TV Review: ‘Doctor Who’ S10 EP01 “The Pilot”

Guess Who’s back…

Starring:  Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas

Written by:  Steven Moffat / Episodes directed by: Lawrence Gough / aired in the UK and U.S. :  15/04/2017

What’s it about?

Posing as a university lecturer, the Doctor’s path crosses with a promising new student and a mysterious threat…

Episode review

After an extended break, Doctor Who returns with its first full new series since 2015 (only Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio“ aired during 2016) uniting Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor with new companion Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie.

Doctor Who has always thrived on reinventing and refreshing itself and although this most successfully occurs with a change in lead actor – the Doctor regenerating into a new ‘version’ of himself – “The Pilot” feels, from the outset somewhat like a series with a renewed perspective.  Granted, series 9 of modern Who was generally strong but with the darkness surrounding the loss of Clara and the Doctor’s grappling with his own demons it’s welcome to see the show return to a lighter and purely adventurous tone.

Outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat (who departs along with Peter Capaldi this year) delivers a fairly simple script that’s in measures, fun, exciting, scary and peppers in just the right amount of detail to establish the lore and universe of Doctor Who for new viewers without bogging the episode down in its expansive and – in places – messy history (Moffat doesn’t forget the fans though by including some delightful Easter eggs).  Moffat’s basic ‘water monster’ plot is easy enough to follow – no ‘timey-wimey’ convolutions here – throwing in a number of behind-the-sofa scares amongst smatterings of cheeky humour and intrigue (what could be behind that mysterious vault beneath the university campus?).

Capaldi makes an assured return as the Doctor and once again excels in the role but it’s Pearl Mackie’s introduction that proves the most significant highlight in a wide-eyed and affable performance that keeps proceedings as grounded and believable as possible against the otherworldly alien-ness of the Doctor’s world.  Capaldi and Mackie hit it off right from the start, their dynamic solidified as Bill’s curiosity is rewarded with an invitation into the TARDIS (made all the more memorable by Bill’s longer than usual realisation of its true nature)…and a run-in with the Daleks for good measure!

Less fortunate is returning (from the 2015 and 2016 Christmas specials) companion Nardole, with Matt Lucas given little to do other than…well, just hang around really.  Yet, this episode is more about Bill and no doubt there will be more opportunities to explore Nardole as the series progresses and the relationship of the new TARDIS team develops.

If “The Pilot” is representative of the rest of the series then outgoing showrunner Steven Moffat should exit on a creative high, the closing ‘coming soon’ tease (classic Cybermen! Missy! John Simm! Regeneration!) certain to whet viewers’ appetites for the adventures that lie ahead.

The bottom line:  Doctor Who makes a welcome return with a promising new companion in a highly entertaining reintroduction to the series.

Doctor Who airs in the UK Saturday evenings on BBC One.  US viewers can catch it on BBC America.

Doctor Who S10 prem

Read for new worlds and new adventures: the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) with the newest member of the TARDIS crew, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie).

What did you think of the ‘Doctor Who’ season premiere?  Share your thoughts below!

TV Review: Marvel’s ‘Iron Fist’ S1 EP1 “Snow Gives Way”

The final Defender is unleashed in the latest Marvel Comics-based Netflix Original…

Starring:  Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, Jessica Stroup, Tom Pelphry, David Wenham

Series created by:  Scott Buck (Iron Fist created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane)

Written by:  Scott Buck / Episode directed by:  John Dahl

What’s it about?

Fifteen years after surviving a plane crash in the Himalayas, Danny Rand returns home with new abilities and in search of a purpose…

Episode review

Launched on a wave of largely negative pre-release reviews, the premiere season of Marvel’s Iron Fist arrives on Netflix establishing the final member of the line-up for the Defenders.  Much like Luke Cage, “Snow Gives Way” presents us with a slow yet intriguing start to the series.

As Danny Rand, Finn Jones (Game of Thrones) makes for a likeable lead, a dishevelled, humble drifter with signs of an inner strength and a wise, shrewd perspective beyond his years.  Rand’s backstory is teased via a series of flashbacks where events from his childhood and a tragic plane crash in the Himalayas are revealed.

