Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Anthropomorpheous, in the underworld

Orphée: A rewatch-- a surreal film which maps the Orpheus legend onto the tensions and politics of the arts scene in early-Fifties France. Slightly undermined by the ending, which got a little too self-congratulatory, but worth putting up with that for the rest of the movie.

Movie count for 2014: 69

Aptly named

Meet The Feebles: I'd heard this was a scatological and offensive but daringly funny cult movie. I'm fine with scatological and offensive, but I generally prefer it when it comes with an actual plot, and/or a point beyond just trying to be shocking for shocking's sake, neither of which this has.

Movie count for 2014: 68

Pointless Celebrities

Doctor Zhivago: Beautifully shot but ultimately frustrating film about the Russian Revolution, or, more accurately, about the events of the Russian Revolution passing Omar Sharif by as he tries to get it on with Julie Christie. Further enfrustrated by the periodic hints that the supporting characters are much more interesting people involved in much more interesting personal dramas, but enlivened by the fact that the ending has a subtle but definite pro-Communist message that the various awards committees seem to have missed.

Movie count for 2014: 67

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Revolution Will Be Novelized

Mockingjay, Part I: Fairly good adaptation of the first half of the novel, with some good messages for teens about propaganda, and about how the enemy of one's enemy is not necessarily one's friend. I was slightly taken out of the narrative because of recognising too many of the actors in it (Queen Margaery had a second career as a photojournalist, who knew?), and the cat pretty much stole every scene it was in, but that was all fairly tolerable.

Movie count for 2014: 66

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Skeletons: Surreal British drama-ish thing about two psychic investigators, sort of, who go around exposing the skeletons in people's closets, sort of, and who meet their nemesis when investigating a missing person. Sort of. It's all a bit hard to summarize, but it really is worth seeing.

Movie count for 2014: 65

The House in the Middle

Kiss Me Deadly: Starts out as a conventional film-noir thriller with a distressed blonde flinging herself into the life of a hard-boiled private detective. Eventually turns into an eerie story about nuclear paranoia and the Manhattan Project. Sort of "The Big Sleep" meets "Edge of Darkness", with more sex.

Movie count for 2014: 64

Friday, December 12, 2014

Entertaining June

Brazil: A repeated rewatch (I've lost count of the number of times I've seen it), this one distinguished by having seen it at the BFI with a talk afterwards by Terry Gilliam, and by getting to meet Gilliam afterwards. Film's still brilliant, Gilliam is too.

Movie count for 2014: 63

What's Wrong with the 1970s

Serpico: Biting expose on police corruption, through a biopic of New York policeman Serpico, an innovative and perceptive undercover detective whose honesty and integrity puts him at odds with almost the entire political and law enforcement establishment. It's depressing how little has changed in some ways.

The Candidate: Biting satire on the corrosive influence of politics, as Robert Redford's young lefty activist slowly morphs into a compromised and compromising career politician. You can see where it's going right from the start, but that's sort of the point.

Movie Count for 2014: 62

Cyclo Tron

Tron: A genuinely groundbreaking film on a number of levels, with the technical innovation (the graphics still look amazing over 30 years later) being matched by the playful postmodern referencing of (particularly Soviet) Expressionist film, Christian mythology and video-game imagery. The message is very much of its time (good capitalist/entrepreneur triumphing over bad capitalist/corporation), and there's only one woman in it (to be fair, she's a scientist who's presented as such without any fanfare, and she's far from a passive "prize", freely choosing between two good-looking and intelligent men), but both are easily forgivable.

Tron II: A vastly inferior sequel. There was one major visible technical innovation (the use of a virtual actor, of sorts, to play the young Jeff Bridges-- one step closer to the world of Idoru), but otherwise it was a banal-looking, too-long story with little message other than that the baby boomers think their Generation Y kids are miserable slackers who don't understand them, and which turned the playful virtual world of the first series into a lame collection of well-worn tropes. Michael Sheen was sort of fun to watch though.

Movie count for 2014: 60


Guardians of the Galaxy: Watchable superhero flick; the action scenes got pretty boring and it was half an hour longer than it should have been, but there was some good humour and interesting worldbuilding, and a sort of Firefly-esque self-awareness.

Movie count for 2014: 58

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Live, Die, Repeat

Groundhog Day: Watched as a follow-up to Live, Die, Repeat (below). It's still good; its score on the Bechdel Test is practically negative, but the message is so perfect that I'm willing to forgive it for that.

Movie count for 2014: 57

Two Films Which Shouldn't Be About White Guys

Godzilla: Remake of the much better Japanese original. It wants to be a story about two middle-aged scientists, one Japanese and one American. It winds up being a story about a young white guy. There are also hints that a subplot involving the young white guy's young white wife got cut out to make it even more about him. Meanwhile, all the subtext about nuclear power and global war goes out the window.

Live, Die, Repeat: This one is much better, a sort of cross between Groundhog Day and Pacific Rim. It's also better in that it really is about Emily Blunt, just seen through the eyes of Tom Cruise (even though all the publicity material that I've seen focuses on him and makes it look like a movie about a white guy), that the hero doesn't get the girl but it's completely OK, and that the story really is genuinely interesting.

Movie count for 2014: 56

Reasons to hate Steven Spielberg, sort of.

AI (Artificial Intelligence): One of these bad films with just enough good in them that it keeps me going back over and over them, trying to figure out what the hell the problem was (aside from the sentimentality, and Spielberg once again exploring his abandonment issues). A few thoughts:

1) Too short. Yes, for a movie it's way too long, but it also feels like it's rushing from plot to plot, scene to scene. We never actually see the couple bonding with their new AI son; the woman gives him the imprinting programme, and then practically a scene later we're into the sibling-rivalry scenario when their natural child wakes up from his coma. If it were a 6-part TV series, then there'd be time for the story to breathe, and scenarios to develop.

2) Wrong ending. The story should have ended with the advanced AIs discovering David. It's perfect; we find out what happened to the world, David gets his wish to be a "real boy" (as he'll be the closest thing to one on the planet) and we can end on a high, tempered with the uncertainty of what sort of future he'll have out there. And we'd be spared the creepily Freudian stuff.

3) Too many fridge moments. Gigolo Joe is framed for murder *how*, exactly? Surely the mecha have some sort of Asimov's-three-laws system preventing them from harming a human, and even if not, he could surely upload his memory to the court and demonstrate that he was with Paula Malcolmsen at the time. Why aren't the police tracking their own helicopters? Why does William Hurt leave David alone in the lab for 20 minutes, with predictable consequences? And so on.

4) Doesn't age well. It was first written in the 1970s, and it doesn't seem like it was updated much when it was filmed in the late 1990s: no mobiles, no Google, a family in which the wife stays at home all day doing, as far as I could see, pretty much nothing.

