Doctor Who Flatline Review

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Flatline

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Flatline (4)

Strange alien creatures from another dimension, unknown even to the Doctor, are stalking a Bristol council estate and horrifically flattening their victims into the walls. When the TARDIS begins to shrink, trapping the Doctor inside, Clara must continue investigating without him. Separated from the Doctor, Clara uncovers a terrifying menace from a 2D dimension, entities that are breaking through into our reality. But how can you hide from a multi-dimensional enemy when even the walls cannot protect you? With people depending on her and the Doctor trapped, Clara must face a horror that exists beyond all human perception…

Flatline, the ninth episode of series eight, is written by Jamie Matheson (who also wrote Mummy on the Orient Express) and Directed by Line of Duty’s Douglas Mackinnon (Listen & Time Heist). This dark, menacing, and visually imaginative episode sees the Doctor and Clara confronted with the most uncanny aliens they’ve ever faced. Flatline really challenges the Doctor, he’s never encountered anything like this before, while Clara must take charge of the situation and find a way to deal with the multi-dimensional entities terrorising the estate – and the Doctor’s dimensionally transcendental predicament means he can’t help her.

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Instead of returning Clara home the Doctor finds the TARDIS has materialised in Bristol. When forces begin leaching at external dimensions of the TARDIS, causing the time machine to shrink with the Doctor still inside, Clara has to take over. Using a special earpiece so the Doctor can follow events via her optic nerve, Clara essentially becomes the Doctor’s eyes and ears, with the TARDIS in her handbag, the psychic paper, and the sonic screwdriver at her disposal. Clara befriends graffiti artist Rigsy (Big School’s Joivan Wade), who is doing community service in the area, and learns about the mural in a pedestrian tunnel for the people that have gone missing.

Peter Capaldi is on fine form as the 12th Doctor in Flatline. It always makes for an interesting story when the Doctor is slightly in the dark about what’s going on, and with the Time Lord stuck inside the TARDIS for the majority of the episode he becomes completely reliant on Clara’s “Doctor Oswald” – which leads to some great banter between them when their roles effectively become reversed for the duration of this adventure. Jenna Coleman is also excellent in this episode as Clara, who is teamed with Joivan Wade‘s graffiti artist Rigsy in Flatline, and they both prove their worth against the dimensionally transcendental foes.

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In a brilliantly spooky scene, Clara and Rigsy visit the home of Mr Heath, the first reported disappearance, where PC Forest (Jessica Hayles) becomes the entities next victim. Trapped in the same room where PC Forest’s nervous system is now imprinted on the wall, things are complicated even further when Clara receives an impromptu phone call from Danny (Samuel Anderson) as she’s trying to escape with Rigsy before the creatures can reach them. It also become apparent to the Doctor that Clara has been lying to him about Danny being ok with her continued adventures in the TARDIS, something the Time Lord is quick to point out to her.

The Doctor believes the forces dragging people into the walls are conducting experiments on their victims, testing, and dissecting them in order to better understand the three dimensions of our reality. When the entities start emerging from the mural in the pedestrian tunnel, wearing grotesque images of the people they’ve killed as camouflage, Clara, Rigsy, and the survivors from the council work party, Fenton (Auf Wiedersehen, Pet star Christopher Fairbank), Al (former Casualty actor Matt Bardock), and George (Raj Bajaj), flee to a train repair yard where the Doctor attempts to communicate with the aliens, but they are attacked again and forced to use the old disused Brunswick Line to escape.

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This isn’t the first time the TARDIS has been affected by strange dimensional forces. In the 1964 story, Planet of the Giants, the 1st Doctor and his companions, along with the TARDIS, were all miniaturised to the size of an inch. The 2nd Doctor and Jamie had to evacuate the TARDIS in The Wheel in Space (1968) when a malfunction in the fluid link forced the Doctor to remove the Time Vector Generator, a special rod that makes the TARDIS dimensionally transcendental, which then caused the TARDIS interior to shrink rapidly. Mirroring the 12th Doctor’s predicament in Flatline, the TARDIS also shrank with the 4th Doctor still inside it in Logopolis (1981), when the calculations to fix the Chameleon Circuit were maliciously altered by the Master.

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The monsters in Flatline are the Boneless, creatures that exist beyond the normal range of human perception, they are also able to shrink the exterior dimensions of the TARDIS and drain the time machines energy supplies. These bizarre multi-dimensional beings, so strange they even confuse the TARDIS, exist in the walls and can turn somehow humans into static two dimensional images, which they then use to emerge into our reality as horrifying three dimensional caricatures of their victims. I thought the special effects used here for the Boneless were utterly superb, the way the creatures moved was so inhuman, and I really liked how the story didn’t reveal everything about them – ensuring they remain chillingly mysterious and unexplained.

Finding their escape routes in the train tunnels have been flattened into two dimensions, things don’t look good for Clara and the others, especially when the creatures become three dimensional beings and begin hunting them down. The Doctor manages to provide Clara and her companions with a device to restore dimensions to get past one of the flattened doors, but in the confusion the miniature TARDIS gets accidentally knocked down a shaft, where it lands on another railway line. Using a brilliant “Adams Family” style plan to get the TARDIS clear of the oncoming train, the Doctor places the TARDIS into siege mode. After stopping the train and using it to ram the entities to buy them some more time, Clara and her friends, now joined by train driver Bill (James Quinn), must find a way to defeat this intangible menace. But with the Boneless closing in and life support failing inside the TARDIS, time is running out for them and the Doctor.

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I really liked how Clara devised a plan with Rigsy to strike back at the Boneless by using his artwork, she manages to turn their enemies energies against them while also providing the TARDIS the energy it needs to return to its normal size. Peter Capaldi is superb during the final confrontation between the Doctor and the Boneless, Capaldi’s speech as he deals with these monsters is absolutely riveting, and sends shivers down the spine.

Flatline is another great story from Jamie Matheson, and he creates a really intriguing and highly original menace for this exciting episode. Even though Flatline is a Doctor-lite episode, Matheson has cleverly structured the plot around this, and the result, with Clara taking on the Doctor’s role, works really well. There are some very intense and scary scenes in Flatline, especially when the killer graffiti comes to life, and the impeccable Direction by Douglas Mackinnon keeps the action and suspense building at a cracking pace. With his innovative style, excellent pacing, and superb use of special effects, Douglas Mackinnon’s work on this eighth series of Doctor Who has been exceptional, and I sincerely hope he Directs more episodes in the future.

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Flatline was a really, tense, and exciting episode. Featuring excellent performances from Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, together with a good supporting cast of characters, and frightening monsters, Flatline is a real highlight of the eighth series. The stories conclusion was a little bit rushed, but overall I found Flatline to be a highly enjoyable adventure, and the coda with the mysterious Missy (Michelle Gomez) hinted that she’s has been keeping a very close eye on Clara indeed…

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Doctor Who Mummy On The Orient Express Review

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Mummy on the Orient Express

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

MOTOE (1)

The Doctor and Clara are travelling on the most beautiful train in history, the fabled Orient Express, but this is a train thundering across the stars on a voyage in the distant future – and a fearsome creature on board has begun killing the passengers. Once the helpless victim sees the terrifying Mummy they only have 66 seconds to live, there is no escape, and no reprieve. As the Doctor races against time to defeat this undead enemy, the train becomes stranded in space. Clara has seen the Doctor at his most ruthless and her now mind is made up, even if the Doctor figures out how to stop the Mummy, this will be their last adventure…

Mummy on the Orient Express sees the Doctor and Clara embark on their most dangerous adventure yet, in this exciting story written by Jamie Matheson (Being Human and Dirk Gently), and Directed by Paul Wilmhurst (Kill The Moon). The dark, menacing tone of series eight continues unabated, in this eighth episode, as the Doctor’s and Clara’s interstellar journey on the Orient Express, a faithful recreation of the original train travelling along hyperspace rails, where the Mummy has already killed Mrs Pitt (Janet Henfrey), and the passengers remain oblivious to its presence. Another death quickly follows and the Doctor’s little grey cells are soon called upon to solve the seemingly impossible mystery of the ghostly Mummy as it relentlessly stalks the train and its specially chosen passengers in search of its next terrified victim.

