Wrong place. Wrong time. Again.
Devil6.png
'Here's looking at you, looking at me, winking at you kidz'

The Devil's Chord

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'Dude!'
Initial Reaction

This is better than the previous episode. But not much. Still the lingering feeling that we've been sold a pup. Very 'Emperor's New Clothes' and a sense of 'How in Hades will RTD square this all away?' There's absolutely no attempt being made to play this or sell this as 'real'. ( A'hem ) Exactly the opposite in fact. It's very stagey but making an asset of it for meself, if I'm honest. There's assuredly a game of some form afoot, fandom's nose is being tweaked and then some. Whether RTD can land things remains to be seen at present. But in the end I'm relatively hopeful off the back of this one. (But am I? Aarrgh!)

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'A niggling feeling someone, somewhere is extracting the Michael? Riiigghht...'
Things I Liked

'I got wigs galore!' Well, quite. You can't really go wrong with a line like that in Gantrys-ville. (Side bar but yes, huge fan of 'Buffy's' 'Once More With Feeling'. ) Marvellous to see June Hudson too, even if she is soon devoured by Maestro. I like the callback to 'The Giggle' (that title becomes ever more meta ) and our 1925 open with just ever so slightly off-beam child and hapless tutor. But yes, Maestro...To say Jinx Monsoon is an asset is an understatement and a half. Okay, a part very likely written for them but they pitch it superbly. Sometimes grotesque, sometimes genuinely unnerving and acutely, deliciously fun. Respect. There's something capering, leering headmaster from 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2' about them. Bad cartoon shivers all over the shop. Associations, associations. It somehow also puts me in mind of Vision On's 'The Burbles' or 'Woofumpuss' with the soul eating score.

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'Strut baldly on'
Punch the Air
A lot. There's a lot to like in this one for me. All the meta comments, moments and fourth wall breaking malarkey. 'Sound and Vision' indeed. Dame David Bowie salutes you. There's a very elemental magick vibe underpinning a lot of the Doctor and Maestro's musical face offs. Almost D&D, 'Zone of Silence' vs 'Vocalise'. Nice. And as for the winks, from Doctor and Maestro, plus the latter tapping out the beginnings of the theme tune pre-title sequence. The 'Toddler Tyranny' headline on the Doctor's newspaper. Susan Twist, you are again noted. It really picks up with the stage backdrop picture show from Maestro in nuclear winter 2024. And they're 'a child of the Toymaker' no less. H'mm and double h'mm...All the 'He who waits' is intriguing majorly too. As does Kit Rakusen's mysterious Henry, who reappears for a frown of disapproval at episodes close.

Love the Doctor on the rooftop, at (un)ease and contemplative. Lord of his manor indeed. The callbacks to 'An Unearthly Child' and 'Pyramids of Mars' in the blasted London sequence. Gatwa and Gibson are great value in the 'the world did not end in 1963' moment. As for, 'Why don't I fade away?'- 'Because of me' exchange. A genuine moment. Gatwa pitches it in a beautifully heartbroken manner, no humble-bragging here. And you feel it could be played in reverse at the season finale, somehow. Also John and Paul at the Mrs. Mills piano, completing the lost chord. Lovely, uplifting stuff.


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'Diminished Fifteenth'
Things I Didn't Like So Much

Yeah, the Beatles, supposed selling point of the episode. They're barely in it, are they? George and Ringo are very blink and you've missed them. There's really no attempt at veracity although Chris Mason is pretty on the mark with sounding like Lennon. But as for Fifteen's 'Why haven't I done that before?' in going back to see the Beatles. Well yes, could it be because you haven't been on Disney+ before Doctor? And I'm not so sold on the Pantheon, whom the Doctor namechecks; very multi-verse super villain line up vibes. Which is what I'm suspecting the awesome outta' da Whoniverse powers are gonna' boil down to but we'll see innit?

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'Yer limited panoramic'
Toe-Curling

Really nothing, truth be told. I was kinda' cautious to begin with, enthusiasm so dampened by the opener. Any toe-curling is entirely deliberate, such as the paean to Paul McCartney's dog or the dull'n'downbeat Cilla, so don't really count. Mrs. Gantry, Beatles fan and Anglophile that she is, felt it shoulda' ended with the fab twosome completing the chord. All singing/dancing outro not required. Meself, I loved the whole shebang.

