Sunday, May 30, 2010

Doctor Who - The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

This was an interesting two-parter if for no other reason than I've never felt such an imbalance between two halves of a Doctor Who story. I felt The Hungry Earth was a bit filler for the most part and there were several story problems that made the episode feel particularly weak. Whereas Cold Blood was a really exciting fast-paced episode with a great payoff. Its actually hard to believe it was all written by the same writer.

My problems with The Hungry Earth were:

1) Are we really supposed to believe that the entire village is made up of only 5 people? Where is everybody else while their village is under siege by the Silurians? There were some workers in the very beginning of the episode but apparently they all commute to the operation. Its very odd without a bit of dialog to reveal why there is a lack of a population.

2) It really took me out of the moment to see our protagonists accomplish so much in the space of only 9 minutes before the Silurians arrive. They managed to set the entire village up with cameras around the perimeter, gather a bunch of weapons and also have a plethora of casual conversations in only 9 minutes. I guess they used the restriction of 9 minutes to create tension but it was all very unbelievable. Chibnall should have made it 90 minutes which would have been much more believable and its not like they could go anywhere with the barrier up. And after all of that prep work it was all for naught anyway as the Silurians drain the power.

3) Not enough really happens in the episode. Its like an extended prologue.

By contrast, I found Cold Blood to be gripping edge of your seat entertainment. This was what I was waiting for! Fantastic performances all around and huge plot developments in the ongoing arc! The new Silurians were very good and very expressive which was a plus even though I do lament the sacrifice of the old design. Although to be fair although a bit vague, its implied that these Silurians are a third species of Homo Reptilia meaning that these Silurians, the originals and the Sea-Devils are actually all designated Silurians or Eocenes or Earth Reptiles or Homo Reptilia, take your pick. And the implication is backed up by the lack of a third eye and the new ability to inject venom through their tongues. So these foes are actually both recurring and brand new at the same time which is very cool as we receive our dose of nostalgia whilst also getting a fresh exciting new monster.

The crack makes another even more important appearance and I must say I'm really intrigued by what the Doctor pulls through it. This series finale is starting to feel very ominous especially knowing River Song is back and that she killed the best man she ever knew.

And unfortunately the three-story curse for a male companion continues in what is perhaps the most tragic ending I've ever seen for a character.

So in the end I really liked it overall I just wish the first half had been stronger although in its defense apparently the original edit ran over by 15 minutes. So perhaps my complaints would have been resolved in an uncut version. Chibnall's script may actually have suffered from over-editing and time constraints. Hopefully we'll get those deleted scenes on the DVD release.

Again with a two-part story I like to choose a title to refer to it as a whole and I must say Cold Blood fits best as a title for both parts over The Hungry Earth.

Comparison of each Doctor's seventh story:

1) The Evil of the Daleks by David Whitaker
2) Revelation of the Daleks by Eric Saward
3) Father's Day by Paul Cornell
4) Cold Blood by Chris Chibnall
5) The Claws of Axos by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
6) Time-Flight by Peter Grimwade
7) Silver Nemesis by Kevin Clarke
8) Planet of Evil by Louis Marks
9) The Idiot's Lantern by Mark Gatiss
10) The Sensorites by Peter R. Newman

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Doctor Who - Amy's Choice

This was a very different episode for Doctor Who than the norm and for the most part it worked very well indeed. I loved the idea of giving the Doctor and the companions the choice to choose between two different realities. And even though I felt it was a bit obvious what the conclusion of the story was going to be I thought they handled the drama of the characters extremely well. This episode was essentially a character piece to resolve Amy's dilemma of the Doctor vs. Rory. One world is clearly the Doctor's and one is clearly Rory's.

One thing that was interesting was that it seems a possibility after this episode that perhaps Amy isn't running from her wedding day or Rory as much as she's running from Rory's desire to lead a normal "boring" life in a quiet village whereas Amy would much prefer traveling with the Doctor. I think as much as Rory enjoys the quiet life though he'll be happy wherever Amy is.

I also really liked using old people as the "monsters" of the episode as it was both creepy and a bit amusing.

All of the main cast are very good in this episode and it was cool seeing Karen Gillan portray multiple sides to her character. Also Toby Jones is absolutely brilliant as The Dream Lord and I hope this is not the last we see of this potentially recurring villain.

