Tag Archives: Mark Gatiss

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 9 – “Empress of Mars” – An Amazing Exploration of What it Means to be a Soldier

   The Ice Warriors are one of my favorite aliens in “Doctor Who.” These are a species who are amazing warriors with a code of ethics that makes them complicated. They are driven by honor and I love seeing how that plays out in their interactions with humanity…be it in Classic Doctor Who or “Cold War,” their first time returning in the new series, which was an episode also written by Mark Gatiss. Non-spoiler thoughts, I really enjoyed this episode. Mark Gatiss is great at writing these guys and I can’t wait to see more of them in the future as so far I have yet to see a bad Ice Warrior episode.

The episode was directed by Wayne Yip and written by Mark Gatiss.

The story involves a legion of Victorian British on Mars who are transporter there after they help Friday (an Ice Warrior they discovered and helped heal) who was alone on Earth. All as not as it appears to be as they discover the Tomb of the Ice Empress. Trouble begins to unfold as fear and greed create conflict between humanity and the Ice Warriors.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of this story as we have Friday who is a warrior who was a prisoner of war in way and made friends with his enemies, you have the Empress caught in the old ways wanting to restore an empire that no longer exists, you have Catchlove who is blinded by pride and personal honor and Godsacre a man who was hung for cowardice who is ready to lay down his life to protect his men and in turn saves them because the Ice Queen sees the honor in his act and makes his men part of her Empire. It is a powerful scene and shows just how complicated conflicts based around honor can become.

First Contact – First Contact is shown in two different ways. The Ice Empress kills one of the soldiers who awakens her as he is still jewels from her tomb and over the course of the series it involves holding back her anger as well as the fear from some of the soldiers who Catchlove is leading given how outmatched they are by the Ice Warriors. We also see peaceful first contact too when the Ice Warrior beacon is awakened at the end  and the alien Alpha Centauri welcomes them to the Universe (setting up the group they will be a part of Classic Doctor Who later in their timeline).

A Conflict of Honor – The driving issue is one of honor and understanding as both Catchlove and the Empress want territory for their respective powers and live for the fight and domination, while the Doctor, Friday and Godsacre have been hurt too much by what honor has done…Friday was last of his people until the Empress was awakened, the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords at one point and Godsacre was so terrified at what he had to do in war that he ran. It is those who have lost and who realize the horror who are willing to submit their honor and in turn find a higher form of honor in the process. Catchlove is killed and it is Godsacre’s submission along with Friday’s protecting of those he can (the Doctor, Bill, the soldiers) that lead peace and a union between the two species. There will always be fights but there is no reason that personal and greater honor can be met rather than it leading to the destruction of all.

The Cons: The Ending Scene – Missy appears at the end after the TARDIS pulls Nardole away and there is this awkward almost sexual scene where the Doctor says she has to go back into the Vault. It is just strange and breaks the tone of the entire episode.

I really liked this episode. It was on par with “Oxygen” from this season but not as good as “Extremis” but I still consider it a favorite episode and hope that Gatiss can write more episodes like this. Like “Cold War” he is in his element when he is writing about conflicts of honor between soldiers and finding resolution and hope amidst fear. This episode is a shining example of the writing he is capable of on this this show and I look forward to more adventures like this in the future.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

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Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 3 – “The Final Problem” – Bad “Sherlock” Fan Fiction

sherlock-the-final-problem

    God, I hate what Moffat did to “Sherlock.” He pretty did to “Sherlock” what did with Amy and making her “The Impossible Girl” and a plot device that only existed for the Doctor and nothing more. This episode has more of that too and ruins what could have been a great character if she hadn’t been turned into really bad fan fiction. If they make another season of “Sherlock,” and Moffat and Gatiss are in charge, I probably won’t watch it…not after the finale like this. This was an episode that was so bad on so many levels and makes me worried for the next season of “Doctor Who,” as Moffat is still the showrunner on that show.

   “The Final Problem” was written by Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss (the creators of the show so you’d think they’d know better than to write crap like this) and directed by Benjamin Caron.

