Monday 14 December 2015

Series Nine Guest Round-up - Part One

Having written my own summation of Series 9, I thought it might be fun to open up the blog to some of your thoughts. They are posted in no particular order, and shorter submission are merged into one post, purely for aesthetic reasons. They are completely unedited, and need no comment from me! So, our first submission comes from fellow blogger Shawn Lunn...

Promotion & Ratings

Two of the hardest things to ignore about the recently aired ninth series of Doctor Who (or Series 35) has been the way in which the show has been promoted and the ratings it's generated. In both cases, some concern has arisen.

The promotion on this show has taken something of a strange hit in the Moffat era with some information being revealed in a frustratingly cryptic manner and in other cases, too much information at once. The Comic-Con trailer used to promote the ninth series drew criticism for the unwise soundbyte of 'same old, same old' in relation to the continuous dynamic with the 12th Doctor and Clara Oswald but remember the days when this show used to give us beautiful concept trailers? We had glorious ones like the Ninth Doctor running from a fireball as Rose Tyler contemplated jacking in her ordinary life for adventures in time and space as well as the beautiful split screen effective for the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones. And don't get me started on that campfire trailer we got for the fourth series with Donna Noble. That was truly epic in every sense of the word.

In Moffat's era, the only trailers to match that level of anticipation was the Series 5 one with the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond floating inside the Time Vortex as well as the 50th anniversary one showing us the great legacy of the show. Unfortunately these days, the trailers feel too brief and a little cobbled together and even something like Doctor Who Extra (the Capaldi era version of Confidential) is needlessly broken into bytes rather than one solid chunk altogether.

You have to wonder what's going on with the BBC and the promotion team at the moment. It's weird when you see them doing everything in their power to downplay Davros's return at the start of the series but going into overdrive to remind everyone that Gallifrey was returning, even if it ended up being barely used in the recent finale. I am hoping that the BBC have paid attention to these noticeable blunders and make a better effort into promoting Series 10 when it should happen to air.

Then there's the ratings. Okay, let's be honest. Once everything is totalled up, the show is still attracting between 5-6 million viewers and considering it's growth Stateside, it's in no real danger of actual cancellation but between the erratic promotion and inconsistent timeslots (8pm is too late for children - I'm not a parent and even I get that), the ratings have been down enough for it to be an actual concern. Personally, I think it's time for the BBC to move the show back to Spring and air it around the 6pm-7pm mark as it mainly did during the RTD years and during the early start of Moffat's era too. With the tenth series alluding to something of a reboot (and possibly Steven Moffat's last one), maybe things will take a turn for the better with the show in relation to promotion and overall ratings.

Shaun runs an excellent blog, which you can check out HERE. You can also follow him on Twitter at @shawnlunn2002

The second submission comes from Will Egan..

It’s that time of year again. Our time travelling hero has finished another run of adventures (*sobs*), which can only mean one thing…a series appraisal! Before this series I must admit to have been rather pessimistic on how series 9 would pan out quality wise. I needn’t have worried-it was great and an improvement over series 8 which I also enjoyed massively.

I’m sure many others on here will be waxing lyrical over Peter Capaldi whom is fast shaping up to be one of the finest Doctors to have ever graced the screen. All I’m going to say is that Capaldi was simply magnificent this series, with his anti-war speech in The Zygon Inversion being worthy of a BAFTA alone. We really are lucky o have such a fine actor (and person!) to play our favourite Time Lord. The dynamic between Capaldi and Coleman worked wonders again this year and I was glad that Jenna got more opportunities to show what a wonderful actor she is. Occasionally, I felt the character of Clara became somewhat underused this series, especially in Sleep No More and I do wish her departure had been done in a less convoluted way. Nevertheless, I am one of the few Clara fans in the Whovian world and was rather sorry to see her leave.

One of the biggest changes to this series was the change in structure, particularly the increase in two parters. The return of cliff-hangers was something I've wanted to see for a long time and this series provided us with some absolute belters. Many of the two parters in NuWho have seemed to become poorer in their second halves but that certainly wasn’t the case this series with The Witch’s Familiar and The Zygon Inversion being improvements over there predecessors. Now that we have two parters back I really want them to become a regular fixture in the upcoming series as it allows the plot and supporting characters to develop to another level.

No series is perfect (although season 7 is close) and there were problems in series 9. While I admire the team for trying something different the found footage of Sleep No More made a very interesting plot become a confused mess on screen. I personally loathed The Girl Who Died for various reasons-mainly the idiotic ‘baby talk’, while the alien subplot in The Woman Who Lived added very little to that story and made little sense. The finale Hell Bent was a particularly peculiar beast, a highly flawed but a watchable and surprisingly enjoyable story. In fact, my main frustration of this series was ‘The Hybrid’ plotline, which seemingly came from nowhere and was never sufficiently answered. It’s a problem that’s common with the series arcs of Steven Moffat, although thankfully this one was a lot better than the incoherent mess that is series 6. I also have major problems with the BBC’s publicity of this series, along with all the spoilers they broke (I miss surprises!) but that’s an entire article on its own.

I’ve listed the negatives but it’s fair to say the positives vastly outweigh them. The opening two parter was brilliant and it was a joy to see various Daleks in their beautifully recreated city. Julian Bleach was a very welcome return, once again giving a superb performance as Davros. The conversation scenes between him and Peter Capaldi were a definite series highlight, showing how two excellent actors can carry over 30 minutes of dialogue scenes alone. It was a great to have a properly scary ‘base under siege’ tale return to the series with Under the Lake and the character of Cass should go down as one of the best ‘one off character’ the shows history. Credit to Toby Whithouse for giving a strong role to a deaf character on screen, so wonderfully portrayed by Sophie Leigh Stone.

The Zygon two parter was the crème de la crème of the series and to me Moffat’s era as a whole. I love any Doctor Who that really gets you thinking, and mixing a cracking monster story with a very political one fused beautifully. Seriously, those final 15 minutes or so of The Zygon Inversion are some of my favourite of any television show ever! Face the Raven was an enjoyable tale, while Heaven Sent was one of the darkest and most ambitious tales ever on the show.
If there’s one thing I don’t think a lot of reviews have touched on about series 9 it’s how gorgeous it all looked. I don’t mean the effects (excellent as always) but the actual set design. The Dalek city was beautifully re-created, while the dark corridors of the base in Under The Lake made the tale even more chilling. Although a clear rip-off of Diagon Alley, the alien trap street of Face the Raven looked great but the undoubted highlight for me was the original TARDIS set in the finale. I mean wow! The countless design nods to the First Doctor’s TARDIS were simply a feast for the eyes and to see Capaldi piloting it was a moment that will live long in the memory.

So, farewell series 9, in my opinion the strongest run for Doctor Who for 5 years! Roll on the future… it’s looking brighter all the time.

Scores on the doors:

The Magician’s Apprentice: 8/10
The Witch’s Familiar: 9/10
Under the Lake: 8.5/10
Before the Flood: 8/10
The Girl Who Died: 2/10
The Woman Who Lived: 6/10
The Zygon Invasion: 9/10
The Zygon Inversion: 10/10
Sleep No More: 4/10
Face the Raven: 7/10
Heaven Sent; 8/10
Hell Bent: 7.5/10

Follow Will on Twitter @WillEgan95

Part two of your submissions can be found HERE, and my thanks go to Shaun and Will for taking the time to write for my humble little blog! 

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