Category Archives: tv reviews

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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Doctor Who: Listen

lisenIf there’s a linking theme to series eight, it appears to be a deconstruction of the Doctor as a hero.

After renewing its title character in “Deep Breath,” the last three episodes have all been about examining aspects of the Doctor as a hero.  “Into the Dalek” was about how he’s defined by his mortal enemies and his hatred of them.  “Robots of Sherwood” looked at the Doctor in  comparison to the mythological hero of Robin Hood.   And now we’ve got “Listen,” a story that asks the question of what is the Doctor afraid of and where did that fear come from?

As an hour of television (or 45 or so minutes anyway), “Listen” is dark, creepy, off-putting and, for the most part, effective.  The pervading sense of discomfort and of everything not being quite right worked very well and the idea of examining the Doctor’s fear as a young boy is an interesting one.    I’m sure that fandom will be fairly polarized on the final ten or so minutes of the story, but I found that it tied in fairly well with the mythology we’ve seen established in the modern series (and the hints the Doctor has dropped about what happened when he looked into the vortex).   Of course, the assumption that the young boy in the bed was the Doctor is probably the one Steven Moffat wants us to jump to and there may be a twist or revelation set to come later this season that undoes those assumptions.

From the opening shot of the Doctor sitting on top of the TARDIS (which I figured was only created for the promotion leading up to the season and wouldn’t necessarily be used in an episode) to the final frame, the story was replete with visual style.   It also played with the mechanics of time travel when it came to Clara and Danny’s first date.  I will admit I found it interesting that Danny is objects to Clara’s kn0wledge she can’t or shouldn’t have but is later willing to set this aside when she shows up at his apartment at the end of the episode.   As the story progressed, I found myself wondering if Danny isn’t meant to be some kind of mirror for the Doctor and that could be part of the reason that Clara feels such a strong attraction to him — one that’s strong enough for her to go back twice to Danny after having some time to think about and ponder her actions.   So far, it appears Danny isn’t in on the secret that Clara travels through time (unless I missed something in the final conversation between the two) and it should be interesting to see if and how long this particular secret can or will be kept.

I know I’m a bit behind on my viewing but I’ve tried to stay away from heavy fan-based discussion of the episode so I can avoid SPOILERS.   However, watching “Listen” I can’t help but hear the vocal group who is dissatisfied with the season so far (I’m not one of them) being even more dissatisfied with this installment and how it all ties into the War Doctor.   I’ll admit that I really liked the tie in to the War Doctor and the fiftieth anniversary story and that I have faith in Moffat to execute whatever long term story he’s trying to tell here.

The thought of the Doctor being scared of something under the bed and driven by the fear to confront monsters across the universe and through space and time works for me.   Once again, Peter Capaldi nails his performance as the Doctor and he’s becoming more assured with each installment.   Again, I may not be the right fan to ask about this since I’m also a huge fan of another actor who played the Doctor with a Scottish accent.  (In fact, Sylvester McCoy is my favorite Doctor).

And yet as strong as the first thirty-five or so minutes were, there was something about the last ten or so minutes that felt a bit off.  I can’t quite put my finger on it,  but hopefully repeated viewings will help it become clearer.

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Big Finish Thoughts: The Fourth Doctor Adventures

Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.06)Doctor Who: Destroy the Infinite by Nicholas Briggs

While I don’t begrudge Big Finish creating their own little pocket of continuity within the Doctor Who universe, I still find it a bit frustrating when the script assumed you’ve listened to not only every release from one particular range, but also every release from the entire range of stories. Or that you’ve got an encyclopedic knowledge of that range of stories that you can easily call upon in order to understand the current story.

I’m doing well enough to keep my encyclopedia knowledge of televised stories up to date, much less that based on audio and literary adventures.