On the other hand, hey, cool practical and digital effects, and I want one of those teddy bear androids.

Movie count for 2014: 54

Vengeance Is Theirs

Sympathy for Mr Vengeance: Riveting tragedy about how good intentions can lead to catastrophic disasters, and how it can sometimes be hard to determine who the victims are.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Follow-up to the latter, using many of the same themes and some of the same actors. Poses uncomfortable questions about culpability and the social/emotional cost of pursuing revenge.

Movie count for 2014: 50

World Gone Mad

Despicable Me: Kids' film about a villain who learns the redeeming power of love when circumstances throw him together with three orphan girls: cute, but with a bit of a Brothers' Grimm/Roald Dahl subversive edge, and the child characters are believable.

In Bruges: A rewatch. Two Irish gangsters hole up in a Belgian city over Christmas after an assassination goes horribly wrong. Bruges is lovely but cold (in all senses of the word) and the story tragic. It's about the senselessness of it all, really.

Seven Psychopaths: Postmodern film about the writing of a movie, which becomes a movie; sort of an anarchic cross between *The Player* and *Natural Born Killers*.

Movie count for 2014: 53

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's A Thing: Death In Heaven

There's only one thing harshing my squee
about this episode, and it's this.

Moffat-Era Tropes: Everything from last week, plus: New-look UNIT with Osgood and the She-Brigadier, “bowties are cool”, the Doctor coming up with an insulting nickname for someone, “Permission to squee!”. There's a belated attempt to rectify the fact that Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart never appeared in the new series proper.

A Thing in a Thing: An army of Cybermen in graveyards.

The Doctor is A: President of Earth (that's actually some pretty neat lateral thinking on UNIT's part). Also a blood-soaked old general, but then again Danny's got issues (see last episode).

The Master Is A: Queen of Evil.

Clara Lies About: Being the Doctor (though the credits apparently believe her). She and the Doctor lie like rugs to each other in the cafe scene.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because even as a cybernised corpse, he's still passive-aggressive, self-obsessed and dealing with some pretty bad issues-- including threatening to shoot her before losing all human emotions.

Child Count: One (undead).

The Thick of It: Missy finally kills off Chris Addison.

It's Actually About: How you can never be sure of anything, except unconditional love.

It's A Thing: Dark Water

Moffat-Era Tropes: Troughton-era references. Dead people's personalities surviving as computer programmes. Monsters being kept in fluid-filled glass tanks in a facility of some sort. Companion's boyfriend dies and the Doctor has something to do with resurrecting them. The companion's timeline being mysteriously intertwined with someone else's. Scottish jokes. As numerous people on the Internet pointed out, Missy is yet another iteration of the mysterious, slightly antagonistic older woman with a flirtatious relationship with the Doctor (e.g. River Song). The Doctor getting unexpectedly snogged. “Doctor who?” There's an inside joke when we learn that the Doctor keeps a copy of “The Time-Traveler's Wife” (which Moffat is frequently accused of using as a source rather too often, not least on this blog) in the Tardis.

A Thing in a Thing: An army of Cybermen in St Paul's Cathedral.

The Doctor is A: bit slow on the uptake this week, as he doesn't figure out who the Master is until she flat-out tells him.

Seriously, she's totally the girl version of this guy.
The Master Is A: Woman. But most of the audience had figured that out.

Clara Lies About: Nothing. There's something important she hasn't told Danny yet, but the audience don't find out what it is either.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because even death is no barrier to his passive-aggression and self-obsession (it also turns out that the thing he's been blaming the officers for is in fact something he screwed up himself-- namely, he sprayed a room with gunfire without checking what was in it and shot a child-- which shows a distinct inability to take responsibility for his own actions).

Child Count: One (dead).

The Thick of It: The Doctor's psychic paper announces him to be a government inspector: “Why is there all this swearing?” Doctor Chang asks, perusing it, and the Doctor answers, “I've got a lot of internalised anger.” Chris Addison is also back.

It's Actually About: The Kubler-Ross stages of grief.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's A Thing: In the Forest of the Night

Moffat-Era Tropes: Child-focused story, particularly one revolving around some unusually special little girl; fetishization of motherhood; trees; a thing that appears to be malevolent turning out to be benign. Little glowing tree-spirit things which are clearly the same ones seen in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”. Happy ending that makes no damn sense whatsoever. There's a slightly jarring call-back to the Davies Era in the montage of international news broadcasts (which suggest that everyplace everywhere is affected by the forests, a fact which is immediately forgotten).

A Thing in a Thing: A forest in central London.

The Doctor is A: Scotsman. But why do none of the kids recognise him as the school caretaker?

The Master Is A: TV viewer. Presumably Apple TV.

Clara Lies About: Calling the Doctor instead of the school. This week Danny's the one to find out about her Big Lie in “Mummy on the Orient Express”, and the results are predictable. It also turns out that she just tells the class they're “Gifted and Talented” to make them feel better, which speaks volumes about her wanting Courtney to think she's “special” in “Kill the Moon”.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Seriously, he's offered the chance to see the Earth from space being hit by a solar flare, no strings attached, and he turns it down like a kid in a sulk, saying he doesn't want to see anything new because “I was a soldier” (trust him to bring that up again)? Unless Clara wants to spend the rest of her life never going out, she'd better end this now.

Child Count: 8 (that's a pretty tiny class by anybody's standards, let alone those of modern hyperinflated student-to-teacher ratios). Possibly 9 if Mabh's sister counts, but it's hard to tell how old she is.

The Thick(et) of It: The Doctor tones the Mr Nasty act down a bit this week, probably because of the children present.

Where is Max when you need him?
It's Actually About: Something narratively interesting happening, and then absolutely nothing that follows making sense. Why is central London entirely deserted except for one school group and a disappearing security guard? Why was nobody, apparently, awake at the point at which the forest appeared? Why aren't the children's phones ringing themselves flat with calls from anxious parents, why is Mabh's mother the only one concerned enough to take any kind of initiative to find her daughter, and why doesn't Clara ring the school (indeed, why doesn't the school ring either Clara or Danny)? How does Year Eight get from Kensington to Trafalgar Square in next to no time? What idiot at COBRA thought burning the trees was a good idea (since it would clearly cause massive damage to very expensive property if it worked), and why do the emergency crew not react to the sight of two civilians walking out of the forest with cries of “bloody hell, stop the burning, we thought the area was deserted, now then, miss, tell us how many more people are in there?” Why are international relief efforts not being coordinated? Where, indeed, are UNIT, Torchwood, and all the other usual suspects? Why do Mabh's mother and her neighbour react so calmly to the revelation that the street is covered in trees? How does the Doctor not know how ice ages work? Why do zoo-habituated wolves and tigers immediately go on the attack, rather than finding a safe place to hole up till they can get the lie of the land and investigate? Who left a set of beach chairs out in central London? How do planes land? Since the sea is now also covered with vegetation, what's happened to the boats? Why does Clara think that dying is preferable to being orphaned, and who does she think she is, making that decision on behalf of the whole class and Danny? How does a phone call to everyone on Earth from a single schoolchild result in mass global consensus as to the correct course of action (why can't we get Mabh to advise on Mideast peace)? Why does nobody consider that the solar flare would knock out every single communications satellite, plus kill off everyone on the international space station? Why the strange anti-medication message-- yes, there's controversy about diagnosing and medicating some childhood-onset disorders, but suggesting that every child with psychotic symptoms is just talking to the tree-fairies is a little regressive. And was Mabh's sister hiding behind a bush the whole time? There's a great story to be told about a forest appearing in London overnight, but this really isn't it.