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Jamie Matheson has crafted a wonderfully dark and macabre story, one that sublimely melds horror and sci-fi, to deliver a thrilling mystery with an uncanny supernatural twist. Set on a futuristic recreation of the Orient Express, the original setting of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express, the Doctor and Clara soon find themselves embroiled in all the mystery, intrigue, and mayhem on board.

Knowing this trip will be their last hurrah, the Doctor and Clara are intent on enjoying their final adventure. Some time has passed since Clara’s outburst at the end of Kill the Moon. As they observe the majesty of the Magellan Black Hole with the other passengers, she explains to the Doctor that she doesn’t hate him, but she cannot continue to travel like this anymore. This beautiful scene conveys just how much their friendship means to them, despite their recent differences, with Clara’s “sad smile” speaking volumes as they seem to reach a poignant understanding here. After meeting the late Mrs Pitt’s distraught granddaughter, Maisie (Daisy Beaumont), the Doctor and Clara learn more from Captain Quell (David Bamber) about the elderly Mrs Pitt’s death and the Mummy. When the Doctor and Clara wind up exploring the train separately, the Time Lord enlists the help of chief engineer Perkins (Frank Skinner) and discusses the five thousand year old story of The Foretold and the mythical Mummy with Professor Moorehouse (Christopher Villers), while Clara and Maisie become trapped in a baggage car with a strange high-tech sarcophagus.

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Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor doesn’t seem quite as fiercely intense during Mummy on the Orient Express, at times its almost like he’s challenging the essence of the 4th Doctor, highlighting the Doctor’s distinct alien qualities and manic eccentricities, and he even offers Professor Moorhouse a jelly baby at one point. Capaldi’s Doctor still dominates every scene he’s in and this episode once again showcases how unpredictable the 12th incarnation can be, but this time we also gain a startling insight into the Doctor’s reasoning for decisions that sometimes have to be made – especially when there are only bad choices and you still have to choose anyway.

After the Mummy strikes again the Doctor realises most of the passengers are scientific experts that have probably been gathered here by a being of tremendous power to study something. Following his announcement the train suddenly shudders to a halt and the hard light hologram façade of their carriage is transformed into a laboratory. The trains computer, Gus (John Sessions), explains that have been brought here to study the Foretold – along with the ancient scroll that somehow makes the Mummy appear in the immediate vicinity – informing them they must assess and contain the creature before it kills them so that its abilities can be reversed engineered.

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Mummy on the Orient Express features an impressive guest cast: Frank Skinner is great as chief engineer Perkins, then we have the brilliant David Bamber as Captain Quell, along with Daisy Beaumont who plays distraught granddaughter Maisie, with Christopher Villers (Hugh Fitzwilliam from 1983’s 5th Doctor story The King‘s Demons) as Professor Moorhouse, the elderly Mrs Pitt is played by Janet Henfrey (Miss Hardaker in 1989‘s The Curse of Fenric), and the singer / songwriter Foexs performs a cover of Queen‘s Don’t Stop Me Now. As well as David Bamber‘s excellent performance as Captain Quell, I also thought Frank Skinner was really good as Perkins, and it was great to see the chief engineer and the 12th Doctor working together to solve the mystery of the Foretold in so many of the episodes most dramatic moments.

When the Doctor discovers the Foretold is drawn its victims weaknesses, targeting their illness or psychological state, it becomes apparent the creature moves them out of phase and leeches their energies away on a cellular level. Knowing that it’s likely Maisie will be next because of her trauma the Doctor gets Clara to bring Maisie to them, despite Clara’s reservations about lying to Maisie, and the Time Lord then takes the risk of implanting Masie’s mental issues into his own mind – effectively making him the Mummy’s next target so he can confront it. This isn’t the first time a Mummy has appeared in Doctor Who, the 4th Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith were menaced by lumbering servicer robots disguised as Mummies in Pyramids of Mars (1975), and the 11th Doctor fought against a Mummy-like creature in The Rings of Akhaten (2013). When the 12th Doctor is finally face to face with the Foretold in Mummy on the Orient Express, he asks it: “Are you my mummy?”, echoing the chilling words of the resurrected gas masked child in The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005) as it searched the streets of London for its mother during the blitz.

Doctor Who MOTOE (Mummy)

The Mummy / Foretold (Jamie Hill) has a very unique and disquieting way of dispatching the passengers. Once this ethereal horror has clapped eyes on it victim, they only have 66 seconds to live, and nothing can save them from the Mummy’s wrath. This in no shambling terror that can be easily outrun. The fact that the Mummy can only be seen by those who are about to die make it seem even more threatening, and the way that it closes in on its horrified victim while everyone else is oblivious to their plight is brilliant. When the Doctor glimpses markings on the Foretold’s body he realises the scroll is actually a flag and the Foretold is really an ancient soldier from a long forgotten war that has become trapped by the malfunctioning technology that gives it advanced camouflage and teleportation abilities. Mummy on the Orient Express presents us with a creature that is grotesque, unstoppable, and utterly terrifying. The special effects are superb, the Mummy’s abilities are ghoulishly horrible, and it’s certainly one this seasons most memorable monsters.

Jenna Coleman’s character has undergone something of a reinvention over the course of series eight. We’ve seen Clara balancing her adventures with the Doctor and her life as a teacher at Coal Hill School; she’s also found romance with Maths teacher, and former-soldier, Danny Pink. However, everything was thrown into chaos when Danny and Courtney found out about the Doctor in The Caretaker, and when Clara was forced into making a life-changing decision to save the Earth in Kill the Moon her faith in the Doctor began to crumble.

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Mummy on the Orient Express is another great episode for Clara. What began as her final adventure quickly becomes a situation that puts her danger again, and she angrily confronts the Doctor when he coerces her into brining Maisie to the lab and realises that Gus must’ve known about the Time Lord because of the force field around the TARDIS. After the Doctor manages to stop the Foretold by surrendering to it, the creature salutes him before it disintegrates, whereby Gus begins to expel the air from the carriage as the passengers have outlived their usefulness – leaving the Doctor only moments to rig a teleporter from the Foretold’s remains to save them.

The intriguing mystery of Gus and the unknown force that lured the Doctor and the other passengers to the train remains unresolved for now, although the Doctor does tell Clara that it has contracted him before, even phoning the TARDIS on one occasion – which probably refers to a call the 11th Doctor received in The Big Bang (2010).

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Afterwards when Clara regains conspicuousness on a nearby planet, the Doctor sits with her and explains how they escaped from the train as they mull over recent events and the choices the Time Lord has had to make. I really like the ambiguity surrounding the Doctor’s explanation about how they escaped from the Orient Express, which exploded after the Doctor attempted to hack into Gus to find out about the mysterious force that brought everyone to the train, and this magical discussion with Clara certainly gives us plenty to ponder over.

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor offers Perkins the chance to stay and maintain the time machines systems, but the engineer politely declines and bids them farewell. After Clara receives a phone call from Danny (Samuel Anderson), who believes this is her last adventure with the Time Lord, but the Impossible Girl makes a momentous decision after the call, one that results in her lying to Danny and the Doctor, when she decides to continue travelling with the Doctor. I don’t think any of us really believed that Clara’s adventures with the Doctor would end during Mummy on the Orient Express, however, after the way she likens the Doctor’s adventures to an addiction, it does make you wonder if the choice she that makes here might eventually come back to haunt her.

Doctor Who MOTOE (Dr Clara)

Mummy on the Orient Express is another fine addition to this eighth series, the story by Jamie Matheson is tense and exciting, and Director Paul Wilmhurst keeps the episode rattling along at a cracking pace. Peter Capaldi continues to impress on every level as the 12th Doctor, and Jenna Coleman gives another great performance as Clara. With its great sets, impressive guest cast, excellent special effects, and claustrophobic atmosphere this episode a real highlight of the season. There is a distinctly classic series feel about Mummy on the Orient Express, which also really plays to this episodes strengths, and the closing scenes between the Doctor and Clara also provides a deeply moving and emotional coda to this excellent episode.

