Noel Clarke

Doctor Who (2005) s02e13 – Doomsday

The BBC does market research, don’t they? I’d love to see what their “Doctor Who” market research says as far as target audience. For instance, this episode—the momentous, earth-shattering (literally?) season finale, which will change the Doctor (David Tennant) forever–has the many experienced heroes, including ostensible eccentric space and time genius Tennant, completely flummoxed over an object.

Over a Dalek-shaped object.

It’s like writer Russell T. Davies remained really confused over the beginning of Superman: The Movie into adulthood instead of asking about it when he was… oh, geez, he was fifteen. No, no, not much chance there.

Hopefully he’s just trying for the tween male viewership.

Though it is the first “Doctor Who” to confuse me… I’m still not sure if the Cybermen and the humans team up to fight the Daleks. If so it’s a very short team-up. Maybe it was a coincidence.

Anyway.

The episode’s less about the (limited budget) invasion of the planet Earth from extra-dimensional aliens and more about getting the pieces in order for a cast change. But what kind of cast change… even though the episode still has Billie Piper narrating her last adventure, there are always possibilities.

Wait, wrong franchise.

We also learn it’s been three years since Piper and Tennant left Noel Clarke in an alternate reality where he could feign macho convincingly. It was like four or six episodes ago? The second half of season two has a three year present action. Is there a chart for the timelines? It’s like the show’s made for rerunning out of order.

Shaun Dingwall’s back because the alternate universe is back but he’s a drag in the alternate universe and continues to be a drag this episode.

Piper gets to face off with some Daleks.

Then there’s the big finale, which is effective and surprising and then Davies keeps beating the stick against it until you’re just relieved when it’s all finally over, who cares the casualties.

And then there’s an immediate setup for the next season.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e06 – The Age of Steel

I had low expectations for this episode, given the first installment was so unimpressed; writer Tom MacRae and director Graeme Harper do not improve at all this episode. The perfunctory cliffhanger resolution does nothing to ratchet up any enthusiasm. The stakes are simple—the Cybermen are taking over this alternate universe and Billie Piper won’t let David Tennant wait it out in the TARDIS because Piper’s parents Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall are in danger.

Dad Dingwall works for evil mastermind Roger Lloyd Pack but did he know Lloyd Pack was really a bad guy who wanted to turn everyone into Cybermen? Tennant’s suspicious but Piper’s obstinate and disinterested in finding out the truth. She’s so annoying this episode. Tennant eventually goes to hang out with alternate Earth revolutionary Helen Griffin, leaving Piper with Dingwall. She starts annoying him pretty quick too.

Meanwhile, Noel Clarke is off learning how to be a revolutionary—his double is on a team with Griffin and Andrew Hayden-Smith—and finding himself and whatnot.

The episode reuses action beats from the show’s pilot, which is kind of… well, it’s sad, but it does have the potential for Piper to comment on it. She doesn’t, of course, because MacRae’s disposable (at best) script.

Clarke ends up with better scenes than anyone else as he has to save the world himself for once. Unfortunately, Clarke’s performance still isn’t very good but… the episode’s got a very low bar. Successfully turning Clarke into even a hero in his own mind is something.

What else… bad CGI? There’s some really bad CGI.

There’s also a fairly dark ending with Tennant having to torture a bunch of people. It seems like it’s going to be one of those sobering “Doctor Who” resolutions but somehow it’s not. Maybe because it’s an alternate universe. Maybe because it’s so insincere. Thanks to Tennant, who’s absurdly underused, season two of “Who” has been very sturdy, but MacRae and Harper seem likely to be names to dread going forward.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e05 – Rise of the Cybermen

The cold open of this episode looks pretty bad and the direction on the actors is terrible so I was just waiting to see it was Keith Boak. Then the opening titles rolled and I got a little hopeful upon seeing the writing credit—Tom MacRae, new guy (all the “Who” writers are guys so far), and the show’s done better with new writers than the regular one—then it turned out not to be Boak, but Graeme Harper. Harper and MacRae both being “Who” newbies.

