Category Archives: BBC

doctor who recapping: the snowmen

Previously on Doctor Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

If it’s not spider aliens below the Thames or kamikaze cruise ships careening past the stars, then it has to be biting snowmen in 19th century London. Christmas and the Doctor collide once again, and the result is just as chilling, charming, and wondrously campy as the best Moffat and co. have offered in a while.

A

Plot

  • The Doctor mourns the loss of the Ponds in his own way; i.e., by sulking around 19th century London and parking his TARDIS in a seemingly permanent cloud bank.
  • Enter Clara. Clara is a clever and very familiar looking barmaid/governess who becomes instantly intrigued with the Doctor.
  • Clara and the Doctor accidentally discover the iceberg tip of evil Doctor Simeon’s plans to take over the world with parasite snow, a sentient snowglobe, and the hybrid forms of a couple frozen corpses. (It’s best to just accept the feasibility of this plan without a fight.)
  • Unfortunately, the Doctor is out of the whole “world saving business” and he just wants to leave the Earth alone (albeit from a couple hundred feet above its surface).
  • Clara is not a girl you can easily say no to though — even if you’re a Time Lord.
  • Together with old friends like lizard alien Vastra, Vastra’s wife Jenny, and Sontaran Strax, the Doctor and Clara take on a dead ice woman (Clara’s predecessor at her current governing gig).
  • Things seem to be going along fairly smoothly: fun outsmartings of the frozen governess, flirty back-and-forths between Clara and the Doctor, and comic relief from our alien friends…and then it all falls apart.
  • Immediately after the Doctor offers Clara a key to the TARDIS — a physical representation of his willingness to move forward and enjoy life once again with a new companion — the ice woman emerges from the cloud bank to throw Clara hundreds of feet to the icy ground below.
  • While mostly dead Clara is left to Strax’s medical ministrations, the Doctor and Vastra confront Doctor Simeon and the evil alien parasite that eventually is revealed to control him.
  • All hope seems lost, but then the snow minions are defeated by a magical salty rain brought about by an entire family crying on Christmas (specifically, the family Clara serves as a governess for — again, just accept it.)
  • The Doctor returns in time to hear Clara’s last words: “Run, you clever boy, run. And remember.”
  • What? The Doctor is no idiot. He realizes an impossible connection must exist between Oswin Oswald, the girl turned Dalek turned dead from his adventures in The Asylum of the Daleks, and Clara.
  • As he happily flies away in the TARDIS in search of his twice-dead girl, viewers are treated to a modern Clara doppelganger in the middle of an overgrown cemetery, blissfully reading, of course, the tombstone for one Clara Oswin Oswald.

BTalking Points

Clara Oswin Oswald…Who?
Are we all caught up? Actress Jenna Louise Coleman has mysteriously already played two characters in her short time with the show. First off was souffle-baking Oswin Oswald in the season’s premiere. She turned out to be a Dalek right before dying. Now we meet Clara. Clara gets to actually talk to the Doctor face to face, and their flirty and feisty repartee lays easy groundwork for a whole season’s worth of entertaining chemistry. Of course, that Clara died as well, but presumably the next Clara will hit it off with the Doctor as well as the first two. My theories are all half baked (besides the one where Clara is a cat alien with nine lives), so I’m resigned to wait with the rest of the Whovian world.

Fun
It’s no secret Moffat likes to have a little fun with his scripts, and why shouldn’t he? From no less than four “Doctor who?” jokes to potato-inspired jabs at Strax, this special seemed made for Doctor Who fans who love the show as much as Moffat does. Could some tighter editing have been employed? Sure, but all has to be forgiven in the face of the Doctor masquerading as Sherlock Holmes while music reminiscent of Moffat’s other hit show Sherlock plays in the background. Meta-magnificence! Add in a fantastically sinister performance from Sir Ian McKellen as the voice of the parasite, and I was sold.