And so it is that I probably didn’t enjoy Destroy the Infinite as much as others who are more familiar with the range probably did. I came to find out from the extras on the disc that this story is a prequel to a previously released sixth Doctor story, Spaceport Fear. It seems that the alien race known as the Eminence made their first appearance there and that events in this story help set up that one. On the one hand, I’ll give Nicholas Briggs and Big Finish props for using the nature of time travel in a similar way to what the television series has tried to do. But on other hand, when I got to the end of this story, I was expecting it to be touched upon in the next several fourth Doctor stories and it never was.

It all led to my being more frustrated than entertained by this story — and curious to see out Spaceport Fear and see what happens there.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller by Joanne Harris

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller

Following his final confrontation with the Queen in “Planet of the Spiders,” the third Doctor is slowly dying of radiation poisoning. Determined to get back to his friends at UNIT to say farewell, the TARDIS brings him on a side detour to what appears to be an English village. But beneath the happy surface, there is something sinister going on — including that no one is allowed to utter the “D-word” or else face the consequences.

Joanne Harris’ The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller captures the essence and character of the third Doctor in this fascinating, light novella set at the end of Jon Pertwee’s tenure. Reading the story, I could hear Pertwee delivering the dialogue that Harris creates for his Doctor and this one feels like a nice little side-step into a familiar era of the show.

It’s interesting that I picked this up right after listening to the Big Finish version of “Love and War.” That story also references the end of the third Doctor era and his dying of radiation poisoning. This story slips nicely into Paul Cornell’s take on the end of that era with the Doctor spending a decade in the TARDIS alone, dying of radiation poisoning.

I’ve read several of the digital shorts in the Time Trips series and this is one of the more enjoyable.    The story has a good mystery and it doesn’t overstay its welcome or suffer from excessive padding.   If you’re a fan of the third Doctor, this is definitely one to pick up.

I received a digital ARC of this story from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror (New Series Adventures, #55)

Being a Doctor Who fan these days is interesting. What was once a more solitary fandom has now become more social. Where it was once just me enjoying my VHS copies of the stories and haunting my local bookstores for the latest novel, it seems like these days you can’t turn around twice without seeing Doctor Who merchandise for sale everywhere.

It’s become so pervasive that there were copies of “Deep Breath” for sale in Wal-Mart the other day. Wal-Mart! It appears we’re in a golden age for tie-in merchandise to my favorite series.

And with a new Doctor arriving on the scene, it seems that the BBC is doing all it can to capitalize on fan enthusiasm, starting with the release of three new Peter Capaldi Doctor stories this week. Thanks to the kind people at NetGalley, I was able to secure ARC copies of the books a week or so before Capaldi made his debut on our screens. But being the obsessive fan that I am, I couldn’t bring myself to crack the digital covers of the books until I’d at least seen his debut story. I didn’t want to unintentionally spoil myself on details of the first story or to create any more notions of what I wanted from the Capaldi Doctor.

First up in the reading list was Mike Tucker’s The Crawling Terror. The Doctor and Clara arrive in a small town that is literally crawling with giant, potentially deadly insects. Investigating further, the Doctor uncovers unnatural experiments taking place that could have a tie to British and German experiments from the second World War and a potential alien invasion just waiting to happen.

While the concept of an alien invasion of our planet through the U.K. isn’t necessarily the most original Doctor Who plot, Tucker throws in just enough references to the classic and new series and gives it just enough of a twist that I didn’t necessarily mind that much. I’m also impressed with how well Tucker had translated Capladi’s take on the Doctor to the printed page. There are many instances where I could hear Capaldi delivering the dialogue that Tucker gives the Doctor. Clara is also well served by the story and feels authentic as well.

It makes me curious how much background material Tucker and his fellow authors were given to the early episodes. Did they read scripts or see test footage?Was it BBC sanctioned or did they have to get the scripts and footage via alternate means (since the first five scripts and working prints of a couple of episodes leaked to the Internet).

Whatever the case, Tucker does a solid job with The Crawling Terror. The story is effective and creepy.

As I said before, I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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