Saturday, August 30, 2014

Doctor Who--"Into the Dalek"

“Into the Dalek” is Doctor Who meets Fantastic Voyage.  One might question the cheapness of the homage if not for a reference to the film right before a proctologist joke.  It is difficult to decide what to think after such a combo.  I suppose the confusion is appropriate, considering the title character is one confused Dalek himself.  He is actually a good guy nicknamed Rusty by the human military unit that has recovered him.
   
I have given you enough info above to ascertain the plot.  The Doctor, Clara, and some cannon fodder soldiers are shrunk down and injected into Rusty in order to repair him.  The idea being that, since he is good, Rusty will be a major asset to the war effort.  The Doctor discovers Rusty witnessed a star being born, so he reevaluated his genocidal philosophy.  Odd.  Barbar Streisand has the exact opposite on me.  To each his own, I guess.
   
The Doctor repairs the damage done to Rusty.  He has obviously never seen his own show before, or he would have known Rusty would revert back to his normal mindset once repaired.  Then he would good go on a killing spree.  Which is exactly what rusty does.  As a bonus, he alerts his fellow Daleks to the humans’ ship so they can join in the carnage.  What fun!
   
The doctor realizes his error as the body count racks up, so he triggers Rusty’s memory of the star being born, which causes the Dalek to doubt killing is the answer, then gets a look inside the Doctor’s mind, where he decides killing Daleks is a good idea.  Ouch.  The series long question of whether the Doctor is a good man comes into play.  Rusty saw his dark side.  The Doctor’s hatred for the daleks inspires rusty to become the Dalek exterminator.  Clara herself announces she is unsure of whether the doctor is a good man, either.  Insult to injury--Rusty compliments the Doctor on being a good dalek.
   
Danny Pink is introduced as a recurring character.  He is one of Clara’s teacher colleagues.  He seems to be haunted by some incident involving civilians while serving in Afghanistan.  I am not yet clear on his role, strong hints are he is a potential love interest for Clara.  Another nail in the coffin of doctor/companion romance, one hopes.   The Twelfth Doctor dislikes soldiers more openly than past incarnations.  Will that come into play?
  
What time period is the fight between humans and Daleks taking place?  Are humans fighting both the Cybermen and Daleks simultaneously?  Such a fight would be way worse than a two front war.
   
“Into the Dalek” is far better than the premiere episode.  In spite of some similarities between this episode and “Dalek”--a damaged, confused Dalek telling the doctor he would make a good one--the episode is highly unique in terms of where we have seen Daleks in the past.   The special effects are amazing.  Expect to see some cheap, bare bones episodes later in the season to save some cash.  I like the idea the doctor is unsure of himself because of his dark side without a whole lot of the angst, angst, and more angst we have seen in recent series.  Oh, and Missy takes another one to heaven.  I do not think she is the Rani, folks.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Deep Breath"

“Deep Breath” is the first episode of the eighth series.  It also serves as the first full appearance of Peter capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor.  Capaldi had a cameo in the previous two episodes.  Both appearances were a stark contrast to one another.  In the first, he joined in the effort to save Gallifrey from the Daleks.  We saw only his wild eyes at the time.  No joke, there.  He looked insane.  Capaldi’s next appearance was his regeneration sequence.  It was played for laughs so as not to take away from Matt Smith’s emotional departure.
  
So which one is the Twelfth doctor most like?  It beats me.  As post-regeneration episodes go, “Deep Breath” is especially manic.  The Twelfth doctor is as unpleasantly weird in his introduction as the sixth doctor was an obnoxious jerk in his.  But at least the Twelfth did not attempt to strangle Clara like poor Peri.  The Twelfth only seemed to abandon her for a time.  But that is enough to nearly destroy the trust between the two.  The trust is already fragile because of his regeneration into an older, stranger Doctor than Clara knew.
  
I imagine many fans are going to empathize.  There have been a lot of jokes floating around about fan girls leaving the show in droves because they can no longer swoon over David Tennant or Smith.  Did anyone ever swoon over Christopher Eccleston other than Eccleston himself?  I have doubts, but we shall just go with it for the sake of argument.  Now the doctor is some old guy.  Indeed, Capaldi is clearly going to play the character as more alien.  Probably as less of a ladies man with his companions, as well.  In other words, more like the original era Doctors.  It is something we have not seen in the current show.  I an old school fan, so I am interested.  But I am curious how the new generation of fans will react.  Changes come fast when fans are upset.  Recall Freema Agyeman’s short tenure and the disappearance of the Rainbow Daleks.
  
I have hinted above that while I am cautiously optimistic the Twelfth doctor will be a throwback to the original show, “Deep Breath” is not promising.  For now, I am going to chalk the problem up to regeneration episodes generally being weak.  The doctor is always a little screwy right after changing.  I am going to give Capaldi a chance to impress me with his interpretation.  I hope he does not let me down.
  
 It does not help that “Deep Breath” is a weak story.  We have seen much of it before.  Clockwork aliens are in Earth’s past stealing organic body parts in order to repair their ship.  After fumbling about confused most of the episode, the Doctor saves his campanions from becoming part of the ship.  In this case, the companions are Clara, Vastra, Jenny, and Strax.   So the episode is a bit crowded, too.  The series villain is introduced at the very end.  It is a woman on the Paradise Planet from “The Girl Who Waited.”  Brace yourselves for a new round of speculation the woman is the Rani.
  
There are a few good points to “Deep Breath.”  The CGI dinosaur the TARDIS accidentally brings to Victorian England is impressive, though Londoners seem a little two blasé about the whole thing.  They must be terribly jaded by this point.  The Eleventh Doctor cameo that creatively convinces Clara to forgive her mistrust in the new doctor is cleverly done.  It is a nice touch, too.  Jenna Coleman is still hot.  That is always a selling point.  But there is nothing special about “Deep Breath.“  The Twelfth Doctor has not come out the gate running, but I am still curious to see more.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Time of the Doctor"

“The Time of the Doctor” is Matt smith’s swan song as the Eleventh Doctor.  It appears he is in a big hurry to leave.  Smith displays good acting chops, but he cannot hide his desire to leave the doctor behind for a film career.  He is sporting a wig here because Smith had to shave his head for a film role done during a Wholigan filming hiatus.  But it is not the only fake thing on display in the episode.
  
There is much ambition here.  The story ties in aspects of the eleventh Doctor’s tenure dating back to the crack in Amy Pond’s wall four years ago.  The Time Lords are seeking to come through, and they eventually do to aid an aged doctor at the end of his regeneration cycle to save a planet named Christmas.
 
Yes.  The doctor literally saves Chrisrmas in this one.
  
The Eleventh Doctor’s era has been a sharp turn away from the science fiction past of the series more towards fantasy.  The eleventh doctor is Peter Pan, showing up every now and then to whisk away companions for an adventure in a fantastical land while having them back home in time for tea.  The companions did not even travel with him fulltime any longer, a circumstance which allows for some unfortunate sitcom shenanigans with Clara’s family.  You see, she has invented a boyfriend who will come for Christmas dinner to meet the family.  Guess who must pretend to be the boyfriend?  Hilarity ensues, I suppose.
  
The Doctor subsequently becomes the defender of the planet from which a my6sterious signal is emitting.  For three hundred years, he serves as protector from various members of his rogues gallery in between repairing toys for the children.  Th4 signal is revealed to be the returning Time Lords.   They have good timing, because they are able to empower the aged doctor to destroy a Dalek armada that has finally lost patience after all these centuries.  The doctor is rewarded with a new regeneration cycle that begins immediately with a change into Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor.
 
 I am not as down on “The Time of the Doctor” as it make sound.  There are some good moments.  The regeneration is the highlight.  I am also fond when writers can weave together story elements from past episodes into a cohesive arc.  That comes from my misspent youth obsessing over comic books.  But there is much to bring the episode down.  The bits with Clara’s family were downright painful.  The ending, aside from dragging out the Daleks yet again, involves the Doctor shooting energy beams everywhere in order to annihilate the enemy fleet.  Since when can he do that?  Is there not some better way to resolve the episode?   Surely there is.  “The Time of the Doctor”  earns a good, but not great score from me.   It is fairly enjoyable, but I got the impression the creative juices ran out making the anniversary episode which aired a month prior.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Day of the Doctor"

 Life has gotten in the way of many things in recent months.   One of the most vitally important is r3eviewing new science fiction offerings.  Hence, this extremely late review for “The Day of the Doctor” and the following episode to be posted next.  All of my old reviews have been moved to this new site.  All new reviews will be posted here with some bit of regularity.  Assuming, of course, life settles down to a manageable disaster as opposed to the chaotic maelstrom I have enjoyed lately,  Pray for me, if you are the praying type.
  