Quick Gripe
As much as I enjoyed The Snowmen, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have at least one silly complaint. What’s up with the “winter is coming” line? I get that it’s a seemingly generic and pithy way of announcing the arrival of the next season, but come on…That was literally the promo line for Game of Thrones’ first season. References are fun (see above), but the mention here — twice! — does absolutely nothing for Game of Thrones or Doctor Who. For the former, it’s the noble words of everyone’s favorite honorable family; for the latter, it’s just the power-crazed rambling of a parasitic snowflake. If there’s an insightful connection there, I refuse to see it.

CQuotes

The Doctor: I’m the clever one. You’re the potato one.

Clara: It’s smaller on the outside.

The Doctor: I never know how. I only know who.
Clara: Who’s this?
The Doctor: Me. Giving in.

Strax: Madame Vastra wondered if you were needing any grenades.
The Doctor: Grenades?
Strax: She might have said help.

Vastra: Good evening. I am a lizard woman from the dawn of time, and this is my wife.

Clara: Run, you clever boy, run. And remember.

Hayley has other interests besides just nerdy TV shows. She also is a big fan of thinking. She ponders the great mysteries of life, like how more of her time can be devoted to watching those nerdy TV shows.

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doctor who recapping: the angels take manhattan

Oh, Ponds. The mid-season finale of Doctor Who gave the girl who waited and her Roman soldier a tearful (and at times terrifying) send-off. Almost before we could blink, Amy and Rory were gone forever, out of the Doctor’s reach – and out of ours.

Plot

  • Rory accidentally stumbles upon the weeping angels (arguably the scariest monsters in Who history – if only because no one cares to remember the Silence) and gets zapped back to NYC in the 1930s.
  • He gets swept up with River Song on her way to a notorious crime boss. River is supposed to help the crime boss solve the mystery of the invading angels while Rory (deemed unimportant as usual) is thrown to the “babies” – infant angels who give the toothy child monsters from Galaxy Quest a run for their money in the creepy department.
  • The Doctor and Amy come to the rescue, TARDIS-style – crashing and bashing their way through the tricky timey-wimey traffic – but Rory has already been touched by an angel (not at all as funny as it sounds).
  • The Doctor, Amy, and River meet up with Rory at Winter Quay, a spooky hotel full of the victims of the angels. Instead of just zapping people back in time to feed off of their time energy, the angels now contain their victims in one place, zapping them back in time again and again and again until their life runs out.
  • In one of the rooms, the Doctor and company discover an old man on his death bed. The man calls out to Amy, and the group realizes – mere seconds before he passes away – that the old man is Rory.
  • Our Rory and Amy, shocked by the apparently “fixed” nature of Rory’s demise, decide to create a paradox that will destroy the Winter Quay and stop the angels’ invasion. The Doctor thinks this means the couple will run try and run away. Rory and Amy decide this means committing suicide by jumping off the hotel.
  • As the Doctor and River stand by helplessly and an angel-ified Statue of Liberty gnashes its teeth, Rory and Amy step off the building, arms entwined, accepting their fate…
  • …before waking up, bright-eyed and without any broken bones, in a cemetery outside of the city. Apparently, the Doctor informs them, committing suicide did create a paradox that set everything back to normal. Hooray!
  • As the gang prepares to pile back into the TARDIS, Rory notices something strange, a tombstone with his name on it. As he beckons Amy over, he suddenly disappears, leaving behind only a hideous angel with its arm outstretched.
  • The Doctor begs Amy to come back to the TARDIS, pleading that if she lets the angel touch her he’ll never get to see her again. Amy has already made up her mind, though, from the moment she realized the angel had taken her husband. With a final “goodbye, raggedy man”, she turns, locks eyes with the Doctor, and disappears.
  • Devastated, the Doctor finds some solace in a letter from Amy. She urges him to never be alone and to remember how much she and Rory will always love him – however out of reach they may be in the fixed pocket of time the angel sent them to. She reminds him of the girl who waited for her “raggedy man”, the girl who would fall in love and fight pirates and save a space whale and give hope to the greatest painter of all time. And finally, painfully, she tells the Time Lord who hates endings that this, at last, is the end.

