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Guardians of the Galaxy 2 review

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Yes folks. Two posts in a week. And a post that isn’t a Doctor Who review!

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how much I love Red Dwarf. I LOVE Red Dwarf.

And speaking of awesome sci-fi comedies (how’s that for a segway?), we have the latest Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. After the emotional highs of Civil War and the uniqueness of Doctor Strange, this movie was a return to the goofy banter and silliness of the earlier Marvel movies. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as the first Guardians movie is one of my favourite Marvel movies, and this movie is even funnier. The funniest characters are Drax and Baby Groot, who steals the show every time he’s on screen. I won’t spoil the jokes as this will be a spoiler free review, but the high level of comedy is maintained throughout the movie.

Much like Age of Ultron, this movie is a bit more complex and character based than the first movie. The team is split up and there are two stories going on: Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax get caught up with a mysterious figure claiming to be Star-Lord’s father whilst Rocket and Groot are being pursued by Ravagers. That’s the basic plot and I won’t give too much away, but it takes the Two Towers/Empire Strikes Back approach and takes time developing each character by splitting them up and focusing on the different dynamics. It really works and when the team unite at the end, it’s immensely satisfying.

My favourite character in the movie is Rocket Raccoon and he’s basically everything I love in a character: snarky, funny, complex and an anti-hero. He gets some awesome development in this movie and while the story doesn’t focus on him, he’s still my favourite character overall. His interaction with Groot are as hilarious as ever and the dynamic he shares with Yondu is great. Star-Lord gets the most focus and he goes through a lot in the film, and the film itself is a lot more emotional than the first, with darker themes and a major, major event that addresses one of the biggest issues in the MCU.

The villain of the piece is one of my favourite in the MCU.  Without giving anything away, they’re a lot better than most villains in the franchise and gets a lot of development. They are probably my favourite MCU villain along with Loki, Ultron and Alexander Pierce (I’m seriously trying to not spoil anything here- I’ve seen so-called “spoiler free” reviews that reveal plot points and characters. Kind of defeats the purpose of spoiler-free.) There are a lot of new characters, and I’ll admit not all of them are that memorable and there’s a character whose sole purpose is to be a punchline. It’s not too bad as it’s a funny joke, but some characters are pretty one dimensional.

The action is fantastic throughout, though not as innovative as Ant-Man or Doctor Strange. The climax is quite similar to other endings in the MCU but the emotional weight makes up for it. In an age where there are new Star Wars movies it’s hard for space battles to be particularly unique but there’s a still a distinct Marvel feel to the action and there’s a strong amount of variety in the action and plenty of quiet moments. The movie has really good escalation, with a big mystery and gradual character growth until the absolutely bonkers third act where the story gets genuinely fantastic. Despite this, the overall tone of the film is still optimistic, which is needed in movies at the moment and particularly due to the MCU getting darker. Much like the first movie, it’s standalone, so all you need to watch is the first Guardians of the Galaxy without having to know anything else about the MCU. It does help to have knowledge of the Marvel universe though, as many Easter Eggs and references are linked to the comics. Stan Lee gets one of his best cameos and the five (yes five) after credits scenes are a mixture of fun scenes and one very important one, so keep watching when the credits roll.

Overall, Volume 2 is another fantastic Marvel movie. Whilst it’s not as good as the first film or even the two MCU movies of 2016, it’s still a great time at the cinema and offers heart and emotion along with awesome action, humour and Baby Groot. Next up for the MCU it’s Spider-Man and then Thor, Hulk and Doctor Strange teaming up. I can’t wait.

Doctor Who Series 10: Thin Ice Review

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With it being slightly frosty this week, yesterday’s episode was very appropriate for the weather. Regardless of weather, this episode still continues the trend of fantastic stories from Series 10. I’m serious, if these early episodes are supposed to be the “weaker” ones, then I just can’t wait for the upcoming ones.

One of the best things about this episode is how it’s completely different from last week. We’ve gone from a sci-fi mystery with robots and lasers to a Regency-era costume drama with a big fish/snake thing. It’s this kind of juxtaposition that I love from Doctor Who, and this is probably the biggest contrast for consecutive episodes since Rings of Akhaten/Cold War.

The character work was superb this week, as both regulars got huge amounts of development. Sarah Dollard really knows how to write the Twelfth Doctor and he gets one of his best outings in a while, with his characteristic snarking, humour and cynicism mixed with humanity and warmth. The highlights are when he punched Sutcliffe for his treatment of Bill (I’ve seen people complain about this, but trust me, the Doctor is NOT a pacifist. Just watch any Jon Pertwee or Colin Baker story) and his speech about human progress.

Human progress isn’t measured by industry. It’s measured by the value you place on a life. An unimportant life. A life without privilege. The boy who died on the river, that boy’s value is your value. That’s what defines an age, that’s… what defines a species.

There’s also the continued development of Bill, and this episode once again shows what Moffat and co should have done with Clara in Series 7- show that travelling with the Doctor was not always fun. In this story, she sees a child die (pretty dark considering Doctor Who is a family show) and is understandably upset about it. There were hints of this in Cold War when Skaldak was killing the redshirts, but Clara never had a moment to reflect on what she saw. By having Bill realise the darker side of the Doctor and respond in a realistic way, it makes her more human and relatable. There are plenty of fantastic scenes between them and all three episodes so far have essentially been just her and the Doctor learning about each other. I feel like beginning from Knock Knock, the stories will get larger and more plot based.

I really liked the villain, Lord Sutcliffe, and he was basically exactly what I wanted after two weeks with no villains. I said I liked him when it’s really more “love to hate”, as in he’s so evil and careless that I just couldn’t help but like him and hate him at the same time. He’s essentially a villain from the Jon Pertwee era and as a massive fan of that era, I appreciated the return the stingy, metaphorically moustache twirling, condescending, obnoxious figure of high power that just irritates the Doctor and the audience. He’s so evil that his death is immensely satisfying. It’s been a while since we’ve had a decent human villain on Doctor Who, and Sutcliffe is probably the best since Solomon from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I’d have liked to see more of him though and have his plan expanded.

