Copenhagen on DVD in UK (at last)

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Copenhagen is a 2002 TV drama that to the best of my knowledge has not had a DVD release in the UK until now. I’ve just found out there was a recent release on 29 February 2016 so I’ll be tracking down a copy very shortly.

So what’s it about?

It’s probably most notable now For staring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig in one of the three central rolls. He plays German atomic scientist Werner Heisenberg and the play revolves around his wartime meeting with Niels Bohr – played by Stephen Rea – in Copenghagen. Francesca Annis rounds out the cast as Bohr’s wife.

So basically you have three actors talking to each other in one location for 90 minutes.

But it’s gripping stuff. It delves into the motivations of Heisenberg as to why he wanted to meet Bohr during the war. And it neatly uses the concepts of nuclear physics as a metaphor as to the uncertainty of what was actually discussed.

I’ve seen this a few times but never actually owned a copy to watch so I’m very glad to see this released.

Childhood’s End Episode 1 review

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When I found out recently that there had been a tv miniseries based on Childhood’s End by Arthur C Clarke my interest was aroused. I need to declare and interest at this point. It was reading 2010 Odyssey Two three decades ago which got me hooked on reading in general and a fan of Clarke’s fiction. In the decades since adaptations of his work seem to have been few and far between. Whatever happened the long promised movie of Rendezvous With Rama for example?

So a three-part version of Childhood’s End? I’m sold.

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Although to be honest it was never one of my favourites of Clarke’s, and my memories of the book are vague. But still…

So I watched episode on catchup the days after the Sky 1 broadcast. And so far I like what they’ve done.

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Yes, some of the detail has changed. The main character Stormgren was the UN Secetary General in the book. Now he’s a farmer picked by the alien Supprvisor Karellan as the point of contact between the Overlords and the people of Earth.

But other things have been kept. The meetings between Stormgren and Karellen take place in a room with one-way glass. And the Freedom League is still there voicing opposition to mankind no longer having control of their own destiny. And of course we don’t get to see what the aliens look like until the end of the first part and then we discover why they were wise to hide their appearance.

Stormgren is played by Mike Vogel who I know best from playing that nice Barbie in Under the Dome to show. He also played a not so nice corrupt cop in season one of Bates Motel.

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As an aside I like the hotel room that Stormgren meets Karellen in. I’m sure that’s a nod to the climax of 2001 A Space Odyssey and the room that Dave Bowman finds himself occupying.

Also mention must be made of Charles Dance who voices the unseen Karellen perfectly.

I’m sure there will be viewers complaining about the “big alien spaceships hovering over all the world’s capitals” as seen in V and Independence Day. But remember that Clarke’s novel predates both of those by many decades.

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One very effective addition to the story that was not in the book was the way that Karellen first talks to the people of earth. Images of the dead appear and talk to their family members, all reciting the same words. Very creepy.

I will certainly be watching the next two parts.

And in the meantime as an added bonus it’s got me to dig out my old paperback of the novel and I’ve started reading it again.

The 100 Season 3 episodes 1 to 5 review

Last year I somehow managed to write a review of each episode of The 100 Season 2 each week after the broadcast. Alas this year I’ve not managed to do the same for season 3. I believe we are up to episode 5 or thereabouts in the UK. So consider this a catchup review of the episodes so far.

Season 2 ended with Clarke being forced to kill everyone in Mount Weather after being betrayed by Lexa and the Grounders. She then left the rest of her people and walked off into the wilderness.

Meanwhile the former Chancellor Jaha was looking for the mythical City of Light and eventually found a preserved mansion and a holographic lady who had a nuclear bomb. At the time I remember expressing some disquiet that they were going for a more overtly sci-fi storyline rather than sticking with the “what if” aspect of the story.

Season 3 starts a few months on. The people from the Ark have consolidated their landing site and have now named the burgeoning town Arkadia. They have negotiated a truce with the Grounders; hostilities will be avoided if everyone keeps to their territory.

Early in the season our Ark people find another set of Ark survivors from the farm station that landed some distance away from the main crash site. They are led by a man called Pike who is fairly bitter that many of his people were killed by Grounders. He and his companions are pretty much of the mind that the only good Grounder is a dead one.

