Alex's Thoughts




My blog, where I talk about my thoughts. I think about the important things in life - namely, television, books, films and other such media. Expect to find reviews, analyses, and frequent whining about correct use of apostrophes.

To see posts on certain subjects, such as writing, Doctor Who, or the world at large, take a look at the index.






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Doctor Who Review: Listen

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Why is there no such thing as perfect hiding?

I went through quite a few different openings for this one. Various different ways to frame it, you know? I considered talking about the time of year, and other Doctor Who episodes that have been around this date in the past. I thought about mentioning people’s expectations, how this one seemed to be quite a good one in the lead up. 

But, honestly, I didn’t quite see the point here. Actually, in all seriousness, I struggled a little bit writing this review. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it, because it didn’t really feel worth spending the time on it.

It’s not that it was bad, although I certainly didn’t enjoy it. It was just… meh, I guess? I mean, there were bad things, and good things, and all it ever really added up to was… meh.

I get the feeling I’m going to be distinctly in the minority here. Which is, you know, fair enough. That even makes it more fun, actually, this giving of criticism. As much as I love it when people agree with me, the debates prompted by a difference of opinion are great. A group of people on the internet, who’d rarely talk in the real world, all brought together to critically discuss and analyse Doctor Who? Brilliant. (No, I’m not invited to many parties, why do you ask?)

It’s entirely possible that I just didn’t get this story. That happens; sometimes it’s nothing more than a difference of opinion, where one person can’t quite get the same feelings or responses from an episode. It just… doesn’t work for them.

Listen absolutely falls into that category for me. There were plenty of smart aspects to it, and there was a lot to appreciate… but I don’t think I could ever really manage more than to appreciate it. Certainly, I don’t think I’m ever going to enthusiastically love it.

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Y’know, if you think about it, Tentoo is always going to believe that he killed all the Time Lords at the end of the Time War. Since it’s only Eleven who gets to have the knowledge of the events of the 50th, that means that out in the parallel dimension with Rose, Tentoo will always carry the guilt of the Time War, and what he thinks he did.

Isn’t that a cheery thought!

There’s this new quiz show, Two Tribes, which is hosted by Richard Osman and it’s on BBC Two. The catch, apparently, is that their success is dependent on how similar they are to their teammates - seven contestants are split into two teams based on their answers to Yes/No questions like “Are you single?” or “Do you like karaoke?”. The contestants are then asked general knowledge questions, and the team with the most points goes through to the next round. One person is removed from the losing team, and then they’re divided up again for the next round.

But oh my god it makes no sense. They make these divisions, but then that’s it. It’s just a silly little quirk, they don’t actually use the idea to their advantage.
For their success to be dependent on how similar they are to their teammates, the questions should revolve around the thing that split them. So maybe you split them initially based on something silly, like the karaoke questions, and then the questions would be based on a specific area, like World War Two or something. You’d then have to hope that the people similar to you, who like karaoke, are also really knowledgeable about the second world war. (I’d also change it so the entire team goes out each round, because that would spend things along quite a lot.)

Though maybe I should just accept the fact that quiz shows are only ever going to get more ridiculous and we’ve passed the point where they’ll make sense. Oh well, so long as I can answer the questions. (I got a Pointless answer the other day!)

Doctor Who Review: Robot of Sherwood

History is a burden. Stories make us fly.

Robin Hood! Can you believe it’s taken over 50 years to end up with a Robin Hood episode? I mean, at the start, sure, that makes sense. It was an educational show, and Robin Hood isn’t, strictly speaking, “real”. So I suppose it makes sense that there was no Robin Hood story then. (Imagine a Patrick Troughton Robin Hood story, a la The Enemy of the World!) 

But after that, I’ve no idea why he never turned up, especially once the idea of the celebrity historical was set up. There’s the odd short story and reference in the wilderness years, but never a fully blown appearance. (I have consulted wikipedia; I know this to be true.) Admittedly, the BBC series that ran when Doctor Who was off the air back in 2007 probably would have prevented anything being done then. (Loved that show, by the way.) And maybe the ITV version in the 80s, thinking about it.