I’d love to see this guy spar with Edmund Blackadder, considering he was also in Regency London. I’d call the episode Fish and Finality. I reckon Sutcliffe would not be able to stand a chance against Blackadder.

There’s so much more to love about this story. One of the best aspects was how it handled the racism of 1814 and taught the children watching that it is never appropriate to be racist, regardless of what time period someone’s from (just because nearly everyone in 1814 was racist doesn’t excuse it). Whilst I love the Shakespeare Code, it didn’t really deal with the obvious issues that Martha would be dealing with in the 16th century. Thin Ice deals with the issue of Bill facing racism in the past a lot better, even if it was just by the Doctor knocking Sutcliffe unconscious in anger. Part of Doctor Who’s original goal was to educate the kids, and this was a good way to do it. Throwing in a real historical event and giving it a Doctor Who twist also makes the historical aspect of the show stand out more than just stories which happen to be in the past (what did the Vikings and Stuart settings add to the Ashildr stories last season?)

Another interesting element was the lack of aliens (again). It’s never really confirmed whether the sea serpent is from Earth or not and I like it that way. Whilst it is yet another misunderstood creature, the presence of Sutcliffe means there was an actual villain, although I really want the monsters this week to be the “we will kill you all” kind. Comparisons to The Beast Below are obvious as well as the Torchwood episode Meat (I’ve only recently gotten into Torchwood and I’ve been watching the good ones with my dad). There were also elements of Kill the Moon (companion makes a choice that revolves around a moral dilemma) but it’s handled better here because there weren’t any one sided dilemmas and no giant flying moon babies.

Ice to meet you (I know, I know, puns are terrible. Eye won’t make any more)

Overall, we have yet another strong episode. I feel like I’m in the minority when I say Smile is my favourite of this opening trilogy (its sci-fi aspects, clever twists and great dialogue sell it for me) but Thin Ice comes a very close second. As one of my most anticipated episodes pre broadcast it didn’t disappoint. There wasn’t much about the story arc, but we got a hint towards what’s in the vault (my Master theory is getting stronger) and it appears that Nardole will become a regular from next week.

Speaking of next week, we have a mysterious landlord, a haunted house, tree dudes and things in the wall. It feels like Ghost Light and the SJA story The Eternity Trap combined. Before that though, I’ll be reviewing Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2.

The Skulduggery Pleasant Guide: Part 3

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It’s finally time to finish off the guide to my all time favourite book series before the Resurrection on the first of June. The final three books of the series are the longest and most complex in the series, but they never forget to be fun, witty and all kinds of awesome. Let’s start off with my favourite book in the series-

  • Kingdom of the Wicked

This is it. I’ve teased about my favourite Skulduggery Pleasant for a while but now I can finally discuss this epic story in as much detail as I can without spoiling much. First of all- that title. Secondly- that cover (actually all the covers are epic). This is the longest book in the series but it’s also the most fast paced and plot heavy. The mere premise of the book just grips you, and the opening prologue (it’s so epic it deserves a prologue) will raise so many questions that you will want answered immediately. I’m not going to reveal the plot as going into too much detail will ruin it, but the characters are fantastic, with an amazing “villain”(he doesn’t really count as one in my eyes), brilliant action sequences (remember how I said Death Bringer’s ending was nuts? This ending is even more nuts), and a captivating plot with twist after twist after twist. Try reading that final chapter and not want to read the next book straight away. I really wish one day to truly delve into this awesome book spoilers and all, but for now, I’ll just say it’s the definitive Skulduggery book in my eyes.

  • Last Stand of Dead Men

I’m using the hardback cover image for this one as it’s the one I have, but both the original covers and reprinted covers I’ve been using for the rest of them are brilliant. War has come to the world of Skulduggery Pleasant, and things get really big really quickly. Whilst this book is the one that strays the most from the detective premise of the series (it’s essentially Sherlock Series 4 in that regard) it is still an incredible read, with a realistic depiction of war (I won’t spoil the details but the seeds are sown from Dark Days), powerful character moments and, as expected by this point, a massive, massive revelation which changes everything, and I do mean everything. This is probably the most serious book, and it does get very dark at points, but it’s never too dark. The ending of the book is a direct lead in to the next. Which brings me to…

  • The Dying of the Light

The ninth, and until June 1st the final book in the series, this book takes aspects and elements of every single book and combines them into one glorious whole. It’s hard to reveal much without spoilers, but this book is truly epic, capturing everything great about the series. It’s the first book since Death Bringer to be laugh out loud hilarious and the action scenes are as usual fantastic. After nine books, the characters had grown and changed and reading what seemed like the permanent end to the series was just mesmerising. Everything the series is great at is here: characters, action, humour and a great Doctor Who reference near the end. All in all, a fantastic end.

Except it’s not. As we all learnt, Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection is coming out on the 1st of June this year, hence these posts. I don’t think I need to explain how excited I am for this book, and along with Doctor Who Series 10, The Last Jedi and Thor: Ragnarok it is one of my most anticipated nerd events happening this year. I did also really like Derek Landy’s other series, Demon Road, and his awesome Tenth Doctor short story, and I hope he writes a full Doctor Who story some day, whether it’s on TV or a book.

Now for the big question: do I want a film? If done right, of course. It all depends on getting the right people (David Tennant as Skulduggery and Guillermo del Toro directing for me) and making sure Derek Landy has as much creative involvement as possible. Honestly, I feel like if an adaptation has to be done, then go for the Sherlock approach- three 90 minute movies for three weeks on TV, with each trilogy forming a season. It would be less bloated than a full blown film franchise and honestly the best way I’d want to experience Skulduggery Pleasant outside of the books. But until the inevitable adaptation comes, we’ve always got the books.

The Skulduggery Pleasant Guide: Part One

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On July 29th 2016, I was in Iceland, tired from a plane flight that was only five hours but felt a lot longer. My tiredness subsided the instant I read the news- a tenth Skulduggery Pleasant book was coming in 2017. My favourite book series was back with a bang.

skulduggery-shrine

My “Skulduggery Shrine” on my shelf. I don’t actually have the first one as I read that at junior school and fell in love with the series.

