Monday, 29 September 2014

DOCTOR WHO: THE CARETAKER review, 27 September 2014

Another winner for the Peter Capaldi regime. No, I can't quite believe it either.

"Call me sir!" (Image: BBC)

Gareth Roberts is great at writing comedy. 'The Caretaker''s romcom intro sets out the story's stall, using the conventions of farce that have served everything from The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) to Peep Show (2003-) so well: characters trying to keep secrets from each other as they dash from one situation to the next. Having the Doctor pose as a caretaker in a school also taps into the childhood wish that your hero might be hanging out in the boiler room and keeping a discreet eye on you.

'The Caretaker' is a lot better than Roberts' last undercover-Doctor-story 'Closing Time'. In that Roberts got a bit carried away with the comedy so that most of the dramatic scenes with the Cybermen were crammed into the climactic sequence; the 'power of lurve' solution was also really annoying, as it'd been used in just about every story that year. By contrast, 'The Caretaker' is an extremely well-constructed and elegant piece of writing. The humour and drama are well balanced and don't result in a mixed message, as happened in director Paul Murphy's last episode 'The Robot of Sherwood'. There, the fun Errol Flynn-ness of Robin Hood and his merry men didn't connect with the serious theme of myths being more powerful than history. Here, everything fits together seamlessly.

Like all the stories in this series, 'The Caretaker' is hugely entertaining as well as offering plenty to think about. The Doctor and Clara are now an A1 combination, perhaps one of the best Doctor/companion combos ever. With great material to play with, Jenna Coleman shows what an accomplished comedienne she is and Peter Capaldi reveals a more avuncular but still abrasive side to the Doctor, handling all Roberts' one-liners with great skill. 

What's brilliant about Doctor Who is that in the space of one scene, the tone can switch from sprightly humour to thought-provoking seriousness. Danny Pink's past as a soldier comes into sharp focus when he calls the Doctor an 'officer' and, from his past military experience, he recognises how dangerous the Time Lord can be. Predictably, they don't get on, but it's not that simple – perhaps from his spat about rank with Danny, the Doctor gets the idea for defeating the Skovoz Blitzer, convincing the war machine he's its commander so he can order it to shut down. It's understated, but in defeating the robot with words, not violence, he's making a point to Danny. That's how great Doctor Who is this year. And how good is Samuel Anderson?

Continuing the theme of words, it's great to see more literary references in the series and they're both there for a reason. Pride and Prejudice's Mr Darcy lets his pride get in the way of good judgement and the Doctor isn't above making incorrect assumptions about people either, the intellectual time traveller dismissing Danny as 'PE'. The Tempest, featuring Prospero, a wizard in charge of his own world who has an attentive daughter called Miranda, are an obvious and telling parallel with the Doctor and Clara. The series is also referencing itself, with Adrian (Edward Harrison) bow tied and coiffured to resemble the Eleventh Doctor. When Clara says 'He's just a friend and not my type', the look the Doctor gives her - having previously glowed when he assumed Adrian was Clara's boyfriend - is really funny. 

Ah, and Missy is back. My theory is that she's the Master (Missy = Mistress, the feminine of Master). But coming back from the afterlife? That's bold territory for Doctor Who to explore.

My only criticism is that Roberts expects the audience to already know why the Skovoz Blitzer is interested in Coal Hill School. The reference to 'artron energy' is very throwaway, and if you were a newbie you'd be unaware of a backstory that goes all the way back to the very first episode 'An Unearthly Child', as well as the 1980s stories 'Attack of the Cybermen' and 'Remembrance of the Daleks'. 

And there were no Harold Pinter jokes. Then again, I guess you can't have everything. 99% will have to do.

Friday, 26 September 2014

THE DRIVER Review: Episode 1, 22 September


The actor's actor David Morrissey is on top form in BBC1's new thriller.

Seen most recently in AMC's terrific The Walking Dead, David Morrissey is one of those actors who's so good it doesn't look like he's acting. The same applies to Ian Hart (Backbeat, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD) and Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Layer Cake). To see all three of them in a drama together is a rare treat. It's a shame they couldn't get Paddy Considine to be in this one as well.

BBC1's The Driver starts off very Breaking Bad, although Vince McKee (Morrissey) isn't as single-minded as Walter White. Vince is a decent, Northern man at the end of his tether, struggling with domestic boredom and a badly paid job as an under-appreciated taxi driver. When his old school mate Col (Hart) is released from a six-stretch in prison, Vince has the chance of making some real money as the driver for local 'businessman' 'The Horse' (Meaney). It isn't long before things start going wrong.

