what Steppenwolf can do with his own eyes, to be fair, but the script undersells this.

Similarly it isn't followed up well: Aquaman says he'll need something from Mera, next time we see him, he has Atlantean armour & trident, without ever coming across like any kind of pay off. Wouldn't want it laboured, but it's an example of undercooking in the script.

So circling back to issues with Superman, Lois Lane is a major casualty of this film. It probably gets away with it because she's mostly incidental to the plot but the idea that post death of Supes she becomes a shit journalist is truly awful.

Of course she should grieve and she'd be inhuman if that didn't affect her motivation at work in some manner, but look, this is just not Lois Lane, and Snyder's Lois never has been. Which considering Amy Adams is a superb actress takes some bloody doing.

Snyder's Lois is not the strong, stubborn, determined, unstoppable woman we should have. Amy Adams is absolutely capable of playing that. What we have here is a lost little girl who's nothing without her man. Vomit.

When Superman does join the fray for the final battle it is pretty joyous. Finally, proper Superman has arrived in the DCEU; Cavill was absolutely on the money when he touted this.

So Superman fares well despite not being in half of the film, never wearing the iconic black suit and his face looking like melted wax in too many close-ups for comfort. That's quite the feat, actually. His mid-credits scene with The Flash is just lovely stuff.

If they'd done the black suit, given him longer hair & a beard, he could've just worn a fake beard over the offending 'tache. They didn't even need to have him shave before the end, just make his last scene him bouncing his laser vision off a mirror to shave or whatever!

Wonder Woman does okay, the aforementioned issues aside, she's properly heroic and always capable in a fight. The Flash is a loveable nerd type that gets mostly comedic lines but brings much needed heart and relatability to the DCEU. Ezra Miller is hugely likeable as The Flash, but this is a take much closer to Tom Holland's Spider-Man than any version of the Flash.

Cyborg was MUCH better than I expected, full credit to Ray Fisher. Like The Flash, he's introduced well and gets a pretty good 'journey' (hard to call it an arc in so brief a time). Tortured but very sympathetic. More than earns his place. Does he need a solo film, though? Nah.

As Aquaman, Jason Mamoa does a great job but his character seems to have needed that prior solo outing much more than the other new heroes; a few scant lines have to set up his awkward relationship to Atlantis.

He's gruff and boisterous, but although he hides it better than Cyborg, obviously has his own demons. Unfortunately the film has to toss his story out in a few lines between he and Mera that could be easily missed.

Of the League this just leaves Batman. Don't care what anyone else thinks, Affleck is great, both as Bruce Wayne, and as Batman. In Justice League, he's the grimly determined leader, who recognises he's not really a people person but is focused on the task in hand.

Like Superman, he's much closer to his "true" comics self than the Frank Miller style dumbass easily tricked by Luthor's machinations in BvS. He's the tactician, analyses problems & points out Steppenwolf doesn't stand round debating ethics when a critical choice has to be made.

Batman stalks and battles a Parademon at the start of the film in a scene that you can well imagine as drawn by Jim Lee, as he attempts to fight crime across 2 cities in a post-Superman world. It's nowhere near as noticeable as with Supes, but again this is a crucial fix.

IMO they have Superman back on track, so they *should* be easily able to improve from here. What happens next with Batman seems a grey area, though!

So it's a shame if Affleck really is looking to exit sooner rather than later and maybe even before the solo film he was once down to direct. That said, although Affleck would rock a solo film, his older Batman may start looking increasingly out of step with the League.

Was surprised this was even signposted in the script (line about 'not being able to do this much longer' after taking a beating), but it did highlight that we have the new 3 just starting, immortal Wonder Woman making a fresh start, and Superman reborn, alongside a post-retirement Batman.

But what to do next? Keep Affleck as retired Bruce Wayne and cast a Terry McGinnis in time for JL2? Or recast Bruce Wayne (perhaps at the end of the mooted Flashpoint movie)? Apparently Matt Reeves wants Jake Gylenhaal, who did get down to (IIRC) the last 6 when Bale was cast.

