Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

As the picture to the left attests, I have now entered the next level of Geekdom.  Yes, tomorrow I will be dressing up as The Fourth Doctor for Halloween.  Mom and dad will be so proud!  Thanks to my pal Heather for the suggestion.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Eleventh Doctor

So, it's official.  David Tennant will be leaving Doctor Who after this next "season" of specials.  As much as I've enjoyed him as The Doctor, I think its probably about time for a change, honestly.  Let the speculation on who will play The Eleventh Doctor begin!  Personally, I think David Morrissey (who will play "the next doctor" in this year's Christmas special) certainly looks the part (see the picture to the right for evidence), but I doubt the producers will go that route.  Still, introducing a new Doctor before the old one has left the show IS a cool idea....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Doctor Who: The Forgotten, Issue 1 Review

Six months or so ago, the good folks at IDW Publishing launched an all-new, ongoing, monthly Doctor Who comic book featuring the first-ever stories created exclusively for the US market. As a Doctor Who fanatic, I’ve been dutifully reading the comics as they appeared, although I have yet to take the time to write any reviews of the individual issues. The reason for my lack of commentary on the comic thus far is two-fold: 1.) I wanted to complete the first 6-issue storyline before discussing the comic, and 2.) I just haven’t been that thrilled with the series. I finally finished the sixth issue last night and, well, I’m still not going to write about the ongoing series. Instead, I’m going to write about the first issue of a new six-issue Doctor Who miniseries also from IDW Publishing called Doctor Who: The Forgotten (written by Tony Lee with art by Pia Guerra).

Now this is more like it!

Going in, I was a little wary of Doctor Who: The Forgotten’s premise. If you’re unaware of the basic idea of the mini-series, please allow me to explain. Basically, The Doctor and Martha are somehow stranded, TARDIS-less, in a mysterious museum that is dedicated to The Doctor’s nine previous incarnations. On top of this, The Doctor suddenly begins losing his memories, prompting Martha to try to jumpstart his brain by showing him items from the museum that relate to his earlier incarnations. Each of these items spurs The Doctor to remember one untold adventure of each of his previous forms. Intriguing premise for old-school Doctor Who fans, yes – but it could also be a recipe for disaster. First off, this set-up includes quite a few unexplained plot contrivances. How did The Doctor end up without his TARDIS? Why is there a museum dedicated to him? What force could erase his memories one by one? And who is the mysterious, so-far-unseen puppet master who is keeping an eye on The Doctor and Martha on a bank of monitors, turning dials, and talking to himself? These are questions that need to be (and hopefully will be) answered by the end of the series, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Tony Lee has a coherent plan. Secondly, even ignoring the set-up contrivances, I was afraid that the story’s flashback-of-the-month device could get old. If the flashbacks are just inconsequential, unrelated vignettes, then the forward momentum of the overarching plot could get lost in a wave of nostalgia.

I am happy to report that, for now, my reservations have been allayed!

Perhaps the best compliment I can give to Tony Lee’s writing is that The Doctor actually sounded like The Doctor. I could almost hear David Tennant saying the lines in my head. As for the story, none of the mysteries that I mentioned above were answered, but I will give Mr. Lee the benefit of the doubt for now. After all, it’s only the first issue! The “current” portion of the comic did a good job of setting the stage while the flashback adventure with Susan, Barbara, and Ian in ancient Egypt was cute and enjoyable. I really enjoyed the infusion of a more modern sense of humor to The First Doctor and to Ian and Barbara. Seeing these characters enlivened with slightly updated sensibilities made me wish that we could get a Classic Doctor Who TV series (running concurrently with The Tenth Doctor series) where we could go back and revisit the previous Doctor’s adventures with updated writing, acting, editing, and special effects. How fun would it be to see a new actor playing the curmudgeonly First Doctor traveling with new actors as his 1960s-era companions? It would be great to see Susan, Ian, and Barbara visit the Incas or the Daleks with today’s special effects – or visit the present and be totally amazed by cell phones and the Internet. But back to the comic at hand! I got the feeling that the flashback story would somehow tie in with the overarching plot, which helped it to feel more substantial than its relatively few pages would normally warrant. Next issue will have two flashbacks (to The Second Doctor and the Third Doctor, naturally), so we’ll see if they can both maintain relevance on their own while forwarding the main plot. I also quite enjoyed the scene where Martha expressed surprise at the idea that The Doctor basically abandoned Susan on a war-torn future Earth and that he was unsure what ever became of Ian and Barbara. This interaction harkened back to Rose’s discussion with Sarah Jane in the Series Two episode “School Reunion.”

One thing I was absolutely not wary about coming into this series was the art of Pia Guerra. As a fan of Y: The Last Man, I was already familiar with her spectacular pencils. Check out the first page to the right for an example! Pretty great drawing of The Tenth Doctor, eh? She really captures the subtle tics of each of the characters. Susan, for example, has that same sort-of-scared, sort-of-bewildered expression that she always seemed to have when traveling to a new place with her beloved grandfather. I do wish that the flashback adventure had been in color instead of black and white, but I understand why the creative team made that choice. Still, it seems kind of odd given that The Doctor would have lived all of his adventures in color (even if we didn’t see them that way on our TV screens).