The Driver is full of well observed stuff men of a certain age can sympathise with:
Vince struggles through the daily grind on the verge of depression, he's estranged from his son Tim (Lewis Rainer), has to cope with his materialistc daughter Katie (Sacha Parkinson) and gives in to bickering with his wife Rosalind (Claudie Blakely) when, really, he still loves her. In one particularly graphic sequence, two chavvy girls get a lift in Vince's cab beacuse it's raining. With no money, one of them urinates on the floor then, as he tries to throw them out, they steal his fare money and let his tyres down. It might seem over the top, but, unfortunately, feral scum like this are out there and are always ready to piss on civilised values.

Like all the best thrillers, The Driver makes the most of deadpan humour to lighten the mood and relieve the tension. The Horse claims to study philosophy and quotes impressively, but Vince discovers a book of quotations in his loo. 'Philisophy my arse,' he mutters. Later, waiting for The Horse and Darren (the always good Andrew Tiernan) as they conduct business, hired hand Woodsy (Christopher Coghill, brilliant as Happy Mondays' Bez in 24 Hour Party People) grumbles about losing his girlfriend to Hartlepool 'down south'. Morrissey's range of expressions are pricless as he tactfully points out that Hartlepool is, apparently, on 'the north east coast'.

All of this would already make The Driver a winner, but it kicks off with one of the best car chases I've ever seen in a British crime series - as I know all of The Sweeney really well, we are talking very impressive. It's so well edited that you come away thinking that Morrissey did all of the driving himself, although the six or so stunt drivers listed in the credits make it clear that he didn't.

If you haven't already, give The Driver a go: it's great to see British television drama finally picking up the gauntlet thrown down by US series like Breaking Bad and Ray Donovan. Next week, the great Shaun Dingwall turns up as a copper on Vince's case.

Next up - Peaky Blinders.

Monday, 22 September 2014

PRIDE film review


If you only go and see one film this year, make it this quietly powerful tribute to people power and self-belief.

'The Pit and the people are one and the same.'

It's 1984 and the miners are on strike. I remember it happening. I remember watching the television news and seeing picket lines being battered and split by the imported battalions of the Metropolitan Police's Special Patrol Group. I was at art college in Maidstone, trying to work out what I wanted from life and who I was, and The Smiths and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were on Top of the Pops.

That's pretty much where Pride starts. Like most films that deal with this kind of social history, we then follow a young ingenue on his/her rite of passage, in this case Joe (George MacKay), or 'Bromley' as he's known throughout. He tentatively joins a polticised group of gay people from Brixton during June 1984's Gay Pride demo, and their charismatc ringleader Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer) later suggests that to stick it to PM Margaret Thatcher and forge solidarity with another persecuted minority, they start collecting money for the strikers as Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners - LGSM.

So far so good, but Pride then turns into a story you really couldn't make up. Beyond the 1980s nostalgia - those fashions are accurate. I should know: I wore them - this film is about really important stuff, namely breaking down bigotry and prejudice, not being frightened of what other people think and standing up for your beliefs when you're bullied. Yes, it is about the initially awkward coming together of London's gay community and the Welsh miners and what each group learns from the other, but it's also a metaphor for anyone who's ever been victimised for what they've stood up for. Moreover, the film does it without being preachy and right-on and with a massive red dildo and a dirty Welsh laugh never very far away.

'We're off to Swansea for a massive les-off.'

The film is full of everyone's favourite actors. Paddy Considine and Bill Nighy are quiet and dignified as open-minded Welshmen; the great Dominic West is highly entertaining, never more so than when he shows the miners and their families how to disco dance in the scene that'll be shown on all the clips shows, and Imelda Staunton is fiesty and believable as a principled support committee member. In less showy roles, Faye Marsay (Steph), the suddenly very busy Liz White and, particularly, Andrew Scott as the exiled Gethin - patching things up with his estranged mother after sixteen years and on the receiving end of what used to be called 'gay bashing' - are all exceptional. A special mention, too, for Russell Tovey's terrifying cameo as Tim, an AIDS victim who's 'not been home for four days' and is on 'a farewell tour'.