SPOILERS ahead

  Sherlock and Mycroft’s sister has escaped from an asylum and it is up to the brothers and Watson to stop her as she tries to kill them with a drone that is also a bomb and reveals to them that she now controls the asylum, putting them through tests so that she is entertained.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is always beautiful (though the slow motion jumping out of an explosion was stupid and took away from some of the nice cinematography). Still, it looked nice even though the writing was crap.

Soundtrack – Music has always been one of the solid parts of that show and there are some great violin pieces, but that is it. The music this entire season has been great but it doesn’t save this episode.

The Cons: Character Assassination – Did you think Mycroft, Sherlock and Watson were fleshed out characters…well prepare for them to become caricatures of themselves!

John Watson – Watson is there to be the soldier, he says this multiple times and reminds Sherlock to be the soldier…and that’s it. It’s like someone heard about who Watson was on this show and wrote the only thing we were told about in the first episode in the first series…

Mycroft Holmes – Mycroft is manipulative and cares…we see this Sherlock and Eurus…I guess? Nope the writers don’t know what to do with Mycroft. He is manipulative and has a good heart and isn’t as smart as he thinks he is. He is only descriptors and not a character.

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock is the genius who cares who apparently now  will do anything to save anyone no matter how monstrous they are. Given there was no bases for this prior I’m not sure where it came from given he killed someone at the end of last season. He apparently really loves his sister even though she killed a bunch of people including his best friend. Sherlock ceases to be a character though too as all his past actions are erased so that he can have a relationship with his sister and grow even though both have become plot devices though more so Eurus since Holmes is still driving the story and gets the emotional payoff.

Eurus Holmes the Plot Device – Eurus is crazy in the same way Carrie from “Carrie” is and Jean Grey is in “X-Men 3.” She exists only as a plot device to explore Sherlock’s trauma. She is crazy for the sake of being crazy and no reason is given. She is crap writing and is like “The Impossible Girl” in relationship to the Doctor. She exists only for Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s emotional growth and nothing more.

Happily Ever After – The ending is corny and apparently Mary being dead is okay since it was all about Watson and Sherlock the entire time! God this script is a hack script.

     This was an episode that started out with so much promise…the ending of the lying detective at least set up Eurus as being a fully fledged human being, apparently that was too much to ask though and Gatiss and Moffat had to “Carrie” / “Jean Grey” her. Everything that happens in this episode is for Sherlock and it doesn’t even fit within his character. The episode is literally retconning memories so that everything is about Eurus and Sherlock’s relationship, a relationship that never existed before. I can’t recommend this episode and I honestly fear for Moffat’s last season of “Doctor Who.” If we get this level of writing than Capaldi’s Doctor is going to be ruined. Watch at your own risk but this is an episode of television that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone as you won’t get back that time and the writing is a whole list of what not to do.

Final Score: 3 / 10

Sherlock – Series 4, Episode 2 – “The Lying Detective” – Character Development and Confession…This was Needed and Succeeded

the-lying-detective-1

“The Lying Detective” is up there with one of my favorite episodes in “Sherlock.” This is an episode that captures the best parts of what made so much of Series 2 work. What drives this story is the core relationship between John and Sherlock, especially as it relates to family aka Mycroft and Mary. This gives it power as there is an underpinning of vulnerability that pervades the entire episode.

The episode was directed by Nick Hurran and written by Steven Moffat and produced by Sue Vertue.

The story involves Sherlock regressing back into addiction as he seeks to take down a man he suspects of being a serial killer (Culverton Smith). John hasn’t seen him for weeks but finds himself pulled back into Sherlock’s game as the plot to take down Culverton unfolds.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Set-up – The episode starts out with Culverton confessing to his friends he’s a killer and wiping their memories of the incident. Immediately he is established as a powerful antagonist and we get Sherlock’s obsession with him.

The Cinematography – The cinematography is once again beautiful, it continues to be one of the strongest aspects of this show.

The Action – This is an action heavy episode and the tension stays high through everything. I honestly didn’t know what would happen at times and that made the narrative stronger.