Speaking of damaged, haunted people, the fiftieth anniversary episode here centers around the never before mentioned War Doctor.  He is the Doctor who--no pin intended--committed the genocide of Daleks and Time Lords  that ended the Time War.  Originally, Christopher Eccleston was to reprise his role as the ninth Doctor.  But Eccleston insisted upon selecting the director for the episode.  He did not get his way, so he bailed.  I think that wound up being for the best.  The War Doctor--no numbering, because he never really got the chance to be  the ’Doctor” in a sense--is played by the great John Hurt with all the guilt-ridden weariness you would expect from one who has snuffed out billions of lives in an instant.  We have already seen how Eccleston plays such emotions.  Hurt has the opportunity to make it new and raw.
  
“The day of the doctor” also features the return of David Tennant and Billie Piper.  Tennant reprises his role as the Tenth Doctor.  Piper plays a manifestation created by the doomsday weapon the war Doctor plans to use to end the Time War.  Piper is not playing Rose Tyler, per se, but it is interesting the physical appearance of Rose is used to appeal to the War Doctor’s conscience even though he is unfamiliar with her beforehand.  It is handled well enough that I am not disappointed Rose does not make an appearance.
  
The Daleks are a necessary villain, but the episode also features the Zygons,  Those shape shifting critters have hatched a plot that crosses the centuries from Queen Elizabeth’s England, where we find the Tenth Doctor, into the current day.  If there is a weak aspect to “The Day of the Doctor,” it is the Zygon subplot.  It gives the3 three Doctors a chance to both banter with one another and beat each other up emotionally over their actions in the Time War, its efforts to parallel the destruction of Gallifrey with UNIT’s plan to destroy London as a necessary evil to save the earth falls flat.  The resolution involves making UNIT forget who is whom so they will not set off the nuke.  Okay, but what stops the Zygons from trying again once everyone’s identity has been sorted out?  Three Doctors working together, and that is the best they can do.
 
 But the main plot of the Tenth and Eleventh returning to aid the War Doctor on the last day of the Time War is excellent.  By calling on all the past Doctors and the Twelfth, they freeze Gallifrey in time rather than destroy it, allowing the Daleks to accidentally wipe each other out.  No one will know Gallifrey has been saved, but there is at least a chance it can be recovered at some point.  The story and its execution is worthy of a fiftieth anniversary special.
 
 Overall, "The Day of the Doctor” is great.  The resolution of the Zygons’ plan is weak, and made doubly so because it is meant to be compared to the War Doctor’s decision to use a doomsday device himself.  The previous Doctors appear on monitors, which some may find silly, but tom Baker appears in the flesh as a museum curator with some hints he may be the Fourth Doctor himself.   I have always had trouble accepting the return of Doctors who appear much older than at their regenerations, but I shall not pick nits.  Baker’s appearance is a nice touch.  “The Day of the Doctor” is a strong call for fifty more years of Doctor Who.

Ratings: **** (out of 5) 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Name of the Doctor"

“The Name of the Doctor” is the seventh seri4es finale of Doctor Who.  It is also the best series finale since 2006’s ’Doomsday.”  Although it does suffer from the usual too many revelations packed into too short a time, it is really not a uge problem.  I am going to spoil the finale completely, including the cliffhanger ending which leads directly into November’s 50th anniversary special, so if you do not want to know everything, stop reading now. 

The most interesting aspect of the episode, aside from the wild cliffhanger, is the emphasis on the supporting cast.   Clara, river, Vastra, Jenny, and Strax all have major roles to play and are highly entertaining in tem.  Alex Kingston in particular kills it as River.   I like how the character has become less catty as time goes on.  With each subsequent appearance--one figures this is the last--she is more battle scarred and weary.  But all the characters do their thing here. 

Vastra invites the others to a séance-lie meeting because she has discovered from a condemned prisoner in Glasgow the doctor has a dark secret on a planet calle Trenzalore, a place he must never go.  Before they can figure out the secret, the group is attacked by the enormously disturbing looking Whipsermen, who are faceless albinos.  Clara and river escape, but the others are captured.

Clara fins the doctor and informs him of Trenzalore.  He is visibly shaken at the name.  Rightfully so--it is his final resting place.  A time traveler should never visit his own grave, but to save his friens, he must travel to Trenzalore.  Trenzalore is visually stunning.  Ark, fiery, and full o brimstone and obsidian.  It looks like the literal hell.    It feels strangely appropriate considering the Doctor’s often dark past.  His actual tomb is the none dead, skyscraper size TARDIS.

Inside is the Great Intelligence monk eying around in Dr. Simeon’s body.  (*rimshot*)  He forces the TARDIs doors open by threatening the Doctor’s friends and enters.  His plan is to step into the time stream and erase the doctor from history, whih he does.  As the Doctor lay dying, the universe changes around him as his past incarnations are wiped from history. 

Enter Clara, who enters the time stream as well in order to save each incarnation of the doctor.  The glimpses we catch of the past Doctors is a special treat for old school Whovians like me.  I particularly like the scene in which Clara directs the First Doctor, though CGI and dubbing, to take the TARDIS with the screwy navigation because it will be more fun.  The multiple Claras explain why he has appeared throughout the Doctor’s travels and saved him multiple times.

Clara restores the universe proper, and the doctor goes in after her.  In the time stream, they discover the Doctor, played by John Hurt in an unbilled cameo.  This Doctor has committed an unspeakable act that he nonetheless justifies, but “our” Doctor is appalled.  What has he one/  We will have to wait until November to find out.  

I liked “The Name of the Doctor” quite a bit.  We never get to learn the doctor’s real name, but I did not want to do so.  There is a lot of stuff packed in the episode with a large part of it not featuring the Doctor at all.  But it does not feel rushed for the info dump or empty for the lack of Doctor action.  On the contrary, the guest cast is excellent.  The cliffhanger ending truly caps it all off.  I cannot wait until November. 

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Nightmare in Silver"

I confess to apprehension leading up to “Nightmare in silver” for two reasons.  One is Neil Gaiman wrote the script.  The other cause for alarm is the return of the Cybermen.  Was my apprehension justified.  Pretty much, yes. 

Gaiman comes from the worlds of comic books and fantasy novels.  I cannot speak much of his statis among fantasy novelists, though considering he is a New York Times best seller and many of them toil away with day jobs while churning out mass paperbacks for peanuts, I can guess he is viewed like he is in the world of comics--a cut far above the rest.  He does not have to follow any rules or conventions, because he is Neil Gaiman.

The last time Gaiman scripted Doctor Who, we got “The Doctor’s wife,” an admittedly creative effort in which he was allowed to mangle Whovian mythology any way he saw fit.  So we get the TARDIS personified as a woman in love with the Doctor,  a villain we have never heard of before who has committed mass Time Lord genocide, and--oh, look,--the return of Eccleston/Tennant era TARIS controls just for kicks.  Well written, but frankly comes across as a giddy thirteen year old’s fan fiction. 

I like the Cybermen.  In spite of their goofy looking design back in the day, they were terrifying villains.  Now their design has caught up with modern technology,  but everything has has regressed.  I will give them credit for abandoning the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy complaints about inelegance of the Russell T. Davies era, but the love conquers all method of their last defeat elt more like the Care Bears than a Doctor Who adventure. 

So how bad is it when Gaiman gets free rein over the Cybermen considering my attitude?  I am going to rate it as pointless.  I certainly expected gaiman to add his own twist his on twist to the Cybermen mythology to suit his ego, and e does not.  Kudos to him for that.  In fact, the idea of the Cybermen lying in wait in an amusement park so they can use children’s minds to rebuild their collective is a good idea.   Suddenly deciding the mind of a Time Lor would make an even better choice is plausible one, too.

Maybe it is the way the plot is executed.  Clara is deputized to lead a platoon of inept soliers in battle against the Cybermen while Matt smith hams it up in pure manic fashion as he struggles internally with the cybermytes for control of his mind while playing chess with himself.   Matt smith plays the mad professor with histrionics and flailing limbs really well.  I do not dismiss the acting talent necessary to pull it off.  But the routine is growing wearisome week after week. 

So the Cybermen are eventually defeated in a mass explosion with little excitement to show for it.  Such is often the case with arch villains.  They have to be deeated every time, yet remain formidable for a later return.  I am not so sure “Nightmare in silver” left me with any sense of foreboding we doged a bullet by their destruction, but only for a while.

One thing I have not mentioned yet is why add geek favorite warwick Davis to the mix, give him next to nothing to do the entire episode, then reveal out of the blue he is the emperor?  I suppose his subdued role trough most of the episode is to make the reveal more interesting, but it actually comes across as more absurd, as does his out of the blue marriage proposal to Clara.  He likes surprises, I suppose.