Devils Chord7
'Bryter Layter?'

In Conclusion More Considered Reaction

If I was initially 'subdued positive' with this one, I then threatened to tip into all out, overboard praise and rhapsody. That acknowledged, I'd still go with a very healthy 10.5. It's a truly classic caper, with some outstanding moments. Which is a blessed relief, following the opener. Where it goes from here, I just can't call it: Still hopeful but jury very, very out for meself at current juncture. The dancing over the illuminous zebra crossing at the close, the weird TARDIS burbling with the Doctor's 'that's something different' observation. The time is out of joint, for sure, and it has been for some, erm, time.

Certainly since 'Wild Blue Yonder', possibly even the regressive regeneration at 'The Power of the Doctor' 's close. Me best, faltering guess would be we're in Da Realm of Fiction or some such split infinities construct. Stuff like the Doctor's 'I thought that was non-diegetic' and all the winks. Nope, summit's afoot, if it isn't the Michael is being extracted to a truly careless degree. But at present, I'm half expecting to stray into 'Moonlighting' territory.

RTD himself, David Tennant or Ncuti Gatwa stepping in for some to camera narration as with Orson Welles in 'The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice'. Heck, something as direct as David's 'Start the chase music, boys' from'Funeral for a Doornail'. Anyroad, whether 'There's Always a Twist*' is a nod to the season finale or merely inanely colourful flim-flam, I enjoyed this one a lot.

As to whether RTD's tweaking Disney's nose or Disney are pulling RTD's strings, wouldn't like to call it. Are we all being given a chance to perform in the Disney narrative? Victims of our good old unmediated (augmented?) reality? RTD may well be blurring the form to an almost parodic degree but does it make good TV? (Yes, I love my puppy.) I want me characters to be more complex, more evolved. Things need to be earned.

For me, it's something that shows up massively (wanting) next episode. This splatter gun, Jackson Pollock as TV approach is high risk and then some. The Devil may very well be in the big picture, all hopeful readings be damned. And all of the above wibbling pushed to one side, it may simply be the case that this is New Nu-Who pitching the cut of its jib at a new audience. Part of me still remains hopeful for this iterant but there's the lingering sense of things getting stretched pretty thin. (But are they? Double aarrgh and crimminy!)

(Oh, vital end note: Ed White's George Martin- he's so Ralph Cornish from 'Ambassadors of Death'- marvelous!)

*Susan Twist? Susan?!? Enough already RTD, you sleigh me with your invitation to fatally overthink it!


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Space Babies


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'Gatwa and Gibson's reaction on realising that, yes, it wasn't a joke, they're actually filming this baby (sorry) '

Initial Reaction

This is terrible!! Ladies and Mentalgen, welcome to 'Russell T. Davies' Wonderful World of Who' starring Shouty Gatwa. Okay, no, sorry, deep breath......

.......several deep breaths later. But this one is so 'tell not show'. How dumb does RTD think the audience is? (Okay, don't answer that.) I think I know why we opened on a double bill; the evidence is in plain sight. The faint hope that the second episode would overshadow the sheer awfulness on show here. But it simply can't. Here's an RTD level brain teaser for you: Rearrange these words- 'Poor. Piss.'

Things I Liked

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'Feels like we've been here before'

Okaay...There were bits. Honest Ma'am. The merest frisson of 'engaging' but it was there. The 'stepping on a butterfly' scene with alien-transmogrifying Ruby. What's going on there then? Definitely intrigued. Gatwa played this very well. And that's the thing: Gatwa (and Gibson too), are intrinsically brilliant. But stick 'em in pants of this water and even they're gonna' flounder. But sticking with the positives, I liked Fifteen's trance out back to the church. The snow and the pointing, hooded figure. The snow in the TARDIS at episodes close too. That was all fair evocative and then some. But to say it wasn't enough is the understatement of the centuries. And then some again. (Okay, whisper it, but I found some of the 'explaining our functions' baby stuff passingly amusing, specially the 'string pulling'.)