Talking Points

Feelings

I feel . . . sad. Though as a strong and unashamed advocate of seasons 1-4 of the rebooted series, I have to admit the emotional toll of this departure paled for me in comparison to Rose Tyler trapped in a parallel universe, Donna forgetting everything, and David Tennant dying (oh, you know what I mean). I think everyone has their “golden age” of Who and mine has obviously passed. I still enjoy the show, clearly, but the departure of the Ponds doesn’t hit me quite as hard as I know it will for others. Plus, Amy and Rory are together and that makes the romantic in me happy.

Questions

Why does Rory’s name appear on the tombstone before the angel touches him, but Amy’s name appears only after? How can River deliver a manuscript to Amy but not visit? If seeing old Rory die triggered young Rory to kill himself, how could any Rory ever be killed in the method the angels intended? What in the world is a “fixed event”, writers of Doctor Who? (I’ve had serious problems with this concept since the Pompeii episode — which incidentally featured Karen Gillan). And, perhaps most importantly, what will I have to look forward to watching every weekend now that Who is on hiatus?

What’s Next?

Well, Jenna Louise-Coleman is coming on board as the next companion. However, there are some messy problems with her character that were established in this season’s premiere. She’s a Dalek and dead, to put it bluntly, but we’ll get to see how Moffat and co. start to iron out those wrinkles in the Christmas special. Till then, Whovians, we can unite in our shared sadness over the passing of the Pond era.

Quotes

Grayle: What’s that? What’s happening? Is it an earthquake? What is this?

River: Oh, you bad boy. You could burn New York.

Grayle: What does that mean?

River: It means, Mr. Grayle, just you wait ‘til my husband gets home.

————

River: Turns out the person I killed never existed in the first place. Apparently, there’s no record of him. It’s almost as if someone’s gone around deleting himself from every database in the universe.

The Doctor: You said I got too big.

River: And now no one’s ever heard of you. Didn’t you used to be somebody?

The Doctor: Weren’t you the woman who killed the Doctor?

River: Doctor who?

————

Rory: Could someone please tell me what is going on?

The Doctor: I’m sorry, Rory . . . but you just died.

————

Amy: You think you’ll just come back to life?

Rory: When don’t I?

————

Amy: Well then, I just have to blink, right?

————

The Doctor: You are creating fixed time! I will never be able to see you again!

Amy: I’ll be fine. I’ll be with him.

The Doctor: Amy, please! Just come back into the TARDIS. Come along, Pond. Please . . .

Amy: Raggedy man, goodbye.

————

Amy: Tell her this is the story of Amelia Pond . . . and this is how it ends.

————

Hayley has other interests besides just nerdy TV shows. She also is a big fan of thinking. She ponders the great mysteries of life, like how more of her time can be devoted to watching those nerdy TV shows.

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doctor who recapping: a town called mercy

Previously on Doctor Who: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

From dinosaurs to saloons and shoot-outs, Doctor Who zaps from one end of the story-telling spectrum to the other. In a grand mash-up of Skynet terminators, Stephen King-esque gunslingers, and old school spaghetti westerns, the Doctor and company find themselves in a sticky dilemma packed with as many delicious moral intricacies as gaping plot holes.

Plot

  • The TARDIS accidentally lands in Mercy (“I always took you where you needed to go”), a town protected by a circle of stones from an alien gunslinger intent on killing the space doctor.
  • Guess what? Our Doctor is somewhat surprisingly not the doctor in question. Kahler-Jex, an alien, crash landed on Earth a while ago, added some electricity to Mercy, and cured the whole town of cholera – making him as much a doctor as anyone else.
  • The Doctor figures out that Kahler-Jex isn’t the greatest guy – he developed murderous cyborgs back on his home planet to help his people win a war. The alien gunslinger is actually one of the cyborgs, and he wants to exact bloody vengeance upon his maker.
  • The Doctor has trouble reconciling Kahler-Jex’s murderous past and his benevolent present.
  • Amy helps the Doctor realize they need to be better than their enemies by giving people second chances (just like America, some British actor playing an American says knowingly).
  • The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to befuddle the gunslinger, allowing Kahler-Jex to escape to his ship.
  • Kahler-Jex dies “honorably” by committing suicide, self-destructing his ship after delivering an impassioned speech about his guilt and his belief in the afterlife.
  • The alien gunslinger stays to protect Mercy – presumably for centuries since he’s a cyborg who may or may not ever die.

