Monday, June 12, 2017

The Doctor As Show Man and Space 1889 Cosplayer

The Doctor As Show Man and Space 1889 Cosplayer
(Spoiler Alert!)

It's been a busy two weeks, so when I finally sat down to catch up with Doctor Who, I had two episodes to watch. The first episode, The Lie of the Land, is actually part three of the two previous episodes which I found to be mediocre as best. 

Was I expecting anything better for this storyline's finale? No, not really. The Lie of the Land didn't disappoint on that respect. It was mediocre in script and well-done in acting and execution. Bill is still a strong, sympathetic character willing to lay down her life to save others, Nardole is still a loyal aide-de-camp willing to go the extra mile to help out, and the Doctor is... Well, he's a show man of sorts, selling the evil monks' "new history" to the unsuspecting public through slick commercials. Why the evil monks ever go to the extent they do to take over the world is never satisfactorily explained, including the gigantic statues of their mummy-like visages. They should have taken a lesson from the Daleks and Cybermen. Good ol' fashioned firepower and metal suits work just fine to invade Earth in Doctor Who.
Missy is seen once again in The Lie, but her cameo doesn't seem particularly necessary to the plot, as the Doctor should be able to figure things out himself with his abilities and resources. She's incarcerated in a TARDIS-styled vault and seems content to be locked up. There's hints she's not as sociopathic/psychopathic as she once was, but she's still not portrayed as a positive middle-aged female image, but rather as a figure of ridicule/hate. Actress Michelle Gomez could do better and deserves a stronger role.
The Orwellian overtones of "He who owns the past owns the future" are good in The Lie, but the overall arc of the trilogy of episodes isn't quite pulled off.  A good script editor could have helped cobble these three disparate episodes together in a more coherent and effective manner and brought out the strengths in each. As is... nice try, but it's very sad how this trilogy falls flat. At least Bill has a decent hairstyle this time out, and I enjoyed the "Maoist China" style of bland/uni-colored clothing of the populace as well as the Doctor's "worn" jacket.

Empress of Mars is a stronger episode in that it doesn't try to be anything it isn't.  The Doctor meets his old foes, the Ice Warriors. They've been updated a bit without losing their lovable "monster of the week" look about them that they've sported since the Patrick Troughton era. My husband was pleased to see the Victorian-era military men on an expedition on Mars, very reminiscent of the characters one takes on in the role playing game Space 1889. (The military costuming was accurate historically according to hubby who is an expert on such things, too.)

Why there is oxygen underground on Mars is never explained, especially since the surface is dead and there's no obvious plant life left.  The frozen/hibernating Ice Warriors are very similar to the Patrick Troughton series Cybermen who were hibernating on Mondas in a pyramid-like set-up. 

Hmm... Pyramids and spacesuits seem to be returning images in this season, as the Doctor and Bill have been seen in spacesuits in Empress of Mars, Oxygen and in underwater diving suits in Thin Ice. The evil monks have a spacecraft (I assume that's what it is since it "flies") that's pyramid-shaped in Nemesis, The Pyramid at the End of the World,  and The Lie of the Land. Is there some kind of connection we're suppose to make with the reoccurring imagery? I have to say, Peter looks great in a form-hugging spacesuit. I hope the hoodie look has been put to rest for good.

With only a few more episodes to go in Peter Capaldi's last year as the Doctor, fingers crossed we get another Mark Gatiss-written story. What's your take on these last episodes? Please write your comments below. Thanks.
 Can't get enough of the man in the spacesuit, can you? :)

Coming Soon... The Loving Who series from Devine Destinies Books!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Doctor as U.N. President


Doctor Who Extremis Photo Gallery 
The Doctor as 
(Possibly Unsuccessful) 
U.N. President
(Attn: Spoiler Alert) 
When does a television show "jump the shark" and become a sad parody of itself? Is it possible "to unjump the shark" and redeem itself ever? That's the question playing through my mind after watching the second part of a two-parter storyline, beginning with Extremis and ending with The Pyramid at the End of the World
Perhaps the question is more along the lines of "Has Doctor Who finally given up on being original, fresh or even half-way intelligent and instead gone for the bleeding obvious?" The wonderful special effects, sets, costumes and mood lighting notwithstanding, it's hard press to tell you of anything of the actual plots of these two episodes, simply because there's not much of any actual plot. It seems to be a series of well-photographed scenes with little true emotional connection between them. One if left scratching his/her head and saying, "What was all the fuss about then?"

