Sunday, 28 September 2014

Grimm: Goodnight, Sweet Grimm

"To be continued. Oh, come on- you knew this was coming!"

At last the season finale. For once it feels as though things are in flux and things may not necessarily just return to the status quo, especially as we end with the inevitable cliffhanger.

Thinks begin quite slow and low-key, as Nick and Juliette continue to fall in love again and Sean Renard continues to spy on his brother, who wants the key. Adalind, meanwhile, in her own separate sub-plot, prepares a rather evil body swap with Frau Pech, leading to the latter's demise. 

We get some background between brothers Sean and Eric; Eric's mother tried to kill Sean's, and Sean had to leave Geneva at thirteen. It's an awkward conversation as the two of them circle warily around each other.

Things are more pleasant with Nick and Juliette, as for the first time he tells her about his day, zombies and all, and she involves herself in the case, her skills as a vet eventually proving useful. This is a huge turning point for both their relationship and the show's status quo.

The fight against the zombies becomes desperate, however, as Nick is infected by Baron Samedi and sealed into a coffin.

Grimm: The Waking Dead

"How did they come up with the name, do you suppose? They have a port. They have land. Really put a lot of thought into that one..."

The season will be over at the end of next episode, so we'd better get on with the arc plot; after an unusually long "previously on" we turn to the pregnant Adalind, planning to get her powers back but, at the moment, busy shagging Prince Eric Renard until his dad the King calls at an awkward moment. And there's a nice brief moment of domestic bliss for Juliette and Nick. Then we get the zombies.

The zombies are fun. I love the sight of seeing Grimm forget its usual format and just wallow in zombie tropes. This being Grimm, though, the cultural source of the zombie meme is remembered, so we get a suitably voodoo Haitian chap called (what else?) Baron Samedi. We know from very early on that this is going to be a good 'un. And all this is juxtaposed with a bizarre, episode-long magic spell in which Adalind succeeds in regaining her powers.

Another subplot, our little bit of comedy to counterpoint the epic, features Juliette diving headlong into Wesen lore and insisting on seeing all of her friendly neighbourhood Wesen with their bestial faces. But it's all about the zombies, Baron Samedi and their employer Prince Eric, all of whom touch down in Portland, sparking off a zombie outbreak. We've had the set-up; time for the season finale. ..

Grimm: Kiss of the Muse

"What did I miss?"

"The usual- the Devil, a couple of space aliens..."

Hank is back from Hawaii, on crutches; one suspects, given his recent absence, that Russell Hornsby has had some kind of accident that has been transferred to his character. Still, it's good to have him back, especially so close to the end of the season. 

Juliette is anxious to get back together with Nick, and invites him on a date. Unfortunately, however, this week's Wesen baddie is a succubus of some kind. The Wesen plot here is, frankly, rather predictable and tiresome, as is the annoying and artificial friction generated between Juliette and Nick.

Still, at least Rosalie gets to see Nick's trailer for thriftiest time as she, Monroe and Hank try and find a cure for Nick. The baddie in question is a creature from Irish mythology with a Van Gogh connection(!), but at least the episode ends on a high; it's finally revealed to all and sundry that Juliette knows what Wesen are, and she saves Nick's bacon before the two lovers hug, a couple again. Aaah!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Doctor Who: The Caretaker

"Human beings have incredibly short lifespans. Frankly, you should all be in a permanent state of panic."

I'm sure this episode is going to divide opinion as much of this season has, being that the (excellent) alien menace is somewhat in the background while the foreground is firmly hogged by the relationship drama between Clara, Danny and the Doctor as disapproving father figure. Well, I loved it, and as far as I'm concerned this continues to be the best season since the days of Christopher Eccleston. All this, and a ridiculous number of tributes to An Unearthly Child too.

We begin with the juxtaposition of Clara's exciting adventures "eloping" with the Doctor and her rather more traditional dates with Danny, setting us up for an episode in which Danny and the Doctor meet- and that, rather than the brilliantly designed and scary-looking Skovox Blitzer, is what the episode is about in a joyous mix of romantic comedy and serious drama as befits the talents of Gareth Roberts although, once more, we get an "and Steven Moffat". 

The long pre-credits sequence is brilliant and ends predictably but perfectly on the revelation of the school's new caretaker in a way which reminds me of the beginning to School Reunion. But this, of course, is Coal Hill, and not only to we have Clara and Danny as the Ian and Barbara of 2014 but also a policeman going into a junkyard for which I'm fairly sure I could guess the postal address. Even the junk inside recalls the scenes inside 76 Totters Lane half a century ago. But this policeman is not so lucky, and ends up in the afterlife/promised land/ Worldsphere. Policing just ain't Dixon of Dock Green any more.