Images Belong BBC

Batman #35 Review

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Batman #35

Review by Paul Bowler

A new chapter in the Dark Knight’s legacy begins in Batman #35, as writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo brings us their most epic story to date: Batman Endgame. With a mysterious gas attack right in the heart of Gotham City, a new base of operations and his oldest friends having seemingly turned against him, Batman must use the most extreme countermeasures of all… Together with its vast cast of characters and major life-changing events, Batman Endgame will challenge the Dark Knight’s resolve like never before – this is the story that could end him…

Following their reinterpretation of Batman’s origin with Zero Year, the critically acclaimed creative team of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo bring us Batman Endgame, the story to end all Batman stories. Batman #35’s new story arc brings the series back to the present, where Batman Endgame is set during timeframe of the events and continuity that will be established after the conclusion of DC’s weekly series, Batman Eternal. Batman Endgame is Scott Snyders and Greg Capullos big story event for Batmans 75th anniversary, and they’ve crafted their deadliest and most exciting adventure yet to celebrate this momentous landmark for the Dark Knight.

Batman #35 (Cover)

Batman #35, with its opulently crafted prologue and quick flash forward, gives us plenty to ponder over before Batman Endgame Part 1 begins in earnest in the present. With its subtle references to Zero Year and The Court of Owls, we rejoin Batman following a run in with the Scarecrow, where Scott Snyder quickly establishes a new set-up: Alfred is well on the road to recovery, its good to see his daughter, Julia, is still around too, and we also find that Bruce has moved into a new high-tech base in a very familiar part of the city.

From here Batman #35 hit’s the ground running and the excitement doesn’t let up for a moment! If anything, the no-holds-barred smack down that takes up the bulk of this issue is so well thought out, and so ingeniously clever, that you’ll be left thinking half way through the issue about how the hell Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo going to top this? That’s just in the first few pages, and you won’t have even finished the issue yet. Suffice it to say, this is a battle like no other you’ve ever seen before, and it makes you wonder what other contingence plans the Dark Knight might have secretly prepared for.

Greg Capullo’s art for Batman #35 is as breathtaking as ever, from the beautiful crafted opening, with stunning aerial views of Gotham, followed by a quick look round the new base of operations, Capullo throws us into the midst of Batman’s battle royal with the Justice League – and it’s a fight that will quite simply blow you away! Greg Capullo has gone all out for Batman’s slugfest with the Justice League, the action is fast and brutal, the “Justice Buster” suit is magnificent, and the way it functioned in this issue was brilliant. The inks by Danny Miki bring added texture and energy to every page, the scenes in the theatre look amazing, and the action feels even more intense with Miki’s excellent ink wok. FCO Plascencia’s colors enrich every page, with vivid hues for the aforementioned early glimpse of the theatre, through to the clinical opaqueness of the new base, and the battle with the Justice League sees FCO’s colors mirror each Leaguer’s abilities perfectly.

Batman #35 also features a backup story, The Pale Man, and the way this links into the main story arc of Endgame is ingeniously done, written by James Tynion IV, with fantastic art by Kelly Jones, and colors by Michelle Madsen, this dark tale follows the escape of five inmates from Arkham. Doctor Zaheer gets some late night visitors on her return home from Arkham Manor, tortured souls who each have a story they must divulge. The Pale Man is a frightening glimpse beyond the veil madness, James Tynion IV weaves a macabre web of intrigue here, which together with Kelly Jone’s art, creates a brooding atmosphere of gothic horror. A masterfully structured tale, it will be fascinating to see how these events will tie-in to the main arc of Endgame.

Its clear that from the outset that the landscape of and tone Batman Endgame is influenced and woven into the shared fabric the current bat-titles, while also drawing on elements established throughout Snyder’s and Capullo’s run; and Snyder ensures that everything knits seamlessly together in a way that’s easily accessible to new readers as well. Batman Endgame gets of to a great start with this issue, setting the groundwork for this epic to unfold, and delivering one hell of a shock ending that will catch you completely off guard. Batman #35 is the start of something really special; Snyder and Capullo have excelled themselves once again with this issue, and with its surprise ending Batman Endgame looks set to be one of their best stories ever!

 

Doctor Who Kill The Moon Review

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Kill the Moon

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Kill the Moon (4)

After Courtney Woods figured out the Doctor’s secret in The Caretaker, the Time Lord finally grants the Coal Hill School pupil another opportunity to travel in the TARDIS when he offers Courtney the chance to visit the Moon in the future – despite Clara’s reservations. When the TARDIS arrives in 2049 the Doctor, Clara, and Courtney find themselves on a recycled NASA space shuttle with a crew on a suicide mission to blow up the Moon. The shuttle crash lands on the lunar surface, where they discover a derelict mining base full of corpses smothered in webbing. With horrible spider-like creatures scurrying in the darkness, a frightening dilemma must be faced, but when Clara needs the Doctor’s help the most her faith in the Time Lord is severely tested, leaving her wondering if this man she’s trusted so implicitly is really the hero she believed him to be…

Kill the Moon continues the darker, more mysterious tone of series eight, in this exciting seventh episode, from Peter Harness the writer of BBC One’s Wallander and the channels forthcoming adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, this story transports us to a time where the Moon has become a deadly threat to the Earth. Our nearest neighbour has changed somehow, growing denser, the effect on Earth has been devastating, and giant tidal surges threaten to wash away all of civilisation on the planet. Directed by Paul Wilmhurst (Whose many credits include Silent Witness, Law and Order UK, Strike Back, and DaVinci’s Demons) Kill The Moon is an incredibly tense and darkly atmospheric episode where what began as a straightforward trip into the future to allow Courtney to visit Earth’s satellite suddenly becomes an all-out battle for the survival of the human race.

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From its adrenaline fuelled opening, as the space shuttle crash lands on the Moon, the Doctor, Clara, and Courtney are thrown into an uneasy alliance with the ships crew. The base, with its sinister webbed interior and gruesome dead bodies, heightens the tension even further as they explore and something ominous begins to stir in the shadows. Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman have built up a brilliant chemistry between the Doctor and Clara, the Time Lord’s friendship with his companion is brought into even sharper focus in Kill the Moon, especially when his actions during this episode give her real cause for concern about her future with the Doctor. Ellis George delivers another impressive performance as Courtney Woods, the Doctor’s newest travelling companion, and her first proper adventure in the TARDIS certainly opens Courtney’s eyes to the sights the universe has to offer – but she also discovers just how dangerous the Doctor’s and Clara’s adventures can become.

After learning the grisly fate of the Mexican crew of the mining base, the Doctor, Clara, Courtney and Lundvik become cornered by one of the creatures inside the base. When trying to evade the spider, Courtney is momentarily separated from the others and uses the antibacterial spray she had in the TARDIS to kill the vicious arachnid. Unnerved by her experience, Courtney wants to go home. The Doctor begrudgingly takes Courtney back to the TARDIS, where she passes the time by posting pictures of the Doctor on Tumblr. However, when Clara suggests to the Doctor they should leave as well because she’s been to the future and knows the Moon isn‘t destroyed, the Time Lord gravely reminds her there are some moments in time that even he cannot see – and this is one such grey area that whatever happens to the Moon hasn’t been decided yet.

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The human astronauts are led by Captain Lundvik, played by Hermione Norris (Spooks, Cold Feet, Wire in the Blood, and In the Club), who together with her team: Duke (Tony Osoba, who also appeared as Lan in the 1979 story Destiny of the Daleks, and Kracauer in 1987’s Dragonfire), Henry (Phill Nice), and McKean (Christopher Dane), are determined to complete their mission and destroy the moon using the shuttles payload of nuclear bombs. Even though the Moon is threatening all life on Earth, when the Doctor discovers the secret within the satellites interior it brings him into conflict with Lundvik and Clara. When Courtney decides she wants to help the Doctor instructs her to use a special DVD that will bring the TARDIS to the mining base. As the surface of the Moon starts to break up the horrifying spider creatures swarm to the surface. The Doctor knows the time has come for him to depart in the TARDIS, leaving Clara, Courtney and Lundvik to make this momentous decision alone, even though his actions place them all in terrible danger.

The Moon has been a popular setting for many of the Doctor’s adventures, the second Doctor battled the Cybermen in The Moonbase (1967) and the Ice Warriors in The Seeds of Death (1969), the 3rd Doctor was sent to a penal colony on the Moon in Frontier in Space (1973), and in Smith and Jones (2007) the 10th Doctor and Martha Jones were transported (along with the Royal Hope Hospital) to the lunar surface where they faced the Judoon and a hungry Plasmavore. The production team returned to the scene of an old adventure to film Kill the Moon, travelling to Lanzarote, where the 5th Doctor story Planet of Fire was filmed in 1983, where the island featured as itself and also doubled for the volcanic plant of Sarn. Kill the Moon makes good used of this location, the stark volcanic landscape provides a really effective double for the lunar surface, and the finished result is seamlessly blended with visual effects to create some amazing scenery for the story.

