Review: “Doctor Who” Series 7, Ep 1: “Asylum of the Daleks”

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Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

An overlong absence of “Doctor Who” is, well, like sex deprivation. It’s miserable for a while, then you habituate, but your first go at it after the long interim is, well, rewardingly explosive. (Oh stop the Victorian-era gasps; you know how ribald I can get). “Asylum of the Daleks” definitely was, yes, massively orgasmic.

This is, for once, how you do a proper Dalek story; none of that “Victory of the Daleks” or “Daleks in Manhattan” mess. Done away with (at least for now) are the interconnectedness or episodic feel of past series (especially the wonderfully arc-heavy series 6). Series 7 truly is as cinematic as advertised. (The movie posters for the autumn episodes definitely capture the new series’s cinematic direction). Truly stand-alone in a movie-size kind of way, “Asylum of the Daleks” felt bigger than the time it was allotted, yet at the same time fit that allotment perfectly. Steven Moffat got the tone right, with episodic humor downplayed and not too many reminders of the show’s backstory to hit us over the head with.

Moffat’s genius writing is like an old friend whom you wish you weren’t restricted to see only in moderation. It’s almost Dalek-like, his genius. He does it again with his play on eggs and milk, two seemingly trivial mentions early in the game that suddenly grow in significance by game’s end. I love the introduction of another nickname for the Oncoming Storm (“The Predator”), and his idea of nanogenes that transform organisms into Dalek puppets (or make them get all Daleked, as Amy puts it). I also loved his handling of the Ponds’ falling out and eventual reunion; in the beginning, there’s a scene of model Amy flashing the words LOVE and HATE on her knuckles, a subtle hint at the resolution for her and Rory’s storyline in this episode (the formula for Dalek conversion: subtract love, add anger). And how ingenious it was for Moffat to further the Doctor’s retreat into the shadows by having Oswin erase the Predator from the Daleks’ collective memory. Ah, so many felicities in this episode, all stemming from the writing. Moffat’s writing is admittedly the reason I tune in to this show. The day he steps down as head writer will be a grim day indeed.

Jenna-Louise Coleman’s surprise appearance (about five episodes premature) as Oswin Oswald, a junior entertainment manager of a shipwrecked starliner with an uncanny ability to hack Dalek tech, was brilliant. What a coup for Moffat and team to have pulled off the secret and actually properly fool us. Coleman’s insertion into the episode was only equaled by the shocking and nightmarish reveal of Oswin’s true state as a Dalek convert in denial. I’m as in the dark as everyone else as to how Moffat will maneuver Oswin into a full-time companion slot; it will definitely make things interesting having a Dalek as the next Doctor’s companion. (On a minor note, I already love the snippets of what I am presuming is Oswin’s theme that surfaced at select points in the episode; Murray Gold ftw!).

One final note on the modified title sequence:  Though not very radically changed, it’s now more Halloween-y, with spooky greens meshed in with the dark blues of the Time Vortex. The font has been changed and now has a ghost-like ripple fade-out. And the “Doctor Who” logo was customized presumably for this episode with hemis (or Dalek bumps, if you will). I’m sure the Whovian community will be divided over the modifications; I, for one, find them fitting. I love Moffat’s experimentations with the show’s format and look, as controversial or at the least frustrating as they may be. They definitely keep the show from getting stale.

Quotables:

  • “How much trouble, Mr Pond? Out of ten? Eleven.” -the Doctor to Rory, in one of Moffat’s sly nods to this being the Doctor’s eleventh incarnation
  • “I did make a souffle but it was too beautiful to live.” -Oswin on her birthday present for her mother
  • “You think hatred is beautiful?” / “Perhaps that is why we have never been able to kill you.” -The Doctor and the Dalek Prime Minister
  • “What colour? …Sorry, there weren’t any good questions left.” -Rory, in a cheeky reference to the (what many have found ill-conceived) multi-colored Daleks of series 5
  • “Where do you get the milk?” -The Doctor, in wonderment of Oswin’s ability to bake a souffle in the core of the Asylum
  • “Don’t be fair to the Daleks when they’re firing me at a planet.” -The Doctor scolding Rory as they get forced into an Asylum expedition 
  • “It’s life. That thing that goes on when you’re not there.” -Amy to the Doctor
  • “Sorry, what? …Eggs?” -Rory to an awakening Asylum Dalek attempting to say “Exterminate.”
  • “Pop your shirt off, quick as you like.” / “Why?” / “Does there have to be a reson?” -Oswin flirting with Rory to keep him in good spirits
  • “Run, you clever boy, and remember” -Dalek Oswin; she’ll surely be remembered in time for the Christmas special
  • “Titles are not meaningful in this context. Doctor who?” -Dalek puppet Darla von Karlsen to the now mysterious stranger before her and the Daleks
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Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 10: “The Girl Who Waited”

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This older, tougher, and katana-wielding Amy might just kick the Doctor's whimsical time-traveling butt!