So, with a new book on the horizon, naturally the nine previous books are going to be republished with new covers which look awesome. Unfortunately/fortunately, I have the equally awesome older editions with one hardback. The first three books, otherwise known as the Faceless Ones trilogy, were re-released a few days ago, so I felt like it was time to discuss them this month, with the next two months covering the other two trilogies, At the end of my third post, I’ll sum up why I love this series and my hopes for a movie adaptation. These posts are designed to persuade anyone who hasn’t read these books yet to try them, as this year is a pretty good year to start.

  • Book One: Skulduggery Pleasant

skull dude

Much like Harry Potter, the books start off simple. This is an incredibly fun read that pulls the reader into a gripping mystery from the first page. Here’s the first paragraph:

“Gordon Edgley’s death came as a shock to everyone -not least himself. One moment he was in his study, seven words into the twenty-fifth sentence of the final chapter of his new book, And the Darkness Rained Upon Them, and the next he was dead. A tragic loss, his mind echoed numbly as he slipped away.”

What a hilarious, dark and clever way to start. Gordon Edgley’s death fuels the mystery of the first book. Through this simple hook the rest of the characters are introduced. The main character of the series is Stephanie Edgley, Gordon’s niece who inherits his house and who gets embroiled into the mysterious world of magic. There are major revelations regarding her character that I will not spoil. The other main character is of course the Skeleton Detective himself, Skulduggery Pleasant. He’s a fedora wearing, gun toting, trench coat donning, snarky, magic using detective who just happens to be dead and a walking skeleton. He is one of my all time favourite characters in the whole of fiction. Everything I love about a character gets thrown into Skulduggery Pleasant; the cool clothes, the snarky nature and the antihero aspect.

There are other characters, but I won’t go too in depth into them as it’s best to discover for yourselves the great characters. The plot is fast paced and exciting, with twists and turns. I mentioned in a previous post how Derek Landy’s writing appeals to me, as it’s very cinematic and reading it really feels like a movie is playing in your head. Which kind of makes a movie adaptation pointless, but it won’t stop Hollywood trying. I don’t to reveal everything about the book, but I can assure you it is a thrill from start to finish.

  • Book Two: Playing with Fire

playing-with-fire

This is the book where all the elements of the series really start coming together. We get more characters, such as the awesome Billy Ray Sanguine, and many aspects of this book are continued through to the ninth (it makes me so happy not saying “last book”). This time around, the stakes are not just doubled, but tripled, as the heroes have to battle three villains. Somehow, it’s even more bonkers, fun and carefully plotted than the last. It’s my favourite of the original trilogy, and probably my second favourite of the lot (I shall reveal my favourite in due course).

It’s also side-splittingly funny. One of the best aspects of the series is the constant witty banter and funny lines. Even as the books get longer and darker, Derek Landy never forgets to add humour, but knows how to restrain it for character and emotion when necessary. Playing With Fire is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, with this legendary exchange between Skulduggery and the villain, Vengous, being only one of the hilarious moments in the book. And it’s still not the funniest scene in the series:

‘”Are you going to shoot me?” Vengeous sneered. “I wouldn’t be surprised. What would a thing like you know about honor? Only a heathen would bring a gun to a sword fight.”

“And only a moron would bring a sword to a gunfight.”

This book remains one of the highpoints of the series for me. The characters, humour, action, plot and thrills all combined together to make this book the one that convinced me to keep reading the rest.

  • Book Three: The Faceless Ones

the-faceless-ones

Not to be confused with the Doctor Who story of the same name (Derek Landy is a Whovian and I’m hoping that one day he will write an episode. Or two. Or three.) The third book brings the plot elements of the previous two together to create another great story. This time, a massive conspiracy causes Skulduggery to come into blows with a criminal gang determined to destroy the world. This, along with Death Bringer and The Dying of the Light, are the trilogy closers and they are all great, but we’ll get to those later.

The trilogies are organised very well. The first book introduces the new elements of the world and the story arc, the second one ups the stakes while the third closes it with a big explosive finale. The Faceless Ones is one of the more serious books, with it being the finale to the initial arc, but there are still fantastic moments of humour like this-

“Then I reckon we got ourselves a good old-fashioned standoff.”
Nobody moved, or said anything, for the next few moments.
“Old-fashioned standoffs are mighty borin”

This book changed the series. No longer were the stories standalone action/detective plots but they were now part of a much larger narrative. Once you finish this book you will immediately want to move onto the next, where the Necromancers rise…

But that’s for next month, where the next batch of new covers will be released. I hope these posts will help people to discover these awesome, awesome books. I feel like they’re the perfect blend of young adult (a genre I usually avoid completely) and younger children, although like Harry Potter they do get darker and more mature as they go on.

The Return of Doctor Mysterio review

After a whole year without Doctor Who, this Christmas saw the return of everybody’s favourite time travelling Scotsman. This year combined the world of Doctor Who with superheroes, another one of my favourite genres. With tough competition from other Christmas specials such as A Christmas Carol, The Snowmen and The Christmas Invasion, The Return of Doctor Mysterio thankfully maintained the (mostly) strong quality of the Christmas specials. Although let’s be honest, all this special had to be was not be The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe to be better than that one.

An interesting note I made straight after the episode finished. In the show’s entire 53 year run, the only story where the Doctor travelled with a male companion throughout was The Keeper of Traken, where the Fourth Doctor and Adric were the TARDIS team, with Nyssa not becoming a companion until the next story Logopolis. If we exclude The Next Doctor, End of Time and Closing Time, where the Doctor was travelling alone and had a temporary companion, as well as the Massacre, where Dodo joins right at the end of the story, then The Return of Doctor Mysterio is the only other story in the whole show’s history to have that distinction.

doctor-and-nardole

For all the naysayers, let me assure you that the Twelfth Doctor and Nardole still isn’t as odd as the Sixth Doctor and Frobisher the shape shifting penguin.

Incidentally, I really like Nardole. He didn’t have much to do in Husbands of River Song, but this year he fits into the companion role well. I love his interactions with the Doctor and he had plenty of funny lines (I love his exclamation of “Oo, elephant”. I dunno why.) I’m also glad he’s returning for Series 10. Bill may be the main companion, but having a second companion is great. Just look at Two/Jamie/Zoe, Four/Sarah/Harry, Nine/Rose/Jack and Eleven/Amy/Rory. I also like any companion who breaks the “girl from modern Earth” trope.