Overall, the first issue of Doctor Who: The Forgotten was a great deal of fun and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the mini-series. Given what a difficult time I had finding the issue (it was sold out at all four of the comic book stores I checked last week), I can only speculate that the combination of great art from the popular Pia Guerra with the nostalgia factor of seeing The Doctor’s previous incarnations in comic form has driven up demand. Hopefully the mini-series will do really well for IDW Publishing so we can get more Doctor Who comic books of this caliber in the future.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dittar Latoni's Bottom Lip

Marvel at the ineptitude of the 1982-era make-up department!!  Yay!

Review of Story 121: "Black Orchid"

This past Tuesday saw the release of two more classic Doctor Who stories, "The Time Meddler" (starring William Hartnell as the First Doctor) and "Black Orchid" (starring Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor).  Because it is shorter (only two 25-minute episodes), I have already had a chance to watch "Black Orchid," so I'll be discussing that story first.

First off, I think this might the first classic two-parter that I've ever watched (not counting the two-parters during Colin Baker's tenure as the Sixth Doctor, which ran 45 minutes an episode).  At two episodes of 25 minutes apiece, this makes "Black Orchid" roughly the same length as a modern episode.   So, is this 50-minute story the same level of quality as an episode of the new series?  Well, no; but, then, this was made in 1982, over 25 years ago, and television programs were quite different beasts then than they are now.  If the story was made now, for example, it almost certainly wouldn't begin with an overly indulgent five-minute cricket match or a plot that fails to coalesce until the second half.  Taken for what it is, though, I found "Black Orchid" to be quite enjoyable.  Yes, it plays out like an underwritten Ms. Marple episode of Mystery, but that's okay with me as a change-of-pace Doctor Who episode.  Actually, it kind of reminded me of this season's Agatha Christie-centric episode, "The Unicorn and the Wasp."

To quickly recap the episode, then, The Fifth Doctor and his entourage (consisting of Adric Nyssa, and Tegan) land on an English train platform in 1925.  Immediately, The Doctor is mistaken for another cricket-playing, local doctor and is carted away to a country estate to take part in a friendly match.  As The Doctor and crew arrive at the Cranleigh Hall, Lord Charles Cranleigh marvels at how much Nyssa looks like his young fiancee, Ann.  That afternoon, as the TARDIS crew enjoys a Roaring 20s-style kegger, a series of murders takes place at the estate.  All is not as it seems at Cranleigh Hall....

This story takes place during an odd time in the history of Doctor Who, during which The Doctor traveled with a crew of three companions, which was probably two too many (I'll let you decide which ones should go).  With four people in the TARDIS, two of the crew members invariably end up just standing around, getting a line or two per episode.  Adric and Tegan, for example, just eat and dance, respectively, throughout this story.  Neither adds anything to the plot or action.  Personally, I think Adric could have been an interesting protege for The Doctor, but he was crowded out when the two ladies arrived.  Thankfully, the crowded  TARDIS only lasts for one more story -- and then Adric gets blasted to Kingdom Come by the Cybermen.

"Black Orchid" revolves around a series of mistaken identities.  First, The Doctor is mistaken for a different doctor.  Then, Nyssa is mistaken for Ann.  Next, The Doctor (or his harlequin costume, anyway) is mistaken for a killer (really George Cranleigh).  Finally, the "unspoilt" George Cranleigh (as he appears in a portrait) looks exactly like his brother Charles.  Whether they are twins or not is never mentioned, but I think George can be seen as the flipside of Charles regardless.

Oh, one last thing; I simply cannot end my discussion of this story without mentioning possibly the worst "special effect" in all of Doctor Who's history.  No, it's not some futuristic spaceship. It's not a cheesy laser beam.  It's not even K-9.  It's the South American "Indian" Dittar Latoni's bottom lip.  I'll post a pic later so you all can enjoy it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Review of Episode Meh: Who Really Cares

I'll give Russell T. Davies this -- the man knows how to write a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, his writing bag of tricks does not include such useful items as "logical conclusions" or "satisfying resolutions."

So, Season 4, Episode 13: "Journey's End." When this episode didn't take the obvious way out, it took the nonsensical. Not only did Davies cop out on the regeneration (and if you believed that David Tennant was really leaving the show, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd be willing to sell you), he did so in the most unimaginative way possible. Yes, he used the severed hand to create a new, duplicate Tenth Doctor (as I hypothesized last week); however, he didn't even bother to regenerate an Eleventh Doctor at the same time, meaning that we were left with the classic Superman Red/Superman Blue situation (or Doctor Brown/Doctor Blue, in this case). Yet, somehow two David Tennant Doctors did not twice the fun make. Indeed, the repetition made both of the Doctors half as interesting. I did like the "third" Doctor, though -- Doctor Donna (who fulfilled Dalek Caan's "threefold man" prophecy). Unfortunately, she didn't last long, requiring a handy-dandy Vulcan memory erasure to remove the "burden of a Time Lord's knowledge" from her mind. So, in cheap plot device, Davies rendered an entire season (which was primarily based around Donna's character growth) meaningless. Yippee.

Oh, and all the Daleks in creation were wiped out of existence. Or something. Again. Let's hope it sticks this time. I really am sick of Daleks.

And don't even get me started on the "happy" Rose conclusion. It went something like this:
Doctor: "Here, Rose, I can't stay with you, but I'll leave this genocidal, half-human version of myself to grow old with you."
Rose: "Yay! Sex!"
And there was much celebrating. Lame.