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The Doctor also uses a yo-yo to test the local gravity during this story, something the 4th Doctor did on the Nerva space station in The Ark in Space (1975), and he also practiced tricks with one in The Brain of Morbius (1976). Clara’s instance that she knows the Moon isn’t destroyed in the future mirrors a similar quandary raised by Sarah Jane Smith in The Pyramids of Mars (1975), where the journalist is certain Sutekh didn’t destroy the world in 1911 because she’s from 1980, and the 4th Doctor shows her an alternative time where Sutekh has in fact destroyed the world to illustrate why they can’t just leave in the TARDIS.

The spiders in Kill the Moon are a really creepy and menacing. For the most part they actually keep to the shadows, emanating an unsettling clicking sound as they stalk their prey, before suddenly leaping out to attack. After Courtney manages to kill one the Doctor examines the Prokaryotic Unicellular Life form, and when the Time Lord discovers traces of amniotic fluid on the lunar surface, his suspicions are later verified by a scan of the Moon’s interior. The spiders are like a kind of bacteria, and they’ve been living on a much the larger creature that’s been growing and evolving inside the Moon itself. The Moon isn‘t just breaking up, it’s actually hatching, the Moon is a gigantic egg and a new life form is about to be born into the universe.

Doctor Who Kill the Moon (3)

Clara faces a life-changing situation to make for all humanity when it seems like the Doctor has abandoned them. With Lundvik’s help, Clara manages to send a message to Earth, one that is broadcast worldwide, where she asks everyone on the planet to help them decide – by either turning their lights to off destroy the Moon with the nuclear bombs or keep them on to allow the creature to hatch and survive. When they see the lights go out around the world, Lundvik arms the bombs, but Clara stops the countdown at the last moment. The Doctor returns and takes them back to Earth in the TARDIS, where they witness the Moon break up as the beautiful winged creature emerges – leaving something very special behind for the Earth as it flies off into the depths of space.

The Doctor knew this was a decision that only humanity could make, he couldn’t do it for them, and he was sure Clara would make the right choice in the end. From this point onwards, during the mid 21st century, the events of this day would inspire humanity to reach out to the stars, and they would ultimately set out to explore the universe. After returning Courtney to school, the Doctor is ready to set of on another adventure, but Clara brings the TARDIS to a halt and angrily confronts the Time Lord about what happened. Jenna Coleman is absolutely terrific in this scene, Clara’s furious diatribe even catches the Doctor off guard, and after she’s stormed out of the TARDIS it doesn’t take Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) long to figure out what’s happened and offer his advise as he knows all too well what she’s going through because of his experiences in the army.

The Doctor’s reasoning for leaving Clara, Courtney and Lundvik on the Moon, telling them it’s their choice, is quite unlike anything we’ve seen the Time Lord do before in this kind of situation. Kill the Moon highlights just how alien and detached this 12th incarnation can be. Peter Capaldi is magnificent in this episode and the Time Lord’s actions here are sure to have long lasting repercussions for the rest of series eight.

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Kill the Moon is a dark, thrilling, and emotional roller coaster ride of an episode from Peter Harness. Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Ellis George all deliver brilliant performances in this episode, they make a great team, which makes the resolution of the crisis at the heart of this adventure seem all the more bitter sweet as a result. Paul Wilmhurst’s excellent direction masterfully builds the tension and suspense during the first half of the episode. The dark and sinister atmosphere is heightened even further when the spiders emerge, the Doctor’s and Clara’s friendship is tested to breaking point, and Wilmhurst keeps piling on the shocks and scares right up until the climatic final scenes that will leave you wondering where the Doctor and Clara can go from here.

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Bullet Gal #4 Review

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Bullet Gal #4

Review by Paul Bowler

Bullet Gal #4 is the latest issue in the IF? Commix book series from Australian author Andrez Bergen, writer of the superhero noir-themed detective novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? , and the IF ? Commix book series Tales to Admonish. With the recent release of his new novel, Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth and the graphic novel Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, the latest issue of Japan based writer Andrez Bergens IF? Commix book series, Bullet Gal #4, will be published in print form in October 2014 in Australia.

Bullet Gal is the popular character that has featured in many of Andrez Bergens previous works, this new ongoing prequel series has introduced us to Mizi, the trigger-happy teen armed with two polished nickel, pearl-handled Star 9mm revolvers, who has travelled to Heropa to embark on her personal battle against organised crime. Mizi’s actions brought her to the attention of Lee, a mysterious cape (Super-Powered type), and Mizi later accepted his offer to begin training so she could join The Crime Crusaders Crew.

However, with her appetite for wanton destruction and a double-shot strong espresso, Mizi’s war against crime has affected the rackets of vicious gang leader Sol, who then sent his personal assassin and lover, French femme fatale Brigit, to spy on Bullet Gal while they conspire to destroy her. But when Mitzi discovered Lee actually had seven identical doppelgangers, a sniper called the Big Game Hunter struck as Mitzi confronted Lee in the apartment, a shot rang out, and now Bullet Gal must deal with the aftermath this fateful shooting. With her enemies closing in, Mitzi finally uncovers the truth about the Lee, and soon our heroine will have to decide if she will continue to fly solo or choose another path…

Bullet Gal #4 (Cover)

Bullet Gal #4 begins with a shocking tragedy for Mizi, as the real target of Big Game Hunter’s bullet is revealed. It’s a defining moment for Mizi and the series itself, one that ruthlessly dashes our preconceptions, to deliver an audacious twist that few could have expected. Death to the Eighth Degree is a dark, emotional, trek into the clandestine machinations of Bergin’s intricately structured universe, as the ominous rain-swept metropolis of Heropa begins to divulge its secrets in this, Bullet Gal’s darkest hour.

Mizi has witnessed death many times, but this rocks her to the core, so when Mizi encounters another of Lee’s doppelganger’s after the harrowing funeral, she finally gets to vent her anger at being deceived. These scenes in the bar, where Mizi, fuelled by half a dozen glasses of Bollinger, confronts this new dead ringer for Lee (one of the remaining 7 doubles) is a heartfelt mixture of pent up fury and sorrow as Lee explains the stark reality of the subdivision that created both him and his fellow duplicates – along with the individual quirks and personalities of each persona. While this version may not be “her” Lee, he actually seems closer to Mizi’s temperament than his predecessor, possessing a droll demeanour and dry sense of humour, and the way that she sums up the differences between the duplicates is bang on the money.

With its compelling story and art by Andrez Bergen, this issue of Bullet Gal is one of the most emotionally charged instalments to date. Bergen’s distinctive artistic style is really brought to the fore here, as he builds the noir-infused atmosphere within a richly textured a mix of photomontage, painting, and digital techniques: from the aftermath of a bullets trajectory through a window, we feel the heartbreak of a punch line lost on a dying breath, to the bleakness of a funeral, and a bittersweet revelation in a back street bar, Bullet Gal #4’s mesmerising blend of noir crime caper and wry sci-fi punk is utterly sublime.

Bullet Gal #4 features a number of added extras: including a terrific Bullet Gal pin up page from Italian artist Giovanni Ballati, the Bullet Gal story All Fur Coat no Knickers (Written by Andrez Bergen & with art by Matt Kyme) originally presented in Tales To Admonish #2, the poster for the graphic novel Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, a feature on one of the Lee’s dressed as Major Patriot, and another fun instalment of Dejavu At the Neon Bullpen.

Events move at a brisk pace in this issue, as Mizi discovers the truth about Lee, and has to face the most difficult decision of her life. Everything she’s trained for is about to come to fruition, new allies are found, while old enemies are ready to strike, its time for Mizi to accept her destiny, the question is, will she accept the offer that‘s on the table? Bullet Gal #4 is a stunningly crafted and excellent new issue from Andrez Bergens IF? Commix book series. The world Bergen has created here is dark and enticing; making it an uncanny fusion of storyline and art, and this lavish noir style adventure continues to draw us ever further into the shadowy world of Heropa and its fascinating cast of characters.