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

It all started because there were two buttons.

Expecting “sunsets, spires, and soaring colonnades,” the Doctor takes Amy and Rory to the planet Apalapucia, which unbeknownst to him is quarantined. Specifically, they land in a Twostreams “kindness facility,” where 40,000 two-hearted beings infected with the “one-day plague” (a bacterium that kills its host after one day) are, with the aid of time manipulation, given the opportunity to live out their entire lives in the span of 24 hours. Here’s where it gets “extra wubbly”: The facility has a visiting room which exists in parallel timestreams running at different speeds. A loved one can, from the “normal” timestream, in the same room, observe the afflicted patient (whose timestream runs faster) live life and grow older. It is this somewhat confusing plot device that sets the story in motion, as the Doctor and Rory find themselves on the visitor side (the “Green Anchor” area), while Amy, lagging behind, unknowingly enters the patient side (the “Red Waterfalls” area). When her boys finally get a chance to infiltrate her timestream and rescue her (a matter of minutes to them), they find an embittered Amy who has advanced in age by 36 years.

My favorite "Doctor Who" writer du jour, Tom MacRae. Dear Steven Moffat, please invite him to write more!

It’s a positively “timey-wimey” plot, classically Moffat-esque, but the script was actually written by Tom MacRae, of “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Age of Steel” fame. I wasn’t much a fan of those two previous DW episodes, but this one was an absolute cracker. In a way it acts as a mirror to Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” from the first half of series 6; whereas with that, we got to see the Doctor heartbreakingly meet an impossible manifestation of a loved one (the TARDIS), here Rory meets an impossible version (by way of a paradox) of his own wife. This episode might well have been called “Rory’s Wife” (or the more clever “Rory’s Choice,” as I’ve read in another review). I’m a fan of symmetry, so appreciated that much. (I must say though, I wonder how much of the script was actually rewritten by head writer Moffat himself; there were albeit very welcome references to “The Eleventh Hour”; also, the idea of an older version of someone watching a younger version of himself and his life and memories change in front of him is very “A Christmas Carol”).

Kudos to Karen Gillan, who truly shows her acting chops here. I grew fond of her older Amy; so much so that I rather wish Rory and the Doctor decided in the end to forego the younger Amy and instead steal away with the older. Through the years of waiting, the older Amy became not just a survivor but also a genius hacker, resourceful sonic screwdriver maker, a battleworn action heroine (having to face down through the years the faceless robotic maintenance staff, or the “Handbots,” as the Doctor calls them) and eventually, in an impossible and funny way, a cougar (seeing her flirt with Rory in the presence of her younger version incited giggles from me–the thought of a menage a trois between a man and his two wives!). The older Amy is well-designed as a character, down to her makeshift armor and her samurai sword and staff (which she got presumably from the facility by way of the Apalapucians being cultural scavengers). I can only wish my older version of myself were that kick-arse! Her transformation–from having grown to despise her Raggedy Doctor for abandoning her, to rediscovering how to laugh and love again (the kiss between older Amy and Rory was hot–the Doctor is not the only cougar cub in the TARDIS!) to being selfless enough to let her younger self live a full life with Rory–was ultimately narratively satisfying.

I love how this episode, even as a stand-alone, enriched our view of and also advanced Amy’s and Rory’s relationship. We find out endearing and funny tidbits about their young love, i.e. that their first kiss was set to the ‘90s song “Macarena,” and Rory’s brush with guitar-playing. (I actually think it’s this aspect of the episode that makes me wonder if Moffat had rewritten much of MacRae’s script, as Amy and Rory are Moffat’s characters).

A tearjerker scene, in which older Amy accepts her fate. "Did I ever tell you about this boy I met there who pretended to be in a band?"