With the Rand family being declared dead during Danny’s absence, Rand Enterprises has come under the management of siblings Ward and Joy Meachum (Tom Pelphrey and Jessica Stroup, respectively) who are in disbelief that this stranger could be their long-lost friend, Ward in particular only interested in protecting his hold on the company.

With a focus on personal strife and corporate conspiracy, the script by showrunner Scott Buck (Dexter) does tend to evoke shades of Dallas but despite those soap opera-like elements being a little generic it does help to build character and plot.  There’s also room for some comic book Kung-Fu action and whilst lacking the edge and brutality of Daredevil it has a grace and skill to it that goes hand in hand with the character’s philosophy and martial arts mastery.  Another highlight is the introduction of dojo-master Colleen Wing, played by Jessica Henwick, who gets to have some fun interplay with Jones in a couple of key scenes that help to define both characters and hints toward a developing camaraderie.

It’s fair to say that the origin story presented in Iron Fist isn’t the most original, already familiar to viewers through the likes of Batman Begins and Arrow but Finn Jones turns in an enjoyable performance and the mystery surrounding Danny Rand’s absence, eventual return and his path to heroism has potential for, at the very least, entertaining viewing…but hopefully something a bit more.

The bottom line:  Despite a slow start, there are still signs that Iron Fist could develop into another enjoyable Marvel series for Netflix.

All 13 episodes of Iron Fist season 1 are available to stream now via Netflix.  The Defenders is due for release in the summer.

The way of the warrior? Finn Jones is Danny Rand in Marvel’s ‘Iron Fist’.

TV Review: ‘Legion’ S1 EP01 “Chapter 1”

Fox explore the more bizarre corners of the X-Men universe for their first X-based television series…

Starring:  Dan Stevens, Rachel Keller, Aubrey Plaza, David Selby, Hamish Linklater, Katie Aselton, Jean Smart

Series created by:  Noah Hawley

Written and directed by: Noah Hawley / aired in the UK : 09/02/2017

What’s it about?

David Haller has heard voices all his life but soon discovers that there may be more to his ‘condition’ than meets the eye…

Episode review

In partnership with Marvel TV, Legion sees Fox bring their live-action X-Men franchise to the small screen.  Developed by Fargo series creator Noah Hawley, Legion is based upon the Marvel Comics character David Haller, created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz who first appeared in New Mutants #25 (published in 1985).  Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) plays Haller, a mental patient who throughout his life has been plagued by voices that he is starting to believe are real and has drawn the attention of the mysterious Brubaker (David Selby) and his interrogator (Hamish Linklater), who are interested in Haller’s telekinetic abilities and his potential as the most powerful mutant ever discovered.

From the outset it’s obvious that Legion is far less comic-y than its big screen brethren favouring a more restrained, less colourful and more cerebral approach reminiscent of a Netflix or HBO production.  Whilst fans of the X-Men comics universe may find that an initial disappointment, what unfolds in this series premiere is too compelling to ultimately ignore.  Via a series of flashbacks we learn of David’s increasingly tortured mental state from innocent childhood to teenage delinquency and his current plight as a resident of Clockwork Psychiatric Hospital where he is teased by the presence of people who may or may not be real, including his inseparable ‘pal’ Lenny (a suitably sardonic Aubrey Plaza).

Events become all the more unreal as David ‘meets’ Syd (Rachel Keller), a newly admitted patient that he quickly becomes captivated by.  To say much more would spoil things, but it’s this meeting that forms the basis of David’s present situation as he grapples with a loosening grip on ‘reality’.  As Haller, Stevens is magnetic with a melancholic, at times manic, performance that he deftly mixes with prominent shades of agitation, frustration and bewilderment intertwined with smatterings of black humour.  The supporting cast are all perfectly able in their roles but it’s Stevens that carries much of the proceedings as we’re left perplexed by the hallucinatory visualisation of this unusual story.

Written and directed by Hawley, “Chapter 1” is a predominately trippy experience that leaves the viewer in a similar predicament to the show’s central character, primarily in a state of almost maddening confusion, yet manages to leave you intrigued and hanging on for what’s next.  Hawley skilfully depicts the bizarre imaginings of his script, the interesting use of lighting, colour, camera angles, editing and digital effects (not to mention some rather spacey music cues by Jeff Russo) stringing together the non-linear construction of the narrative.  Whether future epsidoes will maintain this approach, to such a degree as it is here – and succeed – remains to be seen but it certainly proves effective for this series opener.

