Decade

It turns out that Lost isn’t the only show celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Unlike Lost though, Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice is still running. The business competition returned last week with season number ten and began with a surprise. Rather than the usual sixteen contestants there were twenty Lord Sugar wannabes in this year’s batch. This came with the caveat that, at any given moment, Lord Sugar could decide to fire more than one of the applicants.  The first task was so bad I actually thought he might have fired all of the final three.

While some may consider being more frivolous with the firing to be gimmicky, it actually adds some much needed suspense to the show. There have also been complaints recently that the competition was becoming dull with the same type of tasks being assigned each year. But I actually haven’t felt that. Although the tasks are similar there’s generally enough deviation to make it interesting. The wearable technology task, for example, is nothing like any fashion or technology task previously shown. It required an understanding of technology, an eye for fashion and enough perception to know what people would actually wear. Not that any of candidates had any of those qualities.

The mixture of different products and added fear that anyone could go if they show themselves to be exceptionally poor is what keeps me tuning in week to week. And this week the teams had to make candles. The style of the task is similar to the beer brewing assignment from task from last year although with obviously differing markets. Although neither team really knew the market. Tenacity project manager Katie Bulmer-Cooke’s previously experience was the smell of her own home while Summit team leader Roisin Hogan is an accountant. So both managers for this task had little business knowledge of the candle market.

Lord Sugar joins forces with Nick Hewer and Karen Brady again in order to find one business partner among 20 potentials.

Maybe 1 of the 20 will stop using one-liners long enough to show some business sense.

Having market knowledge doesn’t always help anyway. Lord Sugar made a point of telling the candidates that this task was all about margins, advisement that both Katie and Roisin took on board. It is just a pity that the rest of Roisin’s team didn’t make a note of it. Admittedly, Roisin was pushing for prices between £20-25 and only advocating lower prices when necessary, whereas Katie was gunning hard with high end prices of £40 and offering £25 as the lowest reduced price. Roisin’s sub team, however, immediately started selling at the bottom line as soon as they reached the market. Katie’s sub team also struggled, failing to sell later in the afternoon, but selling less at a higher price meant that they had more profit.

It came as a surprise that Tenacity won really, given the garish, yellow candle that they created. I can’t imagine who paid upwards of £30 for that. Summit did everything right in terms of creation, a neutral coloured candle which clients liked the scent of. It was just in the selling where the team was let down, so it was less surprising that the two weakest sellers, Lindsay Booth and Nurun Ahmed, got the finger this week. Lindsay’s elimination must be the most amicable firing in the show’s history. She was so agreeable to her own failings that I almost expected her to resign. Lord Sugar got in there first though, and Lindsay which back to her swimming academy.

Nurun Ahmed fought for her position but I thought she should have gone in week two. While Summit’s camera t-shirt might have had some appeal to the niche vlogging market I can understand why none of the retailers made any orders given the privacy risk. But it still sounded and looked better than the frankenstein creation that Tenacity made. It had flashing lights, solar panels, built in heaters and a phone charger, after which I almost expected a go go gadget propeller to allow the wearer to fly. The individual ideas had some merit but Nurun completely a skewed both the market research and the advice of the designer but failing to choose one concept.

Roisin Hogan, James Hill and Nurun Ahmed fought to remain in the competition.

Roisin brought back James and Nurun but did the right one get fired?

This week though, Nurun’s failures were of a different kind entirely. Despite experience selling in a market place, Nurun had the second lowest sale figures for the entire team. On the You’re Fired post-show, Nurun did make a point that the markets in which she is familiar are very different to London markets. That’s a fair comment, but any selling experience at all should have been beneficial here and on top of that where exactly does she think her business with Lord Sugar would be situated? It would be British business and as such she would need an understanding of British trends. Her lack of selling ability, coupled with indecisive leadership on the previous task, more than warranted her firing this week.

That being said, there were other candidates who could have been fired as well. James Hill, the sub team leader of Summit, was largely to blame for selling the up market candles at low prices. But Lord Sugar is always slow to fire the arrogant, talkative applicants so long as they sell well. Plus, when the proud ones eventually come down off their high horse, they usually prove themselves to be fairly decent businessmen and women. On the other side, there is Sarah Dales. As a former hypnotherapist, one would have thought she could have coerced a few more people into purchasing candles. Though I actually agree with her insistence that £40 is too much for a candle, her poor selling capabilities and her directionless leadership in week one probably means that as soon as she’s unlucky enough to be on the losing team, she’ll be out the door.

Three weeks in, and I’m thoroughly enjoying The Apprentice. At this stage, it is difficult to pin one contestant down to win the business partnership because so many of the candidates grow over the course of the series and we don’t know their business proposals in detail yet. Even good business sense won’t win the competition if their plan is incomprehensible. And we probably won’t know the plans in detail until the final four interview stage. Until then, just enjoy the ride.

Women

There seems to be little doubt that Gone Girl will be one of the most talked about films of the year. Even as February of next year rolls around, audiences will still be talking about whether the film deserves the Academy Award for Best Picture or whether David Fincher got overlooked again. And it’s easy to see why people are talking about the film. Gone Girl is one of the best thrillers in years; the kind of dark, morbid mystery that Fincher excels at and that we’ve seen him do before with the movie adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Nowadays though, being good is rarely enough to inspire conversation. Films also have to be controversial, and, boy, is Gone Girl controversial. It’s controversial for the normal reasons such as gore and sex, some of which I really can’t talk about without spoiling the third act of the film, but it’s also drawn a lot of attention due to it’s depiction of women. I know what you’re thinking. Here’s an intelligent thriller written by a woman (Gillian Flynn) and featuring a woman as it’s main character, how can it be anti-feminist? But that hasn’t stopped a lot of readers from suggesting that Mrs. Flynn is misogynistic in the writing of her characters.

Firstly, as almost any writer will tell you, just because a novel is written by a woman doesn’t mean that their female characters are going to be stronger any more that you could expect a man to write great male characters. If that were true there would be no great depictions of robots or aliens because no robots or aliens have written books and I think Philip K. Dick proved he could write a compelling android despite having no mechanical parts himself. In the same vein, people often congratulate George R. R. Martin for his strong, female characters. And if a man can write strong women in his books, it’s feasible that a woman could write weak female characters because the ability to write well or not has no relation to gender or sex.

Rosamund Pike arguably pulls out the performance of her career in David Fincher's adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel, Gone Girl.

Male fantasy or male nightmare? It’s still a male perspective.