It's A Thing: Flatline

And now, a Banksy, Just because.
Moffat-Era Tropes: Hostile alien creatures hiding in plain sight as everyday objects; Doctor-lite episode; aliens targeting specific people; cryptic utterances which turn out to be threats; something strange and possibly fatal happening to the Tardis; stalking zombie-type creatures; the Doctor as scourge of monsters; the Doctor coming up with insulting nickname for his companion's male friend; the Tardis' siege mode looks a lot like a miniature Pandorica.

A Thing in a Thing: An alien species, and their victims, in the walls.

The Doctor is A: man who stops the monsters.

The Master Is A: fan of Apple products.

Clara Lies About: She doesn't technically lie to Danny about what she's up to when he calls, but the ideological distinction is pretty thin. The Doctor finally confronts her for having lied to him about Danny last episode.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because she describes him as “territorial”, and because a lie this big never does any relationship any good.

Child Count: None (if Rigsy's working a community service order during normal business hours, he must be too old for school).

The Thick of It: The Doctor really gets into his alien-destroying bit at the climax.

It's Actually About: Intentions. It's not what you do, it's what you mean by it.

It's A Thing: Mummy on the Orient Express

Moffat-Era Tropes: Seemingly evil monster that really just wants to be told “good job, sir”; mummies; “are you my mummy?”; improbable things in space; character singing song; gratuitous, not always effective, celebrity guest stars (Moffat's not the only offender, but his era hasn't shied away from it); ancient myths that are actually real; ancient tech malfunctioning and causing fatalities; aliens targeting specific people; the Doctor sacrificing people in order to save others. This season's running obsession with soldiers is, well, soldiering on.

A Thing in a Thing: A mummy on the Orient Express, what else?

The Doctor is A: Nosey Parker. And Doctor of Intestinal Parasites.

The Master Is A: ...way. Gus is filling in for her this week.

Clara Lies About: the real reason the Doctor wants her to bring Maisie to the lab, and, for once, gets called on it. She then lies to Danny about having left the Doctor, and to the Doctor about Danny being fine with her traveling in the Tardis, but doesn't get called on it. Yet.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he's clearly jealous and possessive, but denies it all over the place.

Child Count: Zero, this week, just to give us a break.

The Thick of It: Clara suggests the Doctor is addicted to power.

It's Actually About: Difficult choices.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's A Thing: Kill the Moon

This story needs more crystals.
Moffat-Era Tropes: "The Ark in Space" reference (Bennett oscillator); alien that appears malevolent but actually just wants to be loved; traveling in the Tardis as some kind of emotional therapy for needy children; fairy-tale presented as (really preposterous) science; Timey-wimey (the return of the “Pyramids of Mars” idea of events being in flux); female military types who speak in monotones; skeleton in a space suit; “Everybody lives!” speech from the Doctor; sour grouch regaining an appreciation of the beauty of life thanks to the Doctor's intervention. It's not a Moffat Trope, but it's worth pointing out that the design of the mites is awfully close to that of the red-striped giant spider on the 1978 edition of the Target novelisation of “Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders.”

A Thing in a Thing: A space chicken in the moon.

The Doctor is A: Man who normally helps. At least, that's what Clara says.

The Master Is A: voiding this week. Evidently the sheer level of Science Fail is too much for her.

Clara Lies About: Courtney being special. Fact is, Courtney, however important she may be to the people around her, is nonetheless one of several billion human beings, and, even if she winds up as Dictator of the Solar System, she will be forgotten within a few thousand years of her death. Telling her she's special is just catering to some kind of entitlement mentality at best, and implying that some humans are superior to others at worst.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Once again, it's all about him: he can't just listen sympathetically to Clara, he has to wrench the conversation round to being about him leaving the army.

Child Count: 28 (13 in the opening scene, 12 in the closing scene, Courtney, and two space-chicken embryos).

The Thick of It: The Doctor tells off Lundvik for swearing in front of children.

It's Actually About: Where to begin? It's about how if the majority votes for something you disagree with, you go ahead and do what you want anyway (a lesson Courtney is sure to take with her into the Oval Office); it's about how kids need to be told they're special, otherwise they'll start drinking White Lightning; it's about how the potential life of a single space-chicken is more important than the actual lives of billions of humans; it's about the Doctor being an arrogant manipulative bastard to Clara. Take your pick.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's A Thing: The Caretaker

Moffat-Era Tropes: Troughton-era references (the Doctor offers to introduce Clara to fish people, and later paraphrases the Doctor's “up or down, I don't care which” speech from “The Power of the Daleks”). Timey-wimey (Clara fitting her adventures with the Doctor around her dates with Danny). Doctor Who as romcom. River Song is mentioned. Bow ties are still cool. Companion with a boyfriend who is jealous of the Doctor. The Doctor's antagonistic relationship with Danny appears to have been lifted wholesale from the RTD era, namely Eccleston's antagonistic relationship with Mickey Smith.

A Thing in a Thing: An alien robot killing machine in a school.

The Doctor is A: Caretaker. Also Clara's Space Dad.

The Master Is A: bit busy today.

This machine kills caretakers.
Clara Lies About: Her relationship with the Doctor, both indirectly (in not telling Danny what she's up to) and directly when she pretends she doesn't know the new caretaker, and when she tries to convince Danny she and the Doctor are just rehearsing a play. She also doesn't tell the Doctor that she's dating Danny, or that she's smuggled him into the Tardis using the invisibility watch.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he can't handle the idea that she's a time traveler, because it's always all about him, because it doesn't really seem to occur to him that Clara lying to him might have been justified (as it's not easy to explain a lifestyle like hers to non-time-travelers) rather than some kind of personal slight, and because he's a complete jerk about the Doctor, particularly with his passive-aggressive “I'm a soldier and he's an officer” bit. The Doctor's right; he's not good enough for her.

