Category Archives: tv reviews

Big Finish Audio Review: Doctor Who, Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My Enemy

Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious: The Enemy of My EnemyChris Chibnall owes James Goss a thank-you note for giving Doctor Who fans something besides the implications of the Timeless Child to focus on during (yet another) gap year in new installments.

The second installment in the Paul McGann entry of the “Time Lord Victorious” arc features the Daleks (because, of course, we can’t not have the Daleks in there somehow) and builds on the foundation provided by “He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not.” “The Enemy of My Enemy” is a bit more successful and entertaining of a story than the previous installment, though I couldn’t help but feel there was some potential overlooked here. Some of the connections to the larger story come through here — especially the weapon held by the Wrax. There are probably Easter eggs to other installments of this series that I’m either not getting because I haven’t experienced them yet or I wasn’t taking notes as I listened to/read other parts.

McGann is up to his usual standard of excellence here, proving once again that he would have been a great on-screen Doctor if he’d been given the chance. Nicholas Briggs once again gives us an impressive array of Dalek voices and he even manages to make most of them distinctive enough that this listener could tell which Dalek was speaking. I will admit that years of watching classic Who has me expecting Davros to turn up at some point, but I am thinking that’s more and more unlikely.

The story builds to a point and then ends of a cliffhanger. As the middle installment of a trilogy, a lot of what we’re getting here is moving pieces into place for the end game to come. I’m interested enough that I will listen to part three.

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Robert Holmes Doctor Who Rewatch: Spearhead from Space

spearheadlogoFor its first six seasons, Doctor Who featured call-backs to its past but hadn’t really started building any significant amount of mythology. That all changed with the introduction of the Time Lords in the last installment of “The War Games” and solidified for the next five years under the leadership of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.

The Jon Pertwee years were the time when the show began to establish precedents that would continue not only for the rest of the classic series run but are still being used and built on today. It even extends as far as when the series decided to come out of retirement that Russell T. Davies borrowed heavily from Pertwee’s first four-part serial “Spearhead from Space.”

During the wilderness years, a fellow Whovian and I were discussing what it would be like if the show came back and it was pointed out that a great monster to bring back the show wouldn’t necessarily by the Daleks or the Cybermen but the Autons. The Autons are significant in the series, appearing twice in the original series run, and the sequence of them breaking out of shop windows in episode four is one that is indelibly burned into the minds of the viewing public. But the Autons don’t have the same level of backstory, expectation, and baggage as some of the more popular foes the Doctor has squared off against. Continue reading

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Big Finish Thoughts: Doctor Who: The Lost Stories – Return of the Cybermen

Doctor Who The Lost Stories: Return of the CybermenRobert Holmes inherited “Return of the Cybermen” from the previous production team and hastily re-wrote it as “Revenge of the Cybermen” for Tom Baker’s first season as the Doctor. If you’ve ever wondered if the original version might have been superior or inferior to “Revenge,” those questions can finally be laid to rest with the latest addition to Big Finish’s The Lost Stories line.

“Return of the Cybermen” uses most of the same building blocks as “Revenge” did — Cybermats, Cybermen, Nerva beacon used as a bomb to crash into a source of gold — but spins them in an entirely different way. Gone is the subplot involving Voga and its politics and in its place is a third-episode diversion to a lost colony of miners sitting on a stockpile of gold. “Return” eschews to the 60’s version of a Cybermen story with the metal monsters lurking around for much of the first portion of the story before finally arriving en mass to effect whatever nefarious plot they’ve cooked up this time. Each story introduces a new weakness for the Cybermen based on whatever the story decides is in abundance — in this case, it’s x-rays and gold. 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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Robert Holmes Doctor Who Rewatch: “The Krotons”

krotonstitleFor 2021, I’ve decided to take a look back at what many fans consider the best writer Doctor Who has ever produced — Robert Holmes. With the exception of “The Space Pirates,” we have a full run of Holmes’ output in the BBC Archives. Today, I look back at his first offering, “The Krotons.”

Patrick Troughton’s final season as Doctor was marked by a lot of scripts falling through and a scramble to get something, anything onto screens. Out of that chaos came something good — the Doctor Who debut of Robert Holmes.

Sure, “The Krotons” isn’t exactly on the same level as “Spearhead From Space” would be just a season later. And Holmes’s distinctive writing style is a bit rough around the edges. But, this four-part serial is an interesting starting point for Holmes and offers hints of things to come.

Holmes would borrow elements from this serial for multiple other stories as the series went along. The concept of an alien taking the best and brightest from an alien society would be used in “The Trial of a Time Lord” close to two decades later. And he’d also recycle the backstory of the Krotons themselves a bit when we meet the Sontarans in “The Time Warrior” (lone ship from a fleet crashes on an alien world and uses local population to rebuild).

So, while “The Krotons” isn’t necessarily essential for the story itself, it is an essential part of Doctor Who’s history. 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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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos by Philip Martin

Doctor Who: Vengeance on Varos: 6th Doctor NovelisationThanks to the quirks of KTEH’s (a bastion of Doctor Who in the U.S. back in the day) scheduling of Colin Baker’s first season as the Doctor, I saw season 22 of classic Who a lot during my first decade or so as a fan. That kind of explains why it’s been a hot minute since I dusted off that particular season on either my VHS or DVD collection. It’s probably been at least a decade since I really dabbled in season 22 in a serious way — and boy, did revisiting Philip Martin’s adaptation of his script for “Vengeance on Varos” show that.

Martin takes a page from the master of the Doctor Who adaptation, Terrance Dicks, and gives us essentially the same story we get on-screen. Though to Martin’s credit (and Dicks in the early days before they chained him to a typewriter and he churned out eight novels in a year), he does at least try to make the story feel like it unfolds over a longer duration of time than what we got on-screen. Martin makes it feel like the Doctor, Peri, Jondar, and Arata spend a bit more time wandering around the punishment dome, trying to find a way out and escape. He even extends things out enough so it appears the Doctor has passed away for longer than five-minutes than we see on-screen.

There is an extended sequence where we pull back the curtain and see how the Governor truly lives when he’s not negotiating with Sil or being sprayed with death rays. And don’t forget that part where he has Sil fall into the vat of liquid that he’s constantly being sprayed with on-screen.

But despite all these flourishes, it’s the story of “Varos” that continues to shine through and where the success or failure of this particular story lies. Continue reading

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