Doctor Who: Dark Water (Review)

Dark Water

Doctor Who can officially add ‘scared a generation of kids out of becoming organ donors’ to its long list of fear factors. Not to mention the chilling, piteous sob of a “burner” certain to mean a sharp decline in cremations over the next half-century. But scaring the viewer is what Doctor Who is meant to do and Dark Water succeeds with a superb blend of psychological and visual horror that hasn’t been done quite so effectively in years.

Danny Pink died the way he lived: on the phone and pointlessly. Looking back at every episode since The Caretaker, all but one of his previous appearances involved him calling Clara for no other reason than to remind the audience that he’s there. Giving him a tragic backstory was a nice change, considering most recent companions have barely left school let alone seen conflict, but we didn’t see him develop enough as a character to care what happens to him now. Cutting back to Danny repeatedly while building up to the final reveal was irritating. He certainly didn’t deserve the final shot of the episode, which should have stayed on the Doctor’s reaction. Hopefully Danny will press the in-joke button before the next episode and we won’t have to waste any more time with him.

Dark Water

Do it. Do it. Do it.


Whilst Clara throwing the TARDIS keys into a volcano was an effective way to show how Danny’s death affected her, the whole thing fell flat for anyone who’s been paying attention. Since the Doctor has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to open the TARDIS doors by snapping his fingers – which even Clara can do for some reason – it was obvious this would turn out to be a ruse. Though, given how fractured their relationship has been since the regeneration, it was a nice moment when the Doctor continued to help her regardless of what just happened. Sure it was obvious trailer-bait, but it led to a very strong character moment that rounded off a plot thread from this series so neatly it was justified.

Since their presence was spoilt both in the trailers and set photos, the meta-humour made up for the weak Cyberman reveal. But, other than allowing the BBC to reuse costumes under the pretence of paying the billionth homage to The Invasion, there was no real reason for them to be there. They were mere foot soldiers of the Master and could’ve been replaced with any other monster – or, heaven forfend, some newly designed creature – without changing the story. The skeletons in tanks were creepy and just macabre enough to be scary without using gore, so they could have served this role exactly as they were. If the BBC wanted suit actors instead of CGI, put the skeletons in shrouds and have Death personified marching across London. Don’t just reference the past, outdo it!

Dark Water

So…about that whole repopulating the species thing…


Considering the push for a female Doctor this time around, having a female Master was inevitable at some point. It’s an interesting direction considering how hard it would be to find new takes on a character that has ranged from Delgado’s sinister gentleman to Simm’s cackling anarchist. While this could easily blow up in Steven Moffat’s face given his dubious reputation for writing female characters, it may actually play to his strengths. That kiss, which has provoked a depressingly predictable amount of gay panic on Twitter, was the manifestation of many previous hints about the Master and a very in-character way to gain dominance over her old nemesis. It may even be used as a commentary on the fluidity of sexuality, especially within the Doctor Who universe. Following the Master’s characterisation under Russell T Davies, the Missy incarnation may actually be a good fit for the otherwise tedious ‘feisty, flirty female character’ stencil Moffat used to create River Song, Tasha Lem and Sherlock’s Irene Adler.

Besides, Michelle Gomez will never out-camp Eric Roberts.

Doctor Who: Deep Breath Spoiler-Free Review

I was able to get tickets for the first stop on the Doctor Who World Tour in Cardiff yesterday, where Peter Capaldi’s debut episode premiered. Here’s a link to my guaranteed spoiler-free review of the episode, which will hopefully be followed up by a spoilerful review after broadcast.

Doctor Who World Tour screening

http://whatculture.com/tv/doctor-who-deep-breath-spoiler-free-review.php

Mat

301+ : Interviews with the Internet

301+

301+ is a new series of blog posts I’m starting on the Huffington Post UK, in which I interview popular content creators, YouTubers and public figures on the Web who you don’t ordinarily hear about.

The first interview is scheduled for next Monday (16th June 2014) and there will hopefully be a new interview every subsequent Monday for as long as I can keep doing this. Meantimes, check out the release schedule by liking 301+ on Facebook, following 301+ on Twitter and encouraging everyone you know to do the same. I’ll also use the Facebook page to take suggestions of people to interview and questions to ask upcoming guests.

All 301+ Blog Posts

Series 1:
Part 1: Thug Notes
Part 2: The Blockbuster Buster
Part 3: Geek Crash Course
Part 4: Brock Baker
Part 5: Doctor Puppet

Series 2:
Part 6: Nostalgia Critic
Part 7: Lindsey Stirling

When ‘Her’ Becomes a Reality, She’ll Be a Digital Booth Babe

My latest Huffington Post blog post is up. It starts off with me talking about the Tamagotchi in relation to the Spike Jonze movie ‘Her’ and ends with a denouncement of sexism in tech trade shows. I’m pretty confident that the progression makes sense, but I’ll let you decide:

When ‘Her’ Becomes a Reality, She’ll Be a Digital Booth Babe

Her

An exclusive to this blog post coming soon, as well as potentially some pretty awesome news.