The Doctor's prejudices ("I hate soldiers. Don't you just hate soldiers?") are obvious during his first meeting with Danny, and he never shakes off the idea that an ex-soldier must be thick and therefore a PE teacher. The script deliberately paints him as both unlikeable in the wrong, and takes care to portray Danny as nice, reliable, brave and, well, Ian Chesterton-like. Danny is, of course, right to finger the Doctor as "officer class", someone who can inspire his men to do what needs to be done, and he's also right, after earning the Doctor's grudging respect by saving the world, to warn Clara not to let him push her too far, or they're finished. 

This is both blatantly foreshadowing something for later in the season and a shrewd character analysis of the Doctor. Of course this veteran of the Time War is a soldier, and his prejudice is simply self-loathing. Indeed, we examines these themes with Tennant during Season 30, with his aversion to guns, soldiering and UNIT being foregrounded. And yet he went to his final battle with Rassilon armed with Wilf's gun, symbolising that, much as he may hate it, deep down, this Time War veteran is very much a soldier.

On a lighter note, we also get to meet Courney Woods, the disruptive pupil of whom we have heard before; I'm sure we haven't heard the last of her. The parallels to one Susan Foreman are obvious, and I love the way she immediately vomits after the Doctor shows her the stars.

This episode is superb, but I fear there will be many who dislike it's strong focus on the arc plot and the foregrounding of character drama over monsters and danger. I hope I'm wrong. Time to brave the internet...

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Cilla, Part 2

"Come and give me a cuddle. And stop sulking."

Once again this is a bit of Feelgood fun and not exactly high art, but for what it is it's brill. Yes, it's somewhat predictable that this episode should end with Cilla finally getting success with her first number one single and yes, you can predict every beat of the drama. But who cares, frankly?

Sheridan Smith is again brilliant at both singing and acting. I shall leave the judgement of her Liverpudlian accent to those more qualified. And the period is, again, brilliantly reconstructed both visually and socially. The scenes of Brian Epstein's awkwardness within London's gay scene, in a time not only before legalisation but before Julian and Sandy, are poignant. And again we have sectarianism, with contrasts; Bob cannot live at home because he's with a Catholic girl, yet Cilla's parent come to accept Bob, seeing past his Catholicism.

Another big theme, of course, is class, especially between the delightfully common Cilla and the relatively posh and gentlemanly George Martin; we are even given a scene focusing on her accent while singing. Ed Stoppard, incidentally, is superb as Martin, a rather complex figure in his combination. Of old-fashioned gentlemanly mannerisms and innovation on the studio. Still, there's a clash between him and Bob, who isn't happy with the choice of a decidedly non-rock 'n' roll song from Dionne Warwick. 

We end, having seen the contrast between Liverpool and the showbiz world of That London, with a montage of all the characters we've seen hearing "All Kinds of Everything", including two very proud parents. But will success spoil Priscilla White...?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Grimm: Endangered

"You get your blues, your greys, and your reptilians from Andromeda."

This one'a quite sweet, really; a destitute young expectant couple, hunted for their metaphorical ivory, who are the last of their Wesen species. It's also one of the longest "Previously On"'s so far. It's a rather average episode, though, again overshadowed by the more interesting arc stuff, especially Juliette receiving a tour of her returning memories. I like the UFO nut though.

We get the exposition about the key again, via Monroe; it's one of seven, which will, when combined, show a 12th century treasure map for stuff nicked in the Sack of Constantinople in 1204. Monroe sees what it shows; part of the Black Forest in Swabia, close to the border with Alsace-Lorraine. And Renard speaks of one Grimm betraying the other six under torture, of the secret of alchemy, of everlasting life, a piece of the cross, Muhammad's sword...

Juliette's memories return, and with them her love for Nick, and guilt over how she has treated him. As the main plot resolves itself (meh) she is left wondering what to do now.

Recent episodes may have taken a dip, but the arc stuff remains compelling, and I'm excited about the season's final few episodes...

Grimm: Volcanalis

"Do you have a lot of these books, by the way?"

Hmm. I think we have the end of our sustained run of quality here. This episode isn't all that bad, but this tale of volcanoes, geologists, park rangers and magma beast Wesen doesn't quite manage to, er, erupt.