So anyway, the film does so what it says on the tin, and gets those 6 DC characters united as a group. Provided the Aquaman and The Flash movies don't drop the ball, this *should* all be pointed in the right direction now.

Willem Defoe as Vulko is cut from the Atlantis scene(s) and Kiersey Clemons as Iris West was also cut. But Billy Crudup's Henry Allen is back in after it'd been said he was cut, in 2 small scenes in which he's very good and quite affecting. They *can* go from here to Flashpoint IMO.

Justice League does very much stand as its own film, but (at least for me) it's often hamstrung by having to work against constraints imposed by bad decisions from earlier films (mostly just Man of Steel & BvS, to be fair).

DC Comics are different from Marvel comics in tone, style and approach, so it's not simply the case that these films needed to become more like the Marvel films. I do feel like quite a lot of critics simply won't accept superhero films that aren't absolutely in the Marvel mould.

I don't really believe there's such a thing as anti-DC bias in reviews, but a certain British reviewer lost my respect when trying to claim that Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin is a better film; that's lazy and childish.

This won't be popular in certain quarters but I genuinely think WB went badly wrong in appointing Zack Snyder (1) at all & (2) to make MoS as something happening in the same universe as Nolan's - by then ended! - Batman trilogy. BvS doubled down with a Frank Miller Batman.

This actually makes it an even greater shame that Justice League is taking the drubbing it is, because despite *all those things* I've been waffling on about - it is very entertaining. Maybe I even like it a bit *more* because of what it manages to do against all the odds.

So just a few more thoughts to wrap up. The last scene before the credits is oddly limp, despite the (rightly) optimistic positive thrust it's aiming for. The 2 post-credit scenes are enormous fun. The last seems to indicate some future plans which would be great fun too.

And finally on the Green Lantern(s). Some unknown Lanterns cameo in the telling of the legend of Steppenwolf, but no Lantern joins the Justice League here. On the one hand I can see they would have thought it was probably just a character too many for this film.

Again, not a failing of this film's making, but this film is the one that suffers (a little bit) by that absence. It would've been great to have had a Lantern in the mix for the formation of the League and it's only not happening because of the general state of the DCEU.

Steppenwolf's line from the trailer about the world not being defended - no Kryptonians, no Lanterns...? Not in the film. The Lanterns' presence would've explained how Steppenwolf's return was prevented for thousands of years before Superman arrived.

In the finished film it seems Steppenwolf is back specifically because Superman died - but what about those thousands of years before he arrived on Earth? It'd have made more sense if in fact Steppenwolf had been kept at bay by Lanterns until now.

The Green Lantern could've been locked up most of the film, maybe started communicating with Cyborg part way through?, but freed just ahead of the final fight, joining the League to take down Steppenwolf. Don't think it quite works (probably steals focus from Superman's return) so maybe he could have arrived at the start, reaching out to Batman and Wonder Woman?

I dunno, I kind of feel like there was and wasn't room for a Green Lantern here. I'm less confident of WB getting a standalone Lanterns film right, I guess. Though with Snyder gone & Geoff Johns apparently taking more control, hopefully at least the fundamentals would be right. I'd definitely want extra League members for Justice League 2, a Lantern, probably Shazam, I guess. WB really need to get more female/POC heroes kickstarted.

Getting the right personnel in for Justice League 2 is going to be CRUCIAL. The DCEU has been almost uniformly (Wonder Woman aside, and even that was by no means perfect) appallingly written, that is a MUST to be fixed.

I'd certainly be more confident of Justice League 2 being better directed as long as it's not Whedon. Frankly, they should probably just give it to Patty Jenkins, but not sure how schedules between WW2 & JL2 would fit, so who knows?

To end - I'm massively conscious this comes across as a very negative review. It isn't meant to be, I actually loved it (7/10 maybe?), and would happily see it again. Most of its major problems are ones taken forward from its predecessors & which it resolves.

