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Robert Holmes Doctor Who Re-Watch: “Carnival of Monsters”

unnamedFor the series’ twenty-fifth anniversary, Doctor Who took a moment to offer up a satire of the series and its fans with “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.” Set at the Psychic Circus, the serial sees various parties trying to keep a trio of ever-hungering god-like beings entertained with varying degrees of success. In many ways, the serial is a predictor of the ever-increasing hunger that the world seems to have to consume pop-culture and then how quickly it can be and is forgotten. The Gods of Ragna Rock use up various acts, quickly moving on to the next one with the constant chorus of “Entertain us.”

It’s a brilliant, subversive bit of Doctor Who and one that sits in my top ten.

But, it wasn’t the first time that Doctor Who would be so subversive. The series would offer up a satire of itself fifteen years early to celebrate the show’s tenth anniversary. But as with everything involving the late, great Robert Holmes, not only would the serial be subversive and point out the current state of Doctor Who, but it would also create a template for the next decade or so of our favorite program. Continue reading

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Robert Holmes Doctor Who Rewatch: “Terror of the Autons”

x1080You have to admire the sheer audacity of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks. A mere three stories after “Spearhead from Space,” the team not only brings back the Autons to invade Earth yet again, but they’re brought back in virtually the same story as we saw in “Spearhead from Space.” Just substitute the Master in the role of Channing from “Spearhead” and the two serials are remarkably similar.

The Nestene, using the Autons, have decided it’s time to invade Earth again. Though this time, the attempt to take over our world features a different ally and is a bit more subversive. Whereas “Spearhead” is a full fledged frontal assault (complete with the memorable image of the Autons coming to life as shop dummies), this invasion comes more from within with the Master spearheading (pardon fully intended) the wiping out of a great number of the population and then invading in the chaos.

The Nestene appear to have decided — or possibly been persuaded by the Master — that taking over Earth is easier if you plunge the world into chaos by killing off large chunks of the population via plastic chairs or daffodils. The invasion plot continues a theme from Robert Holmes’ “Spearhead from Space” of taking the everyday, mundane, or even safe things of life and making them scary somehow. In this case, you can be killed by authority figures like the police or struck down in the safety of your home by a plastic daffodil cutting off your ability to breathe.

It’s a pretty chilling invasion plot, if you step back and think about it. And the idea of your final moments being given over to fear as you’re attacked by a plastic doll or daffodil is one that’s pretty chilling. Continue reading

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Robert Holmes Doctor Who Rewatch: “The Space Pirates”

vjiftcVfDsdapiZ-800x450-noPadWhat if I told you there was a Doctor Who serial written by the great Robert Holmes in which the presence of the Doctor and his companions wouldn’t alter the outcome of the story one bit?

You’d probably think I was talking about the classic serial, “The Caves of Androzani.”

And you’d be correct.

But I could also be talking about “The Space Pirates,” Holmes’ second offering for the series.

At this point in the Patrick Troughton era, scripts kept falling through and there was a behind-the-scenes scramble to get something on the screens to fill time. And “The Space Pirates” sure feels like it’s doing a lot of filing time over the course of its six episodes.

The story has a pretty dodgy reputation among Doctor Who fans. Part of that is that the single surviving episode features the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe locked in a room with little or no impact on the story unfolding. Another part of it is that there’s a lack of visual materials to go with the surviving audio, making viewing the telesnap version of this story a bit of a slog at times. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, The Series Finale

wandavision-series-finale-thumb-700x380-232922I’ve been rewatching Battlestar Galactica lately and one thought keeps jumping into my head each time I see the words “And they have a plan” flash onto my screen. Would the series have been better if Ronald Moore and company hadn’t promised us that the Cylons had some type of plan behind what they were doing? Would not having the promise of a lot of huge revelations and some kind of overarching plan behind everything happening to the last remnants of humanity have been better when the series finally reached its endgame?