When does Steven Moffat take over again?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episodes 10, 11, and 12: "Midnight," "Turn Left," and "The Stolen Earth"

I have been traveling for work over the last couple of weeks, so I haven't had much time to share my thoughts on the three most recent Doctor Who Season 4 episodes ("Midnight," "Turn Left," and "The Stolen Earth"). So, having just finished a 3-hour, work-related dinner, I figured a hotel in Boston was the perfect place to update ye ole blog! I'm gonna rush through my thoughts on the Episodes 10 and 11 because, well, let's face it -- we all want to talk about the shocking ending to Episode 12.

"Midnight" was alright. It sort of felt like Russell T. Davies was trying to pull his best Steven Moffat imitation by basing an entire episode around something that bothered most people in their childhood (in this case, the old "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I" imitation game). Moffat has used such childhood fears to great effect in "The Girl in the Fireplace" (monsters under the bed),"Blink" (creepy statues), and "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" (fear of the dark). Unfortunately, Davies' attempt is really more irritating than scary, although I definitely admired the work that Lesley Sharp (playing Sky Silvestri) must have put in to memorize everyone's lines -- and then repeat them in time with each character. This episode also showcased what a condescending dick The Doctor can sometimes be. When things start to go wrong for the passengers on board the shuttle, he immediately starts issuing orders, taking on a holier-than-thou attitude that can be quite off-putting. For example, when the passengers decide to eject the "possessed" Sky Silvestri from the vehicle, The Doctor refuses to listen to reason, putting himself between the other passengers and the seemingly evil alien being. It's great to protect life at all costs and all, but, by prolonging the situation, The Doctor ultimately ends up costing not only Sky her life, but condemning the hostess to a "heroic" death as well. Nice work Doc; your moral high ground killed two people, not one. Yippee. And does he ever admit that he was wrong? Of course not. He's The Doctor. Lest you think I disliked the episode, however, let me mention that I thought it was actually enjoyable overall. The alien banging on the exterior of the hull was pretty dang creepy (even if it ultimately led to a big nothing) and the mounting tension inside the shuttle was palpable. Oh, and Rose showed up on a TV screen again. She's a regular Max Headroom, that girl!

"Turn Left" was an interesting It's a Wonderful Life kind of story, although Rose's return was decidedly underwhelming and never really explained. I'm not one to criticize the way people look, but Billie Piper just looked, well, different from how she used to look. Perhaps its all down to weight loss (she is clearly skinnier than the last time we saw her), but her face appeared much thinner and angular now and there seemed to be something going on with her teeth that caused her to lisp a bit. Again, I won't dwell on the issue, but I have to admit that it was a little distracting. Also, her accent seemed to have changed. Living in a parallel reality will do that to you, I guess! The story itself was pretty good and Catherine Tate was excellent, as always, especially at the end when she chose to sacrifice herself for th greater good. Props also must go to Jacqueline King as Donna's mother (who becomes more and more withdawn and depressed as the episode chugs along) and Bernard Cribbins as her irrascible gramps. As for Rose, I was a bit confused as to how she could travel to "our" earth from her parallel world, how she knew what was going on in "our" world, and how she knew that Donna was the lynchpin to putting "our" universe to rights again. None of that was ever explained. Rose simply appeared as a deus ex blonde every time she was required, even helping put together a make-shift time machine to send Donna back and fix everything. Um, okay. And I also thought it was a tad unbelievable how quickly the post-Doctor UK turned into Nazi Germany. Maybe I'm just an optimist, though.

Now on to the big one, Episode 12, "The Stolen Earth." Obviously, Earth was stolen, which seemed liked a minor happening compared to all of the suprise Whoverse cameos and guest apperances crammed into the episode. Sarah Jane and Luke? Check! The entire remaining Torchwood team (all three of them)? Check! Martha and her UNIT chums? Check! Rose? Check! Harriet Jones? Check! Daleks? Check! Davros? Check! K-9? Ch-nope. Sorry, Charlie. K-9 was missing in action. There were definitely some lame moments and cheesy plot devices (Dalek Caan's Alia Atreides imitation, Project Indigo, the Osterhagen Key), although all of those things faded beneath the orgy of geekiness that was the rest of the episode. Let's face it -- seeing all of those disparate characters interact and fight the Daleks was just plain fun. And Davros is back! Yay! In general, I really don't care for Daleks. Maybe it's an American thing. We never went through "Dalekmania" over here (in fact, most people have absolutely no idea what a Dalek is and very few people are frightened by screeching pepperpots), so we don't have the reverence for them that most Brits seem to. Having said that, I always find the Daleks more enjoyable when Davros is around. Maybe it's because he provides a face to their evil. Maybe it's because he can speak without screaming (although just barely). Maybe it's the interesting half-Dalek, half-Stephen Hawking design of the guy. Maybe it's his excellent, silky skin. I don't know. In any case, Davros + Daleks = goodness.

