Category Archives: tv reviews

Doctor Who: Deep Breath

doctor_who_deep_breath“Clara, I’m not your boyfriend.”

Looking back on the year leading up to the fiftieth anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if Steven Moffat and BBC America were doing something even more subversive with the Doctor’s Revisited than just introducing new series fans to the classic Doctors.  Could it have been that Moffat knew that he was going to take the series back to its classic roots with the next Doctor and was getting fans ready for it by showing us four-part classic Doctor Who stories that had a moment or two to breath and were paced a bit more leisurely than much of what we’ve seen for the past ten years?

It certainly seems like it could be the case based on “Deep Breath.”

If this is how the rest of series eight is going to be, consider me fully on board for this one.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctor who, tv reviews

A New Era Begins

01466118

Fifteen years ago, if you’d told me that not only would Doctor Who return to our screens but that it would become a world-wide pop culture phenomenon, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I’d never have believed the series would get not one but TWO cover stories from Entertainment Weekly or that the arrival of a new Doctor would get coverage from USA Today, The New York Times and other media outlets.   Or if you’d told me that you could find a wide assortment of merchandise (a TARDIS spatula?!?) related to the show, I’d probably have thought you were crazy.  And don’t get me started on my complete skepticism that there would be anything to celebrate fifty years of the show but a couple of repackaged classic serials on DVD.

You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t channel my inner third Doctor and bit and become a bit grumpy and cantankerous with new fans who have bemoaned that we’ve “waited so long” for new episodes this time or that they’re only doing twelve installments series instead of 13.

I want to shake them and go — we got to see the fiftieth anniversary in theaters!  After it got a world-wide virtually simultaneous broadcast on the anniversary date!    Monday night, if you want to you can see the feature-length season premiere in theaters, surrounded by fellow fans who may have different preferences from you, but who all enjoy Doctor Who.  Don’t even get me started on the whole announcement of the new Doctor special last year that generated huge audiences and was also simulcast worldwide! 

And while I may disdain the segment of fandom who have decided there is only Doctor and he is David Tennant (mirroring the segment of classic series fandom who only sees merit in the Tom Baker era), I still have to take a step back and take the time to enjoy the moment.   I will admit I’m looking forward to this new era with Peter Capaldi in the title role and seeing what he brings to things.  I’m hoping for an older, crankier Doctor maybe along the lines of Jon Pertwee, William Hartnell and (at times) Tom Baker (watch his first couple of seasons and you see a bit of a crankiness to the fourth Doctor).  

All I can say is — if you’re new to the party, welcome on board.  Please at least consider giving the classic series a chance.  Yes, it’s a bit different from the modern show, but I hope you might see some of what made many of us fall in love with the show.  

This evening, the new era begins.    I’m intrigued, excited and a bit nervous to see how the new Doctor will be.

Pretty much the same way I felt years ago when my PBS station aired the feature-format version of “Time and the Rani” for the first time…..

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctor who

Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation — The Light Fantastic by Jeffrey Lang

The Light Fantastic (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Lately I’ve found myself wishing the Pocket Books Star Trek tie-in novels could get a reboot.

I remember the days when you could pick up a Star Trek novel and enjoy a couple of hundred pages with familiar faces and friends from the franchise. There might be a continuity reference to an obscure-to-you episode thrown in or a wink to a previous novel, but it didn’t hinder you from enjoying the story or feeling like you were being left out.

But somewhere along the way, the Star Trek novels have become more insular and dependent on an internal continuity that seems to be growing more complex with each passing novel. With three of the four modern Treks sharing the same publishing universe, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to pick up and fully enjoy a novel set in them. And it’s a shame because I really enjoy a good Star Trek novel.