Saturday, 29 April 2017


Series 3, Episode 11/13: 1 x 45min episode, 16th June 2007, Writer: Russell T. Davies, Director: Graeme Harper, Producer: Phil Collinson, Executive Producers: Russell T. Davies & Julie Gardner
James Wood@face_4radio As an 8 year old nothing could be more exciting than this episode. Perfection and perhaps the best of the series!

The TARDIS arrives in Cardiff for a pit stop...

And as the Doctor explains rift energy to Martha...

A familiar figure runs towards the TARDIS...
50dw50@50dw50 absolutely no way this can be matched with the end or Torchwood season 1. It really implies the tardis lands in the hub, with all the papers blown about ect

The Doctor admits that the earthquake in Cardiff not so long ago was "a bit of trouble with the Slitheen," but to him it was "a long time ago. Lifetimes. I was a different man back then."

The Doctor clearly clocks Jack, even if Martha doesn't, and is obviously in a hurry to avoid him.
Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Would like to see Captain Jack return one day, think he'd work really well with the 12th Doctor! :-)

Jack isn't going to give up that easily, though, and makes a desperate lunge to keep in touch with the departing TARDIS.

The TARDIS goes to some extreme lengths in its' attempts to shake him off, careering further and further into the future.

"We're going to the end of the universe!"

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Well, he's had everyone else, now he's dry humping the TARDIS.
Darth Marenghi@DarthMarenghi The titles should have ended on this iconic moment, I think. You don't need to see the Futurekind yet.

Completely agree - it seems designed to do that, but then clunks to the Futurekind. I actually blame Harper for that.

At the end of the universe, feral humanoids - the Futurekind -  can smell something coming: Humans...!

And only now do we get the titles.

The Futurekind hunt one of the last remaining humans, Padra Shafe Cane.
Chris@KosmicKris Love the way they get straight to the meat here. One of the things I love about Utopia is the pace!

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Agreed. On first viewing this felt important. The pace is electrifying.

James Wood@face_4radio its pure adrenaline with real moments of sophistication. Russell T Davies was a genius!

Chris@KosmicKris it felt like they packed so much into the 45 mins!

The chase is monitored by kindly old duffer, Professor Yana, and his assistant Chantho.

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly I'll get this out of the way now. I love every atom of Jacobi's performance. Adorable, tragic and sinister. Superb.

Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer When watching originally, I thought he might be a future incarnation of the Doctor. And then we get the reveal at the end!

Darth Marenghi@DarthMarenghi Jacobi has such a lovingly Hartnellian air as Prof Yana. Brilliant touch from Russell. Also a telling insight into the Master's psyche that when his memory is wiped, the identity he picks is his best friend's.

Great point, that, think it gets overlooked - Yana is a disguise, a deliberate creation, not *just* an amensiac Master. i.e. it isn't even true that he has amnesia, really. "Being found as a child..." etc. is not true, even if Titan comics were slow on the uptake and took it literally.

Yana prefers his tea without Chantho's internal milk...
Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Future Daily Mail headline: Prime Minister drunk alien's internal milk in previous incarnation!

50dw50@50dw50 Chan hmmm actually feeling sick now Tho.

Yana, backed up by Chantho, assures the humans' leader, Atillo, that his work just needs some fine tuning.

Yana has a pounding headache. Sure he'll be fine.

Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Wonder if Jacobi would ever do Big Finish as the Master/Yana? 

I always thought this wouldn't work - otherwise Tennant would recognise Jacobi, surely?

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Make it an 8th Doctor story. That guy's always losing his memory.

Yana is roused when the scanner detects something new arriving...

Of course, it's the TARDIS, and aboard the Doctor seems genuinely unsure about being this far in the future ("Not even the Time Lords came this far")... 

...for about half a second!

As soon as they're outside, Martha is startled to find their hanger on...

...but the Doctor seems to know already that he'll be fine. 

Sure enough, Jack's back!
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly He's genuinely disturbed by Jack; a really interesting idea that's beautifully explored later.

No sooner has Jack drawn breath than he's flirting with Martha. 

The Doctor's having none of it. "Oh, don't start!"

Jack knows exactly who he is, even though he's regenerated.
"Have you had a haircut?"
"You can talk!"