However, I don’t think that Amy Elliot Dunne, played wonderfully by Rosamund Pike, is a weak female character. She is a well written, complex character who does some bad things but it made sympathetic by the actions of her husband. The first half of the film is borderline cliché. Ben Affleck’s Nick Dunne comes home after meeting his sister one morning to find his wife missing and an overturned table. Further investigation by the police uncovers blood on the kitchen floor and a half burnt journal written by Amy detailing her husband’s detachment and anger issues. And…that’s maybe as far as I can go without ruining the rest of the film.

I will say this, neither Amy nor Nick are reliable. That seems to be the main reason why some viewers and readers accuse Flynn of misogyny. Not all of her claims about Nick in the journal are true which paints her as a bit of a nag who tries to gain favour by being sympathetic. It is very manipulative and deceiving and confirm all the bad attitudes that men have towards women. But that’s unfair to the writer because not all women are good. Gillian Flynn herself addressed the issue in an interview:

“Is it really only girl power, and you-go-girl, and empower yourself, and be the best you can be? For me, it’s also the ability to have women who are bad characters … the one thing that really frustrates me is this idea that women are innately good, innately nurturing. In literature, they can be dismissably bad – trampy, vampy, bitchy types – but there’s still a big push back against the idea that women can be just pragmatically evil, bad and selfish”

One villainous woman does not a make her a misogynist. It is unfortunate that the other female characters in the movie all tend to be gullible and underhanded as well with the only exception really being Nick’s sister. Even that doesn’t bother me because I don’t think the writer was trying to say ‘look how stupid and evil all women are’ but maybe because I’m a writer myself I’m giving her more benefit of the doubt. That said, while she’s not a weak woman for possibly all of the wrong reasons, I don’t think that she’s a strong female character either.

Ben Affleck plays to his strengths as the unsympathetic Nick Dunne in David Fincher's adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel,  Gone Girl.

I’m Batman.

Amy Dunne’s methods utilise sex and sympathy to paint a picture of herself that makes her husband appear a lot more despicable than he really is. Getting Affleck to play the part probably helped viewers find the character unlikable but it bothers me that Amy’s method are basically using men’s perception of women against them. Men perceive Amy to be weak so she pretends to be weak to get her way but to me that’s just being strong within the confines that a male dominated world allow. The type of woman that men think uses rape as a weapon and babies as a bargaining tool. It’s the reason that I prefer Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth as strong women over Cersei Lannister, because they’re strong in a way that makes them equal to men and makes men feel uncomfortable. Amy’s strength won’t make men uncomfortable, it’ll just make them point and say ‘look, I was right.’ But it’s not misogyny; the character is just complex.

Besides, the film has problems other than its depiction of women. Marriage is said to be hard work but no couple in the film works at it. It’s just a power play. On a very basic storytelling level, there are problems too such as how the police never analyse the blood splatters and no mention is made of how the wounds on Amy’s body are inconsistent with the crime scene. That disappointed me because I expected more from Flynn due to her police reporter background. Furthermore, without going into detail, the plot falls apart right around the climax, where it just sort of pitters to its end.

It is unfortunate that this movie and the book are so wrapped up in whether it is feminist or not because it takes away from just how good a thriller this film is. David Fincher is the perfect director for this type of film and Flynn’s story is a great modern mystery, even if it falls short of brilliant. It gets a little risqué at times but if you can hold your nerve it’s a highly entertaining thriller that keeps the audience guessing right until the absolute last moment.

Sing

Every series of the X-Factor has some kind of overarching story to lure in potential viewers. It’s more like a scripted television drama than a reality singing competition in that regard. Either it’s a conscious effort by the producers to appeal to the sensibilities of teenagers and young adults in this generation who spend the majority of their time watching the lives of fictional characters unfold, or they just don’t believe musical talent and singing ability can reliably draw an audience. In which case, they’re in the wrong business.

This series is no different. Having seen the departure of three quarters (and at one point all four were thought to be leaving) of the judging panel, the big event of series eleven is that Simon Cowell has returned to the UK version. The official reasoning is that he is coming back to the original in order to find a global superstar. Unofficially, the failure of the X-Factor US to produce ratings has caused Simon to come running back with his tail between his legs. And he’s bringing Cheryl with him. Oh, joy. I can’t complain about her too much though. She’s easily more tolerable than Mel B’s tough, no nonsense shtick.

The truth is that it works. This is a blog post about the first live show and I’ve spent the first two paragraphs talking about the judging panel and Cowell’s return. As much as people might wish that the show was more about the contestant with legitimate singing skill, it’s the drama that gets people talking. That’s free promotion for the show. By the time the weekend rolls around, you’ve been thinking about the X-Factor all week because you’re talking about what Mel B said or who Cheryl brought back. That is exactly what Simon Cowell wants. At some point though, I do have to talk about the actual competition, so here goes.

Simon Cowell, Cheryl Versini Fernandez and Louis Walsh return to join Mel B on the 2014 X-Factor judging panel.

Mel B almost eliminated herself with her own shoes.

Over 25s (Cowell)

Fleur East

Not the strongest performance in regards to either rap or song but it was cool and fun in a way that managed to avoid being cheesy. I do think she will outlast the other acts in the Over 25’s category but she will probably struggle against some of the younger boys and girls.

Ben Haenow

In what I suspect could be said about most of the contestants, Ben is an alright singer who simply fails to stand out in any meaningful way. He might have sang a tolerable version of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ but both his look and the song have been done before. That kind of performer tends to fall by the wayside unless they pull out something spectacular.

Jay James

Jay started strong and be brought it back up during the bridge but it fell a bit in between. He’s not a bad singer though and showed himself to be diverse in his ability with his performance of Sigma’s ‘Changing’. It is a good position from where he can hopefully grow.

Stevi Ritchie performs 'Livin La Vida Loca' on the first live show .

Probably the only break-out Stevi is likely to have.

Stevi Ritchie

Oh, so this is the joke act for 2014. He’s an average singer at best but he is popular so he’ll hang around until the competition starts heating up. Just have fun with him until then.

Groups (Walsh)

Blonde Electra

What did we do to deserve two joke acts? It’s like if Jack Black and Ke$ha raised t.A.T.u. I do find it amusing that their song was only a number one in Finland. Fortunately, they have annoying singing voices and aren’t terribly popular so they probably won’t linger around for too long.

Eight piece boy band, Stereo Kicks perform of the first live show of the X-Factor.

Can one boy band have too many boys?