 

Bullet Gal #4, is published in print form in October 2014 in Australia, along with the digital version, and available direct from the IF? Commix website.

FIND OUT MORE FROM IF? COMMIX VIA THEIR SITE:

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American Vampire Second Cycle #5 Review

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American Vampire Second Cycle #5

Review by Paul Bowler

The California Gold Rush saw thousands migrate west in hope of striking it rich. One poor unfortunate miner’s quest to make his fortune uncovers a horror unbound in Nevada, at a mining operation, where something ancient and evil has awakened. The miner’s journal survived, passing through many hands over the generations until it finally came into the possession of a Mr Gene Bunting, the west coast bookkeeper of the Vassalas of the Morningstar, the ancient clandestine organisation dedicated to the destruction of all manner of dark abominations. Now in 1954 Gene Bunting’s desire to uncover the truth behind the story held within those dusty linen pages of the journal has brought him to the Nevada desert, where untold horrors await at the Royal Forkes drift claim…

American Vampire #5 is a one-shot story in this critically acclaimed Vertigo series written by #1 New York Times best-selling writer Scott Snyder, featuring brilliant artwork from rising star Matias Bergara, that brings us ever closer to the mystery of the ancient evil that reunited Pearl Jones and Skinner Sweet to face the menace of the mysterious Grey Trader. Ever since Skinner recalled his terrifying experience about what happened to him and the bus of vampire refugees to Pearl in American Vampire Second Cycle #3, where Skinner described how he managed to escape from the hellish depths of an old mine shaft, the mystery and lurking dread of this moment has lingered unexplained, until now in American Vampire Second Cycle #5, as the sinister legacy of the event that chilled even Skinner Sweet to the bone is finally revealed.

American Vampire Second Cycle #5 (Cover)

The Miner’s Journal is a wonderfully dark and macabre story by Scott Snyder. Even though it’s classed as a one-shot story, this untold tale offers a new insight into the events we’ve already seen in Second Cycle, and the way Snyder weaves this issues story into the ongoing narrative of the series and its characters is fiendishly clever. Gene Bunting’s trek into the Nevada desert in search of the old mining project, the Royal Forkes drift claim mentioned in the pages on the journal he has acquired, takes him to a lonely gas station, where an old woman gives him directions, until Bunting finally arrives at the site to begin his search. I really like how we also learn how the journal has taken its own journey, heightening the brooding air of menace even further, while Snyder keeps us hanging on every word as the pages turn and history divulges its dark secrets.

Indeed, the story within the journal itself is exquisitely macabre, beginning with the blind optimism of youth and friendship, before hope gradually melts away, and the creeping horror of the situation begins to sink in. Dodger and Seb are beautiful written characters, even though we glean only scant knowledge about them, Scott Synder makes them seem totally real and believable, so as the final pages of the journal unfold you not only feel that you know them, you’ve completely invested every ounce of your imagination to their horrendous fate.

The art by Matias Bergara for this one-shot issue of American Vampire Second Cycle is excellent, which together with David McCaig intricate colors and letters by Steve Wands, ensures this issue is one that you will want to read and enjoy many times over simply to savour the intricacies of the story that Snyder has so masterfully constructed. From its bleak opening moments in the desert, where you’d swear you can almost hear the dusty wind billowing around the creaky rundown gas station, to the beautifully crafted pages of the ancient journal, and right through to Bunting’s descent to the cavernous depths of Royal Forkes, Matias Bergara’s art is stunning and he captures the tone and style of Snyder’s and Albuquerque’s vampire series perfectly.

With its gorgeous cover by Rafael Albuquerque, spellbinding half prose story and art from Snyder and Bergara, American Vampire Second Cycle #5 is a master class in horror, frightening, intense, and utterly compelling from beginning to end, brilliant!

 

Doctor Who The Caretaker Review

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The Caretaker

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

The Caretaker (10)

Clara is just about managing to keep her life under control, with her job at Coal Hill School, her adventures in time and space; a new boyfriend, and the Doctor, things are all ticking along nicely. However, when the Doctor needs to go undercover in Coal Hill School as its new Caretaker, things get decidedly complicate for Clara. With strange events happening near the school, the entire world is soon at risk as the terrifying Skovox Blitzer prepares to wipe out all humanity, and if that wasn’t enough for the Impossible Girl to deal with Clara’s well organised world is suddenly thrown into complete turmoil when Danny Pink finally meets the Doctor…

Coal Hill School takes centre stage in The Caretaker, the sixth episode of series eight, co-written by Gareth Roberts and Steven Moffat, and directed by Paul Murphy (Robot of Sherwood). The school played a prominent role in the very first episode of Doctor Who in 1963; it was revisited by the 7th Doctor in Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), before featuring in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor (2013), and again most recently in the 2014 eighth series episodes Into the Dalek and Listen. Gareth Roberts has written several Doctor Who stories: including The Shakespeare Code (2007), The Unicorn and the Wasp (2008), the Lodger (2010), and Closing time (2011), Roberts has also written many episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures (co-writing the pilot episode Invasion of the Bane with Russell T Davies) and co-wrote the second story in the Doctor Who series of specials in 2009, The Planet of the Dead (also with Russell T Davies). The Caretaker has some similarities with The Lodger, from Matt Smith’s first season, when the 11th Doctor moved into Craig Owens flat to defeat a hidden alien menace, where the Doctor’s attempts to blend also were far from successful.

The Caretaker (5)

The Caretaker sees the Doctor taking a new job as Coal Hill School’s new Caretaker, Mr John Smith (A popular alias used by many of the Doctor’s incarnations over the course of the series, and first used by the 2nd Doctor in the 1968 story The Wheel in Space), much to Clara’s horror, and soon the grouchy old Time Lord is causing all sorts of problems for her when he moves the TARDIS into the Caretaker’s storeroom at the school to investigate a new threat facing the Earth. Peter Capaldi has some brilliant comedic moments as the Doctor in this episode, its great fun to see his grumpy and impatient incarnation of the Time Lord trying to get on with his mission, but he soon finds that “boring little humans” and everyday life at Coal Hill School have a way of upsetting his carefully mapped plans to defeat the Skovox Blitzer.

With an increasingly exasperated Clara trying to stop her life imploding around her, matters are complicated even further when events draw Coal Hill pupil Courtney (Ellis George) into the fray. We first saw Courtney momentarily in Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, in The Caretaker we get to know her a bit more, she turns out to be something of a kindred spirit for the Doctor, and she can be every bit as blunt and direct to the point is the Coal Hill’s cantankerous new caretaker.

The Caretaker (4)

Clara Oswald is busy living two completely separate lives, having exciting adventures with Doctor one moment, before returning to her life as a teacher at Coal Hill School, while also dating ex-soldier turned maths teacher, Danny Pink. So, when the Doctor postpones Clara’s next adventure because he’s busy with something else, she’s far from impressed when the Doctor later walks into the staff room at Coal Hill School and introduces himself as the new Caretaker. While a Police CSO (Nigel Betts) investigates a disturbance in a nearby abandoned building, only to discover something extremely nasty hiding in the shadows, the Doctor instigates his plan to scan for the alien technology that is threatening the planet. Meanwhile, Clara’s frenetic attempts to keep the Doctor from meeting Danny ultimately prove unsuccessful, and results with a series of misunderstanding between all three of them.

Series eight has shown that although Clara still travels with the Doctor, she‘s still very much a control freak, insisting the Time Lord returns her to her own time moments after she left so that she doesn’t miss out on events happening in her own life. However, its becoming increasingly difficult for Clara to balance her normal life with her time travelling adventures, things start getting really chaotic in The Caretaker with the Doctor working at the school, especially now that shes also dating ex-soldier Danny as well. Having set up a circle of time mines around the school to deal with the alien threat, the scan reveals the Skovox Blitzer’s location, and the Doctor finally explains to Clara how he will use a special watch that can make him invisible to lure the machine creature back to the school where the Chronodyne Generators will drag it into time vortex – sending the Skovox Blitzer billions of years into the future. But when Danny finds some of the devices and accidentally deactivates them, the Doctor’s plan only manages to send the Skovox Blitzer three days into the future – leaving Clara with some serious explaining to do now that Danny knows about the Doctor and the TARDIS, and Clara’s mortified when Danny initially believes she’s an alien and that the Doctor is her space dad!