There were many whacky scenes–like Rory cutely and absurdly marching out of the TARDIS with his Rory-cam glasses and a giant magnifying glass, or Rory decommissioning a Handbot with a replica of the Mona Lisa–interspersed with heartbreaking scenes throughout–like the scene in which older Amy considers (and ultimately foregoes) putting on lipstick for Rory, while Rory meets his “disarmed” Handbot substitute. And of course there’s the tearjerker of a scene in which the Doctor locks the older Amy out of the TARDIS and leaves it up to Rory to make the decision about which Amy he wants to save. Murray’ Gold’s beautiful music further bolstered the episode.

Overall, “The Girl Who Waited” is a beautifully and cleverly told stand-alone story. It’s lush, on a budget. An episode that I highly recommend be given numerous repeat viewings on one’s iPlayer.

Quotables:

Doctor (and later, Amy): “Eyes front, soldier!”

Check-In Girl: “Or try our roller coaster zone, authentically modeled on the famous Warpspeed Death Ride at Disneyland-Clom.”

Older Amy: “You’re asking me to defy destiny, causality, the nexus of time itself for a boy?”

Older Amy: “I’m going to pull time apart for you.”

Doctor: “Sometimes knowing your own future is what enables you to change it. Especially if you’re bloody-minded, contradictory and completely unpredictable.”

Doctor: “If anyone could defeat pre-destiny, it’s your wife.”

Rory: “Two Amys together. Can that work?”
Doctor: “I don’t know. It’s your marriage.”
Rory: “Doctor.”
Doctor: “Perhaps, maybe if I shunted the reality compensators on the TARDIS, recalibrated the doomsday bumpers and jettisoned the karaoke bar, yes, maybe, yes. It could do it. The TARDIS could sustain the paradox.”

Doctor: “Come on, Rory. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s just quantum physics.”

Younger & Older Amy: “Which one’s Amy 1? I am. No, I am.”

Rory: “I’m not on my own. I’ve got my wives!”

Rory: “Amy, you always say, cooking Chrismas dinner, you wish there were two of you.”

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 8: “Let’s Kill Hitler”

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There's a first time for everything. The Doctor being kissed by his "bespoke psychopath."

Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

Leadworth crop circles! Rose, Martha, and Donna! (Sorta). A sonic cane! Hitler in a cupboard!

After an excruciating three-month absence from the airwaves, “Doctor Who” – and the mad, mad brain of head writer Steven Moffat – is back.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” brings the Doctor to 1938 Berlin and face to face with the biggest war criminal in the universe. And no, I don’t mean the Fuhrer himself (who gets relegated rather whimsically to a cupboard for much of the episode); I’m talking River Song, the half-Time Lady who will one day kill or has already killed (it’s all so timey-wimey) the Doctor on April 22, 2011, 5:02 p.m. at Lake Silencio in Utah.

It’s a cleverly constructed episode that had its own revelations to match the big one of “A Good Man Goes to War” that came before it. I was delightfully surprised by Mels’s concealed identity as Melody Pond. How funny that the Doctor had been searching for baby Melody when she’d actually been hiding in plain sight all along as Amy’s and Rory’s childhood friend (how many people can say they grew up alongside their parents?). And that regeneration! Kudos to the Moff for confirming the idea that regenerations can transcend race. Here, we witness Melody Pond’s second and final regeneration (her first was as a child in New York; and she sacrificed her remaining regenerations to save a prematurely dying Doctor).

So much for "temporal grace!" It was all just a lie, you idiot!

I’m actually rather surprised by this limitation Moffat has imposed upon himself. I had thought the introduction of the idea that River is in fact a Time Lady a clever one that could provide an out for the Moff should Alex Kingston (god forbid the day) ever bow out of the role; that is, her departure could be explained away via a regeneration. Allowing River only two regenerations (both already used up) makes things much more tenuous, but the upside is that River Song will forever be tied with Alex Kingston. Bottom line is that I long for the episodes in which River Song appears. I believe her next appearance will be in 9, followed by 13.

Moffat’s trademark humor is evident throughout the episode. I love the bonkers Bat signal-like opening, the flashes back to Amy, Rory, and Mels as children, Amy mistaking Rory for gay, how the Doctor and Melody try to outwit each other (I love the banana bit). I also liked Moffat’s “monster of the week,” the Tesselecta, a Justice Department robot that can tessellate into anyone and anything for the purpose of hunting down criminals via time travel. Oh, and did I mention it has a miniaturization ray?