Rather more interesting is Hank being forced on vacation, no doubt forced by off-screen reasons for the absence of a Russell Hornsby. This is a rather amusing scene, I must admit, although it doesn't exactly succeed in hiding the off-screen reasons for Hornsby's temporary disappearance.

Also more interesting is Juliette's visit to the shamanic lady from La Llorana. There is also Adalind's plot line, and the confirmation of the baby's royal blood. The arc bits are interesting in a way that the main plot simply isn't. It's nice to see them intersect, though, as Renard is finally introduced to the contents of Nick's trailer. 

A lacklustre episode, then, but quite a cliffhanger; Juliette seems to have her memories back!!!

Grimm: One Angry Fuchsbau

"Well, he dropped a toad. In the men's room."

That's weird; a courtroom drama, in Grimm, based on 12 Angry Men. Naturally, the defence counsel is one of those toad munching Wesen with persuasion powers, who also uses these powers to pick up girls in a rather rapey way. It's another good one, which even packs in a good bit of farce near the end. The accused, naturally, is a Brit. We're evil, us lot.

Meanwhile, though, Monroe shows the trailer to Juliette in order to jog her memory. But only partial memories resurface, and that's seemingly it. Then she remembers the woman from La Llorana; we all know where this subplot is going next. And Adalind is hobnobbing around in a CGI castle with Eric Renard.

Can nothing spoil this run of quality?

Grimm: Nameless

"Maybe we got lucky this time- we're just dealing with a simple, ordinary psychopath."

This one'a obviously Rumpelstiltskin. I didn't even have to look it up; we have a bloke who kills people involved in an online RPG unless they guess his name. Serves them right. Role playing games should happen round a table with mates, funny shaped dice and beer, not sat alone in front of a screen, dammit. It's as silly as online card games.

(Incidentally, Rumpelstiltskin, or a play thereof, was the highlight of my acting career. Yes indeed, at the tender age of 10 I brought life to the character of "Third Peasant" on stage in front of staff and parents of Sketchley Hill Primary School. Autographs are charged at a reasonable rate.)

It's another good episode, made even more fun by the literary clues. In fact, it's a very clever plot, reminiscent of Sherlock and, nicely, Woo had a large part in solving the puzzle.

Meanwhile, Juliette's memories may be starting to come back, and Renard begins to embroil himself in plotting against his royal relatives. This is another brilliant episode.

Grimm: Mr. Sandman

"The red worms may have actually done you some good!"

This one is apparently based on The Sand-Man by Ernst Hoffman. And yes, a certain dreary tune from the '50s makes it's tiresomely inevitable appearance.

This is another good one, though; a bereavement support group is infiltrated by an Aussie Wesen who feeds through blinding people with a red mist and killing them. Before the plot proper starts, though, we see a nice, cosy dinner party with Nick and Hank dining with Monroe and Rosalie, enjoying good conversation, good good, and good red wine- my kind of evening! These kinds of scenes make them all seem more likeable.

Soon Nick and Hank are called to the scene of the crime, and a traditional monster-of-the-week plot gets underway. It's almost nostalgic to get this sort of thing after the last few weeks.

There's some arc stuff- the aftermath of Juliette's hallucinations, Renard's continued guilt-ridden erotic dreaming about Juliette, speculation about which Royal brother is the father of Adalind's baby- but emphasis is on the story of the week, and it's no bad thing. All that stuff about worms burrowing in eyes is somewhat gross, but again that's no bad thing. Inevitably, Nick's sight is threatened for a while, giving him Daredevil type powers, which the lucky bastard retains even after he regains his sight. He's slowly amassing more and more superpowers...

We seem to be maintaining the high quality of recent episodes. I hope this lasts.

Grimm: Natural Born Wesen

"If we can overcome our differences, you will make history."

So, apparently Wesen bars play Rammstein. Nice; they are possibly the best band I've ever seen live, at Download last year. But I suspect the band was chosen because, in TV Land, dodgy bars always have metal playing, and Rammstein are doubly suitable for a dodgy Wesen bar, being German and all.

We're back to a Grimm tale again, this time The Bremen Town Musicians, a sign that we're slightly dialling back from all the arc stuff. Still, the cure takes place, and Nick fills Hank (and the forgetful viewer) in on the key; there are six, and together they make up a 12th century treasure map. There's also some interestingly druggy stuff with Juliette, alone in the house, hallucinating about unending staircases and huge pits.