Harper’s direction is fairly bad, with the show once again looking like it’s a soap opera at best. Poor cinematographer Ernest Vincze, who shoots all(?) of the episodes, yet sometimes outside his control it all looks bad.

It’s an alternate universe adventure with David Tennant trying and failing to keep Billie Piper from hunting down alternate universe dad Shaun Dingwall—it’s incredible what a bad character Piper’s become this season. She nearly broke the universe last time she went after Dingwall. Did she learn anything? Nope.

Then there’s Noel Clarke, who’s sad Tennant doesn’t like him more. There’s this whole thing about Tennant only caring about Piper and not even being interested in Clarke’s (unknown before this episode) backstory involving grandmother Mona Hammond, who died in the regular universe. But the show’s established Piper thought she and Tennant were romantically involved or at least interested so what does she want him to do with Clarke? It’s just bad writing, with the bad production values hurting things even more.

Though I guess it’s obvious the episode doesn’t know much show canon because when we find out Clarke’s alter ego is named “Ricky” instead of “Mickey,” no one remembers how Christopher Eccleston called him “Ricky” last season. It’s this great setup and then does nothing.

The villains this episode are the Cybermen, who are back from the original series, only this time they’re run by brilliant megalomaniac businessman Roger Lloyd Pack who wants to be immortal. Lloyd Pack is extremely bad. Like. Extremely.

Towards the end of the episode it appears he’s doing an impression of Sidney Greenstreet in Maltese Falcon but apparently without coordinating with director Harper.

It’s a slog of an episode. So much of one a particularly annoying Camille Coduri doesn’t even rate mention.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e04 – The Girl in the Fireplace

The Girl in the Fireplace is an exceptionally affecting star-crossed lovers story, with the Doctor (David Tennant) happening across a portal to 18th century Versailles and—initially reluctantly—becoming involved Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles) as he tries to save her from time-traveling automatons. See, they want Myles to repair their spaceship, only no one can really figure out why they need her, she’s just in danger. And at various points in her life, as the automatons, which have an absolutely fantastic design (they disguise themselves in Pantalone masks and Versailles appropriate dress), intrude and attack. Even though Tennant’s using the same time portals as the villains, they’ve got teleporters and he doesn’t, so there’s a chase to it all.

Meanwhile, Noel Clarke is along on his first TARDIS mission as a regular member of the gang and, well, he’s just along. He’s a sidekick for Billie Piper when she’s not too busy pouting about Tennant’s very obvious chemistry with Myles. And since Myles is just the latest in a long line of episode-length romantic interests for the Doctor… you’d think Piper’d be used to it. Even Clarke picks up on the jealousy and needles her a little because there’s no more wholesome a relationship than the one where your disinterested sort of girlfriend leaves you to time travel with another guy and then years later you join up even though it’s only been a few months for her on the outside.

What I’m saying is Clarke’s part is broken. Even if it wasn’t Clarke in the part.

The stuff with Tennant and Myles, which involves Tennant breaking out the mind meld the show hasn’t mentioned until this point, is absolutely fantastic. Great action, great suspense; Euros Lyn’s direction is excellent and Steven Moffat’s script is strong. Tennant’s performance is wonderful, Myles is perfect, and the bad guys are terrifying. What more could you ask for.

Besides Piper and Clarke having something to do except pout.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e03 – School Reunion

They did a CGI werewolf episode, so why not a CGI vampire episode—except the vampires are aliens who can’t really turn into humans except Anthony Head (get it, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” non-vampire, playing a vampire, get it—also, he plays the headmaster of a school; headmaster; get it). They kind of look like the flying Gremlin from The New Batch but darker and without as much personality.

Because budget. They do pretty well with all the CGI, going for an exaggerated realism, which serves them well at the budget. Especially with David Tennant mugging opposite the CGI.

Despite Head being a stunt guest cast—and not a bad one at all; he doesn’t manage to mug or chew the same way Tennant can with the material, but he’s fine. If I cared about a “Buffy” stunt cast, I’d be happy.