One minor nitpick: Moffat seems to be engaging more and more in recyclage. Amy being seemingly passive for much of the episode and then saving the day at the snap of a finger (via some impossibly clever deduction), like in “The Beast Below,” is getting to be rather formulaic. Also, Moffat seems to cleave heavily to the chicken-and-egg paradox to explain things away, i.e. Mels (the daughter) brokering the beginning of Amy’s and Rory’s (her parents’) relationship; “You named your daughter after your daughter.” But like I said, nitpicks.

What We’ve Learned:

  • This is the first time Melody Pond (at least as an adult) meets the Doctor. This is the episode in which she takes on the name “River Song” and receives her TARDIS diary from the Doctor. We learn that she becomes an archaeologist to be able to track down the Doctor.
  • The Silence is in fact a religious sect with a vendetta against the Doctor. They believe “Silence will fall” once a question – the first question, hidden in plain sight – is asked (presumably, “Doctor who?”). There is also mention of an “Academy of the Question.”

Questions:

  • Does River’s imparting her own regenerations resolve the 13-regeneration limit for the Doctor?
  • I still can’t get my head around the chronology (which is not surprising, given this is “Doctor Who”):  How did Melody get from New York in the ’60s to Leadworth in the ’90s?
  • When exactly did River (or Melody) kill the Doctor? As a child? Why the spacesuit in “The Impossible Astronaut?”
  • What did the Doctor whisper into River’s ear? Does it tie in to what River whispered into the Doctor’s ear in “Forest of the Dead?”
  • Apart from religion, is there a connection between The Church, the Headless Monks, and the Silence?

Quotables:

  • “I don’t do weddings.” -Mels (interesting for her/River to say, given that episode 13 is entitled “The Wedding of River Song”)
  • “A significant factor in Hitler’s rise to power is that the Doctor didn’t stop him” -Mels
  • “I’d love to, he’s gorgeous, he’s my favorite guy, but he’s, you know, gay.” -teenage Amy, talking about the impossibility of being with Rory
  • “Oh, hello. Sorry, is this your office? Had a sort of collision with my vehicle. Faults on both sides. Let’s say no more about…it.” -The Doctor to Adolf
  • “Oh shut up, Dad! I’m focusing on a dress size!” -Mels, shushing Rory as she’s about to regenerate
  • “Goodness, is killing you gonna take all day?” / “Why? You busy?” / “Oh, I’m not complaining.” / “If you were in a hurry, you could have killed me in the cornfield.” / “We’d only just met. I’m a psychopath. I’m not rude.” -Melody / The Doctor
  • “Come on, there must be someone left in the universe I haven’t screwed up yet!” -The Doctor, trying to find the right companion for the TARDIS voice interface
  • “Ladies and gentlemen: I don’t have a thing to wear. Take off your clothes!” -Melody
  • “I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.” -Rory
  • “You’re dying. And you stopped to change?” / “Oh, you should always waste time when you don’t have any! Time is not the boss of you. Rule 408.” -Melody / The Doctor
  • “Kidneys are always the first to quit!” -The Doctor (a nice reference back to “The Doctor’s Wife”)

Review: “Torchwood: Miracle Day” Ep 3: “Dead of Night”

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No, not Ianto. Nor Alonso. I'm Brad. I'll be your one-night stand this evening. Shall we proceed to the bed?

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2

It’s Pharma’s biggest wet dream come true. The “miracle” that has plagued the world has proven a boon to pharmaceutical company Phicorp, with its non-narcotic painkillers proving to be the only solution for a population unable to die but continuing to experience pain. But the convenience of Phicorp’s suddenly integral role in the whole scheme of things–the company seems to have Congress on its side, with legislation in the pipeline to make drugs accessible without prescription, essentially clearing the way for exponential profit–seems suspect to the new Torchwood team. Not only may Phicorp be simply leveraging the situation, it may have anticipated–and perhaps even instigated–the miracle in the first place.

The “Miracle Day” plot continues to thicken with “Dead of Night,” written by Jane Espenson, though with not quite the thrill of the two episodes that preceded it. But I suppose that’s to be expected in a serialized story line. You’re bound to have “in-betweeners” that help set up bigger bangs in later episodes. Still, I wouldn’t skip over this one (and believe me, I’ll let you know if a waste episode comes along that you can fast forward through).

