Quickie review: The Long Game

I didn’t mind The Long Game. It was exciting and had intrigue, plot and creepiness. It wasn’t a wonderful episode by any means, but it was an enjoyable and gripping tale nonetheless. I found the plot generally well-conceived and interesting. It was obviously an allusion to dystopian 1984-type scenarios, a subjugated and manipulated population in thrall to a nefarious, shadowy power of whose inner workings and true purpose they have no idea. The way in which this was presented, i.e. the way the people were shown to be controlled via the manipulation of news and media, is a very pertinent comment upon the very real capacity for populations to be controlled through their media and their access to information. When a totalitarian power is establishing itself, of course, one of the first things to go is the freedom of the press and free access to information. Thus the population of unthinking, unquestioning drones that had been created in Satellite 5. That the population of Satellite 5 are enslaved to keep alive a great, writhing beast is a good sci-fi twist on the standard “dystopian totalitarian society” genre. However, I was less impressed by the revelation that the Editor represented a “consortium of banks” colluding with the Jagrafess as some kind of financial investment. The tired and lazy “evil, scheming, malignant bankers are behind it all” trope is rarely, if ever, used well, and here is no exception, mainly because, as here, it is invariably employed by writers with warped left-wing assumptions about the motivations of business people.

Although the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxaroedenfoe is possibly the most brilliant name for a Doctor Who monster ever, the Jagrafess (“Max”) was actually a bit of a rubbish monster. They could at least have designed it better — a giant, shapeless, snarling creature of sentient sludge is just slightly comical. The Editor, on the other hand, was an excellent character, brilliantly played by Simon Pegg. Pegg looked like he was having great, rollicking fun playing the Editor, making for a performance that was a genuine pleasure to watch. Christie Adams and Ann Maxwell-Martin were also both good as Cathica and Suki, respectively. Christopher Eccleston keeps reminding me of how fantastic his Doctor was, in particular here when he and Rose had confronted the Editor:

“Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?”
“Oh. I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I’m going to get? Yes?”
“You’re no fun.”
“Let me out of these manacles. You’ll find out how much fun I am.”

Overall, not the best story of Series 1, but not bad by any means. I enjoyed it.

Rating: 7/10.

Films I watched in January

This is a brief summary of each of the films I watched in January.

Source Code

I tried to write a short summary of the plot here, but gave up. It proved too difficult to explain the plot, and especially the intriguing sci-fi concept around which the film revolves. You’ll simply have to view it yourself, because it is very intelligent, high-concept stuff to which I don’t think I could do justice here. All I’ll say is that the concept is utterly engaging, and the plot just as much so. This is more a drama film than a science-fiction film; this is not necessarily a bad thing. The only science fiction element of the story is the titular concept, “source code”, which forms a central plot point, but the imaginative central science fiction concept is not allowed to overpower what is otherwise essentially a drama/thriller film — and a very good one at that. Rating: 8/10.


I was in my hotel room one night on holiday when I saw Matilda in the television listings. On a whim, I decided to watch. I think I must’ve been feeling particularly nostalgic about my childhood at the time, because this one is definitely a strong callback to my salad days. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite films as a child, but it’s something of an icon from that era of my life, as certain things — films, music, objects, friends — are for any given era of one’s life. Matilda has great nostalgic value for me, then, and revisiting it again all these years later was like remembering those lost halcyon days. It’s an adorably cute and heartwarming children’s film, while still being enjoyable leisurely viewing for grown-ups, the fact that a significant measure of scientific licence was taken regarding Matilda’s powers notwithstanding. Rating: 9/10.

The Imitation Game

The ebullient Benedict Cumberbatch’s latest outing sees him paired with Keira Knightley in wartime London. Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, and The Imitation Game is Turing’s story — an extraordinary mind who turned his talents to the cause of the British war effort, creating a machine that decoded Enigma, the “unbreakable” German code, only to be persecuted and driven to suicide by the British government after the war for his homosexuality. This is really a magnificent film, a story of great triumph and heartbreak is brilliantly executed in The Imitation Game, and both Cumberbatch and Knightley are in top form here. Cumberbatch excellently captures Turing, socially awkward, insecure, an extraordinary war hero, and scandalously persecuted. This film does an admirable job of bringing Turing’s story into the public light, and of giving the hero the recognition that he deserves. Rating: 9/10.

Shaun of the Dead

For some reason this is the first time I’d watched Shaun of the Dead, which is odd, as I absolutely adored Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s other acclaimed outing, Hot Fuzz. I was suitably impressed by Shaun, which, like Hot Fuzz, was just a marvellously fun romp, one of those films you put on for a reliably relaxing night in. The secret of Shaun is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. While ostensibly a zombie apocalypse horror film, it’s a comedy first and foremost, and therein lies its success. As a straight zombie film, it’s fairly mediocre, but it’s the comedy and the characters and the general absurdity of it all that makes the film. Shaun’s development from loser to leader of the small group of survivors is heartening to watch, and Nick Frost is, as always, effortlessly hilarious. A genuine classic to be sure. Rating: 10/10.

St Trinian’s

St Trinian’s, for those that don’t know, is a film about an anarchic girls’ school for unruly girls. The film follows Annabelle Fritton (Talulah Riley), a former Cheltenham girl who haplessly finds herself attending “Hogwarts for pikeys”, as she adjusts to her strange new school, and as she helps the St Trinian’s girls save the school from closure (at the hands of her father, who wishes to sell the debt-ridden school). St Trinian’s is great, walloping fun, a lighthearted, camp, comedic romp. It has a star cast: Whovians might recognise the lovely Talulah Riley as Miss Evangelista from Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead as well as Amara Karan (Rita from The God Complex) in a minor role; there’s also Gemma Arterton in her first major film role, Russell Brand, Colin Firth, Lena Headey, Rupert Everett and Steven Fry. Rating: 7/10.