Stereo Kicks

Aside from having the blandest name in history, Stereo Kicks also boost the most members of any manufactured boy band group…unless you count the frankenstein group NKOTBSB. And they needn’t have worried about another boy band singing Katy Perry because they had the better performance. Marginally. Nothing was bad but nothing really stood out either. It was just boring.

Only The Young

Only the Young are one of those groups that are competent but feel slightly out of place on a show like this. Their song choice came across as skittish and disheveled so if they do make it through to next week they might have to review their style.

Overload Generation

It’s telling why these guys weren’t Walsh’s first pick. All five members looked a bit lost and stiff and worst of all, they were very hard to listen to. Maybe it was nerves but they need to get over those quick. Popularity might keep them in the competition but they’ll struggle outside the contest if that’s all they’ve got.

Paul Akister is brought back for a second attempt to wow the judges in The X-Factor.

Paul did his best to set the show off on the right foot.

Boys (Mel B)

Paul Akister

Paul had some decent moments but I didn’t enjoy the song choice. In part that might be Mel B’s failure for picking it, but it song seemed to overwhelm his voice so that very little came through until he did a few flourishes at the end. Singing can’t just be about biding your time then booming your voice. It needs to be strong throughout. In essence, he was controlled by the song when he should be taking the lead.

Andrea Faustini

Andrea is an odd duck. He sings better than one would expect, especially when that song is Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’. That said, calling for him to win the series because of that one song was perhaps overdoing just a tad. As surprising as he singing ability is, I do think there are better contestants in the competition, although only time will tell.

Jake Quickenden

Another likable contestant who doesn’t have the best singing voice and sang a song that we’ve heard many times before. It was very typical and with so many acts who are actually challenging themselves, likeable just isn’t going to cut it.

Jack Walton performs a different version of 'Only Girl (in the World)  on the first live show of The X Factor 2014.

Jack Walton stands out from the crowd by actually singing well.

Jack Walton

This was a textbook example of how to change a song in a way that makes both the singer and the song seem original. It actually took be a moment to recognise the song thanks to how Walton performed it. Props to Mel B on that one. He’s a good singer with a solid sound so I imagine he’ll do quite well.

Girls(Cheryl)

Chloe Jasmine

Regardless of whether her poshness is an act, Chloe is a competent singer. That said, while I like the idea of jazz version of ‘Toxic’, she didn’t perform it quite as well as I would have liked. The song was cool and it suited her style of singing but it just didn’t come together as I expected. Controversy might put her near the bottom but the judges will save her if it comes to that.

Stephanie Nala

Back in my Britain’s Got Talent final analysis, I said I enjoyed the Luminites’ blend of easy listening and hip-hop. None of that has translated into Steph’s solo career. The attempt to soften Ken Booth’s reggae version of ‘Everything I Own’ was just not cohesive with Steph’s style. I don’t think it’s enough to send her home but she needs to do something different next week.

Lauren Platt does a nice imitation of Foxes' cover of 'Happy' on the first live show of X-Factor 2014.

Pretty in pink, but did it clash with the slow tempo song?

Lauren Platt

Like Jack Wilton, this was another brilliant example of doing a song in a different way that lifts both her singer and the music. And Lauren nailed it. Right up until they brought in the percussion. Lauren still did well but I felt that it could have remained down tempo for the entirety of the song and it would have been a very methodical rendition that people would have remembered separate from Pharrell’s original. That’s not to take anything away from Lauren. She was great.

Lola Saunders

It’s nice when the wildcard acts demonstrate exactly why they were brought back. This was a solid performance throughout and I thought some of the song lyrics tied into her struggle with her nerves which was a nice, subtle touch. And who cares what she wears. This is the X-Factor, not Britain’s Next Top Model.

At this stage in the competition it is almost impossible to tell who will leave tonight, nevermind who will win. And a double elimination awaits so one of the more popular acts could leave in a controversial twist to ram home the notion that anything could happen. From here, the show could go in any number of directions and it’s that fact, not the singing, that will keep viewers coming back week after week. That many not be a good thing anymore though. To find out if your favourite singer makes it through to next week’s live show, tune into ITV at 8:15pm.

Tenth

This year, 2014, marks the tenth anniversary of ABC’s science fiction series, Lost. The event celebrating the event was back in March, although the premiere episode actually aired on September 22nd. Even though the show only ended four years ago, it still feels strange to think that ten years have passed since that initial showing. I can’t think of a single show since that has come close to matching the build up and hype of Lost. Not even Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or the more recent Gotham have come close. From the get-go, Lost was enigmatic and drew in viewers because no one knew what to expect.

Coming from me, this maybe doesn’t mean a lot. I’ve made my love of Lost quite clear. But while I will admit to some bias, generally I’m also with the majority in that I thought the afterlife ending was a lame finish. Unlike some viewers, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it ruined the whole show but it was disappointing. The audience expected more from the minds of Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, Maybe we wanted too much from the two main writers and were simply setting ourselves up for disappointment. We’ll never know if it could have been done better…

Or maybe we will. In an interview back in April, Cuse stated

“I think it’s likely that at some point, ABC will want to reboot Lost because it’s a valuable franchise, and there will be some young, bright writer or writers who will come up with a great idea that the network responds to, and that’ll be great.”

So it is entirely possible that ABC will do something with the rights to Lost and expand the franchise with a different set of writers. Of course, this isn’t even news. First off, this was about seven months ago and secondly, Cuse is not privy to the ABC boardroom meetings. Cuse’s words simply highlight the possibility not a certainty that any sort of reboot or remake or continuation is in the works. ABC might never try do anything more with Lost, happy to let it remain as a creatively exciting period of television history.

Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof plot out the final season of ABC's hit sci-fi series, Lost.

Nowadays you can find Cuse running Bates Motel and The Strain while Lindelof is behind The Leftovers.

What makes this worth talking about isn’t the ‘what if’ potential. It is entertaining to speculate how Lost might flourish under the direction of an established industry pro, such as Darren Arkonfosky or Joss Whedon. It would be equally interesting to compare the 2004 show to modern series that employ similar themes and tropes, such as The CW’s The 100 or the 2013 adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name, Under the Dome. What makes this worth talking about is that future generations won’t even care.

The thought struck me when I thought about modern remakes and new visions of old franchises. Consider Dallas, Beverly Hills 90210 and Hawaii Five-O which have all seen revivals in recent years. Those shows were incredibly popular in their generation, with Dallas especially being consider one of the most watched shows of the Eighties. The revived serieses of those shows all have their own followings and fans but it would difficult to argue that they are as popular as the originals. Fans of the originals probably don’t even watch the revived versions, seeing them too dissimilar. It’s not that Dallas, 90210 and Hawaii Five-0 aren’t good shows, they just don’t appeal to the generation that grew up with the originals.