The Soundtrack – David Arnold and Michael Price’s score is really on display this episode as we get the haunting terror of Culverton the drug fueled isolation of Sherlock and John’s loneliness. The music feeds the narrative and strengthens it.

The Characters – The characters have always been the best part of the show and thankfully Moffat manages to develop many of them this episode, rather than keeping them static.

Molly – Molly appears briefly and does a good job at balancing out John as she is the second Doctor who John requests before he’ll help Sherlock take down Culverton.

Culverton Smith – Toby Jones is so good at playing creeps. In this we see his obsession and safety in being a billionaire and tied to politicians and businesses. It takes Sherlock entering Hell for him to confess what he’s done though when he is caught he shows that he’s been holding all this in and still feels happy as he’ll be even more famous once him being a killer comes out. He’s a sick individual and it makes for an interesting character.

Mrs. Hudson – Mrs. Hudson helps bring John and Sherlock together as we see she has a nice car (her drug lord husband) and that she doesn’t take crap from anyone. This is a great Mrs. Hudson episode as we see how she notices things and knows Sherlock and Mycroft better than anyone. It was a nice twist and it added a lot of depth to her character.

Mycroft – Mycroft is a lizard for most of this episode when he isn’t looking after Sherlock and trying to be a good brother. We also see that he’s trying to protect his sister, which John first figures out in the episode. There is more to this reveal than anyone knows though as shown by the final reveal.

Sherlock – Sherlock goes into Hell to take down a killer and to seek out John again as we see that he really does act from emotion and isn’t detached from it. This instability is explored deeply in the episode as we see him question reality even as he is getting more connected to other aspects of reality. It’s tragic in many ways and I felt for him when he finally starts dealing with his addiction and John forgives him. Sherlock finally shows affection which we see he’s always wanted to some degree (whether from Irene or John).

John Watson – John is dealing with loss this episode as he sees Mary in his mind’s eye and talks to her. He is dealing with anger, denial and sadness and also shame and regret for the affair he had. After he confesses this to Sherlock mind Mary leaves and we see him begin to heal as it is also only from him arriving that he saves Sherlock from Culverton (a callback to the first episode of the series when he stops another killer).

Eurus – Eurus is the other Holmes and has embraced the mind fully as we see her as John’s therapist at the episode’s start. We don’t know her motivations yet but she helped take down Culverton and at the end of the episode is about to shoot John. There are Moriarity aspects to her and I really want to know her more as she is a villain with a lot of potential.

The Reveal – Eurus is Mycroft and Sherlock’s sister! This was cool as she’s John’s therapist and we see that she was playing everyone. We don’t know her motivation yet but the hints that she might not be all together there and Mycroft’s fear of her leave a lot to hope for. Moffat writing her helps mellow out the hype though. He’s set up a lot of badass female antagonists and failed to have them payoff.

Confession and Healing – A core part of this episode is confession and healing. Culverton’s confession to his friends is what leads to his demise as it gives Sherlock what he needs to take him down, John and Sherlock confessing to one another leads to healing with them both feeling the loss of Mary and helps reestablish their friendship and gives us the heart and theme of the episode.

Okay/Con: Everybody is Getting Together – Lady Smallwood gets together with Mycroft and it implies it could be serious someday, John wants Sherlock to get together with Irene when he learns that she texts him. This is cute in some ways but having everyone hook up had romantic comedy aspects to it that took me out of the episode.

The Cons: Pacing – There are some pacing issues, it starts out strong has great rising action but sort of teeters off when John sees the confession tape from Mary and when Eurus reveals herself to John to shoot him. If this had been a bit smoother the episode could have been perfect.

This was Moffat once again at the head of his game. Every major character gets development and Sherlock’s psychology is explored and isn’t justified. This is a story that wants to explore the darker parts of human nature and what humans are capable of, and it succeeds. It isn’t a perfect episode as the romances that get set-up through the episode feel a little off sometimes and it does have pacing issues, but that doesn’t take away from the core power of the narrative and character development that takes place. This was such a great episode that really captured the core relationships and mystery, which made this show so great in the first place.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Sherlock – Special – “The Abominable Bride” – Confusing at Times but a Powerful Message

Sherlock The Abominable Bride

      “The Abominable Bride” is an episode that is a bit unfocused but comes together at the end and never stops being fun. It more than makes up for the end of Season 3 and even the overall message of the internal mystery is powerful too and is timeless, which is something Moffat usually doesn’t cover in his episodes. I’ll get into more of the details later but this episode was a trip (in more than one way) and for non-spoiler thoughts, is well worth checking out.