Child Count: Between 41 and 147 (17 outside Coal Hill, and 6 more as Clara and Danny go into the school; 12 in the act one establishing shot; 7 as Danny and Clara discuss Smith; 2 are moved on by the policeman in the shopping street; 15 in Clara's English class; 41 as Clara goes from her class to the school garden; 5 when Clara tells the two boys off for playing football on the garden chessboard; 19 when Clara bumps into Danny after her conversation with the Doctor; 20 on the wide establishing shot of the school before Clara gives Danny the watch; 3 at the parents' evening). Courtney (alluded to in “Listen”) is finally identified as the cheeky teenager with the Afro seen in Clara's flashback in “Deep Breath” and when Danny visits the school office in “Inside the Dalek”.

The Thick of It: Chris Addison is in the Nethersphere.

It's Actually About: Doctor Who changing from a wacky romcom about two pretty boys vying for the attention of a pretty girl, to one about a pretty boy and a pretty girl trying to get together despite the efforts of her crotchety older relative.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's A Thing: Time Heist

(with thanks to Penny Goodman)

Moffat-Era Tropes: Timey-Wimey. Businesswomen named Miss or Madame Something-or-Other with fetishistically severe suits, hairstyles and eyewear. Monster that looks fierce but actually wants to be loved. Creatures or accessories which induce memory loss. “Don't Think”. One-off character sacrificing themselves to save the Doctor or companion despite only having met them a few hours earlier. People gabbling out explanations at top speed.

A Thing in a Thing: A monster in a bank vault.

Some call him a butcher.
The Doctor is A: ...n Architect. Also, overbearing, manipulative, likes to think he's very clever, and hates himself.

The Master Is A: Woman in a shop, who has the Doctor's private phone number.

Clara Lies About: Not directly, but Psi does note that she's good at making excuses for the Doctor's behaviour. And she keeps her mind blank so the Teller doesn't detect her guilt, which is a sort of lie.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he's angling for another date, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that he acted like an idiot on the first one.

Child Count: One.

The Thick of It: "Shuttity up, up, UP!"

It's Actually About: Atoning for past misdeeds, I suppose, though in this case it's actually getting someone else to do the actual work of atoning for it.

It's A Thing: Listen

Guess what, we found him.
Moffat-Era Tropes: Doggerel. Childhood fears. Things under the bed. “Don't blink”-style catchphrase. People being surrounded by beings they can't actually perceive. Timey-wimey. Visiting a regular character when they are a child. Monsters under the bed. The idea that humans all share some kind of collective, unconscious, defense mechanism against a particular being. Orphanages. Agism about the Doctor's current appearance from Clara, and slights against Clara's current appearance from the Doctor. Allusions to the Doctor having been a parent. Clara saving the Doctor by having a conversation with his past self. Scottish jokes. Barns on Gallifrey.

A Thing in a Thing: A monster under the bed.

The Doctor is A: fraid.

The Master Is A: bsent.

Clara Lies About: How she knows Danny's real name is “Rupert”. She also lies by omission in not telling him what's actually going on between her and the Doctor at the same time as she's on her date, and by not telling the Doctor what she suspects about her relationship to Orson.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because he continually interprets innocent remarks as some kind of slight on his war record, because he's self-righteous as all get out, because he's far too touchy about the fact that his real name is “Rupert,” because his dialogue other than that is a continuous stream of double-entendres, because he doesn't “do weird”, and because if she doesn't dump him, the future will have Orson. And only she will be to blame.

Child Count: Four (or five, if the Thing In Danny's room is really another child playing a prank).

The Thick of It: The Doctor masquerades as a government inspector.

It's Actually About: The benefits of the fear response. And the fact that sometimes, the monsters really are all in your head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's A Thing: Robot of Sherwood

Moffat-Era Tropes: Having Mark Gatiss write a story full of Gatiss' own set of tropes. An episode where the Doctor and companion walk into some sort of mythical scenario (e.g. pirates) and the companion promptly starts playing up to it while the Doctor sulks about being sceptical. Banter. People gabbling things out far too fast. Scottish jokes. Patrick Troughton references. Robots fixing a spaceship with whatever they have to hand.

A Thing in a Thing: A robot in Sherwood. Actually several robots and a cyborg.

The Doctor is A: Bony rascal.

The Master Is A: ...way this episode. Probably watching the other channel.

Clara Lies About: Her story to the Sheriff of Nottingham, as she tells him later.

More realistic than this.
Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: Because she's having a little fling on the side with Robin Hood.

Child Count: None, but there's a dwarf to make up for it.

The Thick of It: The Doctor is in a permanent strop, but then again, confronted with the scenario he's in, any sane person would be.

It's Actually About:, seriously, what is it about? Robin Hood et al. Shouldn't exist in the form they do here, for countless reasons (just look up “Robin Hood” on Wikipedia and count the anachronisms in this story), and yet there's no indication that this is the Land of Fiction, or a case of people being mentally conditioned as in “The Next Doctor”, or any of the rationales the Doctor suggests for this ridiculous setup (Miniscope, theme park, etc.), or any connection with the Master and her virtual world either. There's no explanation for the warm climate or the general unreality of the scenario. There's an exchange at the end about people needing their heroes to be larger than life, but then again, since the heroes in this story are larger than life, there's no Firefly-style message about the reality of heroism versus the fiction, either. So all I can say is, it's about 46 minutes long.

It's a Thing: Inside the Dalek

Moffat-Era Tropes: Medical nanobots (or nanopeople and antibodies, here). Ripping off the Troughton Era (here, “The Evil of the Daleks”). Giving a Dalek or Cyberman a cutesy nickname. The Doctor and companion sliding into a creature's digestive system. Clara talks the Doctor out of a destructive frame of mind. The Doctor defeats something by talking at it, and has a big exultant speech about how beautiful and wonderful the universe is.

The last time someone put a human in
 a Dalek it did not end well.
A Thing in a Thing: A group of humans in a Dalek.

The Doctor is A: Good Dalek.

The Master Is A: Tea-drinker and baking enthusiast.

Clara Lies About: She's actually honest this episode. Enjoy it, it won't last.

Reasons Clara Should Drop Danny Like A Hot Potato: He's only just appeared, and he's already showing his colours as a passive-aggressive type who's got way too many ambivalent issues about his military career.

Child Count: Between 13 and 41 (we see 10 in the cadets' corps, 3 hanging around the school office, 16 in Danny's classroom, 4 in the corridor before Clara goes into the Tardis, and 8 when she emerges, but it's unclear how much crossover there is between the groups).

The Thick of It: “Am I a good man?” Possibly not.

It's Actually About: How hating something evil, doesn't make you good.