Still, it’s great that he’s finally turned up. After all, everyone knows who Robin Hood is. Even though is he isn’t, strictly speaking, “real”.

Or… was he?

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Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD - Season 2 Trailer

So Agents of SHIELD, henceforth referred to as SHIELD, is returning this month. (Actually, that might just be in the US - anyone have a channel 4 airdate?)

SHIELD had a bit of a rocky run. The opening episodes were alright, enough to keep my interest, the middle few almost lost me, but it picked up around the end, after The Winter Soldier. It is, essentially, quite a good program, but also a rather flawed one. Some interesting ideas, but ones that weren’t always followed through so well; I’ve spoken before about what I thought of the way they handled Hydra, and the cliffhanger at the end of the series

Generally though, I’m hopeful. The series seems to have a much clearer mission statement now, as well as a bit of an idea as to what it’s going to do with itself. The arcs set up at the end of the previous season sound pretty good to me - rebuilding SHIELD from the ground up, for example, could be quite interesting. The issues they’d face with distrust from, well, everyone whilst trying to protect people has some good potential.

Ultimately then, I’m looking forward to it. When it does come out, I’ll try and write about anything that stands out to me about it.

iwillsavemyworld:

elisabeth9uk:

bxrakat:

bxrakat:

hi so my friend alice has been missing for over 24 hours now and everyone is getting really worried, so if you live around london uk would you please ring 101 if you see this girl, it would mean a lot thank you bye

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-28997068 this bbc news story explains more about it so please help if you can #findalice

Please help find Alice - west London - URGENT help needed

PLEASE SIGNAL BOOST THIS
she was last seen in Kew by the canal, but she could have walked anywhere from there
shes only 14 and has health problems that make her seriously vulnerable
another pic of her:

REBLOG YOU NEVER KNOW IF ANY OF YOUR FOLLOWERS MAY LIVE IN WEST LONDON AND KNOW SOMETHING THAT COULD HELP

iwillsavemyworld:

elisabeth9uk:

bxrakat:

bxrakat:

hi so my friend alice has been missing for over 24 hours now and everyone is getting really worried, so if you live around london uk would you please ring 101 if you see this girl, it would mean a lot thank you bye

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-28997068 this bbc news story explains more about it so please help if you can #findalice

Please help find Alice - west London - URGENT help needed

PLEASE SIGNAL BOOST THIS

she was last seen in Kew by the canal, but she could have walked anywhere from there

shes only 14 and has health problems that make her seriously vulnerable

another pic of her:

REBLOG YOU NEVER KNOW IF ANY OF YOUR FOLLOWERS MAY LIVE IN WEST LONDON AND KNOW SOMETHING THAT COULD HELP

I saw a post earlier, which was a criticism of Steven Moffat. I’m not going to link to it, mainly because I don’t have the link, but it was essentially a comparison between the way the Doctor talks to his companions in RTD stories and in Moffat stories.

The dialogue selected was, basically, paraphrasing of when RTD would give the Doctor speeches about how important his companion was, and examples of the recent snark between 12 and Clara - things like calling her egotistical, bossy, or short and roundish. These quotes were being used to vilify Moffat for… treating fictional characters poorly, probably. 

The thing is though, they were absolutely false equivalents. 

First of all, there’s the issue that the quotes were entirely devoid of context. The comments selected about Moffat companions are jokes between the characters - snarky banter, nothing more. It’s not intended as an insult or a put down. It’s not the Doctor being emotionally cruel or anything like that. (Check out Seven talking to Ace in The Curse of Fenric, then come back to talk about emotional cruelty!)

On top of that, Moffat has got speeches were the Doctor talks about how wonderful his companions are - there’s plenty where Eleven talks about Amy or Clara is, and even a few where he says that Rory is great. Conversely, RTD has had a few where he insults companions - there’s the bit about Jackie in Army of Ghosts, Donna in The Christmas Invasion, and plenty of occasions with Mickey.