What we have with “Nightmare in Silver” is another episode with a lot of nifty special effects and impressive production design, but not much else to go with it.  There is no sense of epic adventure or impending doom.  Penultimate episodes unrelated to the finale are often small, but that is not what this kind of episode should have been. Then again, I do not want Gaiman cut loose with his ego.  See my problem?

Rating; ** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Crimson Horror"

I am a jade soul after a misspent youth collecting comic books.  Cliffhangers and previews have a tough time capturing my imagination.  But last week’s trailer for “The Crimson Horror” grabbed my attention.  I am big on period pieces that have elements of science fiction and horror.  “The Crimson Horror” does not disappoint.

It is a compellingly weird and disturbing episode that mixes horrific imagery with some nifty steam punk gadgetry and enough humor to loosen the painfully tight screws when necessary.  Seriously, folks,  parasites feeding on a woman’s neck.  A hand reaching out from behind a locked door.  How about the splattering of the parasite as it is beaten to death?  You need a few laughs here and there after seeing that sort of thing.

The characters steal the show this time around.  Unlike last week, the guest cast iss meaningful, and actually has something to contribute.  Strax, Vashta, and Jenny return to investigate the goins on at the filthy Victorian workhouse Sweethouse and discover the Doctor held prisoner.  There is a nice change of pace.  The trio deserve their own spin off or at least an adventure in the annual Doctor-lite episode.  The other great characters were the dysfunctional mother/daughter pair played by real mother/daughter pair Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling.  Stirling is the right age to bring back memories of Emma Peel. 

Clara’s return to the Victorian era stirs up memories for Strax, Vashta, and Jenny of that era’s Clara who died in the Christmas special.  How can there be another Clara alive in another time period? Clara’s charges have found old photos of her from adventures with the doctor in 1983, 1974, and 1892.  They apparently use this discover to blackmail her for a trip in the TARDIS the next episode.  Too bad they will fun into Cybermen, no?

“The Crimson Horror” is an entertaining ride, but the squeamish should beware.  Ye olde envelope is pushed to ye olde limit.  Of course, that only serves to make “The Crimson Horror” one of my favorite episodes of the series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Journey of the Centre of the TARDIS"

“Centre.”  I do love using the British spelling when I can do so without lookin like a pompous jerk.

“Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” is definitely a nod to old school Whovians.  The episode is terribly thin on story with guest stars that could have been remove without consequence and an accursed reset button that brought back bad memories of the worst of Star Trek: Voyager.  The production design and special effects continue to impress, however. 

 The TARDIS is tracked by a salvage ship.  The salvagers use some sort of device that looks like a goofy Nerf football to disable It.  Clara becomes trapped insie the damaged TARDIS and spends half te episode wandering through rooms we have never seen before like the library and swimming pool.  The TARDIS is leaking the past and future, so everyone is being stalked by burned zombie versions of themselves.  The Doctor finally goes back to the moment the Nerf football is thrown in and disables it. 

I have only casually mentioned the salvagers because they do not even need to be there.  The subplot involving one of them being a robot but not knowing it does not mean a thing, nor does the sense of reemption their leader gains by sacrificing himself.  Of course, the reset button makes certain he does not sacrifice himself or gain any redemption.  Meh.  The episode would have been better if a natural disaster had damaged the TARDIS instead.  Then this whole pointless subplot could have been written out. 

Whovians should be excited about seeing more of the TARDIS interior.  The brief sound byte with Susan from the First Doctor’s era explaining the acronym was a nifty nod going way back.  I cannot help but think the exploration of the TARDIS would have been more exciting if Neil Gaiman had not already played with the idea back in "The Doctor's Wife" in which other companions wandered the halls.

  There were a couple interesting bits.  Clara read something in the library that got her attention.  What was it?  I would guess she learned his name in consideration of the seventh series finale’s title.  But maybe it was that he is married or that he ended the Time War with double genocide.   The other bit was the Doctor confessing Clara frustrates him.  She has died twice before, yet she is still here and the same person.  It was interesting to see the Doctor admit a mystery is beyond his ability to figure out.

As I said above, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” is pretty to look at because of the production design and impressive special effects.  I even liked the zombie make up when I could catch a good look at it.  But the story is gruel thin and retreads ground from “The Doctor’s Wife.”   Why the salvage crew is even in the episode is beyond me.  It is watchable, but not great. 

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Hide"

“Hide” is an interesting experience.  It took me a while to get into the story because it seemed like a budget saving haunted house tale all taking place in one or two rooms.  The pacing at first is dull.  But “Hide” quickly evolved from a lackluster ghost story to genuine horror and then science fiction seamlessly.  Color me impressed.

A professor and his assistant are ghost hunting for the Witch of the Well at the Caliburn House sometime in the ‘70’s when the Doctor and Clara arrive to help.  But the Doctor is not looking for a ghost, although the strange writings on the walls and photos of one through various time periods indicate there is one.  Said ghost/witch is actually a pioneering time traveler caught in some techno babble time pocket that ought to remind old school Whovians of E-space.  The doctor eventually rescues er and, for a unique twist, realizes the twisted monster stalking them both in the time pocket is merely a lonely alien. 

Amid all that action, the guest stars manage to stand out.  Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine play the professor and his psychic assistant respectively.  They are hopelessly in love, but are forced to hide--there is that word again--their true feelings because of their job.  That is until Emma is put in danger.  The scenes with the two of them alone are wonderful. 

Did anyone else get a chill when Emma warned Clara there is a sliver of ice in the Doctor’s heart?  Foreshadowing, but for when?  The seventh series finale in May or the 50th anniversary special?

“Hide” starts slow, but it winds up as one of the best episodes of the seventh series.   The switch from horror/science fiction and action/drama is done masterfully with the right addition of the Doctor’s impish mannerisms to lighten what could have been unbearable tension.  I am highly impressed.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor who--"Cold War"

“Cold War” is Doctor Who meets The Hunt for Red October meets The Thing.  Okay, that is not a very good description.  There is no similarities with that movie outside of none of the crew on the crew on the Col War Era Soviet submarine actually being Russian.   But the episode does feature the first modern appearance of the Ice Warriors, a classic villain old school Whovians have been excite about for a while now.  So there is that.

During the waning days of the Cold War, a soviet submarine is searching for oil, but discovers a 5,000 year old frozen ice Warrior general in stead.  By the time the Doctor arrives, the submarine is at the bottom of the Arctic ocean with Gen. Skaldak planning to launch all nuclear missiles in an effort to destroy Earth.  The doctor and crew play cat and mouse with skaldic before he is rescued by other Ice Warriors.  Everyone is saved.  Woo hoo!

One of the best parts of “Cold War” is the appearance of David Warner as a British rock loving Russian professor.  Warner is one of my favorite character actors.  It is great to see him in anything, but I must confess some melancholy as to how old he is becoming.  Or how old I am becoming, whichever is the more painful experience.

Ice Warriors were once from Mars.  We see Skaldak outside his armor for the first time and, lo and behold, actual in the flesh Ice Warriors look much like J’onn J’onz, the Martian Manhunter.  Fancy that.  

“Cold war” is not very original.  We have seen plenty of Cold War submarine adventures.  There have been plenty of hunt the alien through dark, enclosed places stories, too.  Combining the two is not particularly impressive.  In fact, I do not really see why this story had to be set in 1985.  A Russian submarine firing nuclear missiles in 2013 would start World War III just as easily.  I am also curious why everyone is covered with ice water the entire episode, but do not appear cold, even when stick their wet heads out o the submarine’s port into the frigid arctic air at the en.

“Cold War” is a fine example of not thinking about the episode too much in order to enjoy it.  It is a passably good, if highly flawed, Doctor Who adventure.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Rings of Akhaten"

Yes, I know there is a new episode of Doctor Who this week.  This is a review for the episode that aired last week.  Because last week was one of those weeks.  This week has also been one of those weeks.  All weeks are now one of those weeks.  That is why I am feeling so weak.  It will all get sorted out eventually.  The Doctor Who episodes, I mean.  The other stuff is going to linger a while, it would appear.

While biding time--as much as a Time Lord must--to retrieve Clara for another adventure--the Doctor investigates her past.  He discovers the leaf she keeps pressed in a travel book is from a chance encounter in which her parents met and that her mother died when Cara was a teenager.  Returning to the present to collect her, Clara tells the Doctor she wants to see something awesome. 

Seeing something awesome is pretty much all we et with “The Rings of Akhaten.”  It is a visually stunning episode as far as alien make up and special effects go, but very light on story.  Our heroes wind up at an alien bazaar that appears just as weird as Mos Eisley, then wind up saving a little girl from both a mummy and an emotion devouring planet.   

All that stuff is stunning to see, but lacks substance.  There is really no point in even hain the mummy there.  It is merely a neat special effect banging on its translucent cage while our heroes casually talk.  But really, folks should have learned by now any villain put in a supposedly unbreakable lass cae is goin to get out eventually. 