It's A Thing: Deep Breath

Moffat-Era Tropes: Silurians with hooters and honkers. The Paternoster Gang run through their greatest hits. Scottish jokes. Clockwork droids (who come from the Madame de Pompadour's sister ship). “Don't blink”-type phrase. Companion in love with the Doctor (in this case, Clara having to get over her crush on Matt Smith's version). Everyone's still belting out explanations at each other at lightning speed. Gratuitous reference to a continuity point (i.e., why the Doctor looks like Caecilius from “The Fires of Pompeii”). Dead people's personalities going to some kind of afterlife. The 51st century. "You've redecorated! I don't like it." Timey-wimey (the Doctor telephoning Clara from the past to tell her not to be scared of his new regeneration).

This is what a T-rex looks like.
A Thing in a Thing: A (featherless) T-Rex in the Thames.

The Doctor is A: Long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose.

The Master Is A: ...n egomaniacal needy game-player.

Clara Lies About: How uninterested in male totty she is-- she may have had a pin-up of Marcus Aurelius on her bedroom wall as a teenager, but she secretly fantasizes about hot guy-on-guy action.

Reasons Jenny Should Drop Madame Vastra Like A Hot Potato: She makes her serve the tea, tricks her into posing semi-clad, flirts with Clara, and generally acts like the wife from hell.

Child Count: 12.

The Thick of It: Continued jokes about how ferocious the Doctor currently looks.

It's Actually About: Love-- if you love someone, it doesn't matter if they're a lizard, or a Scotsman with angry eyebrows.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dead or Alive

The Dead Zone: Early Cronenberg about a man who develops the gift of prophecy following a car accident. Filmed around rural Ontario, apparently entirely on location, which makes the whole thing feel at once ultra-realistic (the houses look like real houses, not like something designed) and fantastical (everything has a curious sense of isolation and decay). Guest starring Martin Sheen, who doesn't realise he's really auditioning for The West Wing, and Anthony Zerbe, who for once doesn't actually kill anyone (at least, not directly).

Ancient Grease

The Warriors: Low-budget classic interpreting a myth about Greek warriors returning home from battle into a tale of rival gangs in 1970s New York. Ludicrous in places (gangs themed around baseball and mime makeup? Really?) but does capture the weird atmosphere that pervades the subways of big cities after midnight.

Cleopatra: High-budget classic (modern viewers might have to keep reminding themselves that those are real people in the crowd scenes), which ultimately boils down to a story of a woman who finds her soulmate, loses him, then tries to recreate what she had with a younger man who ultimately proves inadequate.

Sunday, August 03, 2014


Attack the Block: A cross between Doctor Who and Top Boy, as aliens invade a London council estate, and its various colourful inhabitants (a gang of teenage muggers, a drug dealer, a posh university student ostentatiously slumming it, a nurse, and others) are drawn into trying to repel them. Best teeth ever.

And Soon the Darkness: Essentially a feature-length pilot for Brian Clemens' anthology series Thriller, featuring all the early-1970s horror tropes: pretty young women in peril, check, sinister stalkery man who turns out to be on the good side, obvious red-herring character, sensibly-shod lesbian, taciturn foreigners. The plot revolves around a killer who is murdering young women who go on cycling holidays in France, and that makes for the most interesting part: the beautiful, sometimes creepy, rural French landscape, isolated and cut off in a way that no place is anymore.

Movie count for 2014: 45

Saturday, August 02, 2014


Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Reboot which goes back to the racial-metaphor roots of the series. Caesar is a hyper-intelligent ape who is raised by humans, but recognises his privilege when events cast him out of the home, and works to uplift the rest of the apes. The movie's also improved on the original in explaining the ape origins-- I could never totally believe the ape-slaves conceit of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, but having them as transgenic research animals being used to find an Alzheimer's cure (with the side effect that it improves the intelligence of normal individuals) is believable.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Carries on the allegorical exploration of the first film, this time pinning the woes of both human and ape societies, after the plague apocalypse, to fascism and the easy availability of guns. Marred by a completely unnecessary Bechdel-test fail (seriously, someone on the team should have read some Jane Goodall before developing that ape society).

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Older academic couple making each other's lives, and their colleagues' lives, miserable in complicated ways.

Movie count for 2014: 43

Friday, August 01, 2014


What I watched on my summer holidays in Italy, three Harryhausens and a macaroni war epic:

It Came From Beneath the Sea: Giant octopus monsterflick. At first I was hopeful that it would be a kind of American Gojira, since at first we're told that this gigantism is the result of nuclear testing; however, by the climax of the film they've changed their minds and it's apparently a normal thing. The government naturally wants to destroy it, and what's surprising is that the scientists all have no problem with this-- no Gojira-style moralising where one scientist wants to kill it with fire and the other one argues that it has a perfect right to live. The giant tentacles are cool but there's not enough of them.

Earth Versus the Flying Saucers: A strange one this-- a 1950s America where everyone is on a military footing, and yet the Soviet Union doesn't seem to exist (apart from a brief bit of stock footage when the aliens broadcast their ultimatum to the people of Earth). In the real world, satellites going missing and strange flying craft sighted would be enough to set off Bay of Pigs six years too early, but here, they're unproblematically down to the aliens. Again, we have scientists who are remarkably incurious about the extraterrestrials, agreeing with the military that they have to be destroyed and not even considering the ethical ramifications of this.

20 Million Miles to Earth: Arguably the most nuanced and interesting of the three Harryhausen films, in which the Americans have somehow managed to conduct a secret mission to Venus, and bring back one of the natives, who promptly escapes after the spaceship crashes off the Sicilian coast and goes on a rampage which culminates in the destruction of the Coliseum and the zoological gardens in Borgia Park. Somehow none of this sparks any kind of international incident-- possibly this takes place in the same Sovietless universe as the previous film, but even then you'd think that there'd be a few sharp telegrams flying between Rome and Washington at least. One's sympathies are firmly with the Venusian, though the humans are a little more interestingly characterised this time, and for once neither the scientists nor the military are out to kill it with fire (the Italian police are, but that's another story).
Eagles Over London: An Italian film about the Battle of Britain, well, sort of. It takes such hilarious liberties with history (apparently there was an American in charge of the RAF, the Battle of Britain was fought in a single night using the entire British air force, there was an army of German agents infiltrating every single British installation...) that one can't help but love it. Also a nicely sobering reminder about the liberties we take with other people's histories.

Movie count for 2014: 40

20 Feet from Muppets

Frozen: The Disney studio's attempt to simultaneously address every single criticism of sexism in one movie, but it does work pretty well. Not as entertainingly postmodern as Beauty and the Beast, but I did like the subtextual message that love between the Plucky Princess and the Handsome Prince isn't the only sort of love worth having.

20 Feet from Stardom: Documentary about backing singers, which really highlighted the sexism and personality cults of the music industry; one of the interviewees, for instance, had sung with the Rolling Stones since 1965, to the point where Jagger himself described her as part of the group, and yet nobody will every consider her a Stone.