There were a number of hints in this episode pointing us to the second half. First off, one of the members of the Shadow Proclamation (they sounded much cooler than they actually turned out to be) tells Donna that she still has something on her back. Didn't we take care of that last episode? Apparently not. So, it's possible that Donna has something else inside of her. Spider eggs/babies from the Empress of the Racnoss, maybe? Or The Master? After all, a woman's hand did pick up his ring at the end of last season.... Maybe that was Donna and she's now possessed. Or, perhaps Donna still has the beetle on her back from last episode. It's always a possibility that this episode (including the shocking ending) could still be part of Donna's alternate universe. Maybe she really will have to kill herself to correct the universe for good or something (fullfilling the ongoing prophecies of her death). Also, crazy Dalek Caan calls The Doctor the "threefold man." What could that mean? I have a theory. We all saw The Doctor "die" at the end of the episode. I don't for one minute believe that the BBC has successfully managed to replace David Tennant without it leaking to the media. So, I think we may be in for a multiple Doctor episode. How? Well, at the end, The Doctor begins to regenerate, right? Well, maybe the regeneration will go wrong (thanks to the sudden trauma or something), producing a healed Tenth Doctor as well as two previous Doctors (the Fifth Doctor and the Seventh Doctor, maybe). That'd be three Doctors for the price of one, giving us our threefold man. Or, given that we got yet another shot of the Tenth Doctor's severed hand in the jar, perhaps that will play into the regeneration somehow. What if they do kill the Tenth Doctor, but the "regeneration energy" (or whatever they call it) also encompasses his amputated hand. In that case, the Tenth Doctor could regenerate into a new, Eleventh Doctor (who could carry on with the 13-episode, yearly series) AND also grow a new David Tennant's Tenth Doctor from his hand (who could leave with Rose for the alternate universe and then appear in the four TV specials scheduled to air next year). How great would it be to have two Doctors, in two different universes, to follow? Of course, that theory would only produce a twofold man, so I'm sure it's bunk. Still, it's fun to speculate! Let's just hope that Russell doesn't let us down with a cop-out part 2.

Oh, finally, this episode contained the best line of the season (and perhaps in all of Doctor Who) -- when one of the killer Daleks said to Harriet Jones in his monotone, metallic voice, "Yes, we know who you are." Ha ha ha. Good show, Russell! Good show.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Argh! He's baaa-ack!

Yes, I know -- I have yet to review Saturday night's new episode. I'll get to it in short order! In the meantime, I was a tad surprised to see the following pic floating around the 'net today.

Yep, it looks like Davros is back. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I dig the one-armed freak, but I also feel he diminishes the Daleks because they always resort to deferring to their creator. Still, not being a huge Dalek fan anyway, what do I care if they're diminished? On second thought, yay, Davros is back!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episode 9: "Forest of the Dead"

Okay, so Professor River Song wasn't Romana.  Well, probably not, anyway.  I suppose it could still be revealed later down the line that she was Romana.  After all, that white dress she wore at the end was very Mary Tamm's Romana 1....  Okay, I'll give it up.

But, even without a big, continuity-heavy reveal, the second half of the "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" two-parter wrapped up in a fairly satisfying manner.  It wasn't great mind, you, but it was good.  Yes, the fact that Cal was going to wind up being the computer -- for all intents and purposes, anyway -- and that she had saved the missing humans onto the "largest hard drive in the universe" (aka The Matrix) was patently obvious from the start of last episode (rendering that episode's cliffhanger rather toothless).  Still, the emotional content of the episode elevated the pedestrian plot.  When Donna wailed in anguish when her children disappeared, I felt genuinely sad for her.  The dream of being a happy wife and mother really seemed to fit with her character.  Can you imagine Rose or Martha giving such a believable performance as a grief-stricken mother?  I think not!  Katherine Tate continues to impress as a slightly more mature companion, one who is a true equal to The Doctor instead of a protege.  Also, kudos must go out to Eve Newton, the little girl who played Cal.  She impressed me last episode with her subdued yet believable performance, but she really shone in part 2.  The scene when she collapsed to the floor, crying, tugged at my usually nonexistent heart strings.

As for the ending - meh.  Can't The Doctor just let people die every once in a while?  I found the idea that Cal was trapped in the computer system by her "loving" father as a way of staving off death to be horrific.  I assumed The Doctor would agree with me and free her from her cycle of torment.  But no.  The good Doctor actually traps several other people - including his own future wife - inside the computer as well, condemning them to an endless simulated half-life as well.  What ever happened to ethics?

K-9 Air Freshener: The Perfect Present?

Knowing that my pal Becky was having her birthday while I was in the UK, I picked up a little present for her at the Doctor Who exhibition at Cardiff Bay.  Yes, it's a K-9 air freshener.

Becky proudly affixed the little fella to the dashboard of her car last night.  (Just between you and me, I think her Hello Kitty rear-view mirror decoration was a little jealous of the new arrival.)  So, what does K-9 smell like, you might ask?  Eh, kind of like lemon.

Adipose Plush Toy!!!

My friend Becky from The Crafty Beaver(s) blog ( made me this awesome plush Adipose toy, which she appropriately named Addy.  This thing is really well-made and looks professional!  Very good work, Beck!

Here is a pic of Addy in her natural habitat (aka Becky's back garden).

She appears to make friends easily -- even with inanimate garden gnomes.

Becky even gave Addy a butt crack.  I hope she's housebroken....

Thanks again, Beck!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episodes 6, 7, and 8: "The Doctor's Daughter," "The Unicorn and the Wasp," and "Silence in the Library"

While traveling around England and Wales, I did manage to see Episodes 6 and 7, although I didn't have time to blog my thoughts on them.  There was something very cool about actually watching the episodes with the rest of the UK on the BBC as they aired on Saturday evening.  As I watched, I imagined all the other people in their homes up and down the street, watching the show at the same time.  There's something to be said for the collective experience, I guess (especially for a sci-fi show that is so marginalized in the US).  Aside from that, though, I really don't have much to say about either of the episodes; so, they'll each get a paragraph before I tackle last night's episode.