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly So... no punch in the face for abandoning him on Satellite whatsit?

Jack is overjoyed to learn that Rose is alive, albeit trapped in another dimension.
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly More happy that she's trapped in another Universe, I reckon. Know I was.

Jack explains that when he time jumped from Satellite Five he arrived on Earth in 1869 and has been living on Earth ever since, waiting for the Doctor to come back to Cardiff any time after the events of The Parting of the Ways (or Boomtown at least).

The Doctor's keen to put Jack's "Space Hopper" of a Vortex Manipulator in its place, far down the pecking order from his "Sports Car" of a TARDIS.

Martha worries that she might one day share Jack's fate. "Is that what happens, though, seriously? Do you just get bored with us one day and disappear?"

When Jack touches a raw nerve about the Doctor preferring blondes, the Time Lord accuses his companions of "blogging". Nowt wrong with blogging, mate. 
Chris@KosmicKris Tennant was rather dark in this story - agreeably so!

The planet appears to be home to a conglomeration...

They're so far in the future that all but the last few stars have burned and gone out.

The friends are suddenly drawn into the human hunt.
50dw50@50dw50 i bet Martha wishes she had a long coat so her coat tails could have flapped around impressively when she ran too!

They (literally) bump into Padra, who urges them to head for "the Silo".

Jack tries to scare off the Futurekind with his gun, but only shoots skywards after a stern warning from the Doctor.

The friends must show their teeth to prove they're not Futurekind to get into the compound.
50dw50@50dw50 i had forgotten that bit, fangs for the memory.
Chris@KosmicKris the beautiful sunny Cardiff intro combines so effectively with the dark, claustrophobia of the future! Brilliant designing!

The Chieftain taunts the compound guards, telling them that the Futurekind are watching... and they are hungry...

When news of the arrivals spreads, Professor Yana is overjoyed to hear that one of the newcomers is a scientist, and rushes to meet them.

A Blue Peter winner helps reunite families at the end of time. Gold badge for that. 
50dw50@50dw50 scary to think he will be grown up now!

The Doctor hopes to be reunited with someone he's missing: "It looks like a box, a big blue box. I'm sorry, but I really need it back. It's stuck out there."

As the party make their way through the huddled masses of refugees, the Doctor can't hide his admiration for the survival instincts of the human race.

"Indomitable! That's the word..." 

It's a happy reunion for the Shafe Cane family. Nice one, Blue Peter!
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Exactly why is Jack not allowed to flirt? The Doctor's got some nerve cock blocking like that.

The humans are building a rocket; headed for Utopia.

Yana arrives, and after some initial confusion as to which of the motley crew is the scientist, he hauls the Doctor off to his lab. It's "good", apparently.

Unfortunately, security measures at the compound aren't everything they're cracked up to be, and at least one of the Futurekind has slipped through the teeth check...

Martha strikes up a charming friendship with the wonderfully polite and shy Chantho.

Of course, Jack's straight in with the moves like Jagger, so the Doctor once again has to warn him to cool his jets.

As Yana shows the Doctor round his fantastical workshop...

...Martha finds Jack's "Doctor detector".
50dw50@50dw50 it is a special friend that carries your severed hand around with him.

Martha is understandably a bit taken aback as the Doctor regales her with the tale of how he lost his hand on Christmas Day... and grew it back.

Like the Doctor, Chantho is the last of her species, a survivor of the Malmooth, and the only remaining native of this planet, Malcassairo.

It's feared that the "Beastie Boys" are what humanity will become unless they can reach Utopia.

As Yana explains the plan to send the last humans off to utopia in his gravity-footprint-propelled rocket...

...his pounding headache returns - and doesn't go unnoticed.
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly "The drumming, Doctor. Ringo's drumming. Terrible."

Chris@KosmicKris Tennant and Jacobi really do play off each other beautifully: in a very natural way! Jacobi is magnificent in this!

50dw50@50dw50 i always think Jacobi looks slightly drunk in it.

 He certainly plays it with a healthy amount of disconnect ;) which absolutely suits the role.