The stakes are high since Missy is back--or is she? The stakes are high because the Doctor is still blind after saving Bill--or is he, since he has those groovy sunglasses? Sometimes he seems able to see just about everything he needs to in a scene, and then in the dramatic moment in The Pyramid he can't seem to see the combo lock on the door. Even those with just the basics in fiction writing can understand why such contradictory plot points make for an unsatisfying resolution.

Doctor Who wallpaper titled Doctor Who - Episode 10.07 - The Pyramid at the End of the World - Promo Pics
The "monks" (which seems to be a common term for most DW alien/baddies in recent years) are predictably ugly, evil and controlling with their Matrix-like program of optical wires that is running a simulation of all life on earth. (Where have we heard something like that before? Oh, yeah, in the Matrix movie trilogy!) The Doctor and others find out about the program by reading a dark magic book called the "Veritas", eerily similar to this season's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. "Darkhold" book of evil spells and power. So, the world is all fake and we're being watched by aliens--what's new about that even in the Whovian universe?
After the build up of Extremis, we were really looking for a satisfying ending and a tying up of strings, but The Pyramid didn't deliver on any promises. It sticks us back in "reality" (out of the Matrix) and sticks a pyramid in the middle of Central Asia where three great military powers are standing off, but no warfare ensues. Cool SFX of landing a B-52-like a Harrier jet, but that's about it. The end of the world is coming we're told, but not by falling nukes or the tiny hands of Donald Trump it seems.
A separate story line gradually develops, and we're told the great disaster  to end all life in the world is because of a Monsanto-clone and its evil GMO and biochemical meddling. (That made me smile actually since it's more than likely will be the case.) Generals die because their "consent is not sincere" enough for the evil monk-aliens to stop this from happening somehow. Only the true-hearted Bill can give consent because of her love of the Doctor and concern for his safety. Earth is or isn't safe at the end, but who really cares? The Doctor can see again.

I guess it helps if one is blind to the possibilities of science fiction and to the great acting abilities of Peter Capaldi and company to think these two stories were anything more than mediocre. Peter and the entire cast and crew deserved better scripts. After trying so hard to keep an open mind about Steven Moffat's scriptwriting ability this season, he's done it again in my opinion--butted into the show mid-season and put in the two weakest episodes so far. If I were the showrunner, I'd fire him. 
Oh, yeah, he's not about to do that, is he? On to next week and hopefully a much stronger story. It wouldn't take much to top this last pair.

What do you think? Too harsh or not harsh enough on Moffat's latest escapade? Leave your comments below.

P.S. I have a tentative release date of August for my novel of fan-filmaking gone wild, Loving Who. Yeah! Something to look forward to in the Who universe!


Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Doctor as Labor Leader

The Doctor as Labor Leader
(Attn: Spoiler Alert!)

We're just back from Marcon 52 and trying hard to catch up with things, so this week's review wasn't the first thing on my to-do list. I put off watching the latest Doctor Who episode for a few days (so I could make myself finish several projects first), and now I wish I hadn't. 

I find it amazing how my "day job" of being the editor of Our Revolution Continues dovetailed nicely into this week's episode, Oxygen. Both blogs are on the topics of worker/employer -- or more accurately slave/master-- relationships. To see what I mean, check out my piece at the O.R.C. blog, How to Build a Better Slave, er Worker. The fact that most human beings don't recognize how they're being manipulated and used by the oligarchy isn't a new concept, but seeing it portrayed in an effectively sinister way on Doctor Who really surprised me. Kudos to writer Jamie Mathieson, known for penning the better scripts in Peter Capaldi's first season, for once again writing a worthy episode for Peter's Doctor.