Part of the truce with the Grounders is that Mount Weather is off-limits, understandably so since many Grounders were taken there to have their blood extracted by the Mountain Men. But the temptation is there to use the resources and eventually Abby agrees to send a group there including Raven and Bellamy’s girlfriend.

Meanwhile Clarke is hunting and trading with the Grounders and pretty much keeping to herself. It transpires that various factions of Grounders are hunting for her as it is believed that she has great power that could be possessed by the Grounder leaders. She is eventually caught and taken to Lexa who explains that the Ice Nation, one of the twelve clans, is growing more aggressive.

Lexa proposes to make the Sky Crew one of the clans in her alliance. Kane and Abby agree and Kane takes the Grounder brand on his arm to seal the deal. In return Lexa sends a force of Grounders to Arkadia to help defend it from the Ice Nation

However the Ice Nation throw a spanner in the works. They seem to have a survivor from the Mountain Men who tells them about the self destruct mechanism. An infiltrator sets it off killing everyone inside the mountain including Bellamy’s girlfriend. Raven is one of the only two survivors.

Back at her city Lexa is challenged for the leadership of the Grounders. Rather than choose a champion she decides to fight. She faces the son of the Ice Queen in an arena and it’s pretty tense stuff. I was convinced she was toast actually. But she gets the upper hand and wins the fight. And rather than kill her opponent she throws a spear at the ice queen – who is watching the fight – and kills her. Thus her opponent, the prince, becomes the King of the Ice Nation and she gains an ally.

Back at Arkadia in the aftermath of the destruction of Mount Weather Pike has become more restless and militant. He convinces the other Ark people that the Grounder force nearby is a threat and becomes elected Chancellor. He immediately leads a force to kill the Grounders. Bellamy is happy to go along, no doubt influenced by the death of his girlfriend.

Pike also orders the Grounders inside the town walls to be interned. This includes Lincoln and some other Grounders that Abby was giving medical treatment to.

Lexa and Clarke come across the field of bodies when journeying to the Ark. Indra is the only survivor. Apparently Bellamy convinced Pike to let her live to bring a message to the Grounders. Kane sends Octavia outside Arkadia in secret to make contact with Lexa. She brings Clarke back with her to try to convince Bellamy that killing the Grounders is wrong. But he doesn’t listen and Clarke and Octavia have to escape the town.

It’s at this point that the former chancellor Jaha finally returns to the town with his message about the City of Light. He’s looking for followers that he can convince to join him. It appears that there is some sort of virtual reality afterlife available through the technology that the holographic lady has. I think we’re going to find out more about that soon.

One follower he appears to gain looks to be Raven who is dealing with the pain and the loss of mobility caused by her injured leg.

So after a quiet-ish start the season has quickly thrown up some complicated situations for our characters to deal with.

Agent Carter Season 2 UK airdate

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One of my viewing highlights of last summer was the eight episode run of Marvel’s Agent Carter on Fox. It involved Hayley Atwell being frightfully British and kicking arse in 1940s America in order to stop Howard Stark’s inventions falling into the wrong hands. What’s not to like about that?

The show originally appeared in the USA at the start of the year so I assumed that there about be a similar delay for the uk broadcast for season 2.

However it appears that we’re getting season 2 episodes just a few days after their American airdate. As far as I can tell the first episode of season 2 airs on Fox on 28 January 2016. (Source ww.digitalspy.co.uk)

Also it’s a ten episode season.

Nice.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Review

Ah, I’ve been putting off doing my review for the new Star Wars movie. Well, here are some random thoughts about it.

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As its been two weeks since it came out I will discuss the big spoilers so be aware that the big spoilers do follow…

I repeat…

BIG SPOILERS FOLLOW

To be honest I had a very strong suspicion that the story of The Force Awakens was going to mirror episode 4 based on the imagery of the trailers. For example we see a girl on desert planet looking wistfully at spaceship taking off. Then we have Han Solo doing Ben Kenobi duty and telling Rey and Finn about the force. Later we see X-wings attacking an Imperial type installation. Etc, etc, etc…

So I knew that was coming. And pretty much that’s what we got, a retread/remake/homage to the first movie.