Talking Points

You Look Familiar

Doctor Who knows its fan base – just look around. Cobbled together from the recycling bin of some of science fiction’s most loved and loathed content, A Town Called Mercy gave nerdy boys and girls plenty to recognize. It’s a space western, after all, a sub-genre responsible for such sci-fi notables as Firefly and Star Wars – as well as lesser gems like Cowboys and Aliens.  It’s nice to get a nod every now and again from the Doctor Who writers. This episode said to me, “Hey, we get you, we know who you are, and like it or not, this one’s for you.”

Mind the Gaps

There are plot holes in this episode, okay? The cyborg gunslinger has no reason to teleport in such an idiotic way. It’s inefficient, and I’m certain cyborg killing school taught him better. Also, what’s up with the stone circles of absolutely zero protection? And does it bother anyone that everyone in Mercy should be dead? Seriously, without Kahler-Jex they all would have succumbed to cholera. I’m not even going to touch the fun if historically disastrous inclusion of anachronistic electricity. But you know what? I’m okay with all these funky elements. The Doctor careens through space and time without a good grasp on consequences, so why should the episodes that document his adventures be any different? Carry on, good Doctor – I see your plot holes and choose to ignore them.

Doctor Who? Part Three

I really can’t express how much I enjoy ranting about morality. I need to stop. It’s actually embarrassing how much I wrote on this subject before realizing none of it needed to be read by anyone anywhere. Instead, I’ll do something different: I’ll talk about what I liked. I liked how the Doctor acknowledged that his mercy ultimately seems to lead to more condemned lives than saved ones. I appreciated Amy’s insistence that the Doctor’s a danger to himself and the whole universe when not accompanied by a stabling presence (i.e. a human companion)I’ll just say one negative thing: I don’t think the writers allocated enough time or philosophical depth to this subject. I want 43 whole minutes of morality talk – we can skip the monsters and time travel for just one episode, right? I’m sure loads of people would be on board with this idea. We could just sit the Doctor down and let him talk about ethics — like a lecture! (It may be correct to say that I’m having college withdrawals.)

Quotes

The Doctor: Anachronistic electricity, keep out signs, aggressive stares –has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?

———–

Kahler-Jex: Looking at you, Doctor, is like looking into a mirror . . . almost. Well, there’s rage there, like me, guilt, like me, solitude — everything but the nerve to do what needs to be done.

———–

The Doctor: Today, I honor victims first — his, the Master’s, the Daleks’ — all the people who died because of my mercy.

———–

Kahler-Jex: We all carry our prisons with us. Mine is my past. Yours is your morality.

———–

Security system: Thank you for choosing Abaraxas security software, incinerating intruders for three centuries.

———–

Hayley has other interests besides just nerdy TV shows. She also is a big fan of thinking. She ponders the great mysteries of life, like how more of her time can be devoted to watching those nerdy TV shows.

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doctor who recapping: dinosaurs on a spaceship

Previously on Doctor Who: The Asylum of the Daleks

Yeah, that’s right, every other show ever – can you have an episode dedicated to dinosaurs traipsing around where they don’t belong? I didn’t think so.

(And no, Terra Nova and Dinotopia, you guys don’t count. You have to be good to count.)

Plot

  • Meet the new gang – at least for this episode.

Queen Nefertiti: You remember your history lessons right? Ancient Egypt once had this pretty swanky queen who knew English idioms and liked to wear incredibly low-cut dresses. Or something like that.
John Riddell: Indiana Jones-esque and equipped with a barrel full of double entendres, Riddell gets picked up by the Doctor because someone on the show needs to know how to use a gun.
“The Ponds”: Amy and Rory are accidentally joined by Rory’s father, Brian! Befuddled hilarity and surprisingly touching moments ensue.