The Muppets: Reasonably decent addition to the Muppet film series, with at least some of the subversion and surrealism of the original, but it sort of pulled its punches rather. I did like some of the ideas, like Animal winding up in rehab and Miss Piggy becoming the new Anna Wintour, but where the 1970s Muppets could make you wince as often as they could make you laugh, this one didn't really.

Upside Down: Gave this one a pass at the SF London Film Festival because the plot didn't sound terribly interesting, and it turns out it isn't. The effects, on the other hand, are frequently pretty spectacular-- the premise involves two worlds which have "opposite gravity", meaning that half the cast are on what the other half perceives as the ceiling, and a lot of imagination has gone into figuring out how this would work. When it wasn't doing that, though, it wound up being sort of dull.

Movie count for 2014: 36

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Men Behaving Badly

At the Earth's Core: Cheap 1970s movie which more or less follows Burrough's text for two-thirds of the movie, then realises they don't have time for all the travelogue bits and quickly channels "Doctor Who and the Daleks" to finish the story off. Worth it for Cy Grant as Ja.

The Man Who Fell to Earth: David Bowie is subjected to Nick Roeg's impressionistic jump-cuts, and perserveres.

The Servant: Man comes into the life of another man, drives off his girlfriend and dominates him completely. The gay subtext is so obvious it's practically text, but it's also massively homophobic. Can't quite believe it of Harold Pinter.

Megapython versus Gatoroid: Entertainingly self-aware badflick. Features Tiffany in the least practical park rangers' outfit ever, but nonetheless passes the Bechdel Test in spades.

Movie count for 2014:32

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What I saw at the SF London Film Festival

Coming soon to a festival, theatre and/or DVD shop near you...

Lost Time: Sort of like a feature-length episode of The X-Files where the entire cast and crew dropped acid before the shoot; the results unfortunately tend more towards "tedious and weird" than "mind-bending".

Suicide or Lulu and Me In A World Made For Two: A film about obsession, control and mind-bending, which was pretty good but unfortunately prevented from being brilliant by a major contradiction in the plot setup which emerges at the climax of the story, and by a slightly-too-coincidental series of connections between the characters.

Bunker 6: Now this one did actually verge into the "brilliant" category. Set in an alternate history where the bomb was indeed dropped during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it features a group of Canadians, ten years on, deciding whether or not to open the Diefenbunker and face the outside world. A The Shining-style twist at the end which retroactively changes everything.

The Creep Behind the Camera: Lynchian documentary/docudrama about the making of The Creeping Terror. Creep is a psychological horror film about its director, a monstrous psychopath who abuses his wife, cheats his collaborators and leaves as his legacy one of the worst badflicks of all time.

Time Lapse: Another brilliant one, a story about a group of twentysomethings who discover a camera which will show them a picture from the next day, but tells them nothing about how they got there. Events inevitably devolve into infidelity, organized crime, and bloodshed.

Short Films: "Cooking with Venus" was quite possibly even better than the features above despite being about 2 minutes long, and "A Stitch in Time for $9.99" (another story about events affected by a glimpse into the near-future), "Eden 2045" (a rather sad take on similar themes to The Prisoner) "The Tea Chronicles" (about a peculiarly British obsession) and "Flesh Computer" (just... weird, but it works) also worthy of mention. On the other side, "H270" was probably the single most boring thing I've seen at SFL ever.

Movie count for 2014: 28

One Of Our Films Is Too Long

One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing: Powell and Pressburger film about an air crew shot down in occupied Holland, making their way back to the UK. Gains chutzpah points for having actually been made during wartime, but through modern eyes the protagonists are a bit too reminiscent of Armstrong and Miller's chav-talking pilots. Watch out for a young Robert Beattie, uncredited, as an American volunteer.

Toy Story 3: Nice conclusion to the saga, ending it before the formula becomes too overused. I held off on watching it because TS2 always makes me cry buckets and I was afraid this would be similar, but fortunately, apart from a little poignancy at the end, it was more upbeat.

The Devil Rides Out: Beautiful British horror film, with Christopher Lee as the good guy for a change. Lovely sets and Surrey landscapes, but the cast of phlegmatic and faintly dim Edwardians did occasionally make things feel a little Bertie-Wooster-Meets-Satan. Co-starring Paul Eddington as a man far too calm about having his car stolen, his living room covered with chalk circles and his house filled with refugees from covens.

Ali: Mohammad Ali biopic, with Will Smith and directed by Michael Mann. There's a good story in there, but there's also about 90 minutes of padding.

Movie count for 2014: 23 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cabin Crew

Cabin Fever: Horror film of the Sam Raimi school, i.e., "put a bunch of really unlikeable people in a cabin in the woods and pick them off gleefully one by one". In this case, a bunch of nasty university students on spring break are besieged by a flesh-eating virus, seemingly crazed rednecks, and an even more crazed Alsatian. Has a really quite charming twist at the end.

Movie count for 2014: 19

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

In the Days Before Television

Rocket Ship XM: Oddly-paced B-movie about a mission to the moon which goes wrong and hits Mars instead. Suffers from a distinct lack of both characterisation and tension; even when the crew are being chased by Martian mutants or trying to make it back to Earth on too little fuel, it's hard to care. It also can't seem to make up its mind if it's a B-picture or not; it has cliched characterisation, space adventure and Martian mutants, but it also has no antagonists (bar the abovementioned mutants), and a rather surprising ending, giving the whole thing the feel of one of the nerdier episodes of The Outer Limits. The sets are pretty nice, though.

The Star Packer: Unfortunately-named early John Wayne film, with no incidental music and minimal editing. Features Wayne as a sheriff out to save a girl from evil outlaws with the aid of his ethnic stereotype of an Indian sidekick. There's a couple of nice stunts during the climactic wagon-chase and shootout, but one can't help but suspect that it's where the budget went. It can be entertaining to think of a better film for the name (a Brando-esque drama about an excellent factory worker, pitted against a corrupt union? A sports picture about the meteoric rise and fall of Green Bay's best quarterback?) but it's still not worth it.

Movie count for 2013: 18 (SF London Film Festival coming up in a couple of weeks, hooray!)

Sunday, April 06, 2014

What's Wrong With "The Musketeers" (BBC1 Version)

1. The characterisation. Seriously, one of the reasons The Three Musketeers has been so frequently adapted is because of the simple, easy-to-understand characterisation of the main characters: there's the Romantic One, the Angry One, and the One of Prodigious Appetites, plus the Naive and Innocent One. The fact that the series itself regularly became confused over which one was Romantic, Be-Appetited or Angry, with all three Musketeers being all three at all times, is a real problem.