That’s what really got me thinking. If ABC waits 20 or 30 years to remake or revive Lost,  my children will watch that show having no familiarity with the original. And that Lost will appeal to that generation so much that it was seem alien to me, a viewer of the original that grew up watching to know what was in the hatch and who Jacob was. I don’t begrudge that. I understand that ABC have to market their shows to the current generation and a modern demographic, whatever that might be in the 2020’s and 2030’s. But it is odd to imagine that a new vision of Lost will be so far removed from anything that I know or can even expect.

The CW's The 100 tells the tale of renegade teens sent to a thought to be stranded Earth years after nuclear war left all inhabitants dead.

Is this what a Lost reboot might look like?

This isn’t me panning the reboot before it even has a chance. Revived shows have all the potential in the world to become great in their own right. Take Doctor Who for example. Despite it’s flaws and people’s complaints, Doctor Who continues to consistently draw ratings and within the past few years has expanded and created a strong foothold in America. Another example is Battlestar Galactica. While the original 1978 show only ran for one season due to expense, lawsuits and competing network schedules, the remade series ran for five seasons and spawned two spin offs. With the right people behind it, any kind of recreation of Lost has every right to do well.

At the time I was intrigued by the possibility of expanding Lost into a franchise. Why wouldn’t I be? Lost and Breaking Bad were two of the biggest shows of the 2000’s that challenged television norms and really just excelled from a creative standpoint. There were issues with both shows because I don’t think any television programme is perfect, certainly not for everyone, but for what they were, they were amazing. And the prospect of that continuing was just as enticing.

Having thought about it though, I’m not excited by a remake as much anymore. Maybe ABC will surprise viewers with a remake in the next five years and that might be cool but if a remake does happen I think it will be further down the line. And it won’t be for me, it’ll be for the new generation of television audiences and what appeals to them as a culture won’t be what appealed to us. Again, this is pure speculation. Perhaps those six years are all we get of Lost. And I’m content with that.

Simmering

So I haven’t actually played the Sims 4 which probably makes this review moot. But it’s not that I don’t want to play the game, I would love to, but my poor laptop just can’t handle the system requirements. That’s not an indictment against the Sims , but rather it’s more telling of my laptop than anything. Back when my previous laptop decided to lie down and die I choose the option to get a new laptop as quick as possible. I could have saved for a better one but that would have meant taking a hiatus from the blog and writing in general really. I compromised in quality for you dear readers and thus the Sims 4 is just beyond my grasp.

However, I have spent extensive hours watching Let’s Play videos by Arumba, Quill18 and darknewt. By doing so I have gained a general sense of what the game looks and sounds like and while that’s no substitute for having actually played the game, consider this an outsider’s perspective. I’m the guy in the bushes outside your window and watching your television behind your back. We’re watching the same thing but the perspective is different if I’m getting rained on and you’re not. (Disclaimer: I am not actually peeping into your life. Don’t call the police.)

From what I have seen there seem to a a few overhauls to the Sims gameplay. First and foremost are the new interfaces for the Create-A-Sim and build modes. With every new incarnation of the Sims for the PC the Create-A-Sim mode has gone into more and more detail, allowing players control over every inch of the Sim’s body and personality. The Sims 4 is no different. Now changing a Sim’s body shape is as easy as clicking on the body part and dragging it into the preferred position. It’s certainly more intuitive than the slider systems from the Sims 3, which was tough to get precisely right.

The evolution of the popular Sims' character, Bella Goth, through the franchises mainstream PC games.

So real it’s like going outside.

The build mode has another quick fix. Rather than putting up the walls bit by bit, putting down your floor, wallpapering and fitting the room with the necessary appliances, furniture and decorations, build mode comes with pre-made rooms. These ready built and furnished rooms can be set directly on the lot, saving the player a lot of time if they just want to get to the main day-to-day living. On the other hand, if a room isn’t quite right, the player can easily resize it and replace the furniture if it isn’t the simmer’s taste. It seems designed with the casual player in mind, with its quick and easy place and go ability.

As nice as those changes are, it’s the small differences that have the biggest effect. Multitasking has always been something the Sims have been capable of in one form or another. In the original Maxis game, Sims would talk while eating or watching television. The Sims 4 takes the concept to a whole other level however, by making Sims capable of fulfilling multiple queued orders at once. Not satisfied with talking while eating dinner, these Sims can browse the web while listening to music, run on the treadmill and watch television simultaneously and even order a pizza on the toilet. Sims no longer sit in one spot to read a book either, instead choosing to move from one seat to another to be closer to a sim that they want to talk to.

If I sound excited it’s because I am. Getting stirred up over such a small thing seems silly but it does make a big change to how the sims interact with the world around them. The emotion system also goes aways to creating more dynamic sims. The moodlet concept of Sims 3 was good and it returns in Sims 4 but it has been built upon. Now moodlets will incur certain emotions such as an offensive conversation making a sim angry or unwashed dishes making them uncomfortable. This is more realistic because the sims are now no longer just aware of their surroundings but are changed by them.

The build mode in the fourth instalment of the popular simulation video game The Sims has been overhauled and made easier to use.

I hope you like your house because you’ll be looking at it a lot.

Despite being a cool addition, the emotion system still needs more work. For one, they change from one to another too easily. An example would be that an angry sim can easily become playful with a bubble bath. As a consequence, Sims seem flighty and scatterbrained. Secondly, many jobs and tasks work better if a sim is in a certain mood, such as being inspired while practicing an instrument. But this creates a style of gameplay where one is chasing requirements all the time. It’s an arbitrary method of making the game more difficult because learning to play the guitar isn’t more difficult, just more time consuming because the player has to make the sim take a thoughtful shower every time they practice guitar.

This change in focus gameplay away from writing a story to a more completionist system is intentional. Everything, from aspirations to jobs have levels and requirements for each levels. Yes, the dreaded ‘must have X number of friends’ returns. In this regard, I think Sims 3 was actually more realistic. Rather than having to befriend strangers in the Sims 3, it was more productive to socialise with one’s co-workers. That’s true to life. Making dinner for your boss is more likely to get you a promotion than dancing on the porch with your neighbour.