There's also a fascinating hatchet-burying chat between Nick and Renard. Renard learns that Hank knows about the Wesen stuff and they agree to work together. This looks very much like a reiteration of the status quo, something a greater show would try and avoid.

The main non-arc plot, though, concerns a bunch of Wesen who commit robberies with their beast faces visible, a big no no as it could taint other Wesen by association and, indeed, so much so that the Wesen Council are involved. Rosalie, it seems, has family connections to the Council, and gives them a call, with deadly consequences for the robbers. Is this an endorsement of vigilante justice...?

This is a very strong episode indeed, with a great central premise and some fresh feeling surreal stuff with Juliette. Grimm is getting better and better.

Grimm: Face Off

"Nick knows it's you!"

This time the quote is from Ferdinand Foch, the famous French WWI whose surname has to be pronounced very carefully if one's first language is English, and not a fairy tale at all. This episode is all about the arc, and Nick's confrontation of Renard.

This is the biggie. Much of the early part of the episode is drowning as dramatic irony as Nick treats Renard as normal, saying nothing, not knowing that the Captain has been rifling around in his trailer, looking for the key. Or, indeed, that Renard and Adalind have been having some rather kinky sex there. This looks rather more satisfying than the earlier fumble between Renard and Juliette, where she takes his gun, shoots around him and misfires, a rather obvious metaphor for bad sex.

Nick, Monroe and the gang quickly work out that Renard is the Royal in Portland, yet Sean expresses ambivalence towards Adalind regarding his family. 

While Monroe and Rosalie work on an antidote for the love spell affecting Juliette and Renard, we finally get a confrontation between the cuckolded Nick and his unwillingly priapic boss. This ultimately ends in an agreement to take the antidote, and one of the effects of this is one cliffhanger. Adalind's positive pregnancy test is the other...

It's all action, this one, and hence quite gripping with revelations and long-awaited resolution of subplots making a satisfying episode. We also learn that Renard is half Hexenbeist, and so partly detached from his family; it's hinted that he is ultimately going to remain a goodie. 

What has happened to Grimm? It's still visibly a network show, good but not great and certainly no Buffy, but all this arc stuff has improved it no end.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Doctor Who: Time Heist

"Still don't understand why you're in charge...?"

"Basically, it's the eyebrows."

My heart sank when I discovered this was to be written by the less-than-impressive Steve Thompson, and even more by the "and Steven Moffat"; is this a script so bad it's had to be largely rewritten by the showrunner? Still, perhaps I wasn't to worry; after all, Into the Dalek was by "Phil Ford and Steven Moffat" and that was ok. Still, what's with all these co-credits? RTD rewrote scripts all the time and never claimed a co-credit. Moffat had a reputation for not re-writing as much, but surely he must have done so a little, and if not then why so often this series? It's a mystery.

Still... this is actually quite good, and certainly the best from Thompson. I suspect it's not really down to the script, though; the pre-credits sequence is superb (is it just me who was reminded of Saw by the concept of four strangers waking up and being made to perform a task by a mysterious figure with a voice like Tobin Bell's?), but the rest of the episode, while exciting, doesn't really fulfil it's promise and the ending, while logical, feels a little abrupt, although I like the twist of the Architect being the Doctor, predictable though it may be. I'm afraid that this story, while good, is only my second favourite Doctor Who take on the Minotaur legend after The Horns of Nimon.

Still, there's much to like here. I like the tragic cyberpunk figure of Psi, who can delete his memory banks without the aid of those worms from The Snowmen. Its a heartbreaking tragedy to have to delete your loved ones to avoid harming them and... the character is essentially a walking metaphor for the Doctor. So is Saibra, forever apart from others and yearning to be free of her baggage. And Keeley Hawes makes a superb guest baddie as both Kabraxos and her clone. But are we to infer, from the Doctor's observation that she must be full of self loathing if she "fires" her own clones and that he "hates" the Architect, that he is full of self-loathing too? Is every major guest character here a metaphor for the Doctor?

So much for the good-but-not-great script. What really elevates this is the direction of Douglas Mackintosh, whose use of colour and camera angles is at once modern, brilliant and heavily suggestive of the visual grammar of the heist movie. I'm struck by the scene in which he shoots our four bank robbers, in a little room, from above. In fact, the general standard of direction so far this season has been universally superb. 

Oh, and Abslom Daak is now officially canon!

There's not been much in terms of the season arc this week, aside from Clara's upcoming date and another mention of that mysterious woman in the shop. But it all seems to be coming to a head this week. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Grimm: Season of the Hexenbeist

"To be continued... sorry."