**********BIG SPOILERS BELOW**************

On the downside the choice that Amy ends up making doesn't entirely seem consistent with how she's been written and portrayed in previous episodes. Her loving Rory this deeply seems to come from more of the shock of his death than an actual real "love of her life" scenario. That's not to say she doesn't care about him or even love him in a way but I find it inconsistent with how she showed only discomfort at Rory being around after she threw herself at the Doctor rather than any real guilt. She never apologized to Rory or anything and still hasn't. I also notice at the end of the episode she shows Rory genuine affection but she never tells him she loves him even though she tells the Doctor she's never said it. I would have thought that would have been the first thing she did when she saw him still alive which makes me think her reaction was out of grief and not out of true love. That makes me doubt she would have actually risked killing herself no matter how sad she felt especially with her unborn baby in her belly. And that act also makes Amy again come across as a very selfish character. If she had shown a bit more love and concern for Rory prior to this episode even in a very subtle way I think her act of suicide would have come across as more believable. But in every episode prior to this it appears that she thinks of Rory as more of a friend or brother than the man of her dreams. So I'm still not convinced they belong together but I do look forward to where they go from here and I hope Rory makes it passed the three adventure limit for male companions traveling in the TARDIS that Adam, Captain Jack and Mickey did not. I know it sounds like I'm bitching here but I'm actually finding analyzing Amy's and Rory's relationship to be highly entertaining and very enjoyable. I just wish they had incorporated a few more tell-tale signs that perhaps Amy did feel more for Rory than they indicated in the previous episodes to make it a more consistent narrative.

As for the character of the Dream Lord, it seems obvious to me he's meant to be a precursor or variation of the Valeyard. Some fans really hate the Valeyard and really hate that whole era so I could see the writers not making the connection on screen as well as the advantage of avoiding explaining the rather complex Trial of a Time Lord epic. But the intent seems clear to me as the portrayal seems very consistent with how he was portrayed in Trial. Perhaps a bit more humorous and fun-loving but still menacing and filled with hate for his "good" side. In fact this could be the origin of the Valeyard as it were. A lot of fans disagree and think its too "fanwankish" but honestly there's a lot of fanwank in Doctor Who and that's almost always been a part of its history to one extent or another. And while perhaps Simon Nye was unaware of the Valeyard's existence, The Moff is a big fan so its unlikely the show runner who brought us continuity between the solar flares in The Ark in Space and The Beast Below as well as references to the planet Terserus in The Curse of Fatal Death which was only mentioned briefly in The Deadly Assassin and brought us Time Agents from The Empty Child who were again only mentioned briefly in The Talons of Weng-Chiang would be unaware of the Valeyard character. And it although of course in a sense the Doctor has met himself before it seems obvious from the script that the Doctor quickly deduces who the Dream Lord is and implies he's encountered him before. I'm not sure how obvious that would have been if not for the Doctor's previous knowledge of the Valeyard because it certainly wasn't obvious to me until he said it at the end.

A good thing is that there was room left between The Vampires of Venice and Amy's Choice to allow for other adventures with Rory which is both cool and is probably where the second set of 11th Doctor novels fit in since Rory is in all of them. I think the first set take place in between Victory of the Daleks and The Time of Angels because that's really the only opportunity for them to fit so far.

And now for the comparison of the sixth stories for every Doctor:

1) Earthshock by Eric Saward
2) The Aztecs by John Lucarotti
3) Terror of the Zygons by Robert Banks Stewart
4) Rise of the Cybermen by Tom MacRae
5) Amy's Choice by Simon Nye
6) The Mind of Evil by Don Houghton
7) The Faceless Ones by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke
8) The Long Game by Russell T. Davies
9) Timelash by Glen McCoy
10) The Happiness Patrol by Graeme Curry

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Doctor Who - The Vampires of Venice

This episode really felt a lot like something from the Hinchcliffe era of Tom Baker's Doctor. A horror story with aliens and other sci-fi elements.

I really liked the Saturnynes and I wouldn't mind seeing a return for them down the road sometime.

