It occurs to me, setting out to write this review, that although both Peter Capaldi and David Tennant are Scottish, only the former has been allowed to keep his accent in the role of the Doctor. I am astonished that this has yet to feature in an angry press release from the SNP, actually.
So hiting the midway point, where are we? Surprisingly, with an unusually good series, so far. That might not be everyone’s view, and granted I am a fan, but I haven’t written any episodes off yet, and usually by this point I would have expected at least one review to consist mostly of sighs. But that hasn’t happened yet.
Of course, my very stating that in the preface of a review has doubtless jinxed it. But here goes (Allons-y! -Ed)
I realise I seem like a continual prophet of doom on this subject, but Fox have cut the series order from 13 to 10 episodes. That, generally speaking, is not the sort of thing you do when you think you have a runaway hit on your hands.
Is it fair? Well, I don’t know. Part of me still sees the vast potential of what a Minority Report TV series could explore, the places it could go and the ideas upon which it could expound. That part of me wants this to be a piece of extreme over-caution on Fox’s part.
There’s another part of me, though, which I suspect is the bigger part, that knows that Minority Report has not punched as hard as either it could or needs to. And TV is not a game where you can afford to pull your punches. New series fall by the wayside often enough that their corpses should be road signs for the up-and-comers.
I hate to say it, but Minority Report has not won me yet.
That isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying it. I haven’t outright hated any of the episodes so far, and there are clearly a lot of worthwhile ideas being proposed here. What I can’t shake, though, is that it lacks a little bit of something holding it together as a series and giving it a spark.
Really, we’ve reached the point where we need to be going beyond pure worldbuilding — which the series has done very well so far — and into building some significance into the narative web and the characters. I like the world, I even like the people we are following around it. But, at the moment, I don’t care if everything goes to hell for them.
American Horror Story is all about the big bang. Not necessarily loud, but it should hit you in the gut like a sledgehammer. It’s not altogether encouraging, then, that the opening episode of Hotel felt a little…weak.
The pieces were all there, particularly the aesthetics, which I have to say showed an attention to detail. But there was little in the way of overarching plot linking it together. Really, it felt like a lot of glamorous and good-looking people simply moving around in front of some amazing sets.
And that is just not what American Horror Story is about. True enough, it has those facets. It uses them for dramatic effect and to dress the window, but the importance is that window reflecting onto the darknesses of the human soul.
The second episode remembering that fact would be very welcome.
One thing that the new two-part episode format is doing for Doctor Who is making the series go faster. Or maybe that’s just my perception. Anyway, we are creeping towards the halfway point, and the impossible has happened.
It has almost entirely been good.
More than that, we’re working to a coherent song-sheet as to the theme running through the series, around how the Doctor shapes those who travel with him. It’s not a new theme, and worryingly it was very well done in the series four finale “Journey’s End”. Can it be improved on? I doubt we’ll really know until the series is done, but Capaldi is a very different actor to Tennant.
At this point in a series of Doctor Who, I’m usually feeling a little reticent, wavering on the hit-and-miss quality that it always seems to oscillate around. Not this time around though. Three episodes in, and all have struck the right notes for me.
I do wonder if what is essentially a family show is perhaps at risk of becoming too dark. Some of the worst episodes of new Who, in my opinion, have been those which go too absurd, too flat out silly. But given that that’s where the series has gone more often than it has gone the darker and more serious route. It feels like we’re onto new ground, and it’s rather an exciting move.
After the second episode, I’m feeling a little reassured that Minority Report might have some clue what it is doing.
It’s not yet entering the pantheons of televisual greatness (Hell, it’s not even safe from first season cancellation yet -Ed), but where the first episode splashed around in the shallow end of some interesting concepts and ideas, I felt that the second looked like it was learning to swim.
Doggy-paddle, maybe, but progress is progress, and if Constantine has any lessons for new TV shows, it’s that you can’t waste time in laying down your direction of travel and setting out your pitch to audiences.
So it’s back. It seems a bit weird to think of Hotel as American Horror Story‘s fifth season, perhaps due to the anthology style approach it takes, meaning that although the series’ are interconnected (Apparently… -Ed) they don’t follow on from each other and the reappearing actors and actresses play completely different roles.
But Hotel is going to be different. Season four, Freak Show, was Jessica Lange’s last. Since the start she had been the mainstay of the series, with a succession of commanding and show-stealing performances. Now, without her, it looks like Lady Gaga of all people is taking her place.
Now, Lange’s are big shoes to fill. And I’m genuinely not sure that Gaga has the acting skill to match it. Or even the vocal talents.
That said, American Horror Story has always been a series built on innovation. Given how it reinvents itself every year, I have to believe that it can overcome the loss of its big star. Hopefully with some off-the-wall writing and some creepy Shining references.
So the first episode of the TV adaptation of Minority Report nobody asked for was actually quite good. Certainly it had potential, in the idea of peeling back the world not just of precrime, but 10 years on from precrime.
No sequel, in whatever form, should ever be even attempted if there isn’t some purpose for it, something for it to do. In that respect maybe a TV series set 10 years after the film might have some meat on its bones. The world building was one of the high points of the film, and there were a number of unanswered questions which remain to be excavated.
That said, it takes more than world-building to build a good TV series. That rich setting is worth nothing if it’s not populated with engaging characters doing interesting things.
So the new series of Doctor Who has gotten off to a bang with the opening two episodes, which in this blogger’s opinion managed to do the impossible by making the Daleks feel, if not shiny and new, then at least not groan-worthily stale.
It’s more than that, though. It finally feels like Peter Capaldi has found his version of the Doctor. Grouchy, but all heart under a tough exterior. And it works, even if part of me will always want to see the Doctor via Malcolm Tucker.
We also seemed to have come into a different style of episode format. The two-part episodes are an innovation that I am very much behind, expanding the storytelling ability. It felt, with the first two episodes of the series, to have slowed down the often frenetic pace. Which makes a nice change. It’s like the series, as well as the Doctor, is growing up.