      The episode was directed by Douglas Mackinnon and written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

Spoilers ahead

       The episode takes place in Victorian England where Sherlock is seeking to solve the case of the Abominable Bride who killed herself but has come back from the dead and is hunted down her husband and other evil men. All is not as it appears to be though as even the story is meta.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful per usual, which one thing that has been true of even the weakest episodes of “Sherlock.” There is great use of freezing the frame and using the London fog to cast mystery and shadow and with it an element of horror which lended strength to the narrative both main and meta. Suzie Lavelle did a great job.

Soundtrack – The music continues to be one of the strongest parts of this series and plays into the mystery, horror and self reflection that really defines this episode and the series at it’s best when it is at it’s strongest. David Arnold and Michael Price did a wonderful job.

Dialogue – The dialogue is snappy, sharp and natural and fit the characters beautifully. This was an episode that didn’t drag because the writing kept things moving, especially in how the different characters interacted.

Characters – Characters have always been the strongest part of the show and the Special is a shining example of this. Though there are some glorified cameos I won’t really mention since I don’t really feel the cameos got exploration.

Mary – Mary is fighting for equality in England and she is the one who discovers the organization that created the Abominable Bride. It is wonderful seeing her front and center and I hope she becomes part of John and Sherlock and that they become a trio. Amanda Abbington once again does a fantastic job.

Moriarty – Andrew Scott is back, though it is only in Sherlock’s mind palace as we learn part of his plan was to trap Sherlock inside his head as he really did die and wanted to bring Sherlock down with him, like he did in the story of the Reichenbach Fall. In the end he fails to account for Watson though and it is his downfall as within his mind Sherlock is able to realize that Moriarty is not alive and that all of this was a ploy to trap him so that his final attack on the world could go forward.

Mycroft – Mark Gatiss is my favorite Mycroft and in this we see the tender side of his relationship to Sherlock as he was there to pull Sherlock out of his addiction and cared for him. We also see a fat Mycroft in the past (and how he looks in the stories and novels) which is a treat. He never stops being Mycroft though and we see him team up with Mary to help and protect John and Sherlock. Gatiss truly owns this role and he gets great character development this episode.

Watson – Martin Freeman’s Watson gets some wonderful character development in this as in the past we see that Sherlock uses how Watson sees him in order to solve cases and build himself up and that Watson truly is smart and has learned a lot from Sherlock. He saves Sherlock from his mind Moriarty and helps him wake up as well as solving the Abominable Bride case with him and his wife Mary. He is a great character as always.

Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch really owns this role and is a natural Sherlock Holmes. I really liked seeing his Victorian self solving the case and them actually dealing with the dangers of his addiction as it takes him going under to solve the case of the Abominable Bride and realize that Moriarty is dead but he put things in place in case that ever did happen. His arc is learning to accept help and letting go of his addiction to needing a case or drugs to feel alive. It’s very well done and Sherlock actually grows over the course of the episode.

Equality and Justice – The suffragette movement is addressed and the fact that some of them are using the Abominable Bride for justice against evil men. It’s really cool as it uses the sexism of Victorian society to show how far we’ve come and how far there is to go.

Letting Go and No Longer Alone – Sherlock’s arc is letting go of Moriarty in his mind and accepting his death and accepting the love from his friends….that his brother, John and Mary are there for him and that is how he can defeat and has defeated whatever has come his way. No longer the superhuman, he is now human.

Okay/Pro: The Ending – We know now that Moriarty truly is dead but he put something in place for when he does die and now it is up to Sherlock and John to solve it. I liked them talking in the past, it was some of the best John and Sherlock moments…and Sherlock did get some great monologues. I’m doing it as okay since it took Sherlock overdosing to get there.