While the broad sweep of Pride is worth the price of admission, it's the keenly observed period details which help to make it such a winner. Bromley's very out gay mates don't give him a hard time because he pretends to his parents he's been on a pastry-making course when he's out fundraising with them; Mark is told 'there are no gay artists on this label' in the reception of a record company which has posters of Elton John and Soft Cell on its walls and dear old Mary Whitehouse, the moral bete noire of everyone from Dr. Who to David Bowie, even gets a mention. In a quietly powerful moment, Nighy and Staunton are seen buttering sandwiches which have no fillings, which tells you all you need to know about how far the miners were from starving - only thirty years ago. My favourite joke in the film is at LGSM's Electric Ballroom fundraising gig, when a London drag queen appears done up as 'Martha Scargill'.

'Didn't you hear about the miners, dearie? They lost.'

What's paticularly commendable about Pride is that while it bangs the drum for two defining '80s causes, it doesn't shy away from opposing points of view. Maureen Barry (played by Lisa Palfrey), disgusted by the LGSM's support, could have been a walking cliche, but her only real crime is ignorance; she's also concerned about her two sons and afraid of the strikers being ridiculed in the right-wing press - ironically, considering she sells the story about LGSM to The Sun. In the gay community, quite a few of Mark and Gethin's friends refuse to help because of the abuse they received growing up in Wales and when the latter is fundraising on the streets, he's bluntly told he should be collecting for the 'gay people [who] are dying every day.'

As a corollary of the LGSM's activism, lesbian and gay rights were enshrined in the Labour manifesto, largely through a block vote from the Mineworkers' Union. Looked at from 2014 where gay marriage is an accepted part of everyday life and I can go with my Mum to see a film like this, what the LGSM and the miners achieved really is bloody amazing.

Pride is a modern fairytrale, except - a lot of - it actually happened. Go see.

The music: The Smiths - 'What Difference Does It Make?'; Pete Shelley - 'Homosapien'; Dead or Alive - 'You Spin Me Round'; Bronski Beat - 'Why?'; King - 'Love and Pride'; Frankie Goes To Hollywood - 'Two Tribes' / 'Relax'; Culture Club - Karma Kamelion; Billy Bragg - 'Power in a Union'

DOCTOR WHO: TIME HEIST review, 20 September 2014


'Capaldi's 4' makes it 5 out of 5 for Doctor Who 2014.

Let's go to work. (Image: BBC)

Steve Thompson is a curious writer. I don't like his previous Doctor Who stories at all. 'The Curse of the Black Spot' was flat and forgettable, while 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' was so massively misjudged it was very nearly racist featuring, essentially, a family of black car-jackers ripping off abandoned vehicles for salvage money. Then again, Thompson can come up with something as fantastically inventive and mind-blowingly dramatic as Sherlock's 'The Reichenbach Fall'. Which way would the quality compass swing with 'Time Heist'?

I might be wrong, but to see two writers credited on a Doctor Who episode before the 21st century, you have to go back to - who? - Pip and Jane Baker? I'd love to know what's going on with Steven Moffat, Phil Ford and Steve Thompson. Is The Moff writing a draft script and then letting his writing partner finesse it, or vice versa? Whatever the case, this new development in the writer's room is making for some bloody strong stories this year.

'Time Heist' is Thompson's best Doctor Who script - or half script: whatever. We're in William Gibson territory here, with a hi-tech bank robbery, memory wipes, the hero manipulating himself and a criminal able to download information into his brain. Beyond that, the story has this year's nasty surrealism - Mr Porrima's brain being sucked out by the Teller, leaving him with a flat skull, actually drove my Mum from the room - together with the mature meditation on a guest character's motivations. Like the Half Faced Man or The Thing Under The Covers, Keeley Hawes' Mrs Kavabraxos isn't really a villain, but she is amoral, selfish and acquisitive and, in a small way, tries to make up for her failings at the end of her deeply unfulfilled life.

Elsewhere, there's loads of fun to be had spotting pop culture references. The incidental music references the James Bond films, Saibra (Pippa Bennett-Warner) is a nice take on Mystique from the X-Men comics and movies and the flashback scene at the end of the episode, showing how the Doctor had set everything up, is an obvious nod to Hustle, the BBC's enjoyable conmen saga, and the Ocean's 11 films. The Teller is a great monster, looking genuinely solid and genuinely scary. Yes, it's a neat twist that the creature is being blackailed into working for Mrs Kavabraxos, but the horrible violence it visited on people is rather glossed over by the Doctor and even Clara - who's rapidly becoming the series' moral compass - seemed offhand about it.