Toby Whithouse (School Reunion) delivered an excellent script with great character moments for the Doctor, Rory and Amy. It picked up after least week's episode dealing with the consequences of Amy's attempting to throw herself at the Doctor. I would have expected Rory to be a bit angrier with Amy and I would have liked if he had stood up for himself more but then that's probably part of the reason Amy is drawn to the Doctor because Rory is allowing himself to be walked all over by her. But I liked the balance of humor applied to the situation (with some truly laugh out loud scenes) and emotional resonance showing how much it did affect Rory. And the Doctor really comes across as a hero trying to awkwardly unite the two lovers whilst at the same time not knowing when not to say something. That's one aspect of the current Doctor I really like is the fact that he often seems to say things that sound better inside his head than when uttered aloud.

I loved Rory's confrontation with Francesco which was both awkwardly heroic and also very funny as well. Its also interesting to note that in the confidential Karen Gillan gets carried away with kissing Arthur Darvill and forgets she's supposed to pull away and the kissing keeps going and going. A similar thing happened in Flesh and Stone when she was making a pass at the Doctor and put her hand on the inside of Matt Smith's thigh. Apparently Miss Gillan is a method actor when it comes to love scenes. ;)

I really like the dynamic between the three members of the TARDIS crew and Rory is back again for the next episode. I hope he stays around as a permanent member of the team to freshen things up from the one companion dynamic.

Again the crack plays an integral part of the plot and builds the mystery of the ongoing story arc. Or should I say arcs as Amy's and Rory's impending wedding appears to also be a major part of the series arc as well.

The only real problem I had with the story was that sunlight only seemed to bother the Saturnynes at the writer's convenience. However, upon a second viewing, I noticed that they do try to cover up when outdoors. Apparently its only direct sunlight or ultraviolet light that can hurt them so they are just uncomfortable otherwise. I think I was applying traditional vampire rules to them whilst first watching it and they are far from traditional vampires. Amy's good fortune at being able to reflect a beam of sunlight from her compact seems a bit too convenient but she does comment on her luck with it.

Time for my Doctor Who fifth story comparison list:

1) Dalek by Robert Shearman
2) The Two Doctors by Robert Holmes
3) Remembrance of the Daleks by Ben Aaronovitch
4) Terror of the Autons by Robert Holmes
5) The Girl in the Fireplace by Steven Moffat
6) The Vampires of Venice by Toby Whithouse
7) Revenge of the Cybermen by Gerry Davis
8) Black Orchid by Terence Dudley
9) The Keys of Marinus by Terry Nation
10) The Macra Terror by Ian Stuart Black

And I would say fifth stories tend to be very strong as I really actually like all of these a lot and it made it very difficult to place them in order. The Macra Terror probably suffers from my having only seen it as a reconstruction.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doctor Who - The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone

I think I'd call this story The Time of Angels as a whole. That's one change I'd have liked The Moff to have made is having a story title instead of two separate episode titles. I think its less confusing that way and call me "old school" but I just like it better.

This was the strongest story of the season so far in my opinion and I think having two episodes to give the story time to breathe really worked. Both The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks where very enjoyable but probably would have been even stronger if they had more time to build the mysteries behind the events and to allow for more character development between the supporting characters.

The Weeping Angels are very cool monsters but I thought going into the episode "What more can you really do with them without repeating yourself after Blink?" The Moff managed to take these one-note monsters and turn them into much more and make them even scarier.

The mystery of River Song also deepened with some rather surprising tidbits revealed. Although we still don't know much specifics about who or what she is to the Doctor, she is quickly becoming one of the most fascinating characters in all of Doctor Who history. I consider myself to now be a River Song "shipper".

Unlike previous series this year the running story arcs are much more prevalent and also much more interesting than any since "Bad Wolf". This story added a lot to the ongoing plot lines of the crack and Amy's impending wedding.

