I was one of the few people who remained a fan of Moffat throughout his tenure on Doctor Who. His episodes certainly weren’t perfect, and often ranged dramatically in quality, but I was mostly on board with what he was doing with the storyline – even if his grasp on writing the companions’ character arcs was always weak. I also really enjoyed the first two seasons of Sherlock – even two of those first six episodes weren’t particularly good. While Moffat’s run on Doctor Who was mostly consistent, his and Gatiss’ work on Sherlock took a noticeable dip in quality during the third and fourth seasons, completely blowing any goodwill they’d accumulated from the fanbase by the end of the fourth season’s finale. And it’s this trend of inconsistent quality that brings us to Dracula. There is something appealing about the writers who revived Sherlock Holmes for a new generation tackling another literary legend like Dracula. In that sense, I was very excited to see what they’d do, hoping it would skew closer to the first two seasons of Sherlock in terms of quality. Unfortunately, it skewed heavily toward the last two seasons of Sherlock, giving us a mess of a show that tries to be more clever than it is and eschews telling any kind of coherent story in favor of distracting plot twists that don’t work half as well as Moffat and Gatiss think they do. (Spoilers for all three episodes of Dracula.)
Dracula(written by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat) For over 120 years, Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula, has inspired generations of filmmakers. Now the creators of Sherlock give the legend fresh blood! It’s 1897 and St Mary’s Convent in Budapest plays host to a desiccated husk of a human being, Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan), an English lawyer with a strange and unsettling story to tell. Listening in is the kind and inquisitive Sister Agatha (Dolly Wells), a nun with an unusual interest in the creatures of the night.
Invited to Transylvania to meet the reclusive Count Dracula (Claes Bang), Harker finds himself trapped in an ancient, terrifying castle, a maze of mouldering corridors and vaults: a prison without locks. It soon becomes clear that he and his client are the only things living in the echoing halls of the moulding pile, and that the Count himself isn’t living at all. In fact, Dracula is a 400-year-old vampire who has grown weary of his own exhausted country and has set his sights on the new world. As the shadows lengthen and Harker’s account unfolds, it becomes clear that the remorseless vampire may have unfinished business with his erstwhile guest.
Back in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, nearly every serial from the classic run of Doctor Who was novelized in one way or another through a range of books published by Target Books. That practice was discontinued when the show returned in 2005, mainly due to how readily available various home video formats were. It’s a shame because many of those classic novelizations ended up being better than the televised versions (mainly because a novel doesn’t have the budget constraints of a science fiction show made on a shoestring budget in the mid-1970s). Then, just a few months ago, BBC Books decided to revive the range for a brief five-book run. Like the old range, they brought back the writers of some of the episodes while mixing it adaptations from other writers. The books adapted for this new range were Rose by Russell T. Davies (the writer of the episode), The Christmas Invasion by Jenny T. Colgan (based on a script by Russell T. Davies), The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat (the writer of the episode), and Twice Upon a Time by Paul Cornell (based on a script by Steven Moffat). This review, however, will be focusing on the latter two books: The Day of the Doctor and Twice Upon a Time.
Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor (by Steven Moffat): When the entire universe is at stake, three different Doctors will unite to save it. The Tenth Doctor is hunting shape-shifting Zygons in Elizabethan England. The Eleventh is investigating a rift in space-time in the present day. And one other – the man they used to be but never speak of – is fighting the Daleks in the darkest days of the Time War. Driven by demons and despair, this battle-scarred Doctor is set to take a devastating decision that will threaten the survival of the entire universe… a decision that not even a Time Lord can take alone. On this day, the Doctor’s different incarnations will come together to save the Earth… to save the universe… and to save his soul.
Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (by Paul Cornell): Still reeling from his encounter with the Cybermen, the First Doctor stumbles through the bitter Antarctic wind, resisting the approaching regeneration with all his strength. But as he fights his way through the snowdrifts, he comes across the familiar shape of a blue police box, and a mysterious figure who introduces himself as the Doctor… Thrown together at their most vulnerable moments, the two Doctors must discover why the snowflakes are suspended in the sky, why a First World War Captain has been lifted from his time stream moments before his death, and who is the mysterious Glass Woman who knows their true name. The Doctor is reunited with Bill, but is she all she seems? And can he hold out against the coming regeneration?