Maybe that was the point, though. As Psi said (the excellent Jonathan Bailey, having to put up with a rather lazy name for his character): 'It's obvious you've been with him for a while. You're very good at excuses.' Week by week, a theme is emerging.

As well as handling last week's extraordinary 'Listen', Douglas Mackinnon drew a performance of great subtly and sensitivity out of Keeley Hawes in the exceptional police series Line of Duty. Here, he encourages here to be arch and amusing but not over-the-top as Ms Delphox, as well as allow her to finally show some heart as the ageing Mrs Kavabraxos. Mackinnon had a demanding job with 'Time Heist', delivering an intricately plotted - but, crucially, not confusing - high concept action movie in under forty-five minutes. Effortlessly, he made everything clear enough for even the adults in the audience to understand.

With a small and talented cast, there was room for each of the guest characters to have a memorable and meaty scene, something of a feature of this series. Our Time Lord was, as usual, on terrific form, striding abrasively from scene to scene and delivering dialogue that sparkled with caustic and sometimes alarming humour - 'They're not tears, Clara: that's soup.' He's the Doctor, whether you like it or not. I love the way he just doesn't get what's going on with Danny and Clara, here totally bemused by his friend apparently going on a date with a shelf.

To be honest, I'm mystified as to why the usually reliable Patrick Mulkern wrote in the Radio Times of this story, 'it's clear someone's forgotten the combination for what produces solid-gold Doctor Who.' I keep waiting for my favourite series to be crap but, week by week, it doesn't happen. Five stories in and it's five out of five. A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that was possible.

Following 'Time Heist', the BBC advertised two of its upcoming flagship dramas: The Driver starring David Morrissey and the second series of BBC2's historical crime series Peaky Blinders.

I think that says it all.

Friday, 19 September 2014

THE WEDNESDAY PLAY at the BFI, September and October 2014


More glorious TV heritage in a two month festival at the BFI Southbank.

British television could really do with more single plays. The Secrets, the recent week-long run of half hour plays by new writers on BBC1, was specifically created to give scriptwriters new to television a chance. (Typically, the BBC-bashing Daily Mail dismissed the short season of plays as 'rubbish', showing not only how culturally ignorant that so called newspaper really is, but also making you wonder if the reviewer had actually bothered to watch any of them).

It's sad that something like The Secrets has become an exception. In the halcyon days of British TV in the 1960s and 1970s, single plays were everywhere: Armchair Theatre, Play for Today, Play of the Week and The Wednesday Play (so called because it was, um, shown on a Wednesday). Writers such as James Mitchell, Harold Pinter, Alan Bleasdale and Alun Owen all had their breaks into writing for television through single plays, going on to help make British television a richer and more diverse place.

Throughout September and October, the BFI is focuing on The Wednesday Play, and the four screenings so far have been something of a revelation, giving what, for me, had previously just been the title of a dusty old programme in reference books depth and vitality.

Apart from having a wonderfully modish title sequence involving a Mary Quant-style dolly bird and a space-age TV perched on a stone wall, Who's A Good Boy Then? I Am from 1966 was creepy, funny and menacing, a slice of vintage Harold Pinter written by somebody else. Richard Harris's vivid realisation of domestic hell involved a childless couple - Ron Moody and a brilliant Thora Hird - manoeuvring for the affections of their slightly sinister young lodger played by Ronald Lacey. Confined to a few sets, it showed what can be done with three great actors and a terrific script.

Next up was The Mayfly and the Frog. Before watching it I'd never been convinced of all the claims made for what a great actor Sir John Gielgud was, but now I can really see why he was so lionised. Essentially a Mod version of The Prince and the Showgirl with Felicity Kendal as a scooter girl who's transport is in a collision with Gielgud's Rolls Royce, Gielgud is effortlessly amusing, charming, abrasive and introspective, as his luxurious but sterile life is gradually given meaning by Kendal's very fresh-faced interloper. It's made me want to look up more things that Sir John's been in.

Moving on to 1969, Sling Your Hook, about the misadventures of a coach full of miners an a weekend bender in Blackpool, and The Season of the Witch, the days-in-the-life of a young runaway who falls in with some work-shy hippies (Paul Nicholas and Robert Powell), look as fresh as the day they left the editing suite, largely because they were both made on film. The invention of more portable - and affordable - film cameras towards the end of the 1960s saw a minor revolution in TV drama, as writers and directors could now take their stories out on to the streets and into the countryside.