Gone too is the wider neighbourhood and making a comeback are loading screens. Sims can no longer free roam around town which I suspect may be to soothe the criticisms of controlling players who disliked that characters they weren’t controlling were having affairs, having children and dying off. It’s odd though. So much of the game appears to be tailored to the casual gamers but here EA changes the game to suit the simmer who loves to micromanage the whole world. No matter how distracting the new revolutionary concepts such as multitasking and emotions are, the omission of the open world and toddlers of all things (which I suspect will pop up in a Generations expansion pack) leaves the game feeling like a step backwards.

Mastery

From a season premiere review of Boardwalk Empire to a mid-season review of Masters of Sex this week. On the face of it, these two shows don’t have much in common but they actually share a common literary device: the time skip.  Writing last week, I mused that the time skip left the season premiere viewers of Boardwalk Empire feeling disorientated. This was exacerbated further by the use of flashbacks in the same episode. It’s worth noting that although the flashbacks returned in episode two, The Good Listener, it was a much more coherently structured episode. The same unfortunately cannot be said for Masters of Sex.

American readers of this blog are probably a little confused because by their schedule Masters of Sex’s second season is due to climax in two weeks on September 28th. No, I’m not late to the party, I’ve just been following the season’s progression on the British television channel, More4. As with most shows that are exported to Britain and aren’t shown on SKY, More4 are running behind by a few episodes. The specific episode that I’m talking about here is Asterion, episode 7 of 12 in the second season. All good? With that confusion cleared up, let’s move on to the next confusion.

Masters of Sex, to its credit, did not skip quite as many years as Boardwalk Empire. It wasn’t the quantity of time that was jumped but rather the frequency of the jumps that occurred. The episode covers three years worth of material, shoving it all into one episode and rather than leaping over all the years at once, the show jolts from one year to next periodically throughout. And, again, in fairness, the show came up with a very cinematic and unobtrusive way to depict the skip; Betty would walk through the lobby of their new office, pointing out changes to different clients. In the words of the infamous Dr. Gregory House “Walking gives the illusion of the story moving forward.”

Annaleigh Ashford as Betty DiMello leads Libby Masters, played Caitlin FizGerald, through the years.

Maybe their new offices are located in a TARDIS.

That being said, it was mildly disturbing to witness Bill Masters wife, Libby, stroll through the lobby with one child, get in an elevator and come out with two children. While Bill and Libby discuss having more children earlier in the episode it was still quite a shock to see it happen without warning. There is an on screen indication of the year but it doesn’t accompany the actual jump. Again, the show presents the year in a very self-aware fashion, having the resident videographer holding up a clapperboard with the date written on it. It’s a nice touch and I commend the writers for doing something different but it comes a little late in helping the audience adjust to the sudden shift.

Furthermore there is a lot of content being crammed into this 60 minute episode. Rather than spoiling it for those who plan to binge watch after the season is finished, I will say there is enough in this one episode to fill at least another half season. The aforementioned birth of a second child, which I only mentioned because it isn’t treated seriously at all, could easily have been the subject material for the rest of this second season. Instead it goes something like ‘I want a kid, bam, a kid is granted’ as though the characters in Masters of Sex managed to tap into some kind of god mode cheat code. Actually that would kind of make sense. The time skips are just the game glitching out.

Not all of the material in the episode is so lucky. While some could have been the basis for more episodes, some events in the episode got stretched rather thin to the point where it doesn’t make much sense. Bill is upset with Virginia and even though they work with each other for three years they somehow manage to not reconcile until 1960. That’s completely unprecedented. Bill and Virginia have had their fair share of arguments in the past season and a half but nothing so brutal that it took years for them to recover. Honestly, it didn’t feel like this argument was really that life changing that it couldn’t have been settled in a week or two as well.

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan star as Dr. Bill Masters and Virginia Johnson on Showtime's Masters of Sex.

Get ready to reacquaint yourself with a whole new body of time.

It’s more disappointing than legitimately bad. If the show had to do a time skip, then sure, this was a novel way to present it but I’m not sure a time skip was necessary. By jumping ahead we missed out on possible answers to how Libby got pregnant for the second time and whether the kid was actually his. Seems unlikely given that Bill seemed to have trouble getting off when he wasn’t with Virginia. Maybe it will be addressed in a later episode but if you have to deal with the issue anyway then why bother jumping forward? And Virginia’s constant parade of partners, whose names she forgets, only serves to make Bill’s assessment of her as irresponsible to her children correct, an attribute for her character that comes out of nowhere due to the fast pace of the episode. Previously Virginia was shown to be sexually liberal but she always put her kids first. For the show to suddenly brand her as not caring enough for her children simply came across as cheap.

Season one of Masters of Sex was great. The story it told was intriguing, broaching a subject matter within a time period that it had never been examined before. And, aside from the history, Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan delivered some superb acting in their main roles, with good performances from the supporting cast too, especially Annaleigh Ashford. The second season hasn’t been quite as enthralling. The acting is still great and the scenes between Sheen and Caplan continue to be the best in the show but some really odd storylines for Libby Masters and the total abandonment of Barton Scully’s homosexuality plot has left the second season feeling more than a little scattered and unfocused.

Perhaps  Asterion was intended to be something of a reset button for the season. It certainly felt more like the first episode of a season rather than a typical mid-season episode. That’s no bad thing but while the intentions were good, it just didn’t come together quite how they wanted it. Hopefully the show can get back on track. With a third season already confirmed ( Asterion was actually the first episode to air after that announcement) Masters of Sex should consider directing their attention solely to creating powerful storylines with captivating characters. Or, at the very least, don’t toss all of your cinematography tricks into one episode.

Quiet

For an episode that was so concerned about detailing the beginnings and motivations of one Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson, the character was the least interesting part of Boardwalk Empire’s fifth season premiere. Displaying the impoverished upbringing and introduction into Atlantic City’s influential upper class was an odd move for a  show in its final season. This kind of character reflection is usually seen in fledgling series’ trying to create sympathy for a character in their first seasons. At this point in Boardwalk Empire, especially after the particularly dark character developments that Nucky underwent in seasons three and four, the attempt to make Nucky more relatable just seems desperate. One can almost hear the producers saying “people need to care if he’s going to die”.

Death is certainly where the season seems to be heading. The tag line for the season is ‘No One Goes Quietly’ which all but foreshadows that Nucky will go out with a bang. This isn’t much of a surprise. From a writing and industry standpoint, it is fairly commonplace to kill off main characters in their last foray in one final blaze of glory. Within the show, Nucky has come closer and closer each season by becoming involved in wars with other crime lords, such as Arnold Rothstein and Joe Masseria. Sooner or later one of those bullets was bound to catch its target. It’s difficult, however, to see how Nucky is going to go when he’s wining and dining politicians in Cuba and the meat of the action is happening on the mainland.