Then again I recall that George Lucas did the exact same thing with the climax of Return of the Jedi and produced another convenient Death Star for the Rebels to attack and blow up.

And arguably Episode 1 does the exact same thing with kid Anakin in a Naboo Starfighter attacking the Trade Federation droid control ship to halt the battle on Naboo.

So I was prepared for all that and I found I didn’t mind too much. I do think the makers have done that deliberately in order to ease people into the story arc of the new trilogy and I expect the next two episodes to do something a bit more original.

At least I hope they do…

There was a lot about the movie I did enjoy very much.

Daisy Ridley was wonderful as Rey. The new trilogy is surely going to be about her character. She is the Luke of the new trilogy I think. I do like how they have left some unanswered questions about her, mainly who abandoned her on that desert planet and why. The most obvious explanation is that she is Luke’s daughter and it has something to do with his Jedi academy getting destroyed by former student Ren. Certainly her abilities with the Force add weight to that theory.

I did read some comments online that expressed annoyance that Rey developed her Jedi abilities so quickly. However I actually really liked that aspect of it. Otherwise the makers of the movie would be setting her up to be a Jedi and the audience would be two steps ahead of the story. I liked that her force abilities “awakened” and she was able to do all the Jedi stuff. And the Jedi Mind Trick scene with the Stormtrooper (Daniel Craig?) was great.

At the start of the movie I liked how they introduced Finn. He’s this faceless stormtrooper who sees a fellow trooper die and he gets the bloody handprint on his helmet. What I liked in that scene was even though you could not see his face you could tell by his body language how shocked he was at what the First Order troopers were doing and how reluctant to take part he was. That was very nicely done.

It’s a pity Max Von Sydow wasn’t in the movie for a bit longer. Because, hey, it’s Max Von Sydow. I always loved him in Dune and he was one of the best things in the first Judge Dredd movie. (The other being Diane Lane.) He can do the gravitas.

Early on there’s a shot of Rey sitting on the desert planet. She’s leaning against a big round metal object. Then we get a different higher angle and see it’s the foot of a toppled at-at. I loved that.

There’s a scene where Ray and Finn are running from attacking Tie fighters towards a ship they intend to steal. Finn suggests a ship we don’t see. “That ones garbage,” says Rey. When her first choice is destroyed they have to made do with the garbage. And I just knew it was going to be the Millennium Falcon. I’m sure I detected a little frisson of excitement in the cinema when the Falcon was revealed.

And while I’m on the Falcon, what about that targeting display on the Falcon turbo lasers! It looked exactly the same as it did in episode 4! Imagine if George Lucas was doing that now…

A word on supreme leader Snoke. At first I thought he was an actual giant guy and then of course it turned out to be a hologram. Some folk online are speculating it’s like the Wizard of Oz and he may actually look nothing like that. The rumour is that it’s either Palpatine or Darth Plagueis who I believe was Palpatine’s former master.

The movie had a lot of Han Solo. Clearly the makers wanted their money’s worth from Harrison Ford. And they got it. But the result of this is that the main characters in the movie are Han (and Chewie), Rey and Finn. Leia is hardly in it. And as for Luke…

A week or so before I saw the movie I had inadvertently read a rumoured spoiler that apparently Han Solo was going to die in this movie, more or less mirroring Ben Kenobi’s death in episode 4. That was slightly annoying but in hindsight it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Han exit. Remember, Harrison Ford apparently wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. Quite likely that plot development got him on board the movie.

I felt that the “Death of Han” sequence was well done because it’s got a bit of Greek tragedy going on. Earlier Leia asked Han to try to save their son. (Didn’t I mention, the evil Kylo Ren is actually Ben Solo?) So Han sees Ren in the Starkiller base. He could have escaped but instead he confronts Ren. Ren had been set up as a very conflicted character trying to follow the dark side but having doubts so there’s some nice double-meaning to the dialog spoken as he asks his father for help before killing him.

I do think that Chewie should had gone more berserk though. Like ripping some stormtroopers apart.