Episode 6, "The Doctor's Daughter," was pure crap from start to finish.  Playing like really bad fan fiction, it made me feel slightly embarrassed to be a Doctor Who fan.  The ending was a total cop-out and I hope we never see The Doctor's "daughter" again.  (As an aside, there's a rumor floating around the net that she died in the original script -- until Steven Moffat requested that she survive.  Although I am supremely excited by the news that Moffat will be taking over as show runner after Russell T. Davies steps down, I really hope he doesn't bring this particular character back....  Still, if there's anyone who could make me like her, it'd probably be Steven Moffat!)

Episode 7, "The Unicorn and the Wasp," on the other hand, was enjoyable and fun, although certainly not revolutionary.  I loved how it established a very Agatha Christie-like set-up (the secluded house in the country, the suspicious guests, the recurring murders) and then worked its way through the genre conventions while still staying true to Doctor Who as well.  Fenella Woolgar did a great job as Ms. Christie, bringing an air of authenticity to the role, and Donna's excitement for the time period was infectious.  The bit where The Doctor explained how the murders occurred and who committed them while Donna tried to keep up with his logic was great.  Okay, the giant bee/wasp alien was kind of stupid, but at least it made for a cool title when combined with the thief known as The Unicorn.

Now on to the main event -- Episode 8, "Silence in the Library."  Steven Moffat has done it again!  The man who brought us all of the best episodes not written by Paul Cornell over the past 3 years returns with part one of what should be a really nice two-parter.  The opening sequence with the little girl explaining her dreams was a creepy and intriguing way of drawing the audience in, surprising us with the last second appearance of The Doctor and Donna.  I love it when writers open with a "normal" point of view character who then discovers The Doctor and his companion; it reminds us of how strange and, well, alien The Doctor is when first encountered.  Of course, in this episode, the little girl is anything but normal.  Apparently, she is the computer brain of a planet-sized library!  As a voracious reader and a wannabe writer, I have to applaud that idea!  All is not ideal in the giant library, however, as The Doctor and Donna discover when they realize that they are the only living creatures on the planet.   As usual, The Doctor knows more than he has revealed, admitting that he purposefully lead them to the library in response to a mysterious message that he received via his psychic paper.  Who sent him this message?  And why?

The why is revealed early on -- the library has been invaded by the Vashta Nerada, voracious alien critters that like to dine on living flesh and create shadows wherever they go.  The who, on the other hand, is kept a little more mysterious.  Yes, we know that the message was sent by Professor River Song (played by ER's Alex Kingston).  We also know that she has gotten to know and travel with The Doctor in her past but his future.  What we don't know, however, is whether "River Song" is her real name and what, exactly, her relationship with The Doctor was/will be.  She has a sonic screwdriver of her own (unless she has The Doctor's sonic screwdriver) and she seems to be in love with our favorite Gallifreyan Time Lord.  These facts bring up several questions.  If she and The Doctor were in love (or even married), then why isn't she still with him?  And, if The Doctor allowed her to get THAT close to him, is she human?  Or is she, just maybe, Gallifreyan?  I think we can all see what I'm getting at -- could Professor River Song be Romana?  She said that she had never seen The Doctor so young before, which would be true if she was referring to Tom Baker's 4th Doctor or David Tennant's 10th Doctor a few years later.  She said that she lead the investigative team to the library planet, but she never specified how.  TARDIS, maybe?  Since we lsat saw Romana as Lalla Ward, Alex Kingston could represent her next regeneration (hence The Doctor not recognizing her).  Also, given the rumors that Lalla Ward was on set when her husband, Richard Dawkins, filmed his cameo for later this season, perhaps she made a cameo of her own.  Regeneration flashback, maybe?  Just theories!

Given my enthusiasm for the most recent episode, you can probably surmise that I'm anxiously awaiting next week.  Even if Professor River Song doesn't end up being a regenerated Romana, I am sure that Mr. Moffat has some cool surprises in store for us.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Back from the UK!

Just flew back from the UK last night (and boy are my arms tired, wakawaka).  Look for reviews of the three most recent episodes soon.  I had a blast driving around England and Wales, by the way.  Even made a few new friends....

And those new pals came in handy when we ran across the inevitable baddies....

Friday, May 9, 2008

Even a Timelord Needs a Vacation!

Just a quick post to let you all know that I will be visiting England and Wales for the next two weeks; so, there will be no new reviews until I return to the States. When I do return, though, I plan to review the first 4 issues of the ongoing Doctor Who comic book series from IDW Publishing on top of the new episodes of the TV series.

And, yes, I will be taking in the "Doctor Who Up Close" exhibit in Cardiff while travelling. I'll post geeky pics, I'm sure!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episodes 4/5: "The Sontaran Stratagem"/"The Poison Sky"

About half-way through last Saturday's "The Sontaran Stratagem" I started to have a sinking feeling that this two-part story might rival last series' "Daleks in Manahattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" as the worst two-parter since Doctor Who returned to the airwaves.  Having now watched "The Poison Sky," I can confirm that fear.  And apparently both two-parters were written by the same person - Helen Raynor.  Eek!  Let's hope Ms. Raynor isn't one of the people being considered to replace Russell T. Davies if he does decide to leave the show.  And, after apparently okaying the return of the Sontarans as mini-me sized men in bad make up and plastic armor working with an annoying human "genius," maybe the time has come for Big Russ to move on.  I haven't sensed much passion from him in the last few episodes.  One request, though; if he does leave, can we get Steven Moffat as the replacement, please?