As for the Doctor, well, he’s brilliant as always. It’s funny how I think the Twelfth Doctor is so much more enjoyable when not partnered with Clara. He works so much better with Perkins, Ashildr, Osgood, River Song and Nardole, not to mention his appearance in Class. He even worked better with Davros, that’s how much I didn’t enjoy Clara. In this special we once again see the funny side of Twelve. I’ve heard people complain that he got sidelined, but I honestly don’t see that. He goes through the episode eating sushi, making puns and pressing buttons randomly. That’s the Doctor I love.

The plot is very cliche, but that’s OK for a Christmas special. The main villains, Harmony Shoal, were a great link to last year’s Christmas special (looks like they’ve been taking notes from the Master in “quick reappearances”). I love the way the brains have eyes and how their faces rip open to hide guns. Their plan was reminiscent of Spearhead from Space, Terror of the Zygons and Aliens of London, and while it doesn’t make much sense (it didn’t make much sense in any of those stories either), I’m willing to forgive plot holes when the story is entertaining.

squick

This special means that the Shoal of the Winter Harmony has appeared in the show as much as the Mara, the Macra, Omega, Peladon, the Monk, the Rani and Sil the Mentor and almost as much as the Zygons. Huh.

This is an absolute laugh riot from beginning to end, and it’s right up there with The Romans, City of Death, The Unicorn and the Wasp and Robot of Sherwood as one of the funniest stories in the show’s history. The highlight of the whole episode for me was Lucy’s interrogation of the Doctor using Mr Huffles. I honestly do not think any scene in Doctor Who history is quite as ridiculous or completely hilarious. My favourite aspect of the scene is the Doctor’s pained expression when hearing Mr Huffle’s “screams”. It’s as if he doesn’t know whether the toy is actually in pain or if he just doesn’t like the noise.

The superhero aspect was also handled really well. Superhero movies are popular so it makes sense for Doctor Who to tackle it (and it is NOT the silliest thing the show has ever done, as I’ve stated here). Just like the Jon Pertwee era homaged James Bond and the Tom Baker era homaged Hammer Horror and later Star Wars, Return of Doctor Mysterio homages the superhero genre while also fitting into the Whoniverse nicely. I am slightly disappointed that there wasn’t a Karkus reference, as any mention of The Mind Robber is a plus for me, but that’s a personal gripe.

karkus

Much like last year, in amongst the silliness there is a simple story that’s built on character. Not only does the plot stand on its own but it links in with the Doctor’s grief over River, thus explaining Nardole’s presence, and potentially sets up the Doctor’s mindset in Series 10. All the characters felt relatable and real, and it gives me real hope that Bill will be great in the way Donna, Ace and Sarah Jane were.

All in all, The Return of Doctor Mysterio was a great episode that helped me ease back into the show. Between this and Husbands of River Song, which I also immensely enjoyed, not to mention the pretty great spin off Class, the sour taste of Hell Bent has been almost completely wiped from my memory (I may enjoy most of Steven Moffat’s stories but I certainly did not enjoy the finale). This year has lacked Doctor Who, but for me personally it’s allowed me to get even more into it. I’ve met two Doctors in London Comic Con, enjoyed countless Big Finish, almost finished Classic Who and immersed myself in the Doctor Who graphic novels. This Christmas special was just the icing on the cake for my Doctor Who experience this year, and while it’s no Christmas Carol (which is one of my favourite stories), it’s a dumb, silly and highly enjoyable romp in the vein of The Runaway Bride and The Next Doctor. That’s pretty much all I need for Christmas specials.

And that’s all.

Oh wait, I forgot something…

Oh yeah, Series 10 trailer-

Well, this almost overshadowed the whole special didn’t it? What can I say other than I’m looking forward to this a lot, and in a year which will also see more Star Wars, Skulduggery Pleasant, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man, Doctor Who will unsurprisingly take priority. Bill seems like a very down to Earth and fun character and the relationship between the Doctor and Bill from this trailer indicates a similar relationship to the Third Doctor and Jo or the Seventh Doctor and Ace. Bill seems like a combination of Ace and Donna, and with Nardole thrown in too, this TARDIS team seems like it’s going to be great. Not much to say really other than the Doctor is back.

Why a superhero in Doctor Who is NOT too silly

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OK, my next post was going to be about my Harry Potter read-athon, but seeing how I still haven’t finished Deathly Hallows yet, that’s been delayed somewhat. However, something has propped up which is worth talking about- the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

the-return-of-doctor-mysterio

Now, the common criticism I’m hearing from people is that the premise- the Doctor teams up with a superhero to save New York- is too silly and too outlandish for the show. Then cue angry fans using this as an excuse to attack Steven Moffat, complain the show was better with David Tennant/Matt Smith, unlimited rice pudding etc etc.

Right… so a show with a two thousand year old alien who changes faces and travels through time and space in a police box that’s bigger on the inside is acceptable, but a superhero is where people draw the line? This isn’t even the silliest Christmas special. Remember A Christmas Carol, with Dumbledore flying a shark? Or Voyage of the Damned, with a replica of the Titanic hijacked by robot angels? Or Last Christmas, which had FATHER CHRISTMAS? This isn’t even the first superhero in the show. Case in point, I give you the Karkus, from the Second Doctor story The Mind Robber-

karkus

In this instance, the Karkus is a fictional superhero from a comic strip which the Doctor’s companion Zoe reads in the almighty future of the year 2000. The Land of Fiction where the main characters are trapped in brings fictional beings to life. The story has a cliffhanger where Jamie and Zoe are crushed by a giant book, Jamie loses his face and the Doctor accidentally gives him the wrong one, and a unicorn. This story, incidentally, is awesome, and makes total sense in context.

Yet, a superhero in Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who is totally pushing the boundaries of the show.