While I did enjoy the movie there were a number of things I didn’t like.

First of all I’m not thrilled at how the Starkiller base worked. So, do I have this right… It sucks energy from a star to charge up? Then fires laser beams across the galaxy (one assumes at faster than light speed) and destroys multiple planets? In moments? Huh?

So the first time they fired it at the New Republic worlds did the sun vanish as well? I don’t recall that happening. And then do they have to move the Starkiller base (i.e. planet) to a new star or can it fire to anywhere in the galaxy from the one spot?

No, I don’t like any of that. It’s just =spluttering noise= silly. I could just about accept the Death Star as it would have its own power source and it moves to the planet it is going to destroy.

(Actually I can feel myself about to get annoyed at the use of Warp Speed in the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies so I think I’d better stop now.)

It was also disappointing to only see a glimpse of Luke at the very end, especially as so much of the movie had been about the search for Luke Skywalker. But I think that will pay off with the next movie.

Also, what happened to John Williams? Yes, it was nice to get all the reprises from the Original Trilogy, but I don’t think there was a single new theme that has stuck in my mind. Certainly nothing like the Imperial March.

Surprisingly there are very few new ship designs. The First Order Tie Fighters are just updates of the old design. The same goes for the Resistance X-Wings. Apart from Rey’s Speeder and perhaps Ren’s Shuttle there are surprisingly few memorable designs.

Well, those are my random thoughts on the movie two weeks on. Overall I enjoyed it. It felt like an old-school Star Wars movie with real sets. And there was enough unanswered questions to provide a hook for Episode VIII.

And next up is Rogue One…

Doctor Who Hell Bent Review

Ok, this is it, the grand finale. The Doctor has escaped his imprisonment in the confession dial and is back on Gallifrey.

It turns out that Gallifrey has been hiding in the far future near the end of the universe. Rassilon is still in charge but he doesn’t look like Timothy Dalton any more.

The Doctor goes to that barn that we saw in the 50th anniversary story The Day of the Doctor and last year’s episode Listen. He gets some Gallifreyean bods to side with him and ousts Rassilon.

He then tells the Gallireayan bods that Clara knows about the hybrid. They are so keen to learn about the hybrid that they use a little time door thing to extract Clara out of her time stream just at the moment before her death. This is only a temporary situation as they intend to put Clara back again so they time stream doesn’t get messed up because her death is a fixed point in time.

But of course the whole thing is a ploy by the Doctor to save Clara. It’s why he spent 4.5 billion years in the confession dial. At one point she asks why he wanted to save her so badly. “I had a duty of care,” growls Capladi.

The Doctor and Clara escape the Time Lords in a stolen Tardis. The lovely thing is that the interior of the Tardis is an accurate replica of the William Hartnell Tardis interior. And it looks smashing. It was a real pleasure to spend a good chunk of the episode in that old Tardis console room. Apparently it was repurposed from the one in An Adventure in Space and Time.

It occurs to me that this episode is basically Doctor Who does Star Trek III The Search for Spock. In that movie the crew of the Enterprise were willing to go to any lengths to save their friend from death and so does the Doctor here.

Eventually the Doctor realises that his friendship for Clara has caused him to go to extremely unwise lengths and resolves to wipe her memories of himself. But then he decides to make it more fair and programs the little memory wiping device so it has a 50% chance of wiping his own memory instead.

And that’s what happens. He forgets Clara.

The episode is book-ended with scenes in a diner where Clara is posing as a waitress. She’s doesn’t let on she knows the Doctor and he explains to this apparent stranger that he knows he had adventures with a friend called Clara but not what she looked like or sounded like.

At the end of the episode it is revealed that the diner is the other stolen Tardis and Clara and Arya from Game of Thrones head off for their own adventures.

In a strange way nothing much actually happened in this episode. But it’s not a bad episode at all. It’s fun to finally return to Gallifrey after all this time with the added irony with the Doctor stealing yet another Tardis and running away once again.

I was convinced that Clara would be back.

Added bonus: no Missy.

Doctor Who Heaven Sent Review

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Ok, that was an interesting episode.

