Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anatomy Lesson: Into the Dalek Review

"This is Clara, not my assistant…She's...some other word...." 
"I'm his carer"
"Yeah, my carer. She cares so I don't have to."

Another Saturday, another new episode. Though this is no ordinary episode as it involves the Daleks. Since 2005 we've had TV Dalek stories that varied from sublime (Dalek,) to limp (Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks) to simply a 45 minute toy commercial (Victory of the Daleks), to twistsing about (Asylum of the Daleks). Here comes the Phil Ford effort, Into the Dalek. Ford, a fan darling with the co-penned and widly praised Waters of Mars five years before, takes another spin in the TARDIS with a tale that not only give Skaro's pepperpotted monsters their bite back but also asks the same question as the Doctor: Is he a good man? Let's get down to business, eh?

The Good:

  • Journey Blue, Journey Blue! She's has the shades of a potential companion in every way. 
  • 12th facing down his Dalek patient leading to his surprised reaction to it saying all Daleks must die
  • The introduction of Danny Pink. With an older Doctor about, Clara's now given a love interest; one with a conflicting past he's hesitant to talk about. 
  • "No, You are a good Dalek". A wee callback to the lone Eccleston season's Dalek
  • Dat chalkboard!
  • The music's tone down! Who are you and what have you done with the real Murray Gold?
  • The production design of the inside the Dalek is utterly sublime
  • We finally get more of 12's personality which gives us the cold, distant nature not seen since the 1st Doctor's characterization in the unaired pilot version of An Unearthly Child. "He was dead already " response to Russ' demise by the Dalek spores does harken back to 7th during the New Adventures days as he back then saw many a death at his own door step especially in the grand scheme of his own machinations much to the chagrin of Ace and a host of others.
  • Finally after four year dryspell, we got the Daleks exterminating again on screen

The Bad:

  • The Coal Hill student's contunation of asking Pink whether he killed as soldier. Change the record, squirt!
  • Gretchen's save via Missy. It's not going to be an all season thing is it? I'm getting shades of Kovarian to some exent and I wasn't exactly taken in with her the three years before.
  • Journey's request to come with the Doctor being denied. One can hope for another Liv Chenka like situation that paves for her coming back in future, who knows?

Bottom Line: Into the Dalek earns it stripes as the finest post 2005 televised Dalek story in the revival's eight year run. Giving an freshing tale of morality and the heavy nature of evil that answers its question but draw more questions to come out the woodwork. Onward, Robots of Sherwood!

8 jelly babies out of 10

Friday, August 29, 2014

Boozy Coda: Bernice Summerfield - The Plague Heards of Excelis Review

After the first three successful Excelis tales, Big Finish closed the Excelis series with a coda set just after The Green-Eyed Monsters. The story sees Benny leave the Collection in Brax's living shuttle heading towards the dying world of Artaris, where she meets a “Trans-temporal Adventuress” by the name of Iris Wildthyme…

Stephen Cole's script seems designed to prevent those who have not been following Bernice's continuing adventures from becoming alienated by elements of the ongoing story, and it explains Benny’s slightly tetchy attitude throughout the story well. The way in which this story is tied into the rest of the trilogy is very intriguing indeed, showing that events have been in motion for much longer than anyone expected and there was more to Excelis than just the rise and fall of Warlord Grayvorn. Cole develops his own ideas well with those behind the animal undead being particularly sound, although given their unspeaking nature it does require some overt explanatory dialogue, but given a similar situation from the fifth Doctor tale The Land Of The Dead, it's kept firmly in the background.

Lisa Bowerman has been playing Benny for a long time now, and this shows through her assured performance, which is fantastic. As with her (then) sole performance to date in the Doctor Who main range, The Shadow Of The Scourge, Bowerman demonstrates that she is a perfect choice for Benny. Katy Manning's performance as Iris is also superb - some of the time, Iris comes across a little more sinister than she usually does (a wee bit seventh Doctor-esque), but perhaps this is the result of having Cole writing her instead of her creator Paul Magrs, but it's appropriate for this story that has a harder edge to it than Magrs' stories have tended to have in the past. Trevor Littledale is the most impressive though, immediately creating an impression as the prophet Snyper who seems to know much more about the events occurring than he's letting on. Kate Brown also excels as the Empress Vitutia, and although Stewart Alexander's Aaragon is somewhat unmemorable at first, he does grow in stature throughout the story.

The music and sound design by David Darlington works wonders here just like with the other Excelis stories beginning with a score that reflects the fact that Excelis has returned to a state of barbarism rather than advancement. While Excelis Decays ended the Doctor Who part of the series with a bang, The Plague Herds of Excelis ends it by tying up loose ends - especially Iris' - and adding something tangible enough for it to be considered as important overall to the series.