I haven’t even mentioned The Gunfighters, which is a musical set in the Wild West. Or The Happiness Patrol, where a robot made out of sweets forces people to be happy and the TARDIS is painted pink. Or maybe the Pirate Planet, where a cyborg pirate with a robot parrot controls a hollow planet to crush smaller planets. How about Amy’s Choice, with killer grannies? Or perhaps I should refer the naysayers to Smith and Jones, where rhinoceros policemen move a hospital on the Moon and hunt down a vampire disguised as an old lady who sucks people’s blood with a straw. Doctor Who has always been inherently silly and a superhero is absolutely not the worst thing linked with the show.

Uh huh, Steven Moffat’s tenure is totally the only time the show got really really silly. I actually really like this story, but it is ridiculously silly.

Yes stories like Heaven Sent, Inferno, Vincent and the Doctor, The Seeds of Doom, The Waters of Mars and The Curse of Fenric are all fantastic and among the show’s best, but we can’t have body horror, mental illness, and the whole world being torn apart every week. Sometimes we need some light hearted, fun and occasionally comedic scripts to balance the mood. Stories like City of Death (which is possibly the silliest script the show has ever had), The Unicorn and the Wasp, Robot of Sherwood, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Romans and Carnival of Monsters are all delightfully absurd and wacky.

nom-nom-nom

Need I remind the “Doctor Who must always be serious” brigade that one of the best stories of all time, Genesis of the Daleks, has giant clams? I think that’s a lot sillier than a superhero.

Some Doctor Who fans just can’t get to grips with the fact that sometimes the show needs to be light hearted. People complain that the show is too comedic now but I’m sorry, I don’t see it. In the past two years we’ve had scripts involving cyborgs gouging people’s eyes out, creatures under the bed, a mummy that slowly murders people one by one, two dimensional beings that flatten people, Cybermen being resurrected from graves, ghosts, a Zygon terrorist group, Clara being killed (I don’t care, Face the Raven is the end of her story), not to mention the Doctor being trapped in an endless maze and being murdered billions of times over and over again. We’ve had stories dealing with genocide, war, psychological horror and grief.

mummy

Yup, this is a totally funny and lighthearted romp through time and space with a nice and fluffy monster isn’t it?

If anything, the show is a lot darker than the David Tennant and Matt Smith years. There have been comedic scripts such as Robot of Sherwood (which contained a darker and mature subtext), In the Forest of the Night (OK, that was terrible), The Girl Who Died (which dealt with the Doctor coming to terms with who he was) and The Husbands of River Song (which was emotionally linked with Silence in the Library), but they are infrequent compared to the serious stories.

kandyman

This is an actual monster from an actual story of Doctor Who. I also really like this story, but it is once again really really silly.

This year’s Christmas special will be comedic, but Series 10 will be (hopefully) the balance of comedy and drama that the show is known for. Part of the reason 80’s Who is disliked by some is because there was no comedy. Just look at Peter Davison’s final season- nearly every story was a total bloodbath with little to no laughs. Conversely, Tom Baker and Patrick Troughton were both really funny and embraced the silliness of the show as well as the serious side. Just like the characters and stories, the variety in tone is what makes Doctor Who great. Sometimes a comedic script like City of Death can be awesome, whereas sometimes a serious script like Kill the Moon (shakes fist in rage) can be absolutely terrible. All that matters is the story- the way it’s told is mostly irrelevant.

warriors-of-the-deep

A pretty accurate image to sum up the doom and gloom of the Fifth Doctor’s final season. Warriors of the Deep isn’t exactly liked by fandom, but it has a “so bad it’s good” quality for me.

So this Christmas, don’t approach The Return of Doctor Mysterio (nice title) with apathy. If you enjoy City of Death or any of the other comedic scripts in the show’s history, you should have no problem here. Just remember that there’s a whole series of adventure just around the corner.

Bonfire Night and the question of whether Doctor Who should return to the pure historical

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Tonight is Bonfire Night, an important day in British history and one which is well worth remembering. I’ve already talked about Bonfire Night before, but today I’m going to use the occasion to talk about the Doctor Who pure historical.

I’ve been thinking for a while as to why Doctor Who hasn’t done a story set around the Gunpowder Plot, and I was struggling to come up with a strong sci-fi plot to go with the setting. Then, having seen the historical stories in the First Doctor era, I stand by my point even more, with a slight amendment: Why hasn’t the show done a pure historical in ages?

The revived series has dabbled in the past loads. From Charles Dickens to Vincent van Gogh, the Blitz to Vikings, Pompeii to Agatha Christie, the show has used the show to tell great stories based in the past, however all the stories have used alien threats. There was a time in the show when the historical stories had no sci-fi elements, merely educating the audience about the area of history the TARDIS crew has landed in. Examples of these stories are Marco Polo, The Aztecs, The Reign of Terror, The Romans, The Crusades and The Gunfighters.

These stories were in the early years of the show, when the show was trying to figure out exactly what it wanted to be. One week the Doctor would be fighting giant ants, the next he would be in the court of Richard the Lionheart. The historical stories proved to not be as popular as the sci-fi stories, so they were written out in the Second Doctor’s second story The Highlanders, with the only return being the Fifth Doctor story Black Orchid. All other stories set in the past had sci-fi elements, such as The Time Warrior, The Visitation and countless new series stories. Despite their unpopularity at the time, the historicals are well regarded now by fans, with many clamoring for a return to the genre that the show had for the first few years of its life. Many historicals which have been wiped from the archives such as Marco Polo and The Crusades are very popular.

So what’s the case for? Well, as somebody who would like to see the genre of Who return, as I am a history fan and a huge fan of the historical stories which have survived (The Aztecs in particular is a favourite of mine). In fact any story set in the past pretty much has my seal of approval, pure historical or otherwise. I feel like having a pure historical would be a very daring move and very interesting to see. If done well it could go down as a classic. After all, it’s only going to be one story. If the audience don’t like it, move on. If it works however, more interesting stories could be told. It is kind of predictable in the new series for their to an alien threat. Wouldn’t it be great if the Doctor thought there was one and it turned out there wasn’t? However, the setting needs to be interesting enough to justify the lack of sci-fi. Linking back again to the Gunpowder Plot- the Doctor and co end up in the cellar of Parliament, ending up being arrested on suspicion of treason as they were found next to the gunpowder. Cue a race to prove their innocence, catch the perpetrators and get back to the TARDIS. No aliens needed. Then the week after we can have a base under siege with giant mosquito monsters. How about a story set in World War One? Or the Black Death and the Peasant’s Revolt, with the Doctor inspiring a teenage Richard II to stop the revolt? The BBC have so many historical TV shows, so a historical Doctor Who story would attract a wider audience than a regular one.