Legion comes off as a creative collision that feels something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Being John Malkovich via Inception but ultimately is a strange brew that forms its own personality.  In fact, part of Legion’s unusual appeal is that its setting is at times vague, it’s apparently present day but some of the costumes and decor resemble a period closer to the sixties – a neat visual homage to the times of the original X-Men comics, maybe?

Despite the show being unconnected to Fox’s X-Men films and somewhat distanced from the Marvel comic books, “Chapter 1” still offers solid hints at the core elements of X-Men mythology as it touches on the themes of prejudice and fear of the unknown that stretches back to the stories created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the early 1960s.  Given David Haller’s connection to a certain wheelchair-bound mutant Professor in the X-Men comics universe it wouldn’t be unwelcome to see more ties into the overall mythology, whether subtle or not.

If there’s any real drawback to Legion it’s that it’s lack of lucidity can be challenging but perhaps that’s part of the plan, to lure us in and become invested in a series that could prove to be unique and addictively entertaining?

The bottom line:  Legion debuts with a complex, chaotic, weird and – in moments – quite funny premiere for a superhero based series that could prove a refreshing addition to an ever popular and increasingly exploited genre.

Legion airs in the UK Thursday evenings on Fox.  U.S. viewers can catch it Wednesdays on FX.

Insane or not? Dan Stevens is Davidd Haller in Fox's 'Legion', based on the Marvel Comics character.

Insane or not? Dan Stevens is David Haller in Fox’s ‘Legion’, based on the Marvel Comics character.

What did you think of the Legion season premiere?  Share your thoughts below!

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Enters Production!

The world’s most popular SF franchise is all set for it’s return to the small screen…

After months of speculation and behind the scenes delays, CBS has announced that production has commenced on Star Trek: Discovery with a painfully brief but non-the-less tantalising video giving short glimpses of some of the series’ production design (including the currently vacant Captain’s chair):

Video linked from YouTube via the JoBlo TV Show Trailers channel.

The sixth live-action Star Trek television series, Discovery was originally set to debut this May but with the departure of showrunner Bryan Fuller and casting announcements to be completed, CBS has wisely postponed the launch date indefinitely until all the pieces are fully in place and to ensure the series can ultimately live up to both its potential and the anticipation of millions of devoted fans the world over.

At this point little is known about the overall concept of Star Trek: Discovery bar that it will take place in the ‘Prime’ Star Trek universe (and therefore not connected to the current big screen alt-universe established by J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) around ten years prior to the original Star Trek television series and will focus on the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery, principally the as-yet-unnamed Lieutenant-Commander to be played by The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green .  Joining Martin-Green are Doug Jones (Hellboy, Falling Skies) as Science Office Lieutenant Saru – a member of an alien race that will be new to the franchise – along with Anthony Rapp as Lt. Stamets, the first openly gay regular character for a Star Trek series and Gotham’s James Frain as Sarek, the very same Vulcan ambassador and father of Spock played in the original Star Trek series and films by Mark Lenard.  Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) will also feature as Captain Georgiou who will command another Starfleet vessel, the Shenzhou together with three Klingon characters to be played by Mary Chieffo, Shazad Latif and Chris Obi.

Despite his departure from the series, Bryan Fuller (who has history with the franchise, having launched his career on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine before serving as a writer/producer on Star Trek: Voyager) had already mapped out the serialised storyline of the show’s first thirteen-episode season as well as having written the opening two-parter and will retain a credit as executive producer.  Showrunner duties will now be handled by Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts with Eugene Roddenberry (son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) on board as an executive producer and Nicholas Meyer, director of feature films Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (also serving as co-writer on the latter as well as on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) in place as a writer and consulting producer.

Co-created with Alex Kurtzman, co-producer/co-writer of the J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek: Discovery will launch in the U.S. later this year via streaming service CBS All Access (with the premiere episode airing on network television) and will be available worldwide via Netflix.

CBS prepare to launch 'Star Trek: Discovery', the first 'Star Trek' television series since the end of 'Star Trek: Enterprise' in 2005.

CBS prepare to launch ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, the first ‘Star Trek’ television series since the end of ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ in 2005.

Are you excited about Star Trek’s return to television?  Share your thoughts below!

