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: “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: “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”).
Read my other “Doctor Who” blog posts:

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 6: “The Almost People”

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Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

"Push, Amy. But only when she tells you to."

“Yowza!” This week’s “Doctor Who” episode, “The Almost People,” provides a cool cliffhanger as we head into next week’s mid-series finale (which promises its own jaw-dropping cliffhanger).

Kudos to writer Matthew Graham for the good job of realizing his monster, the vengeful Flesh seeking to divide at will. Some might note an inconsistency in the gangers’ nature, especially with ganger Jennifer so extreme in her hate for the humans. But the fact that she is so ruthless as to replicate a sacrifical ganger of herself to lure the unsuspecting Rory into a trap and to devour the human Buzzer tells me that she’s not so much a replicate of softhearted Jennifer, but a manifestation of the Flesh entity itself. And the line, “The eyes are the last to go,” is so effectively creepy, nicely explaining the gangers’ eye-like appearance in their unstable state:  As they are melted or “decommissioned,” the gangers’ eyes witness all the suffering of their kind, and the question of “Why?” is imprinted in their molecular memory. Seeing the pile of discarded Flesh replicates was quite sad in its own way. I also liked the gruesomely cool scene in which the Doctor comes across the Flesh’s eyes on a wall. I bet some kids about to go night-night in the UK will never look at the walls in their bedroom the same way again.

Though I felt them initially contrived, the substitutions of the gangers Jimmy and Dicken for their human counterparts feel somehow fitting (I like how the Doctor tells the ganger Jimmy, “You’re a Dad,” a nice tie to the theme of pregnancy in the series). And there’s also something fitting about the resolution provided for Miranda Cleaves (whom we find out has a blood clot, which the Doctor, acting like an actual doctor, cures in the end). The ganger foreman goes down with her factory, while the real foreman tells the world the truth about the suffering of gangers to hopefully stop the future inhumane use of the Flesh.

As for the case of the switcheroos:  How fun it was seeing the Doctor and his ganger finish each other’s sentences like twins, bandying inside jokes between the both of them. The switcheroo they pull off not only conveyed a moral lesson to the kiddies, but it also allowed the Doctor to understand the nature of how it is to be in both the kidnapped Amy’s and her ganger’s predicament. I must admit though that I’d previously thought of the possibility of Amy being herself a ganger, so the episode’s cliffhanger didn’t have as much of an impact on me (all my labyrinthine theorizing unfortunately has ruined many an ending for me, haha!). But it was nice to finally get an answer to the whole pregnancy conundrum (the TARDIS scanner’s wonky readings regarding Amy’s pregnancy had been caused by signals being transmitted to the Flesh). And I like the complication introduced in this episode by ganger Amy having inadvertently told the real Doctor (whom she had thought to be the ganger Doctor) the secret he wasn’t supposed to know (now the Silent’s hypnotic suggestion to Amy from “The Impossible Astronaut” makes sense–to tell him what he must never know, i.e. his own death). The Silence seem to have planted an intricate trap for the nameless Doctor. I’m also interested in how the real Doctor’s line to his ganger about molecular memory surviving might resurface in a future episode; I wonder if that will somehow play a role in the resolution to the future Doctor’s impending death on Lake Silencio in the Plain of Sighs.

Coming Soon: Roranicus Pond vs. the non-Cybus Cybermen.

And now onward, soldiers, to Steven Moffat’s “A Good Man Goes to War” next week. (If you haven’t already, watch the prequel to episode 7 as well as the episode 7 trailer, which features the return of the blue man Dorium from the Maldovarium in “The Pandorica Opens”). That it’s penned by the Doctorly Steven Moffat (“Doctorly” is a term of highest honor in my patchwork vocabulary) bodes well for it. As the Moff has teased: “Want to find the most dangerous place in the universe? Easy. Harm a hair on Amy’s head any just wait. But as the last of the Time Lords and the Lone Centurion blaze across galaxies to save the woman in both their lives, history is unfolding. In her cell, in Stormcage, River Song knows the time has come at last. She has a secret, and this is the day she tells it. The battle of Demons Run has begun. And the Doctor’s darkest hour is now.” Exciting stuff!

Looking ahead, I’ll posit my really outlandish idea about River Song here and now, based on this other teaser from the Series 6 Part 1 box set:  “And waiting for them, at the end of all this, is the battle of Demon’s Run, and the Doctor’s darkest hour. Can even the truth about River Song save the Time Lord’s soul?” I personally think that River will somehow be a receptacle for the Doctor’s soul (or some such complicated wibbly-wobbly arrangement), making her the Doctor’s literal “soul mate,” which would thus explain all the teases about her being the Doctor’s wife.