There are however several arguments to be made against the format returning. One is that the format is outdated and wouldn’t sit well with the faster pace and bonkers monsters of the new series. I don’t see this though- Doctor Who has been very experimental recently. We had a story with no monster (Listen) a found footage story (Sleep No More) and a story with only one main character (Heaven Sent). Audiences don’t care what the story is like, as long as it’s good. The Woman Who Lived was almost a historical until Lenny the Lion popped up, as was The Unicorn and the Wasp, although removing the wasp would basically make it Black Orchid again. The new series has come close- it just needs the courage to go that one step further.

Big Finish has done some pretty great historicals, such as Doctor Who and the Pirates and The Marian Conspiracy. There was also a Sarah Jane Adventures story called Lost in Time where Sarah Jane, Clyde and Rani are sent back in time on a quest. The Doctor Who fandom is accepting of almost anything, provided it sticks with what we love about the show. The pure historical was one of the very earliest formats of the show, and enough time has passed to show that modern audiences will be accepting of it if done well. I for one would love to see this format return.

Doctor Strange movie review

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a lot of strange stuff. From Norse gods to talking raccoons, synthetic androids and shrinking guys that can talk to ants, the MCU has done plenty of bizarre things in their movies, lifted straight from the comics of course. Their most recent movie, Doctor Strange, sees Sherlock Holmes become a sorcerer to defend Earth against threats from across the multiverse. Totally weird and bonkers, and totally Marvel.

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This movie is about Doctor Stephen Strange, a neurosurgeon who gets involved in a near fatal car accident and loses the ability to move his fingers properly. As a result, he goes to Nepal to find a new way of life, and ends up working with a secret group of sorcerers to battle a bunch of radical sorcerers who aim to bring chaos to the world. Most of this is his backstory in the comics, so revealing this isn’t spoiling much.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, mostly the visual effects. It is one of the most unique Marvel movies and the visual effects help add to this unique nature. Think the ending of Ant-Man was really weird and awesome? Well it gets tripled here, and Doctor Strange’s initial trip into the multiverse is truly breathtaking. I don’t watch movies in 3D but I think this movie would look great in 3d due to the great imagery. The action sequences are also great, with stunning choreography and incredibly interesting and dynamic sequences. I won’t spoil much, but the final fight is so bizarre and brilliant that it has to be seen to be believed. The best fight however, has to be the battle in New York (no you won’t get Avengers flashbacks). I won’t say much, but just-wow.

Another highlight is Doctor Strange himself. At first it was very weird hearing Benedict Cumberbatch in an American accent, but you’ll get used to it. Doctor Strange represents everything I love in a character- he’s snarky (this is Marvel), wears a cape, uses magic and has a strong arc through the film. At the beginning, he is arrogant and takes his job for granted, not really caring for anyone and believing himself superior to everybody else. Just like Sherlock really, so it’s perfect casting. When he loses his job due to his injuries he loses faith in everything and risks everything to reach Nepal and find a way to fix his hands. He shuns his new job at first, wanting only to heal himself, but events in the movie forces him to become Doctor Strange and battle evil.

A common criticism of Marvel movies is the climax always being “things in the sky trying to hit things on the ground”. Marvel have fixed this in recent movies, from Ant-Man’s hilarious subversion of the city battles of the Avengers movies to Civil War’s emotional and character driven final brawl, and Doctor Strange continues this trend. The climax seems like any other Marvel movie- then things get really clever and really fun to watch. I won’t spoil it, but it remained me a lot of the Doctor Who episode Heaven Sent. I guess good Doctors think alike.

Just like any comic book movie, there’s Easter Eggs and fun references to the comic books, but casual viewers should be able to get into it due to the standalone nature of the movie. There are references to the rest of the MCU, but as with Guardians of the Galaxy it is very accessible to anybody who has an interest in it. As per usual with the MCU, Stan Lee gets a great cameo and stay after the credits for an AMAZING tease. The opening Marvel logo has also changed, and it is glorious.

Overall, Doctor Strange is another fantastic entry into the MCU. Not only am I pumped for the sequel, but I desperately want to see Doctor Strange with the rest of the Avengers in Infinity War. I highly recommend this movie even to people who have not heard of the character or don’t enjoy superhero movies. It is a lot more character driven and clever than a standard Marvel movie and is more akin to Inception or Harry Potter.

What kind of a reader am I?

Recently I finished the Lord of the Rings books after being inspired to finally give them a go after enjoying the movies so much. Honestly, having now read it, I’ve got to admit- I don’t get it.

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Now this post won’t be about me going on a rant about the books and how I prefer the movies, even though I do. Rather, it’s going to be about why certain books appeal to me and others don’t. It’s not the genre I can’t get into, it’s the way it’s written. I did a post on books three years ago but to be honest, that post didn’t really go in depth enough about what kind of a reader I am, and having now read more books and experienced different genres, I think I can say what books appeal to me.

To me, a book needs to entertain. As a very visual person who loves films and television, books, without visual images, need to be able to make me feel like I’m seeing the characters do what’s happening in the story. That’s one problem I had with the Lord of the Rings books- everything was too vague. The parts I really liked such as Sam versus Shelob and Eowyn versus the Witch King worked because I could picture what was happening in my mind due to the descriptions. Helm’s Deep on the other hand was literally an afterthought in the book and I couldn’t picture anything happening except people whacking orcs with swords, as opposed to the awesome battle in the movie.