DVD Review: ‘Doctor Who’ – “The Power of the Daleks”

Starring:  Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Bernard Archard, Robert James

Written by: David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner / directed by: Christopher Barry

What’s it about?

Whilst Ben and Polly try to come to terms with the sudden change in the Doctor’s form, their arrival at a human colony on the planet Vulcan leads to a terrifying discovery that brings the Doctor face to face with an old enemy…

In review

As fans are all too aware, the BBC – with a painful lack of foresight – wiped their original master tapes of almost 100 episodes of classic Doctor Who.  Over the years fan recordings of video and audio have allowed these lost stories to be restored and live on either as audio books (with linking narrations) or remastered home video releases of various serials, some of which have been completed using animated versions of missing episodes.

Arriving in time for the 50th anniversary of its original (and only) television broadcast, The Power of the Daleks is brought to life thanks to a combination of the remastered audio track with animation and for die-hard fans of classic Who it’s quite a treat.  The story is iconic for various reasons, most significantly that it introduces the Second Doctor and that it pits him against his greatest foe – the Daleks.  Troughton’s performance as the ‘renewed’ (the term regeneration would not be established until Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Third Doctor) version of the Doctor is sublime as he effortlessly switches between mumbling eccentricity, sparks of intellectualism and sporadic instances of the downright barmy – all to the befuddlement and even frustration of companions Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills).  There’s a real sense of growth in characterisation across the serial’s six episodes, with Troughton establishing a satisfying rhythm as the Doctor settles into his new form and likewise, Ben and Polly start to become familiar with and trusting of their new – yet old – friend.

Beyond characterisation, writers David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner craft an atmospheric and, in later instalments, reasonably tense tale as the Daleks utilise deceit, masquerading as ‘servants’ to exploit the scientists and bureaucrats of Vulcan to their own devious ends.  This is certainly one of the great Dalek stories and a strong Doctor Who adventure overall.

In terms of the animation itself, it’s fairly limited (and if you own DVDs of The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase or The Invasion then you’ll know what to expect) yet this often works in the favour of The Power of the Daleks providing it with a level of old school charm that evokes the period from which it originates and the blending of CGI with traditional hand drawn cell animation gives the Daleks themselves a slick range of motion that actually eliminates some of the clunkiness that the manually operated live action studio models would tend to produce.

Fans of modern Doctor Who will find The Power of the Daleks to be a strange and markedly different experience and it’s drawn out pace and moments of inaction will likely be testing.  Admittedly, like a lot of classic Who serials the story could have been tightened to four episodes but it’s an ultimately gripping and enjoyable journey thanks to some great acting from Troughton and the building of tension and excitement as the Daleks’ latest plan for conquest gradually unfolds.

On the DVD:  Various special features are included, comprising episode commentaries, a making of documentary, animation and photo gallery, PDF extras, surviving footage reel, telesnap reconstruction and more.

The bottom line:  One of the most iconic classic Doctor Who stories is lovingly restored thanks to a wonderfully kitsch presentation combining audio with animation.  Although modern viewers will struggle with its slow pace, every fan should check out The Power of the Daleks.

The Power of the Daleks is available on DVD in the UK now.  The serial is also being broadcast by BBC Worldwide.

"The Power of the Daleks" : a lost classic 'Doctor Who' story now restored by the BBC via a combiation of animation and original audio.

“The Power of the Daleks” : a lost classic ‘Doctor Who’ story now restored by the BBC via a combiation of animation and original audio.

Quick Thoughts: DC TV Season Premieres

With the current seasons of the CW’s DC Comics based television shows already underway in the States, this week saw the return of Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow to UK screens.  Presented here is a quick look at the season premiere of each series…

 Supergirl

Season 2 Premiere:  “The Adventures of Supergirl”

Starring:  Melissa Benoist, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh, David Harewood, Calista Flockhart, Jeremy Jordan, Tyler Hoechlin

Episode Directed by:  Glen Winter / Written by:  Andrew Kreisberg & Jessica Queller

With the future of the series secured by the transition from CBS to the CW, Supergirl makes an assured return with some small changes (including a new base of operations for the DEO) and one ‘Super’ addition (more on that in a moment).  It’s more or less business as usual with Melissa Benoist the ever likeable lead in an episode that’s fun and action packed (aided by some impressive visual effects) with plenty of fan pleasing references to comic book mythology.  There’s still an element of emotional angst (mainly via Kara and James Olsen’s friendship/relationship dilemma) that’ll irk some viewers, but will certainly appeal to the young adult demographic.