Punch the Air

Um.....Nope. And Ncuti Gatwa really needs to dial back the over-exuberant, ebullient manic enthusiasm moments. I mean, in all honesty, I think our man's a monster talent ( a kind of Shohei Ohtani of yer acting world). But RTD really isn't playing to his strengths with this stuff. He's superb with the more thoughtful , introspective moments and to say he's got range is an understatement. I just feel the wild enthusiasm needs to be more occasional. As it is, he's in danger of coming over as a severely bi-polar incarnation. Which is fine and dandy as a thing but doesn't really work in TV of this format and length.

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'Well realised snot monster mind. Does a well realised snot monster count as 'punch the air'?'


Things I Didn't Like So Much


Everything's pitched louder and bigger. Especially the performances of the leads. It's very Americanized, quelle surprise. (This ain't a knee jerk diss America- there are American dramas I'm enjoying a lot more than 'Who' at present.* It's more that the whole vibe here is an oil on water mismatch for 'Who'.) And the babies themselves...oh dear godz. This is one of the unholy triptych of 'just don't go there' for meself: Talking babies, identity/body swap and 'gosh, wow, it was all a dream' resolution.** So, yes, bias declared, RTD was on a bit of a loser with this one from the start with meself.

I also wasn't especially taken with all the info-dump 'nature and quirks of 'Who'. Plus the direct cut'n'paste of the 'End of the World' Rose and Nine sequences. Again, very tell not show. Although, okay, potential new, bigger audience. Possibly necessary, just not to yer 56 year old Old Skool 'Who' bore, so not a massively valid point. Although it does just get me thinking this iteration may well not have the legs to, er, fly. Yerse. I'd love to see five odd series of Gatwa's Fifteen, I genuinely would. I just can't see it at present. The overall vibe of 'Who' 2024 seems very, I dunno', hollow for want of a better word. We've seen and done this epically grave, mad shenanigans many, many times before. For me it's out-gunned and out-maneuvered by 'Loki' and various others. At present I'm still feeling the two series we know we've got, possibly a spin off or two and radio silence from 2026 or so. Time'll tell, blah, wibble etc

Toe-Curling

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'Isn't now, has never been and never will be a good trope Russell. EPIC fail.'

So much of the unconvincing CGI mouthed baby guff. Just excruciating. Plus Fifteen's awed/amused amazement at encountering a snot monster. Completely overlooking 'Sleep No More'. (Okay, I know some folk would like to completely overlook 'Sleep No More' but I enjoyed it meself. It's geniarse compared to this anodyne disastarama.) It does all make me wonder if RTD has dropped the ball/run out of steam with 'Who'. If this is his Bob Holmes, 1985 'Two Doctors' moment, then we're in for a very rough ride indeed. Which is a crying shame and I hope I'm proved wrong. Possibly just spreading himself too thin? I love, nay, adore, the huge majority of his other work, from 'Queer as Folk' up to 'It's a Sin'. As far as his writing goes, yep, massive talent, massive fan. ( 'Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways', 'Love & Monsters', 'Gridlock', 'Partners in Crime', 'Midnight', 'Wild Blue Yonder', all as good as 'Who' gets for meself.)



In Conclusion More Considered Reaction


Erm...Okay. I've watched this baby (really sorry) twice, don't think I can muster another re-watch just yet. Ironic that I've been doing me Eternal(ly rewatchable) plus Impossible (to sit through) run down of 'Who' of late. I was wondering when we might encounter a contender for the latter from Fifteen. And here we are, straight outta' the gate. Woo and furthermore, hoo. Be kind. Yes, always. But sometimes you've gotta' be cruel to be kind, innit Vicar? And this one is actively terrible. 2.5. Marginally better than 'The Dominators', due to brevity. Which is no recommendation whatsoever. Shocking.

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'Eric was good, mind. We liked Eric. Gawd bless the wee Time Squib.'

*'Only Murders in the Building' for example. Well written, plotted, characterised-wees all over this from a great height. Entertain me Russell, challenge me, just not this blandarama car crash TV!

**Next series: 'Timeless Teen-angst Mind Swap Nightmare Hilarity'.

The Eternals

McCoy

'The Greatest Show in the Galaxy'

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'And everybody.....GRIMACE!'