As must always happen, another Doctor’s time has come to a close. This time we must say goodbye to Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor. Not only is this Capaldi’s swan song, but it’s also showrunner Steven Moffat’s final episode. For Doctor Who fans, the regeneration episode is always a bag of mixed emotions. It’s sad to see a beloved Doctor leave, but it’s exciting to get a glimpse of the new one and all the surprises that await us in the episodes ahead. In Twice Upon a Time (written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay), the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) teams up with his former self, the First Doctor (David Bradley) and a returning Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), for one last adventure. Two Doctors stranded in an Arctic snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. Enchanted glass people, stealing their victims from frozen time. And a World War One captain destined to die on the battlefield, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor s story. An uplifting new tale about the power of hope in humanity s darkest hours, Twice Upon A Time marks the end of an era. But as the Doctor must face his past to decide his future, his journey is only just beginning… The 60-minute special guest stars Mark Gatiss as The Captain and Nikki Amuka-Bird as the voice of the glass woman, and will see Peter Capaldi’s Doctor regenerate into the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). (Mild spoilers ahead) (more…)
Better late than never, I guess. So, series 10 of Doctor Who has come to an end, and boy, what an ending it was. There were Cybermen, explosions, black holes, spaceships, two Masters, and the beginning of the end of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. It’s one hell of a two-part finale and the perfect icing on the cake that was this past series of the show. Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Rachel Talalay, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls follows the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie), and Nardole (Matt Lucas) as they arrive on a 400 mile long spaceship heading towards/away from a black hole (it’s sorta confusing). They’ve answered a distress signal the ship sent out and the Doctor has decided that this would be a great time for Missy (Michelle Gomez) to prove that she really has changed. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan at all. (There will be spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the two episodes, now is your chance to turn back. Also worth noting, this review is kind of all over the place. There’s a lot of elements to try and cover, so I’ll be jumping around quite a bit.)(more…)
Is the idea that love will eventually overcome everything cheesy and oftentimes overdone? Yes. But, if done well, it can still be both moving and satisfying. This final part of the “Monk Trilogy” manages to get it right. Written by Toby Whithouse and directed by Wayne Yip, The Lie of the Land concludes the “Monk Trilogy” that was begun with Extremis. In this closing chapter, Earth has been invaded and Bill is living alone, an isolated figure surviving in occupied Britain. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is imprisoned and appears to be on the side of the enemy, flooding the airwaves with fake news. Bill(Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) must embark on a deadly mission to rescue the Doctor and lead the resistance against the new regime, whatever the cost. (As always, this review will not be spoiler free, so spoilers are ahead!)(more…)
Who ever said a little bit of setup in a story was a bad thing? Sometimes the second part of a trilogy has to primarily act as a setup for the third part, but that doesn’t mean said second part can’t also stand on its own as a story. All the best middle parts of trilogies do that. The one that comes to mind, naturally, is The Empire Strikes Back. It very much is a setup for Return of the Jedi, but it’s frequently considered the best of the Star Wars films. Why? Because it also tells its own story. The Pyramid at the End of the World does the same thing. Being the middle part of the Monk Trilogy, The Pyramid at the End of the World acts as a setup for the final part, The Lie of the Land, while also succeeding in telling a story with character moments, stakes, and consequences. Written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffat and directed by Daniel Nettheim, The Pyramid at the End of the World follows the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie) as they investigate a mysterious 5,000-year-old pyramid that has just appeared overnight in Turmezistan, the strategic military point that the three biggest armies of the Earth are positioned at. Inside the pyramid are the Monks, the race of beings from Extremis who plan to take over the Earth. The Monks say that humanity is about to destroy itself, and only they (the Monks) can save us. But consent must be given. Will the human race consent? (Spoilers ahead!) (more…)
Another week, another episode of Doctor Who, another review. This week’s episode, Extremis – written by Steven Moffat and directed by Daniel Nettheim -, was the first episode of this season that I was really looking forward to. I mean, I was excited about the other episodes, don’t get me wrong, but I was most excited about this one. Especially after the teaser in this month’s Doctor Who Magazine that revealed that this would be the episode where we discovered what was inside the Vault. I love arc-heavy Doctor Who and I love when the show does different things, especially when it explores religious aspects. I’m always fond of science fiction exploring religion. And the central premise of Extremis was awful religious-sounding: ‘The Veritas. The truth. Truth so true you can’t live with it. Is that looking into hell… or seeing the light?’ Everyone who has ever read the Veritas has been found dead. In a forbidden library at the heart of the Vatican, the pope urges the Doctor to read the ancient text – but can he handle the truth?As always, this review will not be spoiler free, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen the episode! Plus, due to the nature of this episode, this review will also be somewhat of a recap as it’s impossible to talk about this episode without going into the specifics of the plot. So, seriously, don’t read this until you’ve seen the episode. (more…)
Another Saturday, another episode of Doctor Who, another review of Doctor Who. This week’s episode was Oxygen, written by Jamie Mathieson and directed by Charles Palmer. In this episode, Bill (Pearl Mackie), Nardole (Matt Lucas), and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) respond to a distress signal from a mining post somewhere in space in the future. On the post, the workers have begun to die, being killed by the very suits designed to protect them. Can the Doctor save the remaining crew in an environment where oxygen is limited and charged by the breath? Like all reviews, this one will contain spoilers – and, man, there are some spoilers to look out for this week. So, seriously, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, watch it before you read this review. You do not want the ending spoiled for you. (more…)
The fourth episode of the tenth series of Doctor Who has just aired, so it’s time to review it! This week’s episode of Doctor Who was entitled Knock Knock and was written by Mark Bartlett and directed by Bill Anderson. In this episode, Bill (Pearl Mackie) and several of her friends move into a creepy old house owned by a mysterious Landlord (David Suchet). As the house starts making noises, Bill’s friends begin to disappear. What is causing these noises and disappearances, and can Bill and the Doctor put a stop to it before it’s too late? As always, this review will have spoilers for the episode – so, stop reading now if you haven’t seen it! (more…)
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pearl Mackie)
We’re back for another review of Doctor Who! As always, this review will not be spoiler free, so if you’ve yet to see Smile, then you should probably watch the episode first. This week’s Doctor Who is called Smile and was written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce and directed by Lawrence Gogh. Smile takes the Doctor and Bill into the distant future as they land on a planet inhabited by microbots whose sole job is to make sure the humans who will soon be living there are happy. However, something has gone wrong, and these microbots have killed the entirety of the skeleton crew (the group of humans sent to prepare the planet for colonization). It’s up to the Doctor and Bill to find out what’s happened and why before the colonists arrive and suffer the same fate as the skeleton crew. (more…)