 Oxygen is quite a unique screenplay. The overt theme of the story is particularly intriguing, considering the accusations the BBC head  made thirty years ago against the producers of Doctor Who for  putting on a "leftist show." It got the show cancelled, so is this "leftist bent" made during the Theresa May leadership going to result in the same thing, or is the Beeb more interested in ratings rather than politics this time around? I think they're in it for the money, so a story theme about how human life is cheap and easily disposed of by those with the power and wealth is even more poignant.

But it wasn't all just politics--the "spacesuit zombies" were pretty creepy. You don't expect something that's supposed to protect you like a spacesuit to try and kill you. Nice touch linking the capitalists' greed to overtly killing their workers/slaves. At least the worker/slaves at the Chasm Forge understood they had a limited supply of oxygen, but they expected their masters to provide more. Too bad, so sad their corporate masters felt the workers weren't worth giving the "benefits of breathing."

There was definitely more "meat" to the plot this time out, and more Nardole as well. I've been wondering if Matt Lucas was going to get more lines, and this story featured him well. He's a loyal and conscientious companion, and he's trying to keep the Doctor on task--which we all know isn't an easy thing to do. How Nardole as a character will develop in subsequent episodes intrigues me and will keep me watching.

Bill in this episode plays the innocent in space, trusting that the Doctor and a spacesuit will protect her from the evil of the "zombies" and the faceless corporate oligarchs. The Doctor risking his own sight to save her--and then seemingly risking her life to save her again later--was quite dramatic. It's great to see Peter Capaldi playing a heroic Doctor who is willing to lay down his own life/health for the safety of his companion without hesitation. We've had enough of the "darkness" Steven Moffat tried to infuse into the first two seasons of Peter's tenure. 
Let the Doctor be a hero and his companions worthy aides in his fight to save humanity against the evils in the universe. Please, Doctor, come to Earth and be our labor leader! Save us from the blind greed of our corporate masters who take and take from the working poor to fill their bloated off-shore bank accounts!

What do you think of Peter Capaldi's Doctor and  the episodes so far? Leave your comments below.

P.S. It's sometimes uncanny how you can predict the future, even if you're not a Time Lord... While I was doing some edit work on my upcoming re-release of  Leaving Who, I realized I'd coin the term "The Mistress" many years before Steven Moffat had. Maybe I time traveled and didn't realize it?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Doctor as Helper/The Companion as Conscience

Sorry for the delay--it's been an awfully hectic month for yours truly--but I thought I'd write a quick review of the last two episodes of Doctor Who before we head out to Marcon in Columbus, Ohio, this weekend to chat with fellow Whovians in person.

This season is off to a solid start, much better than Peter Capaldi's previous seasons, in my opinion. We finally see the "classic Who" Doctor emerging, the one that most of us fell in love in (in his various incarnations), the one that we saw in the performances of Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and even Matt Smith in the newer series. In both Thin Ice and Knock Knock we see the Doctor as helper. The Doctor isn't just casually breezing by the scene and becoming involved in spite of his reluctance; he's actually there to help human beings solve a mystery and make the world a bit safer. His intent is humanitarian, not selfish, which is the heroic trait many Whovians admire the most.

On the companion side, we have Bill. She's coming across as the Doctor's conscience in these stories--the human sidekick who tells him when he's crossed the line into selfishness or cruelty. In many respects, Bill reminds me of the Nu Who companion Donna Noble. Donna was never afraid to tell the Doctor when he had stepped over the line. She begged and pleaded with the Doctor when he seemed heartless, such as in the Fires of Pompei when she begged him to save the Roman family headed up by... well, by Peter Capaldi of all people!