First off, let's talk about ATMOS, the crux of the first episode.  What does the stupid thing even do?   At first, it seems to be a GPS/navigation system (which can, conveniently, take over your car and drown you in any nearby body of water).  Later, though, we're told that ATMOS  is a carbon-cleaning car filter.  Which relates to its navigation skills how, exactly?  And where did they get the acronym ATMOS, anyway?  The annoying boy genius/Chris Kattan look-alike says that it stands for "atmospheric emission system."  Um, how?  I suppose that you could just take the first five letters of that phrase to create the name, but then it's not even a proper acronym, is it?  And if boy genius did create the name from the first five letter, then why does he keep correcting everyone who calls it the "ATMOS system"?  I don't see the words "system" rolled into the acronym.  Apparently being a genius doesn't encompass creating good acronyms.  Speaking of lame acronyms, what's up with UNIT?  It used to stand for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.  Yay!  A proper acronym!  Now it stands for Unified Intelligence Taskforce.  Wouldn't that be UIT?  What, they couldn't think of a word that started with N?  Maybe the Brits just aren't good with the whole acronym game?  I don't know.

The less said about the actor who played ATMOS's creator, the better.  Basically, he ran around screeching a lot and sounding less American than Peri Brown on one of her bad accent days.  Of course, I can't blame the actor entirely; his role was underwritten, unnecessary, and horribly cliche.

The Sontarans.  Were they always that short?  I thought for sure they used to be more average in height.  In any case, seeing a bunch of five-foot-tall dwarfs trying to be intimidating while standing around in plastic armor was slightly embarrassing.  Also, for clones, the Sontarans seemed to physically differ from one another quite a bit.  Obviously, there were several different actors involved, but I wish the producers had made some effort to make clones look like clones.  Maybe they could have just had one actor playing all of the Sontarans and digitally cloned him for the show?  And what was the Sontarans' big plan?  To use the Earth as a cloning planet.  Yes, this makes the second time in just five episodes that an invading alien race wants to use the Earth as a hatchery/nursery.  I can't believe that the makers of this show didn't tie the Adipose in with the Sontarans....  That was a missed opportunity!

Despite the bad writing for these episodes, there were some things I liked.  First off, Rose!  If you missed her, she popped up on the TARDIS's monitor for a split second, silently screaming something that looked, to me, like "Doctor!!"  Cool.  I like how they're building to her return.  Second, Martha is engaged - and to Doctor Tom, too!  I was hoping those crazy kids would get together.  I wonder if he'll join her on Torchwood next season.  Next, I still like Donna (although her family is really getting on my nerves).  The scene where she infiltrated the Sontaran ship while The Doctor coached her on the phone reminded me of the scene in Rear Window where Grace Kelley investigates the bad guy's apartment while Jimmy Stewart watches/talks to her on the phone.  Good stuff!  I also like that Donna reacts to danger in a more realistic way than some of the past companions.  You can really feel her dread when he tells her to attack the Sontaran from behind.  Oh, and that undifferentiated human clone in the vat of goo was really, really creepy.  Nice work on the make-up there.  And Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is "stranded in Peru"?  Is that setting up a future story or something?  Finally, the tease for next episode was interesting.  Who would want to "trap" Martha in the TARDIS?  Is she going to be traveling with The Doctor and Donna for the rest of the season?  Why did they keep showing The Doctor's severed hand?  Was his "daughter" (who is being played by Georgia Moffett, the real-life daughter of The Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, incidentally) created from that hand somehow?  And was his "daughter" kissing another chick? 

Oh, and for the record, projecting purple and green lights on the walls of old factories does not make them look futuristic or spacey; they just make the sets look cheap and tacky - like a Joel Schumacher Batman movie.  And SHIELD should sue over that Valiant helicarrier rip-off.  SHIELD.  Now there's a good acronym!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episode 3: "Planet of the Ood"

Well, that was a bit of a mess, wasn't it?

First off, I'm not sure why Russell T. Davies seems to find the Ood design so fascinating - they're basically the cantina band members from Star Wars with mini-Chtulus busting out of their chins. Yeah, they made for interesting wallpaper 2 seasons ago in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit," but was anyone besides Big Russ begging for a return visit? Even though I wasn't particularly yearning for more Ood, I went into this episode with an open mind; the preview looked intriquing and I was looking forward to seeing The Doctor and Donna's relationship continue to grow. Unfortunately, the best thing about the Ood was taken away from them this episode. That is, when they were first introduced, we were told they were a race that lived only to serve; without orders they would die. Now that's an interesting idea! Perhaps they evolved on a planet where there was another, dominant form of life and the Ood, as a survival strategy, became a "helper" species. Kind of cool, that. Well, guess what? Now we're being told that the Ood really aren't a "basic slave race." They're yet another alien race being used and abused by humans. Yawn. To add insult to injury, The Doctor even says that there is no way a race could have evolved to be helpers and that he should have known better when he first ecountered the Ood. Excuse me, Doc, but I think I've just explained how such a race could have come into existence! Not too difficult to comprehend, really. So, instead of being a slave race, the Ood now appear to be a race of peaceful aliens who carry their brains around in their hands. Yes, in the their hands. Because that would be a real evolutionary advantage and is in no way freakin' stupid. Talk about taking an interesting initial concept for an alien race and completely throwing it away to make a hackneyed social comment like, well, slavery is bad. Thanks, Doctor - I never realized that before.