On the lam in their makeshift HQ, and with no one to trust, the two Americans and two Brits (well, Jack is of questionable nationality…being from the 51st century and all) comprising the new Torchwood team must, out of necessity, learn to be just that:  a team. The opening scenes make for some funny working-out-the-cultural-kinks (“chips” instead of “crisps”; “cell” instead of “mobile”). Oddly enough, I’m particularly liking Gwen these days. I hated the sorta-ingenue role she’s had to take on in previous seasons/series; this time, she’s a veritable pro and a bona fide kicker of arse (as a consequence, I’ve now transferred my annoyance to new rookie Esther Drummond).

How Jack makes love: All clothes off, but with his Vortex Manipulator still on. Just in case he wants to engage in time travel mid-sex, I guess. Not really the best way to, er, "withdraw," but hey, whatever floats your boat, haha.

Amid a relatively blah episode, the controversial gay sex scene (which the BBC had edited out but which was left intact for the Starz broadcast) was perhaps for some the standout moment of the night. “Mortal man, mortal needs,” Jack says, upon spotting a gay bar, where he proceeds to meet, and hook up with, the bartender (and just in case you want to know, his name is Dillon Casey). The sex scene the follows is intercut with a parallel sex scene between Rex Matheson and Dr. Juarez, I suppose to dilute the “gayness” factor of the show and keep the heterosexual contingency drawn in. It is quite hot, though the insertion (pun half-intended…I had to write an accompanying joke to the photo caption to the right) of the Rex-Vera scenes did make it feel like a bit of a de-gaying exercise. (I’m being a little facetious, yes!).

The climactic face-off between Jack and Oswald Danes is perhaps an interesting throwaway moment for those new to the show, but meaningful for those with prior knowledge about what had happened in the previous season/series of “Torchwood.” In “Children of Earth,” we witness Jack take on the role of child-killer. But unlike Jack, full of remorse over the sacrifice of a child’s life, Oswald reveals candidly that the apologies he’s been doling out for his past pedophilic and murderous actions have all been for show. With Phicorp having allied itself with him, even providing him with bodyguards, we now have a clear picture of the “villains” of the series.

We’re watching the “rising action” unfold in this current “Torchwood” series, and I’m eagerly looking forward to uncovering more of the plot–and perhaps a bit more man-on-man action under the sheets–in episodes to come. (Blimey, the sexual innuendo just seems to write itself. Sheesh!).

Review: “Torchwood: Miracle Day” Ep 2: “Rendition”

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Welcome to America!

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

“Rendition” continues where last week’s “The New World” left off, with Jack and Gwen, extradited from Wales, finding themselves on one deadly plane ride to the US. In a world where death no longer exists, the last remaining mortal–Jack–finds himself the target of an infiltrated CIA. But who’s giving the orders for his–and Torchwood’s–execution?

First of all, the serial structure befits “Torchwood,” as evidenced by the success of the third series, “Children of Earth.” “Miracle Day” so far has benefited from the same structure, making for quite suspenseful–if ridiculous–drama. And boy, does “Rendition” get ridiculous, especially when the team tries to save a poisoned Jack via chelation. (Rudimentary chemistry limited to things found in an airplane!) The complications of the “miracle” continue to amp up in intrigue–there’s the need to rethink triage, as well as the decreasing effect of long-term use of antibiotics and increasing need for painkillers (I kept thinking, is all this really just one big ploy by the pharmaceutical industry to rake in the big bucks?)–just as it seems there’s some sort of force controlling death itself, amping up aging and the ironically torturous continuation of life. The cliffhanger structure just keeps me wanting to know more and more.

I don't have gay thoughts...but "Torchwood" still does!

Whereas last week’s series premiere focused on the reunion of Torchwood 3, this week’s episode brings about the formation of what is to be, I suppose, Torchwood 4. How writer Egan brings the episode to its climax is quite good, with the two CIA agents Rex Matheson (played as over-the-top obnoxious by Mekhi Phifer) and Esther Drummond (played as the requisite blonde by Alexa Havins) essentially pushed out of the CIA and into the perhaps more welcoming arms of Torchwood. We also get more on the secondary characters. Dr. Vera Juarez (played by the svelte Arlene Tur, who kept reminding me of a less saucy but still equally attractive Stacy London), continues to be relevant, acting as unwitting drug-pusher and accomplice to the new Torchwood team; she also serves to fill us in on the medical ramifications of the miracle. Oswald Danes (a somewhat convincing Bill Pullman) on the other hand provides an intriguing view of the ethical/philosophical complications brought about by the miracle. Then there’s Jilly Kitzinger (Lauren Ambrose), whose bubbliness seems to mask some other ulterior motive. My interest in all these various story lines has been piqued; I can’t wait to see how they all intermix.