Oh my word. It's all kicking off. Nick finally learns all and seems all poised to have it out with Sean Renard in a confrontation that one could be forgiven for thinking would never happen. Not only that, though; there are Royals in town, and they're in contact with our old friend Adalind. Fortunately, Hank is now wise to her tricks. Just as fortunately, Juliette now seems to have actual character traits these days. I'm warming to her; Bitsie Tulloch does a good job with the material. I still have problems with David Giuntoli; he can act but he has no charisma. He's not much of a leading man.

Adalind tells Sean that he has 48 hours to get the MacGuff- er, key from Nick, which makes things a little bit hectic. Adalind is soon arrested, and in Renard's power, telling him of Nick's trailer. There's a wee bit of conflict going on, and finally a bit of honest talking between Nick and Juliette after all the recent pussyfooting around.

There's quite an ending, though, as Nick finally learns the identity of Juliette's lover...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Cilla, Part 1

""'Ey, Cilla, no pressure. It's only your whole future depends on it!"

Yes, I know: this sort of thing is generally best done on BBC4. But ITV did a pretty good job with Tommy Cooper recently, so I thought I'd have a look at how they dealt with their very own Cilla Black. 

This may not be a great work of art, but it's fun seeing a recreated Mad Men era Liverpool, with assorted Beatle impressions, a recreation of that iconic shot of the queue just outside the Cavern and a glimpse into the social attitude of this distant yet not-so-distant time. In many ways the protagonists, young enough to be my parents' elder siblings, are similar in terms of social mores than today. And yet, in a clever scene, Cilla is shown kissing a black man and then explaining that her parents wouldn't approve because he's a "prod".this is working class, teddy boy, sectarian Liverpool on the early '60s.

Sheridan Smith is, of course, a true star here. She speaks perfect Scouse and is perfect at Cilla's mannerisms, even singing herself in Cilla's style. We get a real sense of the Merseybeat scene of the era, which sounds bloody fantastic, even if I haven't heard of most of the bands.

Things end in a downer, with Cilla knocked back to a typing pool, and Madison Avenue this ain't. Never mind, though; I suspect stardom beckons...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Grimm: To Protect and Serve Man

"Do you like the taste of human flesh, Johnny?"

This is an episode that could only have been done shortly after Hank first learned about Wesen; he revisits an old case of his as it becomes increasingly clear that the man he banged up for it may not be the murderer he seems as Wesen were involved. And, worst of all but great for dramatic tension, the good state of Oregon has yet to join the civilised world in the matter of capital punishment, and the execution date is, by such a coincidence these things could almost be scripted, tomorrow.

Hackneyed though this story of the week may be, it's entertaining enough. Nice abolitionist subtext, too, with all the political pressure for the innocent man to hang- and, surely, the fact that the District Attorney is elected, and thus subject to crude hang 'em, flog 'em polpulism, is a blatant conflict of interest between the political and judicial spheres?

This week's Wesen is a Wendigo; another use of real Native American mythology. Apparently, Jeffrey Dahmer was one. A nice touch, I thought, was the visit to a prison in which most prisoners are Wesen; this is an interesting hint at racism in the criminal justice system in the context of the disproportionate amount of black Americans on Death Row.

Not much arc stuff until the end here, but what an ending; Monroes sees Renard and Juliette kissing...

Doctor Who: Listen

"Fear doesn't have to make you cruel or cowardly..."

Nice little tribute to Terrance Dicks there.

Hmm. Bit of a curate's egg, this. There are some clever character moments and nice twists, as one would expect from Moffat, and some brilliant use of structure. The artistry of the writing is really something to admire. And yet...

It wasn't scary. We were promised a scary episode, but what we got was a well-worn and old Moffat meme; the things in the corner of your eye. And,  after working with the Weeping Angels and the Silence, it falls flat here. We've seen all this before. Ultimately the episode's central trick fails. And all of the positive comments that follow should be taken in that light. Listen just doesn't work.

Still, there is a lot of great character and arc stuff here. Clara and Danny are clearly meant for each other- we even meet their descendant- and the interesting parallel between these two Coal Hill schoolteachers and their predecessors from that early evening in the Autumn of 1963 is deliberately foregrounded by their bonding over Courtney, a puzzling pupil in the tradition of one Susan Foreman. Perhaps the irascible first Doctor of every regeneration cycle needs a couple of Coal Hill teachers to humanise him. The old ones are the best. And don't think I didn't notice the line "Fear makes companions of all of us." It's a cleverly done parallel.