Now, I’d never say that Moffat is perfect, because I don’t think he is. Better than people suggest, but not perfect, no. But that? That wasn’t a valid criticism of his writing, or treatment of women, or even his sense of humour. Frankly, it’s just a mistake. More than that, it’s deliberately picking out certain things whilst ignoring others, all devoid of context, to try and make him look as bad as possible.

That doesn’t help. Because it makes you look like a fool, and it means people are just going to switch off from your arguments. There are things that need to be pointed out, yes, but to flat out make things up to demonise someone?

Get out of it, that’s ridiculous. 

Vague reminder that I have an index of posts, found here. I’ve logged everything, more or less, that I’ve written for the blog; posts on Doctor WhoElementary, SherlockAgents of SHIELD, writing, comics, books and films can all be found there.

It’s updated every so often (read: when procrastinating, like now) and contains links pretty much all of my posts (reviews, analyses, the occasional piece of fiction), so… give it a look.

Doctor Who Review: Into the Dalek

All those years ago, when I began, I was just running. I called myself the Doctor, but it was just a name. But then I went to Skaro. And then I met you lot. And I understood who I was. The Doctor was not the Daleks.

Daleks are pretty amazing really, aren’t they?

They’re one of the most enduring concepts in fiction of the 20th Century - there aren’t a great many things which could claim to have had such an impact upon the zeitgeist, or such an impact to their presence.

They started out as Nazi metaphors, but they’ve outlived that. They have a new relevance. Daleks are creatures of hatred; they’re twisted mirrors which show our own propensity for cruelty and evil. 

Daleks are far more than just another Doctor Who monster. They’re the perennial threat, there since the start, all those years ago, when it began. To use them simply as monsters shooting and killing, whilst a lot of fun, is something of a waste. They can be a lot more - they are a lot more.

Into the Dalek is a lot more.

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TV Pilot Review: Meatspace

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Whatever creative endeavour you choose, just do it. Do it everyday, despite what people say, whether they say you’re bad at it or you’re weird, just do it. Keep doing it because they say that. Do it in the face of everyone who tells you not to. 

I feel like I need to give some context for this. Meatspace (as in, the opposite of cyberspace) is a half hour television pilot which was made by a group of volunteers across four days on a budget of £200. It’s going to be broadcast live on the writer/director’s YouTube channel on Friday September 5th at 21:00. 

It was written and directed by William “Trilbee” Carlisle, who I know of from his television and film reviews at MrTARDISreviews and TrilbeeReviews. It’s consistently interesting stuff, with some very insightful criticisms of different media. Obviously, I was interested to see what his own TV show was like, so I volunteered to review the rough cut of the episode as part of the press release. And here we are.

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Lydia, David, and Jamie.

Meatspace revolves around four university students, each of whom has their own creative talent. There’s Jamie the film maker, Lydia who writes prose, and David who’s undecided. And then the fourth character is Megan - shy, reserved and awkward, it’s her hidden musical talent and whether she should share it with the world that drives the plot of the episode. 

At times, it does come across as a little cliché, the idea of the quiet musician discovering the worth of their talents, but honestly, it’s very rare. Because of the strength of the writing and the characters, it feels a lot more original than it probably is. For example, there’s a brilliant speech towards the end, which I’ve quoted from at the beginning, where the writer, Lydia, is talking to Megan. But that doesn’t really matter, as it goes - what’s most important here is introducing the characters, since it’s a pilot, and it does that admirably. There’s a pretty good sense of who each character by the end of the half hour program - it’s not perfect, but they’re well rounded characters, and there’s enough there to build on in future. 

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And here’s Megan, right before Lydia’s amusing anecdote and subsequent inspirational speech - both of which are standout moments.

Because this is a sitcom, the obvious comparison point (in terms of genre and target audience rather than tone and style) is The Big Bang Theory. To be honest though, that does a real disservice to Meatspace, because, frankly, it is better than The Big Bang Theory. In half an hour, it’s better than 8 years of The Big Bang Theory! Big claim, I suppose, but I’d stand by it. Or rather, not better than every single episode, but the average episode - if you’re channel surfing and find a random episode of The Big Bang Theory, it probably won’t reach this level in terms of writing. Mainly it’s because Meatspace is a smarter; there’s a lot less of a sense that you’re being talked down to.