  • The Doctor has a mission, and he, of course, chooses to accept it. A big, mysterious spaceship is flying on a crash course for our planet, and Earth’s security will blow it to smithereens unless the Doctor can divert it.
  • The gang arrives on the ship via TARDIS and immediately runs into a dog-like stegosaurus, creepy pterodactyls, and a pair of sarcastic robots. So far, so good.
  • The suddenly space savvy Amy realizes that the ship was an ark for the Silurians (which means nothing to anyone except for diehard fans who recognize them as the reptilian race more or less responsible for Rory’s pre-Roman death.)
  • The gang runs into a bad guy named Solomon – and he’s pretty bad. He’s a pirate, but not the fun Captain Jack Sparrow kind. He boarded the ship awhile ago and killed all the Silurians so he could sell all their precious animals. He even gets his robot henchmen to shoot Brian.
  • The Doctor saves the day with expected Time Lord flair. He gets Brian and Rory to fly the ship away from Earth while sending the missiles to destroy Solomon’s getaway vehicle.
  • Oh, and the Doctor and Rory share a mostly one-sided kiss somewhere in there. I’m belatedly reminded that that’s probably a plot point worthy of note. And Nefertiti and Riddell are presumably an item now. Just now sure where they’ll settle down. Or when.

Talking Points

Fun.

Man, I love this show. This episode wasn’t even that spectacular from a critical perspective (or even a logical one), but I’ve long given up judging Doctor Who on an episode-by-episode basis. For me, the essence of this show resides in its ability to encourage imaginative story-telling and push the boundaries of what television programs ought to be. I cannot stress how much I loathe procedurals. Especially procedurals lazily disguised as something else. It’s refreshing to watch shows that plummet along on their own quirky and clunky arcs. There are bumps in the road, sure, but I’ll weather them out. For every so-called “filler episode”, there’s a Weeping Angel right around the corner.

Doctor Who? Part Two

I’ll try and keep this short since it’s an unintentional continuation of last week’s morality rant. So the Doctor has absolutely no qualms about allowing the ISIS missiles to kill Solomon and his robots. Really? I’m all for the utilitarian and eye-for-an-eye justifications, but not when employed by a character who has a 900+ year legacy of doing the opposite. Come on, Moffat. Help me out here. “In Moffat We Trust” is a popular Whovian mantra, but for now I’m more preoccupied with Moffat Who Forgets Who His Main Character Is.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Like the Ponds

Three episodes left and counting before the undeniable end of the Pond companion era. It almost goes without saying that Amy and Rory’s good-bye will be a dramatic, possibly fatal affair. No hints yet about their future demise or peaceful relocation, but plenty of grim foreshadowing is starting to pile up. When the Doctor cheerfully tells Amy she’ll be around till the end of him, her reply – “Or vice versa!” – paired with the Doctor’s suddenly drained features, isn’t difficult to analyze.

Quotes

The Doctor: Brian Pond, you are delicious.

Brian: I’m not a Pond.

The Doctor: Of course you are!

**********

The Doctor: How do you start a triceratops?

**********

The Doctor: We need to turn this ship around

Rory: You said it was too late, that there wasn’t any time.

The Doctor: Ah, but I didn’t have this plan then, did I?

**********

The Doctor: Look, Solomon. The missiles. See them shine? See how valuable they are? And they’re all yours. Enjoy your bounty.

**********

Hayley has other interests besides just nerdy TV shows. She also is a big fan of thinking. She ponders the great mysteries of life, like how more of her time can be devoted to watching those nerdy TV shows.

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doctor who recapping: asylum of the daleks

Geronimo, Whovians! Season 7 of the rebooted British television show is here and ready to amuse, amaze, astonish, and confuse!