The ending is a bit corny.  It looks like yet another “I am a Time Lord” speech is going to do the planet in, but it is Clara who steps in and defeats it by allowing it to devour the untold emotional potential of her leaf.  The gesture should mean more to me, but it just does not.  I am not terribly down on ‘The rins of Akhaten.”  Clara ets a real chance to shine as a character and te special effects are a sight to behold.  The script just does add up.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor who--"The Bells of St. John"

“The Bells of Saint John,” or what the 13th century monks with whom the doctor is currently living call the ringing TARDIS telephone,  is the first episode of the back half of series seven.  The episode introduces Jenna-Louise Coleman as the version of Clara oswal who will actually become the new companion. 

The plot revolves around aliens stealing human minds via Wi Fi.   I had some hint of that before watching, and was expecting an anti-technology screed.  Aside from yet another Matt Smith slipping in his distaste for social media by way of the Doctor‘s lines, there is mercifully little of that.  ’The Bells of Saint John” is instead an action oriented, special effects laden romp. 

But it is not that great, either.  I do not get a foreboding sense of the worldwide threat of every internet user on Earth being sucked into the world wide web.  Where is the sense of catastrophe?  T only feels like some young, bored Londoners surfing the web one night have disappeared. 

Better to spend more time on what I do like--the doctor’s giddiness at finding Clara yet again.  She gives him his mojo back, and he has what one could amost call a schoolboy crush on her.  It is not romance, per se, but a sense the doctor has found his most trusted pal.  One wonders if the two are not headed for disaster.

Outside of the bonding between the doctor and Clara, “The Bells of Saint john” is quite ho hum.  Not necessarily bad, but much of the plot feels like an excuse for some elaborate special effects like a near plane crash and the doctor riding up the side of a skyscraper on a motorcycle.  Eye candy ads to a story, but the story cannot be an excuse to have eye candy.  Regardless, I want to see more, so the episode does its job.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Snowmen"

We are a day late, but not a poun short with the review for this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, “The Snowmen.” I actually watch the episode last night, but lacked the juice to writer a review. Good thing, too. It afforded me a second viewing today and a slight change of opinion.

“The Snowmen” feels much like a reboot. Not only is there a new TARDIS design and companion, but the doctor himself has changed. He is livin in 1892 London mostly alone. He treats his sontarian and silerian allies more as servants than friends. Some time has passed since he lost Amy, rory, and, if the series six DVD extras are canon, River. He spends much of the episode avoiding Clara Oswin Oswald, who he does not recognize by appearance from the first time they met, but thery grow closer together until she is mortally wounded by The Snowmen.

What I have just summarized is the heart of “The Snowmen.” The villain, Dr. Simeon and his great Intelligence and telepathic Snowmen are standard fare for this show. Some of the CGI work is impressive, but the villains are ultimately forgettable. The problem, methinks, is steven Moffat wanted a Lovecraft homage, but could not quite pull it off. As a Lovecraft, I may be hypercritical here. Your mileage may vary.

While I may be down on the action, I am not down on ’The Snowmen” as a whole. While the pacing drags at times, I liked the building relationship between clara and the Doctor, particularly his joy at the en when he realizes she could not possibility have died twice and goes searching or her. It has often bugged me how quickly the Doctor will hook up with certain companions while leaving scores of other people behind. Clara is something refreshingly different.

The new TARDIS interior is smooth. I am not big on the technical aspects of these things. You may be more excited over it.

“The Snowmen” is good, but not great. The BBC does period pieces beautifully. And Victorian London is wonderfully recreated. Clara and and the doctor steal the show. Jenna-Louise Coleman is going to make a great companion. The self-titled villains are the weakest link, but they are not detrimental enough to drag down the while episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Time of the Angels"

“The Angels Take Manhattan” is the mid season finale--I have been saying that a lot lately--of Doctor Who seventh series. It is also the long anticipated swan song for Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill as Amy and Rory. Speaking of song, River Song also makes her return. The easiest way to describe ’The Angels Take Manhattan” is emotionally dark. Savor the first few moments of whimsy between the main characters, because they get put through the ringer afterwards.

I cannot underscore how important emotions over logic are in enjoying “The Angels Take Manhattan.” The plot is wafer thin--the Weeping Angels are taking over Manhattan by sending Rory repeatedly further back in time to feed off the energy. The doctor and Amy track him back to 1938 thanks to a noir detective novel which parallels events as they happen. It is later revealed the novel was written by Amy in the past after she and Rory become trapped in the late 19th century with an afterward by River, who guides TARDIS to 1938. The plot is filled out with our heroes suffering a very, very bad day.

Rory dies no less than three times, once by throwing himself in tandem with Amy off the roof of a hotel in order to create a paradox preventing the Weeping Angels from getting him the final time. Although it does not work…geez. Watching Amy agree to jump with her husband is tough viewing. River is forced to break her own wrist to escape a Weeping Angel. Ouch. The doctor stands helplessly watching virtually all of it. The most interesting aspect of the plot is how little of it features the doctor in control of the situation. The story is all in the hands of his companions.

There are several things we now know for certain about Steven Moffat due to “The Angels Take Manhattan.” . One, he is really proud of the weeping Angels. Two, he likes throwing people off buildings. (A little Sherlock nod, there.) And three, He believes whovians have a strong emotional attachment to Amy and Rory. The Weeping Angels were particularly disturbing here, so I must give judos for bringing them back to their original horror motif. The Baby Weeping Angel blowing out Rory’s candle before zapping him into the past us brilliantly. Ah…the jumping off buildings thing is a joke. As for Amy and Rory, I feel emotional at their departure. I had some fears one or both of them would die rather than have a lost to us, but relatively happy ending for them Their departure is done well, without maudlin, but best not dwelled upon considering if the book has an afterward, then River must have encountered her parents in the past. Why can the doctor not go back to them? Dramatic effect seems to be the answer. Best not to dwell. We have already had two consecutive episodes to say a long goodbye to Amy and Rory. Though one does wonder why river is not upset she will never see her parents again? She can be emotionally shallow, but surely not that cold?

Someone is erasing record of the Doctor from history. Not only have the daleks forgotten him, but River is no longer imprisoned for murder because the man she killed--the doctor, of course--no longer exists. Interesting little plot twist, no? Foreshadowing for the 50th anniversary story, perhaps/

You are going to have to take “The Angels Take Manhattan’ as a character piece. The plot is awfully thin, and if you think too much about the book’s place in the story, all logic falls apart. But thankfully, it is a great character piece. It is intense in both its horrific elements and it sad ones. I imagine the episode will go down as a fondly remember classic in the pantheon regardless of it flaws. I am going to award it four stars solely because it took two hours after watching to decide what I could even say about it even though amy and rory are far from my favorite companions.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Power of Three"

I do not believe I am spoiling anything by mentioning next week’s episode will be the final appearance of Amy and Rory. “The Power of Three” feels very much likr a preemptive wake for their departure. The story is tol from their perspective more than any previous episode as they try to deal with their mundane, everyday lives versus their adventures with the Doctor in the midst of an alien invasion that feels much like a leftover from the Russell T. Davies era.

The alien invasion plor is quite secondary to character moments. One morning, small black cubes appear all over the earth, but do nothing. The Doctor advises everyone to observe the cubes for activity. The observation drags out for months before it is revealed the cubes were meant to attract human attention so they could observe and find human weakness. The cubes do, by attacking the hearts, before the doctor finds the alien space ship and defeats the plan. If that sounds like a thin plot, you have no earthly idea. The aliens plan is a lot of nothing paced glacially slowly over the course of the episode.

It is the character moments that redeem ’The Power of Three.” The doctor can only manage to hang out with Amy and Rory watching the cubes for four ays before he runs off in the TARDIS for nine months. While left behind, the couple resume their lives. Rory accepts a permanent nursing job. Amy agrees to serve as a bridesmaid weeks away. When the Doctor returns for their wedding anniversary and to deal with the cubes, there is some soul searching for all three. The universe is an exciting place the Doctor feels compelled to explore, but he likes Amy and Rory, so he keeps coming back to them. They finally decide, at Rory’s father’s insistence, to go off in the TARDIS again with the ominous reminder from the Doctor not all companions’ stories end happily.

I have mixed emotions about ’The Power of Three.” It reminds me--not in a good way--of some of Davies’ blander scripts. The entire earth is place in peril with every person knowing there is an alien threat. Millions of people die from cardiac arrest, but the doctor literally hit’s the reset button at the end. The worst part is that these happenings are in the background. The real story is about the companions’ decision to resume their Aventures with the Doctor. These character moments are great, mind you, but the bitter sweet nature will truly resonate only in hindsight when we learn exactly what fate awaits Amy and Rory.