And this is me go to, solid gold, twenty four carat McCoy blah, waffle etc. Granted, it is likely equaled by 'Remembrance', 'Ghostlight' and 'Fenric'. Yet this one still pips them all for me personally. Some of the guest cast really hit things outta' the time park for meself. Very notably T.P.McKenna's Captain Cook, Ian Reddington's Chief Clown and Christopher Guard's Bellboy. McCoy and Aldred have really got things down pat by now. McCoy especially. He has a lovely, melancholy, otherworldly remove.

Good opposition too with the Gods of Ragnarok and all the meta 'perform (well) or die' commentary on the state of play for 'Who' circa 1988. It makes a virtue out of necessity as with 'Mind Robber' before it. All the illuminous, white draped tent corridors somehow work to its advantage. Ian Reddington is just superbly disconcerting as main spiritually bankrupt henchman to our stony faced antagonists. No, genuinely eerie, creepy and well-paced this is a corker and no mistake.

McGann

'The Night of the Doctor'


Yes, well...As wibbled last time, we're hardly spoilt for choice with TV McGann. Other media and there are assuredly options that'd trump this: 'The Flood', 'Chimes of Midnight' and 'Alien Bodies' to name but three. But TV it is and we're lucky to have this in me humble. Scant seven odd minutes that it is. Cass, Ohila, the cut'n'pasted young War Doctor, all of them are secondary to McGann. He just owns it. Like 'Evil of the Daleks' episode 2, its very existance just makes you hungry for more. 'Bring me knitting'? Well yes, but bring me more, more, more!

That 'Power of the Doctor' snippet likewise just increased me extra TV McGann yearning. Who knows? Breaking away from me past 'Who' waffling next time with some actual new Nu-Who as it were. Will RTD sneak in another bonus appearance from Eight? Massively unlikely but ya' never know. Yes, Fifteen, what exactly are we gonna' get? Currently highly hopeful and it's gonna' be interesting finding out.


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'Time to go again already? Well shucks Mrs Rassilon.....'
The Impossibles

McCoy

Time and the Rani

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'Born under the sign of Cosplay- more than the wiring's crossed.'

Now this one's curious. We're getting to a stretch of 'Who' where there are no genuine 'impossibles' for meself. I've a huge amount of time for the McCoy era, most especially Sylvester McCoy's central performance. This one I can happily re-watch if in the mood for some true, wobbly as heck 'Who' kitsch. So it's not a true impossible but is the closest the era comes for me. Certainly my least rewatched, whisper it but I'll be quicker to turn to 'Silver Nemesis'.

Part of the problem/hilarity is the eternal mega overripe fruitiness of Pip'n'Jane Baker's dialogue. I'm not one to consider their bad rep entirely deserved but they really don't do themselves any favours on the syntax front. Savour, for a moment that such as 'The bumbling fool is ready made as a sacrificial lamb' and 'Your past is littered with the mutilated results of your unethical experiments.' Yep. Naturalistic assuredly ain't in the vocabulary bank. So we can add a certain unwieldy clunkiness to an already budget compromised and concept conflated hot mess of a script.

But whilst it's mildly gobsmacking to see actors of the caliber of Donald Pickering and Wanda Ventham in a mess as hot as this it's arresting enough in its barmy way. Kate O'Mara is clearly having a ball throughout. Wish we'd got a third, slightly more heavyweight return for her on TV. The Tetraps aren't a bad concept, just duffly executed. (And duff executioners into the bargain. They're certainly right up there in the Crap Skills Monsters Dept.) Evil is assuredly being coincidentally perpetrated by Keff McCulloch. The geniuses (or genii, this is Pip'n'Jane, let's break out the obtuse obscure) being herded into the TARDIS interiority trumps 'Dimensions in Time' mind. But in the final analysis, I'd say 'absurdly compelling' as opposed to a true impossible.

McGann

'Doctor Who'


And again, I run into me 'not a true impossible' issue. We're not exactly spoilt for choice with regard to televised Eight. And I love the TV movie. It has a kind of, erm, witless freneticism that appeals to me active neuron, as it were. I don't find it hard to re-watch and really quite actively enjoy it. Allowing for the fact that had it gone to series, it really could've derailed things permanently. We may very well not now be anticipating/un-anticipating* Ncuti Gatwa's Fifteen.