It’s also a lot funnier. Meatspace is actually genuinely very funny. It opens with a Jenga sequence which, in a brilliant subversion of the joke you expect, had me properly laughing aloud before the two minute mark. The whole thing is littered with jokes throughout - the standout character is probably Jamie, who was played by John Ferguson. He’s very funny, and has brilliant comic timing. One of his best lines is to do with knocking on the front door. Won’t spoil it, but it’s very good.

When you think about it, that’s actually ridiculously difficult. Writing funny, natural dialogue for teenagers/young adult characters is unbelievably hard. (I wonder if some of it was in fact based on real exchanges that actually happened, because of quite how natural some of it is.) But here, it’s largely on point. Sure, there’s a few times where the actors seem to struggle a little with certain lines, but taking it as a whole, you’d barely notice it. I think it’s fair to call the humour an unqualified success. Seriously, it’s very funny. (And it’s not just the dialogue - there’s some pretty good, and quite subtle, sight gags as well.)

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It’s the funniest thing, honestly.

I think it’s also worth commenting on the direction, which is quite impressive, all things considered. Because this was filmed in real rooms and buildings, not a three wall sound stage, the camera angles need a bit more thought to them, and are generally quite interesting. There’s a few issues with lighting, but since I was watching a rough cut, it didn’t bother me so much - it’ll be fixed for the actual broadcast. There’s a texting sequence which looks a bit dodgy as well, but it’s clear, obvious and understandable what’s going on, so it’s fine, generally.

Admittedly, it’s not perfect - there’s a few duff lines here and there, like I said, and maybe the final scene could have been extended slightly. There’s also one quite misjudged sequence around the twenty minute mark, which is just… bizarre. Still, it doesn’t detract from it much. 

So, Meatspace. I think I’m going to give it a 9/10 - it’s honestly that good, and you should all watch it. Friday 5th September at 21:00 on the TrilbeeReviews YouTube channel! You can check the MrTARDISReviews facebook page for more information.

(If that’s not interesting for you enough, Meatspace is also going to be part of an intra-media experiment, with updates to each of the characters facebook pages during and after the live broadcasts, with the opportunity to interact with them as well. For obvious reasons, that wasn’t part of my review copy, but the idea fascinates me.)

I read The Fault in Our Stars recently (quite enjoyed it, very well written, would recommend) and something that struck me about it was that it was actually quite funny.

I found that a little bit odd, because I wasn’t really expecting that. From what I’d heard about it, I was expecting it to err a little bit more towards the bleak and depressing. (When I mentioned to my friends that I’d read it, the first question was “Is it as depressing as it looks?”)

But it’s not. I mean, yes, there is obviously an ever pervasive sense of… tragedy, I suppose, with regards to their situations, but it’s rarely at the forefront of things. Which I suppose is part of the point - dealing with cancer isn’t a collection of moments, it’s a long process of dealing with cancer. Despite that though, it’s honestly really funny. A lot of the humour is in the dialogue, where there’s a lot of jokes, and a lot of witty banter.

I suppose what it comes down to really is something Joss Whedon once said. "Make it dark, make it grim, but for the love of god, tell a joke." And he’s right, really. For one thing it can make it a bit more palatable (I’m not sure the book would be quite so popular if it was dark and grim the whole time; stories should be enjoyable on some levels at least), but I think it also works as a juxtaposition, and can make things more tragic. To say "Look at these happy, funny teenagers, and how they’re cut down in the prime of their life" seems a little bit more sad, to me, than "These people are in a miserable place and will only get worse". Contrast provides emphasis. 

Doctor Who Review: Deep Breath

You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic, time and time again. There’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.

Regeneration is a tricky old thing, isn’t it? It’s all well and good to say that life depends upon change and renewal, but it can be pretty weird to see a new Doctor in the role.