Mat

Moto G Review

Selecting a budget smartphone usually means compromising on performance and features just to stay within a sub-£200 price range. But Motorola’s first smartphone to get a UK release since being acquired by Google – the Moto G – comes packing an impressive set of specs for a paltry £135 price tag. So what’s the catch?

Moto G

The device itself has a fairly typical layout: power button and volume rocker on the right-hand edge, 3.5mm headphone jack atop and micro-USB port beneath. At the fore we have the Moto G’s 4.5-inch LCD touchscreen, speaker, mic and 1.3 MP front-facing camera. The notification light next to the front camera was a great design choice on Motorola’s part, as it glows softly rather than flashing brightly, meaning you could happily ignore it in a darkened bedroom at night but still notice it when you want to.

Unlike a lot of Android phones, the Moto G lacks mechanical touch-sensitive buttons as these are included in the OS. This was presumably a way to save costs on the casing since the gap left behind is not filled with anything and makes the screen seem a little off-centre, though it does act as a handy place to grip the phone while watching videos.

Considering Motorola’s history of designing handsets with quirky and interesting form factors, it’s a little disappointing that the Moto G is such a generic black rectangle, but this is understandable given the price. Many low-cost phones try to make up for lacklustre specs with a gimmicky design and the results are often hideous and tacky, so Motorola’s cost limitations may have turned out to be a strength.

Having said that, the Moto G comes out of the box sporting a glossy black back-cover that gives it a fragile and distinctly toy-like feel. The back can be replaced with a selection of coloured shells (£8.99) or flip covers (£18.99) slated to reach UK shores before the end of the year. The flip covers in particular, as they’re made of a more durable textured plastic, seem like they’d offer the best protection against the elements long-term, though they strike me as a little pricey for what they are.

Moto G Flip covers and back shells

But really it’s what’s under the shell that has everyone talking about the Moto G and for good reason. The Moto G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU with a quad-core Cortex-A7 chip clocked at 1.2GHz, not mind-blowing but very impressive for the price, and packs a respectable 1GB of memory. Navigating menus and using less processor-intensive features were as slick as you’d expect, even coping admirably when switching between apps rapidly with no visible latency. Though you wouldn’t expect a supposedly budget device to be much good for gaming, its Adreno 305 graphics chip is shared by a number of mid-range phones and, combined with the decent frame rate enabled by the CPU, makes the Moto G a competent gaming device.

It comes with comparatively meagre 8GB storage capacity, though a 16GB model is available for an extra £25, and there’s no way of supplementing that with an SD card. It also lacks 4G connectivity, which may be a dealbreaker in the US and some other countries but isn’t really a problem if you’re in the UK and live outside the major cities.

The Moto G flaunts a crisp 720p screen, matching that of yesteryear’s mid-range phones like the Nexus 4 and Galaxy S3, and plays HD video with incredible sharpness. My only complaint is that the LCD display lacks the colour richness you’d get with an AMOLED screen, giving videos a slightly washed-out appearance. The rear camera is perfectly serviceable and about what you’d expect for this price bracket. It won’t win any awards, but it’s decent enough for the casual photographer and is run on Motorola’s own software featuring a varied but straightforward menu of settings to control photo quality.

None of this comes at the expense of draining the phone’s power source either, since the 2,070 mAh battery is a stalwart companion in keeping the Moto G running. With Android’s built in battery saver systems, I was able to eke out a good 36 hours of life with moderate use and even a little over 12 hours when I was hammering it with updates, games and music streaming. Given the hardware it has to support, Motorola might have rendered the Moto G almost unusable if they’d skimped on the battery, so it’s encouraging to see thought went into even these minute details.

Android KitKat

At the moment, the Moto G comes running the slightly older Android 4.3 Jelly Bean but is slated to receive an update in January to the latest version (KitKat), with reports this has already begun rolling out for certain devices. Whilst the Android OS itself hasn’t undergone much alteration, Motorola has thrown in a ‘Migrate’ app that streamlines the process of copying the data on your old handset over to the Moto G (assuming it was also an Android). There’s also ‘Assist’, a somewhat over-auspiciously named app that simply lets you set times for your phone to fall silent automatically, such as during meetings or at night.

Along with the normal selection of apps for Google’s services pre-installed on the phone, you’ll be invited to enable ‘Google Now’ on first startup. This is effectively a system to deliver time and location-sensitive information to your phone’s notifications window automatically, such as traffic conditions for your commute home, weather and nearby restaurants. It’s an nice idea but I found it lacking in customisation, since it’s almost entirely automated rather than letting you adjust when certain notifications arrive. Eventually I just switched it off.


The Moto G is a great device all-round and almost indistinguishable in performance from a mid-range handset costing upwards of £100 more. It’s not without compromises, but clearly Motorola has taken pains to ensure these were done strategically: saving money in specialist areas, like the camera and case design, and putting it into improving the experience for a general user. It’s received rave reviews elsewhere and I think you can fairly predict that it’s going to be a game-changer in the budget mobile arena for 2014.