2. Race. I was really happy when I saw that Porthos was played by a black actor-- it's a nice nod to the fact that Alexandre Dumas was himself black, as well as acknowledging that not everyone in pre-industrial Europe was white. However, because the series was filmed in Croatia, all of the extras were white-- and so was 99% of the guest cast (apart from a cameo by Ashley Waters), meaning that for 9 out of 10 episodes, Porthos appears to be almost the only black person in France, and no one appears to notice. And the 10th? That's the horribly patronising one about the slave trade. Which brings me on to...

3) Historical accuracy (lack of). Yes, I know it's a drama, and that dramas take liberties with historical facts. But this one's connection to history is so tenuous it might as well be set in Ruritania as in France. The abovementioned slave-trade episode is particularly egregious (17th-century France has no major colonies? That's news to any Canadian raised on stories of the coureurs de bois and the Jesuit missions), but it's far from the only offender.

4) Familiarity. 17th-century France is a pretty strange place by modern standards, a society with very different ideas about legitimate governance, the value of life, the place of religion, marital fidelity, and science. This is a popular drama so I'm not expecting Hawksmoor, but it can't be impossible to nonetheless give an idea of the foreignness of the past-- hell, even the likes of Poldark managed it better. Just to give an example: at one point a character exclaims, "I'm a citizen of France! I have rights!" to which someone ought to have responded "No, on both counts, for at least another 150 years." ETA: Even more inexcusable when you consider that Game of Thrones is set in a society with child marriage, eunuchs, polytheism, and a royal family with a rather liberal attitude towards incest, and yet doesn't seem to have alienated its audience one bit.

5) Repetition. Someone is accused of a crime they didn't commit. But it's actually all a ruse to entrap someone else. Lather, rinse, repeat. The series is only 10 episodes long, for heaven's sake!

Good points: Peter Capaldi, of course; the characterisation of Louis XIII was a lot subtler than I was expecting, and yes, they did find some pretty palaces to film in (even if those shots of the painted ceilings did get old rather fast). For the first few episodes it was fun to do a counterfactual reading of the series in which the Cardinal is actually the hero and the Musketeers the villains, though that did get boring eventually.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

What's Been On My Skybox Lately

Robocop 3: You know the series has completely hit bottom when a character calls Lewis a "dumb broad", and then it takes a pickaxe and continues digging. Torchwood-like resistance, annoying child hacker, xenophobia, sexism, this film has it all. The Japanese robot is sort of cool, though.

The Invention of Lying: Satire about a world in which no one can lie, except Ricky Gervais. Starts to get really good around about the point where it flat out says religion is a lie, but then realises where it's going and cranks the plot around to turn it into a fairly conventional romcom (complete with the usual annoying woman-as-prize trope)

American Werewolf in London: Groundbreaking, and uncompromising, horror-comedy, and quite probably the only film about Americans in the UK which manages to patronise neither Americans nor Brits. Watch for an uncredited appearance by Rik Mayall.

Little Voice: A story about how sometimes it takes a world-shattering tragedy to break free of your constraints and start really living your life.

From Here to Eternity: Drama about an infantry base in Hawaii on the eve of WWII; brilliantly characterised, even if I did wind up hating one of the nominal protagonists (he was well-drawn and believable, but a completely selfish jerk). It only has one real problem, namely, that it's implied that once the incompetent chief officer is removed from the base, it will stop being a hotbed of bullying and corruption and instead run smoothly; other military dramas have taken that ball and run with it down a rather more pessimistic direction.

Movie Count for 2014: 16

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Oscar Night Roundup

Behind the Candelabra: Liberace biopic, about his relationship with his much-younger lover Scott Thorson. If it took place now, it would just be a simple story of celebrity marriage and divorce, but the homophobic backdrop of the 1970s adds drama. Plus you can play Spot Scott Bacula with the supporting cast.

Gravity: Technically impressive adventure story about an astronaut isolated in space after a Russian missile hits an obsolete satellite and sends debris rocketing through orbit; verges on the cliched in places (woman emotionally destroyed by the loss of a child finds The Strength To Carry On, sigh), but it really is genuinely tense and by turns claustrophobic and agoraphobic.

Nebraska: Dementia-suffering pensioner becomes convinced he's won a million dollars, and insists on taking a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect, visiting his old hometown on the way. A brilliantly credible performance from Bruce Dern, and scarily accurate portrayals of the sort of micropolitics that emerge in small communities.

American Hustle: Clever heist drama, working as both an homage to the mafia/crime films of the 1970s and as an intelligent, complicated story in its own right. A good film to play Spot the Boardwalk Empire Alumnus, and/or Spot Anthony Zerbe, plus Robert de Niro's only good role this decade.

Movie count for 2014: 11


Robocop: Biting, classic satire on privatisation and corporate control, which seriously didn't need a remake, as it's pretty much all still true today. Although it's not often mentioned in reviews of this film, I'd like to flag up Lewis as another of those believably-strong heroines of 1980s fantastic film, and praise it for showing a man and woman having a professional relationship characterised by mutual respect, without degenerating into cliched romance or annoying patronisation.

Robocop 2: Starts promisingly, with the police out on strike and Roboscab, being corporate property, nonetheless carrying on with the crime-fighting. However, the film rapidly forgets about this and degenerates into a bit of a mess; it's not without good ideas and entertaining satire (particularly when it's revealed that the evil corporation is deliberately running the city of Detroit into the ground to buy it out and operate it privately), but the villains are annoyingly cartoony, and there's a bit of a naive-libertarian plotline going (Robocop is given a bunch of ludicrous politically-correct directives which slow him down, but which he remedies by erasing all directives from his databank, but nonetheless carries on doing the right thing because, as we all know, rules and laws just get in the way of The Good Guys). At least Lewis is still in it.

Movie count for 2014: 7

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Bill and Coo: Utterly bizarre; a small-town drama performed entirely by trained birds, and the result is sort of like Tales of the Riverbank crossed with Jour de Fete. Some strange period details as well, such as the "townsfolk" all crowding into a birdie air-raid shelter to escape the baddie, and some predictably godawful puns (a theatrical revue featuring "chorus gulls" is one of the least groanworthy examples). Apparently it won an Oscar, probably in the category of "we have no idea why, but this thing deserves some sort of award". Available in full on Youtube:

Movie count for 2014: 5

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Rain and Snow

Elysium: Allegorical tale set in a future where The 99% live in slums on Earth, and The 1% in a sort of astral gated community on a space station overhead. The whole thing is nicely realised, but some of the performances are surprisingly bad (Jodie Foster plays the film's I-can't-believe-she's-not-Servalan character as if she's reading form an autocue), and likewise some of the characterisation (e.g. the badass South African mercenary who carries on fighting on behalf of Elysium even after they've screwed him over and he really should, if consistently characterised, go over to the rebels' side; the main reason he doesn't seems only to be to provide the film with a dramatic climax). Not bad, but I'd expected more from the writer/producer of District 9.

