Category Archives: tv reviews

Doctor Who: Dark Water

darkwater2In many ways, I feel like whoever edited the preview seen at the end of “In the Forest of the Night” did a huge disservice to the two-part season finale by including footage from both episodes in the preview.   I get that it’s hard for the BBC to not publicize the return of an old monster like the Daleks or (in this case) the Cybermen, but I felt like a lot of the tension that “Dark Water” was trying to achieve was undermined by the preview and SPOILER photos that had leaked through various tabloids before the season began.

But I still felt like “Dark Water” kept a lot of its cards close to the vest and still had a few surprises along the way.

The most enjoyable was how much it felt like an homage to the Patrick Troughton era Cybermen stories.   In most second Doctor Cybermen stories, the Cybermen are a threat for the first half of the story, but really don’t emerge in force and en mass until the mid-point cliffhanger.   And that’s what happened here, even if the Doctor doesn’t necessarily realize that the Cybermen are behind the Nethersphere and using it as a way to harvest new humans to convert into Cybermen.   The feel of the tanks, running side by side and stacked up several deep, brought to mind visions of “The Tomb of the Cybermen” while the Cybermen emerging into modern day London and among iconic landmarks felt like it was a page right out of “The Invasion.”  At one point, I fully expected to see a sewer cap thrown aside and a Cybermen emerge.    Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Mummy on the Orient Express, Flatline

Since I’m behind on my Doctor Who reviewing, I’m offering commentary on “Mummy on the Orient Express” and “Flatline” in one post.  It’s two posts for the price of one!

Mummy on the Orient Express

mummy_orientIn the 80’s, the production team wanted to introduce audiences to a more alien, less likeable Doctor who would slowly mellow over time and become more and more liked by the audience.  The result was the sixth Doctor and the plan didn’t exactly go, well, as planned.  Colin Baker’s era was one of the most polarizing in the classic series run and led to the show becoming the target of a great deal in internal criticism at the BBC and the show going on hiatus for eighteen months.

With the Peter Capaldi era, I feel like that in addition to destructing the character of the Doctor, Steven Moffat has taken on that task of giving us a more alien, less likeable Doctor and is showing us how it could have and should have been done.   With “Mummy” we look into the question of just how the Doctor goes about solving the problem or defeating the alien threat facing him in each story.   Do the ends justify the means?

In this case, it’s a high body count (nothing new, just watch any story by Robert Holmes) that piles up before the Doctor can come up with a way to stop the Mummy from killing everyone on the train.    Does the Doctor have the right to ask each of these various people to sacrifice themselves in the interest of obtaining data on how to defeat the Mummy and Gus, who has lured the Doctor into this particular trap (interestingly, the Doctor has turned down multiple invitations to come on board and solve this until Clara threatens to leave him.  More on this later).   The Doctor realizes there is a way to stop the Mummy, but it takes data (in this case the death of innocent people) to give him the pieces he needs to solve the puzzle.

Of the stories we’ve seen this year, this one feels like it comes closest to the classic Who model of the “base under siege” story.  In fact, I’d say it felt a great deal like the Tom Baker era story “The Robots of Death” with people trapped in an isolated, locked-room location and a force coming to kill everyone on board.    Having the Doctor chose to take Clara into what can be summed up as “the most typical of classic Who models” for what she wants to be her last hurrah in the TARDIS is interesting.   The Doctor doesn’t give her a tour of the marvels of the universe and all the beauty within it, but instead a classic battle against the forces of evil that he faces.   And in doing so, he gives her a bit of insight into who he is now and just how alien he truly he is.  He also feeds her addiction to traveling with him — the excitement of the discovery and just how these various monsters are defeated. Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

killthemoonThere must be something about the Doctor using a Scottish accent that makes him go dark, alien and manipulative.

As I’ve said all season, it feels like Stephen Moffat is deconstructing the character of the Doctor to answer the question, “Am I a good man.”   I have a feeling after the events of “Into the Moon” that Clara’s answer would be slightly different than the one she gave a few weeks ago.   She’s probably gone from uncertain to convinced that this new Doctor isn’t really a good man after all, but instead a dark, manipulative character.

It’s interesting to imagine how this story might have played out with other modern Doctors.  It’s easy to see the David Tennant or Matt Smith Doctor figuring out a way to save the alien creature that is hatching from the moon.  In fact, I felt like there were call backs to Matt Smith’s second episode and the space whale with the Doctor’s speech about finding a new name after he’s forced to kill the space whale because that isn’t what the Doctor is or does.    Contrast that with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor who is initially enthusiastic about the discovery but then takes a hands-off approach on the decision on whether or not the young alien hatchling will live or die.  It even gets to the point that the Doctor abandons Clara and Courtney, leaving them to make a momentous decision without his advice or wisdom.

In some ways, “Kill the Moon” felt a bit like Torchwood’s “Children of Earth” in that we are presented with a situation to which there is no right solution — just varying degrees of wrong.  Seeing the Earth people be of one mind to kill the creature rather than risk the possible destruction of Earth was a chilling one.   Coupled with Clara’s conflict over what should be done (I almost wish there had been one single light left on to give us some hope) and her impulsive decision to save the creature, there were moments in the final few minutes that almost felt suffocating.

And yet, unlike “Children of Earth,” the Doctor arrives in the end to say that everything worked out as it should.   Humanity has its moment to look upward and be awed by the universe again.  This story sets into motion the future Earth empire that we’ve seen in other stories with humanity spreading out to the stars.