Any concerns as to the dilution of the homoerotic elements of the show were laid to rest by this episode. In the midst of being poisoned, Jack nonchalantly mentions a former boyfriend from the 1800s who took arsenic for his complexion. To camp it up even further is the presence of in-the-closet male steward Danny as comic relief, as well as the (very) possibly gay “Jim” at the medical panel. Death’s taken a holiday, but thankfully, omnisexuality hasn’t.

Overall, “Rendition” provides an entertaining hour of drama. I’m hoping the momentum carries over to next week’s episode, “Dead of Night.”

Review: “Torchwood: Miracle Day” Ep 1: “The New World”

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I bloody love kick-ass reunions.

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I think life post-Ianto might just be okay. Maybe.

In the series opener of “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” things are not right for immortal Captain Jack Harkness, aka the future Face of Boe (John Barrowman). With a wound not mending, he’s become his normal pre-Satellite 5 self again:  all mortal and stuff. But he seems to have made a trade with every human in the world–they all seem, interestingly enough, unable to die (in one gruesome scene, we watch a bomber’s exploded corpse show signs of sentience). It’s an intriguing scenario that not just brings the last two remaining members of Torchwood Three together again, this time on American soil, but also raises some pretty heavy philosophical questions:  What of executions? (Interestingly, this first episode aired the same day as the execution of Humberto Leal Garcia in Texas). What of pain? What of over-population? It’s not that hard to imagine how the miracle of non-death could in reality be a curse.

This is, for those familiar with “Torchwood,” the show’s fourth series, the first three having premiered on British airwaves. It’s since become a naturalized American citizen, finding a new home on American premium cable tv (the lucky Starz), with a cast of Americans to comprise the new Torchwood team. Creator Russell T Davies–whom, by virtue of having written a “killer” episode, I have forgiven for having killed off the aforementioned Ianto and thereby the coolest and hottest and possibly only male-on-male sci-fi romance ever–seems to have managed the tricky feat of introducing “Torchwood” to a whole new audience (aka potential converts), while still catering to the show’s existing followers (those familiar with the show will undoubtedly have caught Captain Jack’s reference to former TW team member and casualty, Owen Harper). RTD does a great job of reintroducing–and further complicating–the mystery of Captain Jack. Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) has never been my favorite TW character, but she is in such commendable serious ass-kicking form here, that I hoorayed at seeing her once again.

RTD’s script isn’t entirely perfect, but campy imperfection seems almost part of his charm as a writer. When workhorse CIA agent Rex Matheson (Mekhi Phifer) gets out of his hospital bed and gown (and into his suit from a violent car accident that somehow seems to have mended itself during his hospital stay) and slogs all the way across the Atlantic to Wales (paving the way for all sorts of Welsh jokes–watch out for one that deftly references New Jersey), there’s a sense of the comical and ridiculous to it all. (Let’s not forget that “Torchwood” is after all a spin-off of “Doctor Who,” which has admittedly had its fair share of the cheesy through its entire nearly 50-year run. …And please don’t write to me in a huff, fellow Whovians, for I have not blasphemed–only spoken the truth with some endearment!).

Mummy will take care of this, sweetie.

Overall, it’s great to see “Torchwood” back on the telly again. This “Torchwood” seems freer, no longer susceptible to the BBC’s mistreatment. But only time will tell how the American audience will react to this import. (I kept wondering, will we be seeing captions pretty soon, due to complaints regarding accents, every time Gwen or Rhys utters something?). It will also be interesting how the UK audience–which for the first time must watch the show on delay (how the tables have turned)–will behave: Will the Brits resort to piracy, as many Americans have in the past been wont to do? How will that affect ratings, iPlayer and all? And what of the Cardiff rift? (I suppose leave it for the bloody Welsh to deal with, eh?). And couldn’t RTD have waited till this series to kill Ianto? (Sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Here’s looking forward to next week’s episode, “Rendition.”

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 7: “A Good Man Goes to War”

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Are you my mummy?

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Note to BBC Americans: Spoilers abound.