I do enjoy the nods to the past. UNIT shows up headed by the Brigadier General’s daughter. I assume she will become at least a semi-recurring character. Brian Williams returns, too. He keeps a nearly year long vigil on a cube upon the doctor’s request, demonstrating where Rory earned his patient dedication in his Roman Centurion days. These points help boost “The Power of Three” to overcome the lackluster invasion plot.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"A Town Called Mercy"

I was looking forward to “A Town Called Mercy.” It has been about 49 years since the Doctor had a genuine wild west adventure, so he was due. I was also curious to see ben Browder again. He seems to have fallen off the map around 2008. The verdict on the episode is a big, fat…okay. The story was rather pedestrian. A lot of care went into the setting and such, however. All style and no substance. Or to be more apt, all hat, no cattle.

The Doctor arrives in the town of Mercy with the Ponds. Mercy has many advancements such as electric lihtng that it is too early for the town to have. When he announces he is an alien Doctor, the townspeople forcibly carry him out to a border surrounding the town. He is saved from whatever nasty fate awaits him by Isaac, the marshal played by Browder. Isaac explains there is a border surrounding Mercy that has been established by a cyborg they call the Gunslinger. The gunslinger is threatening to kill anyone who crosses the border other than the alien Doctor. But he does not want the Doctor. The Gunslinger is referring to another alien who says he crashed in the desert a ecade ago and has been serving the town as a physician ever since.

The alien doctor, Kahler Jex, is under Isaac’s protection from the townspeople who are perfectly willing to hand him over to the Gunslinger. Isaac feels like he owes Jex for all the good he has done, including curing a cholera epidemic without any loss of life. Isaac’s mind is not changed about Jex even when, while in the middle of a plan to retrieve the TARDIS to save Jex, the Doctor finds his ship in working order and, what is worse, he is a scientist who helped create the Gunslinger to fight a brutal war on behalf of his people. The Doctor thinks Jex ought to be handed over because of war crimes. Isaac believes in second chances.

The episode does a 180 degree turn after Isaac is killed protecting Jex. With his dying breath, he intrusts the Doctor with the marshal’s job and insists he protect Jex. It takes a significant amount of convincing from Amy and Isaac for the Doctor to decide to not hand Jex over. I found the Doctor’s attitude far more harsh than usual. Even the Ninth Doctor was not so cold as to toss a man out on his own to face frontier justice. The Doctor does come around to helping Jex escape, but fearing he will be forever hunted, Jex commits suicide instead in order to face the punisment his religion believes awaits him in the afterlife.

“A Town Called Mercy” is definitely style over substance. The episode was filmed in Almera, Spain, a place famous for foreign westerns. Clint Eastwood’s A Fist Full of Dollars is one of the most famous westerns filmed there. The locations and sets are beautifully authentic. I am also impressed by the music. There are some definite tributes to the great composer Ennio Morricone within. I half expected to see the Man With No Name come riding up.

But style will only take you so far. The story is quite anemic. The first twenty minutes or so are quite amusing with the doctor joking fast and furious, but then things turn so dark he does way out of character. Since when would Amy have to pull a gun to keep him from sacrificing a man to a killer cyborg? I cannot imagine it, but at least he shifts back to his old self for the climax. Jex’s suicide is the only obvious conclusion. It is disappointing the end is so predictable.

Browder is wasted here. After playing such a large part of Farscape and Stargate SG-1, I was expecting a more prominent role for him here. Instead, he has a couple dialogue intensive scenes, and is killed off at about the halfway point. Come on. The powers that be should have utilized him more or else what is the point of casting him in the first place?

Other issues? Britons should not be allowed to fake Texas draws. Spend the money on some American actors. How can Amy be such a whiz with a rifle in the previous episode, but accidentally fire off two shots with a pistol now? The only rationale is for comeic effect, but contradicting the previous episode for a cheap laugh does not feel right.

I will give “A Town Called Mercy” high praise for its aesthetics. The powers that be went all out on the technical specs. I have not mentioned it yet, but the Gunslinger is impressive, too. There are hints of The Terminator and Westworld with his design. But more effort should have gone into the script. I am terribly overwhelmed by the story that goes with all the eye candy. The characterizations are a bit off and the A to B to C plot elements are way too predictable. “A Town Called mercy” is like your senior prom date--pretty, but dumb.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

Steven Moffat took to the internet all during the week to promote “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” as fluffy fun, and he is correct. ’dinosaurs on a spaceship” is as light as “Asylum of the Dalerks” was dark. In spite of a cotton cany plot, I still had a good time watching.

The episode begins in ancient Eypt where the Doctor is dodging the advances of Queen Nefertiti when he gets a message that a spaceship will crash into the earth in six hours. The doctor grabs Nefertiti, Victorian big game hunter John Riddell, Amy, Rory, and accidentally Rory’s father and heads off to investigate the ship before UNIT is forced to destroy it by missiles. Our heroes discover it is an ark built by silerians to house dinosaurs, but has been taken over by a crook named Solomon and his two goofy robot henchmen, Mitchell and Webb.

Actually, the robots are not named onscreen, but they are voiced relatively in character by the comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb, aka Mitchell and Webb, so those are the names with which I am going. The two are hilarious in their annoyed banter with both one another and their sparring over perceived rudeness with Rory.

There is not much of a plot here. The sark can and will be safely destroyed before it hits Earth, Even Solomon and his robots are a bit of an afterthought. It is not until Solomon kidnaps Nefertiti and the doctor has to rescue her is there any real tension. Was there ever any doubt the doctor could save the ark full of dinosaurs from being destroyed/ of course not.

“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” is a showcase for special effects and rapid fire jokes. The doctor is his usual manic self. Amy is far more assertive, even toting a tranquilizer rifle alongside Riddell at one point dinosaur hunting. Rory has his awkward father son pairing. Thankfully, the two have a solid relationship. I had braced myself for there to be some level of estrangement between the two because…well, I do not know. Rory is kind of a dweeb. Or maybe his macho father is embarrassed his son is a nurse. Anyway, I am glad the powers that be avoided the cliché. I have already mentioned enjoying Mitchell and Webb. The episode channeled Douglas Adams at his best.

Considering the title, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” features few dinosaurs due to budget constraints. What few there are is impressive. There is a combination of CGI and animatronics when needed. Both manage to grant the dinosaurs personalities. I am impressed, even though the dinosaurs added little to the plot other than show off the special effects and add a few cute moments.

The second episode of any Doctor Who series is noxiously lackluster because of the larger scale of the series premiere, so Whovians have low expectations for it. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” amps up the fun actor to elevate the otherwise measly plot for a highly enjoyable episode. It is not a classic, but is a big step beyond the usual filler for a second episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Asylum of the Daleks"

“Asylum of the Daleks” kicks off the seventh series of Doctor Who with a bang. The revived show has yet to start a season with the Doctor’s greatest enemy because stories featuring the Daleks are generally the biggest in any given series. One hopes their going first is a sign of big things to come.

The Doctor is kidnapped from Skarro by a Dalek puppet posing as a woman who wants the doctor to rescue her daughter from a Dalek prison. Amy and rory are similarly kidnapped by Dalek puppets right after the two sign divorce papers. Our heroes wind up before the Parliament of the Daleks. The Parliament requests the Doctor’s help with a crisis on their asylum planet where they keep all the insane Daleks. A human ship known as Alaska has crashed on the planet, thereby damaging the force field surrounding it. The Daleks want to destroy the planet before the inmates escape, but the force field is not ruptured enough to do so. The send our heroes in to shut the force field off.

Our heroes do so with the help of Oswin Oswald, a genius from Alaska played by Jenna-Louise Coleman in her first turn on Doctor Who While I have not actively sought out any spoilers beyond trailers and production photos, how did I miss that Coleman was going to be in the first episode? She is not slated to become the Doctor’s new companion until Amy and Rory depart. Was her appearance a well kept secret, or am I just terribly out of the loop? I may have to evaluate my geek credentials after being caught of guard by this one.

Oswalk turns out to have been converted into a full dalek in order to better serve the asylum with her computer skills. The revelation is incredibly horrific, as is the way most of the insane Daleks are presented. I could have done without the comic relief element of the stuttering Dalek trying to say “exterminate” but Rory thinks it is sating “egg.” I did like that many of the inmates are there because of the Doctor. They hold a Major grudge.

In the midst of it all, Amy’s wrist device which keeps nanotech from altering er into a puppet is damaged. Rory offers her his, and we learn they have divorced because Rory wants children, but Amy is not infertile because of her kidnapping and giving birth to Melody last series. She decided to let him go so he can find another woman with whom to rear a family. Rory notes he loves her enough to wait 2,000uears for her, which prompts a face slap and an eventual reconciliation.