And again, I stand by my claims from my review of “The Impossible Astronaut” that the deadliest secret under our nose throughout the entirety of this series is the Doctor’s name; that somehow the Silence, who seem preoccupied with names (the Silent in the series six opener specifically went out of its way to mention the name of the White House staffer it had killed, Joy; also it rather oddly uttered Amy’s name:  “Your name is Amelia”), are after the answer to the “Who” of “Doctor Who.” As Moffat has riddled to us before, “…our heroes will set out on the long road to the deadliest secret in the universe – and when it stares you in the face, you might just discover you’ve known about it all along.”

I love being a Whovian!

Quotables:

  • “One day we will get back. Yes, one day… Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow…Would you like a jelly baby?” -The ganger Doctor trying to stabilize as he wades through all the Doctor’s previous regenerations.
  • “Created by the Cybermen. They kill by feeding off brainwaves.” -The Doctor and his ganger talk Cybermats to prove they’re on the same wavelength with each other.
  • “I’m starting to get a sense of how impressive it is to hang out with me.” -The Doctor admiring himself through his ganger reflection.
  • “The eyes are the last to go.” -Ganger Jennifer tells her fellow gangers the eerie truth about the slaughter their kind will inevitably face.
  • “Tough, dependable, sexy.” -The Doctor describes the TARDIS (nice allusion to “The Doctor’s Wife”).
  • “I’ll break out the big guns.” -Rory about to show off his manliness to ganger Jennifer.
  • “The ‘eyes’ have it.” -The Doctor, upon seeing a wall of accusatory Flesh eyes.
  • “Rory Pond! Roranicus Pond!” -The Doctor, scolding a tricked Mr. Pond (nice allusion to “The Big Bang”).
  • “If you’ve got a better plan, I’m all ears. In fact, if you have a better plan, I’ll take you to a planet where everyone is all ears.” -The Doctor’s promised reward to the human or ganger with a workable escape plan.
  • “I’ve helped him into an act of humanity.” -The Doctor corrects ganger Jennifer’s accusation that he’s made ganger Jimmy weaker by inciting him to save his human counterpart.
  • “You’re twice the man I thought you were.” -Amy, upon realizing that the Doctor and his ganger had switched shoes and proven that everyone can indeed get along.
  • “Push, Amy. But only when she tells you to.” -The Doctor, urging on Amy amid contractions to listen to Madame Kovarian. 
  • “Beautiful word: shenanigans.” -The Doctor’s word for accidental adventures he gets pulled into amid other plans.
Read my other “Doctor Who” blog posts:

Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 4: “The Doctor’s Wife”

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The TARDIS and her thief looking over a TARDIS graveyard.

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

I often think “Doctor Wow” would be a more fitting title for this show, especially on weeks like this when we get an episode that is sure to come down in history as a “Doctor Who” classic. Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” is one of those fantastical episodes that make returning to the real world’s banal realness exceptionally difficult.

After receiving a Time Lord Emergency Messaging System (a sort of distress signal) from a Time Lord named The Corsaire, the Doctor drives the TARDIS “outside of the universe” to the surface of a sentient asteroid called “The House” (or “House”). It turns out House is really a sort of Venus fly-trap for Time Lords and their TARDISes, feeding on the vessels by transferring their souls first to receptacles, namely four beings it had caught from a rift. House “repairs” these receptacles in a Frankenstein-like manner, using body parts of Time Lords (The Corsaire included) to support the lives of their dying bodies. The soul of the Doctor’s TARDIS is transferred to Idris (played by Suranne Jones), one of these patchwork beings, and it’s this chance transference that allows the Doctor to finally communicate verbally with his wheels. (Brilliant!).

First off, what a cool idea Gaiman had of personifying the TARDIS. It’s such a mad and wonderful idea having our madman with a box finally meet in person his mad box with a…box (Oh wait, that’s vulgar, ha). Her first meeting with the Doctor is particularly memorable, yelling out for her thief, wanting to say hello but instead kissing him, mixing up her tenses. In fact, it’s pretty neat how Gaiman evinces a time machine’s perspective on time, unable to get in order what’s already happened and what is yet to happen. She ends up acting as a sort of unwitting soothsayer, spouting oracles (“The little boxes will make you angry,” she says in reference to the psychic containers the Doctor finds and does indeed get mad about). And I especially love how Gaiman plays with DW canon, positing the idea that the the robbery (or borrowing) of the TARDIS was a two-way deal:  The TARDIS stole the Doctor just as much as the Doctor stole the TARDIS. She calls him “My Doctor,” taking ownership of him, as many children (and former children, i.e. adults) in the UK have.