I also see a bit of Leela from the Tom Baker era in the character of Bill. Leela was also brave and not afraid to tell the Doctor when he's crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed. In Thin Ice, Bill points out the "coldness" of the Doctor allowing some to die in front of her eyes without apparently trying to save them. In Knock Knock she begs him to save her friends and housemates from death by alien termite. The companion's prime role is to keep the Doctor on the straight and narrow morally, not to be just another pretty face beside him, which has happened frequently in the recent series to the detriment of the Doctor's character. 

A brief aside on the settings, SFX and costuming: I do like Bill's hairstyle with bangs, as it's much more flattering than her previous hairstyle without the face framing. And can Peter Capaldi's Doctor ever rock a top hat! He should wear one more often. The Regency era setting and costuming of Thin Ice were excellent, and I can't recall this historical era being done before on the show, so kudos for giving us another cool look into the past. Knock Knock's "haunted house" and super creepy insect special effects were very effective at striking a subtly horrific chord. Actor David Suchet will never be stereotyped as the clever and polite Hercule Poirot for me ever again!

The Doctor needs his human companion(s) to act as conscience since he isn't human (he's Gallifreyan), and he often forgets what his actions (or lack of actions) can mean to humans. The very first Doctor's companions of Barbara, Ian and Susan were perfect examples of how the Doctor's conscience is necessary. If you don't know what I mean, watch the very first episode An Unearthly Child and the three after it. Where would the Doctor be if his companions didn't help him then become the hero we know and love today?

I'm looking forward to the next episode and possibly seeing you at Marcon. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about Peter Capaldi's last season so far. Isn't he (to quote Doctor Nine)  fantastic?

P.S. I've been working hard on edits for the re-releases of my Loving Who series of novels. I'd forgotten some of the wild and wacky things my "companions" got up to in the series... "Time travel" makes us all a little forgetful occasionally!

P.P.S. I love the new cover for the third book in the series, Losing Who, don't you?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Smile: Isn't that the name of a Chaplin song?

 Smile: Isn't that the name of a Chaplin song?

A very quick review of episode two, Smile, because I've lost my notes, and I'm coming down with a cold. Achoo!

I had big expectations for the second episode after The Pilot, hoping that we'd see more of the Doctor in action making the world a better place and not wearing that dreadful hoodie again. In a way, Smile fulfills some of those expectations and in another way, it doesn't. The hoodie with the Doctor's velvet coat returns (ugh), but it's the least of my worries. The title Smile is the name of a classic song written by the great comedian (and violinist) Charlie Chaplin (and also the name of a funny movie about beauty pageants), but it doesn't bother me really. There's something else nagging at me from my long term memory unaffected by spring allergies.

The story premise seems overly familiar. Where have we seen "inanimate objects" come to life and kill/harm humans before? Another one word title comes to mind: Blink. Instead of Weeping Angels, we now have killer Emojibots. The little robots are adorable, but I wish they could have been more noble in their actions and not quite so predictable.

Another overly familiar Doctor Who plot scenario--colonists in cryogenic status in danger of  waking up and not making it. Remember Tom Baker's The Ark in Space? Okay, so you can't always avoid repeating some set-ups in sci-fi, but could we at least see some more original twists in the set-up?

The setting and SFX photography are fantastic (to coin the Ninth Doctor's catch word) in Smile, and I really felt the Doctor and Bill were on an alien world and inside a futuristic building. The chemistry and camaraderie between the Doctor and Bill works well (in spite of her awful hairstyle and both their poor fashion sense). One would hope with good acting and great production values the script-writing would live up to these high standards, but it's not quite there. Yet.

I live in hope of episode three. Will the story quality match the quality of execution? We'll see.

What is your opinion so far of Doctor Who this season? Leave a comment below if you like. Thanks.

P.S. I'm finishing up my edits for the re-release of Loving Who. Can't wait for you to see it--all the adventure, comedy and romance a Whovian craves in one novel!
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