When Christopher Eccleston regenerated, I had only been watching the show for about two episodes, so I didn’t really get what was going on. When David Tennant regenerated, I was generally okay with it; I got the concept, and I thought he’d had a good run. With Matt Smith, it’d been quite a surprise, and I thought it was a bit of a shame - I think his last year wasn’t really as good as it could have been.

I like the fact that the show changes. I like that every few years, Doctor Who completely reinvents itself, and you end up with something new. I think it’s brilliant - it’s how it’s lasted 50 years, after all. So I’m never going to begrudge the show a change, though I might be a bit trepidant about it.

But there was no need for any trepidance here, was there? It was fantastic.

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Doctor Who Series Eight

With Series Eight broadcasting in a few days time, I wanted to collect together everything that I’d written on it into one place. 

Starting with the Doctor, there’s my initial hopes for the Doctor, as well as my initial thoughts on his outfit (which has grown on me since writing that; it looks a lot nicer in recent photos than in the original one.)

There’s also a pitch for an episode with Ian Chesterton, as well as an outline for a short jokey scene.

On the topic of companions, I’ve got a post about Clara’s duplicates, my thoughts on Danny Pink, and how a series with a detective companion might work out. There’s also my thoughts on the Master, and how he might work with the Twelfth Doctor.

Finally, there’s my thoughts on the first full length trailer, the Deep Breath trailer, the Listen trailer, and a recent radio trailer.

Also! Each week I’m going to write a review of the episodes, in the same vein as my recent Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor, which should hopefully be quite detailed and in depth. (I’m also thinking of calling it Twelve Weeks of the Twelfth Doctor, but maybe not.)

Only three days to go!

On I, Robot and Adaptations of Source Material

I keep almost writing iRobot rather than I, Robot. I feel as though there’s probably some kind of post-Apple reboot possibility with a new focus, and a different level of relevance now that technology has become far more prevalent in our daily lives. (If any of you do anything with that idea, I want 10%)

Anyway, I watched I, Robot for the first time this morning. I really enjoyed it, would definitely reccomend. Will Smith was in it, being all Will Smith-ish, the direction was excellent, and there were some really nice moments with the robot, Sunny. Excellent film. Go watch it, everyone. 

I also read I, Robot the book a few weeks back. (This edition, in case anyone’s curious, or that makes a difference. Other book suppliers are available, but this one is a really beautifully bound copy)

Now it’s a really good book, and very cleverly written. It’s a look at robots, and their changing place in society, across about 70 years or so. It also takes the concept of The Three Laws, and really runs with it - every story in the book (it’s essentially an anthology story) examines the laws from a different perspective. My favourite, I think, was the one with the mind reading robot, because it was really clever, but I loved all the ones with Powell and Donovan.

Having said that, though, the only thing that the two really have in common is the basic tenets of the world. Really just The Three Laws (capitalised for dramatic effect) actually.

It’s interesting, I think, to look at adaptations like that and the differences in the stories, and to weigh the merits of it. The Will Smith version is, I think, probably a bit more suited to the cinema, but that’s not to say Asimov’s version is impossible to put on the screen. 

Either way, I liked both versions, so it’s really a purely academic debate. But it got me thinking about other adaptations, and the approach taken towards them.

Under the cut I have got a fairly long, slightly rambling and highly controversial discussion (or rather, monologue) about Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, comic book movies, as well as the Star Trek Reboot and, of course, Doctor Who.

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I read a quote recently, on a writing blog that I follow. I forget who it’s from - an author, obviously, but I couldn’t give you a name any more specific than “Sarah someone, probably”. There was definitely an S.

I digress, however. The quote was "Better writers don’t have more time than you to write. They make more time than you".

That’s hit home a hell of a lot more now because I’ve just found out that an acquaintance of mine, of a similar age and at a similar point in school, is actually a rather successful self published author. I mean, I’m in actual proper awe. It’s amazing.

So, obviously, I’m going to make a change, and divert more of my time to writing, and less of it to wasting time.

(I say that now, in a week, I’ll be back to bitching about the use of apostrophes after the letter S and whining about Man of Steel)

Posted 1 month ago







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