A version of this article was originally published in The Dundee Courier on 22 April 2017.
DOCTOR WHO: Saturday, BBC One
BIG GOLD DREAM: Saturday, BBC Two
BORN TO KILL: Thursday, Channel 4
Believe it or not, there are people out there who’ve never seen DOCTOR WHO before. Some of them, admittedly, are children who weren’t even born when the show returned triumphantly in 2005, so at least they have an excuse. Everyone else has been slacking, frankly.
Or maybe they’ve been put off by the daunting prospect of joining a club with such a vast membership and over 50 years of continuity behind it. I know I would be.
However, when you throw out all that baggage and get down to basics, the concept behind Doctor Who couldn’t be more straightforward: an eccentric alien hero travels through time and space righting wrongs in his bigger-on-the-inside spaceship. That’s all you need to know.
And that’s why the first episode of Peter Capaldi and head writer Steven Moffat’s final series was so effective. It served as a concise, witty, charming and – most importantly – fun introduction to Doctor Who itself. New viewers could easily jump in here.
Through the wide eyes of new companion Bill – the instantly likeable and engaging Pearl Mackie – the craftily titled ‘The Pilot’ spelled out the essential ingredients of the Doctor’s universe, while providing enough in-jokey wrinkles to satisfy the initiated. Moffat’s wry subversion of the traditional “companion enters TARDIS for the first time” sequence was particularly amusing.
It’s such a shame that this is the wonderful Capaldi’s last hurrah, as he’s now in complete command of the role. A truly Doctorly Doctor - he's even the right shape - I could happily watch him in action for at least another year.
The warm teacher/student chemistry between the Doctor and Bill was so refreshing after years of being lumbered with deadweight Clara – casting someone who can act alongside Capaldi makes a world of difference - while Matt Lucas continues to intrigue as the long-suffering yet enigmatic Nardole. There’s clearly more to him than mere comic relief.
Aside from telling an entertaining self-contained story which fulfilled its brief with consummate ease, Moffat also dropped tantalising hints about this year’s series arc.
Why is the Doctor posing as a university lecturer? What secrets lie inside the vault he and Nardole are guarding in the cellar? Why has the Doctor vowed to remain on Earth and out of trouble?
If Moffat provides satisfying answers to these questions while overseeing a series of enjoyable episodes, then he and Capaldi look set to exit with their heads held high. A very promising comeback.
An old Glasgow punk, Capaldi would’ve loved BIG GOLD DREAM. This droll documentary paid fond tribute to that fleeting period of post-punk excitement when Scotland ruled the hip parade via pioneering indie labels Fast Product and Postcard.
A tale of two Svengalis, it showed how Fast’s mercurial Bob Last and Postcard’s insufferable Alan Horne built their DIY empires in Edinburgh and Glasgow respectively.
Musicians from regal Scottish indie bands such as Orange Juice, Strawberry Switchblade, The Associates and Fire Engines shared affable anecdotes, guarded complaints and poignant regrets as they raked over the coals of their youthful innocence.
Like most tales of idealism, eventually it collapsed into a sad heap of compromise, betrayal and disappointment. But the music lingers on.
The most important thing about this delightful film? Reminding the world that Scotland – Bob Last’s Factory pre-dating label in particular – invented independent music as we know it.
Nicola Sturgeon should run on that ticket.
Teenagers can’t be trusted, even when they read aloud to dying pensioners. That’s the important public service message behind BORN TO KILL, a new psychological thriller about a seemingly sensitive, kind adolescent boy with homicidal tendencies.
Sam lives with his mum. He claims his dead father was a war hero, but that’s obviously a desperate fantasy. Mum’s job on a geriatric ward allows him to indulge his dangerous obsession with death, which eventually results in murder.
I’ve no idea what to make of it so far.
Sam is subtly inhabited by promising newcomer Jack Rowan – his unnervingly friendly smile recalls Anthony Perkins in Psycho – but I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that this is yet another emptily stylised exploitation of mental illness as just another form of bogie man monster madness.
Rowan’s performance aside, it feels rather dubious.