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones, and Matt Smith

Then there’s that undeniably beautiful scene in which the TARDIS says goodbye (or rather hearbreakingly, hello) to her thief. I admit to getting teary-eyed seeing the Doctor himself in tears, lips quavering (he gets “emotional,” paying no heed to Amy’s earlier imperative for him to not do so). There’s something devastating about having the Doctor, possibly the most intelligent, most powerful being in the universe, reduced to tears because of an imminent loss. Actually, that’s one of the singular themes I like about this show: the finiteness of things as seen through a sorta immortal, and the resulting heartbreaks. The best DW episodes have always involved some form of loss and heartbreak (i.e. “The Girl in the Fireplace” or “The Forest of the Dead.”). Fittingly, Murray Gold’s beautifully composed “Mad Man With a Box” plays in the end, its arpeggios evoking a morose fairy tale feel.

The House is terrifically terrifying. Its manipulation of The TARDIS corridors, and its timey-wimey torture of the Ponds, are fantastically conceived. Nephew the Ood made for a great secondary monster, its green eyes actually making it scarier, aside from looking novel (in the past, possessed Oods have been imbued with red eyes, i.e. “The Impossible Planet,” “The Satan Pit,” and “Planet of the Ood”). The green color scheme in general of the episode was very effective and just plain cool.

I like the continuing references to the Doctor’s forthcoming death 200 years in his personal future (though you can really feel the tone shift whenever Steven Moffat infuses his own dialogue into other writers’ scripts). If Amy and Rory are so affected now by their friend’s death so far in the future, just imagine how the Doctor must feel in regards to River Song’s death; so ironic and bittersweet.

I also like the continuing focus on Rory (who is becoming even more intriguing as the series progresses), i.e. the inserted reminder of Rory waiting 2,000 years for Amy while they run through the TARDIS corridors. What came every single night to hurt him? The Silence? (I also like that the TARDIS confuses Rory for being the “pretty” one; hey, I find him attractive, too). And for the third episode in a row, we get mention of Rory as a nurse. What is the reason behind him not being desensitized even as a nurse? And then there’s that mysterious line from the TARDIS: “The only water in the forest is the river.” I suppose this is to do with “Pond” vs. “River.” Or is it a tie back to the events of “Forest of the Dead?” Hmm…

Other notes:

  • I love the armpit-smelling spacepunk junkyard setting, a nice reference back to the very first William Hartnell episode.
  • The cheeky, and perhaps controversial, confirmation of Time Lords being able to regenerate into either gender I’m sure will spice things up for the Doctor’s next regeneration.
  • Such a cool TARDIS-centric episode. How cool that the TARDIS could archive its old control rooms. And I thought the “Blue Peter” TARDIS design was nicely integrated into the episode.
  • I loved how scientific reasoning was constantly dismissed throughout this episode, i.e. explanations of the possibility of traveling “outside of the universe.” Gaiman gets it:  This show isn’t sci-fi so much as it is a fairy tale.

Quotables:

  • “Yeah. No! But if it helps, yes.” -The Doctor sort of explaining the concept of travel to “outside of the universe.”
  • “It’s on the tip of my tongue. I’ve just had a new idea about kissing.” –The TARDIS comes upon the idea of French kissing accidentally.
  • “Big word. Sad word. Why is that word so sad? No. Will be sad.” -The TARDIS, in timey-wimey fashion, realizing the word “alive” will later on in the episode bring her to tears.
  • “Thief? Where’s my thief? Thief!” -The TARDIS crying out for its significant other.
  • “You gave me hope and then you took it away. That’s enough to make anyone dangerous. God knows what it will do to me. Basically…run!” -The Doctor, furious, upon learning of the fate of The Corsaire and the other Time Lords he’d come to rescue (nice allusion to Moffat’s “The Eleventh Hour” by the way).
  • “You’re a bitey madlady. The TARDIS is up-and-downy stuff in a big blue box.” –The Doctor, incredulous over the idea of his TARDIS inhabiting Idris’s body.
  • “Seven hundred years, finally he asks… You call me “Sexy.” -The TARDIS reveals its name (haha).
  • “You’re like a nine-year-old trying to rebuild a motor bike in his bedroom. And you never read the instructions.” / “I always read the instructions!” / “There’s a sign on my front door. You have been walking past it for 700 years. What does it say?” / “That’s not instructions!” / “There’s instructions at the bottom. What does it say?” / “Pull to open.” / “Yes. And what do you do?” / I push.” / “Every single time. 700 years. Police box doors open out the way. / “I think I have earned the right to open my front doors any way I want.” / “Your front doors? Have you any idea how childish that sounds?” / “You are not my mother.” / “And you are not my child.” / “You know, since we’re talking with mouths–not really an opportunity that comes along very often– just wanna say, you know, you have never been very reliable.” / “And you have?” / “You didn’t always take me around to where I’ve wanted to go.” / “No, but I always took you where you needed to go.” -Whew! A man and his car have a conversation.
  • “Crimson, eleven, delight, petrichor.” -The password to get to the archived Tenth Doctor’s console room.
  • “Finish ‘im off, girl.” -The Doctor sics the TARDIS on House.
  • “I’ve been looking for a word. A big, complicated word, but so sad. I found it now.” / “What word?” / “Alive. I’m alive.” / “Alive isn’t sad.” / “It’s sad when it’s over. I’ll always be here, but this is when we talked. And now even that has come to an end. There’s something I didn’t get to say to you.” / “Goodbye?” / “No. I just wanted to say, Hello. Hello, Doctor. It’s so very, very nice to meet you.” / “Please. I don’t want you to.” -Idris saying goodbye, and the TARDIS getting a second chance at saying hello to its thief.
  • “The only water in the forest is the river.” -The TARDIS’s dying words left to Rory.
  • “Bunk beds are cool. A bed with a ladder. You can’t beat that.” -The Doctor, after the Ponds get the opportunity to request a new bedroom.
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Review: “Doctor Who” Series 6, Ep 3: “The Curse of the Black Spot”