I could watch Sling Your Hook over and over again. Written by Roy Minton, best known as the author of the harrowing borstal drama Scum, his Wednesday Play features a fantastic ensemble cast including Michael Bates, Joe Gladwyn, Patrick O'Connell, Kenneth Cranham and Warren Clarke on a boozy, true-to-life odyssey through Britain's premier seaside resort. From being a tight knit group of friends and workmates, their cameraderie gradually fall apart as they're tempted by the possibilities of a better life in the town, to the point where a glum Bates and Gladwyn return home in an empty bus.

The Season of the Witch stars the singer Julie Driscoll from the in-vogue group Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity and her bandmates supply a suitably frenetic and bluesy soundtrack. Not a lot happens and Driscoll isn't the world's greatest actress, but as a piece of social history you can't get more 1969 than the story of a sheltered suburban girl running away from a dull job to join the counter culture. Glynn Edwards (Dave the perennial barman in Minder) is great as her bemused Dad. The Season... was also one of the first Wednesdy Plays to be made in colour, in the year that the BBC and ITV were gearing up for the big switchover to colour transmissions. The film making is so accomplished that you'd never know that the production crew were new to working with colour film.

I'm really looking forward to the next WP screening at the BFI; as ever, it's the place to go to have your cultural horizons widened. And next time you're gritting your teeth through crap like The X Factor or Britain's Got No ****ing Talent, just think how much better the money could be spent.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

DOCTOR WHO: LISTEN review, 13 September 2014


Peter Capaldi's fourth story is funny, frightening and a revelation for long-term fans of Doctor Who.

What's that in the shadows? (Image: Deviantart)

In 'Listen', the Doctor joins those other great British folk heroes and loners Sherlock Holmes and James Bond in having a troubled start to his life. There have been hints about this in Doctor Who before - his 'black day' when he poured out his troubles to the hermit that lived behind his house ('The Time Monster'), just scraping through the Academy's exams on the second attempt ('The Ribos Operation') - but here we see it confirmed.

The shock on Clara's face when she realises the sobbing child in the bed she's hiding under is the Doctor brilliantly reflects the thrill I and millions of other viewers must have felt. In effect, 'Listen' is the last of the Time Lord's Skyfall, as the clip of the War Doctor (John Hurt) choosing the dilapidated barn in the wastes of Gallifrey for a final act of violence is now given a context by the childhood unhappiness he felt there. It's clever stuff indeed.

'Listen' gets cleverer. The Twelfth Doctor's obsession with discovering if the nightmare of someone under your bed has a basis in reality, is shown to be a by-product of his companion Clara's advice to him as a boy in that barn. OK, it's yet another piece of Steven Moffat timey-wimeyness, but the emotional power of it is so strong that it's almost worth having gone through all the maddeningly convoluted storytelling in Series Six to get here.

With only three principal speaking parts in the story, Capaldi, Coleman and Samuel Anderson really get to blossom. The leading man is restrained and sympathetic, a stand out when he tells Rupert Pink that 'scared is a superpower' and making the tantalising comment about his 'Dad skills'. As we've seen before Capaldi clearly relishes his character's darker side, as here he makes the most of the Doctor experimenting on Clara in a ruthless quest for knowledge. From the romcom scenes with Danny Pink in the restaurant to gently whispering reassurances in a Gallifreyan child's ear, Jenna Coleman continues to impress with both her comedy timing and emotional range. Anderson is great, too: funny, moody and subtly different as time traveller - chrononaut? - Colonel Orson Pink. These three are without a doubt the strongest line up of regulars the series has had for years.

In a story set mostly at night, director Douglas Mackinnon creates a murky, edgy mood throughout that reaches the peak of its effectiveness in the scene where he makes a mound of bedclothes absolutely terrifying (and I bet you anything you like it turns out to be Missy under there). Other images that'll remain with me forever are two visually stunning moments: the Doctor sitting cross-legged on top of the TARDIS in space, then looking in through the police box's open doors as it sits at the bottom of the ocean. Not showing the child-Doctor's face was a good piece of directorial judgement too.