The Steven Moffat-penned mid-series finale, “A Good Man Goes to War,” is perhaps the coolest space fairy tale that “Doctor Who” has yet produced since its revival. It will have Whovians properly Moff***ed with nerdgasms 777 times over. As the seventh episode of the current series (and the 777th since the show started its run in 1963), it had me watching (and rewatching on my iPlayer, probably seven times now) in genuine wonderment like a little boy of seven all over again (I grow ever convinced that how much a “Doctor Who” episode can reduce a grumpy old adult comme moi to his child self is probably one of the best metrics for gauging its success).

There’s an epic feel to it right from the off, with the Last of the Time Lords and the Last Centurion blowing up a Cyber fleet just to prove a point to Amy’s kidnappers. Through the course of fifty minutes, we see an army of Silurians, Judoons, the Spitfire pilot “Danny Boy” from “Victory of the Daleks,” and Henry and Toby Avery from “The Curse of the Black Spot” converge on the Church’s military base on Demon’s Run. It’s like “The Pandorica Opens” in space (but even cooler), teeming with an even more colorful cast of characters. (A Victorian lesbian samurai Silurian! Yeah!).

I took a liking to the nearly 12-year-old Commander Strax, a Sontaran warrior who as a result of the Doctor, takes on the role of nurse as penance. He delivers some of the episode’s funniest dialogue, including a scene in which he offers his nursing services to the Ponds’ fretting baby (see “Quotables” section below). His death scene is particularly memorable:  Rory, also a nurse-warrior, tells him to stay strong, but Strax’s identity as a nurse is too deeply imprinted in him; “Rory, I’m a nurse,” he tells him before bowing out. (I wonder if this is foreshadowing for Rory, who himself has suffered a bit of a split identity since joining the TARDIS team).

I was also very taken by the character of Lorna Bucket, played by Christina Chong. I actually kept thinking she would make for a profoundly wonderful companion. I do hope that the Moff rewrites her timeline and brings her back as a proper companion for next series (speculation has abounded, based purely on their shooting schedules, that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill will say their farewells at the conclusion of series 6 in the fall).

We also see the return of the clerics, which is one of the Moff’s coolest (not to mention rather sacrilegious) ideas. As we learned in “The Time of Angels”/”Flesh and Stone” two-parter of last series, the 51st century Anglican Church has evolved into a military organization, with bishops and vergers making up its ranks. I love how the Moff plays with religion, through mentions of a “transept” level in the military base, “conversion tutorials,” the “Papal Mainframe Herself,” and “attack prayers.” We also have–count ’em–two gay couples, one of which is comprised of two marines. (The 51st century–what a long way off from DADT!). Oh, and yes, we have the gruesome Headless Monks (“Do not interact with the Headless Monks without Divine Permission”) who follow their hearts instead of their, umm, minds.

At least these guys don't have "Timeheads." ...Maybe the lesson for the kiddies is to, umm, never follow your heart?

All seems lost at the end when the Church’s carefully concealed trap becomes evident to the Doctor (the Headless Monks ambush what’s left of his army, and the Ponds’ baby turns out to be a Flesh avatar), but everyone’s favorite space archaeologist River Song times her arrival to provide hope for everyone. Were she not to have revealed her identity by this point, the Doctor would have given up, as observed by Madame Vastra (it provides a necessary hope to know that that child will be River, the one person the Doctor trusts more than anyone in the world), and his best friends Rory and Amy might have just as easily resigned their titles as his best friends. The Church is positioning their baby as a weapon after all, all in fear of the Doctor for having built up a reputation as a mighty warrior.

Though I didn’t see the aforementioned Flesh baby twist coming, I unfortunately knew the cliffhanger centered around River Song’s identity, with a little help from a certain spoiler-dispensing blog. There’s a reason River Song says “Spoilers!” It really is all for the viewer’s own good. Moffat said it best: “Stories depend on shocking people. Stories are the moments that you didn’t see coming, that are what live in you and burn in you forever. If you are denied those, it’s vandalism.” So the lesson: Never invite vandalism. Why opt after all for a premature ejaculation? (Teasers are okay, though; those are more like foreplay). Yes, my analogy is vulgar, but hopefully it drives home the point:  Leechblock doctorwhospoilers.com!

But setting aside having been spoilered, how cool to finally get confirmation of my theory that River is indeed a Time Lady (well, half-Time Lady, half-human; though we still don’t know about her marital status). As it turns out, the Ponds conceived of her on their wedding night in the TARDIS, exposing her to the time vortex (which is how Time Lords are essentially “cooked”). It does change everything for everyone. How must that be like for Amy, realizing she had pointed guns at her daughter on two occasions already (in “The Impossible Astronaut,” and now “A Good Man Goes to War”). How must that be like for the Ponds seeing their daughter in prison? To know that she will kill a “very good man?” I definitely will be rewatching every River Song episode differently now.