That thought had been on my mind a bit leading up to my viewing of the series finale of WandaVision. After two months of intense online fan speculation, the finale’s director had come out and warned fans the finale might not answer or address every question being raised in multiple online forums.

And with rumors swirling that we’d get a big-name guest star for the finale and Disney releasing a promo featuring Doctor Strange in it, it was hard not to elevate expectations to levels that virtually no finale could expect to live up to.

And then, WandaVision did something unexpected. It tossed all those expectations aside and delivered the finale this series needed. We didn’t need an answer to every single question. We didn’t need a big-name cameo from the MCU to justify this show’s nine-week run. Instead, what we got was a show that focused on its two title characters and the impact creating and then taking down the reality Wanda created would have on them. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, Previously On…

WandaVision-Episode-8-Wanda-Agatha-Elizabeth-Olsen-Kathryn-HahnFollowing last week’s revelation that it was “Agatha All Along,” WandaVision takes a few moments for the implications of that to set in a bit and bring those of us who don’t have every nuance of Marvel Comics continuity memorized up to speed.

In the prologue, we learn that Agatha’s powerful and has been around for a while now. I have to think that Agatha having to battle her own mother in the 1600’s left a few unresolved issues for her – and that could be what we’re seeing play out now. Agatha’s fascinations with what makes Wanda tick and what led her to become so powerful was fascinating and played out well over the rest of the installment.

And I found myself feeling a bit more sympathy for Wanda this week — especially with the backstory that she finds comfort in sit-coms. As a person who has his comfort food bits of pop culture (Doctor Who, classic Star Trek, Happy Days), that I will go to when I’m feeling down or just want a distraction from the world, seeing that Wanda escaped into the sitcoms she’s brought to life was a nice touch — even if the timeline doesn’t necessarily add up for her dad to have Malcolm in the Middle DVDs. I did find myself wanting to watch the episodes that are referenced in the episode just to find out if there is any greater meaning to them. I also can’t help but think that Wanda’s creation of the “perfect” family inside the Hex is some kind of wish fulfillment for the perfect family she’s never seemed to have in real life. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, Breaking the Fourth Wall

vdc1250-107-comp-v004-r709-a3f29eea-1613732413I hate the way consuming pop culture has become a contest these days — well, at least to certain sites. There is such a rush to consume something and to be the first to discuss the details or twists and turns of a thing.

Look, I get it — not everyone can consume something at the same time or at the same speed. And while I appreciated the light SPOILERs that staying through the closing credits was a necessity this week (I always have because I like opening credits), the big reveal was ruined for me Friday morning by a headline that came through my feed.

And I know, part of the SPOILER responsibility is mine. But I also think you shouldn’t put a freakin’ spoiler in your stinkin’ headline!

OK, rant over.

Because this felt like an episode that is setting up the end game for the series. All the pieces are in place and the revelations have come. Now, it’s just a matter of all those pieces getting knocked down. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, All New Halloween Spooktacular

Wandavision-Season-1-Episode-6-RecapWell, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?

After a couple of weeks of wondering just how the people trapped in Westview were faring if not in Wanda’s immediate sphere of influence, we found out this week, thanks to the Vision. The answer is — not well. They appear to be stuck but with an awareness of what’s happening to them. I’m going to assume based on the tear rolling down the cheek of the woman apparently stuck forever hanging laundry, that they’re all in some type of pain — whether it’s physical or emotional. I imagine it’s frustrating for them to be stuck in the perfect for her only town that Wanda has (apparently) created around her.