The episode was set on an ice planet. Why? No reason. The cheap CGI and fake snow did very little to convince me that it was actually cold, so the "ice" was more of a distraction than anything else. I always have to laugh when actors are running around on bits of chopped-up paper spouting lines about how cold it is while sweat runs down their faces. Not to mention that you never once see anyone's breath. Have the makers of this episode actually ever been to cold a place? Wales gets cold enough to have visible breath, right? And what kind of sense does it even make to have the Ood originate on a frozen wasteland? They have no hair/fur and they all seem to wear nothing more that thin jumpsuits. But, I guess a species that evolved to include a brain that they have to carry around in their hands at all times (in the freezing cold, we now know) doesn't have to make any kind of sense whatsoever. Honestly, the setting just seemed like some mandate from the producers. "I know! Let's have an ice planet thrown in there!" And, having now watched the Confidential, I can confirm that that is exactly what happened. Russel T. Davies admits that he gave a list of "ideas" to the writer and asked him to incoporate them. What was on that list? Ood, slavery, ice planet. So, it sounds like we have Big Russ himself to blame for the crappiness of this episode.

So, the overriding concept and the setting both sucked. Was there anything good about the episode? I still like Donna. I thought the scene where she cried over the "native Ood" was nice. (Although why all of the native Ood wear black gloves just like all of the captive Ood makes little sense. I guess the budget didn't include any money for prosthetic Ood hands....) Even the cheesy bad guy - whose name I forget and I don't care enough to look it up - was wearing gloves before he turned into a Ood, which was a ridiculously stupid concept on its own. I was a little creeped out by the actual transformation sequence, though, so good on the special effects people! Oh, and there was a tacked-on chase sequence in the middle of the episode where a giant claw that was being controlled by a way-over-the-top "actor" tried to grab The Doc. What kind of factory would be so inefficient that they'd move all of their crates with one giant claw, anyway? Still, the sequence was kind of fun, if you could overlook the stupidity of the whole thing. It was also fun to see Ayesha Dharker (Queen Jamillia, Queen Amidala's replacement, from Attack of the Clones) pop up in Doctor Who. I'm a geek, I know.

Let's just move on. Maybe next week will be better. Although, I must admit, I am very surprised to see that they're bringing Martha back already. I would prefer more time to develop The Doctor/Donna relationship before throwing other companions in. And, although I did like Martha during her season of Doctor Who, her pointless and boring three-episode stint on Torchwood went a long way toward ruining that good will. At this point, I'd prefer a longer Martha break. Still, we'll see how the Sontaran two-parter works! I'm hoping for the best. At least Martha's bringing UNIT with her, after all, which could be fun. Incidentally, UNIT now appears to stand for "Unified Intelligence Taskforce" instead of "United Nations Intelligence Taskforce" (because the United Nations wasn't keen on having their name used in a sci-fi program, apparently). That's fine, I supposed, but couldn't the producers think of an "N" word to stick in there? "Unified National Intelligence Taskforce" or something?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episode 2: "The Fires of Pompeii"

First off, I'm still digging Donna.  It's great that The Doctor now has a companion who can challenge him.  She's more of an equal than his other recent companions and has no problem telling him when she thinks he's wrong.  Her questioning of him actually drove the plot of this episode, given that The Doctor was ready to cut and run early on when he realized where/when they were.  If Donna hadn't insisted on trying to help the people of Pompeii, the episode would have been a short one!  And how fun was the homage to Mary Poppins?!  (If you didn't catch it, when the mountain first trembles, Caecilius and his family run through around their house catching busts and vases just like the Banks family does in Mary Poppins when their neighbor, Admiral Boom, shoots his canon.)  It was also nice to see the sets from the HBO/BBC TV series Rome again; I kept watching for Titus Pullo in the background.

The plot seemed a little scattered and confusing, but I just kind of let it wash over me and enjoyed it for what it was.  Upon closer examination, I'm not sure the plot really holds together.  For example, the prophets can't see that Vesuvius will erupt in one day because the volcano is not "meant" to erupt thanks to the Pyroviles, who are draining the energy and keeping it from blowing.  (That is, The Doctor and Donna ultimately make Vesuvius erupt to prevent the Pyroviles from taking over the Earth, thereby changing what was "supposed" to happen.)  That's all fine and dandy and plays into the idea that The Doctor can't always change history for the better; in fact, he sometimes has to change history for the worse to prevent a greater disaster from occurring down the line.  However, if Vesuvius was not "meant" to erupt, then how did the prophets gain the ability to see the future in the first place (since this ability was explained as a side effect of a rift in time that resulted from Vesuvius uber-powerful explosion)?  If Vesuvius didn't erupt in the original timeline, there would have been no explosion to create the rift in time that gave the prophets their precognitive powers.  Whew!  My head hurts....