Ultimately, 'Listen' is a well told and well-made shaggy dog story, that's also a great piece of fan fiction with an effective emotional punch. It'll divide opinion, I'm sure, but that's one of the joys of Doctor Who. The story is low key but epic, creepy, humane, slightly self-indulgent and rather wonderful, another love letter by Steven Moffat to the series he's been in love with since he was a boy.

That's four out of four so far. Can they keep it up? Looking at the trailer for 'Next Week', it certainly looks like it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

DOCTOR WHO: ROBOT OF SHERWOOD review, 6 September 2014


It's three out of three for team Capaldi, as Mark Gatiss delivers his best script for the series.

Maid Clara and Sir Robin of Hood. (Image: Mirrorpix)


The moment I saw Tom Riley's roguish wink at the Doctor and the audience just before the opening titles, I knew 'Robot of Sherwood' was going to be brilliant.

Mark Gatiss is REALLY back on form; the man is back who wrote the brilliant 'The Unquiet Dead' and Crooked House, rather than the disappointing 'Victory of the Daleks' and 'Night Terrors'. 'Robot of Sherwood' is terrific, not wasting a single second of its running time to entertain and offer a thought provoking fable on how myths can be more powerful than real historical figures. My only real gripe is the climactic golden arrow fired into the robots' spacecraft, which does stretch credibility rather. Even then, you can forgive it as it fitted with the overall spirit of innocent and optimistic heroics.

Errol Flynn: the sword of Sherwood Forest.
(Image: Kobal Collection)

Tom Riley certainly knows his Errol Flynn: hands firmly planted on hips, arching his back and laughing heartily, his Robin Hood is cast from the same mould as the man who flourished a sword and swung from chandeliers through The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) – the two actors even look similar. The style of Flynn's cinematic adventure also informs the look of 'Robot', as this Sherwood is a place of verdant technicolour and cheering peasants. Impressively, Gatiss' script also has an emotional maturity and gentle self-awareness, as the ever improving Clara realises that Robin is unhappy because he laughs too much, and the point is made throughout that the Doctor is just as mythical a character as the hooded man.

Capaldi's Doctor continues to be a joy to watch. It's a delight to see him duel with a spoon, talk himself out of a dungeon and improvise weapons to defeat robots, as well as being human enough to use an arrow with a crafty guidance system to beat Robin in the archery contest. Ben Miller's Sheriff of Nottingham is faultless, too: witty, but taking the part seriously and accidentally providing an exemplary audition for the new Master. I'd also single out for praise some of the stylish dialogue that sparkled from start to finish, but there was so much that, happily, I just can't.   

So where was Missy this week? Just as we start looking forward to her popping up, the writers surprise us and she doesn't appear at all. Instead, we have the emerging theme of another spacecraft crewed by robots looking for the 'promised land'... fascinating. Clearly, we've come a long way from how obvious references to the Bad Wolf and Torchwood were crowbarred into the scripts. Another interesting, understated element is the Doctor's mathematical scribblings on the TARDIS blackboard. I wonder if he's trying to work out where Gallifrey is?

On a more serious note, it beggars belief that some 'fans' complained when the BBC, acting as a sensitive and responsible public broadcaster, deleted one small scene that would have been in poor taste considering the recent, appalling beheadings of western journalists by the Islamic State. These are the same unhappy people who'll moan that 'Robot of Sherwood' is a rip-off of 'The Time Warrior', think that another spaceship full of robots betrays a lack of ideas and completely miss how playful and sophisticated Gattis' best script for the programme is. These people shouldn't be watching Doctor Who in the first place.  

Anyway. My heart soared watching 'Robot of Sherwood'. Without a doubt, Doctor Who is the best thing on British television again. Capaldi's third story is funny, dramatic, intelligent, incredibly well made by director Paul Murphy – more from him, please – and overflowing with clever literary and cultural references, from Karl Marx to Robert Holmes. In short, it's back to what I signed on for all those years ago. Put 1978's 'The Ribos Operation' on after 'Robot of Sherwood', as I did, and you can't see the aesthetic join. 

There's now a consistent, high standard the series is yet to drop below, making it three out of three for team Capaldi so far and, in terms of 21st century Doctor Who, the best run of stories since 'Partners in Crime', 'The Fires of Pompeii' and 'Planet of the Ood.' Going even further back, I'd say it's the best hat trick since 'Destiny of the Daleks', 'City of Death' and 'The Creature from the Pit'.

'History is a burden.... Stories make us fly.' So, so true.

I nearly shed a happy tear.