The Caretaker (7)

Samuel Anderson also returns as Danny Pink in The Caretaker, and with all the strange happenings at the school it’s not long before Danny figures out what’s been going on. So, when the one thing that Clara has worked so hard to avoid finally happens, naturally all hell breaks loose as Danny Pink meets the Doctor for the first time. The Doctor is very rude to Danny, particularly after he discovers Danny’s a former-soldier, something the Time Lord has voiced reservations about since his regeneration, and this episode goes some way to addressing the Doctor’s stance on this issue – which has seemed somewhat at odds with the character especially considering his past friendship with UNIT and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. There’s a magnificent scene where Danny uses the Doctor’s watch to make himself invisible to observe the Doctor when he’s with Clara, but when the Time Lord notices Danny a furious argument breaks out between them inside the TARDIS – one that offers us an entirely new perspective on the Doctor’s relationship with his companions when Danny compares the Time Lord’s attitude to that of a military officer.

The Skovox Blitzer (Jimmy (Vee) is one of the most deadly and efficient killing machines ever constructed, its ruthlessly efficient, following its programming to the letter, and has hidden itself near Coal Hill School as it prepares to bring about the destruction of all humanity. The Doctor states the Skovox Blitzer homed in on this location because of the high concentration of atron emissions that have accumulated in and around this area over the years, probably due to its special connection with the Time Lord’s many adventures, and that it has enough explosive firepower in its armoury to take out the entire planet.

The Caretaker (8)

When the Skovox Blitzer reappears earlier than expected during Coal Hill School’s parents evening, the Doctor has to act quickly or everyone will be killed. With Clara acting as a decoy to draw the Skovox Blitzer to the storeroom, and with Danny’s timely intervention to distract it, the Doctor is finally able to shut the lethal machine down before it self-destructs. As the Doctor sends the deactivated Skovox Blitzer into space and welcomes a newfound friend to the TARDIS, Clara and Danny reach a mutual understanding about her adventures with the Time Lord, and somewhere in space and time a new arrival reaches the Promised Land.

The Caretaker is a fun, action-packed story from Gareth Robert’s and Steven Moffat. Peter Capaldi is really making the role of the 12th Doctor his own now, and he seems equally at home playing the lighter, more comedic elements as he does with the darker aspects of the Time Lord’s character. There are some great scenes for Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson as well, especially when Clara and Danny team up with the Doctor against the Skovox Blitzer, and director Paul Murphy strikes a perfect balance between the humours moments and fast-paced action sequences.

The Caretaker also features a coda where the Police CSO killed by the Skovox Blitzer finds himself in minimalist office situated in vast white corridor, where he’s greeted by the a sinister man, Seb (Chris Addison). When asked, Seb tell him this place has a number of names: heaven, afterlife, the Promised Land, and the Nethersphere. Missy (Michelle Gomez) enters the corridor from another door, but she says nothing and walks away. It would seem she is too busy to see the latest arrival to her realm, and as he looks out of the window, the Police CSO is visibly shaken by what he sees. This unsettling scene continues to build upon the mystery surrounding this uncanny Mary-Poppin’s like character, presenting us with even more tantalising questions about what she’s up to, and this time her demeanour is darkly sever and far from welcoming.

The Caretaker (1)

Although the threat of the Skovox Blitzer is resolved a little simplistically, its alien technology still presents a very unusual menace for the Doctor and Clara to battle. The Caretaker really puts Clara’s friendship with the Doctor to the test, which provides lots of fun moments throughout the episode, especially when the Doctor gatecrashes one of her lessons and later mistakenly thinks Adrian (Edward Harrison) is Clara’s boyfriend because he looks similar to the 11th Doctor and wears a bow-tie. However, now that Danny has met the Doctor, and with Courtney also discovering the Time Lords secret, it looks like Clara’s delicately balanced double-life as school teacher and time traveller is about to become even more hectic than ever before.

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Doctor Who Time Heist Review

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Time Heist

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Time Heist (1)

Presented with a task he cannot refuse, the Doctor becomes a bank robber, and brings together a team of talented criminals to rob the most dangerous bank in the galaxy. With the help of a mutant shape shifter and computer-enhanced human, the Doctor and Clara must find a way to get past the advanced security within the Bank of Karabraxos, controlled by the villainous Ms Delphox, where the Doctor and his team soon encounter the Teller: a fearsome telepathic creature of unimaginable power that can detect guilt…

Time Heist plunges the Doctor and Clara into an adventure where time travel and bank heist collide in this fifth episode of series eight, co-written by Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat. Having brought us The Curse of the Black Spot (2011) and Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Stephen Thompson latest offering is an exciting high-concept adventure that combines Doctor Who with Ocean’s 11 and a hint of Mission Impossible, as the Doctor and his team attempt to beak into the most highly guarded bank in the cosmos.

Doctor Who Time Heist (8)

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are once more on great form in this episode as the Doctor visits Clara while she’s getting ready for a date with Danny, when a surprise phone call to the TARDIS suddenly finds them awakening on another world – their memories erased by memory worms (creatures first seen in the 2012 Christmas Special: The Snowmen). The Doctor and Clara have little choice but to accept their mission from the mysterious Architect to rob the Bank of Karabraxos, together with their fellow team members: the beautiful shape-shifter Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) and cyber-augmented computer hacker Psi (Jonathan Bailey).

All movement on this planet is monitored, even the air is regulated. The Bank of Karabraxos also has the ultimate security system, the terrifying mind-reading alien: The Teller. The Doctor and his team have some protection from the creatures power because their memories have been wiped, but with no idea how to carry out the heist they‘ve been hired to perform, they must rely on a series of briefcases left by the Architect to guide them. Once the Doctor and his team manage to get into the Deposit Booth, their presence is detected, putting the mission and their lives in jeopardy. The ruthless head of security at the bank, Ms Delphox (Keeley Hawes), is determined to stop the Doctor’s gang and keep the impregnable banks secrets and its reputation secure.

Doctor Who Time Heist (10)

Time Heist is an involving and action-packed story from writer Stephen Thompson. The clever use of time travel to rob a bank is really inspired, complex, exciting, and with a fascinating central premise, the real highlight of Time Heist is seeing the Doctor working with a team of professional criminals to break into the Bank of Karabraxos. The scene where Psi attempt to distract the Teller features the hacker accessing a colourful array of computerised mug shots: where we see a Teripletil (originally seen in the 1982 story the Visitation), a Slitheen (aliens that have featured in a number of new Doctor Who and Sarah Jane Adventures), a Sensorite (last seen 1964‘s The Sensorites), Androvax and the Trickster (both from the Sara Jane Adventures), Captain John Heart (James Masters) who appeared in Torchwood’s second season, an Ice Warrior of the same design seen in Cold War (2013), the Gunslinger from A Town Called Mercy (2012), and Absalom Daak (the Dalek Killer) a popular character from the Doctor Who comic strips.

Capaldi’s 12th Doctor is at his grouchy, disagreeable best in Time Heist, he’s far less user-friendly than his predecessor, and seems almost frustrated at times by his team’s inability to keep up with him – which makes him that little bit more dangerous and unpredictable. Pippa Bennett-Warner is great as the shape-shifter Saibra, she even gets to impersonate Clara at one point, and Jonathan Bailey is also really good as computer wiz-kid Psi. The scene were Psi brings the Doctor to task about his “professional detachment” is another superb moment. Jenna Coleman also has plenty to do in Time Heist, she’s an integral part of the Doctor’s team, and because their memories get erased it leads to really some fun banter between them during the episode.

Doctor Who Time Heist (9)

Using a dimensional shift bomb the Doctor and his fellow bank robbers descend to the service level, where they uncover the horrific fate of those who have dared to cheat the bank. With security closing in, the teams escape route inadvertently leads them into frightening encounters with the Teller, where first Saibra, and then later once Ms Delphox has unleashed the Teller to track them down, Psi, valiantly sacrifice themselves using the exit strategy provided for them by the Architect. After this deadly game of cat and mouse with the Teller, a solar storm begins battering the planet, allowing the Doctor and Clara the chance they need to finally break into the vault and use the code from the last case to find the things that their team most wanted to find in all the universe.