The promotional poster for the fifth season of HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

But there is a difference between meaningful noise and noise just for the sake of being loud.

The machete wielding assassin made a good attempt on Nucky’s life but the latest bodyguard proved his worth by killing the attacker and taking an ear for a reward. Disturbing, true, but the whole scenario felt detached from all the other storylines. Stephen Graham didn’t make an appearance as Al Capone in this episode but we did see Lucky Luciano cement his place as a gangster in New York and Chalky fight his way out of a chain gang. Maybe it is simply that there was more bloodshed in those scenes but overall those characters’ stories were more relevant to the gangster theme of the show.

I get that Nucky was trying to bring Bacardi Rum to Atlantic City but the story just wasn’t very interesting. Slow building writing is good but the slow build itself has to be entertaining. Perhaps it had something to do with the timeskip. The show has tried to keep as many of the same characters around as possible to keep the audience invested despite the chronological jump but there was still a disconnect between last season and this final one. I won’t say that seven years was too much to skip but there is a definite sense that something went missing. Maybe it was Atlantic City itself.

Outside of flashbacks, the happenings of Atlantic City aren’t shown at all. Maybe the place doesn’t have much going on without Nucky around but the show is called Boardwalk Empire. That title is a little pointless if they stop showing the boardwalk. It was probably an intentional decision. Creator Terence Winter has always been very bold in writing the show, such as killing off Jimmy Darmody, Owen Slater and Richard Harrow. But the loss of those charismatic, likable characters has left Atlantic City rather empty. It doesn’t help that other characters like Margaret have moved on to other cities as well. If Winter was trying depict Atlantic City as being gradually left behind in the criminal rat race then he has succeeded.  But this isn’t the show I fell in love with back in the first season.

Vincent Piazza depicts the criminal mastermind Charles 'Lucky' Luciano in HBO's Boardwalk Empire.

Betraying Joe Masseria is only the beginning of Lucky Luciano’s criminal ascension.

Boardwalk Empire is still a show that you should be watching. Nucky’s significance in the world has dropped but Steve Buscemi’s acting is still a joy to watch. The writing itself isn’t really bad either but as someone who has followed the show since the beginning it felt unfamiliar. The aforementioned time skip and setting change are mostly to blame but the uninitiated viewer might be more engaged by this episode than I was, which is strange to say of television programme’s fifth season premiere. As talented as the people behind the show are, it is disappointing to see Nucky become a footnote in his show. While that is historically accurate (at least of Enoch L. Johnson), this is not a documentary and there are plenty of original characters running around. Why not be really bold? Why not pull a Tarantino and blow up Hitler in a French theatre? At least do a Forrest Gump and just insert him into the sidelines of the interesting, historical parts.

Part of the problem is that Boardwalk Empire has always been centred around prohibition. The legal situation of alcohol has been as much as main character as Nucky is and this final season will see both meet their end. This explains the necessity of the time skip and refocus on other criminal entities whose empires weren’t based on bootlegging liquor. But it may be to its detriment. Prohibition has always informed the story and seasons have skirted along the edges of history but there’s also been a fair amount of artistic license. I never felt that the show owed it to its audience to chronicle the entire span of prohibition. It might have flowed better and engaged lovers of the first four seasons if Winter had chosen to end the show while the party was still going.

This is the era of the Great Depression though. Not that you would know by how these characters throw around money. But there’s a definite stench of desperation in the air; the sense that a lot of these characters are just keeping their heads above water for as long as they can. Maybe the hopelessness of the 30’s is the same hopelessness felt by the writers when HBO chose to cancel the show. I don’t think anyone can deny that Boardwalk Empire has run its course. While it might still be better acted and written than most programming on television, it just isn’t as compelling as it once was. And regardless of what medium you’re in, whether it be TV, movies or literature, when the audience stops caring that is the time to stop.

Gotham

Ah, yes, Gotham. How could I forget DC Comics and Warner Brothers big television adaptation of Commissioner James Gordon’s time in Gotham city prior to Batman’s arrival? It might be because I’m well and truly burnt out out from the squandering of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. potential last season. And I’ll be the first to admit that I was wrong in hyping up the show. But I still maintain that it could have been better and that’s really not a feeling I want to have again with Gotham.

That’s not to say that I’m not excited for Gotham because I am. I would label myself as quietly optimistic. Part of that optimism comes from the fact that the show will air on Fox. As I explained in my pre-Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. blog post, Disney owns the ABC network as Warner Bros. owns The CW. It makes sense that when Disney have a big TV project based off of a film series they would air it on ABC, which is one of the big four American networks along with NBC, CBS and Fox. The CW, where Warner Bros. airs The Flash and Arrow, doesn’t pull in the same options. It shows an incredible amount of faith in the product to go the hard way and present Gotham to another network, rather than taking the easy route and airing it on The CW.

Of course, Warner Bros. getting increased exposure in the deal. Not that they probably need to promote Gotham much. Batman has become such a badass icon to millions of internet users that they’d probably flock to television adaptation. But creator Bruno Heller should be commended for not relying on the name value alone. In fact, it seems that Batman will probably not feature in the show constantly but more as a recurring characters as the caped crusader is still a child at this point. It is an interesting concept to see Bruce Wayne become the Dark Knight through the eyes of James Gordon. Cop shows and nerd culture are the two big staples of modern television and Gotham manages to draw on both.

DC Comics, Fox and Warner Bros. come together to tell the origin stories of Commissioner Gordon, Bruce Wayne/Batman, The Penguin, The Riddler, Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Hugo Strange and Mr. Freeze.

The many faces of Gotham’s heroes and villains.

The question then is how does Gotham avoid becoming like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Actually, that’s pretty easy because Gotham has already evaded Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s biggest flaw: Joss Whedon. For the record, I like Joss Whedon. Buffy the Vampire Slayer defined a generation and formed a lot of the tropes that modern television series’ abuse. Angel  was great too because for as much as it borrowed from Buffy it also carved its own path. That those were two shows that weaved seamlessly through each other. But none of Whedon’s other projects like Dollhouse or Firefly have come close to replicating that success and that’s really part of the problem; it feels like Whedon is trying to replicate Buffy.

So Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s greatest burden was never going to be Gotham’s problem anyway. And not having a pre-existing legacy to live up to will allow Gotham to forge its own path. Heller’s previous works include co-creating Rome and his own solo creation, The Mentalist. His work on those shows reflects clear experience with unorthodox police procedural shows and programs with more highly sexualised and violent content. What really works in his favour though is that Heller is not a household name in the same way that Whedon is. Gotham could quite possibly put him on the map but few people are likely to compare Gotham to The Mentalist or Rome whereas everyone was comparing Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Buffy the Vampire Slayer before the first episode was over.