That wibbled, McGann's core performance aside, there are things lacking here. Like much of a support cast. Daphne Ashbrook's Grace Holloway and Yee Jee Tso's Chang Lee are good but not great. But they're really given very little to work from. Burbling Smurf Dalek voices and gloop dispensing embodied Snake Meister don't really cut it. Neither does all the Reality Fabric Conditioner Arse of Disharmony guff. But we're straight back into the realm of 'absurdly compelling' with Eric Roberts's supremely daft take on the Master. Kudos and then some. There's ramping it up and there's outta' the stratosphere and into orbit. Which is largely what we have here, in what is very much a bizarre, two-hander showcase for McGann and Roberts.

So yeah, these are definitely the outliers of the 'Impossibles' category for meself. Jokers, for sure, but jokers with some bafflingly daft aces up their time sleeves. Nice


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'Best Doctor we never had in terms of TV 'Who' Wail. Gnash etc '


* Delete according to Fannish Disposition. (Currently very hopeful'n' exciterated in Gantrys-ville.)
The Eternals

Peter D

'Snakedance'

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'Come children- let us cry until the stars in our eyes are truly dead...'

80's 'Who'. Such a conflicted, constricted but occasionally blindingly creative time for me beloved show. For meself, a much reduced hit rate for sure. The misses are accumulating alarmingly. But when it does hit the mark , it's simply stunning, as here.

Christopher Bailey, like Chris Boucher before him, is one of those 'Who' writers you wish had done more TV 'Who'. This is my favourite of his two. Studio bound, as with 'Kinda' but brother, does this one soar. Yes, it actually is lyrical. But more in the actual structure and playing of the piece. We're not talking Shakespeare but I'd still argue this is the 'I, Claudius' of 'Who'. The playing is just exquisite throughout. Peter Davison is never better. Special mention to the young Martin Clunes's Lon, Colette O'Neil's Tanha and John Carson's Ambril. But everyone is on absolutely tip-top form.

No, for some studio bound sets, the sense of a history, a planet, a culture and its people is really quite profound. This ain't no sketch. The Mara remains an insidious, invidious presence throughout: Coldly mocking, beyond amoral and outside, upside/below all compass points. And so we go. Absolutely lovely stuff. The 'Six Faces of Delusion' scene is just exquisite.

Colin

'Revelation of the Daleks'

And so to Colin. The 'Who' run that I find hardest to invest in on TV terms alone. There is much that is wrong over the era, from that disaster of a costume down. I don't think it'll ever be known what they were truly thinking (beyond they weren't thinking) with Colin's sartorial shenanigans.

And there's much that's wrong with this particular story. But in terms of an almost 'Black Mirror', disconcertingly arresting way. By accident or design, Eric Saward has, for once, arrived at something really quite singular'n'striking. Yes, we do have a Doctor who is almost an accidental (coincidental?), sidebar 'hero' and tangential comment upon the main story. It does absolutely no harm whatsoever that Graeme Harper is directing again. Although Saward can't quite gift him what Holmes did last season. He gets the 'shape' of Holmes but not the true soul or feel for me.

So yeah, it's a knock off that's not quite comfortable in its own skin. But that, recycling of the dearly departed taken into account, may be the whole point. This one's designed to be uncomfortable- awkward in the face of the grotesque is the new party hat/line. Wear your glad-rags like they've canceled tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow innit? Davros is more meta than he's every been, an absurd narrator in his own blackly, blackly comic caper. Counterpoint and counterweight to Six's joker at the gate.

Eleanor Bron's Karla just owns the meta, right down to her poise on being dispatched by Orcini. Likewise Alexei Sayle's gentle everyman DJ. I'd almost push it as far as Jenny Tomasin's Tasembeker, a kind of 'innocent misfit grump dreamer' adjunct to procedings. Almost. And nowhere more so than the ghoulish glee of Clive Swift's Jobel. No Mr, no title, he just inhabits, inhibits and warps the narrative, Jobel just is. The vastly self-regarding inner multitude uncontained: pseud's cornered, squared away and quartered.

No, bleakly superior stuff that I can occasionally return to savour like sour wine. Tart on all fronts, it's a deliberately self conscious misstep that's one of 'Who's' greatest, if grimmest moments.

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'...sitting round at home. Watching the pictures go, Amen to that. You're preaching to the perverted sister.'


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Kert Gantry

Author:Kert Gantry
Loving the Who from a very early age and invariably banging on about it. Hence the blog.

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