The Light Fantastic had the chance to be a really good Star Trek novel. Following up on the success of Mortal Coil, Jeffrey Lang focuses once again on Data and his family. Apparently, Data is back from the dead (because no Trek character killed on-screen can stay dead for long on the printed page) and living on Orion with his daughter Lal and her mysterious “babysitter” Alice. When Lal is kidnapped by Moriarty (seen in two TNG episodes), Data is forced to come out of hiding to try and find his daughter. Seems that Moriarty has figured out that he and his wife are trapped inside a computer bank and not really out among the stars as he thought and he wants to be free with a real body outside the holodeck or computer core.

Lang ties-in a ton of Trek continuity from various television shows, movies and (I assume) books in his story. How Moriarty determines he’s in a computer core and how delicate that life can be is a nice tie-in to events in Star Trek: Generations. And the tie-in of building an android body to a couple of classic Trek installments is also nicely done.

But where the novel falls down is its over-reliance on previous novels in the franchise that I haven’t had the time or inclination to read. I’m going to assume that Data’s return to life is a central plot point of the last trilogy that I didn’t read. And while I could read and enjoy (most of) The Light Fantastic without knowing every single little detail, I still felt like I was missing something by not having spent 900 or so pages with the past trilogy (which was built on the last trilogy which built on a couple of other novels….well, you get the point). It all adds up to a frustrating experience from a book that I was, quite frankly, looking forward to.

Leave a comment

Filed under review, Star Trek

Review: Star Trek: No Time Like the Past by Greg Cox

No Time Like the Past (Star Trek: The Original Series)

While he’s not quite in the same pantheon as Peter David, Greg Cox still offers up more this fair share of intriguing, well-told Star Trek tie-in novels. So when I saw the cover of No Time Like the Past promised an “epic crossover event,” I was willing to give this blending of classic Trek and Voyager a chance.

And for the most part, it was a fairly fun read, even if I felt like the book overstayed its welcome by about fifty or so pages.

Thanks to some relic in the Delta Quadrant, Seven of Nine is sent back to the era of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. In order to get back and to prevent damage to the future time-line, Seven enlists the help of Kirk and company to reassemble a time-travel device and return home. Pieces of said artifact are scattered across the galaxy, all on planets that Kirk and company visited during the original seventy-nine episodes. Add in that the Klingons are aware of Seven’s presence and potential value and a commodore is up the usual classic Trek standards of cluelessness and you’ve got all the ingredients for a fun, diverting visit to the Star Trek universe.

As he’s demonstrated in the past, Cox has a firm grasp on history — Star Trek and otherwise. That is fully on display here and I’ll admit the classic Trek fan in me ate up the references and returns to some familiar locations.*

* It was almost enough to make me want to re-visit the three major episodes referenced in the story.

But the novelty and fun begin to wear out long before the novel reaches its final pages. By the mid-point of the novel, I found myself growing a bit weary of the constant reminders that everyone wants Seven for her future knowledge and potential to get a leg-up on the balance of power in the quadrant. And the book has to go to some huge lengths to have Seven regenerate since she’s cut off from her Borg cubicle.

It’s not to say the novel isn’t a fun one. It’s just that it feels a bit longer than it needs to be. There’s a bit too much treading water in the middle section and that drags the story down a bit.

Leave a comment

Filed under review, Star Trek

Big Finish Reviews: The Crooked Man, The Evil One, The Last of the Colophon

Doctor Who: The Crooked Man (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.03)The Crooked Man

Given that The Crooked Man is from the pen of John Dorney, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. And that’s despite having an reveal in the last five or so minutes that I guessed long before the Doctor and company deduced it (or at least that they confirmed it in the course of the story).

The Doctor and Leela arrive in a sea-side town for a holiday but discover that a macabre series of murders is taking place. Investigating further, they soon discover there’s a link between these murders and a local family — the sinister and creepy Crooked Man of the title.

The idea of world of fiction having the ability to crossover into reality is nothing new for Doctor Who (see the Troughton era serial “The Mind Robber”) so it’s a huge credit to Dorney’s script that it manages to feel interesting when done here. And while there’s a twist in the last five or so minutes of the script that’s telegraphed fairly early on by the story, it’s still one that is entirely earned by the story. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctor who, non-book

Big Finish Thoughts: White Ghosts, The Elite & Hexagora

Doctor Who: White Ghosts (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.02)

White Ghosts  by Alan Barnes 

After the promising ending to “The Kings of Sontar” I’ll admit I had high expectations for the next fourth Doctor adventure.