Part of the reason I like Derek Landy’s writing is the fact he writes his books like a movie script. Actions are described vividly and in detail, and characters are described well but still vague enough for me to imagine people while reading them (I know Skulduggery is supposed to be Irish and have a smooth, velvety voice, but David Tennant is too perfect to not be cast). This is the same effect I had while re-reading the first Harry Potter book recently. J.K. Rowling really goes in depth with the world and characters but still keeps things flowing and even though I’ve seen the movies countless times, the way the book described things meant I could have another picture in my mind.

I’m not saying books need to describe EVERYTHING- that’s partly why I gave up on the Harry Potter books later and just listened to the audio books and watched the films. That said though, now I’ve done Lord of the Rings, Order of the Phoenix will be a walk in the park, and I do want to read them again. Books are a style of writing where anything can happen, and what the author describes can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Books that just waffle on and on without having anything happen physically in the story really annoy me because then how am I supposed to imagine it in my head? Do I just imagine Harry standing there thinking? My favourite books always have something happening in the story on every page- just like a movie.

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Another book I read after loving the movie was Jurassic Park. I ended up enjoying that book too even though I adore the movie. Part of the reason was I had the characters in my head based on the movie, which I found really helpful. To me, if I can’t picture a character in my head, then the author has failed in making me care. I remember reading so many books in junior school where the characters were literally amorphous blobs in both what they looked like and personality. It’s why if I haven’t seen a movie beforehand of a book, then I need descriptions of the characters in the book to allow me to imagine people there. Obviously, if the books are based on something like the Doctor Who books or if I’ve seen something beforehand such as Jurassic Park, it’s easy, but in an original book, failure to set up visual images of characters in my head means I’m probably going to give up.

So what about genre? I obviously like sci-fi and fantasy, but just because those are the genres I read doesn’t mean I won’t try anything else. At school thankfully the books we read are getting better. I really liked To Kill a Mockingbird in Year 9, and in Year 10 we’re doing Jekyll and Hyde, and again I really like it, convincing me that 19th century gothic literature is awesome. Despite these books being really old, the writing is still vivid enough for me to have the same enjoyment while I read them as I do reading modern books.

So ultimately what it boils down to is the fact that a book needs to paint a picture in my mind. I am definitely a visual reader and need things to connect to while reading. That’s why some books appeal to me, while others don’t, even if I love the movies they’re based on.

I love 60’s Doctor Who!

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My Doctor Who marathon has brought me to the end of Doctor Who in the 1960’s. Before this marathon, I had barely seen any Doctor Who from the 60’s. Now, I wish I had started earlier. In a year when the latest episode is still over three months away, Classic Who is my way of coping.

My favourite aspect of this era of Doctor Who is the sheer imagination at play. It puts the new series to shame. Most of 60’s Who is the definition of high concept sci fi, which is what I think is what the show should be. I don’t want convoluted plots, bland drama with no tension or lazy villains. I want science fiction. Stories like The Space Museum, The Ark, The Edge of Destruction, The Web Planet, The Enemy of the World and The Mind Robber are just so imaginative and clever. That’s not forgetting the awesome Cybermen stories. Sure, not all of them are great, but the imagination and storytelling is prevalent. Alien planets, messing about with time, detailed worlds and clever plots are all present in 60’s Who. Sure, they happen in the rest of the Classic Series and the New Series, but the black and white limitations of the 60’s means that they could go nuts with silly costumes and sets and it just felt so genuine.

A story entirely set in the TARDIS? Sure. A planet with giant ants? OK. A land where fictional characters come alive? Why not? A politician who looks like the Doctor tries to destroy the world with volcanoes and the Australian government try to stop him? See what I mean? The imagination and ambition is simply brilliant. Quite why the New Series can’t reach these heights is beyond me. I grew up with David Tennant and Matt Smith so obviously I love the New Series. It’s fantastic and in terms of emotion, character development and production values, it’s in some ways superior (not saying there wasn’t any in Classic Who). But I feel like the storytelling was more risky and brave in the Classic Series, especially the 60’s.

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Now why the New Series don’t have the ambition baffles me. It’s not the budget problems, as the show has a big budget to create alien worlds and fascinating concepts. The audience is smart enough to have high concepts thrown at them. Examples of high concept storytelling in the new series include The Beast two-parter, 42, Silence in the Library, Midnight, Turn Left, The Beast Below, Amy’s Choice, The Doctor’s Wife, The Girl Who Waited (is it too late for me to have a complete change of heart over this story?), Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, Listen, Flatline, Before the Flood, Sleep No More and Heaven Sent. All these episodes either have imaginative premises, clever time travel or risky ideas. Whether they’re any good is a matter of opinion, but these are the type of episodes I’m looking for.

So anyway, back to 60’s Who. Watching the entire show from 1963-1969 is difficult because of the amount of lost stories, meaning many companions such as Ben (the companion with my name has two surviving stories- urgh), Polly and Steven barely have any stories, making it hard to judge them. Fortunately, the original companions Susan, Ian and Barbara are awesome. OK, mainly Ian, although Barbara did destroy Daleks with a truck. The missing stories are legendary in the Who fandom, and the discovery of the Enemy of the World and Web of Fear recently brings back hope that the 12 part epic The Dalek’s Master Plan (they could do an epic universe spanning threat in the 60’s, why can’t they do it now?) Fury from the Deep, Patrick Troughton’s first story The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks and many more can be discovered.

So, what about the Doctor himself? Well, before watching all the remaining 60’s stories, neither Hartnell nor Troughton were particularly high on my favourite Doctors list because I hadn’t seen much of them. While William Hartnell still isn’t among my favourites, despite the fact he is an awesome Doctor for being THE Doctor, Patrick Troughton has risen to my favourite Doctors list alongside Matt Smith, Jon Pertwee, David Tennant and Sylvester McCoy. Watching the Second Doctor, it’s clear that most of the Doctors that followed took something from Patrick Troughton’s Doctor. He is easily the most important actor to play the Doctor, as without his performance the show would have struggled to continue after William Hartnell left due to his poor health. The Second Doctor’s mannerisms are shown in future incarnations. Tom Baker has the eccentric side, Peter Davison has the caring side, Sylvester McCoy has the cunning side, Paul McGann has the optimistic side. Matt Smith in particular took most of his Doctor from watching Tomb of the Cybermen, and it shows, as both the Second and Eleventh Doctors are like that really strange but cool uncle or imaginary friend.