A meteor lands and then strange things start happening at an elementary school where Head’s… headmaster. Tennant and Billie Piper investigate at Noel Clarke’s request, leading to a fun intro to Tennant as a teacher and Piper as a lunch lady.

There’s a lot of Clarke in the episode. Tennant does temper him; writer Toby Whithouse does an amazing job with everything except Clarke. And not even because it’s Clarke. Whithouse just gives him strange characterizations. I suppose it’s been however long since we’ve seen him but still.

Turns out Head’s just a MacGuffin, albeit a dangerous one, and the main plot of the episode is about bringing Elisabeth Sladen back to the franchise after thirty some years.

She happens to be investigating the same mystery and meets up with Tennant and crew. It’s a great combination of humor and character drama, with Sladen and Piper doing really well together as they bicker. Tennant’s outstanding with Sladen.

Seems weird the Doctor never talks about the companions and there are some new questions about his relationship with Piper. Also… don’t go down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what’s up with Tennant and Sladen’s break-up thirty years before. They change it up. Just watch the episode. It’s stunning how effective Sladen’s story plays out given I’ve never seen the original series with her on it.

I hope Whithouse writes some more episodes.

Doctor Who (2005) s02e00 – The Christmas Invasion

There are quite a few things to say about The Christmas Invasion. For example, as improbable as it seems, there’s a chance David Tennant is going to redeem Camille Coduri, who went from a perfectly fine guest player at the beginning of last season to a complete time suck by the end of it. It’s unclear whether Tennant will be able to work that magic with Noel Clarke, who’s still really annoying no matter what number Doctor we’re on.

The episode opens with Coduri and Clarke hearing the TARDIS coming into Christmastime London so they rush to the street to greet it. The doors open, an unfamiliar Tennant stumbles out, warmly embraces them, collapses. Then Billie Piper comes out and says, “That’s the Doctor.”

To which Coduri replies, “Doctor who?”

Wokka wokka.

Though Christmas Invasion does work as a fairly easy introduction to “Doctor Who.” Do they always ingloriously shuck the previous Doctor or is it Tennant being immediately amazing. Well, somewhat immediately. He’s in a coma because of transforming from Christopher Eccleston at the end of last season. This Christmas special doesn’t just introduce Tennant but makes a bunch of promises for the Doctor’s upcoming adventures.

Tennant’s in his coma for maybe the first half of the episode but it does feel a little longer because we’re got to get through the initial stages of Coduri and Clarke whining about Piper being a time and relative dimension in space traveller. Also for aliens to invade. There’s a big action sequence, which director James Hawes sadly doesn’t pull off, despite there being obvious money behind it. Then we get to catch up with Penelope Wilton, who’s gone on to become prime minister since we last saw her.

Wilton’s great. She could carry a show about her being a small town politician turned prime minister.

Events occur to get Piper and company teamed up with Wilton (on the alien ship, which is actually rather interesting—it appears the alien race launched themselves into space with their ship built under their planet’s crust or something). The aliens are this weird mix of Star Wars and Star Trek, dynamic enough to engage the casual viewer.

They only have to maintain interest so long, because once Tennant wakes up, no one’s paying attention to anything else. He’s amazing from go. Spellbinding. You can’t wait to see the next adventure because it’s him. So it’s a great promotion for the brand.

It’s also got an exceptionally problematic twist where Tennant takes advantage of sexist and ageism to “do the right thing,” except he’s not just being vindictive because it’s a bureaucracy. It’s also cruelly done.

Will Tennant’s fun-loving, convivial Doctor go on to be cruel?

Guess we’ll have to wait for a Dalek to find out. But Tennant puts “Who” into a “must see” category it didn’t even glimpse last season.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e13 – The Parting of the Ways

This episode just ought to be called Deusest Ex Machina because it turns out everything this season has been building towards is a giant reset for the series. Which does make sense, given the Doctor gets reborn whenever they recast, but it completely dismisses the idea of Christopher Eccleston having a significant role. It invalidates him over and over, even before the angel saves the day; in other words, if you’re okay with this Parting of the Ways nonsense and you gripe about “Battlestar”’s finish… you’re lying.

