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.