Now I’m going to discuss my favourite stories from the First and Second Doctor eras. Some of the stories here have become some of my favourites-

First Doctor

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  • The Edge of Destruction- This story is one of the aforementioned high concept stories that I love. The basic story is that a mysterious force has taken over the Tardis and the Tardis crew are slowly losing their minds over it. This is a fascinating story as it is purely a character piece- except it’s a character piece done really, really well as their is no contrived monster or heavy handed plot. The character arcs from the past two stories come full circle here as the four Tardis members blame each other for the scenario. It also has one of my favourite monologues from the show-

  • The Aztecs- This is my favourite William Hartnell story. It’s a pure historical, so it might put people off who are used to the semi historicals of the New Series where history is combined with an alien threat, but in the First Doctor’s era pure historicals were combined with high concept sci fi. The Aztecs establishes a rule that has stuck with history- time can’t be rewritten. The drama from this story comes from Barbara, a history teacher, trying to change the Aztec’s ruthless ways. There’s also some really good comedy in this one, like this brilliant moment-

  • The Dalek Invasion of Earth- This is one of the most iconic Doctor Who stories of all time, thanks mainly to the promotional photo of Daleks on Westminister Bridge.

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This was the first reappearance of the Daleks and the first story to be a classic Earth invasion type after the experimental nature of the earlier Hartnell stories. There’s a really epic feel to this story and while the plot is silly (the Daleks want to drill into the Earth to pilot it as a ship), the tone of the story and the threat of the Daleks make it worthwhile. There’s also the moment when Barbara rams into Daleks with a truck, which is so awesome it needs to be mentioned twice. This is also the first companion departure story, when the Doctor leaves his granddaughter Susan behind to live her own life in another one of the most famous scenes in the show’s history-

  • The War Machines

Doctor Who has a trend of using London’s new and fancy buildings as alien hideouts, from the Shard to Canary Wharf. The first use of this trend was in the War Machines, which used the BT Tower, at the time the tallest building in London. This story was unique to the First Doctor in that it was set on modern Earth and featured the First Doctor in an action type role continued by his successor. It served as the prototype to the UNIT stories of Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee. I also really like the monsters in this one, the titular War Machines. Not much to say about this one really, it was just a really fun story.

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Second Doctor

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  • The Tomb of the Cybermen- The story that inspired Matt Smith’s Doctor and probably the most iconic Second Doctor story. The image of Cybermen emerging from their tombs is simply unmatched by any subsequent story and the atmosphere in this one is fantastic. This is the earliest complete Second Doctor story and it is a great starting point, as it defines this incarnation as a playful, jokey type who acts like a bumbling cosmic hobo to trick his enemies into falling into his traps. Despite the Cybermen being a powerful presence here, the main villains are merely humans who want to use the Cybermen, without realising the Cybermen are too powerful for them. There’s also a really great scene between the Doctor and Victoria which shows the Classic Series had just as much character and emotion as the New Series-

  • The Enemy of the World

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Whoever found this story deserves a whole wad of jelly babies. This was an amazing story partly due to its unique nature. There are no aliens or monsters here and it’s basically a James Bond movie with the Doctor. Patrick Troughton plays two roles here really well- the Doctor and Salamander, the ruthless politician who is set on his diabolical schemes. There is a very cinematic scale to the story, which is surprising given that it’s nearly 50 years old. My favourite part is when the Doctor pretends to be Salamander, so it’s basically Patrick Troughton playing the Doctor playing Salamander. This story was in Season 5, and every other story in this season was the “base under siege” type which I love, and this one broke bonds to be truly unique and to this day there is no other story quite like it.

  • The Mind Robber

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This is about as bonkers and high concept as Doctor Who gets. The Tardis finds itself in a strange reality where fictional characters such as Gulliver from Gulliver’s Travels and Rapunzel are real. It’s not a particularly complex or thought provoking story but it’s so absurd and unique that it’s impossible to be bored. The amount of ideas here are fantastic and the Land of Fiction, despite being a world where there are no rules, is surprisingly well thought out. I would love to see a return to the Land of Fiction in the new series. The BBC have plenty of shows with their own versions of fictional characters such as Sherlock, and the setting of the Mind Robber allows for crossovers. Seriously, why hasn’t this happened?

  • The Invasion

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Another iconic story with the image of Cybermen walking down St Paul’s being easily their most famous moment. That doesn’t happen until Episode 6 however, but the rest of the story is just as good. Once again the scope is epic and grand for the 60’s and the threat of global domination is ever present. It starts low key, with a simple trip to Earth and a mystery surrounding missiles on the Moon before escalating into full on war against the Cybermen. The human villain, Tobias Vaughn, is fantastic. He’s so delightfully and obviously evil and the Doctor’s interactions with him are a major highlight. The Cybermen in the sewers of London are also a highlight, and this is probably my favourite Cyberman story, alongside Earthshock.

  • The War Games

I’m just going to come out and say it- The War Games is my favourite story in the whole of Classic Who, and is my second favourite of all time just under The God Complex. It is over 4 hours long yet never feels boring or padded, which is a feat considering how many single part episodes of the new series feel padded. The plot is perfectly paced- what starts off as a simple trip to what appears to be World War One turns into a massive conspiracy involving mysterious aliens kidnapping Earth soldiers to recreate famous wars for nefarious purposes. There are so many good parts to this story. I adore the villains in this story- the War Lord, the War Chief and the Security Chief, all with their own goals and motivations. However, the true brilliance comes in the final episodes. As the situation spirals out of control, the Doctor is forced to call on his own people for help, and the Time Lords make their perfect debut. The Doctor knows asking the Time Lords for help will result in his capture and punishment for stealing the Tardis and interfering in time and space, but he does it because it’s the right thing to do. It speaks so much about this character and why he has endured for so long. All this and more makes the War Games my favourite story in the entire Classic Series.

And that was my love letter to the Doctor Who of the 60’s. I’m currently on Jon Pertwee’s first series and when I’m done with him (I started with Planet of the Spiders) I will have finished all of Classic Who in time (hopefully) for Series 10.