Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Doctor Who at 50: An Unearthly Child Review (7/10)

What with The Day of Doctor airing on our screens in less than three weeks now, I decided it was time to pull my finger out and actually write something to do with Doctor Who again.

So I decided that the best thing to do was to take my pick of episodes for each incarnation of The Doctor. Episodes that I feel define that particular version, and give them a kind of mini review (all culminating in a review of Day of The Doctor, of course).

Where better to start than the very beginning of it all?

William Hartnell – An Unearthly Child (23rd November, 1963)

Totters Lane. What was intended to be a simple junk yard to set the scene has transcended into the stuff of legend for Whovians. Referenced in various episodes and even featured in the brilliant new trailer for the 50th, it sets the stage for where it all began.

Tucked away, hidden in the midst of piles of rubbish and rusted trinkets is an old police box from the 1950s. To the people of 1963 this was already a fast fading relic but Doctor Who has ensured that the TARDIS has become a consistent icon throughout its 50 years.

From the off, viewers are roped in by the mysterious phone box but before we get a chance to glimpse inside, we’re taken to a typical secondary school. Two young (and quite handsome) school teachers discuss an unusual student that they have in common. The obviously kind pair resolve to visit her at her home, despite her warnings that her grandfather would be less than pleased with this.

A bizarre police box in a junk yard and a strange young student who is reluctant to let anyone in. It’s the theme of the unusual tucked away in the everyday that Doctor Who has carried in its DNA from day one and it’s just as evident here.

From here, the school teachers Ian and Barbara finally meet The Doctor. That’s when everything really kicks off. Confused as to why Susan’s home adress leads them to a junk yard, their attention is drawn to the phonebox which appears to be humming. An altercation ensues and they get inside.

While the original TARDIS interior might not be as grand as we’re used to these days, it remains an elegant design that has aged beautifully. We also have to consider that at the time, this was an absolutely massive plot twist. We don’t bat an eyelid as The Doctor dashes in and out of his ship these days but if anyone says they saw that coming back then, they’re lying.

William Hartnell absolutely sells The Doctor. We aren’t meant to like this man. He’s a very different breed from the other ten men who came after him and while he eventually becomes the hero we know and love today, this Doctor is frankly, a bastard. It’s brilliant.

Hartnell is a cold, calculating and unsettling presence that only works because of his companions. Susan is the only blood related family member of The Doctor that we ever see and like Hartnell, she is a different breed from any companions we know today (and not just because she calls him grandfather). Susan and The Doctor are on the run together. He hasn’t just picked her up and she hasn’t just tagged along. There’s clearly a bond there and Susan is smart, capable and resourceful. A template for every Who girl that follows.

Ian and Barbara are there to make the Doctor seem more alien. They can discuss this bizarre old man and for the viewers a clear us against them divide is created (at least at first).

An Unearthly Child introduces us to a cold, ruthless Doctor. Perhaps the most fascinating take on the character in my opinion, as well as introducing us to three supporting characters in a seamless fashion that all ties up nicely. The only reason it has a score of seven in the title is because despite the fact the first part of the serial is so tight, the TARDIS soon takes off and we have to sit through a load of shit about cavemen. Dull.

Next Time: The Tomb of The Cybermen

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Pokemon Y Review (8/10)

Send help, I did it again. Ever since Pokémon Ruby, I have always told myself; No More. Stop, each game is the same, save for a graphical face lift here, a slew of new monsters there. You’ll never “catch ‘em all” I tell myself bitterly. 151, maybe even 300 was doable but I’m an old man now. I’ll be long dead on the fateful day they reveal a new pokedex, bringing the number up to a round one million Pokémon.

But of course I bought Diamond and loved it. I bought Black and Black 2 and I loved them. I sat there squinting at my DS through teary eyes, wondering how Game Freak can still coerce me into buying the same game on an almost annual basis. Pokémon is like heroin, with more strange colourful monsters. Or maybe less, come to think of it.

And so Pokémon X and Y were announced, with their promises of brining the series into a fully resplendent 3D world. I looked on cynically, cackling from beneath my Pikachu bed sheets that I don’t really have. “It’s the same game!” I cried. “How much can 3D really change things? I am 100% not getting this one”.

I bought it. Of course I did.

Although as it turns out, 3D really has made this iteration of the age old series the freshest since Gold and Silver. The graphical update has given the game a level of detail that adds a certain degree of engagement with the world that I’ve never really had before.  This is helped in no small part by the brilliant character customization system. You choose what you look like right down to the socks, and it’s fantastic entering a new city to see what new clothes you can track down.

The battles in particular, are finally interesting to watch. Instead of looking at a selection of static sprites and a slowly moving health bar, we finally have dynamic, swooping fights, with Pokémon reacting to pain and being impressed when they dish out a brutal attack. I guarantee you will care more about your Charmander when you actually see it in pain.

The region of Kalos itself is a great looking place. For the majority of the time, we play in the usual top down perspective which is a little disappointing. But when the camera swoops down as you cross as a river or approach a large building on the horizon, you’re reminded just what the 3DS can do. This is undoubtedly a pretty looking game. Think Pokémon Colloseum but less shit.

While we never expect much from a Pokémon story, X and Y really drop the ball here. I barely cared or remembered what was going on, or even who the real bad guy was. Team Flare were a generic, uninspired bunch with no clear motivation. Bring back Team Rocket and be done with it.

It would be remiss of me to finish this review without mentioning Mega Evolutions, the new gimmick for this entry in the series. For a start, it looks really, really cool seeing your Charizard or Gyrados power up and get even more brutal. However, there are only about four other people in the entire game who can also mega evolve, so it feels like a bit of a cop out in 99% of battles.

And therein lies my biggest problem with these new Pokémon. It is far too easy. I’m far from being even halfway good at these games, yet I finished them without losing one battle or even coming close to doing so. This was in part due to Mega Evolutions and in part due to Super Training, a new series of mini games which let you bump up whatever stats a Pokémon has that you feel could be better. While this is great for getting an edge in online battles, it ensures that you’re all but invincible for the main game.

After you’ve knocked back the main game, there’s precious little to do. Three legendaries to catch, one pathetic side quest and next to no new areas to explore and we have the most disappointing post game experience since Ruby/Sapphire. On top of that, there is essentially nowhere to train up your 70+s besides the Elite Four and that’s just a ballache.

Sure, there’s the daunting task of catching them all and the great online features should keep things interesting for a while, but exploring new areas was always my favourite part of finishing a Pokémon game, so I’m a little let down. Maybe Game Freak will release some kind of update with new areas and a little more to do.

Pokémon Y is by no means the best game in the series, but it is the best looking and the most engaging. Let down only by a shoddy story and an easy difficulty, I’d recommend it to fans of the series, but I know you’re probably already playing it.,