Of course, it’s the introduction of Tyler Hoechlin as Clark Kent/Superman that’s been most anticipated and proves to be the biggest highlight.  Much like the series itself it’s an optimistic and nostalgic take on the character that melds Hoechlin’s enjoyable performance with dashes of Christopher Reeve – with a plethora of callbacks to Richard Donner’s Superman throughout to hammer home that point.  It’s great that the producers have finally been allowed to fully include the Man of Steel, thus addressing the awkward elephant in the room that plagued last season and the solid chemistry between Benoist and Hoechlin makes their scenes together all the more pleasing, whether in their Kryptonian guises or not.  Hopefully there’ll be plenty more opportunities for Hoechlin to return throughout the series.

 The Flash

Season 3 Premiere:  “Flashpoint”

Starring:  Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Danielle Panabaker, Carlos Valdes, Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale

Episode directed by:  Jesse Warn / Written by:  Andrew Kreisberg & Brooke Roberts

Inspired by the comic book storyline of the same name, “Flashpoint” opens with Barry living a happy, Flash-less life after the darkness and turmoil he experienced in season 2…achieved by him travelling back in time to prevent his mother’s murder at the hands of the Reverse-Flash.

Time travel and alternate timelines is not something new to The Flash but in this one the super heroics are left to ‘Kid’ Flash Wally West (allowing Keiynan Lonsdale to step-up) whilst Barry treasures his new life in a world where both his parents are alive.  Grant Gustin gets to play the brighter and breezier version of his character here and the new timeline also gives us some welcome twists on other main characters – most notably Cisco as an egotistical billionaire and Joe West a washed-up shadow of the heroic Detective and father figure we’re familiar with.

Matt Letscher makes a creepy reprisal as the Reverse-Flash but unfortunately the central villain in “Flashpoint” is another, rather generic and uninspired riff on the ‘evil speedster’ in the form of ‘The Rival’ (Todd Lasance) who at least serves a purpose in bringing Barry back into action and facilitating a team up with Wally’s Flash.  What’s sorely missing is the excellent Tom Cavanaugh and seen as he’s been rightfully bumped up to series regular it’ll be interesting to see what’s in store for one of the shows’ greatest assets.

Events taking a dramatic turn, we learn – not unpredictably – that meddling with the timeline has consequences and with Barry’s memories of his previous reality gradually dissipating, this sets the stage for things to come.  Despite this all being done before in The Flash there’s plenty of potential in loosely adapting the Flashpoint storyline and doing so could provide some nifty tweaks to keep the series fresh and enjoyable.

Arrow

Season 5 Premiere:  “Legacy”

Starring:  Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Emily Bett Rickards, Echo Kellum, Paul Blackthorne

Episode directed by:  James Bamford / Written by:  Marc Guggenheim & Wendy Mericle

After focusing on metahuman antics and dark mysticism last season, with Damien Darhk defeated and Oliver in place as Mayor of Star City Arrow steps back towards the hardened vigilantism of its earlier days.  Those meta aspects broadened the overall scope of the CW’s DC universe but Arrow is arguably its better self when dealing with bone crunching and corruption and there’s plenty of that in this season premiere.

Stephen Amell slips confidently back into the role of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and although his mission as the Emerald Archer has reverted to more brutal times, the death of Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and the disbanding of Team Arrow leaves a large shadow and the way “Legacy” addresses this is laudable, via moral debates between Oliver, Thea, Felicity and a grieving Quentin Lance, redeemed by Oliver’s intentions to use official powers to root out police corruption and assemble a special anti-crime unit.

After a number of guest appearances last season, it’s good to see Echo Kellum become part of the regular cast, although it remains to be seen whether the interplay between Felicity and Curtis will be as fun as it was last year or just become plain annoying.

The martial arts action is as slick and exciting as ever (but paling in comparison to the visceral thrills offered by Marvel’s Daredevil) and “Legacy” features some crazy sequences, one of which involves Oliver dangling from a fleeing helicopter.  We’re left with the emerging threat of another Dark Archer-esque villain who will hopefully turn out to be more compelling than The Rival over in The Flash and stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ra’s Al Ghul and Damien Darhk.

Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow air in the UK Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings (respectively) on Sky 1.  US viewers can catch them on the CW.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow returns to UK screens on Thursday 3rd November, Sky 1.

What did you think of the season premieres of Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow?

Share your thoughts below!

With added 'Supergirl', the CW's DC shows return to UK TV screens...

With added ‘Supergirl’, the CW’s DC shows return to UK TV screens…

TV Review: ‘Westworld’ S1 EP1 “The Original”

Starring:  Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton

Series created by:  Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy

Written by:  Jonathan Nolan / Episode directed by:  Jonathan Nolan

What’s it about?

The futuristic theme park ‘Westworld’, populated by artificial beings called ‘hosts’, allows its visitors to live out their greatest fantasies against the backdrop of the Old West.  When an update to the hosts’ programming triggers strange and unruly behaviour, the park’s creators find their efforts to improve realism may have produced dangerous results…

Episode review

Based on the cult classic 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton (mastermind author of noted SF works Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain), HBO’s television adaptation of Westworld has been developed for the smaller screen by Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest) and Lisa Joy (Burn Notice) together with co-producer J.J. Abrams.

The concept of Artificial Intelligence and how it relates to human nature is something that has been explored endlessly in science fiction and in various forms of media.  HBO’s Westworld necessarily expands on what could only be touched upon in Crichton’s 88-minute film and like Ronald D. Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica, what’s presented here is much more complex and cerebral.  On a particular level it’s unnerving as the robot (or more precisely, android) ‘attractions’ of the Westworld theme park – known as ‘hosts’ – are becoming more realistic and virtually indistinguishable from genuine human beings as their creators strive for that perfection of realism and efficiency – something that is firmly entrenched in the zeitgeist of the technologically driven age we live in.

Written and directed by Nolan, “The Original” assembles a strong cast which includes Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and most impressively Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris.  Much of the episode’s focus centres on Wood’s Dolores and it’s via her ‘character’ and newcomer Teddy (Marsden) that we learn of the Groundhog Day like existence of Westworld’s A.I. lifeforms as they are programmed to reset and repeat the same patterns day after day, with little variation, to service the stories implemented by the park’s engineers.  It seems here that Wood is being positioned as the series’ main protagonist and the True Blood actress proves effective in being naturally emotive, switching her performance as she becomes subtly more machine like when events lead to questions of the hosts’ existence and ultimate purpose.

Yet it’s the critically lauded and awards worthy Hopkins and Harris that provide the biggest draw.  As Westworld’s founder, Dr. Robert Ford, Hopkins conveys the intellectual qualities and complexities of the character with absolute aplomb as we meet a man at the leading edge of technology, constantly pushing the boundaries of perfection to deliver a more efficient and more capable ‘product’.  Ed Harris (sharing some truly chilling scenes with Wood and Marsden) is equally compelling as the mysterious ‘Man in Black’, providing a presence that’s as foreboding as it is unsettling.

The visual scope of Westworld is astounding, the grand, sweeping outback landscapes beautifully captured and arguably rivals the cinematography of some of cinema’s most beloved Westerns.  As a director, it’s to Nolan’s credit that he is skilful in presenting the more intimate character moments, especially in the cold, sterile lab settings where the hosts are examined and ‘questioned’ about their abnormal behaviour.  It’s here that Nolan utilises, to great effect, numerous close-ups that capture every nuance of the actors’ facial expressions.

Nolan’s script is packed with quality dialogue that delivers intrigue, character drama and thought provoking, existential SF ideas which combined with those sumptuous visuals and a stellar cast demonstrates strong potential for the series ahead.  HBO have been looking for their next big hit to follow Game of Thrones and Westworld could certainly be it.

You can read the GBUK review of Michael Crichton’s Westworld here.

The bottom line:  Westworld opens promisingly as a superb cast helps introduce a world filled with thought provoking ideas and great dramatic potential.

Westworld airs in the UK Tuesday at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.  U.S. viewers can catch it 9pm Sunday on HBO.

HBO's 'Westworld' looks set to add new layers to the well-worn subject of artificial intelligence.

HBO’s ‘Westworld’ looks set to add new layers to the well-worn subject of artificial intelligence.