For some reason when Moffat had teased that this episode would be game-changing, I immediately thought he was going to have the Doctor kill mercilessly (at which point he would no longer be the Doctor, as he indicated in “The Beast Below”). It was interesting seeing the Doctor briefly get almost sadistic (especially with “Colonel Runaway”); but one of the principal rules of “Doctor Who” is that nothing too too serious as him being an actual proper killer could/should ever tarnish the Doctor’s storyline; leave the hardcore stuff for “Torchwood!”

With that said, “Let’s Kill Hitler” already!

Quotables:

  • “He’s the last of his kind. He looks young, but he’s lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you will never be alone. Because this man is your father. He has a name but the people of our world know him better…as the Last Centurion. -Amy’s fake-out, explaining to her baby that her savior will be Rory, not that other guy (cf. later when Moffat cheekily has the Doctor say vaguely “It’s mine” to Amy and Rory).
  • “We’re the Thin Fat Gay Married Anglican Marines. Why would we need names as well?” -The Moff is so amazingly camp, he should be made an honorary gay! Love a sympathizer!
  • “Captain Harcourt, I hope someday to meet you in the glory of battle where I shall crush the life of your worthless human form. Try and get some rest.” -Commander Strax says goodbye to his human patient.
  • “Oh, turn it off. I’m breaking in, not out. This is River Song back in her cell. Oh, and I’ll take breakfast at the usual time. Thank you!” -River Song, after a romp in 1814 for her birthday with a future version of the Doctor.
  • “It’s my birthday. The Doctor took me ice skating on the River Thames in 1814, the last of the great frost fairs. He got Stevie Wonder to sing for me under London Bridge.” / “Stevie Wonder sang in 1814?” / “Yes, he did. But you must never tell him!” -River explains to her father what she did on her birthday.
  • “I want people to call you Colonel Run Away. I want children laughing outside your door cos they found the house of Colonel Run Away. And when people come to you and ask if trying to get to the people I love is in any way a good idea, I want you to tell them your name. Look, I’m angry. That’s new.” -The transformation of Colonel Manton to Colonel Run Away.
  • “Oh god, I was gonna be cool.” -Rory unable to hold in his tears upon being reunited with wife and child. (I can’t wait for more revelations to come about his heightened sensitivity in relation to his 2,000 years of being a plastic centurion).
  • “It’s a geography teacher. ‘Melody Pond’ is a superhero.” -Her indoors shows who wears the pants; Amy comments on the blah name ‘Melody Williams’.
  • “And really you should call her Mummy, not Big Milk Thing.” / “Okay, what are you doing? / “I speak Baby.” -The multilingual Doctor talks to Melody Pond in her language.
  • “He doesn’t like the TARDIS noise. I asked him to turn something off, but it was all ‘But I don’t want to punch a hole in the space-time continuum’.” -Amy’s request of the Doctor to calm Melody down.
  • “I have gene-spliced myself for all nursing duties. I can produce magnificent quantities of lactic fluid!” -Commander Strax, offering to breastfeed a whaling Melody Pond.
  • “No offense to the others, but you let them all die first, okay? / “You’re so Scottish.” -Amy’s last words as she sends off her soldier to war.
  • “Demons run when a good man goes to war…Demons run but count the cost. The battle’s won, but the child is lost.” -Parts of an old saying regarding the asteroid Demon’s Run, as recited by River in voice-over.
  • “The man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name. Doctor. The word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean?” -River, bringing the Doctor down a peg.
  • “It’s your daughter’s name in the language of the forest. …Except they don’t have a word for ‘Pond’. Because the only water in the forest is the river. The Doctor will find your daughter and he will care for her whatever it takes. And I know that. …It’s me. I’m Melody. I’m your daughter.” -River reveals her true identity with the help of the Gamma Forest prayer leaf sewn by Lorna Bucket. (Nice reference back to “The Doctor’s Wife,” when the TARDIS told Rory the cryptic clue, “The only water in the forest is the river”). Oh, and I also love the moment right before this when Amy watches, with Rory looking on behind her, as the Doctor dematerializes in his TARDIS yet again (cf. “The Eleventh Hour”).
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