Of course, it does bring up the question of what did the Doctor know and when did he know it.  Citing a grey area and certain points in history that can’t be altered ,the Doctor refuses to give Clara the assurance that everything will work out, regardless of what her decision is.   It brings up the interesting question of whether or not he’s testing Clara, knowing full well how everything works out.  Or if he’d have come in to save the creature had Clara chosen not to abort the countdown.

It leads to a final scene in the TARDIS that echoes Ace’s anger at the Doctor in “The Curse of Fenric.”  In both cases, the Doctor is keeping details from his companions and allowing them to make decisions, observing them and possibly testing them.  And in both cases, the companions figure this out and blow up at the Doctor, demanding answers.  And while Ace demands answers mid-story, Clara’s wrath comes in the form of rejecting the Doctor and telling him not to come back.    Whether or not she’s truly done with the Doctor remains to be seen.  Danny believes she isn’t because he can still make her angry.    And I have a feeling that the Doctor may try to win Clara back — or at least have her parting with him be under better circumstances.

It should be an interesting ride to the end of the season.

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Doctor Who Target Audiobook Reviews: “The Leisure Hive” and three quarters of “The Trial of a Time Lord.”

Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive (Target Doctor Who Library)Doctor Who and the Leisure Hive by David Fisher

Revisiting some of the original Doctor Who Target novels in audio form has been an interesting experiment, especially going back to those that I have strong memories of or recall enjoying a great deal the first time around.

One that elicits good memories and feelings of enjoyment is David Fisher’s adaptation of his script for “The Leisure Hive.” My recollections of the novel were that it did a nice job of world-building and character development, all while keeping the basic story from the television screen in tact, even if it wasn’t necessarily a beat for beat adaptation.

In fact, I’d say that Fisher spends the bulk of his time adapting what is (on-screen anyway) the first installment of the story that the rest of his novel ends up feeling a bit too rushed to get to the finish line. I’d love to know what Fisher might have done without the publisher imposed page-count on the Target novels of this era.

Alas, it appears that Fisher isn’t going to re-work his initial novelization or expand it any for the audio release, which I think is a bit of a shame.

All of that said, this one holds up remarkably well. Again, a lot of it comes down to Fisher’s world-building and filling it details that are merely hinted at in the television version. Fisher also brings a bit of a Douglas Adams sensibility to certain passages of the novel, which works fairly well, for the most part.

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TV Thoughts: The Animated Crossover

2013-07-19-family_guy_simpsons-e1374238709146The long-anticipated animated crossover of Family Guy and The Simpsons finally happened last night and coming away from the hour-long extravaganza, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the whole thing.

Part of that could that it wasn’t necessarily a true hybrid of both animated series so much as it was an episode of Family Guy that featured characters from The Simpsons as guest stars.   Apparently the writers for The Simpsons gave their blessing to the Family Guy creative team to write the episode, but didn’t necessarily have much more input into the final product.

I have a feeling whether or not you enjoyed the episode depends a lot on how you feel about Family Guy and the Seth MacFarlane animated empire.  I’ll admit I lost interest in Family Guy right after it was resurrected from cancellation and haven’t dropped back in much since (the Star Wars parody episodes being the exception and even those didn’t really click for me).   I felt like the ratio of hits to misses in the joke department was growing too far into the misses side and that even jokes that hit their target tended to overstay their welcome.

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Doctor Who: The Caretaker

caretakerWhen I saw the preview for “The Caretaker,” my first thought was, “That looks an awful lot like ‘School Reunion.  Watching the episode, that feeling didn’t necessarily go away.  And that may be part of the point.

Each episode this season has seemed echoed a previous installment from the first seven or so seasons of modern Doctor Who.  It’s almost as if Steven Moffat want to show us what the new Doctor is like (and attempt to answer the question of whether or not he’s a good man) by putting the character into situations similar to those we’ve previously seen.  Yes, this time around he’s masquerading as the caretaker of a school instead of a teacher, but the premise of battling an alien menace in the familiar surroundings of a school is similar enough.

But where “School Reunion” was about the conflict between the current companion and the previous companion, this story centered on the tug of war taking place in Clara’s life as she tries to keep the two men in her life unaware of each’s other presence.   The interesting thing is that no matter how hard Clara tries to lead this double life (eating two dinners,  arriving in the cab soaking wet with seaweed in her hair), she isn’t necessarily hiding anything from either party involved.   In both cases, she’s making Danny and the Doctor more suspicious about what’s going on and that much more eager to solve the mystery.  Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Time Heist

timeheistWith “Listen,” I theorized that series eight was deconstructing the character of the Doctor and there’s nothing in “Time Heist” that makes me doubt that theory.   But watching the episode and how things unfolded, I couldn’t help but ponder that the episodes this season are about more than just deconstructing the Doctor as the hero of the show, but attempting to answer the question he posed to Clara in “Into the Dalek” (and we saw in the promotional material leading up to the season), “Am I a good man?”

With “Time Heist,” the question seems to be “Does the end justify the means?”

The Doctor and Clara are forced to help two others rob a seemingly impregnable bank.  Because the bank employs a life-form known as the Teller that can sense guilt and then consume the mind of the guilty party, their memories are wiped of their motivation and knowledge of the mastermind behind this plot.

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