Spoilers follow

The previous episode ended with the Doctor being teleported away by Me (Arya from Game of Thrones). Now we discover his destination is a mysterious clockwork castle with shifting corridors. A menacing shrouded figure follows the Doctor through the castle and the only way to temporally stop the creature is for the Doctor to “confess” something. So it would appear that whoever built the structure wants information from the Doctor.

The Doctor also discovers a skull hooked up to the teleport machine and written in sand the word “bird”. Later we see the skull fall into the water around the castle and it joins countless other identical skulls.

The Doctor sees the stars in the night sky and realises he is 7000 years from the time period he was teleported from. But he’s convinced that he has not time travelled. How is this possible?

He finds a diamond wall in one room and he decides it’s the way out. He starts punching the wall while reciting part of a Brothers Grimm story about a bird that wore away a diamond mountain with its beak. The shrouded creature catches the Doctor and fatally injures him. The Doctor crawls back to the teleporter and uses his body as the energy to rematerialse his younger self as he first appeared in the castle.

And then we discover that this process has been repeating for 7000 years. Indeed we get a montage of the Doctor repeating the loop into the future for thousands, millions, even billions of years. Each time we see him he’s worn away a little more of the diamond wall until eventually he breaks through. On the other side is Gallifrey.

OK, so, wow.

I have to say I picked up on the loop nature of the story early on when the Doctor changed his wet clothes for dry copies of the exact same clothes in front of a fire. He then leaves his wet clothes to dry in the same position as the ones he found. But it still fun seeing the nature of the loop unfold.

Also the montage at the end reveals that the Doctor had become aware of the loop thanks to the “bird” clue he left himself and he will keep wearing away at that diamond wall for as long as it takes.

At one point the Doctor says “I will never ever stop”. I guess he meant it literally.

It’s worth pointing out that the episode features the Doctor totally alone in that castle. There is no one else to talk to or interact with. Well, there’s the shrouded creature but it never speaks. At some points we join the Doctor in an imagined Tardis console room and we do see Clara with her back turned writing on a blackboard. At one point the imagined Clara does speak to the Doctor. But otherwise it’s Peter Capaldi by himself being mesmerising and amazing.

But from a storytelling point of view what’s going on?

It looks like the Doctor has been trapped in his confession dial, an item that we have seen in previous episodes this series. By its design we can see it is obviously Gallifreyan in origin and now we observe it’s clearly bigger on the inside. It would appear that the dial ends up on Gallifrey when the Doctor escapes. But is it before or after the Time War?

There’s also been some guff this series about a “hybrid”. Apparently it’s supposed to be a Time Lord-Dalek hybrid. But at the end of this episode the Doctor dismisses that. Instead he says the hybrid is actually “me”. But does he mean himself?

Keep in mind the uncomfortable line in the 1996 TV move when the Eighth Doctor (played by Paul McGann) claimed he was half human (on his mother’s side).

Or perhaps the Doctor mean’s the character Me, i.e. Arya from Game of Thrones?

Either way we will find out next week in a Gallifrey-flavoured climax.

And I bet Clara is back.

Doctor Who Face the Raven Review

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Be warned, Big Spoilers follow.

Very quick plot summary. The graffiti artist Rigsy from last year’s Flatline phones up the Tardis to ask for help with this mysterious tattoo he found on his neck which is counting down to zero. The doctor helps him find a secret street in the middle of London where aliens live in disguise. And guess what, Arya from Game of Thrones is in charge of things.

Apparently Rigsy killed some alien woman and the countdown is to his death as a punishment. Along with some contrived memory loss.

It turns out that it’s a trap for the Doctor and Arya was somehow coerced into doing it for someone yet to be revealed. I guess we find out in the next episode and it may or may not be Missy. Yawn.

At one point Clara transfers the tattoo from Rigsy to herself as she’s convinced that Arya won’t let her die.

So basically this is the episode where Clara is toast.

Jenna and Peter were acting their little hearts out over Clara’s impending demise. She made the Doctor promise not to take revenge on the secret alien folk, etc. And then she goes out to die in slow motion. Death by Raven flying into her chest. In slow motion. It took about 23 minutes. Ok, so I exaggerate but it did take ages.