Moffat, he of Coupling fame, is of course brilliant at the relationship comedy stuff, and the scenes between Clara and Danny (Samuel Anderson has great comic timing) absolutely sparkle. But the elephant in the room is again Danny's military background, something traditionally set against the Doctor's supposedly strict no-guns approach (although he seems to have had no problems shooting Ogrons in Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space) and presumably a reason for the Doctor disapprove of Clara's new boyfriend when the time comes.

Except... this episode deconstructs all that. The parallels between Danny and the Doctor are clear enough anyway, but the final scenes really hammer it home; the little boy sleeping in a barn outside the children's home, alone, is not Danny but the Doctor, and the presence under his bed is only Clara, once again inserting herself into his timeline. 

The Doctor, it seems, wanted to be a soldier before joining the Academy, and many years later he would return to that same barn, wearing John Hurt's face, to make that fateful decision during the Time War...

As an episode in itself, this fails. As a piece in a wider arc, it's brilliant. I can't wait to see where this is all going; the arc and character stuff seems to be nuanced, well-constructed and confident in a way we haven't quite seen before under Moffat, fantastic though his era has been thus far; I suspect that, this time, deadline pressures have been absent. This season is on course to be bloody good. It can absorb a failed experiment like this episode.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Grimm: The Hour of Death

"Did you say testicles?"

Clever, this one; it was the intern, seeded a couple of episodes ago, whodunit. I don't want to boast (well, actually I do), but I suspected him from the start. Nice, though; like Buffy, Grimm is getting into some proper arc storytelling in its second season. It isn't anywhere near as good as Buffy, obviously, but I'm liking it's recent direction enormously.

Nice also that the Wesen are not the baddies, although there's an awful lot of nasty torturing going on. Nice that our racist Grimm baddie is, in fact, a Wesen himself. 

Arc-wise, there is further smouldering mutual attraction between Juliette and Renard; this is heading for a dramatic climax. Er, no naughty pun intended, but that kiss...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Doctor Who: Robot of Sherwood

"Old-fashioned heroes only exist in old-fashioned story books, Clara!"

It's only been a few hours and I've already seen some negative reaction to this episode online, which is interesting as this is, at a push, my favourite of the season so far.

Is it Mark Gatiss, I wonder? Fandom as a whole doesn't rate him as a writer, although The Unquiet Dead, Night Terrors and The Crimson Horror were superb, and two of those were his most recent. He seems to have rediscovered his mojo since Victory of the Daleks, and that was four years ago now. This is his best since Night Terrors, a fun historical romp with much wit and, arguably, the best example of putting Doctor Who into a space defined by another iconic character, with its own narrative conventions, since The Androids of Tara, with which it has in common more than robots.

The comparison between the Doctor and Robin Hood as iconic heroes is, of course, highly appropriate, working on both a literal and a metatextual level. It's an interesting observation on the new Doctor's character that he doesn't believe in heroes yet is one himself, just like Robin Hood. This lack of faith in his own heroic nature is a feature of this Doctor, harking back to last episode's "Am I a good man?" and leading to my suspicions that this is leading to something. And this Doctor has no Time War guilt.

On the metatextual level, of course, Gatiss is using the comparison with Robin Hood to say that the Doctor is an iconic hero up there with Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and the like. And when Robin tells the Doctor that "I'm just as real as you are", this can be taken to also mean that both are equally fictional. 

It's a nice twist that Tom Riley's chisel-jawed Robin, Ben Miller's splendidly moustache-twirling Sheriff of Nottingham (who plans not to stop at ruling Nottingham, but to go on to Derby, Lincoln and perhaps even Worksop...) and even the Merry Men and Marian are all in fact, much to the Doctor's surprise, real. And it's a nice touch that the brief montage of Robin Hood in popular culture includes a glimpse of Patrick Troughton, who played Robin Hood on television in 1953. Bizarrely, I came across this last week when I read Michael Troughton's excellent biography of his father. Another nice touch is that Alan a Dale is played by Mark Gatiss' real life partner, and reminds me of Sir Robin's minstrel from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Better still, Clara is yet again shown as brave, clever, awesome and just as she had been since the regeneration. And her chemistry with Peter Capaldi is still much better than with Matt Smith.

An awesome episode, then, possibly the best of the season although I'm torn between this and Deep Breath. No Missy this week, but we do get another load of robots looking for a "Promised Land"...