The more we see, the more I wonder just how much control over this scenario Wanda actually has. Last week, she told the kids she can’t resurrect the dead — but she’s done that with Vision and now her brother. Despite being the center of this universe, I can’t help but wonder how much control she really has over things. She can apparently expand that power and the sphere of the universe a bit. But what would she have done if pulled Hayward in there with her? Would she enact some type of revenge on him for attacking her home and family? While we met Wanda as a villain, it’s hard to imagine (at this point) that she’d hurt someone. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, On A Very Special Episode…

AScreen-Shot-2021-02-05-at-8.14.14-AMs much as I like it when a new show drops all of its episodes on a certain day, I’ve got to admit there’s still part of me that prefers the weekly episode model being used by WandaVision. Not only does it give time for the ramifications of huge events to sink in, but it also gives the audience time to speculate and built anticipation for the next episode.

Because let’s face it — after this installment, I doubt I will wait long after episode six drops to watch it. (I’m not going to do something crazy like set an alarm for 3 a.m., mind you. But it’s not like other streaming shows where I figure I’m not as devoted or devious as some watchers who want to watch it all ASAP so they can be the first to SPOIL everything.)

But before we get to the huge reveal that ends the episode, I’ve got a few other questions and thoughts. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, “We Interrupt This Program”

MEX2090_104_comp_v007_r709.00099148.0With “We Interrupt This Program,” WandaVision suddenly feels like an episode of Lost. After spending three episodes establishing the world of the series and introducing some head-scratching elements, “We Interrupt This Program” provides a few answers, but opens up a world of even larger questions.

So, we’ve found out that this isn’t some kind of experiment being run on Wanda, but is instead a reality she’s created in Westview. And apparently, she’s able to manipulate things beyond the wall — from police officers who forget that Westview exists despite standing in front the sign for it to altering the helicopter drone that passes through the barrier. It does raise an interesting question about if and when Wanda knew that Monica had invaded the universe she’s created. Yes, we find out the moment she realized last week (and we saw it again on-scree this week, only in widescreen this time), but how much did Wanda know before. It certainly seems as if Wanda is unaware of just how far she’s going in creating this elaborate sit-com fantasy for herself and dragging everyone in with her.

I find myself wondering just if and how the avatars in her world know and if they have any power to try and resist whatever it is she’s doing. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: WandaVision, “Now In Color”

wandavision-episode-3-olsen-parrisIf you’re a TV fan of a certain age, you may recall sweeps months. They were glorious times for fans of television because the networks would set ad revenue rates based on the ratings of a couple of months of the year. This meant you got a lot of new content and episodes of your favorite shows when big things would happen — couples getting together, marriage proposals, weddings, births.

And while sweeps months aren’t quite as huge as they once were, I still can’t help but feel like this third installment of WandaVison would be a near-perfect sweeps episode. Not only do we get the birth of Wanda and Vision’s twins, but we get some hints about the larger picture of what’s going on here.

While watching Wanda try to cover up her rapidly evolving pregnancy made good use of television tropes (hiding in coats, behind things, etc), it was once we got to Geraldine arriving on-scene that things kicked up a notch. Suddenly, it appears that Geraldine knows about Wanda outside of the fantasy sit-com world that’s been built around her. Geradine drops the knowledge of her brother who died — someone who could run really, really fast. Interestingly enough, Vision also displays the ability to run really, really fast in this episode, something I’m pretty sure isn’t in his standard retinue of powers (at least from my limited reading of the character).

It also appears some of the supporting cast seems to know more than they’re telling.

The ending makes it appear as if Wanda is somehow part of a Truman Show-like experiment taking place. It does make me wonder if the Vision is also in there or if he’s also part of the simulation. Or are there “real” people in there who can be expelled (and possibly reinserted, I assume) and characters (the never seen husband of Katherine Hahn’s character, for example. Or is that red herring of someone more significant that we haven’t seen yet?)

It all makes for some fascinating questions and not a lot of answers. But then again, it’s only episode three.

I am curious to see which family sitcom they pull from for the 80’s and if the kids will rapidly age and change actors portraying them. If that’s the case, I could see how Family Ties might be a good sitcom for that era. Or will the homages have to slow down a bit to spread them across the next six episodes?

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