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Amy Pond, swashbuckler

Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆

Yo ho ho! Or rather, No oh oh! Sirens aside, I wasn’t too enthralled by this week’s episode, written by Stephen Thompson (whom you might recall as having written “The Blind Banker” from the first series of “Sherlock”). “The Curse of the Black Spot” features pirates, a siren that turns out to be an unlikely doctor in a long-abandoned spaceship sick bay, and a moral about greed for the kiddies. The episode is closer to classic “Doctor Who” I suppose, but after being spoiled by the sophistication of Steven Moffat’s singular writing style for five consecutive DW episodes (“The Pandorica Opens,” “The Big Bang,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Impossible Astronaut,” and “The Day of the Moon”), Thompson’s competent effort feels like a mere commercial break to wade through until the next Moffat-written script. (I am indeed a shameless Moffateer/Moffatite/Moffatee).

The maudlin near-death scene that acts as the episode’s climax incited me to cringes. There are only so many times you can get away with the main cast dying until it becomes dramatically stale and overwrought. (Rory has died once before, as have Amelia and River; and of course, the Doctor has done so ten times over to this point, not counting his future death in the series opener). I fear the death button being used one too many times that by the point someone actually does die, it will have lost its dramatic impact, with death becoming too commonplace, dramatically speaking.

Kudos though to Karen Gillan, who has been really showing off her dramatic acting chops these past few episodes. I felt her talents were severly underutilized last series, especially after the memorable way she was introduced to us in “The Eleventh Hour.” Gillan seems to have good comic versatility and timing, as exemplified in her hilarious (though somewhat risque) skits from “The Kevin Bishop Show.” Looking back at series five of DW, I would have liked to have seen an expansion on the kiss-o-gram theme, i.e. have Amy pull off more disguises, take on different accents–leverage her comedic talents. But the dramatic route Amy Pond’s character has taken this series has so far pleasantly surprised me, as I didn’t necessarily find a “dramatic” Amy all that favorable last series (in fact, it was middlingly annoying). All that aside, I continue to be intrigued by her “pregnancy,” as well as the eye-patched Madame Kovarian’s bizarre cameo appearance about 25 minutes into the episode (she says, “It’s fine, you’re doing fine. Just stay calm”; I’m guessing she’s some sort of futuristic midwife).

For the second week in a row, Rory’s significance as Amy’s true love is emphasized, as well as his being a nurse. Is Moffat setting up a “Nurse” vs. “Doctor” dynamic? I’m interested to see Rory’s role in the mid-series finale, “A Good Man Goes to War,” which, as Steven Moffat had torturously teased us, will see the lives of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory forever changed. Specifically, here’s what Moffat had to say:  “You’ll see The Doctor’s life change forever. You will gasp at the true nature of his relationship with Amy and cry out in horror as Rory Williams stumbles to the brink of a tragic mistake.” What mistake will that be?

Overall, “The Curse of the Black Spot” is not a DW episode that had me geeking out to quite the level I had been the past two weeks, nor one that will have me rewatching it on BBC iPlayer for hours on end. Here’s looking forward to Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” next week, which I’m sure will return the current series’s writing quality up a few notches.

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