There was another reference to Rose returning (when Lucius tells The Doctor that "she is returning").  Is she this season's Bad Wolf?  Lucius also mentions that Donna has "something on her back."  I'm not sure what that meant.  Any ideas?  Another continuing theme this season seems to be missing/destroyed planets.  Last episode, there was mention that the Adiposian home world had been taken (which is why the Ms. Foster was seeding the children on Earth).  In this episode, the Pyroviles' planet has been taken as well.  So, who or what is taking these planets?  Sontarans?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Richard Dawkins to guest on Doctor Who. Can Romana be far behind?

Russell T. Davies has just announced that Richard Dawkins, the celebrated evolutionary biologist, will guest star as himself in an episode of Doctor Who later this season.  As most Doctor Who fans already know, Dawkins has a couple of associations with the long-running program.  First, he was a close friend of the late Douglas Adams, former script editor of Doctor Who (and, of course, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and its sequels).  More importantly, however, Dawkins is married to Lalla Ward (aka Romana II).  Now, not that I'm trying to start any rumors - okay, maybe I am - but if Romana's real-life husband is guest-starring in Doctor Who, can Romana be far behind?  Last we saw the erstwhile Time Lady in the classic series, she had chosen to stay in the parallel universe called E-Space while The Doctor returned to our universe.  Let's see, who else in Doctor Who has been left in a parallel universe recently?  Rose, of course!  Perhaps Romana is in the same parallel universe as Rose and used her Time Lady powers to facilitate Rose's brief return in "Partners in Crime."  Could it be that when Rose returns to our universe on a more permanent basis later this season she'll bring Romana with her?  Obviously, this is all speculation at this point....  But it sure is fun to speculate! 

Monday, April 7, 2008

Review of Story 142: "Timelash"

Two classic Doctor Who stories were released here in the states on DVD last Tuesday -- "The Time Warrior" (starring Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor) and "Timelash" (starring Colin Baker as the sixth Doctor). One of these is considered a classic for introducing the Sontarans and Sarah Jane Smith and the other, well, is not. I decided to jot down my thoughts on the stories separately, starting with the one that is looked upon with derision by much of fandom, "Timelash."

First off, let me just say that "Timelash" does not deserve the horrible reputation that it has gained over the last 20 years. No, it may not be "Pyramids of Mars" or "The Talons of Weng-Chiang," but very few stories are. It's certainly not as bad as every story I've watched from the Sylvester McCoy era. Wow those stories are terrible... Anyway, I quite like Colin Baker as The Doctor. Okay, the opening scene in the TARDIS is nearly unbearable, but I chalk that up to bad dialogue more than to the actors. Nicola Bryant's American accent is as atrocious as usual, but considering how many bad faux English accents the Brits have had to put up with from us Yanks over the years, I just look on her exaggerated pronunciations as a kind of karmic payback. In any case, I like the developing relationship between The Doctor and Peri (which reaches its apex in the next story, "Revelation of the Daleks"). Their friendship is contentious, and prickly, but you can tell there's real affection there as well. They're like siblings who bicker and bitch, but always have each other's backs at the end of the day.

So, aside from the two leads, how is the story? Eh, it's okay. I still have no idea how the doctor deflected the killer missile or why it's implied that The Borad becomes the Loch Ness Monster at the end, but whatever. (By the way, every time I heard the word "Borad" in this story, I mentally pictured Sacha Baron Cohen tormenting drunk frat boys. Is that wrong?) Not everything made sense, but I'm kind of used to that from watching a lot of these things. I did think it was interesting that the story revealed that The Doctor and Jo Grant had visited Karfel long ago in some sort of missing adventure. I bet fanboys (and fangirls) flew into a tizzy back in the day, assuming that they had missed a Jon Pertwee story somewhere along the way. I did enjoy the inclusion of a young and very impressionable H.G. Wells in the story (even if if does cheapen his books a bit to imply that he just stole his ideas for The Time Machine and The Invisible Man from The Doctor). Oh, and the make-up on The Borad was pretty damn good for the time and the budget! He looked quite spooky with his deformed face and flipper hands. Not that the make-up justified keeping him turned around in his chair for the entire first episode Dr. Evil-style, mind you. That was a little over the top.

So, overall, "Timelash" was better than some classic Doctor Who stories and worse than others. It was completely middle of the road, really. I'm not quite sure why so many people hate it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Review of Series 4, Episode 1: "Partners in Crime"

I just finished watching the first episode of Series 4 and I am delighted!  What a great start to the season!  "Partners in Crime" was by far the best first episode of any of the new seasons (compared against "Rose," "New Earth," and "Smith and Jones").  Then again, I enjoyed Donna in "The Runaway Bride," so your milage may vary.  While watching the episode I was reminded of an old Looney Tunes cartoon -- partly because of the whimsical musical cues and partly because of the overall comedic tone of the script.  The scene with Donna and The Doctor seeing each other for the first time half way through the episode made me laugh out loud.  Great acting there from both David Tennant and Catherine Tate.  And thank goodness they got the sexual tension issue out of the way right up front.  After three seasons of The Doctor and his companion making lovey-dovey eyes at each other, it will be great to have him travel with just "a mate."  Speaking of great, how excellent was the surprise cameo by Rose at the end?  I didn't see that one coming.  One thing I do see coming (although I could be wrong, of course) is that the Adipose will turn out to be baby Sontarans.  I always wondered what those little clones looked like as children -- and I think Russell T. Davies might be showing us.  Overall, this episode comes highly recommended by me.  I can't wait to see what happens in Pompei.  Besides the volcano, of course.

Doctor What

P.S.  The shout out to "Mad Martha" was a nice touch, too!