Keely Hawes gives a brilliant performances as Ms Delphox, the wickedly evil head of security at the Bank of Karabraxos, with her deadly golden armoured guards and icy-cool charm, she makes a perfect adversary for the Doctor. The way Mrs Delphox deals with a customer who is trying to swindle the bank is quite horrific, and she’s prepared to do whatever it takes to stop the Doctor his and team from reaching the vault.

Doctor Who Time Heist (5)

After trying to locate the contents of the Private Vault the Doctor and Clara are captured and Ms Delphox orders her guards to dispose of them. The guards are actually Saibra and Psi in disguise; it seems the disintegrator “exit strategy” devices given to them by the Architect were really teleports to a ship hidden in orbit. The Doctor gives them the items they found in the vault as payment for their mission, Saibra has the gene suppressant antidote she wanted to cure her mutation and Psi receives the neophyte circuit to restore his memories.

With the solar storm sweeping the planet, the Doctor and his allies gain access to the Private Vault, where the Director of the Bank is revealed as Madame Karabraxos. She has used numerous clones of herself to control her own security, of which Mrs Delphox was just one of many, and it quickly becomes apparent that Madame Karabraxos has no qualms about “firing”, quite literally, any clones that fail her. A sudden flash of inspiration inspires the Doctor to give Madame Karabraxos the phone number for the TARDIS on a scrap of paper as she gathers her valuables, revealing he is a time traveller, before asking her to call him should she ever have any regrets as she departs. The Teller arrives and the Doctor willingly allows the creature to scan his mind, unblocking his memories, revealing the Doctor was really the Architect and shows the Time Lord how he set up the whole heist and planted all of the cases to enable his team to reach their goal.

Doctor Who Time Heist (3)

The Teller (Ross Mullan) is an alien being whose telepathic powers have been subverted and slaved to Ms Delphox’s will in order to provide the Bank of Karabraxos with the most ingenious and impregnable security system in the universe. This creature has awesome powers, and even the Doctor has never encountered anything quite like it before. The way it locks onto a persons mind to wipe it completely, feasting on their memories before turning their brain to “soup”, leaving them alive but in a state far worse than death, is very unsettling. We discover that the Teller is not the last of its kind as Ms Delphox claimed, and that the Doctor has orchestrated the entire heist to free another member of the Teller’s species, a female that’s been imprisoned in the Private Vault by Madame Karabraxos as a bargaining chip to ensure the Teller’s complete obedience to the Bank of Karabraxos. The Doctor helps both aliens and uses the TARDIS to take them to a planet where they can live together in peace and solitude, free from the mental traffic of the universe.

Doctor Who Time Heist (4)

Time Heist is a fast-paced Sci-Fi crime-caper from Stephen Thompson and Steven Moffat, the story makes great use of its diverse cast of characters, Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman are excellent as the Doctor and Clara, I really like how their characters interact with Saibra and Psi, lets hope they return to work with the Doctor again one day. It’s also ingenious how the phone call from the elderly Madame Karabraxos instigates the whole adventure, and the Doctor being jealous about Danny was priceless. Time Heist is the second story directed by Douglas Mackinnon for Peter Capaldi’s debut season, and just as he did with Listen, Mackinnon’s stylish use of striking and innovative visuals, together with the stunning CGI vistas featuring the bank, really enhances the story, capturing the heist vibe perfectly, to make Time Heist a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting adventure.

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Doctor Who Listen Review

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Listen

Review by Paul Bowler

[Contains Spoilers]

Doctor Who Listen (4)

Clara continues to balance her everyday life as a teacher with her time travelling adventures with the Doctor in the TARDIS. Now, with Clara off on her first date with former soldier-turned-teacher, Danny Pink, the Doctor is left wandering inside the TARDIS alone, lost deep in through as he travels through space and time. So, what is it that really scares the Last of the Time Lords, and what terrors are lurking under the bed? Ghosts from the past and the future begin to spill into the Doctor’s and Clara’s lives: the petrified Caretaker in a children’s home, the last man in the known universe afraid of a door that must never be opened, and the lonely child that doesn’t ever want to join the army. The Doctor and Clara must embark on their most frightening adventure yet, one that will take them to the darkest edge of the universe itself and beyond…

Listen takes this fourth episode of series eight well and truly back into the realm of darkness, in this chilling tale written by show runner Steven Moffat, and Directed by Douglas Mackinnon, whose previous directing credits on Doctor Who include The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky (2008), The Power of Three (2012) and Cold War (2013). Steven Moffat has brought us some of the new series most fearsome creations: the gasmask children from The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005), the terrifying Weeping Angels debuted in Blink (2007), the shadowy Vashta Nerada lurked in Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (2008), and the Silence warped perceptions to invade stealthily in The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (2011). Now he’s gone one step further, addressing possibly the most primal fear of all, the inimitable, creeping horror of what might really be there when we think we are alone, that unthinkable something that’s always secretly present, waiting to reach out and grab us from the shadows under the bed.

We join the Doctor as he ponders to himself in the TARDIS: “Why do we talk out loud, when we know we’re alone?” Peter Capaldi’s grave tone here as the Doctor speculates about the possibility of evolution spawning a creature that is always secretly with us but somehow remains unseen, instantly captivates the imagination and draws you into this episode. Here we see the Doctor alone with his own musings while Clara is away on her date night, but what does this more volatile incarnation do when he has no great menace or alien invasion to fight, alone and with only dark his thoughts for company, what is it that really frightens the Doctor?

Doctor Who Listern (6)

Clara finally gets to go out on her date with Danny in this episode. However, when the conversation moves to Danny’s time in the army, they inadvertently wind up offending each other, and when Clara returns home she’s soon off on her adventures with the Doctor in the TARDIS again. Although she’s initially sceptical about the Doctor’s theory that every living being has a silent companion, and that we’ve all shared the same nightmare, where we’ve woken up and thought there was something nasty under the bed, Clara eventually agrees to help. The Doctor gets Clara to use the TARDIS telepathic interface so that the time machine can extrapolate her time line and lock onto the same nightmare from her own childhood, but Clara’s thoughts drift back to Danny momentarily when her phone suddenly rings, causing the TARDIS to arrive instead outside a children’s home in Gloucester in the mid-90’s. The Doctor sets off to investigate alone, encountering a frightened Caretaker, Reg (Robert Goodman) along the way in a scene that also features the return of the psychic paper that was often used by the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors, while Clara goes to visit the young boy, Rupert Pink (Remi Goodin), who has just waved at her from his bedroom window.

Jenna Coleman continues to make Clara a hugely resourceful, intelligent, and really interesting character, especially now she’s teamed with Capaldi’s new Doctor, and her role in Listen become even more vital than either of them could’ve expected. When Clara meets Rupert Pink, the boy is frightened there’s something hiding under the bed, and she realises Rupert is really the young Danny Pink (he changed his name when he was older because he didn’t like it), they both hide under the bed in order to convince him there’s nothing there, but it soon becomes apparent they are not alone when an unseen entity rises from the bedspread. These scenes, where the Doctor arrives and gets them all to stand by the window and turn their back on the horror that must never be seen, is brilliantly directed by Douglas Mackinnon, the tension here is almost palpable. I think it’s ingenious how the Doctor handles this fearsome encounter, and the scene afterwards, where Clara places the toy soldiers under Rupert’s bed to guard it and he names the Colonel “Dan”, is another magical moment, one that inexorably links Clara’s time line with Danny Pink in the most sublime way imaginable.

In an attempt to right things with Danny, Clara gets the Doctor to return her to the restaurant moments after she stormed out, but just as her date goes pear shaped again for the second time in one night, a space suited figure walks in and beckons at her to return to the TARDIS. Believing it’s the Doctor (having seen his previous incarnation wear a similar space suit in the 2013 story Hide), Clara confronts the figure in the TARDIS, but this is not the Doctor, it’s a time travelling pioneer from one hundred years Clara’s future, Colonel Orson, the pilot of the first human time shot – who also happen to bear a striking resemblance to Danny Pink. The Doctor takes Clara and Orson back to the planet where the Time Lord found Orson stranded in his capsule, a world at the very end of time itself, where even though nobody even exists anymore Colonel Orson Pink always keeps the door locked to keep out the horrors that bang relentlessly on the hull at night.

