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A Candy-Colored Daleks To Victory Tour April 30, 2010

Posted by rainegendron in Doctor Who, Science Fiction.
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I don’t like robots.  Call them what you will: Cyborgs, Androids, Replicants, or Stepford Wives, they just don’t scare me very much.

That is why I was prepared for this week’s Doctor Who episode, “Victory of the Daleks” to NOT be one of my favorites.  Ever popular, the Daleks made their debut in 1963 and are perhaps the Doctor’s oldest and most deadly foe; the race responsible for wiping out the Doctor’s home planet and people in a long and agonizing war.  Not bad for a bunch of cyborg trashcans equipped with plungers and eggbeaters for appendages.

The episode starts as a curious World War II setup.  Winston Churchill (a pithy Ian McNeice) is set to employ the Daleks as a secret weapon during the Blitz.  On the surface, the military-green Union Flag wearing Dalek is prepared to help the Allied cause claiming, “I am your soldier!” but when you mash-up the Doctor and the Daleks you know you’re just asking for trouble.

If you like Dalek episodes, you won’t be disappointed.  The Daleks have been destroyed by the Doctor many times over by now.  Yet you can ALWAYS be certain that a few of them will manage to survive and somehow flung across the Universe to come back to pester the Doctor.  This time around, we find that they actually need the Doctor to re-activate the “pure” Dalek strain.  Their greatest enemy is also their savior.

Not my favorite episode, but as I said before I don’t really care for Dalek and Cybermen themed Doctor Who episodes.  Otherwise, some fun moments, including the reveal of the candy-colored Daleks, which reminded me of the famous “flavored” iMac ads.

Best Parts: Professor Edwin Bracewell is a robot!  The Doctor holds off the Daleks with a raspberry cookie!  The War Room, Churchill, London during the Blitz and Spitfires in Space!

Worst Parts: The Daleks — Again!

My Rating: Robots are just o.k.   I wish Moffat had waited awhile longer for the Daleks to reappear.   I give it a 2 out 5.


The Doctor and Captain Picard Take On The Bard April 29, 2010

Posted by rainegendron in Doctor Who, Hamlet, Science Fiction, Shakespeare.
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I love science fiction, but I am also a sucker for anything Shakespeare. Therefore I was happy to view the film version of the recent RSC production of Hamlet starring sci-fi giants David Tennant and Sir Patrick Stewart on PBS Great Performances last night.

And it is indeed a great performance. Tennant gives a masterful and sensitive performance of the famous melancholy Dane, deftly balancing Hamlet’s sadness and madness with a fierce repressed anger. Stewart is powerful as the conniving Claudius and also gives a sad and frightful turn as the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. A fine cast rounds out the remaining familiar characters in what is perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous work.

There’s the respect/That make calamity of so long life./
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/
The opressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,/

Check your local PBS station for viewing times, or watch the film online at PBS Online/Great Performances.

Moffat’s Dark Fairy Tale — The Beast Below April 23, 2010

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Steven Moffat has a knack for knowing what scares children, or our inner child. The opening sequence of “The Beast Below” brings back every nasty memory you ever had of doing poorly on a test in school: the shame, the embarrassment, the chewing out from the teacher, but because this is “Doctor Who” the fear is real, for we find that naughty little kids are sent to the beast below.

It’s the 29th Century, and the Doctor and Amy show up on the future Starship UK, a colony spaceship where the remaining British citizens (except for the Scots) took refuge after the Earth became unable to sustain life. The Starship UK is a Steampunk-type vision. Everything looks old; semi-Victorian, and includes lots of mechanical fortuneteller booth baddies called Smilers that spy on everyone. We get a vigilante Queen, Liz the Tenth (Sophie Okonedo), who has been waiting for the Doctor. Oh, and of course there is the infamous the Beast Below.

This is primarily an episode about getting to know Companion Amy (Karen Gillan) who is sent off by the Doctor to follow the little girl whose silent tears go unacknowledged by others because, as the Doctor surmises, they already know what is wrong. The nightgown wearing Amy (seriously, what 20-something actually wears such a granny gown?) finds a hole in the road with a monster, a strange voting booth where you can either Protest or Forget the reason why the Starship UK survives on its journey.

The script cleverly plays on the suspicion of faceless shadow government with a private agenda that even the Queen knows nothing of. Liz 10 has set herself up to investigate a ‘conspiracy’ that she herself has created and then has to forget in order to save her own people. There is something quire disturbing about the idea of an entire nation voting every year to forget the horrific thing they’re doing; democracy in action, but at what cost? Clever stuff from Master Moffat.

It’s a good story, if a little odd, but there were a lot of weird touches that seemed a bit random and could have done with some explaining. What was the deal with the Smilers? We spend a lot of time introducing them as the baddies, but they really didn’t do all that much in the end other than look scary/creepy. Why even bother feeding children to the whale, if they were just going to get coughed up? Part of the problem here comes because of the giant info-dump in the big scene near the end which leaves the audience having to take up a lot in a big rush after what had been quite a slow build up of story. This is very much Amy’s episode, and in the end it is the human Amy in her nightgown (very Author Dent!) who saves the last of Britain on the Starship UK. The Doctor gets a bit of a humbling moment because it is Amy’s human insight that sees the obvious truth, about both the star-whale and the Doctor, and it is with that realization that the bond begins to form between them making for a quite nice and very thoughtful ending.