Plot

  • Amy and Rory sign their divorce papers (gasp!)
  • The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are all kidnapped and taken to the Dalek parliament – a lot like a human parliament, except that things seem to actually get done.
  • The dynamic trio is forcibly sent to the asylum of the Daleks, a hellish planet full of all the Daleks the regular Daleks thought were too demented and weird. The regular Daleks want the Doctor and his companions to lower the force field on the asylum so that the whole thing can be destroyed.
  • The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are aided by a quirky young woman named Oswin who escaped the fate of the rest of her crew by hiding out. She speaks to the three by hacking into the communication systems and helps the Doctor move around by erasing the memory of him from the Daleks’ hive brains.
  • Amy and Rory realize they still love each other. Amy kicked Rory out because she knew he wanted kids and she couldn’t have any. Poor girl who waited; poor boy who waited 2,000 years.
  • The Doctor finds a convenient teleport. He plans to lower the force field (thus completing their Dalek objective), rescue Oswin from her fortified hiding place, and escape the asylum before the Daleks’ take this opportunity to kill him and his friends.
  • The Doctor’s plan hits a major road block when he arrives to save Oswin. Why? Because plot twist – she’s a Dalek!!! She used to be a human, but upon crashing on the planets, the Daleks recognized her intelligence and decided to surgically transform her into one of them. Oswin didn’t even realize she was a Dalek.
  • Oswin tearfully fights back her Dalek urge to kill the Doctor and tells him to remember her as he leaves.
  • The Doctor, Amy, and Rory teleport back to the TARDIS. The Doctor taunts the Daleks and is pleasantly shocked to discover that Oswin had actually deleted the memory of him from all Daleks everywhere. Doctor who? (No, seriously the Daleks ask that. It’s a bit silly and self-referential and it was already done last season . . . but still, brilliant!)

Talking Points

Introducing the New and Improved Daleks

The Daleks have a new trick up their . . . plungers. It’s about time, too. Up till now, viewers have had to nod skeptically as the Doctor insisted his worst enemy was a herd of discarded kitchen appliances shaped like upside down ice cream cones (and, come on, it’s not like season 5’s primary color paint job helped that dynamic). Anyway, the Daleks can now infiltrate human bodies, living or dead. Why is this important? Now Daleks can be anywhere. Before you could spot one a mile away and deflect an attack with a baking sheet.

Doctor Who?

Okay, I’ll indulge myself a bit and ramble on about a problem that probably bothers only about 0.05% of Doctor Who fans. The Daleks are life forms, unpleasant or not. Why does the Doctor’s mantra of compassion not extend to them? No, I get it – the Daleks love killing and hating. They would never understand compassion. But at least past seasons, noticeably Eccleston’s only season and Tennent’s third, addressed the discrepancy between how the Doctor views killing and how the Doctor views killing Daleks. I get that perhaps there’s not as much room for this dark and morally-ambiguous type of story-telling (also highly evident in Tennent’s “Waters of Mars”) in the new seasons, but I still miss it.

The Problem of Oswin

Get ready, nerds – this one’s a doozy. Last March, producers announced that British actress Jenna-Louise Coleman would be the Doctor’s next companion. Show runner Stephen Moffat was pretty adamant in insisting that her first appearance would be in this year’s Christmas special. The problem? Coleman surprised everyone by showing up as Oswin in the premiere episode. This, of course, wouldn’t be a massive problem except for the fact that Oswin is a) a Dalek and b) dead. I almost wrote an essay about the different ways out of the Oswin problem, but that’s probably not helpful to anyone. Suffice it to say, I trust Moffat. He has a near-perfect record when it comes to innovation, shock, and trippy timey-wimey shenanigans. Sure, he’s barely hovering at 50/50 concerning logical season arcs, but nobody’s perfect and I’m a tough season arc critic (which is probably my only real, unique skill – and it’s not even that real).

Quotes

The Doctor: What so special about this lot then?

Oswin: Don’t know. Survivors of particular wars. Spiridon. Kembel. Aridius. Vulcan. Exxilon. Ringing any bells?

The Doctor: All of them.

Oswin: Yeah? How?

The Doctor: These are the Daleks who survived me.

**********

Rory: Oh, so this is the kind of escape plan where you survive about four seconds longer.

**********

Daleks: Identify!

The Doctor: Well, it’s me. You know me. The Doctor. The Oncoming Storm. The Predator.

Dalek: Titles are not meaningful in this context. Doctor who?

Daleks: Doctor who?

The Doctor: Oh, Oswin. Oh, you did it to them all. You, beauty.

Daleks: Doctor who? Doctor who?

The Doctor: Fellas, you’re never gonna stop asking.

**********

Hayley has other interests besides just nerdy TV shows. She also is a big fan of thinking. She ponders the great mysteries of life, like how more of her time can be devoted to watching those nerdy TV shows.

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