The Doctor provides the answer to the footprint's problems... the Professor can finally send humanity to Utopia!

The disembarkation begins...

...but the Futurekind hang back furtively, the humans blissfully unaware that the base has already been infiltrated, by the sharp-toothed woman we saw earlier.

"All passengers prepare for immediate boarding!"

Blue Peter tells Martha his mum used to say the sky was filled with diamonds. Lucy, her name was.

Everything seems to be going according to plan. Y'know, apart from the Futurekind infiltrator.

The Doctor gives credit where it's due and lauds the Professor's genius in getting a rocket off the ground with spaghetti and paperclips.

The Doctor has sussed that the footprint system only works if the Professor stays behind to operate it.

But there's good news on the way, and a way out, as a certain blue box has been found and brought into the compound...

Yana feels like someone's walked over his grave when he sees the TARDIS. 
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Maybe at this point I started getting the spine-tingling feeling something monumental was gonna happen.
Chris@KosmicKris definitely, by now I thought we were in the middle of something a bit special!
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly I think I'd guessed who Yana was at this point, but it did nothing to lessen the impact.

"It's just a headache. It's just, just noise inside my head, Doctor. Constant noise inside my head. It's the sound of drums. More and more, as though it's getting closer. I've had it all my life. Every waking hour. Still, no rest for the wicked..."

Martha persuades Chantho to live a little by doing some naughty swears (that is, saying any sentence that isn't preceded by "Chan" and followed by "Tho")!

Such a charming little scene that really makes you take Chantho to your heart. RTD, you cruel, cruel genius.

All that's left to do is attach the last couplings while Yana manages the radiation levels from his lab.

As long as no one buggers up the power lines it'll all be fine.

See, when the Beastie Boys get going, though, it's inevitable there'll be Sabotage...

The radiation levels rise past safe levels and the poor technician is toast.

Jack steps in to jump start the override to stop the whole compound going up.

Yana is downcast. "Without the couplings, the engines will never start. It was all for nothing..."

But once again, Jack's back. If anyone can repair the damage despite the radiation, it's the death-proof man.

The Doctor packs Atillo off to the rocket as he and Jack prepare to trip the system.

Jack is all ready to strip down to his birthday suit, so the Doctor has to hurriedly point out that stet radiation won't affect clothing, just flesh.

Jack asks him how long he's known about his immortality. "Ever since I ran away from you."

Martha tells Yana that the Doctor travels in time and that the blue box is a TARDIS. "The sports car of time travel, he says."

For me, it's when Martha's "TARDIS" begins to echo round Yana's head that we get that extra gear. Solid gold from here on in.
Chris@KosmicKris Some of the best 15 minutes of any era of Who coming up!

Cameron Yarde Jnr@CameronYardeJnr The last 15 minutes of Utopia is the most exciting moment in new Who. Glorious!

Voices begin to echo in Yana's head. "TARDIS... Daleks... Time Lords..." 
Chris@KosmicKris Graeme Harper is surely the best director we've had in the Whoniverse? The pacing on this is brilliant!

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly His NuWho work didn't really stand out until this ep. Then I thought "yep, this is the genius who made Caves."

As he gets to work, Jack describes how he first discovered his special talent. "Earth, 1892. Got in a fight in Ellis Island. A man shot me through the heart. Then I woke up."

The Doctor tries to put into words his unease at Jack's staying power. "It's not easy even just looking at you, Jack, because you're wrong. You are. I can't help it. I'm a Time Lord. It's instinct. It's in my guts. You're a fixed point in time and space. You're a fact. That's never meant to happen. Even the TARDIS reacted against you, tried to shake you off. Flew all the way to the end of the universe just to get rid of you."

Jack likens this to prejudice, which the Doctor has to concede. "I never thought of it like that."

Back in the lab, Martha and Chantho fail to notice the effect on Yana as Jack describes his memory of being exterminated by Daleks.

The Doctor tells him it was Rose that resurrected him. "Everything she did was so human. She brought you back to life but she couldn't control it. She brought you back forever. That's something, I suppose. The final act of the Time War was life."