And I’ll admit upon first blush, I was a bit disappointed by how easily it seemed certain developments from “Sontar” were swept aside. But pondering it further and taking the opportunity to listen to the story again, I feel like my first feelings of disappointment were misplaced and that maybe, must maybe I’d missed what this series of audio stories are trying to do in terms of the fourth Doctor and Leela. And if the stories can pay this off (and if that pay off can come without the Daleks being involved), I could see myself being a lot more pleased than I was after my initial assessment.

Avoiding a close run-in with a missile, the TARDIS materializes on board a planet that is kept in perpetual darkness. A scientific research team is there, studying a newly created species of plant life. But there’s a reason the team is doing so on a planet where there is little or no light — a secret that quickly comes to light (pun not intended, but it works). Before you know it, the story unfolds as a fast-paced, two-part base-under-siege story as the Doctor struggles to understand the implications of what’s going on and Leela fights to defend herself and the rapidly dwindling supporting cast from becoming what plant vampires.

Barnes’ story works well enough on the surface. Like another story I recently listened to, the ending comes a bit out of left field and feels a bit too rushed and like Barnes is trying to wrap things up too quickly or within the time constraints placed upon him. It’s a shame because had the story been given another five minutes to breath, it might have worked a lot better.

And there are some interesting implications to the philosophical disagreement that came up between the Doctor and Leela in the last story and the role the Time Lords play in sending the Doctor on this mission. If this season of stories is about exploring Leela’s reaction to how the Time Lords use the Doctor to do their dirty work, this could be a very interesting turn of events.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Doctor who, review

Review: Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel by Jonathan Morris

Doctor Who: Touched by an Angel

Following in the footsteps of the fiftieth anniversary re-release of original, printed Doctor Who adventures comes the Monsters Editions. Each of these reprinted stories features one of the Doctor’s classic adversaries from the printed page.

Representing the Weeping Angels is Jonathan Morris’ “Touched by an Angel.”

And just like the episode “Blink” that introduced the angels to Doctor Who lore, this novel is one that I’d consider a Doctor-light story. The eleventh Doctor, Amy and Rory are present throughout much of the story, but the real star of this books is Mark Whitacker.

Mark is attacked by the Weeping Angels but sent back in time only a few years instead of across an entire lifetime. The Angels have identified Mark as having the potential to create a huge time paradox upon which they can feed and recharge. Mark is still hurting from the death of his wife a few years earlier and sees his being zapped back in time as an opportunity to save her from what he sees as her untimely death. Mark even went so far as to write himself a note detailing certain events and while he never crosses paths directly with himself, he does push his younger self along at certain points in his life (one instance involves a lost wallet in Rome).

The Doctor is forced to allow Mark to do this since what he’s done is already history and to go against it would create the paradox the Angels so desperately want to feed on. But Mark is hiding his ultimate agenda from the Doctor and his companions, who follow his exploits through time in the TARDIS, dropping in at pivotal occasions to hold Mark to his word and to keep history on course.

In some ways, “Touched by An Angel” feels like a Doctor Who take on The Time Traveller’s Wife. Morris makes Mark and Rebecca work well on the page and allows us to see inside Mark’s reasoning and desire to save Rebecca’s life, even if we agree with the Doctor that it can’t and shouldn’t be done. The creepiness of the Angels that worked so well in “Blink” is captured here on the printed page. In many ways, this feels like it could easily be adapted into a story for the new series, assuming they had the time and budget to do it.

I’ve read a lot of Doctor Who tie-in fiction in my life and I’ve got to admit that some of it is better than others. I’d put this one squarely in the category of the better stories told in the printed range.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

2 Comments

Filed under ARC, Doctor who, review