Doctor Who Listen (2)

Samuel Anderson returns as Danny Pink in Listen, and the character has a lot more to do this time around. Although Danny remains a good source of humour, especially during his date with Clara, it’s good to see the character featuring in some of the episodes dramatic moments as well. Danny is inevitably drawn into the Doctor’s and Clara’s adventures in this story- albeit unwittingly because of the TARDIS homing in on various elements from of his own time line. Indeed, the former soldier is clearly smitten with Clara, something that’s sure to impact on Clara’s friendship with the Doctor, especially considering the Time Lord’s moral stance where it comes to soldiers travelling in the TARDIS are concerned. Listen is a great episode for Danny Pink: we learn more about Danny’s time as a soldier, travel back in time to meet Rupert Pink in the children’s home, and learn about the voyage of future descendant Colonel Orson Pink (also played by Anderson) who unavoidably becomes entwined with the Doctor’s quest to unravel a mystery at the very end of the universe.

The Doctor orders Clara and Orson into the TARDIS as he prepares to open the door and face what ever is outside. Orson presents Clara with a very special family heirloom before he rescues the Doctor and brings him back inside the TARDIS. With the Doctor incapacitated and the Cloister Bell tolling as the sinister forces outside try to get in, Clara uses the telepathic circuitry to fly the TARDIS to safety. Clara steps out of the TARDIS and finds they have materialised in a barn where a child is crying in a bed underneath the covers, the child is the young Doctor, and when Clara has to suddenly hide under the bed to avoid being seen she accidentally sets in motion a chain of events that will change the Doctor’s destiny forever.

Doctor Who Listen (3)

Steven Moffat has excelled himself with this episode, and the way these final scenes link into the 50th Anniversary special are simply stunning. From the moment we see a brief glimpse of the War Doctor (John Hurt) from The Day of the Doctor (2013), it becomes apparent that this barn from the Doctor’s childhood is also the same place he would one day revisit on the Last Day of the Time War to activate The Moment. The scene here as Clara sets the Doctor on his path in life, with its moving dialogue resonating beautifully with the origins of the series itself in the very first Doctor Who serial An Unearthly Child (1963), and the gift of a toy solider so brave it doesn’t need a gun to save the world is utterly brilliant and extremely moving.

Peter Capali and Jenna Coleman both give terrific performances in this episode. The dynamic between Cara and this darker, more unpredictable incarnation of the Doctor bring an added edge to their friendship. Clara isn’t afraid to stand up to him though, and the Doctor even threatens that she will never travel in the TARDIS with him again when she refuses to follow his orders at one point. He’s not someone that’s used to being told what to do, certainly not by his companion, so it is perhaps fitting then when this incarnation of the Time Lord that adamantly doesn’t do hugging, finally receives a well deserved hug from Clara at the stories resolution.

Doctor Who Listern (8)

Listen is a brilliantly crafted tale from Steven Moffat, one that draws its influences from a similar dark vein as Blink, playing to our most primal fears and anxieties – and there are some really exciting and fast-paced action sequences as well. It also cleverly explores the Doctor’s character in a very different way, while also delivering a very poignant message that actually turns out to be quite poetic. Peter Capaldi is magnificent in this episode, he brings so much to the role, and his 12th incarnation of the Doctor is quickly becoming one of my favourites. Dark, sinister, and with an exquisite timey wimey twist, the stories unsettling premise blends seamlessly with the striking visuals created by Director Douglas Mackinnon to make Listen a truly memorable episode. A blanket on a bed suddenly becomes the most terrifying monster of all, the TARDIS interior seems hauntingly cavernous, and the unseen terror knocking on the capsules door are just some of the many highlights amidst the plethora of creepy moments in Listen that are sure to have you checking under the bed tonight.

Don’t look round… Listen!!

Images Belong BBC

Batman Eternal #23 Review

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Batman Eternal #23

Review by Paul Bowler

Hush has returned to Gotham. He attacked Alfred in Wayne Manor, injecting a fear toxin directly into his brain. After discovering the Bat-Cave, Alfred’s daughter, Julia, must help Batman stop the Architect from destroying the Beacon Tower. With the newly appointed Commissioner Bard also corrupt, and secretly working with Hush, the evidence that could have proved Jim Gordon’s innocence has been destroyed. Now as the crime families vie for power, Catwoman’s secret past is finally revealed. The answers she seeks reside in Blackgate Penitentiary, where she must ultimately decide what her role in Gotham’s order of crime will be.

Batman Eternal #23 has a lot of ground to cover following the events of the last few issues, with the riot in Blackgate Penitentiary, Batman’s mission with Killer Croc and Bard in the sewers, Batwing and Jim Corrigan’s investigation at Arkham, and Batgirl’s quest to clear her fathers name, the action continues to unfold at a rapid pace as this weekly series shifts its focus towards Catwoman. With its intricately plotted storyline by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with script by Tim Seeley, and consulting writers Ray Fawkes, and Kyle Higgins, Batman Eternal #23 makes the most of its extensive cast of characters and locations as it draws together a number of ongoing plot threads and sets the stage for even bigger things to come.

When Catwoman interrupts the latest skirmish between Mr Ibanescue and Tiger Shark for control of Gotham’s black market, her attempt to rescue a snow leopard cub from the carnage at the east end train yards doesn’t go well. Unable to save the wounded leopard cub back at her apartment, Selina receives a surprise visit from Jade, Killer Croc’s young friend who fences supplies into Blackgate Penitentiary, and who now brings a message for Selina from an old friend.

Batman Eternal #23 Cover

Batman’s fight with the Architect, another associate of Hush, continues high atop the Beacon Tower. With Alfred hospitalised, the Dark Knight is now reliant on Penny-Two, Alfred’s daughter Julia to relay information to him from the Bat-Cave. Julia’s role is becoming increasingly vital to the Dark Knight, especially with Alfred out of action, and I like the dynamic that’s developing between her and Batman. As the showdown with the Architect reaches its climax, an earth shattering surprise awaits us, and its one that is sure to have big implications for Gotham’s future.

The majority of Batman Eternal #23 is cantered around Catwoman’s secret visit to Blackgate Penitentiary. With Jade’s help, Catwoman manages to gain access to the prison through a drainage pipe, where Rex Calabrese “The Lion” is waiting to meet her. After a furious exchange, where Catwoman’s past is brought into sharp focus, Rex reveals that Jade’s father was also a gangster, just like Selina’s… Rex knows that Gotham is in chaos without a kingpin to maintain the order, and is certain there is only one person who can now unite the families before they tear the city apart… I really like how this issue of Batman Eternal flows into the narrative of the events we saw in Batman 28, the special “spoiler issue” released mid-way through Zero Year, that showed how Catwoman would become the new Kingpin of Gotham City – and these scenes between Selina and Rex Calabrese in Batman Eternal #23 proved a nice precursor to these future events.

Dustin Nguyems artwork perfectly captures the dark, foreboding skyline of Gotham, from the brutality of the dogfight, to the griminess of Blackgate Penitentiary, and there is also get a brief interlude in the sewers with Killer Croc. The short scenes in Sliena’s apartment and those in the Bat-Cave with Julie, with their pristine interiors and high-tech gadgetry, highlight’s the oppressive presence of the city even further. Nguyem’s pencils bring a real sense of kinetic energy to the action, which together with Derek Fridolfs inks, and colorist John Kalisz, makes Batman Eternal #23 a darkly atmospheric and visually impressive issue, one that is epic in scale and packed with exciting character development to accentuate the big action sequences.

The return of Hush has brought an added sense of tension to main story arc in Batman Eternal. We also have Commissioner Bard’s betrayal, having already become close to Vicky Vale, the new commissioner is also in league with Hush, and continues to consolidate his position of power this issue by pressuring the Governor to declare marshal law in Gotham. With the crime war still escalating, Jim Gordon serving a life sentence in Blackgate Penitentiary, the ongoing haunting inside Arkham Asylum, together with the Nanovirus that’s been sweeping through the Narrows, and now the devastating attack on the Beacon Tower, the corrupt forces conspiring to destroy the Dark Knight and his allies are beginning to close in.

Batman Eternal #23 is another great issue; The Lioness is a multi-layered story, which, together with the dynamic artwork, continues to develop the ongoing plot in completely new and unexpected directions.

 

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