Worse, Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri are back. There’s an awkward conversation between Rose Piper and Coduri about the father’s death because Coduri doesn’t remember meeting her daughter in the past because… “Doctor Who”’s time travel logic is utter nonsense.

Shouldn’t matter, obviously, and if it weren’t just more awkward badness from Coduri and Piper it’d be fine.

See, once Eccleston resolves the previous episode’s cliffhanger in the cold open (or close to it), he sends Piper to the past so she’ll be safe from the alien invasion. Eccleston and John Barrowman have to try to save the day, which gets less and less likely as they fend off alien invaders. There’s some really weird stuff, like Barrowman apparently lying to a bunch of volunteers about how to fight the aliens. Then again there’s also the “Bad Wolf” resolve and it’s really, really bad. It’d be even worse if it wasn’t what drags Piper away from Clarke, who’s trying to wiggle his way back in when she thinks she doesn’t get to be a time traveller anymore.

There’s a little bit more with Jo Joyner as Eccleston’s lady friend of the week and Nisha Nayer and Jo Stone-Fewings have more to do as future humans. They’re all right. I mean, Joyner’s great, the others are all right.

It’s a Joe Ahearne directed episode so it could be a lot worse. And the vast bad CGI shots are… fine. I guess. They’re proofs of concept.

Russell T. Davies’s script has to do a whole bunch—send off Eccleston and resurrect the character, resolve the “Bad Wolf” thing, deal with the alien invasion, deal with the Piper arc. It’s a lousy send-off for Eccleston. Inglorious to the extremest.

It’s probably an impossible group of things to make run well but… Davies still manages to fumble it.

I wonder what next season’ll be like.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e11 – Boom Town

This episode is easily writer Russell T. Davies’s best so far. Maybe it helps he’s got Joe Ahearne directing, who’s even able to weather the Noel Clarke storm.

Though it’s a new Noel Clarke. A moody one who’s not hanging on Billie Piper’s every word hoping for a kiss. In fact, they suggest a physical intimacy foreign to their relationship.

But it’s not about Clarke and Piper, it’s about surviving Raxacoricofallapatorian villain (Annette Badland) from a two-parter about five episodes ago. Badland survived Christopher Eccleston taking out her fellow villains and set herself up as Cardiff mayor. Cardiff, once again getting crap from the show….

Anyway, she’s trying to get a nuclear power plant built for some reason and local reporter Mali Harries is suspicious. Well, more Harries notices anyone who opposes Badland ends up decapitated. Because Badland’s still doing her giant baby doll head alien monster eating the human thing. Cardiff’s not super busy apparently.

Eccleston, Piper, and John Barrowman are in town to “gas up” on Cardiff’s inter-dimensional rift (discovered in another episode this season) and Piper calls Clarke, then Eccleston notices Badland in a local paper and tracks her down. So it goes from a very odd—Clarke’s dynamic with Eccleston and Piper plus Barrowman—vacation day in Cardiff to something of a psychological showdown between Eccleston and Badland. Because long portions of the episode are the two facing off about morality and whatnot.

Badland was a farty joke in the previous episodes, so it’s a big surprise she’s absolutely phenomenal this time. There aren’t as many fart jokes this episode—there might not even be any (there are a few gassy jokes). But Badland’s awesome. Makes the episode.

Meanwhile, Clarke’s pissy about being Piper’s booty call or something.

Eccleston and Piper also discover the words “Bad Wolf” have been following them through the season, which is some hammer to the skull foreshadowing.

The ending’s a little too deus ex machina but it’s also at least thoughtfully resolved. And the show promises, once again, Clarke is gone for good this time. I’d say good riddance but I don’t believe he won’t be back next episode.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e05 – World War Three

Digital video in the mid-aughts was still very rough. Around the time World War Three came out, some of the best DV cinematography wasn’t being done in film or television but in art and technical schools, as creatives were figuring out how to best light for the medium.