In the end, Oswald helps transport the Doctor and his companions off the asylum planet before the Daleks destroy it. She also wipes their collective minds clean of any memory of him. The final gag of the Parliament all asking ’Doctor who? Doctor who?” incessantly is a bit corny, but I will let it slide based on the rest of the episode.

The Daleks have a Parliament? With opposition leaders? A shadow government? One wonders what Prime Minister’s questions must be like. I assume they have foregone an emperor like they used to have. Or maybe the emperor has become a queen of England figurehead these days. Free elections are non-existent, one imagines.

“Asylum of the Daleks” is a good start to the season. There is a lot of action in a very moody setting. The asylum is dark and full of even more deraned than normal Daleks. Some of the comic relief elements are a little off. I do not care for the egg jokes or the “Doctor who?’ refrain. One also has to wonder how the Alaska can damage the force ield merely crashing into it, but the daleks, who have enough firepower to destroy the entire planet, need to shut it down before they can do so. From what materials Alaska made? Some tough stuff, apparently. These are fairly minor gripes in a otherwise enjoyable start to the seventh series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe"

Let us start with the obvious, shall we? “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” is based loosely on C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Outside of a high school reading of The Screwtape Letters, I have not read anything by lewis in about 23 years, so I cannot vouch for how deep the homage goes. Regardless, this year’s Christmas special is one of the best yet.

The episode begins with the Doctor escaping from an exploding ship far above 1938 Earth. He falls to the ground hard and is discovered by Madge Harwell. She helps him search around town for his lost TARDIS. They successfully find it after a false start, and the Doctor makes a promise that he will do anything Madge needs in the future. All she has to do is make a wish.

Three years later, her husband, Reg, is an Raf pilot lost over the English channel because he is flying blind with no way to know which way is land. Madge gets the telegram announcing her husband’s death, but she does not have the heart to tell her children, Lilly and Cyril, about their father until after Christmas.

Madge moves the family out to a country estate for the holidays. The caretaker turns out to be the Doctor. He has set up the place to satisfy their every whim. The children are particularly transfixed by a large, blue present under the Christmas tree from which a sound similar to the TARDIS emanates. Cyril cannot sleep that night wondering what is inside, so sneaks downstairs to open it. Inside the box is a portal to a snowy forest. Cyril pulls what looks to be an egg off a tree. It cracks open when it falls. Something crawls out and wanders off. Cyril goes looking for it.

Lilly approaches the Doctor in the attic. Something warns him cyrus has opened his present too early, so he and Lilly enter the forest to look for him. Whaever hatched from the egg is growing larger as it moves along. Cyrus may be in danger because of it. Eventually, Madge enters the forest, too, when she finds herself alone in the house. She is accosted by three soldiers who inform her acid rain is about to burn the forest down into usable fuel. Her kids will not survive.

The doctor and Lilly find the tracks lead to a spaceship manned--so to speak--by wooden figures. They have Cyril strapped to a machine. He is not being harmed. The wooden people want to place the spirit of the forest inside him to preserve it from the impending acid rain. It will not work with him, but when Madge finally arrives, the wooden people can store the spirit of the forest in her mind. As thanks, the wooden people guide the spaceship back to Earth.

Madge is forced to reveal to her children their father is dead, but she is interrupted by the Doctor. The spaceship arrived on Earth earlier than the Arwelles left. The light from the space ship crossed Reg’s path while flying, so he no longer crashed into the English Channel. The Arwelles celebrate Christmas together. Madge invites the doctor, but he has to visir Rory and amy, who believe he is dead from the ship explosion that opened the episode. It has been two years as far as Rory and Amy are concerned, but they have always set a place for the doctor just in case he shows up.

“The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” has some peculiar plot twists and a contrived ending, but possess enough heart to make it highly enjoyable. So it is dangerous for Cyril to open the box and enter the forest before Christmas? Okay, but that danger does not include the planned acid rain. That is just the Doctor’s bad luck. It comes across as a little too convenient the wooden people’s ship just happens to save Reg, but we needed a happy ending, so there we go. I am just happy I did not get beat over the head with the subplot of a bumbling military taking over a planet just to exploit it for fuel. I was apprehensive there for a moment.

I still prefer last year’s inaugural effort by Steven Moffat, but “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” stacks up quite well. It is certainly more enjoyable than any of Russell T. Davies’ Christmas efforts.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Wedding of River Song"

Well, that was trippy. Kind of anticlimactic as well. It has become clear Steven Moffat plans to drag out the story of the question that can never be answered until he decides to leave the series. I will offer up some rare praise for Russell T. Davies here. He essentially did the same, but was far more subtle about there being a long story arc. I kind of feel like Moffat is jerking me along. Perhaps the feeling is accentuated because ’The Wedding of River Song” was not quite all that I had hoped.

For one thing, it takes a long time for the episode to really get rolling. Until we discover that river Song has pulled a fast one and altered the supposedly fixed point in which she kills the Doctor, the story in nothing more than a show of how weird the universe becomes when time no longer passes. The sequence is also full of cameos by past characters, such as Charles Dickens from the first series’ “The Unquiet Dead.” But seriously--the Roman empire never fell/ Winston Churchill is in charge of it? He has the doctor held prisoner as a soothsayer? Amy is leader of a paramilitary group who is the only one who remembers everything about the Doctor? All these changes because time stopped? Sorry, but without a better explanation, I think that is just a lame excuse to see how strange Moffat can make things.

The doctor, Amy, Rory, and River have a quick battle with the silence in which Amy takes doesa full on Rambo and gets revenge for her baby being kidnapped in the mid-season finale. She is a lot more--shall we say gruesome--than rose was against the Daleks in ’The Parting of the Ways.’’ The niftiest part, aside from the macine gun handiwork and the Emma Pell leather catsuit, is she saves rory from what looked like eminent death. Maybe he has beooken the cycle of death now.

The Doctor realizes the only way to start time back up again is to complete his death. He reveals only to river that his death at Lake silencio was not actually him, but a robot run by the tesetecta. The death of the robot satisfies the need for fixed point to be fulfilled and allows the Doctor to go on his merry way as a wanderer. The question that must never be answered still remains for the future. One assumes the question is along the lines of what is the doctor’s real name?

Anyone else guessing at this point the question will be asked during the 50th anniversary season in 2013/ that sounds about right.

I did appreciate a few small moments in “The Wedding of River Song.’ when the doctor proclaims he can do anything he wants in time, he mentions helping young rose with her homework or attending every one of Jack Harkness’ orgies all in one night. I also liked the tribute to the late Nicholas Courtney when the Doctor wanted to visit the Brigadier on his farewell tour, but learns he has passed on. Those are nice name dropping moments, though mentioning the late Elizabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith is conspicuous with its absence.

“The Wedding of River Song” is not bad, but it is underwhelming. I thought “A Good Man Goes to War” was more epic. Strangely enough, I am also disappointed the Doctor who died was not a Ganger. I am not certain why I considered that a better resolution to the dilemma of how the doctor could be spared, but it does. I just found it all anticlimactic, particularly considering the ultimate resolution is clearly further down the road. I wanted more closure than I got.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Closing Time"

I have always had a penchant for the Cybermen since discovering their heyday during the Second Doctor’s reign and again since their revival in the mid-’80’s. I am not certain I can say I like them more than the Daleks, but they are a refreshing change every now and then. Seeing their return in ‘Closing Time” was potentially exciting, but I have mixed emotions after viewing. The episode is highly entertaining, but not so much because the Cybermen were involved. It was all about the interaction between the Doctor, Craig, and Alfie.

The Doctor, knowing he is about to be killed, goes on a farewell tour the way the Tenth Doctor did before his regeneration. He stops by to visit Craig, whom he once shared a flat. Craig and his girlfriend Sophie have now moved into their own house and have a son named Alfie. The Doctor swears his is a social visit, but he becomes reluctantly intrigued by electrical power outages nearby that are centered on a department store.

The Doctor gets a job at the department store to investigate. Craig seems eager to help, partially because the Doctor’s ability to understand Alfie has kept him from being overwhelmed at babysitting all weekend while Sophie is out of town and partially because he suspects something is wrong with the Doctor emotionally. The interaction between the three is the heart of the episode. It provides for some sweet comedy gold with James Corden, a comedian with whom I am not very familiar, carrying on with what I assume is his usual antics. I think the moments when the Doctor is alone with Alfie were more amusing.

The two wind up capturing a Cybermat, but are forced to battle it yet again at Craig’s home. It is largely played for laughs. Some scenes in the short battle reminded me of Critters. Lord help me for that. Why do they call those things Cybermats, anyway? They should be called Cyberats. That is what they are. The Doctor reprograms the Cybermat to locate its masters. It does.