Highly Recommended.

Shhh! You'll Wake the Baby!: Bernice Summerfield - The Green Eyed Monsters Review

After the surreal season three opener The Greatest Shop in the Galaxy, this release written by Dave Stone finally deals with the issue of Benny's newborn child, The Green-Eyed Monsters embracing this thread with both hands, making this the first audio to do so since Peter was born in The Glass Prison, several months earlier. This also marks the final use of the Adventure Is My Game theme. Yay!

The title alone is very apposite for the story that Stone has chosen to tell, representing not only the legends that Benny goes to investigate in the Goronos system, but also the jealousy that epitomises the relationship between the two men in Bernice's life - ex-husband Jason Kane and father of her child the Killoran construction worker Adrian Wall. This subplot really shines with both Jason and Adrian being portrayed successfully; I particularly enjoyed the development of their uneasy alliance as they find themselves holding baby Peter. It is excellently written, making the respect that both come to have for each other seem very real, particularly when it culminates in Adrian admitting something very personal about his feelings towards Benny. However, the Goronos system thread of the plot comes off as lightweight at times, but it's forgivable.

Lisa Bowerman is excellent as ever, showing how Benny copes with being a mother and actually interacting with her half-Killoran, half-Human son. Stephen Fewell's returns as Jason after a with only a few vague references to the novels Twilight Of The Gods (the final Virgin novel released in autumn 1999) and The Infernal Nexus to explain his absence. The love / hate relationship between Benny and Jason has mellowed a little by now, although Fewell makes sure Jason sounds as devious as ever. Fewell's Jason Kane strikes up a good banter with Harry Myers' Adrian Wall which gives their scenes credence as they see each other as rivals for Benny's affections. Lady Ashantra du Lac voiced by Maria Darling is the character that it sounds like Stone had the most fun writing and Darling's performance is a lot of fun; her evil scheme is very ridiculous yet has the faintest sense of plausibility to be workable and Stone uses her as a way to play against convention in how she acts towards Bernice. Steven Wickham gets some good lines as Joseph the Porter, particularly during the opening scene despite being sidelined throughout the story. The sound design and music by David Darlington isn't too shabby either.

The Verdict? The Green Eyed Monsters is an unusual and fun-filled release. Some may be disappointed by this and find it insubstantial, but I think that the richness of the characters and dialogue presented here more than make up for any inadequacies of the story.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reviewer's Cut: The Day of the Doctor

Day of the Dogs Dinner

Ten months on.... 

Ten months on since the so-called 50th Anniversary still haunts and irks my soul to no end of how poorly handled it was by a showrunner I used to praise out the fact that he was thinking less like a Hollywood marketing exective and more like a fan. But even before April of 2013 looks and words can be decieving. Prior to the late March early April news, I like many were excited about the 50th and what we were hoping for t have all the surviving Doctors interact with the New Who ones taking on a greater evil. Alas, it didn't turn out to be the case......

Matt: Why can't we have the other living Doctors?
David: Quiet, you!

Around the start of April we learned of David Tennant and Billie Piper's return plus the inclusion of John Hurt in tow. At first, I was thinking it may have been an April's Fool joke to leave out Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. But as the summer came and Steven Moffat's statement about not making it a fan-fest made me wonder what on Earth's going on? Then came the Hurt reveal (though the leaked DVD release of Series 7B gave it away in advance shortly before Name of the Doctor's airdate). Until the reveal, I was fully convinced he was playing a Gideon Crane like character who somewho wound up believing and acting like the Doctor ala Nick Briggs' character of the same name from the 2001 8th Doctor audio Minuet in Hell (I actually would've welcomed that; seriously). Instead the reveal was that he was a incarnation between 8th (McGann) and 9th (Christopher Eccleston). WHY?

Not  the Doctor nor the Warrior... Just the Band-Aid

That was my exact response. Why was there a need for an inbetween Doctor for the Last Great Time War? For the last several years it was believed by fandom that the 8th Doctor fought in it and was the one who ended it wiping both Dalek and Time Lord alike. Even various spin-off media managed to either hint at it or showed the road to it. In 2008, IDW's The Forgotten showcased a scene with 8th that took place during the Time War and the following year Mary's Story from Big Finish's The Company of Friends showcased a wartorn disgruntled 8th (and his younger pre-Charley self). Armageddon 2010 in New Zealand, Paul McGann inveiled his new 8th Doctor outfit (which had mixed reviews but grew positive overtime) which became finalized by the BBC to be 8th's look for Big Finish's widly successful Dark Eyes (and its following sequals) which had more hints of the Time War and 8th increased discontent for the Daleks in the wake of the deaths of his companions Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew, and his great-grandson Alex Campbell; Susan and David's only child. Then came the Night of the Doctor mini-sode where everyone punched the air to see Paul McGann return (and in new digs)....only to see him rebuke the War rather than fight the very creatures that took away said companions and great-grandchild as well as give up his incarnation by drinking a "Warrior" elixor from the Sisterhood of Karn to become a "War Doctor". In one interview Moffat said he didn't believe 8th to be the Time War Doctor because he "didn't fit the idea" and would never commit genocide. If it's so hard to imagine McGann fighting in the war, wouldn't it also be hard to imagine Hurt attempting to save Davros from the Nightmare Child (as 10th mentioned in The Stolen Earth)?