Speaking of the wedding; I was quite shocked and a bit put off when I heard what was to happen between the Doctor and Amy in this story. This was quite a change from the Doctor Who I grew up with. My main issue not so much being the idea that the companion tries to seduce the Doctor but rather that she was doing so on the night before her wedding. If she had just been trying to seduce the Doctor, it would have just been a very funny scene but the infidelity part of it made it a bit less funny to me. Seeing as how the companions are the heroes of the story along with the Doctor this was quite a surprising turn of events to have a character doing something that I felt was not moralistic at all and seeming to not have any qualms or thoughts about her husband-to-be's feelings at all. Even worse I discovered on my message board haunts that most (about 3/4 I'd say) had absolutely no issue with someone cheating on their fiance on the day before their wedding. It seems as if infidelity has become such an everyday practice in our society that its no longer even a big deal. I find that both disturbing and disappointing. I realize people make mistakes and certainly Amy's character can be forgiven for her actions but it did make me a little less sympathetic to her character. Part of it is I think I identify a bit more to Rory's position in the "triangle" as it were as opposed to Amy's. And also my personality type is predisposed to being a bit judgmental and a stickler when it comes to our morals.

However, it was a very funny scene and the Doctor behaved perfectly in it. And kudos to The Moff for handling a potentially controversial scene so very well. The fact that he was able to drum up such strong emotions in someone (me) who rarely has any real emotional reaction to characters or events in a story (other than enjoyment and excitement) is a real testament to his abilities as a writer. I really look forward to seeing how all of this plays out.

Here is my now traditional list of comparing stories for every Doctor. These are from best to worst the fourth stories for every Doctor.

1) Genesis of the Daleks by Terry Nation
2) Inferno by Don Houghton
3) The Time of Angels by Steven Moffat
4) Marco Polo by John Lucarotti
5) School Reunion by Toby Whithouse
6) The Visitation by Eric Saward
7) The Mark of the Rani by Pip Baker and Jane Baker
8) The Moonbase by Kit Pedler
9) Aliens of London by Russell T. Davies
10) Dragonfire by Ian Briggs

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Doctor Who - Victory of the Daleks

That was quite a fast-paced romp. A bit too fast actually. I think this was a story that unquestionably would have been better as a two-parter giving it time to breathe.

Having said that, I did enjoy it quite a bit. I liked the relationship between the Doctor and Churchill and I also liked the character of Bracewell although his revelation came too quickly and early in the story to give it time to truly be a mystery.

Amy was a bit underused in this episode but with so much going on its understandable why and its also understandable why the Doctor leaves her behind before confronting the Daleks. Although you would have thought she would have put up more of a protest. After all, didn't the Doctor take off in the TARDIS twice before leaving her behind fpr 12 years and 2 years respectively? Wouldn't she be worried how long it would take for him to get back to her?

As for the new Daleks I must say they're certainly not a "radical redesign" or nearly as bad as been posted elsewhere. They are perfectly fine and I think the only reason people are so bent out of shape is that the previous design actually looks better. If these where the Daleks introduced during Doctor Who's 2005 rebirth I think people would be fine with them. And although there's a lot of hating on the colors, I like that the different colors actually mean something now and I hope they stick to those job designations consistently over their next few appearances at least.

One side note is that there's a cameo by writer/actor Mark Gatiss (The Unquiet Dead, The Idiot's Lantern) who formerly played Dr. Lazarus in The Lazarus Experiment as the pilot Danny-Boy although his face is covered, most likely to avoid confusion with Lazarus.

There's a lot of rumors that Gatiss is the next "chosen one" whenever Moffat relinquishes the reigns as showrunner. Although his writing tends to not be as strong as Moffat, he is on par with RTD in my opinion so far. I think if this does indeed happen years from now, Doctor Who will be in most capable hands as Gatiss is another hard-core lifelong Doctor Who fan. Although I suspect we would again see the thing Doctor Who fans fear more than the Daleks: CHANGE! Obama sure would have been screwed if it had been solely Doctor Who fans voting.

Here is my now traditional list comparing the Doctor's respective third stories.

1. The Sontaran Experiment by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
2. The Unquiet Dead by Mark Gatiss
3. Vengeance On Varos by Philip Martin
4. Kinda by Christopher Bailey
5. Victory of the Daleks by Mark Gatiss
6. The Edge of Destruction by David Whitaker
7. Tooth and Claw by Russell T. Davies
8. The Ambassadors of Death by David Whitaker, Trevor Ray, Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks
9. The Underwater Menace by Geoffrey Orme
10. Delta and the Bannermen by Malcolm Kohll