Okay: The Bride – The organization the Bride is a part of is wonderful, but the bride is a plot device and never fully grows beyond it. She isn’t a bad plot device but a plot device is not a character. Lestrade had the same problem.

Lestrade – Graves does a good job with what he’s given but he’s just kind of there to give Sherlock the plot to solve. I would have liked to see more with him as he’s never given the chance to fully be his own character.

    This was a favorite episode and clearly showed that Gatiss and Moffat are back in their game when it comes to this show. I was disappointed with Series 3, especially in it’s treatment of Mary in the finale and how the kill was handled, as well as the villain being one note…but this got back on track. Sherlock has always been about the characters and this episode showed once more why we keep coming back to this show and what drew us to the stories of Sherlock Holmes in the first place.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

The 12th Doctor – Series 9, Episode 9 – “Sleep No More” – All Gimmick, No Point…”Doctor Who” meets Found Footage

Doctor Who Sleep No More

     “Sleep No More” could have been great, but the fact that the Doctor was confused by the story he was in didn’t help. We are introduced to a fascinating world that doesn’t actually go anywhere. The Doctor and Clara are fine but there is no overall point to this story and the ending sets up a bigger story if they’d wanted to make this story more than a gimmick.

     The episode was directed by Justin Molotnikov and written by Mark Gatiss.

       The story involves Clara and the Doctor arriving on one the Neptune Station Triton as they work on solving the mystery on what happened to the crew as they and the crew are hunted by Sandmen. It is told as a narrative by the man who invented a new machine that makes it so you no longer have to sleep.

The Pros: The World – The world is the 38th Century where Indonesia and India have become one world power. It’s cool as everyone is polytheistic and there are Grunts who are cloned soldiers built for war and protection. The world is driven by productivity too reading to the Morpheus Pods that make it so you don’t have to sleep.

The Doctor and Clara – These two have great banter throughout the episode and are the best part as the world around them is not executed well at wall. They make dry remarks, especially the Doctor in his cynical way on how horrible humanity is and Clara when she learns the Grunts are created soldiers. If only this had been the episode.

Okay: The Sandmen – These guys are a collective conscience that spreads like a virus as they spread via radio-waves and are tied to dreams. They are dust creatures that only want to consume. So much more could have been done on their motivations…besides eating I didn’t know what they wanted.

The Cons: The Crew and the Scientist – Didn’t care about any of them. They have no personality, which is partially the fault the format of the episode as found footage doesn’t give you the chance to know characters as they become only reactive to the world around them. When they died it didn’t mean anything. The scientist who set everything in motion is just as weak too as in the end he was just an illusion and was already consumed.

Found Footage – Everything is dark and hard to see and it takes away from the scary moments as it looks so shoddy and bad. I was hoping it could get beyond the format but it never rises beyond it.

Plot Holes – So they spread by people watching the video…so is Clara infected, she was in one of Morpheus Pods, is this how future Earth is destroyed or what? It is so stupid and I could never take the Sandmen seriously because of it.

   This is an episode I would not recommend and easily one of the worst “Doctor Who” episodes I’ve seen since “In The Forest of the Night” and “Robot of Sherwood.” This episode doesn’t make any sense and the fact that the Doctor is confused only illustrated this point further. Gatiss was just going for gimmick, which is a shame since I know he is capable of writing great stories.

Final Score: 4 / 10

“Sherlock” Pilot – Series 1, Episode 1 – “A Study in Pink” – The Thrill of the Hunt and Dangerous Detachment

a study in pink sherlock

   “Sherlock” has become far greater than the show it initially come from as it has not only boosted Cumberbatch’s career it also brought about a resurgant interest in the character and stories of “Sherlock Holmes.” This is also the show that put Steven Moffat as a writer and director on the map and you can see his ideas in this show rub off him being the showrunner of “Doctor Who.”

    “A Study in Pink” was directed by Paul McGuigan and written by Steven Moffat.

     The story involves Dr. Watson’s return from Afghanistan and his attempts to get acclimated to life again as he is pulled into a mystery from a possible flatmate Sherlock Holmes in which a string of similar suicides are tied to something far more sinister taking place.