This is the point where the episode lags. The Cybermen have crashed centuries ago under the spot the department store was eventually built. The six of them have been biding their time building up strength to when they will conquer the Earth. Craig bursts in on the confrontation between them and the Doctor, and winds up in the conversion machine. He is fully turned into a cyber men, but rejects the conversion after hearing Alfie crying. So a father’s love for his son conquers the emotionless Cybermen. Call me cynical, but that is too corny for words. No other high emotion has helped any resist conversion in the past. While Craig’s emotional reaction fits in with the episode’s theme of him becoming a better father, I really wish it did not involve the Cybermen. They are tougher to defeat than that. Or at least they ought to be.

Two points tie ’Closing time’ in with the series story arc. One is the Doctor’s discovery amy is now a model for a print perfume advertisement. He has expressed concern that everyone around him is worse off for him being there. Amy’s obvious success without him confirms it, as he ducks out of the way when he sees her coming so she will not encounter him. The other is the set up for the Doctor’s murder, as we see the Silence and it allies kidnapping river Song and placing her at the lake in a space suit so she can kill the doctor as seen in the series premiere. We will catch all that in the series finale next week.

In spite of the lackluster way in which the Cybermen were dispensed with, “Closing Time” was entertaining. It was far more of a personal episode rather than an adventure. It might have been an improvement if some new aliens, or at least less prominent ones, had been used instead of the Cybermen. That would have taken away the only disappointing feature of the episode for me. Regardless, I have little to complain about. “Closing Time” is one of the best of the sixth series installments.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The God Complex"

It is a given with BBC productions that certain episodes are going to be low budget bottle shows. With Doctor Who, that generally means a character driven story with a claustrophobic feel. Such episodes are hit an miss because the character drama and claustrophobic feel has to be spot on or else the low budget aspect becomes too obviously a detriment. I am happy to say ’The God Complex” overcomes it lack of budget to produce an intriguing episode.

The TARDIS lands in a contemporary hotel instead of the planet the Doctor was seeking. They discover four other people there. They have been trapped for a while and stalked by a creature. The otherwise empty hotel has a ever changing design and a number of rooms. Opening a room leads to the creature being able to consume victims. The Doctor surmises there is a room tailor made for each one of them. The room contains the greatest fear of the person for whom it was intended. One guy had already opened his door and begun offering praises to the creature before being consumed. Two others ignores the Doctor’s warning and suffers the same fate.

The Doctor learns the creature is a Nimron, an alien that feeds off people’s faith. The creature’s design looks to be based on Baphomet, a pagan deity of Christian folklore which now represents the occult and Satanism. The Nimron attracts people of faith to face their biggest fears behind those doors. Confronting those fears destroys their faith, allowing them to be consumed. When Amy feels compelled to open her door after repeating praises to the Nimron, the Doctor realizes it was her faith in him that brought them here.

I liked the visual of the doctor explaining that it is her faith in him that the creature is after. The two are sitting at a the lounge bar with Rory across the room. The camera is out of focus with Rory in the distant background, so he is like a mirage. There is a feeling that he is unimportant to Amy while she is learning her connection to the Doctor is the catalyst for all this trouble. It is a very sad image, but wonderfully done. Much better than the frequent dismissal of Mickey when the Doctor and rose were doing their thing in the past. Mickey was not all that likable. I sympathize with Rory. Team TARDIS finds Amy’s room. Inside is Amy as a little girl waiting for the raggedy man. The Doctor convinces her younger self to stop waiting. This disapates her fear. The hotel fades away to reveal a prison. The Nimron dies because it has no further faith to consume.

The Doctor open Room #11 to face his fear. While we do not learn what it is, he decides it is best to leave Amy and Rory behind out of fear their faith in him might get them killed. One assumes that might be his greatest fear, or that could be a red herring for something coming up. I am satified thus far with either possibility. Considering there have already been periods of time in which the doctor has been separated from the two of them, I am surprised how melancholy the split felt, even though I know it is only temporary.

If I may play with a theory, however, I think the Doctor currently running about is a Flesh Doctor. When he open Room #11, he saw the real deal, which is his biggest fear. Perhaps he dumped Amy and Rory because he knows he is not the real deal, and they might get into serious trouble with him instead. Just a thought.


“The God Complex” is a good episode overall. It is extremely disturbing in parts with a lot of references to past episodes to keep longtime fans happy. I will confess a couple were pointlessly thrown in to make the series trailer more exciting. Why did we need to see an illusion of the Weeping Angels on screen for less than a minute otherwise? The mention of a Sontaron is also some pointless name dropping. But neither point is a real detriment. The story is very absorbing, as well as moving in parts.

I might give ’The God Complex” higher marks if I understood what it was trying to say about faith. The first three victims died when they lost their faith, but the Nimron died when Young Amy lost her. The Doctor also assumes Amy and Rory’s faith in him will get them killed. So is faith good or bad? Faith has mized result in “The God Complex,” so who knows? I prefer stories that let the audience make up their own mind, but something about how faith is dealt with seemed too lazy. But, hey--I am a man of faith who set through five years of Russell T. Davies telling me how stupid I am for it, so maybe I should not complain the issue is left ambiguous.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The girl Who Waited"

“The Girl Who Waited” is a poignant episode. I consider it the best of the season thus far. It is the annual Doctor-lite episode, as he does little more than offer guidance while stuck in the TARDIS, so it is the Amy and Rory show. That is not a bad thing by any stretch, as the two have the best relationship of any companions I can recall. Certainly the best of the revived series.

The doctor promises to take Amy and Rory to a top holiday spot, but they wind up in a hospital quarantine run by white robots. They are very scary, in a sterile sort of way. Amy gets separated and is affected by a time displacement wherein she is in the facility for over thirty years while only a short period of time passes for the Doctor and Rory. The plague affects only those with two hearts, so the Doctor must stay in the TARDIS and act as a guide for Rory’s effort to rescue Amy.

I would ignore much of the temporal shenanigans--just accept them--and appreciate the really sad human elements. Amy has to avoid the robots who have the good intentions of inoculating her from the plague, but the cure will kill her. While the plan is she should only have to do that for a few moments until rescue, she winds up having to defend herself for 36 years. By the time rory arrives, she is far from the same Amy. She is battle-hardened and extremely angry at her abandonment.

I appreciated some of the more subtle moments during the Amy/Rory reunion. She does not have positive feelings for him at first. At one point, she picks up lipstick, contemplates putting some on, but then decides against it. It is a heartbreaking moment. As is the moment when Young amy is recovered, but Rory learns Old Amy must be left behind in order to restore the timeline. He can only save one, and for a long moment, you suspect he is about to choose Old amy because he thinks she deserves it after her long ordeal. Nevertheless, he chooses young Amy to restore thing back to normal.

If Karen Gillan still has any detractors out there, they must be watching a different series. She easily moves between the happy go lucky young Amy and the sword swinging Old Amy with ease, including the shift from bitterness to to a rekindled love in the latter. She made me forget that waiting for 36 years is the blink of an eye compared to Rory’s 2,000 year wait as a Roman Centurion, which is absolutely necessary for ’The Girl Who Waited” to have true emotional impact.

Amy dies for once instead of Rory. How is that for a combo breaker?

‘The Girl Who Waited” is a very good episode. I am a bit surprised to know it was written by Tom MaCrae. No slight intended against the guy, but he has a reputation for robot obsessed scripts--witness “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel”--without much emphasis on human drama. It looks like I have not been giving him enough credit. On a technical note, the aged make up on amy was great. Too often, such things are too rubbery and fake. The make up artists struck the right balance here. I have no complaints about ’The Girl Who Waited.”

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Night Terrors"

“Night Terrors” feels a lot like filler. That is not a good thing to happen in the second episode in the back half of series six. I am also inclined to think Doctor Who episodes revolving around children are generally lackluster. Witness ’Fear Her,” if you dare to watch that one again. Your mileage may vary, of course.

The Doctor receives a request on his psychic paper from a little boy named George begging to be saved from monsters. Team TARDIS travels to a council estate in modern day London. They split up to find George. The doctor, posing as a social worker, finds the right flat. and meets George and his father, Alex. Amy and Rory wind up trapped in a doll house wherein everything is made of prop wood after their lift rapidly falls to the ground.

George has been terrified all his life. His mother has taught him all of his fears reside in his closet. The dollhouse in which Amy and Rory, not to mention the Doctor and Alex eventually are trapped is in the closet and full of scary looking peg dolls who stalk them. So there really is reason to fear the closet.

Skipping an awful lot of exposition, let me just say George is an empathic alien who decided to become the only child of Alex and Claire, two parents unable to have a child. George misinterprets a statement from Alex that he wants to send George away. The risk of abandonment is the source of his fears. When everyone becomes trapped in the dollhouse, alex must convince George he is his real son and would never abandon. George is convinced, so the peg doll monsters go away.