In other words, I understand why cinematographer Ernest Vincze shoots such an ugly hour of television. I don’t understand Keith Boak’s direction. Like, seriously, an out of focus foreground or background character in crappy DV… But I do get Vincze’s limitations.

The episode is full of them. The aliens go from disquieting giant suits to terrible CGI. You can even see the models reused in different effects shots. Vincze doesn’t even have the budget—or, let’s just say it, ability—to light the composites well. World War Three takes a big swing and a big miss as far as the visuals.

The story’s not much better. Christopher Eccleston resolves the previous episode’s cliffhanger quite perfunctorily and then there’s a lot of chasing—there are aliens chasing Eccleston, aliens chasing Bille Piper and Penelope Wilton (who almost makes the episode worth it), and aliens chasing Piper’s mum, Camille Coduri. Sadly, Coduri teams up with Noel Clarke and they work remotely to help Eccleston save the world.

Coduri’s not great. Her character’s bad but she’s also not great. Clarke’s real bad. So having Coduri around him the whole episode doesn’t help. Though the terrible subplot about Coduri wanting Eccleston to assure her Piper is safe as his companion is all on Coduri. And writer Russell T. Davies. It’s not quite a “Martha” moment but it’s in the same vending machine. Davies’s resolution to the dilemma is an eye roller.

The episode hinges on various deuses ex machina to get to its conclusion, which is sort of an extension of the first episode. It’s kind of a real stinker, thanks primarily to Boak and Clarke; Corduri is collateral damage.

The ending, which resets the stakes to where they were before the two-parter with a little change—oh, also—we find out Piper’s phone accepts incoming calls, which means the entirely twelve months she was missing, neither Corduri or Clarke tried calling her. Like… what.

Anyway. The ending threatens to make things worse, then returns them to the status quo.

I really hope Boak takes next episode off. I can’t handle any more Boak right now.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e04 – Aliens of London

Director Keith Boak is back and it’s obvious from go some of the problem with Boak-directed episodes is Boak’s a bad director. Some of the problems are budgetary, but Boak and cinematographer Ernest Vincze even make the non-effects stuff look like bad digital video. There’s an anti-suspense suspense sequence involving sympathetic coroner Naoko Mori, who finds herself trapped in the morgue with an alien. Vincze throws all these goofy lights at her to cover for Boak’s complete inability to direct the sequence.

The episode starts with Christoper Eccleston bringing Billie Piper back to “the present” (meaning Piper’s present) so she can check in with mum Camille Coduri. We immediately discover last episode wasn’t a fluke and Eccleston really can’t control when the TARDIS jumps in time. Later in the episode he does a fairly precise teleportation, so the problem seems to be fourth dimensional, not first through third. It’s kind of obnoxious watching them goof off with the absurdly silly navigation system on the TARDIS—has it been updated since 1963. Is it a series trope? Like the Enterprise crew “spinning” 360 degrees?

Eccleston gets Piper home a year late, after Coduri has given up hope for her safe return and after Piper’s boyfriend, the just-as-charmless-as-last-time Noel Clarke, has been a suspect in her disappearance. Cue drama. Cue more drama once Coduri finds out about Eccleston.

But Piper and Coduri having a showdown isn’t the episode, the episode is an alien spacecraft crash-landing into the Thames. The government response involves a missing Prime Minister, an inquisitive Penelope Wilton (who makes the episode given how bad everything else works), and a flatulent replacement PM, David Verrey. In fact, most of the melodrama hinges on… fart jokes. Lots and lots of fart jokes.

Really bad CG aliens eventually show up and everyone’s in danger. Cue cliffhanger.

It’s occasionally well-acted and Wilton’s a delight, but the bad direction and photography, Clarke being an energy vampire, and so on….

It’s needlessly tiring.

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