It is unfair to nail all of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s faults and failures on to Joss Whedon and it is equally unjust to analyse Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. based entirely on its similarities to Buffy. That said, however, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t stand well on its own merits either. The show forces it does our throat that Chloe Bennet’s computer hacker Skye is special when she was really just annoying and stealing screentime from far more interesting and charming characters. Trying to intertwine the series with the cinematic universe utterly failed too. Rather than feeling rooted and connected to a wider world it felt segregated. And when it did tie into the films it was arbitrary and irrelevant, like ‘oh, look, we’re standing where Thor was standing.’ The response was a resounding meh.

Benjamin McKenzie and David Mazouz play the young James Gordon and Bruce Wayne in Fox's upcoming superhero drama about the making of Batman, Gotham.

Hopefully Gordon gives Bruce better advice than Clark received from Pa Kent.

Again, these are problems that Gotham should avoid by just being Gotham. As far as we know, this series won’t tie into the upcoming Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice film, although who knows, maybe David Mazouz could grow up to be Ben Affleck. That could happen and it still wouldn’t affect the show’s ability to just be itself. And we know for a fact that James Gordon isn’t special so he won’t get the Skye treatment. He’ll rise to Commissioner but for Batman’s presence to be necessary in Gotham City, crime and corruption must continue to run rampant.

What might put people off Gotham is possibly the casting of Ben McKenzie in the lead role. Most people will remember McKenzie as troubled teen Ryan Atwood in The O.C. That probably isn’t the first image that comes to mind when you imagine Commissioner Gordon. However, he’s also had roles as a cop in NBC/TNT’s Southland and voiced Batman and Bruce Wayne in the animated film, Batman: Year One. It’s safe to say then that he has both experience and a familiarity with the source material.

At the end of the day though, it’ll come down to the episode to episode content and whether the writing and acting can draw the viewer into these character’s lives. This has all the makings of a great television show but I’ve said that before and been wrong. Still, it is hard not to be excited for this series and when September 22nd rolls around I will definitely be watching.

Line-Up

August is drawing to a close with September being literally only a day away so it’s just about time to set our attention on the 2014 fall television line-up. I did this last year as well, looking at shows such as Chicago P.D., Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Intelligence. Some I liked, some I didn’t like and some I thought would be hits and some I thought wouldn’t last. Read that article and decide for yourself how on target I was with my assessments but I think I was on the button for most of my analysis.

For some, like Betrayal, I was disappointed that my predictions came to pass, but that is just the nature of television. Heck, Us and Them didn’t even make it on air. On paper, there might be obvious flaws but in the watching the show takes on endearing qualities. But they don’t fix the faults, so ultimately the show runs it course. No doubt some of the shows on this list will meet that same fate.  Unfortunately, there is also not enough space here to cover all of the shows available, much like how The 100 was absent from last years list. If I miss any amazing shows, please let me know. I’m always on the look out for good television shows to watch.

Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction. Here’s what is coming up this fall:

A to Z

The premise sounds cringe worthy. An online dating company details the A to Z’s of romance. Sounds like a show with a gimmick which will quickly wear thin and awkwardly titled episodes as they try to shove the letters Q and Z in an arbitrary attempt at a full check-list.  What might save it is the cast, which includes Ben Feldman, incase you’re dying to see him again since he was carted off to the loony bin in Mad Men, and Cristin Milioti, the mother from How Your Mother Played Second Fiddle to Robin (regionally known as How I Met Your Mother). It’s also narrated by Katey Sagal. Might be worth a look for the cast but it probably won’t be sticking around.

Karen Gillan and John Cho star in ABC's new comedy, Selfie.

Who wore it better, Amy Pond or Nebula?

Selfie

The great thing about Selfie, aside from giving Karen Gillan a job between Doctor Who  and Guardians of the Galaxy, is that the first episode was already released on twitter. Audiences can already watch and make up their minds about the show before the season starts. Bold move. For me, it got a few laughs here and there but it’s not hilarious and I think the character would fall flat without Gillan behind the role, really throwing herself into the portrayal. It’s also good to see John Cho as well, but it already feels like know where this show is headed. Maybe it’ll prove me wrong and for the meantime, I’ll probably keep watching but I don’t see it being another breakout hit like Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Black-ish

I like Anthony Anderson but he has not had a lot of luck with television since leaving Law & Order in 2010. Guys With Kids was charming but it didn’t last so I’m hoping, for Anthony’s sake, that this one sticks. With Lawrence Fishburne in a recurring role, it’s got that little bit of extra star power to bring in viewers but if it wants those viewers to stick around for more than one episode it’s got to be funny. Dealing with cultural identities within a modern black family has real potential to be poiyant as well as humorous. Whether it matches that potential remains to be seen.

Constantine

If you’re looking for something as dark and morally ambiguous as the comic book, you’d probably be best served to look elsewhere. This John Constantine, played by Matt Ryan, is much more likely to be a rogue with a heart of gold, probably having the abilities of a con-man but eventually using them for good. I don’t really trust David S. Goyer to write anything so complex given his scripts for Batman and Superman in the past. Daniel Cerone, having served as showrunner for Dexter, might be able to bring Constantine to life on the small screen but this is airing on NBC not Showtime. Adjust your expectations appropriately.

Anna Gunn joins David Tennant as he transfers over to America for the U.S. adaptation of British TV series, Broadchurch, on FOX this fall.

Gracepoint trades Sophie Chapman for Skyler White.

Gracepoint

Incase you didn’t know, this is the American remake of the British show, Broadchurch. That fact doesn’t make it any better or worse, and it doesn’t even mean that British fans will know what to expect because American remakes have a habit of changing things. What will set this apart from crappy remakes is that it’s written by Chris Chibnall who also wrote the original Broadchurch. If that’s not enough enough for you, the cast includes recent Emmy winner, Anna Gunn, and another import from the original series, David Tennant.

Marry Me

When I read the premise for this show I thought it was about the difficulties of an engaged couple, which sounded a little too simplistic and broad. After some research, it turns out that the show is about a couple trying to get engaged following some botched proposals. This feels like Betrayed or Mixology from last season. There’s an inevitable outcome to the show, the main couple are going to get married, and there’s really only so long that they hold out on that. If it’s your cup of tea, great, but beware the expiry date.