Best Parts: This was Amy Pond’s chance to shine; after a bit of a bumpy start. Loved the little Star Wars homage. The slow bonding of the Amy/Doctor friendship. Moffat’s multi-dimensional writing. It’s not just a story about a spaceship and a whale; it’s about moral choices we must all face.

Best Quote: Amy: ‘What are you going to do?”
The Doctor: What I always do, stay out of trouble. Badly.”

Worst Parts: Why didn’t the Doctor know about star-whales? I am a stickler about the little threads in science fiction writing that get answered so that you don’t ask too many whys? Maybe it’s just me, or perhaps I need a closer investigation of the final info-dump scene, but it’s really not likely that the Doctor would allow Starship UK to crash if he released the star-whale. Why couldn’t the Doctor release the star-whale and just tow (as in “Journey’s End”) the Starship UK? Why didn’t the TARDIS translate the star-whale language as it does everything else?

My Rating: Solid, but a few too many little threads for me.

Doctor Who – The Eleventh Hour Cracked April 17, 2010

Posted by rainegendron in Doctor Who, Science Fiction.
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Has there ever been a Doctor Who episode so filled with expectation? A new doctor, a new companion, a new producer and Showrunner – a writer who has written some of the most popular episodes over the last few years, Steven Moffat.

So, does the new series live up to its expectations?

In short, YES!

The Eleventh Doctor ends up in what could only be described as a glorious Eleventh Hour romp.

We had already seen Ten (the superb David Tennant) regenerate into Eleven (Matt Smith) at the end of the last series The End of Time, so the introduction of Smith as the new Doctor didn’t come as a surprise. But just about everything else did. The series has a new title sequence — the spacey wormhole now looks something like a cloudy thunderstorm wormhole — and the opening music has been slowed down in tempo dramatically while still retaining the classic Who effects. There is a crash landing of the TARDIS into a garden shed, a meeting with a young Scottish girl, a crack in a wall, and something named Prisoner Zero. Not to mention the most epic case of the munchies you’re ever likely to see — Fish Custard anyone? (I wonder how many kids have been asking for that dinner lately?)

Matt Smith aptly puts any lingering doubts about his ability to handle the role of our favorite time-traveling alien (he is the youngest actor to take on the role) to rest. He’s fast, he’s expressive, and he’s funny while still giving you a glimpse of a slightly darker side. New companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) whom the doctor meets as both a young girl and a young woman proves charming and — dare I say it? — suitably spunky. Some things never change, and the Doctor is always either late or early, and he tends to leave people waiting, including the young Amelia (so not nice to dine and dash, Doctor).

The villains in this episode, Prisoner Zero (a moray eel type creature that can take on the form of comatose people) and the Atraxi (a snowflake featuring a giant eyeball) who are hunting Prisoner Zero really don’t do much once out of the “crack” so to speak, but that’s o.k. really. The point of this episode is to introduce us to the new Doctor and companion and set the tone for their relationship. However, in true Doctor Who fashion the episode also serves up just as many new questions as it answers: What is causing the cracks in the Universe? What do you mean, silence will fall? Who is Amy’s aunt and why is she alone at night? What is the deal with Rory’s hospital badge dates? I don’t know the answers, but I sure look forward to finding out what’s in store for us, and for the Doctor.

Eleven gets dressed on the rooftop while confronting the Atraxi

Best Parts: The Doctor and young Amelia Pond. The new TARDIS (“you sexy thing luv!”) and new sonic screwdriver. Fish Custard. Amelia’s “Raggity Doctor”

Worst Parts: Prisoner Zero didn’t really do all that much once he was “out of the box.”
Eleven running around in Ten’s clothes for most of the episode: I was SO glad when he finally changed because it started to distract me after awhile and only made me miss Ten (David Tennant) and that’s not fair to Matt. Plus, the clothes really make the man, and all the more so in the Doctor’s case; it gives you a good hint of the what kind of man he will be and I was glad when he “put on” his own look.

My Rating: Only thing holding this back from a five was mediocre villains.

Come the Eleventh Hour, and a New Doctor April 15, 2010

Posted by rainegendron in Doctor Who, Science Fiction, Writing.
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How geeked I am about the return of Doctor Who this week?

The moment we have been waiting for is about to arrive: The Eleventh Doctor premiers this weekend! Saturday, April 17 at 9 pm EST on BBC America!

It’s a whole new show. New Doctor, new Companion, new logo, new TARDIS set (same old time traveling blue police box), new head writer and Showrunner Steven Moffat.

For those of you not familiar with the show, Doctor Who is a television program produced by the BBC, and is the longest running science fiction show in the world (beating out Star Trek and Twilight Zone). Since 1963, the original television show has been spun off into a host of other media, including: novels, comics, related series, and enormous fan following.

The series took a break from the airways in the 1990’s but returned in 2005 under Showrunner and head writer Russell T. Davies and starring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, and later David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. The Davies/Tennant team was excellent, but both announced their respective departures in 2009 with a wonderful send off of specials over Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Matt Smith takes over the reins as the Eleventh incarnation (the role of the Doctor is ever-changing as the character has the power to regenerate in the face of death) of time traveling Time Lord in the new series. If you’ve ever wondered what Doctor Who is all about, now’s the time to get sucked into the mighty vortex that is the whole Whoverse!

I am so excited!

Watch the Series 5 Preview Here: