Not much to say about this. It was OK. But is stuff like Cold War really significantly better than an episode virtually anyone with a modicum of talent could manage? Gatiss is very talented, but you wouldn't really know it from the majority of his Doctor Who work, either on television or novels.
The fact that Cold War has been heralded with comments acclaiming Gatiss' best ever work for Who say it all. For me, The Unquiet Dead is far and away his best effort. It's eerie, funny, frightening and probably the best example of the 'celebrity historicals' if you don't count Vincent And The Doctor.
Cold War was a decent-enough runabout with sufficient cribs from superior material to see it through. It also managed to inject some threat into the show, which has been sorely lacking of late. A few directorial flourishes and some deaths that are played for scares, rather than mawk, mean that Cold War actually came close to remembering that Doctor Who is frequently at its best - and certainly working best for kids - when it's frightening.
That Moffat has clearly forgotten this, in his mission to resolve everything bloody thing in Doctor Who with the power of love, has been the biggest problem in his run of as showrunner.
Ultimately Cold War merely has the seeds of a good story, before abandoning it in favour of another talky ending that doesn't convince and, inevitably, we have to have a load of bumph about how the Ice Warriors are 'noble and ancient' and all that jazz.
While seeing David Warner in action was nice too, it was a shame he was saddled with a ridiculous gimmick that was an attempted shortcut to 'characterisation'. In a wholly unbelievably spot of crass affectation, Warner's character loved New Romatic music and managed to crowbar in some shite references to his love of Ultravox and Duran Duran into moments that would have led to his sectioning and removal to a northern gulag. And quite right too.
The moment Warner's character appears to go mad and insist on knowing what happens in the future, only to reveal that he simply wants to know when Ultravox split up, is one of the most ineptly judged moments I've ever seen on television.
Elsewhere the episode sees some of the worst CGI seen in the rejuvenated Doctor Who and some plot clunkers - why wear armour if you're more of a threat out of it, can exist easily outside of it and break free at will? What's more, it's become apparent over Season 7 that Matt Smith has simply lost his character.
Whereas Smith seemed to ride a fine line between NuWho-patented wackiness that seems to pass for Doctorish eccentricity these days and some more considered moments, he's slipped almost totally into parody now, his Eleventh Doctor now pitched somewhere between fictional character, the odd public persona that's rolled out when he's talking to kids or appearing on Children In Need and, basically, Matt Smith. Smith is constantly braking kitschy cathphrases in the same way that Tennant did - all Come On Big Boys! and Hello Yous! What's more he's started to do it in a phony cockernee accent, just like Tennant did.
It robs the series of any dramatic tension as it's almost functioning on some sort of meta level these days. The Doctor, when he's not waving his Sonic
Cock Screwdriver around, always seems to know that the camera is on him – why else would he keep burbling on about the show's title? – and there's always an air of silliness whenever the Doctor's on-screen that sucks all dramatic tension out of the action.
This season has seen the show appear to be extremely pleased with itself – winks to the camera, storytelling that seems to be veering towards meta-fiction and an inclination to nonsensical conclusions that appear somewhere between laziness and smugness. People might burble on about hyper-compressed storytelling, but really I suspect the reality is that deadlines and block are the reason behind such hypercompressing rather than anything more elaborate.
In Cold War, Warner's characterisation in Cold War was straight out of that playbook, but at least some behind-the-sofa moments put the show back in touch with one of its defining traits.
The fact that Gatiss' latest - the Gatisst? - was welcomed with such relief does not, to me, indicate that it was particularly good. It shows up the paucity of quality, imagination and coherent storytelling that has defined Doctor Who since the end of Season 5. Cold War? Cold comfort.
I'm glad they kept the Ice Warrior design largely intact, following the disasters of the redesigned Daleks, Cybermen and Silurians.
Some moments that attempted to be eerie and dramatic were welcome. The tentacles-around-the-head was particularly effective.
Cold War has some of the worst CGI I've seen on television in recent years, up to the standard of those Sci-Fy channel Mega-Piranha Versus Giant Beaver-style films.
David Warner had some nice moments but his character was a total fiction; utterly unbelievable even within the confines of the Doctor Who universe. When suspension of disbelief is impossible it's hard to invest anything in the series.
Matt Smith has been on a downward curve for a while. I think he's a good actor but, like Tennant, his Doctor has become a parody of itself.
Clara doesn't always convince here - her final speech just doesn't ring true. So far she's a combination of classic Moffat tropes. Sassy, wise-cracking, flirtatious, fast-talking. Thus far there's not much flesh on the bones, despite what we're constantly told by the narrative.
Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about? GO HERE
I think this episode may be the most forgettable of the modern Doctor Who. Certainly not worst, in fact it isn't really bad, but one that barely dented my conciousness at the time.
Indeed, I've frequently been unable to recall the actual tite. The Empty Faces? The Hungry Televisions? In actuality The Idiot's Lantern is a great title.
And all of the parts are impressive but I don't think they gel - and the pacing is very leisurely for the first two thirds (and benefits as a result) but then everything is resolved in a flash, leaving the valedictory 'gay son gains self-esteem' epilogue.
It's less than the sum, but it's better than Gatiss' next two efforts. After The Unquiet Dead it seems not unreasonable to ask what went wrong.
Some excellent little flourishes from Euros Lyn, using unusual angles and close-ups to good effect.
The encounters with faceless people are all spooky and odd.
The conceit of the Wire is quite nice and sometimes well-realised
I quite like all the 50s nonsense that the Doctor and Rose do and their interactions feel rather more Whoish here, rather than the horrid mutual admiration codependence displayed elsewhere in series two.
All the performances are good, even if Maureen Lipman overdoes it somewhat.
The BBC shows how well it can do period dressing and ambiance again.
I can't make head nor tail of the way the plot is resolved. Admittedly I wasn't glued to the set while it was on, but the Doctor pushes some buttons and something happens and everything is OK? (See also: Daleks In Manhattan).
The whole abusive father / gay son subplot never feels anything less than awkward.
Tennant being angry. I remember reading with disbelief that Ian Briggs thought Sylvester McCoy played 'angry' very well. I wonder if the same thought occurred to virtually everyone who wrote for Tennant. They're about as right as Briggs was.
There, I said it. We've all been thinking it. Even you Mark Gatiss. I bet you have. If you haven't, you should - you really should you know.
I quite enjoyed all of the New Adventures up to Nightshade. Even John Peel's opening one. And I loved Uncle Terrance's Exodus, which is fast and economical but gripping too. Nigel Robinson's one was decent and Paul Cornell was a delight to find (Ace has suffocated on the moon, believing it to be Perivale - the afterlife receptionist thinks it unique, according to the blurb on the back).
And then I hit a stumbling block. I couldn't get past Marc Platt's Time's Crucible - a shame as I was deeply impressed by his novelisations of Battlefield ) making it much better than the televised story) and Ghost Light (making it make sense - kinda).
Then Cartmel's first book of his NA trilogy. Cartmel comes in for a lot of stick these days (much of it of his own making) but his New Adventures were genuinely superb books. Andrew Hunt's (?) Witchmark didn't leave much impact on me - I think I thought it was OK.
And then, I'm fairly sure, was Gatiss' Nightshade. It was the first book that me totally gripped, with what I thought were the right amounts of old Doctor Who, the 'too broad and deep' philosophy of the New Adventures, humour, wit and - importantly - horror.
Gatiss' first book has terrors to send your arm hairs up on end, afraid to look under the bed and unwilling to turn off the light. The concept of a monster that feeds of fear - and thus becomes that which people fear the most - is not especially novel but I don't remember an instance of it being pulled off so well.
The Tar Baby and the drowned, dead brother are horrifying creations described wonderfully - the former's sticky arms reaching out from beneath the bed - and its victim's lack of surprise - is a masterclass in horror writing.
And then there's Professor Nightshade. If the story had been made into a TV serial the monster would have been enough. But Gatiss uses the form to delve into a meta sub-plot about a retired actor who played a character not at all like Quatermass in some BBC serials (I think). Because - in Nightshade - peoples' fears become reality you basically get an episode of Quatermass played out within a Doctor Who story. Irresistable.
Rather than delving into big space opera battles or cyberpunk - or the sex-and-violence that some tried and often failed - Gatiss uses the broader canvas to simply do something clever with the opportunity. The setting was good too. A cold, colourless northeast seaside town if I remember correctly. I always imagined a Marske or Whitby rather than a Teesside town - somewhere near the Moors.
I liked the novel immensely. I reckon I read it a few times. I re-read it a few years ago - when I revisited the range - and found that it had not aged. Others I found very much less impressive second-time around.
It strikes me that this would make an excellent two-parter with little tweaking. It's a good story for the Doctor, if I remember correctly. While Gatiss sketched out the seventh very well I don't remember it being exclusively about the seventh incrantion especially. Ace has a good story too - and nearly has a romance with a man called Robin ( I would have been willin') - and there's a great character actor part in Professor Nightshade.
Beyond that I can't remember. But I am sure the story would stand the transfer well. The BBC does period well, some nice location stuff would really drag the series back out of its self-satisfied America-and-space routines of the last series - and the tower block mise-en-scene of RTD's tenure. For all of its promise I'm not sure the new series has really explored the 'anywhere, anywhen' template much
Importantly, for me, the story is frightening. Doctor Who is all abut frightening for me. Sure, some fans think it's hilarious when Tom and the guest cast spend 90 minutes twatting about, or the Doctor snogs someone or the Daleks and Cybermen have a war.
Maybe those things are good, but I don't think they're the reason kids get into Doctor Who. Our programme has been great at scares over the years. It has spawned some of the most famously frightening things that exist in fiction. It is a scary show - and it's usually at its best when its being good at being terrifying. You've heard of 'behind the sofa' - I vividly remember spending the end of the first episode of Caves of Androzani under the sofa.
Nightshade is a very scary book. I'd also stick my head above the parapet and say that it's the best thing Mark Gatiss has done on the show, including his other novels, audio plays and his TV scripts.
While I found The Unquiet Dead very enjoyable, it's been a case of diminishing returns with Gatiss' scripts, culminating in the obviously hacked-up Victory of the Daleks and the very weak Night Terrors.
Gatiss is clearly someone who could be a future show-runner, if the series has a secure future. Should Moffat continue it seems reasonable to expect more Gatiss episodes. He has one of the best Doctor Who stories ever written at his disposal - and he wrote it. Cornell did the same for Human Nature - and Marc Platt's wonderful Spare Parts was mangled to make Rise of the Cybermen (probably best we forget that) but Nightshade's simplicity, its neutrality, its very Who-ness would make it a classic.
It may be a very old adventure - but to a legion of New Series fans it could be new once more.
The second photo is - I think - from when BBC Online started to reprint a few of the NAs. I've also found a prelude to it - DWM had an excellent featurette that prefaced all the novels in those days, a reflection of how important they were. You can read it here.
Well, what a year 2005 was. What a rollercoaster ride. A new series of Doctor Who taken immediately to the nation's bosom, a great new Doctor in Chris Eccleston, a revelation in Billie, some nice nods to the past and some old foes. Then the shock departure of the Ninth Doctor and Tennant and the decent Christmas Invasion.
I still remember the trailer for the second series that showed immediately after the Christmas Day special - and being very excited by it. Was that excitement warranted? Well, that's what we're here to find out.
Like last time, when we looked at Season One of the new Doctor Who series, I'll be asking the Geek Clique (a bunch of (largely) demographically-similar fans, you can probably guess which demographics) for their views and ratings of Tennant's first series.
If you missed it last time I asked them - in an investigation of whether my 33-33-33 good-bad-indifferent rule was about right - which episodes they liked. Just that. No marks out of ten or caveats. I also asked them for their comments on what they thought worked and why.
The Tenth Doctor, Rose, Mickey, Sarah-Jane, K9, Cybermen, the Absorbaloff. Alons-y!
For me this is probably the weakest of the series of NuWho, though Series Six is running it very close. I never really warmed to the Tenth Doctor, though I could appreciate Tennant's acting abilities. I found him rather self-satisfied, shouty and saddled with an awful accent. As one of the Geel Clique says, he's a twat. His relationship with Rose brought out the worst in them - they were hard to warm to and I was glad to see the back of the whingy, clingy, often cruel Rose by the end of the series.
I don't rate many of the stories either. It has one out-and-out classic in The Girl In The Fireplace, an episode that's funny, touching, clever, scary and weird by turn and an episode that really built up its emotional pay-off, rather than just having someone cry while Murray Gold wanks away in the background. Oh, it's 'drunk Doctor' scene is possibly the worst in the entire series, but we'll ignore that.
I also voted for School Reunion, an episode that I'd describe, favourably, as 'nice'. It's oh-so-slight and Anthony Head would have Graham Crowden frowning and thinking 'that's a bit much' but it has Sarah-Jane and K9 and some funny lines.
I really liked a lot of elements in The Impossible Planet and Satan Pit but it didn't feel like the sum of its parts. It came across as a bit jumbled, like it had been clumsily rewritten but I thought it genuinely chilling in parts - "Don't turn around" a classic moment - and boasted a strong cast. Best of all, Gabriel Woolf was in it.
NB. I forgot to vote for Girl In the Fireplace so bumped it up by one
And that was it for me. Tooth and Claw was a decent runaround, but that was it. The Idiot's Lantern seemed like a nice idea and looked a treat but was the first in a series of forgettable Gatiss scripts that just don't really come off.
I thought New Earth possibly the worst in the new series run and the Cybermen two-parter an absolute bodge of the brilliant Spare Parts audio play, with perhaps the worst single performance of the new series from Trigger off of Only Fools and Horses.
Fear Her is a complete waste of time and a bizarre fluff of the 'suburban horror' meme and the final two-parter a bemusing car crash of elements, characters, monsters and plot lines. I'm informed that half of the Geek Clique literally shit themselves with sadness when Rose went through the wall, though, so what do I know?
What else? Ah, yes. Love and Monsters. This is an intriguing little creation but it seems like it's wandered in from a different series. It's an episode about Doctor Who fans. Weird. But pretty good, on the whole.
The Geek Clique awarded this series just 35 votes. Assuming the same amount of people vote on each series that places Series 2 as last in the Clique's affections - with a series an average of just 3.5 to Series One's 58.
Anyway, as for my 33-33-33 (good, indifferent, bad) split, here goes:
-School Reunion, Girl in the Fireplace, The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
-Tooth and Claw, Love and Monsters
-New Earth, Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel, The Idiot's Lantern, Fear Her, Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
That's seven duffers out of 13, which is not a great hit rate and blows my mathematical wibbling out of the water.
Read what the Geek Clique made of the individual episodes, the Doctor-Rose-Mickey dynamic and the series as a whole below. And do let us know what you think about Series 2, both with comments and the poll at the bottom.
New Earth continues the nuWho tradition of dreadful opening nights. Like many of RTD's stories it has a grab bag of elements that sound exciting but have narrative reason to be together (nuns - who are cats, zombies, the Return of Cassandra, the Face of Boe again, etcetera). This one sounds like it was hindered by Davies rewriting the story in response to something Moffat said (Davies “invents interesting characters, then melts them”) and decided to give the story a happy ending. Instead of creating a scenario where Doctor has to kill the experimental subjects and the Face of Boe actually dies, tying in thematically with Cassandra's death, he grafted on a happy ending, which is bollocks. Cassandra's acceptance of her own mortality is completely out of keeping with everything the audience knows of the character, and the scenes in which the experimental subjects are cured by the application of the Sisters of Plenitude's medicines raising the question of why the Sisters were using the subjects for experimentation, if their diseases were so easily curable.
New Earth was an unforgiveably poor start to the season, squandering the goodwill engendered by the Christmas Invasion: after tCI, I was really excited to see the new Doctor and instead what I get is a whiny, arrogant manchild and his simpering girlfriend parading their dysfunctional codependency in front of a load of cats. And then you get Tooth and Claw...
Tooth and Claw
I'm not sure what the point of 'Tooth and Claw' was. Rose and the Doctor start to become smug and obnoxious with their cliquey jokes. The monks that Bic razors forgot are just bizarre (wouldn't pretending to be y'know normal monks be less conspicuous). And the idea of the telescope as a werewolf trap is just stupid - it's possibly the least useful weapon forever as it only works in one narrow scenario.
School Reunion is a funny one too. because Lis Sladen + K9 are in it it's quite enjoyable - but I feel that's skewing the balance in favour of this story, which is wholly forgettable shorn of its USP.
I quite like the Anthonystewartheadites. I'm not sure they'd be worth much without Anthony Stewart Head being smarmy and evil but their shtick of being obsessive self improvers has the basics for a classic Who baddy. And bat wings are cool. Also Mickey is good in this.
Looking back on all this, there are lots of episodes which have great elements which don't add up to a great episode. School reunion being the best case - I've not idea how a show could be shit with Anthony Head, Sarah Jane (this was the first time she came back and it was brilliant) K9 and scary aliens posing as teachers, but somehow it was.
Other than the bits with Sarah and K-9, 'School Reunion' is just a bit boring. It also cements how nasty the Doctor and Rose are when Mickey realises that he's relegated to the role of the tin dog. I'm also not entirely happy with the attempt to retrofit the type of relationship the Doctor has with Rose onto Sarah. And Rose is obnoxious to poor old Sarah Jane. It's a shame the monsters didn't eat her. Oh, and Anthony Head is in it! Yay! But he overacts terribly. Boo.
The Girl in the Fireplace
The Girl in the Fireplace is a story I enjoy, but which loses something whenever it's rewatched. The creepy ship and the clockwork men turn out to have the most banal rationale behing their actions imaginable, and we're supposed to think that's clever!
I've never quite understood the love for Girl in the Time Traveller's Wife, being more struck by the fact that Noel Clarke was going to get screwed over by bad planning again.
Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel
The Rise of the Cybermen two-parter was weak plot-wise, and suffered from the inclusion of an unnecessary and boring alt-earth runaround, but there were some great set-pieces in it and the art deco look of the cybermen along with with their FX-assisted stomping brought to the fore their mechanical, soulless, and cold-hearted nature. Combine this with the conversion scenes at Battersea Power Station and there was a real sense that humanity was at risk there.
The Idiot's Lantern
I've never understood the antipathy to Idiot's Lantern - a smashing episode with a fun baddie, an entertaining plot and a drunken cameraman.
The Idiot's Lantern would be ok were it not for the nonsense about the gay son calling out his evil fifties reactionary father. Gattiss can't do emotional stuff at all and in this instance it drowned the plot. Oh and the Tenth Doctor was at his shouty-twat worst.
The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
I really liked the Impossible planet, dunno why there's the hate for that one. But I suspect it was mainly the supporting actors who were really damn good.
Love and Monsters
I really like Love and Monsters: it was brave and interesting, and about time to try something different. The biggest weakness, ironically, is the Doctor and Rose: they're absolute bastards: it's impossible to believe that people are so likely to worship the Doctor when he's simply not the Doctor we all grew up worshipping. He's a twat.
Love & Monsters is easily my favourite episode of the new series. It's not doing what Doctor Who should do at all, but it stands as the one place when RTD really let rip and brought the keen vision of Queer as Folk to bear on geek culture. It's dark, misanthropic and near the knuckle, but it's also honest.
Fear Her was a fine little story, completely inconsequential and daft, but well suited to 45 minutes and a welcome change from the universe being under threat again.
So many Nu Who stories have so utterly forgettable and lacking in effort you wonder if they wonder have been better off just going with 8 episodes a year.
Fear Her should have been a nice creepy little story about something horrible living on a quiet suburban street, and I thought that the tenth Doctor was more sympathetic than usual in that one, but the abusive parent stuff felt tacked on, the guff about the Olympics seemed fairly typical of RTD's inability to let stories with contemporary settings speak for themselves, and Huw Edwards is unbearable at the best of times and made an even bigger tit of himself than usual here.
Army of Goasts/Doomsday
The finale was magnificent, second only among New DW in the heartstring-tugging stakes to Eccleston's last story. It was a comic book story brought to life, completely believable and utterly enthralling. And the dramatic tone shift in the final 15 seconds give an impression of a show runner at the very top of his game - amazingly confident, wonderfully subversive and pitch perfect in judging cliffhangers.
The final two parter was great at the time, and the end of was fantastic, and I certainly got a lump in my throat. But the elegance of the end was spoiled by the fact that the relationship was soured for me earlier on in the year.
Bad Wolf Bay is the moment that cemented the show in the affections of the nation, if not ours. It sealed the deal for the gurls and wimmin, who were absolutely crucial to what RTD was trying to do with show. That moment with the wall is and will be the moment that gets replayed on The Greatest TV Moments Ever clip shows from now till doomsday.
Rose and the Doctor
As strange as it is to apply the concept to fictional characters the Tenth Doctor and Rose really brought out the worst in each other. Co-dependent, mutually admiring and callous about all the characters around them except for when called upon to demonstrate their "compassion" for our admiration.
I really didn't like the Ten n' Rose dynamic, which spoiled a lot of stories in S2. I never liked that while I felt there was a co-dependency between Nine and Rose that made it a-OK, there was just something deeply unpleasant about the dynamic between the two of them in Season Two.
It's a shame that I can hardly watch Tennant now. Watching him through the filter of the last few specials means that it's difficult not to shout "emo twat" at the screen whenever he's on and being moody.
[Rose} went from being a sweet, normal person to a clingy cypher. Watching them again, the shift in characterisation from seasons 1 to 2 is actually quite jarring. It spoils what could have been fun episodes and turns bad episodes into something awful. The fact the season has more of the latter than the former any way doesn't exactly help.
Aside from the werewolf one, the sarah jane one and the madam de pompadour one this is probably the second weakest series so far.
Season 2, for me, is a lot less coherent than Season 1. I know there's a lot of reasons for that - Rose's change in leaving dates, the replacement of Ecclestone - but, for me, the heart and soul of the issue seems to be the writing. I think RTD was caught out by the success of the s1 (as were we all) and rapidly fell into a trap of just writing for his life. The treadmill of actually getting the thing produced overtook the writing; this would become more and more noticeable throughout the rest of the new series and really underlines the importance of having either a seperate head writer and showrunner/producer or a larger writing staff.
Looking back it's really hard to miss how lazy a lot of the plot and characterisation choices were and the faint air of desperation that hung about it as RTD realised he had a hit on his hand but hadn't really thought about what to do next. After the Tooth and Claw through Girl in the Fireplace run which had some of the best action and best jokes in the new series it was all thrown away by a lot of badly plotted runabouts with cod emotion thrown in. Also I'm struggling to think of a genuine real scare in this series - I liked some of the stuff from the Ood two parter at the time but it was all rather thrown away by the creature in the pit turning out to be a heavy metal cover circa 1982. Still all that said it was phenomenally successful and Tennant has become "The Doctor" to a generation in a way that Eccleston and Smith (both of whom I vastly prefer) haven't so it must have been doing something right. Either that or the majority of Britain is thick and deluded.
There are some phenomenally weak stories in this season, looking at them again. I never watched New Earth, the Cyberman two-parter or Fear Her again they were so awful. But I've very little desire to see any of them again, bar the brilliant Girl in the Fireplace.
Doctor Who has never been better than it was in 2005-2006. And, sadly, I doubt it will be as good for years to come.
Vote for your favourite stories of Doctor Who - season two
I remember reading an interview a few years - mid-90s at a guess - in which someone, possibly Mark Gatiss, said he was sure that Doctor Who would return one day because there'd soon come a point where people in strategic positions all over the higher echelons of the BBC (or media generally) would be Doctor Who fans.
It struck me as a thrilling prospect - and one that made a lot of sense. You only have to look at the people who worked on the New Adventures and follow a few of their career paths to see how true that prediction turned out to be.
I thought I'd see how true it was and found that Doctor Who creeps into various different areas of UK media - almost as if someone had interfered with their personal time lines 40-odd years ago and ensured they were in the right places at the right time...
Writing and production staff with direct involvement in new series
Russell T Davies
Actors with direct involvement in new series
All have been published or commissioned for TV/audio scripts outisde of Doctor Who, as far as I can tell
Miscellaneous actors and writers with some (possibly tangential) involvement in new series or spin-off media
So, Gatiss' fourth effort at writing a Doctor Who following two decidedly poor efforts and the very enjoyable The Unquiet Dead.
So, would we have another installment in this tiresome story arc, or would we have a lovely little self-contained frightener? Would it be the Gatiss of Nightshade or the Gatiss of, well, virtually anything he's acted in?
I really liked the dolls and the way they made people into dolls - and the dolls house conceit, although none were particularly well used.
I don't know where to start with this - I'm not sure I've seen one Doctor Who episode in the current run that I'd actually describe as 'inept'. As a plot this felt like a rerun of Fear Her. The script was leaden and crashingly unfunny. The pacing was terrible; virtually nothing happened in the first half, then a deluge of action and plot points. The direction and editing seemed very off; especially notable during the climactic stairway scene that just looked amateurish. We also had the worst emotional manipulation courtesy of another saccharine Murray Gold score and Gatiss lines that were almost shameful.
And while Arthur Darvill does the self-aware acting really well, I found it vaguely insulting that the fact that a character basically dies every week with no ramifications was basically referred to and laughed off.
There's been a kitchen sink element to a couple of Gatiss scripts now that just seem out-of-place and heavy-handed. What's more, what is it with dysfunctional relationships between boys and their fathers? Is Doctor Who therapy for him?
I take no pleasure from saying it, but Gatiss' last three attempts to write a Doctor Who episode have been a complete mess, with Night Terrors as the worst of the lot.
His work on the League of Gentlemen was frequently brilliant; some of his NAs among the best; his work on Sherlock appears to be bearing fruit but Mark Gatiss just doesn't seem able to write Doctor Who any more.
That's a worrying track record for a man generally assumed to be the show-runner in waiting, assuming a new show-runner will ever be required.
• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?
Go here: Caves and Twins
I caught sight of Jekyll among my belongings recently - I've been estranged from my DVDs recently - and pulled Jekyll, Moffatt's update on the Robert Louis Stephenson classic, off the shelf.
A lot of Moffatt tropes are recognisable - and there's a lot of Doctor Who in it, in various ways. It was probably the last big thing the Moff did before moving onto Doctor Who and there were a lot of suggestions that James Nesbitt was next in line to be Doc 11. Same for Paterson Joseph, although probably not on the strength of the role he plays here
Anyway, I thought I'd do a Caves and Twins on it as I thought the links to Doctor Who were interesting, and it's quite fascinating in its own right.
Oh, but obviously I'm calling the good bits Jekyll and the bad bits Hyde.
The part he was born to play? Perhaps, Nesbitt's manic energy suit him well as Hyde but he's suitably morose - or angry or frightened, quite a gamut of negative emotions here - when required.
Nesbitt gets a bit of help form prosthetics and make-up when he turns to his dark side, but it's mainly all him. Tics, mannerisms, the way he holds his body, delivery and lots of energy.
It's the kind of performance that will have people who disliked Tennant's 'zany' acting reaching for the remote but it feels more appropriate here and it's balanced by lots of good moments.
As Hyde, Nesbitt is believably unhinged, atavistic, frightening; but he's also funny, disturbingly childish and vaguely tragic.
With someone else in the lead role Jekyll might have been painful to watch.
One of the few people to play this totally straight - and Jekyll needs someone holding it together. Lawson makes Peter Syme a troubled villain who's never particularly dislikable.
Zips along at the usual blink-and-you'll miss it pace, crammed with Moffatt's wit and black humour, though there are some real clangers too.
Everything fits together very nicely, some trademark Moffat cleverness with the twists and turns but everything seems to stack up very nicely in the end.
The narrative zooms back and forth too, meaning that over the six hours it's on it doesn't really feel stale.
I'm not going to spoil it but there's a whole mercenary spot that takes up about ten minutes of the last episode and is simply used to set up a lame gag/pay-off. It's utterly stupid.
This is interesting because it reflects a recognisable trope in modern genre TV - the idea that women are bloody brilliant. They're not just eye candy, they're not even simply resourceful, clever people. They have to be presented as some sort of demi-Gods, so in Doctor Who Rose is brilliant and brilliant and brilliant, as we're told time and time again; Donna Noble can't just be a bit of an idiot, she has to be a God as well; Amy Pond is at the centre of time, or something.
Here we're told again and again that Gina Bellman's character is brilliant and amazing and that becomes a rather handy get-out for Moffatt but it's all a bit tiresome too - and unbelievable when Claire continually refuses to believe what's right in front of her eyes; something Hyde even ridicules.
The focus on Claire in the narrative is admittedly a more interesting one that Jekyll glugging a steaming potion - and there's a nice bait and switch - but it's another example in modern TV of a rather curious trend; the emasculation of a male lead character by the male lead writer. Suck on that one, Freud.