The Doctor relates how Rose is now trapped on a parallel Earth. Jack lived through all that time again but didn't dare approach Rose for fear of damaging the timelines. He muses that there must be a second him out there too, and perhaps he could go and find himself.

"Well, you're the only man you're ever going to be happy with." 

"This new regeneration, it's kind of cheeky!" 

Yana is in floods of tears now. "Time travel! They say there was time travel back in the old days. I never believed..."

"But what would I know? Stupid old man. Never could keep time. Always late, always lost. Even this thing never worked."

Then that chill down your spine. The watch.

Martha recognises what it is straight away, the Doctor's recent run-in with a chameleon arch fresh in her mind.
50dw50@50dw50 it is a lovely build up and despite all the rumours remained uber exciting!
James Wood@face_4radio Yana's speech about the Silver Devastation paints pictures with words. Brilliant writing!

He tells Martha he's never felt inclined to open it as it's broken.

Martha's fears are confirmed when he slowly turns it over, revealing the Gallifreyan markings.
50dw50@50dw50 such a brilliant moment, just loved it.

Martha pretends nothing wrong as she rushes away, an exit that in itself makes Yana all the more curious about his old watch...

Jack's work is complete, so the Doctor gives the word for the countdown to Utopia to begin.

Martha tries to tell him about the watch but the Doctor is too busy thrilling at his success in getting the rocket off the ground.

Is the Doctor's refusal to believe Yana could be a Time-Lord because deep down he suspects there'd only be one other who would have survived?

As he turns the watch over in his hand, and in his mind...

...Yana hears voices from the past.
Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Nice effective way of using classic clips/voices, without going over the top and confusing new fans!
Chris@KosmicKris When I first saw this (gloriously unspoilt) I was on the ceiling at this point!
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly This ranks up there with the finest moments in TV history. Just a brilliant, nerve shredding piece of work.

It's far, far too late. Yana's attention is focused on the watch, the perception filter stripped away.

From within the watch Yana hears the sound of a Time Lord's voice; HIS voice: "The drums, the drums, the drums, the never ending drumbeat. Open me, you human fool. Open the light and summon me and receive my majesty."

Remember what the Face of Boe said?

 James Wood@face_4radio is it me or is this Murray Gold's best score?

The Human Nature stuff and the Gallifrey theme from The Sound of Drums are his absolute best for me, but he (ahem) masterfully ramps up the tension here.
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 Proper hairs on the back of the neck moment Number 1!!
Nicholas Hancock@onenickhancock scene!!!
Chris@KosmicKris It's just brilliant isn't it? I'm breathless watching it - and I know what happens!
Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly God, this sequence has lost none of its power. Writing, directing, acting, music, editing all coming together. Perfect.
Chris@KosmicKris From doddery old man to chilling, merciless killer - Jacobi was stunning here!
Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Nice contrast between Yana and the Master. :-)

Yes, astounding work from Jacobi, all in the eyes. Cold and dead.

The Doctor is relieved to hear that the rocket got away alright, but his joy is short lived as the door slides shut, locking them in the control room.

"Not to worry, my dear," smooths Yana, "As one door closes, another must open." He's letting in the Futurekind!

Jack manages to fiddle a way out of the control room, and the Doctor races to Yana's lab without a second thought.

Chantho pleads with Yana to stop his sabotage, going as far as to point a gun at him. 

"Ohhhh, now I can say I was provoked!"

He begins to blame her for never releasing him...

"Chan-Professor, please..." 
"That is NOT my name! The Professor was an invention. So perfect a disguise that I forgot who I am." 

"Chan-then who are you-tho?"

"I... am... the Master!" 

And with that, he electrocutes the luckless Chantho.
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 Hairs on the back of your neck moment Number 2!! "I am the Master!!!"

Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Despite all the rumours, etc. at the time, this was a real OMG moment! And still is. :-)

A sad bum note there, for me. Just that bit too hammy, needed another take.