The true War Doctor; No. 8

This is where I call bull. If 8th wasn't the type then why were there hints from Big Finish prior to the 50th? Why did Tony Lee show 8th in the War if he didn't want to fight in it and why were most of fandom convinced of his involvement for so long? Moffat's logic doesn't compute with 8th characterization in Dark Eyes and Dark Eyes 2. It spits in the face of not only the said references but a huge spit in the face to Big Finish and more importantly McGann. It makes the changes 8th worthless and rendering the deaths of Lucie, Tamsin, and Alex pointless as if they were killed off for nothing. In the BBC Books, 8th  had to blow up Gallifrey to thwart Faction Paradox. He didn't need to go to the Sisters (who somehow gained regeneration when they want nothing to do with all things Rassilon) to change to regenerate into a warrior to defeat the Grandfather Patadox. Even if Eccleston was unavailable (due both to filming Thor: The Dark World and Moffat unable to get Joe Aherne to direct instead of Nick Hurran) to be War/9, Moffat could've still kicked the War role to McGann as it gels in tune with his current characterization in the recent audios. 8th shouldn't have to not to be a deserter just so he could maintain the perception of a children's hero; its doesn't make a dog lick of sense. As great an actor John Hurt is, I just don't see a need for an hidden incarnation.  Especially one who was promoted as Warrior in vain of Kalendorf from Dalek Empire when what we actually was a retread of Peter Cushing's cinematic (and .100% Human) "Dr. Who". That was what came out in the final product: In my early immediate review of Day, I stated that Hurt was the New Who generations's Richard Hurndall but it appears more than just that the more I think about it. He wasn't a warrior at all; just a cuddly, depressed old man who really didn't break the "promise" 11th told Clara. Further, when he had the dilemma of killing everyone to end the war, I honestly felt nothing, because I didn't know who this person was. Moffat sure enjoys making a huge deal about things only for the payoff to come flat like a soda (i.e. River Song and later Time of the Doctor). Adding insult to injury is the repercussions of the insert (and counting Meta-Crisis 10th) which was part of Moffat's plan to solve the regeneration limit just so he could be hailed a hero to fandom at large so the next showrunner who comes after him won't. Instead of solving it, it bollixed it up in story and in merchandising. It also makes the whole 11th's the 13th and final incarnation relevations flat and pointless when we know of Peter Capaldi named as 12th plus makes for a sloppy Christmas Special story to resolve (or lack there of) all loose end only to tangle them up in knots. Hurt served his purpose as the band-aid. There's no need for more appearances on screen nor in all of the spin-off material regardless of a recent lone novel.

Are you sure this is Doctor Who and not Star Wars, son?

Another thing that bugs me about Day was how the children of Gallifrey through the eyes and words of Clara were used as emotion fodder to the audience to sell them on why what the Doctor did was wrong; why he has to be the Man Who Wouldn't. With the said first destruction, the children never factored into it since the planet wound up in the corner of the 8th Doctor's mind, so they turned out safe along with the rest of the Time Lords. It became clear with the music, the kids became fodder for emotional manipulation in ways I just couldn't bring myself to showing this special to my girlfriend's children. "The Man Who Wouldn't".... this dreck began with the 10th Doctor era as part of how the Doctor should be presented yet ignoring the many thing he had to do sometimes like blowing up Skaro, shooting an Ogron or manipulate his companions on an occasion (i.e. 2nd in Evil of the Daleks) or more (i.e. 7th). Heroes do make tough choices sometime; that's what Moffat and before him RTD forgot outright. Even the choices they don't like and the results of the choices. By snatching away the tough decisions and consequences, what good is a hero and his story if he just avoids them and rewrite history just because it's fashionable? Even moreso is actually showing the Time War itself when we all know it wouldn't done justice either on screen or in print. The War was presented by Moffat as a run-of-the-mill Star Wars shoot out rather than the endless batch of "what ifs" we'd been accustomed to. It really didn't need to be seen whatsoever. I'll give props for changing the outcome but not the manipulation that lead to it. Even the Moment's appearance as Rose fanned the flames of the 8th Anneversery charges against the special and are well justified. It wouldn't hurt Moffat to have the moment appear in the form of Susan or Romana to silence the critics but chose not to out of disrespect to the 42 out of the program's 50 year history.