The Abominable Snowman: Beautifully crisp and austere 1950s horror, which rings a nice twist on the well-worn idea that the Yeti are some kind of evolutionary blind alley, while condemning romanticised attitudes to Tibet and unscrupulous exploitation of science. Script by Nigel Kneale, and I want a pair of those cool dieselpunk snow goggles that Peter Cushing wears.

The Masque of the Red Death: Roger Corman is the sort of guy who can produce Sharktopus one minute and something this beautiful the next. A lovely, postmodern and pop-art take on Gothic horror, with a theological debate woven into the subtext; it loses a couple of Cool Points for some Coarse Swordfighting, but gains them for having Nic Roeg as a cinematographer.

Animal Farm: CIA-funded (no, really) 1950s take on the Orwell novel. Mostly a pretty good rendition with an appropriately Soviet animation style, and the fact that it cut out some of the novel's subplots wasn't a problem, as it made the film more streamlined. However, the ending is where it really goes into Cold War propaganda overdrive; where Orwell ended on the downbeat note of having the animals looking from the pigs to the humans, and not being able to tell which was which, the film has the animals, led by Benjamin the donkey, staging a second revolution and driving out the pigs. OK, but what then? A donkey-led dictatorship? A nominal animal democracy under the secret control of the human farmers? Answers, please, CIA.

Movie count for 2014: 4

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The Repeated Meme: Bubbly Personality Masking Bossy Control Freak

Central Premise Recycled From: "The Pandorica Opens" via "A Town Called Mercy" and "The Parting of The Ways".

Moffat Auto-Recycling: Moppets, doggerel rhymes, character aging while other characters stay young, the Doctor having a fling with a sexually rapacious older woman, a future crypto-Catholic church that's a lot more sexually liberal, the Doctor as Wild West sheriff of a town with a daft name, Scottishness when Capaldi turns up, the Greatest Hits Reel featuring the Crack in the Universe, the Weeping Angels, the Silent, the Dalek dickheads, Amy. A bunch of the Doctor's enemies ganging up on him.

Not Stolen from RTD, Honest: Pretentious narration track opening the episode. Companion inviting Doctor for Christmas dinner with the family. The companion's mum is an interfering bitch, but her surviving grandparent is rather nice. Clara lives on the Powell Estate these days, apparently. The Doctor in old-guy makeup. As in "The Parting of the Ways", the Doctor tricks the companion into going back to Earth to keep her out of danger while he faces the Daleks, though Clara's rather more passive about this than Rose was. Companion travelling by hanging on the outside of the Tardis. Daft sobriquet for the Doctor ("The Man Who Stayed for Christmas"). Naked people (somehow linked with regeneration-- Captain Jack in "The Parting of the Ways", and the Doctor in "Journey's End"). The Doctor not regenerating into another form straight away, but taking the time for a protracted goodbye. The Doctor in love with his first companion (since he cares enough about Amy that it's her he sees as he regenerates). Post-regeneration Doctor talking about his new organs.

Evil Household Objects: None, but there's a slightly undercooked turkey.

Doctor Who! It's the question the Crack in the Universe is asking.

Hats! The wig's a good variation. One of the Christmas Townies wears a smoking-cap, a garment whose design originally derived from the fez.

Moppets! Too many of them around Christmas Town.

Clara's Job This Week: Christmas dinner chef and needy crushed-out girlfriend.

Murray Gold's Christmas Number One: He doesn't get one. Has there been a budget reduction?

Gratuitous Continuity Frakups: Clara sees a Silent, and doesn't immediately lunge for it and kill it. The Angel that trapped River in "The Angels Take Manhattan" gripped her wrist but didn't send her back in time because the Angel was too weak to do otherwise, but that's apparently been forgotten in Clara's similar encounter. Once again the designers seem not to have noticed that those semi-circular things in the Tombs of the Cybermen were climbing aids, not design elements. In "Asylum of the Daleks", the Dalek dickheads were created through exposure to nanogenes, and yet here, though the Doctor and Clara are undoubtedly exposed to same aboard the Papal Mainframe, they show no signs of changing. Regeneration energy is now powerful enough to take out a fleet of Daleks. Although it's established in "The Day of the Doctor" that the earlier Doctors in multi-Doctor stories don't remember their events, somehow the Matt Smith Doctor knows that the Jon Pertwee Doctor stole the Seal of the High Council from the Master in the Death Zone. If the events of Trenzalore have changed so the Doctor didn't die there, then the Intelligence can't have gone to the Doctor's tomb in "The Name of the Doctor" and Clara can't have done her trick of splitting along the Doctor's timeline, and thus goes from being The Impossible Girl to being The Irrelevant Girl.

Things That Aren't Actually Continuity Frakups: Really, people, there's no problem with the Doctor leading the Silent into battle-- so long as *they* remember what they're supposed to be doing, it doesn't matter if *he* does. Although it's not stated in the story that Clara's "mum" is actually her stepmum, it's not impossible, which explains how Clara suddenly has a mother despite her mother's death being a plot point last season. Likewise complaints about Clara's middle-class family living on a council estate overlook the scenario that it's Clara's flat and, like many budget-conscious young professionals, she's renting an ex-council property.

Continuity Resolutions: We learn what it actually was that the Doctor saw in Room 11 in "The God Complex" (the Crack in the Wall), and an explanation of why the Doctor is the thirteenth Doctor despite only 12 appearing in "Name of the Doctor" (Tennant managed to regenerate back into himself).
Other Frakups: The Doctor spends 300 years in Christmas Town, and yet somehow the culture, economy and political system of the place fail to change? Apply that to England in 2013, and we'd be living in a country with a politically active monarch, voting rights restricted to property-holding men, slavery legal, no steam engines or electric grid, and periwigs and frock-coats the height of fashion. Why does the Punch and Judy show feature a Monoid as a villain-- they weren't actually monsters, just an enslaved species, so it's a bit like featuring an Ood as a baddie. The lighting filters on the estate sequences mean that Clara's supposedly cooked turkey looks half-raw. Out of the several possible scenarios through which the Doctor might gain extra regenerations, they have to pick the most banal.

Nostalgia UK: The usual gratuitous Doctor Who continuity references, e.g. mentioning Terileptils. Also gratuitous cross-programme intersectionality as Clara's family watch "Strictly Come Dancing". Don't know if it's deliberate or not, but it's really funny to watch the sequences with little Amelia in her red wellies and hat running through the Tardis, while thinking of Don't Look Now.

Item Most Likely to Become a Toy: On the basis of past Chrismasses, I'd say "nothing". However, the wooden Cyberman is exactly the sort of variation CO seem to like (q.v. the rusty Cybermen and transparent Angels of earlier years), so it might actually make it. Also they usually do a post-regeneration Doctor figure, so we're likely to get a Capaldi in Matt Smith's clothes.