How to Get Away With Murder

In what appears to be the strangest idea for a television show, a law professor teaches her students how to get away with murder and then someone on campus is killed. So long as each episode isn’t punctuated with a lesson by their professor then this could be a gripping thriller. I’m already intrigued because I don’t know where they’re going with the premise but there is no point to a good hook if the writing that follows isn’t as equally strong.

Hayley Atwell as the title character in Agent Carter will join us in the mid-season of the 2014-15 US TV schedule.

Agent Carter could be the show to restore our faith in Marvel TV shows.

Agent Carter

This won’t air until the midseason, along with shows such as IZombie and Empire but it is worth mentioning because last year ABC had Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that turned out to be far less entertaining than many, myself included, hoped. So why should we care about Peggy Carter? Well, firstly I think not having a direct tie to the main cinematic universe will actually allow the series to grow and flourish in its own way. Furthermore, although not directly involved, the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the past will create a nice parallel to the rebuilding of S.H.I.E.L.D. as it happens in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season.

Alright, so I know I missed some other shows that are coming out this season such as The Flash, Stalker, Madam Secretary, Red Band Society, Scorpion, The Mysteries of Laura and Katherine Heigl’s return to television in State of Affairs. The above is far from a comprehensive list and mostly contains shows that stuck out to me as weird, wonderful or just plain bad. Still, I feel like I’m forgetting something again. I remembered Agent Carter. What could it be?

Gasping

It’s been eight months since the last dose of Doctor Who and last night BBC’s science fiction behemoth finally returned to our screens. The long wait has made fans anxious for new episodes but the opportunity to see Peter Capaldi in his first full length feature as The Doctor has even the most patient fans salivating. There really is nothing like Doctor Who. While there may be plenty of other sci-fi television shows available to watch, download or stream across the world, none of them feel quite as assured or adventurous as Doctor Who always is. Even the weakest episodes tend to be mad expeditions into the unknown.

If I’m being honest, this premiere felt like one of the weaker episodes from recent memory. It wasn’t awful. The story was fine, with just enough twists to keep it from becoming predictable, and the acting was good, though it’s unlikely to win any awards. The failing in this episode was the character writing. It’s hard to say that Capaldi’s Doctor was badly written because this is his first real appearance but Clara? If you told me that someone who had never watched an episode of Clara’s time with the Doctor had written this episode, I would completely and utterly believe you.

First of all, I take issue with the idea that Clara got what she wanted or that the Doctor gave her what she wanted because she was pretty. The Doctor chased after Clara back in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ when she was just a voice in his head. He pursued her because her very existence was a mystery to him. And it’s not like the writers couldn’t have known this because they used the ‘impossible girl’ as part of a puzzle in the episode.  Sure, Jenna-Louise Coleman is easy on the eyes but Clara was more than that to the Doctor. I don’t think that the Doctor has ever selected a person to be a trophy companion. Not even Rose Tyler got that treatment. ‘Deep Breath’, however, attempts to rewrite the Eleventh Doctor’s entire motivations regarding Clara.

Jenna Louise Coleman returns as Clara Oswald in the series 8 premiere of Doctor Who, entitled 'Deep Breath'.

Yes, Clara, the portrayal of your character in this episode confuses us too.

Quite possibly the worst line in the entire episode is when the Twelfth Doctor states to Clara that ‘he is not her boyfriend’. Clara rightly assures him that she never thought he was but the Doctor says it wasn’t her mistake, again effectively retconning the Eleventh Doctor’s motivations and feelings in regards to Clara. Perhaps you could make an argument for Matt Smith’s Doctor playing boyfriend with Clara in the Christmas special, ‘The Time of the Doctor, but as I said in my review of that episode that implication felt out of place because there was no precedent for it. The Eleventh Doctor and Clara were friends. Perhaps they were a little flirty at times but Matt Smith’s Doctor would have flirted with a broomstick.

Furthermore, there is an insinuation that Clara doesn’t like or is in someway biased against the Doctor because he looks old now. Madam Vastra explains the Doctor’s century long lifespan to Clara despite the fact that Clara lived in. That’s what makes it especially hard to accept that Clara is somehow unimpressed with the Doctor because he’s changed and looks old; fragments of Clara have appeared throughout the Doctor’s timeline, aiding him and saving him when he’s needed it. The Doctor may have been unaware of her interventions but she saw him in every incarnation, older and younger, varying personalities and all. Given the character’s history, that she would be unable or unwilling to accept this incarnation of The Doctor as an extension of the previous eleven is absurd.

Clara herself is quite quick to put down Madam Vastra’s argument, but for all the wrong reasons. She gives examples of older celebrities whose posters she once pinned upon her wall as a little girl, rather than her own personal history with the Doctor. And all that really does is make Vastra become enamoured by Clara. The whole episode was centred about how pretty Clara was, which might been significant if it were worked into the body harvesting plot…but it wasn’t. In one scene, Vastra appears to be painting a portrait of her maid/wife but is actually documenting instances of supposed spontaneous combustion in the area at which point Clara enters and Vastra suggests she remove her clothes as well. It’s not funny and it drags down the plot.

Peter Capaldi makes his first appearance in a full length episode of Doctor Who in the series 8 premiere, Deep Breath.

“I’ve seen this face before”; Witty in-reference or a nod towards a bigger thematic issue?

The humour throughout is rather flat. Strax hits Clara in the face with a newspaper in an odd instance of slapstick humour that would be more at home in an American sitcom than a British science fiction drama. It is difficult to know whether some of the Twelfth Doctor’s incoherent madness in the earlier parts of the episode are meant to be categorized as humour or if it is simply a case of him adjusting to the regeneration because he does appear to mellow out by the end of the episode. And that’s why it’s hard to criticise the writing of his character because, like Clara, I’m still trying to figure out who he is.

I did like that we don’t really know whether the man with half a face jumped or was pushed and it’s obvious that they want the viewer to wonder about this Doctor’s morals and ethics. I could have done without the heavy-handed assertion of the question at the end and the Twelfth Doctor has a long way to go until he rivals Ten’s ability to be absolutely merciless and terrifying but as a theme for this new season, I can dig it.

On the whole, ‘Deep Breath’ was, in a word, boring. It should have been more interesting but instead it was drab. It was a run of the mill episode that deserved to come in the mid-season lull not as opener to this eighth series. That, coupled with the bad writing of Clara, made it an episode which made me angry rather than excited. Maybe the second episode will fix that. If anything in Doctor Who should bring the excitement it should definitely be the Daleks.