But the point is I didn’t feel any emotion. Because I just was not convinced that she is dead and gone. There are two more episodes left of the season and her departure just felt a bit forced. I’m convinced she will be back in a not-dead capacity.

Now maybe I’m totally wrong. But my point is that while I was watching the episode it’s what I thought. So I felt no emotion. At all.

Otherwise not a bad episode to be sure.

Doctor Who Sleep No More Review

I really don’t have too much to say about this episode.

The story (such as it is) involves the Doctor and Clara arriving on a space station in orbit around Neptune. They encounter some soldiers on a rescue mission who are investigating… something or other.

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The episode was made in that dreadful gimmicky “found footage” format. Which I pretty much despise. And unusually there were no opening credits.

It was initially quite moody. And it looked like it was going to get interesting when Clara somehow “fell” into a sleep pod thing. There was a nifty little hologram of some girls singing that “Mister Sandman” song that I’ve heard in Back to the Future if my memory is correct.

But that’s as interesting as things got.

So. Get this. Users of the sleep pod things will have the “sleepy dust” (that gathers in the eye) eventually turning into a monster.

Yeah. Right. Seriously.

As the episode went on it just became more boring. I was looking at my watch constantly.

Some people love the episode. Some people hate it. I’m very much in the middle as I really don’t feel strongly enough about it to either love it or hate it. I just don’t particularly care about it.

At least I know that last year’s In the Forest of the Night is an episode that I hate.

This one, I just don’t care. It’s a bit of a mess frankly.

Oh well. At least it was not a two-part episode and hopefully next week’s will be more…. Good.

Doctor Who The Zygon Invasion/Inversion (and That Scene)

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this two parter, The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion. But it is worth discussing if only for one scene in particular.

Spoilers below.

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As far as the plot goes this two parter was ok. Basically it worked as a follow-up to a sub plot from the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor where the Doctor(s) helped broker a peace treaty between Earth and some shape-shifting Zygons.

Now two years on there are 20 million Zygons living peacefully on Earth in human disguise. A faction of Zygons don’t want to live under the conditions dictated by the peace treaty and are trying to start a conflict that will drag in all Zygons with the objective of taking over the earth.

Episode 1 had a bit of shape-shifting paranoia. It wasn’t a bad episode at all but there was a lot of faffing around and I felt strangely detached from it. There was a nice reveal at the end where it transpired that Clara had been replaced by the Zygon rebel commander.

But episode 2 on the other hand…

Initially there’s lots of guff featuring the “Osgoods”. Apparently the Osgood character is a “fan favourite”. Whatever.

And then there was some guff about some mysterious “Osgood Box”.

And then we get to the pivotal scene of the episode which was basically Mr Peter Capaldi showing what he can do.

And it was stunning.

INVERSION OF THE ZYGONS (By Peter Harness and Steven Moffat)

In a long ten minute scene that is largely a monologue Capaldi’s Doctor pleads with the Clara Zygon (whom he calls Zygella) and Kate Stewart of UNIT not to start a war. It’s amazing stuff. He’s on fire.

On a table in UNIT’s Black Archive are the Osgood Boxes, two super weapons that Zygella and Kate Stewart are considering activating. At one point Capaldi indicates the weapons and says “this is a scale model of war.” So for me this is forever the “Scale Model of War Speech”.

And it all ties into The Day of the Doctor where during the a Time War the Doctor almost activated The Moment, a Time Lord super weapon that would have wiped out both Gallifrey and the Daleks.

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My words can’t do justice to Mr Capaldi doing The Acting. It has to be seen.

Simply stunning.

It’s probably the most exciting scene in Doctor Who since the show came back.

Additionally the scene is more powerful because the makers don’t bother playing any music over the top. It’s Capaldi’s performance and the words that make it work. Then they loose their courage and they stick a bit of music in towards the end. But it doesn’t need it.

Mention must also be made of Jenna Coleman who plays the Zygon rebel commander Zygella. The scene also depends on her reactions to Capladi’s performance as he pleads for her to think, “a fancy word for changing your mind.”