A stupid idea that never comes off. Their dialogue is full of crashing innuendos and idiotic banter and none of it is in any way believable, down to their last appearance where they evade a crack squad of armed tropps by, er, running away from them slowly.
Their inclusion reeks of an awful 'aren't we clever' element that Moff revisits more frequently thsn I'd care to think about.
...which leads to...
Kinda related to the lesbian detectives, but Meera Syal is a terrible actress. Michelle Ryan doesn't seem right as the hired help and Gina Bellman struggles with some of it too.
Paterson Joseph is a fine actor but he's woefully miscast as deep south wideboy with an accent that's not as bad as it might be, but is still awful.
...which leads to...
Can Moffat write for women? Not on this evidence. Bellman, particularly, gets some utterly appalling lines that would sound stupid coming out of anyone's mouth.
Joseph also gets some real howlers - 'tonight is the orgasm' as well as his cod yankee stuff - and Moff is on full 'machine-gun dialogue' mode with Hyde that's become tiresome mainly because ) I suspect - of how frequently it appears in Doctor Who.
I think he just about gets away with it here because of Nesbitt's delivery though.
Mark Gatiss must have some serious dirt on someone. He seems to crop up in any kind of genre piece in a daft little cameo when he's comfortably the least impressive actor on screen.
Here he gets another tic-laden opportunity to distract, as Robert Louis Stephenson rejoicing in a bad Scots accent.
The American Lady
Barring her final moments in the last episode, something I unfathomably did not see coming, another example of a bad accents and a silly character that just look ridiculous in the middle of everything else.
All in all it's a genuine curiosity. I like it, but I'd acknowledge that it has some significant problems. At the centre of everything is Moffatt's eye for a clever narrative and Nesbitt's genuine tour-de-force.
The prospect of Nebsitt as the Doctor, following Jekyll, did not seem so bad. In fact it seemed positively intriguing.
And Lawson would make a superb Master.
Stephen Moffat is polishing his Hugos in Upper Boat. A mobile phone chirrups into life, playing a rendition of the theme tune to hit 90s sitcoms, Chalk.
Moffat: Yes? Oh it's you BBC Enterprises, what now, you want me to redesign to TARDIS? Only joking. Oh, you do want to me redesign the TARDIS...More toys...Easier to make...Uh-huh. OK, something else you say? A stage show. Well, I can't possibly. I'm busy actually writing Doctor Who and Sherlock and stuff. Gatiss? No, he's busy ploughing his Victoriana furrow...well, for the forseeable future I'd say... Chibnall?! Look, I'll write it, OK? Matt? No, he's busy in a gay play. Tennant? To soon, we could ask Sylv of course. No, no you're quite right. Barrowman said it was too broad? Jesus! Gatiss? Er, no. No. Neil out of the Young Ones, sure. The kids will love that. Tell you what else the kids will love...Carnival of Monsters references...yeah, exactly. Monsters come out, prance about a bit, monster walk back, repeat eight times - we can string it all together with Nigel Planer and some pre-recorded bits with Matt. And we'll get a band to play Murray's terrible music over some clips of the show we've culled from a Confidential. What's that? Churchill? Gatiss? No. Nick Briggs? Well, he'll have to be there with his ring modulator anyway, and I expect he's got his November payment to make. Yeah, it is a bit thin but what at least it's not The Ultimate Fucking Adventure eh? Oh, I dunno. Twenty quid? You were thinking fifty? And we charge three quid a pop for paper Cybermen masks? Keep talking...
I didn't dislike Sherlock, and I think some of the modern updates, including the Sherlock website, which features in the show as Sherlock Holmes' own website, are nice touches.
But this snippet from the site kinda tells you everything you need to know about the programme and its 'Conan Doyle: Updated' shtick:
This is what I do:
1. I observe everything.
2. From what I observe, I deduce everything.
3. When I've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how mad it might seem, must be the truth.
Elementary, my dear homie.
Yes, actually, he is. And clearly has a hide like an elephant or truly does not give a flying one, because now every lunatic that has been banned from Gallifrey One has a hotline to The Moff.
• You can find out about Matt Smith on Twitter here, along with various other Doctor Who alumni.