Liz would NEVER!!
                                       -  the poster of ONTD

Then there's the early segments of the special with the Zygons and Queen Elizabeth I. Many a female and LGBT viewer were feuming mad at Moffat for the potrayal of the Virgin Queen as just another stock female character who falls for the Doctor. What makes it more cringeworthy is that Moffat chose to adapt the infamous line about her from The End of Time. The posts on Oh No They Didn't! Live Journal really showed discontent for Moffat's blatent sexism that shows up in his writing...and frankly, I now understand and see it. Until 2013 I overlooked the sexism because, I was still content with stories that didn't feel like written by commitee via Hollywood exectuives to reach the lowest common denominator. But even with having a new showrunner who wasn't about character over plot came at a price and the sexism is that price. Not even a special guest appearance from Tom Baker and a cameo from the now incumbent Doctor Capaldi isn't enough to mask what's wrong with it.

Will he hold out, folks? CAN HE HOLD OUT?!

Now like Nostalgia Critic regarding Man of Steel, I understand what some folks loved about this special but I just don't love nor like it in any compacity. I meant what I said in my earlier review that Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman deserve better as did and does McGann, McCoy, C. Baker, Davison and fans old and new. If this speacial was what we'd look forward to since 2005 then I think Lorainne Heggessey shouldn't have bothered reviving this show and I say this as young man who first watch Who via SyFy when they had the rights to show it prior to BBCAmerica taking the lead. So there you have it the full no holds bar Reviewer's cut of Day of the Doctor. I know it won't change minds (you know who you are) but at least take everything type into deep thinking and consideration.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It's Midnight! - The Deep Breath Review

Now after 10 months of waiting (and for yours truly four month of waiting, schooling and working) we finally get to usher in Peter Capaldi's reign as the 12th Doctor. We kick off the new era with the premiere episode Deep Breath. The episode begins in Victorian London where we find its citizens and the overused Paternoster Gang (Strax, Vashtra and Jenny Flint) witness a T-Rex wandering about only to spit out a certain blue box launged in its throat. The trio went to the TARDIS only to run into a silver haired man with a chilling glare instead of a fresh faced young man and Clara still in shock about the regeneration she witness. However, things take a turn when the newly regenerated Doctor investigates who brought the Dinosaur in to the time perior and why they killed it. So how does this new Doctor debut fair compared to the previous?

The Good:

  • Peter Capaldi- Right from him popping his head through the TARDIS doors is fantastic. Like the first three before him you know he's not human but still passionate when injustice is caused. Plus his costume is sublime and I can expect many a cosplay (and the risks of buying 800 pound Crombie coat
  • The new titles based on the fanmade YouTube video that caught the BBC's eye
  • Strax throwing the newspaper at Clara's head. Gif, anyone?
  • Cyan, no more! After seven years,  they've finally chose a different color for the console core.
  • The showdown between 12th and the Clockwork Robot
  • The new theme music
  • Clara being assured via phone by 11th (cameo by Matt Smith) that he's still the same man; only he's not the hugging type. Jenna Coleman really acted her butt off here to where the scene feels stronger than Rose coming to terms with 10th back in the Christmasn Invasion
  • The Nethersphere arc does seem to be the main arc for the season plus the mystery of its Gatekeeper Missy (Michelle Gomez)

The Bad:

  • Clara's struggling with coming to terms with the regenerations and missing 11th; the most glaring plot hole ever have seen the last ten faces prior to him (ignoring the two unnecessaries who shant be named). It was like Moffat made her a soundbite of the multiple Tumblrs who express their ageism toward our new Doctor for not being younger.
  • The worn out welcome of the Paternoster Gang. The novelty pretty much started to wear thin beginning with The Crimson Horror and still does here. Plus the fight scene was naff to where it really should've been trimmed down considerably. Try as he might with them, Steven Moffat will never get the trio a spin-off
  • No middle 8 in the theme until the next live performance at Proms (again!)
  • The T-Rex now predating the events of Invasion of the Dinosaurs
  • The following words "boyfriend" and "husband" should be banned.
  • "Clara the egomaniac" running gag mid-way

Bottom Line: Deep Breath on its own stands up with a now darker Doctor and beginning a new arc that's not rewriting time and and having our hero chase his own tail throughout his entire existence in the process. However, it suffers from extra screentime for the Paternoster Gang to where it feels more like a backdoor pilot to a spin-off rather than a new Doctor debut story with the leads as the guest star. Maybe this will be the last time we have the trio turn up again. Then again, this is Steven Moffat.

6/10 Jelly Babies

DISCLAIMER: No dinosaur was harmed during the making of this episode