The Pros: Cinematography – The cinematography is beautiful! There is a dark tone over everything and it captures the isolation that both Watson and Sherlock feel as they are both outsiders in different ways where the thing that connects them is their thrill of the chase and the mystery in life’s game.

The Soundtrack – David Arnold and Michael Price did a fantastic job on this soundtrack! It captures the methodic feel of Holmes as well as the thrill that Watson and Holmes take in the hunt.

The Mystery – The mystery is fascinating as we have supposed suicides but as we learn more that it is based on a 50-50 chance of murder dying as well. From here it is how well a dying man does mind games on his victims and how others react to the bodies left behind. The clue that makes finding the murder possible is a lady pink not having her pink suitcase present which lead to the discovery that she planted the phone on the murder allowing Sherlock and Watson to find the murder.

The Cabbie – The Cabbie is a great threat as he sees himself as carrying for his children’s future as he lost his wife and is terminally ill. To this end he gets sponsorship from Moriarty and is willing to risk his own life each time as he knows each death means his children get more. His story is tragic and shows how desperation can change people.

Mycroft Holmes – Mark Gatiss is how I envision Mycroft to be, a brilliant, over-controlling man who at the end of the day wants to do his duty and protect his brother. Gatiss shows this in Mycroft perfectly and we get a fake out initially where he is presented as possibly being Moriarty but later we see that clearly is not the case.

Dr. Watson – Watson is a veteran from the war and his arc is finding the thrill in the chase again as the lack of stimulation makes him feel isolated in his return to England. He does not have friends which is one reason Sherlock is able to attach to him and vise versa, they are both people outside what is normally considered good and it makes them compelling to watch as they grow to like one another. Martin Freeman is great in the role.

Sherlock – Sherlock drives the story and he is a dick. We see him completely oblivious to people’s feelings towards him unless it is hate and he is constantly berating the police force for their stupidity. His arc is coming to treat others with more respect and having greater social awareness, Watson functions as his external conscience in this way as he is there to shoot the cabbie when Sherlock is about to play the game where he has a 50-50 chance of taking the pill that will kill him. Benedict Cumberbatch is fantastic!

Okay: Ms. Hudson – She is a kind old lady with a string of unstable relationships. She is the mother figure to them and is there to remind them to be outside themselves as she is always present at 221B Baker Street.

Lestrade – Lestrade is the well meaning leader of the police who is empathetic and in over his head. I wanted to see more of the character as usually in Sherlock adaptations he is the faceless antagonist there to make Sherlock look good. This time he feels like an actual character just doing the best he can. Rupert Graves is good in what little he is able to do in the plot.

The Cons: Talking at Women – Whether it is Ms. Hudson, Mycroft’s assistant or others most of the women are talked at and are there to spit exposition at. This was annoying as they deserved to be fleshed out more and Sherlock, though he is a dick was usually always courteous in the books as he had to hear the person to learn.

Faceless Minor Characters – There are a few people on the police force who are antagonistic for the sake of being antagonistic and it struck me as petty and only there to make Sherlock look better by comparison. They serve no purpose but to be in the way to solving the case.

When the Police Became Stupid – There is one point where they are tracking the phone that we know the killer has and the police just stop looking for it and leave…this is after they came to Sherlock’s flat to get the evidence of the suitcase. This was plot stupidity as they should have followed up on finding the phone as they would have found the killer. There was no reason for this except to make Watson and Sherlock the heroes without any outside help.

“Sherlock” is a favorite show though as I have watched it more the problems in Moffat’s writing become more apparent…and I would rate “Hannibal” above “Sherlock” at this point, and not only because “Hannibal” had dignity enough to end. When you are dealing with human characters the story can’t be continuously rebooted as it is with “Doctor Who” and though I’m excited to watch more “Sherlock,” Season 3 was troubling in a lot of ways that I’ll get into when I review this show as a whole.

    For now, I recommend this episode as it is a great introduction to this show and Martin Freeman as Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes are two very amazing interpretations that are worth coming back too.

Final Score: 9  / 10