“Night Terrors” has some nifty visuals with the terrifying looking peg dolls, as well as some hilarious moments, such as when the Doctor nonchalantly explains the situation to Alex as he desperately fends off a group of the peg dolls with a giant pair of toy scissors. But elements like those are window dressing. It is the story that counts, but the story here is very lean. It takes a long time before anything interesting happens. It is only about the last fifteen minutes or so when the dolls appear that there is much of anything to hold your attention. Up until that point is nothing but gobbledygook about a lonely alien looking for parents to love him and afraid the ones he chose will reject him. I thought the premise was too silly to have any emotional impact. Surely they could have come up with something better to explain George.

“Night Terrors” is not bad, per se, but it is nothing special. The plot is unsatisfying, but the episode is still woryh watching for the spooky visuals. Those peg dolls are quite disturbing looking. There are some very funny moments, too, such as the one I mentioned above with the doctor casually lecturing in the midst of a life or death battle and a few I did not, such as rory suspecting he is dead yet again after the lift falls. Such moments are entertaining, but they can only carry a weak story so far. I would not skip “Night Terrors,” but I suspect it will be counted as the worst episode of the sixth series. At least I hope it does not get worse than this.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"Let's Kill Hitler"

The back half of Doctor Who series six resumed today. Like just about everyone else, I was nervous by the goofy title. Killing Adolf Hitler is an old, boring plot that the audience already knows cannot actually thankfully. Thankfully, the title reveals only the catalyst for a much better story. I think the mid-series premiere is better than the series premiere.

Amy and Rory reunite in the present day with the Doctor by creating a crop circle to get his attention. I guarantee some Wholigans will be out in the fields of England tomorrow giving it a shot, too. The doctor has not yet found the infant melody. The reunion is interrupted by Mels, a childhood friend of Amy who hooked her up with rory and for whom Melody is named. Mels insists at gunpoint the three go back to 1938 in order to kill Hitler.

In reality, the TARDIS inadvertently prevents Hitler’s assassination by a robot manned by operatives from a Justice Department. Mels is fatally wounded in the incident. To everyone’s surprise, she regenerates into River Song. This gets the Justice Department’s attention. She is wanted for murdering the Doctor. River has been sent by the Silence to kill the doctor. She blows several attempts, but finally succeeds by smooching him with poisoned lipstick. She makes her escape, subsequently wreaking heaven all over prewar Berlin.

I assume you all want to see this:Alex Kingston is 48, believe it or not.

The Justice Department winds up confronting River after picking up Amy and Rory. They do not want to see their daughter killed regardless of what she has done, so they wind up in danger with the Justice Department themselves. At this point, the dying doctor shows up. He is too weak to help, but his struggle inspires the otherwise amoral river to intervene on her parents’ behalf. In the end, she gives up all her future regenerations in order to preserve the Doctor’s life. Her, in turn, drops her off at a hospital to be cared for in spite of the fact she is going to successfully murder him in a few weeks as seen in the sixth series premiere.

There is some nifty continuity stuff here. The Doctor leaves an empty diary for River by her hospital bedside as a gift. She uses it throughout the series. River died for good saving the Tenth doctor because she had no regenerations left. When looking for strength to resist the poison, the Doctor calls on holograms of rose, Martha, and Donna, all of whom he reveals guilt over ruining their lives. The Silence are a religious order, not just the big headed, suit wearing aliens we have met so far. They believe the Silence Will Fall when a specific question is answered, but no one knows what the question is. One assumes the answer is 42, no? Everyone is Team TARDIS now knows River is going to kill the Doctor shortly.

I am relieved Hitler only plays a small part in “Let’s Kill Hitler.” the episode is quite good without the minor Hitler bit. There are some funny bits, though I think they were trying a little too hard with Rory punching hitler’s lights out. We got it. Rory is not the wimp we all thought he was early on. His punching the Doctor last season was no fluke, either. Thanks, but could you try something new next time? Other than “killing” him again, of course. “Let’s Kill Hitler” has a lot more action than usual, as well as heart. It is very well done. I am a sucker for World War II era stories. Ever River is starting to grow on me.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"A Good Man Goes to War"

"Demons run when a good man goes to war.
Night will fall and drown the sun when a good man goes to war.
Friendship dies and true love lies,
Night will fall and the dark will rise,
When a good man goes to war."

The sixth series of Doctor Who is being split in half. “A Good Man Goes to War” serves as the mid-series finally. It is a big enough story to tide us over until the second half in September. It is safe to say the episode was over hyped, but it is still very good.

The episode begins right where the cliffhanger reveal of Amy as a Ganger left off. The real Amy is being held captive by a paramilitary group who want to use her baby as a weapon against the Doctor. Melody, as Amy named her, is half Time Lord because she was conceived in the TARDIS.

The Doctor and Rory enlist the aid of various characters from the last three series in order to locate Amy and melody in order to rescue them. Rory asks for River song’s help, but she mysteriously refuses. The assault on the paramilitary space station is not a success. Melody is revealed to be a ganger. The Eye patch lady made off with the real Melody some time before.

River shows up at what the BBC’s public relations department called the Doctor’s darkest hour to finally reveal her true identity. She is Amy and Rory’s daughter, Melody. I really cannot say that was a huge shock. The idea river was going to be the grown up version of Amy’s baby was the most commonly guessed game changer upon which the mid-series would end. In spite of the lack of surprise, I am not disappointed.

“A Good Man Goes to War” is very exciting. It is particularly good considering how little a role the Doctor plays in it. Certainly, he gets a few moments to shine, but right up until the end, it is Rory and the guest stars who take the lead. The Doctor is sent reeling at the realization the only child of his closest friends has been put in danger because of his destructive reputation. The villains want her because she is the only way to stop him. It is fantastic how he lights up at the reveal that River is future Melody. It is all he needs to regain the confidence to rescue the infant melody.

I am going to assume having the child is the way to get Amy and Rory out of the TARDIS without any drama like his last few companions have suffered. I have to confess melancholy at the thought. Amy and Rory have grown on me. Seeing them depart so quickly is a bummer.

Like I said above, “A Good Man Goes to War” was over hyped for what was actually in it, but it is still very good. I am anxious for September to roll around to see what is next. This in spite of the goofy “Let’s Kill Hitler” titls for the next episode.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Doctor Who--"The Almost People"

“The Almost People” was a big improvement over its first part for a lot of little reasons, but I still feel it was padded well beyond reason. There was no compelling reason to make this a two part story. But no matter. The last three minutes could have saved just about any lackluster episode. Steven Moffat managed to slide a huge secret under our collective noses, and he is totally awesome for it.

The story is an old staple for Doctor Who--a base under siege. That particular plot dates all the way back to the Second Doctor era. Things get a wee bit confusing as Gangers and humans switch places constantly. There is a lot of claustrophobic running from gangers and a monster and some pretty disturbing Ganger corpses. It all gets wrapped up conveniently--ridiculously in some cases, such as the holophone call from the kid. There was plenty of room for more exciting twists, but we got none. What the script really needed was someone to edit it down to one episode instead of two. It would have been tighter and more fast paced. More compelling tension that way.

I did enjoy the all to brief interaction between the Doctor and his Ganger. They played off each other in the perfectly manic manner you would expect from Matt Smith’s interpretation of the character. They completed each other’s sentences, particularly the jokes, as the two ran along the same train of thought. There was a moment of Tenth Doctor angst as Almost Doctor took a moment to dwell on the memories of his past selves and their extreme actions. Those more enamored with David Tennant’s troubled Emo Doctor might have been more thrilled. While I thought the scene was necessary considering Ganger Jenny’s behavior last episode when her memories came flooding back, it reminded me how tiresome Emo Doctor’s moping became after five years.

But the last few minutes, presumably written by Moffatt, made up for all shortcomings. I am going to spoil the heck out of it, so skip the next paragraph if you do not want to know. I will not mention the revelation again after.

We learn why the Doctor wanted to go to the 22nd century in the first place--Amy is a Ganger! The Doctor destroys her in the final few minutes, then it is revealed a very pregnant Amy has been held captive by an eye patch wearing woman. She is about to give birth, but to what? I had not seen this twist coming even though I have been inadvertently exposed to faux spoilers over the last few weeks. Exactly when was Amy replaced is a good question, too. Moffatt has a way of hiding things in plain sight. Our Amy may have been gone since sometime in the first season. With the next episode ending on a cliffhanger which will not be resolved until at least September, expect much nail biting frustration from me.

The surprise ending made the episode. Otherwise, it was run of the mill fluff stretched out about thirty minutes beyond it material. Nothing was technically bad, but Wholigans have seen all of it before. The interaction between the Doctor and Almost Doctor could have elevated the episode if there had been more of it. But no such luck.

Rating: *** (out of 5)