50dw50@50dw50 it is the wrong side of OTT

Chris@KosmicKris I'll give them a pass on this - because the rest of it is so electric ;)

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Poor cow. I mean, poor insect.

Oh dear, here come the Futurekind, sniffing out the only humans left on Malcassairo, Martha and Jack.

"The Professor" has really landed on his feet, awaking to have the Doctor's hand in his grasp.

The Doctor hammers on the door, begging the Professor not to open the watch.

Yana removes a circuit board from the gravitational field navigation system, and sneers. "Utopia!"

As the Master prepares to do a runner in the Doctor's TARDIS, his old arrogance leads him to overlook that Chantho's still alive, and pointing a gun at him.

Chantho gets off her shot, before dying...

...and the Doctor arrives just too late. A look passes between the two Time Lords; recognition at last.

... as the mortally wounded Master slips inside the TARDIS and deadlocks the door.

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Pity this Master doesn't get a proper face off with the Doctor before he gets his face... off.

The Doctor is desperate now. "I'm begging you. Everything's changed! It's only the two of us! We're the only ones left! Just let me in!"

"Killed by an insect, a girl! How inappropriate!"

"But if the Doctor can be young and strong, then so can I..."

Nowt as exciting in Doctor Who as a regeneration... 
Jason McLaughlin@jangomac72 Quite a scary regeneration with Jacobi and Simm's combined scream.

The Doctor is powerless as his old foe becomes a new man...

...and Jack struggles to hold back the Futurekind.

Here's the NEW Master (John Simm)! 

As he triumphantly races around the control room, it seems the new Master is a manic and dark reflection of the 10th Doctor himself!
James Wood@face_4radio John Simm is actually fantastic here but like the rest of this three parter soon goes downhill.

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly Should've kept the costume. Looks like a kid wearing Dad's clothes.

The Master likes the sound of his own (new) voice, and hits a switch to speak to his old frenemy...

Oddly enough, it's a voice that rings a bell with Martha.

"Why don't we stop and have a nice little chat while I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me? I don't think!" Seems like the new Master has no intention of making all the old mistakes... 

"I'm asking you really properly. Just stop. Just think!"
"Use my name."

"Master. I'm sorry."

In a last ditch attempt to prevent the Master's escape, the Doctor knackers the TARDIS' directional  controls.

But with that, the new Master steals the TARDIS...

...leaving the Doctor and his friends stranded...

...and at the mercy of the Futurekind...

...with no means of escape. Get out of that one! 

Now THAT is a cliffhanger!
Chris@KosmicKris This was magnificent from Harper, RTD and the actors - stunning!

Simon Threadgold@dimwittedly I jumped out of my chair when I heard Delgado. I was hopping from one foot to another for the rest of the ep.

Darth Marenghi@DarthMarenghi Human Nature to this may well be the best four weeks of Doctor Who ever!

John Mark Frankland@JMFrankland It was thrilling watching it for the first time, and its done extremely well; everyone has upped their game...But once you know who Yana is for sure, I find its impact lessens on each viewing. But that's just stupid old me...

It can never quite repeat the first time not knowing for sure, but I think its' genius is the way that slowly and inescapably all the pieces fall into place with an almost doom-laden inevitability.

Chris@KosmicKris It's great to see that there is so much love for it! The finale gets some stick, but it has to live up to this!

Simon Pittman@LibraryPlayer Think the finale is when Time War starts being baggage, as they have to kill Master to keep status quo!

Well, at the risk of getting ahead of ourselves for The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords... 

I actually wouldn't have killed the Master off *at all* - I think that was a total mistake. I'd've just had him get away in a helicopter at the end, much like the end of the Sea Devils.

I had a whole redux of that story worked out at one point that I should get around to blogging one day: The Master was responsible for Jack's missing 2 years, the Toclafane would have actually been the Futurekind, and at the end the Master would eventually have had to help the Doctor defeat his treacherous allies, Axos-style. At the end we'd have had the "dead" Master wearing a rubber mask, as the real deal waves from a helicopter, taking off from the Valiant. Or something like that!


Coming Soon: The Sound of Drums